Day 1 was a day of amazing panels. And also a sign that two things would hold true this year. 1) I would have even less sleep than in prior years (well, maybe not compared to Chicago, but..that was for different reasons!). and 2) that I would be a supreme fan girl and not be the least bit tongue tied or star struck upon encountering a celebrity.
Item 1 got off to a rolling start thanks to bad weather impacting my flights into Pittsburgh. I got to Chicago on time. My original flight from there to Pitt was supposed to get me in at Midnight and I figured in the room at 1am. Unfortunately my plane was coming from the side of the country that was beset by thunderstorms which had cancelled or delayed many flights that day. Consequently I didn’t get into my hotel room until 4am. After a quick 3.5 hour nap I tackled the day.
First I got to greet my lovely roommate:
Linda aka Virgomusic
We set out in search of breakfast – notice her Bruggers bag? Yep, that was our place for early morning nutrients We were both heading to get our name tags and then in to the panel titled “From Prop 8 to Full Equality in all 50 states.” As we made our way around we started running in to more friends from prior events so many hugs and hellos were exchanged. The panel kicked things off in typically high quality fashion. The larger focus right now is on Maine with it’s own version of Prio 8 coming up in the fall (Prop 1 for them). There was much analysis of the lessons learned from the debacle in CA and discussion of how best to get the human element stories across in Maine before the anti-equality crowd gets their money in there. And yeah, they are getting a lot of out of state money from the same groups that swarmed into CA. Anyhow, sufficiently energized I was thrilled to see my two best NN buds Bill and Michael (hereafter referred to as The Boys)in the back of the room so when that session was over there was much hugging and kissing and squeeling. With promises to meet back up for lunch I then moved on to what I termed the Ultimate Political Geek Fest panel – How to Get the Most out of Polling Data. I had to go though, because my first celeb “squee” of the day was on the panel – Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com
Nate Silver on Nerdfest Panel
The information there just about filled my puny exisiting on only 3.5 hours of sleep brain and I needed a break. Thankfully it was lunch time so I made my way to the hotel lobby to meet up with The Boys. As I arrived I found two more dear friends Sherm & Doggie waiting there (Shermdog hereafter). As we gathered and greeted people, I noticed a very familiar face walking towards me. Not familiar as in one of my friends, but familiar as in, ‘hey I see this guy on twitter and on my TV a LOT!’ and I think that overall familiarity granted by Twitter made me just step right out and say “Hey, hi there Chris!” To one Christopher Hays of The Nation and frequent guest on MSNBC and panelist for the next one on my schedule after lunch. Bill perked up while Chris shook my hand and asked my name and was generally awesome so he introduced himself and shook Chris’ hand and then asked me to outline his hand in his annual autograph book so he could ‘save’ Chris’ DNA. Ok, so we do get quite a bit silly So we are all just buzzing away about Chris as we walk across the street to a restaurant and get ourselves settled in. I take a couple of bad photos with my phone (You’ll notice the day 1 photos from the iPhone are rather poor as I was still trying to figure the damn thing out and of course I had left the main camera in the room).
