Metro-East Living

Traveling can be exciting, especially when you’re not used to going anywhere

If all goes as planned, as you read this on Sunday, my wife and I will be in the middle of a time-consuming, exhausting flight back home from Buffalo, N.Y.

Cincinnati last year, Buffalo this year. It occurs to me that I am on a tour of cities that are in the NFL but have never won a Super Bowl. But really I am going to the annual convention of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, a yearly meeting of a bunch of really odd and fun people who all pose as columnists of one sort or another and publish their work on a variety of platforms.

The convention started many years ago as an excuse for a bunch of old, male newspaper columnists who knew each other to get together and drink. Somewhere along the line they started bringing in speakers to justify to editors back home their expenses. And they started getting women columnists as members.

Now the women dominate and generally run the show. Interestingly enough, everything runs a lot smoother than it used to.

There still is drinking involved and lot of fun but the meeting now is packed with speakers and the occasional celebrity. Last year I heard Jerry Springer apologize for ruining the American culture.

Variety is the watchword. I’m hearing about vlogs, blogs, Hawgs (there’s a guy from Arkansas where Razorback football is huge,) dogs, (there’s a guy who writes a column from the viewpoint of his dogs. Apparently it’s quite popular,) and Pogs, (one year a guy from Hawaii had bought an entire warehouse of the milk bottle caps and couldn’t unload them when the fad game quickly faded.)

Normally I’m not much of a traveler but these conventions have taken me around the country on trips to places I probably wouldn’t have considered otherwise, like the aforementioned Cincinnati and Buffalo. Ditto for next year in Tulsa, Okla.

Usually my travel centers around going to the farm in my hometown of Wellsville, Missouri. Perhaps that’s because I was warped growing up. Few people went very far in my hometown. Anyone who had flown on an airplane was a celebrity.

Our travelers were more like the guy who owned the television repair shop. Even small towns had such stores back then.

But his hobby was driving as far as he could on Sundays and still get back home on the same day. Then he would write to the local newspaper and tell them and they would publish where he had been. That was the sort of thing that went over big in town, I guess proving that someone’s travel always is of interest to someone else.

A high school friend of mine was on his own for a week as his parents left for a trip and he had a sweet little Ford Thunderbird. One night he and some friends decided to drive to Chicago, about six hours away. So they did. And then they drove back on the same night.

I don’t know what that proved but it seemed cool at the time. Holy cow. They went to the big city. Of course they just turned around and came home without even visiting anything. But what an adventure. We didn’t get out much back then.

Now people do a lot of traveling because they have to go to other towns to work because the firebrick plant closed.

You can’t go home again, or so Thomas Wolfe said in his last novel about change and loss in a man’s hometown.

Of course, at his death, Wolfe left behind a giant manuscript called “The October Fair. But his editor cut it down, retitled it and made it a hit. Proving, I think, that even great authors don’t always know when to quit writing.

So just in case, I will stop.

Wally Spiers: