Hotshot Harry from Tucumcari's first dispatch from AHA HQ

Hotshot Harry dishes on the AHA


First day musings [from the American Historical Association’s annual meeting 2009]…[ed. note:  Eat your heart out, Rate Your Students–my correspondents have reported first!]

I think the Friday start is a bit disorienting for folks. (That, and the crush of New Year’s vacationers leaving as the frumpy historians arrived gave the Hilton a sense of strangeness.) My memories of AHA openings is that they are rather tame, but this one was far more active. Registration opened at 12.00pm, and you would have thought they were giving out free booze. By 12:08, the very large promenade was packed and the printers serving up badges had suspended business due to overuse. (They were up and running shortly thereafter, but the lines took a solid hour or so to settle down to normal volume.) All I could think of was the Coconut Grove.  [Ed. Note:  Have no historians mastered on-line registration yet?]

More disconcerting for most was that the book exhibit did not open until 3:00pm. And really, this is the highlight of the conference for most, if not all. Picture the AHA without the book exhibit, even for five minutes. Grim.

On the job front…well, there isn’t much of one this year. The smell of fear that normally permeates the cattle pen is a bit more stale this time around.  [Ed. note:  it’s a little known fact that Hotshot Harry lived in Potterville before he decamped for Tucumcari, so this greenhorn knows from cattle pens!]

As for the attire, there were some folks who seem to be trying for Soho hip and have missed the mark a bit. Otherwise, standard AHA attire is in effect. Manufacturers of wool have little to fear, despite the economic downturn.

UPDATE, 1/3/09:  RYS has posted the first-day at the AHA impressions of Archie–which brings back memories for me.  Consider Hotshot Harry’s post here the briefer, G-rated version of what Archie has to say.  Archie also provides more of an explanation for those long registration lines yesterday:

So just to prove that academics shouldn’t even be allowed to plan a cluster f*@k, this year’s meeting features an “improved” registration system. If you pre-registered, you wait in line to use one of several laptop computers. You look up your name and press print. Then you go stand in line and wait for one of the graduate student volunteers to call your name and hand you your badge. How this constitutes an improvement over the cardboard box full of alphabetized envelopes is beyond me. In the twenty minutes I stood there, the system crashed twice, and the whole show ground to a screeching halt. Only an a$$hat academic could have been talked into paying someone for this. On a related note, they made the poor grad student workers wear these red AHA T-Shirts that make them look like they are trying out for Santa’s workshop. Just sad.

0 thoughts on “Hotshot Harry from Tucumcari's first dispatch from AHA HQ

  1. Don’t forget to look for the clunky wood and/or turquoise jewelry that marks a (U.S.) Western historian. I think it’s required upon passing your exams to start wearing it.


  2. Yeah–the really daring ones wear cowboy boots and (the men) bolo ties. But, there are exceptions: I work with 5 U.S. Western historians at Baa Ram U., and none of them dress like that on a regular basis. (Perhaps there is some chunky jewelry worn occasionally among the women, but not often.)


  3. One year during graduate school I managed to work the job centers at both the MLA and the AHA. Now, that’s some travel and expense! Mostly for naught, except the bargains at the book fair. Planning for these conferences means carrying an extra suitcase for the books.

    This year, the recollection that I’m at neither one of these mega-conferences brings pleasure to the daily hour of lifting a snow shovel.

    I’m neither a fashion setter, nor an observant follower of appropriate trends. But as a Western historian, I enjoy wearing my bolo tie at least once per year in the classroom. On the other hand, I don’t own a pair of cowboy boots. I prefer Trask shoes made with Montana bison leather in Italy and elsewhere.


  4. So, I arrive in the lobby of the Hilton yesterday, and as I spend about 1/2 hour waiting to check in to the hotel, I keep seeing people and thinking “I think I know that person” — and then I realized that it’s just because they look like historians!

    I did go to one session yesterday, but today I met with a colleague on a joint project, and then played hooky by taking my grand-daughter to see the Nutcracker.

    So no exciting gossip — the only thing that is fun about the AHA is seeing people you haven’t seen for years.

    Oh, and Historiann, I do keep running into people who were at the Berks last summer and say how terrific it was!


  5. That’s great, Susan–the verisimilitude of the uniform is disconcerting, isn’t it? I wonder if people will shake it up a little bit at the meeting in San Diego next winter, when it will be (as it always is) 70 degrees and sunny. Part of the wardrobe problem for historians at this conference is that it’s always (bafflingly) in a Northern city in January (hence the wool issue that Harry notes above.)


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