Hasta la vista Ventura
weeks ago, I was at the National Society of Newspaper Columnists annual
conference in Ventura, California. Except
for exotic palm trees and flowers, which are irrigated, the West Coast is all
dry grass and brown hills. This
explains why it is either burning down or buried in mud slides most of the time.
The hotel had great views of the
ocean and of a historic fishing pier.
We went for a long walk on the pier on the first day.
I didnít see anyone catch any fish, but there were many
people fishing, so I suppose there will be a lot of fish stories later
about the one that got away.
I saw dozens of seals that turned
out to be surfers in wetsuits. I
thought they were seals because swimmers wouldnít be out so early in
the morning. Apparently,
surfing has nothing to do with time and everything to do with when the
surf is up. Anything that
can get a young person out of bed before noon has got to be good.
Downtown Ventura consists of about
three blocks of shops and a historic Spanish mission.
The town appears to have died like most downtowns have, but it
is making a successful comeback as a tourist destination.
Many old buildings have found a second life and there were more
thrift shops per square foot than anything else except maybe tourists
Dogs are manís best friend and
many people apparently bring their best friend on vacation.
The beach was full of dogs and people walked dogs along the
streets of the town. I was
most impressed by one small dog that followed his owner closely down
the sidewalks and across streets through traffic without a leash and
without running away. He
should be a doggie life coach.
The Spanish mission was interesting,
although my colleagues from California said that every city in California
has an old historic mission. They
were sick of missions and of schoolchildren being required to build
models of them. Lasagna
noodles make a great roof for mission models, they said, speaking from
the wisdom of experience.
In addition to producing missions,
California produces a lot of wine, and everywhere you go, you are
offered wine. Wine
tastings are a major pastime. The
only difference I could see between tasting wine and drinking wine was
the amount of wine in your glass and whether you could walk away from
the party afterwards without assistance.
One wine tasting we went to was in
the courtyard of the mission. I
found drinking in the courtyard of a church a bit odd, but apparently
this is accepted practice in California.
In addition to wine, we had an assortment of foods from local
restaurants, everything from hordourvs wrapped in grape leaves to
meatballs made from wild game. Somehow,
it reminded me of the Beverly Hillbillies and how guests were never
quite sure what vittles granny might actually be serving.
The conference itself was the main
event with many big name speakers to rub elbows with. Jeff Zaslow, who
is writing a book with Capt. Sully, the pilot that landed the plane in
the Hudson, was there. So
was Steve Lopez, the subject of a recently released movie, The
Soloist, which we all made sure to see so we could ask
Jon Carroll was honored with an
award. Heís the humor
columnist in a black turtleneck who has written five newspaper columns
a week for nearly 30 years. I
donít know how anyone could have that many columns in them Ė much
less own that many black turtlenecks.
The theme of the conference was how
to survive and thrive in a time when many journalists are being fired
due to the crisis in the newspaper industry.
Apparently, the way to do it is to go online and use Twitter
and Facebook to promote yourself as an entrepreneur and freelance
columnist. If Iíd known
it was that easy, I could have saved myself a lot of trouble building
websites and submitting to editors.
Just my luck, Iíve been online
trying to get into print for over 10 years.
About the time I start having a bit of success in the newspaper
industry, it goes out of business.