Another ASSA conference come and gone, this one in San Francisco. Very busy but the most enjoyable ASSA meeting I can remember. Why? Let's see.
It certainly wasn't due to travel: even though I was on direct flight, flying between Newark to San Francisco is never fun, and I'm sorry, San Francisco, but BART makes the NYC subways look like the pristine subways of Oslo. At least the flight back was marginally better than the one there, as I was lucky—thanks to a very kind United gate attendant—to get on an earlier flight that not only got me home before midnight but also landed me an "economy plus" seat with a little more legroom.
My hotel (which also hosted the Association for Social Economics sessions) was wonderful, featuring a magnificent snack bar/coffee shop in the lobby with fine coffee (Peet's) and good hot sandwiches—and they opened at 5:30 AM. (That was the best part.) And somehow I was assigned to a corner hotel room with windows on two sides, which allowed amazing light in when the weather gods deemed it appropriate. (I showed the picture at the right to friends from NYC and they said they'd kill for an apartment like that.)
SATURDAY JANUARY 2
I flew in a day early (on New Year's Day) so I could adjust to the time difference before the first full day, which began with a lunch meeting with my editors from Palgrave, during which we discussed future books from me as well as for the "Perspectives from Social Economics" series. (I'm very happy to say that three new books were found or planned for the series during this conference.) In the afternoon I met for coffee with an economist I knew only from Twitter, and in the early evening the conference proper began with the ASE opening plenary, which is always a chance to hear a great speaker—this year, Jan Kregel from the Levy Economics Institute—and reconnect with old friends. After that, I had dinner with another old friend, which was a very nice way to end the first, and least hectic, day of the weekend.
SUNDAY JANUARY 3
I spent the morning preparing for my presentation in the 10:15 ASE session on "Great Thinkers on Ethics, Economics, and Financial Markets," where I discussed Kant among longtime friends and colleagues who between them covered Aristotle, Smith, Mill, Keynes, and more. My talk seemed to go over fairly well and the session was very well attended (as were most of the ASE sessions this year, a credit to the program chair and incoming ASE president Giuseppe Fontana). Next I visited the book exhibits, where I caught up with editors from Cambridge, Oxford, and Palgrave (again) to discuss ongoing or potential projects. (My new OUP book, Economics and the Virtues: Building a New Moral Foundation, co-edited with Jennifer A. Baker, just missed being ready for the book display, but it was in the new catalog.)
On the way there I happened to see the awning for John's Grill, which reads in very tiny letters at the bottom, "Home of 'The Maltese Falcon'" and "Headquarters of the Dashiell Hammett Society." I stopped in on the way back, and found out that it's where Hammett wrote the book (he worked in the building next door). Amazing.
I returned to the ASE hotel to catch the end of a standing-room-only session on inequality before the general membership meeting, after which I had drinks with some friends from ASE before heading to the dinner for journal editors hosted by Taylor & Francis, where the ASE contingent mingled with other journals editors and the T&F staff, which is always a fantastic time (and the food was unbelievable).
MONDAY JANUARY 4
The last full day of the conference began with the ASE presidential breakfast, which featured a tremendous talk from outgoing president Ellen Mutari, and at which I was honored to present two ASE awards to two longtime friends, Deb Figart and Morris Altman, both of whom were incredibly welcoming and supportive to a particular newbie many years ago. Throughout the rest of the day I alternated between ASE sessions and journal editorial board meetings, after which I joined a few ASE friends for drinks and then dinner at a nearby pub.
TUESDAY JANUARY 5
After packing, I met my intrepid Stanford University Press editor for our traditional ASSA breakfast, this time at Brenda's, billed as French soul food, where I indulged in assorted beignets and a sausage-and-Swiss omelet with sausage hash and (of course) sourdough toast. I could not finish it, which is astonishing (given how much I love breakfast) and is my greatest regret from this trip! We talked about book projects and publishing industry scuttlebutt and had a fabulous time as usual.
Back at the book exhibit I met up with another longtime friend in publishing (an editor I have yet to write for), after which I jumped in a cab and headed back to SFO early in hopes of getting an earlier flight, which as you know I did.
At the end of December I was completely exhausted, physically and emotionally, and seriously considered withdrawing from this meeting altogether. As you can guess, I'm glad I didn't. Not only was it a great meeting intellectually and professionally, but it was also a wonderful time socially—and for a classic introvert who dreads walking into the jam-packed hotel on the first day, and for an academic who has never felt like one, it was a surprise that I felt very much in my element throughout the three-and-a-half days. Most of that, no doubt, is due to belonging to a great group like the ASE, full of amazing scholars as well as great people and good friends. (Of course, spending some time in Rasputin Music, one of the last of the "real" independent record stores and one with a dedicated and well-stocked metal section, didn't hurt either!) Let's just hope that, come next December, I remember how much I enjoyed this ASSA when I fret and dither about attending. (Wishful thinking indeed!)