I recently spent a few days in the state capital to attend the annual LION conference. Although the name suggests a gathering of zookeepers or big cat conservationists, it’s an acronym for Local Independent Online News sources.
There are about 12,000 publications like KnoxTNToday in the country. The opportunity to learn from our comrades in arms was too good to pass up, and I came back loaded with ideas.
The conference was held at the Music City Convention Center. With my first glance at the exterior of the building I knew I was in trouble.
Buildings large enough to accommodate a city street running through them (the 6th Avenue tunnel) are about as far from user-friendly as you can get for someone still recovering from back surgery. But, urged on by my pioneer blood, I limped to the nearest entrance.
I should probably note that my sainted ancestors arrived in North America just a day or two behind the Mayflower on the Dutch fluyt Mayfloat. Their accomplishment was erased from the historical record by jealous English chroniclers like Arnold Toynbee and Winston Churchill who just didn’t like Dutch folks. For shame, gentlemen!
Once inside I saw that adventure aplenty lay ahead of me. Fortunately, I had arrived the day before the start of the conference, so I was able to scout the best routes to the various meeting rooms.
Aided by my Boy Scout compass, I broke trail to the first-floor elevators. With the sun rapidly sinking towards its nightly rendezvous with the western lowlands, I set about making camp for the night.
I had no sooner started a small campfire to prepare my evening meal when several officious Convention Center security guards accosted me. How was I to know that camping was prohibited?
The guards seemed especially bothered by my modest campfire, spilling my simmering beanie weenies as they stamped it out. Folks, the Convention Center covers more acres than the picnicking area at Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountains, and cooking fires are certainly allowed there!
It seemed prudent to alter my appearance before entering the premises the following day, so I donned the false beard I carried for just such an eventuality. (Be prepared, say the Scouts!) The elevator hoisted me to the second floor where LION activities would take place.
The sun was out, so I took a sighting with my sextant and – backed up by my reliable compass – navigated my way to the meeting rooms, stopping once for victuals and to refill my canteen.
Trekking the boundless domain of the Convention Center did little to prepare me for the wilderness of Nashville itself. Busloads of attractive young women calling out encouragement to the unwary to visit their lairs on Broadway were a regular sight. Rolling, pedal-powered bars roamed the streets at all hours.
Grateful as I am for the knowledge I gained at the conference, it’s good to be back in sedate Knoxville, and I hear it’s eerily quiet in the Music City Convention Center now that LION sleeps tonight.
Larry Van Guilder is the business/government editor of KnoxTNToday.