Every four years, as if I need remind you, America stages a presidential election. That's as it should be in a democratic society. But there is a downside.
A couple of years before the Big Event, like now, local city officials start beating the drums to convince the national parties that they would be fools not to choose, say, Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati or maybe even Lima in case of a tie. Seldom does anyone say a city would have an enormous positive effect on the party trying to come to its senses to nominate a winning ticket.
Instead the sales message is that there is no better place to enjoy a week away from home in a city thriving with 5-star restaurants, hotel rooms, ripping night life, congenial hosts and unspeakable diversions (often on the prowl).
It can quickly get out of hand. Years ago, Cleveland Mayor Ralph Perk, faced with a shortage of hotel rooms that would have forced some of the visitors to bed down in, say, Coshocton, promised to dock an ocean liner on Lake Erie near downtown. The idea sank without lifeboats. But Perk did get a few style points to impress his people that he was trying.
But conventions have changed and leave little in doubt, with the nominee already chosen in the primaries. The delegates come well prepared to escape the boredom of so much grandstanding in front of the nearest tv camera..
The last ones that I covered were preceded by my bouts of depression over the uninteresting things that I was paid to write about. The late Jack Germond, a perceptive old hand at reporting these events, conceded over spirits one night that he had just written a column for his paper that was addressed to his mother. He wanted her to know that "we're fooling the readers again by suggesting something of substance was happening." Dick Feagler, at a loss for a column idea, finally paid the bartender and went outside to interview a horse. Gov. Rhodes was so bored that he wrote a column about me that, I must admit, was one of the funnier pieces to leave the convention.
Hope this gives you a little taste of what the convention fuss is all about. Now let me tell you about the great Bar-B-Q spot in Detroit...