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As a naive new journalist, I decided to take my wife and attend the Society of Professional Journalists' Dinner, held at the Fairpark Grand Building, because it seemed like a big deal. Since they were also giving out annual journalism awards, I was sure to take home some big trophies.

So we dressed up and went, purposely passing up the 6 o'clock reception and arriving exactly on time for the 6:30 dinner. At $17.50 a pop I didn't want to miss any of the exceptional cuisine.Surprisingly, there were hardly any cars at the Fairgrounds, so we got the best parking place available, 50 feet straight from the front door. It was eerie being at the Fairgrounds without a fair, and it seemed like an evening when nothing was happening.

Inside the door we shelled out the big bucks and went upstairs to find a few people milling around aimlessly. We could smell food, but no one was eating. We got a table and waited for a long time, while exchanging light banter with other journalistic types - dedicated souls in constant search of truth. When we were finally asked to get in line at the buffet table, we were emaciated. We chose the chicken line over prime rib, mostly because it was shorter. Back at our table we found that it was all stone cold. Cold rice. Cold soggy vegetables. Cold chicken. (Not much of it, but plenty of of overcooked green peppers and onions.) Yuk.

If the dinner was disappointing, there was bound to be a wonderful dessert for $17.50. We found it, but it was not visually apppealing. I can't tell you what it was - and no one else at our table could either. It was very rich, tasted average and rumbled inside the stomach.

We tried to forget the dinner, because the evening's program was sure to be highly entertaining. But I admit I was skeptical, because the crowd was still notably thin. (Maybe partly because of the skimpy meal.) Most of the awards were designed by one of the TV stations to be presented on video. Given the incredible video techniques now available, it just had to be well done.

It wasn't. It was unimaginative and the sound was bad. The awards were just listed on the screen, and some of the names and the media organizations they represented were inaccurate. Truth in journalism at the journalism awards. But the worst was still to come. I didn't win anything! Suddenly the legitimacy of the awards came into question. Maybe they lost mine! Maybe, I thought, it has something to do with the fact that I do not belong to the organization!

By the time the awards list was complete, another great journalistic truth emerged. I abruptly realized that I was the only journalist there who did not win an award. I had been so far out of the information loop that I didn't even know that all these other people came - not to eat the soggy, late dinner or mix with their bright, congenial colleagues - but to pick up their awards! No wonder they weren't indignant! They only expected one thing.

As for me, I had made a social blunder by even showing up! As the lights went on, I wondered if it was too late to sneak out. Maybe I could just take Marti's hand and slyly slip down the stairs before the dancing started. It was too late. "Armed and Dangerous," the menacing band for the evening, had already started playing, and they were VERY LOUD.

So loud that I could barely hear other journalists telling me goodbye. Goodbye! They were leaving before I could? Yes, they had picked up their awards and wanted out - fast. The band, after all, was too loud - I think they said. So we sat for a few minutes and watched the award winners filing down the stairs until the thin crowd was even thinner. By 9 o'clock it was all over. We wondered if the band would still be paid. Probably yes, because they were ARMED AND DANGEROUS. Although feeling some guilt about leaving the band all alone, we walked out to our deserted car and drove quickly home, nursing our hunger pangs and emotional scars. I wished that I had some mythical book called "What Every New Journalist Should Know" that would have warned me against attending award dinners.

At home I got a stomach ache from gorging myself on sour grapes!