Final Reflections on My First CPAC

If someone had told me at the outset just how blown away I’d be by this experience, I don’t know that I’d have believed them.  Although, come to think of it, someone did, and I guess I didn’t.  But these are the sorts of things you just don’t really get until you experience them for yourself.  

Let me acknowledge right here and now, I realize that much of my “blogging” about it has been little more than storytelling.  But, frankly, that’s what it was intended to be.  I’m no ace reporter or journ-o-list.  I’m just a “civilian”, relatively new to the cause, even newer to the Blogosphere.  And my aim was to give as full and accurate accounting of my “adventure” as I could — so that I could remember it, so that those who shared it with me could be acknowledged, and so that those observing might be intrigued enough to get involved and start attending these sorts of things themselves.  Hopefully, I’ve achieved that in at least some small measure.

Before I set out on this great adventure, I read this very helpful guide from Jimmie Bise, Jr. (@Jimmiebjr): The Rookies Rough Guide to CPAC 2012 .  With Jimmie’s permission, I’d like to revisit several of his suggestions, and examine where I fell short.  And perhaps share some additional lessons I learned.  Jimmie’s first recommendation:

Dress for Success…and Comfort.

He makes the point that a lot of walking is called for, and stiletto heels probably aren’t the wisest of choice for ladies (nor are brand new dress shoes for men).  I took heed of his advice, and only brought my “low” heels for dress shoes — comfortable black, strappy numbers I’ve had for years and could honestly run in if it became necessary.  This would have been fine, had Saturday night not ended with a 45+ minute trudge through downtown DC in cold and snow.  (I’ll revisit this issue in a bit.)

Jimmie also wisely points out that, “Ultra-mini skirts that show off your well-toned legs are good for the after-parties, but not for six hours of sitting in speeches and panel discussions. Business or business casual is the order of the day, at least until the sun goes down.”  I took this advice, as well, and went with business casual for the Conference, and dressier attire for evening events.  Not sure that any of us anticipated #Trollopgate.  All I can say is I see both sides of it, and, well, that’s all I’m going to say about that.

You Can’t Do It All, So Plan Ahead.

All one had to do was scan the jam-packed agenda to realize that planning wisely was a good idea.  Jimmie gave some fantastic suggestions of how best to accomplish this, and I did my utmost to follow them.  Went through the list carefully with my handy-dandy highlighter while on the plane.  Prioritized.  I thought I was good to go.  That fell apart early, though, due to my inability to figure out where I wanted to settle, where I could settle and what exactly I wanted my role as blogger to be.  Having experienced it now, I think I’ll have a better plan for the future.  One other thing that must be taken into account: The number of people you will run into and want to stop and spend time with.  Also, the sleep-deprivation will catch up with you quickly and make sitting still for any length of time to listen to speeches a dicey proposition.  I guess that’s two other things, isn’t it?   Anyway – Jimmie’s absolutely right.  You need a well-thought-out game plan.

Love the Nightlife, but Not too Much.

I’d laugh, but…he is so very right about this.  And I am so very…not adept at this.  I think, in retrospect, it would be ideal to try and shoot for a reasonable curfew the first two nights.  That way, you’d at least have a fighting chance at surviving through until Sunday.  But, recognizing that life and stuff isn’t always accommodating of this, I also highly recommend stocking up on sleep in the nights preceding your trip, and accepting that you’re probably going to need a day or two after (at least) to recoup some zzzzz’s, as well.

As for the other aspect of the nightlife — yes, alcohol abounds.  And if you’re someone who has trouble with your regulator switch, well, you’re probably going to have trouble.  As Jimmie said, know your limits.  I would add: Don’t just know them – respect them.  You’ll respect yourself a lot more the next day if you do.  Also, not a bad idea to keep a trusted friend nearby whenever possible.  One who knows their own limits, and isn’t afraid to tell you when you’re exceeding yours.  

Food.

Jimmie also makes the fantastic suggestion to bring along some energy bars.  This was an invaluable lesson I learned many years ago on a Bachelorette Party in Cancun. Having a stash of breakfast bars with me on that trip saved my life.  But it applied for the Conference, as well.  You’d think in a big hotel in a busy business district, food would rarely be an issue.  And it’s not, insofar as food is not hard to find.  What is hard is finding the time to sit down to regular meals.  People and events will pull you in so many different directions, you may well find yourself skipping meals.  Even when you plan to meet friends for breakfast, lunch, dinner, what have you, those plans can often fall through.  Always good to have a backup plan, even if it’s not nearly so exciting as dining with friends.  

Now, for some of my own observations, reflections….

Save Up.

If you see a conference like CPAC in your future, start planning now.  Sock away every little bit extra you can, because between airfare, hotel fare, cab fare and food and drinks, it adds up quickly.  Also, if you’re trying to save money, it isn’t an absolute must that you stay at the conference hotel.  It’s certainly convenient!  But you can Priceline it and find some nice hotels close by for considerably less.  As I mentioned, the Hilton DuPont Circle was a very nice place to stay for my first night and very reasonable, compliments of Priceline.  

Choose Your Destination Airport Wisely.

This isn’t a biggie, but it wasn’t until after my flight was booked that I realized that getting from Dulles to Downtown D.C. isn’t all that easy/inexpensive.  If nothing else, the cab ride into town gave me a great chance to bond with @Chris_Mayer over our near-death experience.  Still, it would have been easier and a bit cheaper to get to where I needed to be from Reagan or BWI.  

Registration and Credentials.

Whether you’re registering solely as a Conference attendee, or applying for Bloggers’ Credentials, I highly recommend checking in as soon as you possibly can.  If you arrive the evening before the Conference, pick up your packet/lanyard then.  If you wait until the morning the Conference starts, be prepared to stand in a very long line.  If you plan on applying for Bloggers’ Credentials, do so early. Also, it’s helpful if you’ve had an entry by-lined by one of the better-known sites.  Not mandatory, but you’ll increase the likelihood of receiving full Credentials, along with access to the Bloggers’ Lounge.  Also not necessary in order to enjoy the experience, but a good place from which to observe and blog. 

