Last month, I went to the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade’s 56th annual Summer Fancy Food Show, held at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York. Over three days, more than 24,000 attendees wandered among 2,400 exhibitors hawking thousands of so-called “specialty food and beverage products,” which is a $63 billion industry. In 2009, there were 2,318 new product introductions to the American market — which was actually a bad year. In, 2008, there had been 3,705.

Exhibitors at the Fancy Food Show split into two basic groups. One section consists of booths and rows devoted to food products from a particular region or country. Chile, for instance, seemed to have spent big money to introduce the world to its olive oil, cheese, wine, and the Chilean carica, a cousin of the papaya. Italy, Spain, and France were present, but so were some underdog… More…

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) held its annual convention in Chicago recently, and I was there. Let me make clear at once that I am not a member of this august body but am instead married to someone who is; I was thus in the logistical position to report (with some admitted bias) on the proceedings.

ASCO is a big organization, and its members engulfed the city. Everywhere I looked, disheveled men and women could be seen carrying over-the-shoulder ASCO satchels and leafing through behemothian ASCO Convention Proceedings. Only Chicago and Orlando have convention centers big enough to accommodate the more than 30,000 doctors, researchers, drug company representatives, and sundry others attached to the cancer industry who attend this meeting each year. And although Orlando has hosted on occasion, there’s a certain dissonance in talking about myeloma in the morning and visiting Mickey Mouse in the afternoon. Chicago,… More…

 

It seems a bit mean spirited to say that Reading, Pennsylvania feels like an RV kind of town, but that’s what I honestly thought as I pulled up to the Greater Reading Expo Center for its 2009 RV Show.

There were several reasons for this. Some were simply aesthetic. The Expo Center itself is part of a former manufacturing facility, and pipes and tanks crowd the view immediately to the right of the entrance. Looking back out over the parking lot, you can see the Reading Pagoda on a hilltop in the distance. A former owner of the land built it there in 1908; criticized for defacing the hillside with a stone quarry, he didn’t restore the natural landscape but instead built the seven-story pagoda after seeing one on a postcard from the Philippines.

Other reasons were more… More…

 

Page one of my scrapbooking-weekend scrapbook would contain a cardstock minivan pasted onto a gray chalk outline of a Virginia highway. A photo of my face would be slipped into the driver’s window, and my hands would be cut out and pasted to a cardstock wheel at a sturdy 10 and two.

Renting a minivan to get to the Chantilly, Virginia, convention had been an inside joke with myself about going undercover as a scrapbooker for a story on the scrapbooking phenomenon. But the joke turned on me (as inside jokes with yourself usually do) when I ended up finding the van on the way to the convention to be a comfy and spacious drive with enough bass to make it sound like Jay-Z himself was carpooling with me to the convention. By the time I arrived at… More…