I had an absolute blast in New Orleans this past weekend. It was great to see old friends, meet new ones, and listen to people present their research. The best part, of course, is that the meeting was held in the "Big Easy". New Orleans has come a long way since Hurricane Katrina, but it is clear that it is still on the road to recovery. The downtown area is alive with tourists, but the spark of the city is difficult to find. This was my first trip to New Orleans since 2000. I couldn't help but think in comparative terms of before and after as I walked and jogged through the French Quarter each morning. Those residents that have come back and are working hard to bring the city back to life ought to be commended. They love their city and go out of their way to ensure that visitors walk away with at least a flavor of the sites and sounds.
Most of my time was spent away from the conference rooms in restaurants and the occasional bar. Of course, I can't go into full detail about the shenanigans that took place between Friday evening and the wee hours of Saturday morning - reputations are at stake here. Let's just say I was relieved that I was able to get to my talk on time and in relatively good shape.
My session on Civil War blogging went quite well. It was a true honor for me to be asked by George Rable to address the members of the Society for Civil War Historians and to sit on a panel with Mark Grimsley and Anne Sarah Rubin, both of whom have done outstanding work in the field. I've been a member for about four years. The organization has come a long way in that short span of time and I look forward to watching it expand its focus and membership in the coming years. I was especially pleased to meet so many regular readers after the luncheon talk who voiced their enthusiasm for my work here on the blog. What I enjoyed most about the weekend was having the opportunity to spend time with Mark Grimsley to talk about the place that blogging occupies in our respective worlds. We discussed both the potential and pitfalls of the blogging format as well as how it has come to shape (for better and for worse) the way we write and engage in research. Our conversations have given me a great deal to think about and, no doubt, you will see this discussed here in the coming weeks.
The annual meeting of the SHA is by far my favorite academic conference. You get to spend a long weekend with a fairly large group of very talented and passionate historians who are eager to share their work and make new connections. I always leave with a burst of energy, new questions to ponder and some new books to read.