This leads me to a bigger point: Give some serious thought to what you want to do with this opportunity.  I honestly had no idea going into it.  I’ve always loved writing, but I’ve only recently started tackling politics and more substantive issues.  And even then, I tend to stay within the comfort zone of “writing what I know,” which translates primarily into offering my personal observations on political issues and events.  That’s all well and good, but mostly, it’s just me venting and scratching that writing itch.  If your aim is to take a more serious approach, be prepared to do your research, and map out not only the presentations you want to attend, but the political people you want to meet.  If you want to start landing interviews with the political class, you’re going to have to do the legwork well before arriving at an event such as this.  And, by all means, ask the “veterans” for advice.  There are some wonderful folks out there who’ll happily offer suggestions and serve as mentors.  Just be sure to show your gratitude and acknowledge those who do.  

Bottom line, do give it some thought and planning ahead of time.  Make the most of what really is an amazing opportunity. 

Technical Difficulties. 

It’s inevitable – pack thousands of people into a hotel, many of whom are desperately seeking a Wi-Fi signal and you’re bound to have issues.  Be prepared for it.  Get used to it.  Use your 3G (or 4G) capabilities when possible.  Bring a wall-charger with you everywhere.  And be prepared to pay $14-15 a day if you want Wi-Fi in your room.  Even when you have the proper access code(s), know and accept that the signal will be shoddy at times.  It’s not the end of the world.  Use network-down time to network with humans.  

Capture the Moment. 

You will meet a gabillion people — some “famous,” some friend, some both.  Don’t forget to snag pics when you can.  I can’t believe how many people I was so happy to finally see in person and yet let get away without posing for a quick pic with them or snapping a group shot.   Kicking myself for that still.  Also, consider bringing a better quality camera than just your iPhone.  Far too many of the shots I got were fuzzy, out-of-focus, blurs.  (Okay, some of that may just be my poor photography skills, but still, a better quality camera wouldn’t hurt.) 

Further, if you opt to take videos, remember the mic is hot.  Anything you have to say will serve as narration for what you see.  

Know Where You’re Going and How You’re Going to Get Back. 

If you plan to head out on the town, familiarize yourself with the area ahead of time.  Look at a map.  Have an idea of where you’ll be. Also, arrange for a cab or some other ride to take you back ahead of time.  Don’t leave it to chance like we did.   Store a couple cab company numbers in your phone, and while you’re at it, make sure you have the numbers of all your companions.  Lastly, as silly as it may sound, employ the Buddy System.  Or, in the immortal words of Jester, “Never, never leave your wingman!” (Okay – this is sage advice for going out on the town at any point in time, but it’s especially true when you’re in an unfamiliar city with semi-unfamiliar people.)

Prepare Yourself for Post-Parting Depression.

I already alluded to it in my previous post, but again, silly as it sounds, parting is indeed sweet sorrow.  Part of it is the realization you won’t see many of these people with whom you’ve bonded again for months, maybe not even for another year.  Part of it is the knowledge that you’ll soon have to return to “the real world.”  And part of it is coming down from a several day adrenaline rush.  These elements all combine and can do a serious number on your psyche.  Even assuming you manage to escape the dreaded “CPAC Plague” — and many do not — you’ll still feel emotionally and physically drained for several days after your return.  

Give yourself time to decompress.  Schedule some fun, relaxing outings with family or friends.  Also, look ahead to future conferences you may be interested in and able to attend.  Planning for those will give you something else to look forward to and help minimize the inevitable let-down.  It’s the same as with any vacation, really.  It’s just that there’s a bit of an added emotional component.  At least if you’re a sap like me. 

Be Thankful.

Lastly, take a step back and be glad, be thankful, to live in this country; to have the amazing opportunities we have; and to be able to participate in events such as this.  Take the lessons learned and the connections made home with you and find a way to put them to use in your community and in your daily life.  Most of us can only hope to make small differences, at best.  But we can make them.  And when we find ways, through experiences like this, to work with others of like-mind, sometimes, we can even make not-so-small ones. 

One last big thank you to each and every one of you who helped make this the fantastic, amazing experience it was.  Unforgettable. 

Bidding a Fond Farewell – CPAC Sunday

The worst part of any grand adventure is that it eventually must come to an end. Sunday morning, I had the luxury of sleeping in a bit.  Still, I was up by 9:00, gathering my thoughts as I began to gather up my belongings.  

One thing I’d noticed upon my return to the room late Saturday night was that there were still a couple cases of beer stashed in my room.  I hesitated before bolting the door and putting out the Do Not Disturb, but ultimately decided the true Late Nighters could darn well knock if they really needed the rest of it.  So, my first order of business Sunday morning was to tweet out to Sarah Smith (@Mamaswati) and Matt DeLuca (@MattDeLuca) to find out where my room card was and who wanted to come collect the leftover beer — because I certainly wasn’t going to be taking it with me!  DeLuca proved himself the hero when he offered to drive back to the hotel to exchange card for beer — especially when I later learned just exactly how late (early?!) it was when he’d finally left the #KruiserKabana.  (Shhh – I won’t tell, Matt.)   A bit later he arrived, with the card, tote bags in hand, and deftly loaded them up with the beer.  (I did announce on Twitter that there’d be a party at Matt’s house later.  Not sure if anyone took me up on that.)

As I finished packing up, was happy to receive a quick visit from @rachelveronica who stopped by my room to say goodbye on her way out.  All I have for her is hugs.  She knows why.  Made my way downstairs to checkout, and, boy, what a difference a few hours makes….there were still a few CPAC folk here and there, but honestly, the place looked (and felt) deserted.  I once again checked my belongings with the Bell Hop as I wouldn’t be leaving for the airport until mid-afternoon.  I grabbed a Dr. Pepper (way better than Amp) and pulled up a chair in the Lounge.  Soon, Thomas LaDuke (@irishduke2) arrived and sat down to chat for a bit.  He had some time to kill before hopping the train back to Detroit.  It was agreed that Cousin Fingers (@FingersMalloy) would soon join us for lunch, so we once again headed to Harry’s Pub to dine.  