Doggie, Michael and Mik at lunch
As I then settled in to take a photo of the two people sitting across from me, I noticed another media celeb sitting behind them, Ron Reagan. Son of President Ronald Reagan and current radio host for Air America. So I framed the shot to include him:
Ron (in background), Vicki & Bill
Notice that Ron has on a smashing orange lanyard too. Yep, he was doing his show on location Thursday and Friday. So Bill spent about 10 mins hemmning and hawing about going up to talk to Ron while Vicki and I threatened to go there on his behalf and then finally he got up the nerve to ask Ron for his autograph and he got it! Ron was as nice as could be and I know Vicki has a picture on her camera of Bill and Ron. These kind of casual encounters went on all weekend. I have to tell you that I am mildly disappointed now that I am back home to NOT be running into celebs of one sort or another everywhere I go
Anyhow, after lunch I went off to see the aforementioned Chris Hayes’ panel titled @FDR, is there a New Deal? Well, I tell you, if the first two panels were not intimidating in their vast levels of smart, then this one was the cherry on top. Here’s Chris:
He talks with his hands a lot Each panelist had a prepared statement and his was an analogy of just how things in Washington work as far as getting money into the hands of the peopl who need it most. Generally the money has to travel over mountains and through valleys and tunnels and never actually ends up where it is needed. And of course everyone along the way skims off the top until there is often nothing left. He was telling this story to illustrate how difficult it is for Obama to push through many of the reforms he wants and how even if they are implemented, the huge challenge is in hitting your target. Anyhow, that’s the best I can do at summing it up some 5 days and lots of drinks and not a lot of sleep later I remember though that was really floored me was that during the question and answer session the people – just regular old DailyKos members like me – asked ridiculously in depth questions and THEN – the panelists would answer them off the top of their heads so easily! Chris’s vocabulary awed me. I swear the overall brain power in that room could have moved those mountains Chris was talking about!
My intention after that was to go to the Food panel chaired by my friend Jill who I’ve written about before but I was starting to fizzle out. So I went into the exhibit hall and found TheBoys and got my swag bag and a t-shirt or two and greeted more friends. Somehow we ended up gabbing in there for so long that we totally missed having dinner and barely had time to freshen up before the reception prior to the Bill Clinton keynote. While at the happy hour event which did at least have some light hors d’oeurves we spotted our earlier friends, Ron & Chris:
Ron Reagan interviews Chris Hayes on the radio
Then it was in to the main hall for the Big Event. The Big Dawg. Typically late as always And also quite hoarse and tired at first. Found out later on that if you tracked back to his trip to North Korea the week before, he had only slept on airplanes or in hotels for two solid weeks. The day before he’d been in Puerto Rico and that same day he’d been in Chicago – all at speaking engagements or meetings for his foundation. Here’s my pathetic attempt at a picture:
President Bill Clinton
Part way through his talk (no notes, no telepromter, just off the cuff), someone in the crowd stood up and hollered out a question about why he had signed Dont Ask Dont Tell – I don’t know exactly what was said, but I could discern the topic at any rate. Now, I am not a fan AT ALL of people doing this. It appalls me how folkd have been shouting down debate at the health care town halls – Bill even referred to those saying maybe the guy got lost on his way to one of those events As a friend later tweeted: “Heckling during a speech is like farting in an elevator on purpose” I totally agree. BUT. BUT. In this ONE instance it was aimed at a politican who knew exactly how to handle it. After that snarky remark about being in the wrong place, and as the crowd hollered at the heckler to sit down and be quiet and as security wound its way towards him, Bill told everyone to calm down, that he wanted to answer that charge. And let me tell you – he was not hoarse and tired any more. It was like someone breathed life into the man and he became what I had expected all along. Larger than life, animated, passionate and downright ANGRY. Oh, how he wagged his long fingers at that poor guy and let him know step by step what was happening around him in Washington when DADT was under consideration. How he was the ONLY one in the room who wanted to grant gays full rights to serve. He was the salmon swimming upstream back in the 90s. Anyhow, that little diversion got him rocking and rolling and the rest of his speech was pure Clinton – he dragged on longer than he was supposed to of course – and we were all quite happy. It was the perfect end to Day 1.
End it I did too. Others traipsed out to the subsequently delayed party at the Warhol museum but I was DONE. And I knew I had two more nights to survive so I thought I should pace myself. It turned out that TheBoys were in the room next to mine so Bill and I walked up together (Michael had drifted out during the speech and went to the Warhol event) running into more people we hadn’t seen yet on the way.
After what seemed like 3 days packed into one and at least 50 hugs, Linda and I went to sleep. Well, that is, after an hour of post-game analysis as is our habit )
Tune in later for a very picture heavy Day 2 otherwise known as Sightseeing Day.