Friday, June 26, 2009

Welcome to Tucson, you zany alternative-newsweekly people

This weekend, the Tucson Weekly is hosting the annual convention of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies. Yes, for all you haters out there, Tucson has shown itself capable of attracting somebody other than the Jehovah's Witnesses during the summer.

You're probably wondering what such a gathering would look like. If you see a bunch of people who look like a renaissance fair collided with Woodstock, where the women resemble what Janis Joplin would look like today (dead or alive), and the men look like Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider (or at just about any other stage of his life), that's not the AAN convention; that's the Fourth Avenue Street Fair.

I've been told by my esteemed editor that the people at these things look and act surprisingly normal-ish. In calculus terms, they approach normal as a limit. For better or worse, they're pretty much mainstream. They don't drive cars made out of hemp. Most of them never took Ron Paul seriously. And many of them will only claim to be vegetarian if they happen to be attracted to a woman with armpit hair.

However, being normal-ish, they also fall prey to normal human emotions. After battling the grey ladies in their respective towns for decades, they now find themselves watching as, one by one, the once-great dailies (sadly) blink out of existence, their ownership muttering something about how maybe trying to maintain a 40 percent profit margin wasn't such a good idea.

Now, their innate competitiveness is being turned against one another. They'd probably deny it, but I'm guessing that, deep down, they're constantly trying to see who can out-alternative the others. As they stroll through the JW Marriott Starr Pass this week, they'll be eyeballing each other and thinking, "I'm way more alternative than that dude."

My editor is a gay ex-Mormon. That alone should allow him to pimp through the convention like Kramer wearing that velvet trench coat. You don't get any more alternative than that.

I've always been a big fan of alternative papers. My first experience was with the old Los Angeles Free Press, the one with Ron Cobb as the cartoonist. I picked up a copy once, opened it up and saw an ad that read:

"SAAB: The No-Bullshit Car."

I thought, "Wow, how cool, a newspaper that will print the word 'Saab.'"
 
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