Duke shared the story of his encounter with some Ron Paul supporters the night before at Harry’s while the rest of us had been at Karaoke.  I must say I was surprised by their noticeable lack of presence at the Conference, but I guess the promise of Rand speaking wasn’t enough to draw them in their usual numbers.  (This likely explains Paul’s lackluster showing in the Straw Poll this year, as well.)  When Duke initially recounted the story, I happily revealed that I was, in fact, wearing my “Ron Paul’s Burger Hut” T-Shirt under my pullover at that very moment.  (For those unaware, check out the website here:  http://www.ronpaulsburgerhut.com/ . (@RPaulsBurgerHut))   Later, after Fingers joined us, Duke retold the story and I again mentioned I was wearing the T-Shirt.  I now know, without question, that Duke and Fingers are related.  Because they both had the identical reaction, recounted here http://www.fingersmalloy.com/2012/02/snark-factor-157-cpac-wrap-up , at about the 23 minute mark.  #TeeHee

While we dined, Duke showed off his multi-tasking skills, giving an interview to Matt Clark (@Clarkcast) of WAAM-AM:  https://twitter.com/#!/FingersMalloy/status/168767678805327872

Unfortunately, Fingers’ airport shuttle arrived a bit sooner than anticipated so lunch had to be cut short.  Quick hugs goodbye for him and then Duke.  Not gonna lie – felt like saying goodbye to family.  #Sniffle   

Then I was off to Dulles.  But my trip wasn’t completely over, yet.  I’ve had the great good fortune to be friends for over 8 years now, with Ann (@Dublin__5), whom I initially met on that message board I mentioned previously.  (www.rightnation.us)  Ann lives in Virginia, near DC, and it had been six years since I’d last come to visit her.  Unfortunately, the whirlwind that was CPAC didn’t afford me much free time, but we were able to meet up at – kid you not – “Harry’s Tap Room” at the airport.  (Harry’s apparently a popular guy in DC.)  Enjoyed a nice salad and drink and caught up as best we could in the limited time we had.  Again, never can adequately say just how grateful I am to have the amazing friends I do.  

But my CPAC fun wasn’t quite over yet.  I’d checked in on FourSquare when I arrived at Dulles, and as I was making my way through security, received a message from none other than Rick Hornsby (@rjhornsby). After comparing notes, we discovered that we were, in fact, booked on the same flight to Midway.  What a delightful surprise!  So, I had a pal to sit next to on the plane and revisit the wondrous insanity that the past five days had been.  And also to help steady my flying nerves a bit.  We both had an almost 2 hour layover at Midway, too, so we grabbed a snack and a soda at the lovely “Oak Street Cafe” — where ordering your food and drink at the bar gets you carded with a snarl — and watched a bit of the Grammys together, before heading in search of outlets to recharge our phones.  Honestly, those last few hours with Rick I think helped save me from slipping into full on post-CPAC depression.  At least for Sunday.  

And that about sums it up.  I’m working on a follow-up post — one reflecting on it all and focusing on the lessons learned.  But before I close this out, I do want to add a shout out to several other folks I saw/met and enjoyed chatting with while at CPAC:  Jason Whitman (@JasonBWhitman) (though we were spared any crazy bidet incidents this time!), Sam Rosado (@SARosado), Brian Bollman (@bbollmann64), Michelle Moore (@Michelle_Moore), Jon David Kahn (@MrJonDavid) – my favorite Conservative crooner, Corie Whalen (@CorieWhalen), Neal (@NewDealGin), and Sarah Rumpf (@Rumpfshaker).  Oh, and I want to re-mention Joe Schoffstall (@JoeSchoffstall) whose name I misspelled in the last entry.  (Sorry, Joe!)  

Again, there were many others, and you have my sincerest apologies if I’ve neglected to mention you.  It’s no intended slight — simply faulty memory and information overload.  Also, there were several folks I fully expected to meet and never got a chance to.  William Newton (@wbdnewton) and Amy Miller (@amyvrwc) come to mind.  If it seems to those who’ve been following along that I’ve done an inordinate amount of name dropping, it’s because I have.  But it isn’t so much to say, “Dig me.”  It’s to say “Dig THEM!”  Truly, I find myself amazed and encouraged to encounter so many bright, energetic, dedicated people who not only hold the conservative cause dear, but who actively work to advance it.  And yes, I count myself lucky to call quite a few of them “friend.”  

UPDATE:  Funny how things pop into your mind.  As I was cleaning my house this afternoon, slowly but surely settling back into regular routine, several people whom I enjoyed meeting at CPAC and whom I’m afraid I’ve neglected to mention popped into my mind:  @YR_AlyssaNJ and @JKinLosAngeles for certain. There were @JennyErikson and @TxTrendyChick.  Also @AnahitaNemat was lovely.  Spoke briefly with @LachlanMarkay and also with @EzraDulis.  @MattCover and @FirstTeamTommy, too.  And how I failed to include @AprilDGregory and @SElise3 whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting now several times, I’ll never know.  Again, I know there are more. As they occur to me, I’ll add them in here.  (And don’t be shy about reminding me!) I’m just sorry to have been so remiss.

Baggage, Nappage, Songbirds, Windburn & Taxi Cab Consternation – CPAC Saturday

Something I forgot to mention in my recap of Friday: due to the highly convenient location of my room, it did, indeed become the place for everyone’s bag, baby.  At various points, I had Mark Warner’s (@mwarner95), Tom Reynolds’ (@Beregond), Duane Lester’s (@Bodhi1), Fingers Malloy’s (@FingersMalloy), John Brodigan’s (@Brodigan) and Amelia Hamilton’s (@AmeliaHammy) bags stashed in my room.  (Oh, and later, several cases of beer-in-waiting for the anticipated late night in the #KruiserKabana, at the request of Sarah Smith (@Mamaswati) and Matt DeLuca (@MattDeLuca), who I loaned my extra room card, so they could access it when needed.)

I was happy to accommodate, but, um, that 7:30 a.m. call from Mark on Saturday morning hurt. It was all I could do to drag myself out of bed, shower and dress before he and Brodigan came knocking to retrieve their bags.  I think they were a little surprised when I opened the door with my hair still in a towel, but at that point, I didn’t care.  I finished pulling myself together and verified the location of one Ms. Mary Chastain (@MaryChastain) whom I’d been dying to meet, but hadn’t yet managed to do.  Verified she was hard at work in the Bloggers’ Lounge and marched over there with a purpose.  I think, perhaps because it was Saturday, and because I’d already gained entrance into the Bloggers Lounge a time or two to grab Tom’s bag, I passed muster.  I was admitted without incident.  And finally got to meet the force of nature that is Ms. Chastain!  I describe her that way because I don’t know that I have ever witnessed someone go after a story with such dogged determination.  It’s no wonder she’s making a name for herself these days.  And she was just as lovely in person as I expected her to be.  So glad we got to connect!

