Nixon's back.

And back and back. And for the American Society of Newspaper Editors he was back yesterday for the ninth time, the last speaker at its annual convention.

The week-long schedule at the J.W. Marriott seemed more packed than a Cub Scout summer camp, and if you wanted something to do every hour of the day, you got it. If it wasn't Nixon, it was Jesse Jackson, Al Gore, Costa Rican President Oscar Arias Sanchez or Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. Even the last several hours brought no relief:

5 p.m.: The after-speech, up-the-elevator, before-the-banquet chatter went like this:

"You have to admire the man for sticking in there," said one woman with a Southern drawl and tinted hair.

"I wonder if his book's any good," said one doubting Thomas.

"I'm looking for a job right now," said one young man who suspiciously resembled Clark Kent.

"Therewas some serious talk about going to the bar," said one weary conventioneer.

The mood was relaxed as people drifted off to their rooms to change into black-tie-optional for the goodbye banquet reception, or to throw on their casual clothes and sneak off for a night on the town. "Let's see a little of this city tonight," said one woman not quite sotto voce enough to her companion.

6 p.m. The cleaning crew gave the rug outside the ballroom one last sweep. The banquet staff ran around crazed.

6:30 p.m. There were two receptions. VIP and non-VIP. At both there was a lot of talk about Nixon. Arnold Rosenfeld (VIP), editor of The Austin-American Statesman, said, "I think people greeted him very warmly. This is not a country that holds a grudge very well."

7 p.m. Non-VIP. Two gentlemen offered their comments anonymously. "The guy for his age is extremely sharp ..." Nixon had run through a roll call of states and predicted who would win -- Dukakis or Bush -- in November. "He did that same call on the states in '84, and he only missed two or three, so what it says to me is that he keeps up domestically as well as internationally."

His friend looked unimpressed. "He was always smart. Unfortunately, he didn't have a conscience."

7:15 p.m. Gene Roberts (VIP), executive editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer, when asked about the Pulitzer board's recent decision to dismiss the controversy over a winning series submitted by his paper, said, "I never thought it was a serious complaint in the first place."

7:30 p.m. The lights flickered, signaling VIPs and non-VIPs alike to converge on the Grand Ballroom, all 600 of them.

8:30 p.m. Dinner (your basic salad, fish and vegetable banquet dinner), dancing and then the awards.

The winners: Bob Herbert and Jimmy Breslin of the New York Daily News; James Klurfeld of Newsday; Carl Schoettler of the Baltimore Evening Sun; and Tom Shales and Blaine Harden of The Washington Post.

9:30 p.m. Comic relief. Calvin Trillin, the New Yorker columnist, was the evening's guest speaker. He was a wise choice. "This is one of those evenings I'm particularly grateful my father sent me to Yale. That's where I got this tuxedo." (Laughter.) Continuing on the Yale theme, Trillin drolly observed that Yale was the type of school where people had three last names, "like Thatcher Baxter Hatcher." (More laughter.) "They never use those names, though. They always have funny little nicknames, like 'Tush' ..." (Mega-laughter.)

"I think my father would be proud that I was following a former president." (Pause, as he geared up to imitate Nixon.) "I want to make it perfectly clear, I do not consider this appearance part of my rehabilitation."

10:10 p.m. While Trillin had some of the nation's toughest critics slapping their knees, the evening had its bittersweet moment. Edward Cony, associate editor of The Wall Street Journal, was named ASNE president yesterday morning, but he resigned in the evening, as he had planned. He was recently diagnosed as having Alzheimer's disease, and he decided not to assume the presidency.

"I'm deeply touched by the last couple of days," Cony said after receiving a standing ovation. "This is always going to be my favorite newspaper connection. Except for the Dow Jones. I really appreciate all the messages I've had in the last few weeks and I thank you for those. Amen."

His replacement, John Seigenthaler of the Nashville Tennessean, had said earlier, "He's very open about talking about it. He wrote us a letter in which he advised us of his illness ... that the Ides of March had come early for him."