Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Day Two in Dayton - Visiting Wright-Patterson Museum and a Warm Welcome from Alan Zweibel

After recovering from our just-in-time arrival for the Erma Bombeck celebration at the Centerville library the previous evening, our first full day in Dayton was exciting.

It was a lovely, early spring Midwestern morning. The weather was mild, the trees and flowers were in bloom, and my sister Kathleen and I were primed for an adventure.

Destination: the Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Doyle, one of my critique group buddies, recommended visiting the museum when he heard I was going to Dayton. Thank you, Doyle. The museum was a delight!

After making a few U-turns, Kathleen and I arrived at the museum.  The day before had been the 70th anniversary celebration of the Jimmy Doolittle Toyko Raid, which we heard was magnificient. Although we missed the hoopola of the previous day, the museum was still abuzz. During our visit we saw replicas of the planes and read posters about the historic event.

The displays in the museum are quite moving, especially the World War II and the Vietnam War exhibits. Just about everywhere I looked I saw retired Air Force veterans dressed in blazers, all helping visitors. One veteran in the Korean War section made our day when he asked if he could help us and referred to us as "girls."

After leaving the museum, we managed to get lost again, but taking a road less traveled can lead to wonder. Our detour took us through an affluent neighborhood, where I snapped a few photos from my car. The mansion in the photo on the left was just one of the many lovely homes we saw. Fortunately, my camera cooperated that day. I think because the flash wasn't needed.

After returning the to the hotel, we changed before heading downstairs to register for the Erma Bombeck Workshop and Welcome Dinner. Bombeck's widower Bill and children Betsy and Andrew and a few other family and friends were in attendance. During each meal, as part of the celebration, one of the family members read their favorite Erma column. That night, Bill Bombeck's reading of Erma's column about losing her father at a young age moved me to tears.

Alan Zweibel was the special guest after-dinner speaker. An original Saturday Night Live writer. Zweibel was winner of 2006 the Thurber Prize for his novel, The Other Shulman.  In 2010 Zweibel was presented a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Writers Guild of America. Zweibel's newest novel, Lunatics, is co-written with Dave Barry.

Preceding Zweibel's talk, we were treated to a hilarious video with Billy Crystal, Garry Shandling, Rob Reiner, Buck Henry, and Larry David congratulating Zweibel on his Thurber award.

During his talk, Zweibel shared memories of his first paid writing jobs and told us how he began his journey to become a comedy writer. In the early 1970s he wrote jokes for comedians who performed at resorts in the Catskill Mountains. If his joke got laughs, he received $7. If not, he was paid a lesser fee.

He also shared how he became close friends with Billy Crystal and Gilda Radner and how he got his start on Saturday Night Live. Zweibel's words about his friendship with Radner and the impact of her illness and passing on him and his family were especially moving.

Zweibel was warm and witty and funny and candid--a perfect speaker to kick off the workshop.

More about the workshop later . . .


  1. Such a good time you had! Our son took us out to Wright Patterson and we all had such a good time there. We spent the whole day and sat down only for lunch. Our legs were spent at the end of the day, although we could have seen more. So many impressive that stood out for me wasn't even a plane. It was a box car...the ones that took people to labor camps. And the little replica of going through the gates like Jews did in WWII gave me chills. I also exciting to see they were working on restoring the Memphis Belle at that much...

    Thank you very much for the wonderful words you left on my blog about Passages!

  2. Hi Claudia,
    You are so welcome. There was so much to see and do. I was moved by the replicas of the Vietnam POW prison cells.

    I thoroughly enjoyed your post about Passages. It was very moving, and I'm certain special to you.


  3. You know how sometimes a person writes about an event or somewhere they've been and you get all pouty 'cause you wish YOU could've gone?

    Yeah, I'm feeling a little pouty this morning. ;-) (But I'm still glad you're sharing--better to read and pout than never to know what the EB workshop experience was like! Thanks, Donna!)

  4. I'm semi-pouting with Cathy C! :D
    But still SO happy for you, Donna!
    What an experience. You were a star among the stars!

  5. Hi Cathy,
    Sorry to make you feel pouty. I wish you could've been there too.

    Hi Becky,
    Thanks. It was an amazing adventure. I'm not sure about being a star, but I thanked my lucky stars that I got to go.


  6. Donna--I read Gilda Radner's memoir, and it was moving. If he was a writer for SNL when it first came out, he MUST be funny, because those were the days when that show was golden.

    How marvelous to get to meet Erma's family. You had a once-in-a-lifetime experience (unless, of course, you win the contest next year, too ;)

  7. Cool! I never thought you'd also be able to get out and do some sightseeing. Looking forward to more...

    Critter Alley

  8. Hi Sioux,
    Alan was very funny, but also very moving.

    We sat at a table next to Erma's family, but with so many people there I didn't work up the nerve to go introduced myself to them, but I did smile and nod their direction.

    Hi Pat,
    The workshop kicked off with a dinner the day after the library celebration so we were able to squeeze in a few hours for sightseeing.


  9. It sounds great! I almost feel as though I went too. Okay, maybe not really, but it was nice to hear about it and imagine I went. Thanks for sharing! :)

  10. What a great trip. I can well imagine how poignant the readings of Erma's columns would be.

  11. What an experience. So happy for you. Sounds like so much fun.

  12. Very cool trip! Thank you for sharing it.

  13. Thanks for taking us along on the trip. If there can only be one first place winner, I am glad it was YOU.


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