I will be appearing Left Coast Crime 2016, which takes place in Phoenix on February 24-27. Writers tell me that these events are great fun. If you are able to, please come. I’ll have more details on exactly what I am doing there when I know. It’s the first time I will appearing at a convention of any kind as a participant.
I have been to many conventions, though, through the years. Highlights:
- Baseball card conventions (many, in youth). I would get giddy over these when I was a kid. The conventions were held regularly at the George Washington Motor Lodge in Willow Grove, Pa. I sold most of my collection years, ago, but I still have one album of cards, and one shoebox. I use the shoebox cards as bookmarks. When I start a new book, I reach blindly into the box and pull out a card.I am now reading Veronica, by Mary Gaitskill, and the bookmark is a 1983 Fred Lynn All-Star card. I like having the old cards in my hand, rather than stored out sight, heading sooner or later to the trash.
- The 1992 Republic National Convention, in Houston. I was a graduate student at the University of Missouri school of journalism, preparing for what I thought would be a career as a political reporter. Among the moments I remember: Sen. Alan Simpson’s advice to me as a young reporter: “Elevate for craft. When reporters don’t do their jobs well, it makes us all look bad.” A Bill Laimbeer sighting; Rush Limbaugh sitting with Barbara Bush, looking like a king; Arnold Schwarzengger’s remarkable ability to completely tune out the throng around him as he roamed the floor with a companion; Also, being on the floor for Pat Buchanan’s speech and thinking that, beyond his acolytes up front, many conventioneers were ignoring him. I didn’t realize until I returned home that for those watching on TV, Buchanan’s speech defined the convention.
- National Cable Television Association convention in New Orleans. This was in 2000, I think. I was working for a technology magazine called ON, and reporting on a story about the future of television. The convention center was like being inside a giant TV, with each channel having its own booth, many of which were staffed with stars of their shows. In between my important and serious interviews, I posed for photos with the cast of the short-lived show Son of the Beach and visited a fledging channel geared toward African-American Christian athletes in the South. In their booth: backers Evander Holyfield, Everson Walls and other name athletes. I don’t know if the channel ever made it to the air, but I still have their giveaway T-shirt.
- Super Bowl XL. In Detroit. I was part of SI’s coverage team that year, and when you go to one of these things in person you realize you are at a weeklong convention which happens to have a football game at the end. The organizing principle of the convention is, in short, is Stuff Guys Like. Every major men’s magazine hosted a party. So did video game folk. So did a maker of porn videos. Then the Steelers beat Seattle and everyone went home. So it goes.
- Book Expo America. I have been to a couple of these as a spectator, accompanying my ladyfriend to her panels and appearances. The line I hear over and over: “These used to be better.”
If you are a Left Coast Crime regular and see me and think that those used to be better, please wait until I am out of earshot to remark upon it. But I will do whatever I can to make the experience a good one. Thank you.