After that, I wandered downstairs with the idea of hitting some of the speeches.  Stood in line for 15 minutes for an Amp, started to drink it and realized it was pointless.  I didn’t need speeches or energy drinks.  I needed sleep.  So, I shuffled back up to my room and attempted a nap.  It never actually materialized, though.  As tired as I was, my mind was still racing with all sorts of stuff.  Eventually, I gave up and headed back downstairs after being graciously invited by Andrew Staroska (@OHCONSERVATISM) to join him, Kevin Eder (@Keder), Sarah Smith (@Mamaswati), Linlee Dubard (@LinDuBard) and Michelle Lancaster (@SkiGarmisch) for lunch at Chipotle.  Anyone who follows Kevin on Twitter knows the import of this occasion.  Though I wasn’t entirely certain how hungry I was, I certainly wasn’t going to pass that up.  We ran into some of the Misfit crew (@CnservativePunk @ColeStreeper @SaraCJohnsonGA — oops, I’m told Sara may not have been there, but I’ll include her anyway — @Erin_Brown) while there, too.  Unfortunately, the appetite just wasn’t there, so I wasn’t able to enjoy Chipotle the way I normally would.  

Once done with lunch, we made our way back to the Marriott, and I again attempted the nap thing.  I almost managed it this time, too.  Except that someone called my room (and then hung up when I answered.)  After that, I started hearing the wind pick up outside.  It sounded like a tornado was about to come through.  Only the air was frigid and it had started to snow.  Finally, defeated, I decided to put on my game face and rejoin the masses.

Though I accomplished virtually zero conference-related recon on Saturday, I do know that there were two great speeches delivered that day.  (Sadly, neither from actual Presidential candidates.)  First, there was Daniel Hannan, a Conservative MEP from South East England.  There were no shortage of tweets bemoaning the fact that he couldn’t be adopted by the US.  Here’s a link to his speech – well worth the watch/listen:  http://youtu.be/BujuEpGmKMg .  And closing things out was, of course, Sarah Palin: http://youtu.be/tXsrajvFGk8 , who was greeted with a warm Happy Birthday from the crowd, and whose speech was extremely well-received, even by those who aren’t necessarily her biggest fans anymore.   Some highlights: “We aren’t Red Americans, we’re not Blue Americans, we are Red, White and Blue, and President Obama, we are through with you!”  “This Government isn’t too big to fail — it’s too big to succeed.” “Hope and change….yeah, you gotta hope things change…”  ‘He says he has a jobs plan to win the future…WTF..I know!?!”  There were a few stray Occupiers who attempted to crash the Palin speech, but it didn’t appear that they had much success.  

While that was wrapping up, I was in the lobby finally getting to meet one of my most favorite people on Twitter:  Nathan Wurtzel (@NathanWurtzel).  Nathan is blessed with both brilliance and a delightfully wry and sometimes outright impish sense of humor.  He frequently makes me giggle and I was very happy to meet him in person, though I didn’t get to spend nearly enough time chatting with him.  Part of the problem there was that the lobby was so doggone ice cold, it was impossible to get comfortable sitting there.  Apparently the notion of two sets of revolving doors instead of slow sliders never occurred.  Nor did jacking up the heat to combat the sudden drop to 10 degrees outside.  I also enjoyed speaking with Jeff Donels (@JDonels), and Kayla Anderson (@FLFusionista).   Will take this opportunity to shout out also to Joe Schofstall (@JoeSchofstall), the utterly adorable “BK” Brandon Kiser (@BrandonKiser) and Sean Agnew (@SeanAgnew) whom I happily met and spoke briefly with on several occasions throughout the conference.  Also, Jayvie Canono (@OneFineJay) Ryan Tepley (@RyTep), Mitch (@hipstervative), (@EyeOnPolitics), Jessica Seale (@JessaNaomi) (Oh, there were more – so many more – and as I manage to yank them back into my brain, I will happily add and acknowledge them.  Truly, I enjoyed virtually every person I met while at CPAC and am grateful to have had the opportunity!)

The plans for the evening were for Karaoke, which has become an FTR/CPAC tradition.  But first, I needed some dinner.  And had the pleasure of dining with a lovely group at Harry’s Pub:  Tuesday (@bluedevilmsn) and Erin (@ErinECosta) again (and thank you, ladies, for being such lovely dining companions all conference!), Tari (@Uncommentari), Jim J (@Anthropocon), Heather Buell (@Buelldawg), @Eastendville and my dear pal, Alex Kauffman (@AlexKauff).  So enjoyed chit-chatting with folks and getting to know them a bit better!

After that, folks gathered in the Lounge before heading off to Karaoke.  It was while there that we learned of the untimely passing of Whitney Houston.  Sad, really.  We agreed it was a safe bet there’d be at least a Whitney song or two belted out at Karaoke.  I was graciously invited by @AIPolitics (whom I didn’t get to spend nearly enough time getting to know while at CPAC – my fault!) to join him for his radio show that evening, but unfortunately had to decline, as we were preparing to leave soon.  

Speaking of hanging out in the Lounge, if I haven’t mentioned them yet, I’m a complete moron.  The Teichmans, as in Molly (@Mommentator) and Brent (@BrentTeichman) are fellow Missourians and folks I’d happily hang with anytime, any place.  Hard working, focused, dedicated to the cause.  And just flat out fun to be around!  I rode over to Peyote Cafe with them.  In a rather tiny cab.  But, oh, what I wouldn’t have given for that sucker several hours later.  (We’ll get there momentarily.)  

