It’s good to be out and about for the holidays, especially hitting some of those infamous holiday office parties. It’s a good old fashioned mix of end-of-the-year stock taking, offerings of congratulations, admissions of regrets, old friends reunited, new ones being reviewed, all with a good dose of alcoholic accelerant. You never know who you will run into and what they will say or what they will do. Hey, Fred, what the hell are you doing on the copying machine?
As a sometime journalist (when I’m not bagging papers to cover for a missing deliverer or fending off harassing audits by the State Department of Labor, or a host of other duties that are part of a small business owner’s job description), I should be out and about a lot, but I’m not. In fact, I hardly ever get out of the office. So last week I decided to take advantage of the holiday season to attend a few parties.
First up on my list was the holiday party of the New Jersey Communications, Advertising, and Marketing Association (CAMA) on Tuesday, December 11. Since the party was at the Center for Health Affairs, literally around the corner from my office on Rozsel Road, I could hardly pass it up.
The party had a couple of gimmicks and one good cause. The gimmicks were enough door prizes that, if you were lucky, you could walk out the door with enough gifts to fill a stocking. The good cause was Isles, the Trenton-based non-profit dedicated to revitalizing neighborhoods and their residents. The $20 admission was donated to Isles. The group’s founder, Marty Johnson, was present to show a video and answer questions.
I ran into a few old friends and acquaintances. Roger Shapiro, the PR guy, talked about his book on writing, “Write Right — 26 Tips to Improve Your Writing Dramatically.” Matt Dawson, the website designer whose company, Image Cog, is based in Trenton, said hello. As did Beth Brody, the PR woman whom I last saw back in 1989, when we did a story on the solar home she and her husband lived in. Since then she has had two children, who are now 9 and 8 (you don’t take notes at holiday parties, so that’s a guess on my part), and remained active in CAMA circles. In any case, it had been a long time.
By holiday party standards the CAMA gathering was pretty tame. It started early and was over early, giving me a chance to move directly onto my next event — at the Canadian Government Trade Office in a suburban home off Carter Road on the outskirts of Princeton. “You are invited,” the festive invitation stated, “to kick off your holiday season in Canadian style.”
Canadian style, I thought enroute, might mean Canadian Club or Molson’s or maybe just some cheap beer in the basement with Mike Meyers and Wayne’s World. And it’s true that business people describe this as one of the best parties of the year. But the attraction is not the usual holiday revelry. This event turns out to be serious networking. The Canadian mission is to promote collaborations between Canadian and American life science and bio science firms.
The first person I met at the holiday party was Dick Woodbridge, the intellectual law attorney and proponent of Einstein’s Alley, the business consortium trying to facilitate the growth of high tech business in central New Jersey. A few minutes later I ran into Katherine Kish, the co-executive director of Einstein’s Alley. A little later I ran into Dan Conley, the former Marine turned funding consultant to high tech companies.
Nobody was shy. Sandy Holtzman, a public relations consultant who does a fair amount of business in central New Jersey, drove all the way down from New York to attend. When she offered to trade business cards with me and discovered I had no card (as I said, I don’t get out often), she had me write my contact info on her card. I never did get to that CC whiskey, but a few days later I got a package in the mail from Holtzman — a copy of her book, “Lies Startups Tell Themselves to Avoid Marketing.”
Two parties down, one to go. I had run into some old friends, had a few glasses of wine, and generally been on my best behavior. But the week so far had been a little light on what we used to call “holiday cheer.”
But that is exactly what the card from Drumthwacket promised: “Governor Jon S. Corzine invites you for ‘Holiday cheer’,” the invitation said simply. And on Friday at 5:30 sharp the governor, some of his commissioners, and their PR people were there to meet 50 or 60 press people, from the veteran New Jersey News anchors, Michael Aron and Kent Manahan, to an enthusiastic newcomer from the Korean station in Fort Lee, Elizabeth Kim.
Holiday cheer was in the air. When I introduced myself to Mike Horan of the motor vehicle division he immediately recognized my affiliation. “U.S. 1,” he exclaimed. “I have a front page of your paper framed on my wall.” Which one, I asked. The road rage issue, he answered, with the adults in the kids’ cars flashing the finger at each other.
Whether it was the cheer in the air or the wine (California wine) in my glass, the governor seemed at once taller than I thought he would be and also more likable. “The Corzine family has a lot to be thankful for this year,” he said in his brief remarks, obviously referring to his near fatal car accident.
The only thing missing from my holiday rounds was a little outlandish behavior. At that point I ran into the commissioner of labor, David Socolow, and figured why not. I introduced myself and told him I was pleased to meet him because I was doing a story on him and his department. “Good or bad?” he asked lightly.
“Oh, it will be a good story,” I assured him, “about your department and how it blind sides small employers by changing the rules on how it defines independent contractors.” Perhaps to Socolow’s credit more than to mine, neither of us let my outlandishness ruin the holiday cheer.
A few minutes later I headed home. Yes, I decided, it is good to be out and about but it’s also good to be home for the holidays.