Mile High City

Ah, Denver, the Mile High City. I have only traveled there once in my lifetime, and enjoyed the rugged Rocky Mountain beauty as well as the bustle of the downtown area. Denver is a convention city, and I found myself there in the Fall of the late 1990s to present at that year’s NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) National Convention.

This was a week-long convention with many well-known personalities hosting general sessions. I was there to present at one of the many daily break out sessions. My hotel was right in the middle of downtown and convention participants were provided shuttle bus service to the Convention Center.

On the day of my session, I packed up my rolling cart with all the materials needed, bundled up to my eyes as it was bitterly cold and hopped on the shuttle. Once I settled in for the ride, I realized Richard Lederer was sitting in the seat across from me. I had attended his general session the afternoon before and was in awe of his brilliance and wit. If I remember correctly, his book Fractured English was just out and the subject of his speech the day before.

I was to0 shy to speak to him, but he noticed my cart and asked if I had a session. I told him yes, an interactive round table presentation, hence all of the stuff. I was then able to tell him I enjoyed his speech the day before and we chatted in general about how good the convention was this year. I agreed and told him I was excited about the evening session I would be attending to hear Dan Rather.

Our shuttle bus arrived and we all began the process of departing. Mr. Lederer allowed me to go ahead as we left our seats. He is one of the tallest men I had ever met and seemed even taller next to my under five feet frame. When we reach the bus door, he noticed the problem before I did…the step down to exit was more than my short legs could handle. He quickly picked up my cart, moved in front of me to descend the bus steps. Walking behind him, I did not see the extreme drop from the bottom step until he was on the pavement and placed my cart to the side. Without saying a word, he picked me up and gently placed me on the ground. “There you go, little one.” he said as though he did this all the time. “Have a great session.” and he was gone.

I stood there in the cold morning air with my mouth open trying to wrap my head around what had just happened as I watched him walk down the ramp and into the convention center. To this day, I don’t know if I thanked him for coming to my rescue.

Years later, I became addicted to watching the World Series of Poker on ESPN. Howard Lederer, aka the Professor was one of the best. The name haunted me, and he looked like someone familiar. I finally put it all together one day when an announcer mentioned that Howard’s father was author Richard Lederer. That cold Denver day immediately came back to me and I just shook my head.

This was originally posted January 5, 2013 at


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