Sometimes I have to make hard choices as to which events I will attend when I’m registering for a Hemingway Society conference. Most of the time, those hard choices are made on the basis of dollars and cents. The amount of money I can allocate for conference attendance is not all that great, but cruising around Lake Michigan to celebrate the editorship of Susan Beegel, who stepped down as editor of the Hemingway Review and passed the mantle to Suzanne del Gizzo in 2014 was one thing I could not pass up. I did feel a little bit like I didn’t belong, like I was the kid sitting at the titular grown-ups table, getting to stay up past my bedtime and hang out with the adults, but I relished the opportunity and looked forward to this event.
You can usually expect the dining at an event like this to be exquisite and this was no exception. The meal was quite good, as you can see from the pictures I took of the different courses. The first course was a watermelon and shrimp salad that was very good, despite my reservations about the use of fruit in a salad (especially one like watermelon, I worry about it getting a bit too… watery). The next course was a selection from one of three entrees. I chose the chicken with a mustard glaze paired with potatoes and green beans. The glaze on the chicken was quite good, giving some of that mustard flavor without being too overpowering or overwhelming. Dessert came in the form of a buffet, of which I availed myself and enjoyed the turtle cheesecake and the tiny eclairs they had out as well.
But the most important part of the evening came after dinner with the tributes to Susan Beegel, the former editor of the Hemingway Review. Our current editor, Suzanne del Gizzo, offered some very nice words, sweetly recalling all that she learned from Susan and how she helped her as she took over editing the journal. Suzanne was followed by Linda Wagner-Martin, who offered very kind words as well about her years of knowing Susan. Finally, Susan took the microphone and spoke about her experience as the editor and thanked many of the people who were particularly helpful to her during that time. Finally, Steve Paul presented Susan with a lovely replica of Hemingway’s famous boat, Pilar, as a way to commemorate her time as editor and to say “thank you” for all her hard work. Throughout this whole presentation, I found myself oddly moved. Well, perhaps not oddly because I understood why I felt this way. It was, once again, that sense of community and compassion that came through. You could tell the relationships that existed between Susan and Suzanne and Linda and Steve were not purely professional, but that a real friendship existed. It made me happy to be a part of a group that fosters that kind of good will toward one another. It was, and I mean this in the best and most honest sense of the word, very sweet. By the time all this had finished, we’d reached the dock back in Chicago and it was time exit the ship and head back to Oak Park. We got on our respective buses and started the drive back. I sat in the back of our bus quoting favorite Simpsons lines with Robert Trogdon and feeling very much at home and happy to be where I was.