Peyote Cafe is located on 18th Street in the Adams Morgan district, which looks to be a sort of fun place, but it’s all torn up right now with construction.  Which makes actually getting to the various establishments along 18th a bit tricky.  Most especially when the blizzardy winds are blowing like crazy and snow is swirling around your feet.  We picked our way to the Cafe and descended into its bowels.  Yeah, it’s pretty much a dive.  Down below street level, dark, and with an odd sort of smell, and, at times, too much heat blasting out of its furnace.   Not very big either.  But, you know, after a bit, it wasn’t so bad.  (A smidge of alcohol does help these sorts of situations.)  We were treated to some phenomenal Karaoke performances by, of course, the ringleader, Fingers Malloy, John Brodigan, Josh Gillespie (@JoshGillespie), Duane Lester, Debbie Moss (@MosesMosesMoses), Tom Reynolds (“Doo, doo, doo, lookin’ out my back door…), and one Ms. Holly Bacon (@HollyBacon77) who’s a true American Badass.   Jonathon Little (@JonathonLittle) got up and sang, too, and I know there were several others.  But there goes my brain being mush again.  I had a devil of a time trying to find a song that I might be able to sing.  I finally settled on “Hopelessly Devoted to You” by Olivia Newton John.  God only knows how horrid it sounded — you couldn’t hear a thing while singing.  I think I’m mostly glad no one caught it on video.   While there, also enjoyed seeing Rebecca Wales (@Becs09), Teri Christoph (@TeriChristoph), Melissa Clouthier (@MelissaTweets), Kevin Doherty (@KevDough), Jennifer K (@JKinLosAngeles), Jamie Miller (@JamieMiller74), @rachelveronica, @Katearthsis, and @MelanieAnn79.   (Again, if I’ve omitted you, feel free to smack me upside the head and I’ll happily edit you in!) 

Definitely, a highlight of the evening was doing the high kicks with Sarah Smith and Kristina Ribali (@ORLibertyGal) while Gillespie sang “New York, New York!” It was all I could do NOT to fall over backwards onto Josh:

However, as the evening grew late, the crowd thinned.  And before I knew it, half my crew was gone, and it occurred to me I was out in DC in very wintry conditions and not entirely certain of our cab prospects, given the location and time of night.  I began the process of herding cats — I mean, rounding up my pals — and eventually, Josh, Brodigan, Melanie and I made our way out of the place.  It was not pretty.  The wind was whipping about like crazy, the sidewalks were semi-slick, and there was no easy way to get to a place where we might hail a cab.  I told the others to follow along behind me and set out on a mission.  An utterly futile one.  I got to a place where we could pick our way across the construction barriers and out onto the street, but there were very few cabs coming by, and those that were had their lights off.  Soon, we were joined by Michelle Ray (@GaltsGirl), TJ Thompson (@_TJThompson) & Chad Kent (@Spirit_of_1776), who were also searching for a cab in vain.  

I tried calling Yellow Cab and repeatedly got hung up on.  I tried hailing anything that drove by, to no avail.  We stood out there for at least 20-25 minutes and had absolutely no luck.  Have I mentioned it was about 10 degrees out?  And windy as hell? And that I, like an idiot, had worn open-toed shoes and just a light wrap, assuming we’d just be taking cabs door-to-door, la-la-la.  (As an interesting aside, while I don’t believe any of us actually sustained frostbite during this misadventure, I somehow wound up with windburn on my face. Unexpectedly.)   

In desperation, I texted back to the Marriott to see if anyone there could send a cab for us, but there were no cabs to be found there either. Clearly, another plan was needed.  About three blocks up, there looked to be a busy intersection, so I barked out to the others to get their butts in gear and follow me up there (and yes, by this time, I was barking, cursing, and probably spitting pea soup), and began striding purposefully in my frozen-toed, blistery-making shoes up to the intersection. As I neared it, I saw two guys getting into a fistfight over a cab.  “Oh, this is going to be good,” I thought.  We waited for another good 5 or 10 minutes, and then….I saw it — a mini-van Taxi.  No light on, but no occupants.  I was not going to let that sonofagun get away.  I stepped out into the street and hollered at him, and God bless that guy, he stopped.  I told him that we desperately needed to get 7 frozen people back to the Marriott, and he agreed.  I walked around to the passenger side and found three young ladies attempting to enter the cab and claim it as theirs.  I’m not entirely certain of the verbage I used. I don’t think it’s fit for print.  But I’m fairly certain it involved letting them know in no uncertain terms that I would do bodily harm to them if they didn’t back off.  They must have believed me, because they did.  We piled into the van and realized we were still missing Josh and Brodigan.  None of us had their numbers, and I was becoming frantic, but God love them, they finally appeared and piled in with us, and back we went to the hotel.  

Oddly enough, there were still folks up and about at that hour.  In fact, there were some headed up to the infamous #KruiserKabana. I made an effort to decompress in the Lounge for a bit.  Heard some interesting stories.  Saw some interesting things.  Thought about attempting the Kabana. But ultimately decided my wisest course of action was to call it a night.  Oh, what a night.  Really, I have to say, about 85% of it was truly good fun.  The rest, well, if nothing else, it served as blog fodder, no?  So, yes, my time at CPAC was drawing to a close, but there’s still a little more to tell of Sunday and the trip home.  I’ll get it typed out eventually.  🙂 

Red Carpets, Balconies, Occupiers, One Percenters & Eye-Opening Experiences – CPAC Friday

Having managed a bit more sleep Thursday night, I set out Friday with any eye toward focusing more on Conference events.  First up was the “Red Carpet Blogger Awards” hosted by TheTeaParty.net and Right Wing News.  As I approached the Maryland Ballroom in which it was to be held, sure enough, there was the red carpet leading into the room.  And a somewhat long line, which I initially stood in, then realized that it was for non-bloggers.  Yay!  My creds enabled me to walk right in.  I soon found Kemberlee @red_red_head and took a seat next to her. We were in for quite a treat!  

Steven Crowder (@Scrowder) MC’d the event

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

number of awards were handed out:

Top Humor Blog to @IowaHawkBlog

Best Writer on a Blog to @AceofSpadesHQ

Best News Blog to @TheRightScoop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best Blog Linker to @Instapundit

Best New Blog of 2011 to Naked DC (@emzanotti)

Best Anti-Jihad Blogger to @Atlasshrugs

Most Underrated Blog to Legal Insurrection (@Leginsurrection)

Best State Blog to @TheSharkTank1

Most Influential Blog to @Instapundit

Tea Party Blogger of the Year to @GatewayPundit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best Blog Overall to Hot Air (@hotairblog)

Presenters included @StephenKruiser

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

@BenShapiro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

@EWErickson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

@JamesOKeefe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

@EdMorrissey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Duane Lester (@Bodhi1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tabitha Hale (@pinkelephantpun)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

@MattKLewis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

@DanaLoesch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

@JohnHawkinsrwn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Apologies for the quality (or lack thereof) of the pics – I need to work on that.)

