Back in the day, I attended a convention for writers at least once per year. One of the better ones was held in Philadelphia. I thought I would let you in on my memories with an unofficial version of the conference.
It was the annual conference of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Members were bribed into going with promises of cheesesteaks, column tips, and freebies. I was allowed bring a guest, so I took my honey. We decided to drive instead of flying.
All went well except for one place in Pennsylvania where the Interstate was closed and we had to take a detour. My honey saw a sign for Boiling Spring, a city with a nice duck pond in the center of town, he said. Unfortunately, the detour ended before we got to duck pond. It was probably just as well as I expected a boiling pond with ducks could end up as duck soup.
After we checked in at the hotel, I remember leaving my purse in the car in a parking garage. I wanted honey to go back and fetch it, but he refused, saying he wasn’t walking back down the streets of Philadelphia carrying a purse.
The next morning we decided to see the sights downtown and asked a doorman for directions to Independence Hall. We made dozens of pictures of the old historic building. Later we found out that the building was City Hall, not Independence Hall.
We met up with the group and went to the historic Pen & Pencil Club for a get-acquainted meeting. How do you get a hundred journalists into tiny bar? Tell them humorist Dave Barry is there and they will all be sucked right in.
The opening session of the conference included greetings from the Mayor, Governor and Bill O’Reilly. We were hoping the politicians would not get long-winded so we would have more time for Dave Barry’s humor.
In the afternoon we toured the historic Battleship New Jersey. Who gives a flip about a ship? I made pictures of the magnificent Philadelphia skyline! Then we toured the real Independence Hall and saw the Liberty Bell. We couldn’t get any pictures of the crack in the bell due to all the other tourists who were doing the same thing and wouldn’t get out of the way.
While waiting for dinner, we had a tour of the National Constitution Center and the Constitution “Signer’s Hall” with life-size bronze statutes. They appeared to be petrified and I wondered how long they had been waiting for dinner. We had waited a very long time too.
We rode back to the hotel in a double-decker bus. The tour guide said not to stick arms or feet out of the bus and not to throw anything off. I was riding on the bottom deck. I have no idea what was going on up top, but apparently they were having more fun than we were.
The next morning brought interesting panel discussions of ethics in journalism, research methods, and video columns before we left for lunch at a local sports bar and restaurant. Some of the Philly’s Cheerleaders were there and the male press was more interested in cheesecake than in cheesesteak.
That evening the Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Clarence Page, an intellectual and Nobel Prize winner. The bigger they are, the nicer they are, it seems. He was a heck of a charming fellow with a terrific sense of humor and remains one of my favorite columnists even now.
After the convention sessions ended each evening, we gathered at the hospitality suite for networking and socializing. What happens in the hospitality suite, stays in the hospitality suite. Additional funds were raised for the NSNC Education Foundation scholarship by raffling off a terry cloth bathrobe rumored as stolen from a hotel room — a rumor we deny.
And there you have it, my unofficial take on the official take. If officially asked, you didn’t unofficially hear it from me.