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When Will I C You Again?

Country Musings by Robert Loy, May 2007

I just got back from the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in Stamford, Conn. And on the 19-hour train home, I had time to contemplate crosswords and how they relate to a couple of my other passions - comic books and country music.

They all have something in common - I mean besides the fact they all start with the letter "C." It's that they've all gotten more popular in the last few years, and I kinda wish they hadn't. In some ways, I prefer my hobbies to be more niche than mainstream

When I go to comic book conventions, I can actually meet and talk to people like Adam Hughes, Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez, Frank Brunner and John Romita (Senior and Junior). In Stamford, I got to spend time with Will Shortz, Merl Reagle, Peter Gordon and Stan Newman.

You probably don't know who any of those people are, but I can best describe it to you like this: If you were a movie lover, it would be like spending a weekend with Brad Pitt and Cameron Diaz or Meryl Streep and Paul Newman. If you're more of a literary lover, it would be like a dinner party with John Updike and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

The point is I can hang out with and bask in the presence of some of the biggest names and greatest talents in two fields of endeavor that I am enamored of, comic books and crossword puzzles.

And I used to be able to do the same thing with that third C. When I went to country concerts back in the 1970s - and I saw some of the biggest stars around at that time - Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn, Sonny James, Crystal Gayle - they all hung around, signed autographs and chatted with fans, not just a few fans, but everybody that wanted to meet them got to do so.

Most country stars don't do that anymore. And I know that some of them probably would like to, but it's just not practical. And I know about Fan Fair (now the CMA Music Fest), and I think Fan Fair is great, but it's only one week and one place.

I'm not sure what the answer is, but I don't think we can ever go back to the way it was. And now it looks like it may be happening with my other hobbies too. Some comic creators have stopped going to conventions because they get mobbed, the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament had a hard time handling a record crowd this year, and next year will have to move to a bigger location.

And I'm glad that the things I love are being enjoyed by lots of other people, really I am. But it just seems like we lose something, a personal touch, when an avocation becomes too big.

Oh well, I guess I could always take up croquet or candle collecting.