But the highlight of the ceremony was, without question, the phenomenal live performance of the Powdered Zombies, a/k/a @ChrisLoesch and Steven Crowder (@SCrowder).  Decked out in red and blue track suits and powdered wigs, this dynamic duo brought down the house.  I shot video of it with my pathetic iPhone camera, but it does it no justice, so, with Chris’s permission, I’ll share with you the official video which you simply must watch:

Mr. America

Loved it! Also enjoyed finally meeting the infamous @SHannitysHair a/k/a “Theron Cal”.  Charming gentleman!! 

Next, I set my sights on the Main Ballroom.  I’d missed the Mike Huckabee, Bob McDonnell and Rick Santorum speeches, unfortunately.  This has to be, by far, my biggest disappointment about CPAC — it simply is not possible to see all the speeches and presentations you want to see.  Not without cloning yourself.  And I haven’t figured that one out yet, though there are times when I’m certain it would come in handy.  At some point, when I have a moment to catch my breath, I’d like to go back and watch the video replay of some of the missed speeches.  I’m not banking on that happening, though.  Other writers with far better journalistic creds have already covered them in any event.  And, at the risk of sounding extraordinarily self-centered, the point of these blogs is to share with you my experience.  If nothing else, I hope to learn from it and build on it for future such conferences (and possibly pass some helpful information along to others who plan to attend them, as well.)

I knew, somehow, someway, there was a blogger overflow area that appeared to overlook the ballroom, even though no matter how many times I looked at the dang map, I could not quite figure out how to get to it.  (I swear I’m usually quite good with directions.  This hotel map had me befuddled, however.)  I meandered around and finally gained entrance to a balcony area overlooking the ballroom.  I’m still not entirely certain it was blogger-intended, but my good friend Loren Heal (@lheal) and I both found it and gained entrance at the same time.  So, we’ll go with it.

From my newly acquired perch, I listened in on several speeches.  (I could have possibly resituated myself so I could actually see the speakers, as well, but I was more interested in what they had to say than whether they’d worn a red or purple tie that day.)  First up, was Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK).  Again, I should have taken notes.  Because as I search my memory banks now, five days later, I’ve got…nothing.  (I’m sure this bodes well for future blogging opportunities.)  Senator Inhofe was followed by Carly Fiorina, ACU Board Member and Vice Chair of the NRSC.  She gave a fairly impassioned speech and it seemed well-received by the audience.

She was followed by Ann Coulter.  Ann and I haven’t always seen eye-to-eye over the years.  While I’ve always admired her wordsmithery, I haven’t always cared for her methodology.  In fact, for years, I was one of the lone anti-Ann voices at the conservative message board to which I belong.  www.rightnation.us  Many’s the time I was accused of just being jealous of her.  No.  Not really.  I just didn’t care for her approach.  That said, I enjoyed her CPAC speech.  She started off with the memorable line:   “Greetings One Percenters, and welcome to ‘Occupy the Marriott'”!  (I should add that, while these speeches were going on, my Twitter feed began lighting up with rumors of approaching Occupiers and trampled flower beds.  I heard none of the commotion from where I was, but I did get an interesting perspective on their efforts later on that afternoon.)     Ann made a decent pitch, selling Romney to the crowd, even if I highly disagree with the tortured pretzel twists she’s doing these days to defend Romneycare.   Later that day, I managed to snag a pic as I walked by her:


Ann, of course, introduced Mitt Romney who, somewhat to my surprise, was rather warmly received by the crowd.  I say this as one of the few Anti-Anti-Mitters in my Twitter feed.  I suppose, based on what I’m used to reading in my timeline, I anticipated more of a chill in the air.  I thought he gave a pretty good speech, though, and the audience seemed to approve.  I, of course, liked his line, “I served in government, but I didn’t inhale.”  Also, he got a standing ovation for acknowledging that he was proud of his success.  Rightly so, in my opinion.

After Romney it was time for a break.  I headed to Harry’s Pub and met up with Tuesday (@bluedevilmsn) Erin (@ErinECosta), and a couple other friends who graciously allowed me to join them.  The rest of the afternoon is a bit of a blur.  As I recall, it mostly involved wandering around and running into people I was excited to finally meet:  @JamieMiller74 @rachelveronica @MBernadetteE @Dicentric @davidhauptmann @DanIsett and wondering where @AIPolitics was hiding.   Gosh, I know there were more, and I’m leaving them out.  Don’t hate me!!! 

Late in the afternoon, I had the pleasure of attending #PurpleBash, a collaboration of Smart Girl Politics and Politicalistas.  Very nice party.  Big thanks to Ali Akbar (@Ali) and the Smart Girl Group (@SGPAction) for hosting.  Enjoyed talking with Ali’s lovely mother, Lydia, and with Stacy Mott (@Stacy_Mott) and Teri Christoph (@TeriChristoph).  Some pics from the event: 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While there, the Occupiers returned, and I captured some pics and video of that from our balcony: 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For some reason, the protest featured not only a Fat Cat, but also a golden toilet.  I’m not entirely sure of its significance.  Something I learned at CPAC, when I’m shooting video and talking, you can actually hear me.  This is not always a good thing. Living and learning.

Occupiers Return

More of the Occupiers

After #PurpleBash, it was time to go out to dinner at Old Ebbitt Grill with Tom Dougherty (@Tom1247), Michelle Ray (@GaltsGirl), TJ Thompson (@_TJThompson), Doug Mataconis (@DMataconis) and Coco (@SexyLibertarian).  Many thanks to our gracious host, Tom for a lovely limo ride and delicious dinner!  It did feel a bit one-percentish!  And even though I’m no great fan of seafood, I must say the fried calamari were delicious!  

Later, we returned to the Marriott and rejoined the rest of the gang.  Snapped a pic with one of my new friends, Amelia Hamilton (@AmeliaHammy), author of One Nation Under God: A Book for Little Patriots – http://www.ameliahamilton.com/ – which is a must have for all parents who want their kids to learn about history, government and our basic rights from an early age!

