May 7, 201012:00 AM
Living, loving, laughing, and learning in the new New Orleans
The Convention Dimension
I had the chance yesterday to talk to the members of the Fraternity Communications Association, which was holding its annual conference here. I very much enjoyed meeting a bunch of fellow editors (i.e., grammar nerds) and talking to them about New Orleans and language, two of my biggest passions, and of course a free lunch never hurts. I got a huge geeky kick out of debating the recent AP Stylebook change of “Web site” to “website” and whether “tweet” –– as in “posting something on Twitter” –– should be capitalized to differentiate it as a brand name versus something a bird does.
As much fun as I had, I walked away feeling pretty serious. I couldn’t stop thinking about how grateful I am for conventions in general, how much this city depends on conventions and how much it means that people are still flocking to the city. I still remember the feeling of overwhelming gratitude when the American Library Association held its conference in New Orleans in early 2006, giving us a chance to prove that we were up to the challenge.
In my previous life as an exhibits manager in the fascinating world of academic publishing, I traveled frequently to conferences all over: Richmond, Va.; Memphis, Tenn.; Chicago; New York; Charlotte, N.C. I had fun in each city, eating barbecue in Memphis and Charlotte and pizza in Chicago and New York (everything tastes better on a per diem), and taking the touristy tours with the other conventioneers. But –– and I fully admit that I may be biased –– no city can host a convention quite like New Orleans.
The City and Regional Magazine Association, of which I am a member, held its 2008 convention in Memphis, and it was lovely. They sent us home with goody bags of barbecue sauce and blues CDs and Sun Studio T-shirts and Graceland magnets. But it held its 2009 convention in New Orleans, and we fed them, got them drunk and took them on a second-line –– complete with handkerchiefs –– through the French Quarter. We sent them home with two of our most abundant natural resources: Mardi Gras beads and amazing stories.
I have a friend who works at a restaurant right by the Convention Center, so she sees a lot of convention business. She always gets a kick out of the wide variety of organizations that she sees: In addition to the Fraternity Communications Association, the National Association of Convenience Stores and the Digestive Disorders Week council are holding conferences in New Orleans right now. I can only imagine what a bunch of doctors specializing in digestive disorders would have to say about the french fry poor boy or the deep-fried roast beef poor boy from Jacque-Imo's or the Bulldog’s Porter Fries.
When you think about it, there is an odd interconnectedness among fraternities, convenience stores and digestive disorders. I can see how each group could be very thankful for the existences of the others.
Here in New Orleans, though, we’re thankful to have them all.