I suppose I best write something about Chicago and post it before everyone forgets I even went there, huh? Right. The BlogHer Conference is basically my excuse for getting to go to Chicago, finally. I went with Cecily for our second time this year. I go with Cecily because she asks me to go with her, part of it is her birthday present to me, and because I get to go to a city to which I have never been before. As Cecily’s best friend I fill the rolls she needs me to fill, as she does for me: a roommate, a confidant, a touchstone for reality-checks, and someone to fall into fits of laughter with at 1am or 8am or whenever exhaustion sets in.
Cecily is the blogging “rock star” and I am very happy to be known as her best friend (or not known at all, as the case may be). People knowing me separately from her, or knowing me because of my photography on Flickr and not even realizing I had a blog surprised me! Anyone recognizing my name and complimenting my photography made me far happier than I showed, just so you know. I was squealing inside…I’m just not a real squealer.
My goals attending BlogHer are basically nil. I really enjoy meeting people I know online in person and I of course end up with many new blogs to read upon returning home. I love being there for Cecily. My focus is about seeing the city we’re in and meeting up with any Flickr friends in the area to go out and take photos. I have a lot of photos.
Before I get into my posts about what I did each day, I figured I’d give a general post about the conference itself from my slightly removed but still in the hotel perspective. Was the sponsorship as out of hand as people are saying? My perspective is yes, but I realize that most of that is not actually put out officially by BlogHer organizers. It is overwhelming, however, when everywhere I looked there was a brand name. I am wondering about other ways to raise money to subsidize the cost of these conferences. I was involved in organizing and putting on an AA conference for over 1,000 attendees, and the registration cost per person was really small. We held fundraisers all year long to offset the costs…dances in different cities, t-shirt sales, etc. With the amount of pull BlogHer has all over the country (and world), I think we could easily manage a sponsor-free conference. I will comment on this over at BlogHer, yes, because I’m sure there is something head-smackingly obvious that I’m missing, otherwise they probably would have already done it. ☺
I attended the breakfast and presentations each morning and the community keynote on Friday night. That keynote was incredible; inspiring, moving, hilarious, and beautiful. I thought it was a bit much to have 20 readers that night, but now cannot imagine not hearing one. Favorites for me were Danielle of KnottyYarn, Tanis of Redneck Mommy, Catherine of Her Bad Mother, and Mel of Stirrup Queens (who wins award for the best of the night in my opinion; a piece that took us through much laughter then sudden sobs of recognition and beauty. It was powerful beyond reason).
The other issue was the swag. I’ll just say that none of that stuff was worth shoving people over, but sure I love some free shit as much as the next person. Well, maybe not as much. When the Eden Fantasies folks started moving their swag bags through the area where I was sitting quietly chatting with Cecily, Julia, and Kathrin, what I witnessed was disturbing. I wish I had taken video, actually. The swag bags had a gravitational pull, I kid you not; something I could literally see as women began slowly swirling closer in smaller and smaller circles. The party was originally supposed to be in a specific room, but apparently the hotel kept moving them. It wasn’t supposed to start for another HOUR. The women moved closer. We got up to investigate, since of course we were curious about what the sex toy company would be giving away! They were still putting things in the bags when someone yanked one right off the luggage cart, then yanked another one and handed it to Cecily. She went and sat down. The crowd was growing bigger and the space between me and other people was growing smaller. I could feel my first twinge of panic begin (I really have an issue with crowds, but if I feel I have an exit I can deal. That feeling was going away). I finally looked around and it seemed I could see fingers twitching in anticipation! I had to leave. “I am not a whore,” I said to myself as I went back to my seat. Julia and Kathrin stayed up there for maybe 45 minutes before getting their swag, and Julia happened to get an extra bag for Cecily who already had one, so guess who still got a bag? Heh. The experience felt dirty somehow, so I guess the cleaning products that mostly filled the bag were a good idea. ☺
All that said, it didn’t upset me or mar the conference at all. For me, any time any large group of humans gets together there are issues. I was saying something about me being socially awkward and Cecily very accurately pointed out, “You aren’t socially awkward, you just don’t like people very much.” I had trouble arguing with that. Individually, I love people. I mean, once I know you or are connected to you, I am very warm and kind and funny and loyal to the death. This is what keeps me going in life, really, the one-on-one connections we make with people. And for me, this is what is best about the BlogHer conference or any large gathering: the quiet corner conversations, the elevator epiphanies, the late night bonding over ___; the people who surprise you, the people who move you, the people who make you laugh. It is those moments that keep a real face on blogging. We are not all faceless, soulless, ranting lunatics out in the ether. We are real individuals, with real feelings, real hopes and desires and loves, and we write on the Internet to connect with others.
*Photos and details of my day excursions to come!*