Also saw Andrew Breitbart (@AndrewBreitbart), and will admit I was flattered when he recalled out meeting at Smart Girl Summit and my being a runner:

AND got a pic with two of the people I most enjoyed meeting at CPAC, the aforementioned Michelle Ray and Stephen Kruiser:

Enjoyed catching up a bit more with Chris Loesch, discussing some mutual friends.  Also was happy to finally meet the lovely Breeanne Howe (@BreeanneHowe).  She and her husband Ben (@Ben_Howe) are two of my Twitter favs!!  And I finally got to meet fellow Mizzou fan and dear friend Jonathon Little (@JonathonLittle) 

John LaRosa (@jslconsulting), Brad Marston (@BradMarston) and Four Tier Strategies (@4TierStrategies) were again hosting a party, so we meandered up there later in the evening.  Enjoyed some more fun time with Jenn Taylor (@JennQPublic) and Caleb Howe (@CalebHowe).  And if I haven’t mentioned Jenn’s partner in crime, Lori Ziganto (@SnarkandBoobs) before now, shame on me.  This is another of FTR Radio’s dynamic duos, hosting the “That’s What She Said” show on Thursday evenings.  Love them!  While there, I also had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Gina Loudon (@DrGinaLoudon) and her lovely daughter, Lyda.  

It was actually quite a fun party.  But, as the saying goes, it’s all fun and games until somebody loses an eye.  It was late and folks were passing around a pizza menu.  My pal Fingers Malloy (@FingersMalloy) handed it to me at one point, and I jokingly winged it back at him. Right into his right eyeball.  There are no words to describe how awful I felt when I realized what I’d done.  Awful.  Simply awful. Thankfully, after a few minutes of blinking and wincing, Fingers was able to assure me that his eye was, in fact, still functional.  But another lesson learned – do NOT wing pizza menus at friends.  And God bless Fingers for being the forgiving sort!

By that point, it was quite late, and well past time to call it a night.  My thanks go out again to all the gracious hosts and to all my dear sweet friends for providing me with a very memorable Friday at CPAC!  (Can you believe there’s still another day-and-a-half to go?!) 

B-Team Blogging, Technical Difficulties & Blog Bash – CPAC Thursday

Though I can’t say enough good things about my accommodations at the Hilton DuPont Circle (seriously – SUPER nice hotel!), I didn’t get nearly enough sleep Wednesday night.  It isn’t always easy to shut down this over-drive brain of mine.  So, though I’d initially intended to return to the Marriott by 8:00-ish, and maybe grab breakfast with friend(s) before the conference kicked off, it was every bit of 9:00, before I was packed up and out the door.  Thank goodness I’d brought breakfast bars with me.  They saved me on more than one occasion!  (Mega thanks to Jimmie Bise (@jimmiebjr) for including that as one of his tips in his invaluable Rookie’s Rough Guide to CPAC 2012:   http://www.sundriesshack.com/2012/02/07/the-rookies-rough-guide-to-cpac-2012/ ! If only I’d followed all of his advice.  More on that later.)  

Once at the Marriott, I checked my bags with the Bell Hop, anticipating that I’d grab them later once my roommate arrived and we were able to check in.  I managed to catch the tail end of the Jim DeMint speech in the main ballroom.  It was very crowded in there, and I felt at loose ends – not sure how to balance the whole blogging thing with the observing thing.  I decided to mosey up to the Bloggers’ Lounge and see if I’d be able to get in.  Sadly, no.  Due to the limited space and my late/B-Team credentials, I was not given access.  In truth, this left me feeling a bit bereft.  I knew my friends Mark “Toonces” Warner (@mwarner95), Josh Gillespie (@JoshGillespie) and Brodigan (@Brodigan) were likely in there.  I wanted to be, too!

After a momentary pout, I decided to get over it and figure things out on my own.  I knew there was supposed to be another area for bloggers/media and asked a volunteer, who directed me down to the Delaware Room on the 1st Floor.  This was the Media Room, but no one said anything when I walked in, so I set up shop and began editing my initial CPAC post while listening to Marco Rubio speak, answering the question, “Is America Still an Exceptional Nation?”   It was a great speech by the way.  Watch the whole thing here, courtesy of The Right Scoop: http://www.therightscoop.com/full-speech-marco-rubio-at-cpac-2012/

I finished my initial blog entry, but wasn’t having any luck posting it.  My iPad showed a WiFi signal, but eventually, it dawned on me that it wasn’t actually connecting to the internet — a code was needed.  One was provided at the front of the room, and I finally had some success.  Unfortunately, however, one of the volunteers then noticed I didn’t have the requisite pink “Media” flag underneath my yellow Bloggers’ credentials and apologetically explained that I wasn’t really supposed to be in this room either.  Fair enough – it did seem more “big time media” than I’d expected.  Michael Medved was in there setting up for a bit.  Also, some guy with a ton  of video equipment nearly knocked my table (and drink) over onto me while lugging it to the back of the room.  I was happy to exit at that point.  (As a brief aside, one complaint I have re: the Marriott — no Red Bull!  All they had was Amp, and I’m sorry, but that just wasn’t cutting it for me.)

In any event, I’d already gotten one entry posted.  It seemed a good idea to try and go take in some more speeches/presentations and garner more content of the slightly more substantive variety.  I’d been invited to attend the Franklin Center presentation called “Strategy Briefing: How Citizen Journalists Can Make an Impact,” so opted to stop in there for a bit.  I knew Tabitha Hale (@pinkelephantpun) had recently become their New Media Director and was interested to see what sorts of suggestions and resources they had to offer.  In hindsight, I should have taken notes.  (Lesson learned for future conferences!) Still, the presentation was helpful and informative.  I just hit a hunger wall about two-thirds of the way through it and had to go in search of some food.

Luckily, Harry’s Pub (located just off the lobby in the Marriott) was not terribly crowded at that point, and I was able to snag a seat at the bar and wolf down a bacon cheeseburger and Dr. Pepper.  This improved my physical and mental well-being immensely!  Soon, I saw a tweet from one of my favorite Misfits and earliest true friends on Twitter, Cole Streeper (@colestreeper1), indicating he was about to watch Andrew Breitbart (@andrewbreitbart) and Brandon Darby (@brandondarby) speak — knew I definitely wanted to catch that!

