August 02, 2009

Finding Balance at BlogHer

I knew that it would take me a while to get around to writing about BlogHer, and now that most everyone has already published their posts, you should be good and warmed up for mine.

The overall theme for me at my first BlogHer was "Balance." Right from the start, it was a trip filled with ups and downs and I had to roll with them the best I could.

UP: Got to the airport on time and sailed through security (even though I forgot to take my netbook out of my purse).
DOWN: My flight was at the gate the absolute farthest from where I went through security (in a new terminal that I didn't even know was open and I was at the last gate of it).

UP: There was a food vendor open in this new terminal (Note: A vendor. One.) so I was able to grab some breakfast.
DOWN: By the time I had, miserly pastry in hand, my group was boarding and I couldn't really enjoy my chocolate milk.

UP: I was able to get an aisle seat in the completely full flight.
DOWN (Big Down): A man I shall forever refer to as The Hick From Hell took the middle seat next to me. Four of the worst hours in my life on an airplane ensued. Before we'd even left the tarmac, he opened his mouth and started spewing the most ignorant, bigoted, hateful, I've-been-hand-fed-by-the-right-wing-rabblerousers-and-I've-swallowed-it-whole crap at full voice. As we were surrounded by a very diverse crowd (hello, you're in San Jose, asshole), I both feared and hoped that someone would take issue with him. (They didn't.) Then he started drinking Jack Daniels at 8:00am (he ordered three, for a four-hour flight) and my revulsion was complete. Thankfully I had my MP3 player, very good earbuds and extra batteries. I ignored him, completely, which annoyed him. So when we were back on terra firma and I whipped out my phone to reconnect with sane people, I was subjected to his "Gee, I'm just a hick" ridicule for being one of "them people" who are pathetic (because we're able to use a cell phone; they are "beyond him") for being connected. Blood boils once more. I get the fuck out of there the moment I can. Oh, except that I let the lovely Mexican family sitting across from us (and technically behind us) exit first, just to piss him off.

DOWN: Waiting a really long time for the car to take me to the hotel.
UP #1: During that time I got to hang out with and get to know the charming Christina, who I'd been introduced to by the equally charming Andrea. She kept me from gnawing my arm off because by this time I was so hungry my head was starting to hurt.
UP #2: When we'd gotten a call from the limo company and moved outside to wait for our ride, we were approached by a woman who asked if we were bloggers, too. We'd walked past a group of women who were also waiting, unaware that they were waiting for the same car. (We should have some sort of sticker or tag to be able to identify a fellow attendee.) We carted our stuff over to where they were standing and I was thinking about calling the limo company again to ask where the hell this guy was, when a woman comes up to me and asks, "Maura?" I looked back at her with what was probably a classic blank stare, trying desperately to place her. I couldn't. Then she said her name and I almost got knocked over by a blast from the past. Linsey and I used to work together when I first moved to California. I hadn't seen her in around 16 years! We lost touch when I left that job, as so often happens, though I thought of her often and wondered what she was up to. I don't know how she recognized me right off, but it was a total trip getting caught up. A trip we took in a stretch SUV limo with neon lights; it felt like a bachelorette party with nine of my newest (and one oldest) friends.

UP: The beds at the Sheraton. (Slept like a dream.)
DOWN: The beds at the Sheraton. (Slept right through breakfast because I was so cozy.)

DOWN: People I thought would want to spend time with me made it fairly clear that they really weren't interested in doing so all that much.
UP: People I didn't know I'd get to spend time with wanted to do so and it made for some very memorable and worthwhile moments.

UP: The swag.
DOWN: The swag drama. Was there too much of it? Yes. Was there some really neat stuff that I'm glad I got a chance to sample? Yes. Did I like being able to bring gifts back to my friends and family since I barely left the hotel and didn't do any shopping? Big yes. (The not shopping thing was kind of weird, but good for the old wallet, certainly.) Did I ever behave in an unbecoming manner in pursuit of any swag? No. I was appalled by the behavior I heard about and was really glad I didn't witness any. There was only one swag bag I really wanted and that was the one from the Room 704 girls, who threw a hugely successful party. (Possibly too successful.) I love those girls like you wouldn't believe and I wanted to have a piece of them...I mean, the take home with me. My bag was long gone by the time I got to the party.
UP: Because they rock, hardcore, I did get a bag from my girls, even though there were some shameless people who took bags that were marked for people. It was classic Room 704 style and I'm grateful that they went out of their way to do that for me.

UP: The keynote address let me hear the words of some bloggers I'd never met or read before, and there were both hilarious and poignant moments. (If you weren't there, you should absolutely go read those posts, or watch the videos of them being read. Some incredible talent there.)
DOWN: Many of those words made me want to put my head down on the table and sob like a child. It was all I could do to keep it together, and if I hadn't been seated between two guys (the fantastic brotherly duo of Ben and Matthew) who I'd pretty much only just met, I very well might have. Then again, pretty much everyone was crying, so I probably could have.

UP: The people. The bloggers and tweeters I knew online and got to meet in person, the bloggers I met (in any way) for the first time, the people I only got to say "hi" to, the people I met and talked to in line and never saw again, the vendors who brought their wares for us and were so kind in talking about them, and the woman I had lunch with on Saturday because she looked like she needed a place to sit and we had such a lovely time.
DOWN: The talk by and about some people.
BIGGER UP: The people I got to spend significant amounts of time with during those four days. Just the best people and I am so delighted that I got to have that experience with you Stacey, Renee, Marinka, Kirsten, Kari, Issa, Heather, Caitlin and all of the individuals linked to above. Thank you for helping me keep my equilibrium at BlogHer.