I made my way to the CPAC Theater for the Citizens United presentation previewing their upcoming film exposing Occupy Wall Street.  Breitbart and Darby were part of the panel, as were Lee Stranahan (@Stranahan), Stephen Bannon (@StephenBannon) and Citizens United President David Bossie (@David_Bossie).  On my way in, I had the great good fortune of finally meeting the aforementioned Jimmie Bise.  So good to see him in person and get to chat, even if only briefly!  Before the presentation started, I also was able to make my way up to the front and find Cole to say hello and give him a long overdue hug.  

Two of the panel were present, but the remaining three (including Breitbart) made a rather grand entrance complete with Guy Fawkes masks, which caused a humorous stir in the audience.  After a brief introduction, they showed the preview of the film which promises to be an unvarnished and unpleasant look at the realities of the Occupy movement.  The panel fielded a number of questions.  My favorite one came from the…skeptic…who questioned Bannon about the criticisms and “lack of success” of his prior film regarding Sarah Palin “The Undefeated.”  He was shot down pretty soundly, especially when he admitted he hadn’t actually watched the film.  This was a lively presentation, and I enjoyed it and look forward to seeing “Occupy Unmasked” when it is released.

I wandered around a bit after that.  Checked with the front desk to see if my roommate had checked in, but she had not.  I ran into Thomas LaDuke (@irishduke2) and Fingers Malloy (@FingersMalloy) who’d wrapped up their Snark Factor live broadcast for the day and were headed to grab a late lunch after dropping some of Duke’s stuff off at his hotel.  I tagged along, and am ever-so-glad because it afforded me the opportunity to snap a pic of Duke’s next door neighbor(s):

Anyone who regularly listens to The Snark Factor on http://www.ftrradio.com (@FTR__Radio – and if you don’t, you need to change that. Now!) should be well-acquainted with Duke’s wit and charm….and the sorts of things that he might find irksome.  It should, therefore, come as no surprise that the prospect of being situated next door to a haunted suite rankled him a bit.  I amused myself by remaining out in the hall to snap the pic while he and Fingers wandered into the room without me.  I knew they’d eventually realize I’d gone missing.  And sure enough, about three minutes later, they did.  🙂

It was around this time that I realized I might have a problem with gaining entry to that evening’s BlogBash.  After an initial mix up re: my invitation, I’d been told by the organizers all was cleared up and so, when the e-mail came in requesting an RSVP, erroneously assumed I didn’t need to formally do so.  Trouble was – there was an actual ticket that needed to be printed out.  Oops!  We attempted to use one of the computer terminals in the Omni’s Business Center, but they wanted an arm and a leg for that.  I quickly sent a panicked e-mail to the organizers, explained my screw up and, after a quick phone call, was assured all was well.  Kudos to both Aaron Marks (@AaronMMarks) and Devon Wills (@devonwills) for their prompt and courteous assist on this!

Duke, Fingers and I finally found our way to Noodles & Company and feasted on some late day noodles.  Though the cheeseburger from earlier had helped.  The Mac ‘n Cheese was the perfect follow-up, as I didn’t really end up eating anything else that day.  As always, dining with the boys proved entertaining.  A little bit of “inside baseball” and a lot of laughs.

Upon our return to the Marriott, I checked in with the front desk again and, after explaining my concerns regarding my missing roommate, was thankfully allowed to switch the reservation over to my name.  I was given a room up on the Mezzanine level right next to the elevators.  This would prove to be quite handy over the next couple days, as my room soon became everyone’s favorite storage facility! (Later, I did hear from my roommate, Deb (@LawMom) — poor thing got buried under work obligations and wasn’t going to be able to make it, after all. I was sorry to miss her and know she was disappointed not to be there.) 

After putting my bags away and freshening up a bit, I wandered over to a couple of the late day cocktail receptions being hosted at the Conference.  I believe one was hosted by the Franklin Center, and the other by American Crossroads.  Both were nice, and a free beer is always appreciated.  Was happy to get to see one of my all-time favorite Tweeps, Rick Hornsby (@rjhornsby) who filled me in on some of the technical difficulties they’d been running into, as well.  Also was happy to see Tony Katz’s Producer, Holly Bacon (@HollyBacon77) again, and to finally get to meet Larry O’Connor (@LarryOConnor) and Meredith Dake (@MeredithDake) whose show was the first I really started following.  Enjoyed chatting baseball with Larry.  Even if his damn Angels did steal Pujols!

Back upstairs, I gussied up for BlogBash and then returned to the Lounge to meet up with the crew.  The cab ride over with the darling Kemberlee (@red_red_head), “The Sean” Hackbarth (@SeanHackbarth), Duke & Fingers was hilarious.  I’ve never laughed so hard about Hot Gas and Saaahlences and such in my life.  The party itself was held at the Microsoft Innovation and Policy Center — some very cool digs.  It was well-attended.  One of the highlights of the evening for me was getting to chat for a bit with Ed Morrissey (@EdMorrissey) whose work I’ve long admired.  What an amazingly charming and down to earth guy!  It was also at BlogBash that I finally got to meet my friend Tom Reynolds (@Beregond), who helps keep my favorite radio show/podcast (the aforementioned Snark Factor) up and running and who’s always looking out for me one way or another. 😉 

Then, too, I got to meet another Twitter fav: @RBPundit. Kudos to him and the other BlogBash Award recipients on their recognition!  Also, big thanks to Aaron Marks, Devon Wills, Melissa Clouthier (@MelissaTweets), Ali Akbar (@ali), Lindsey Fifield (@lindseyfifield) and all the other organizers and volunteers who helped host a wonderful party.  Was great fun and I was happy to be part of it!  I think Mark Warner would agree:

After the party ended, we cabbed it back to the Marriott.  There may or may not have been a feeble Stevie Nicks impersonation contest along the way.  There were after parties going on in some of the suites.  John LaRosa (@jslconsulting) and Brad Marston (@BradMarston) of  Four Tier Strategies (@4TierStrategies) graciously hosted one.  (I believe it was dubbed the “Unsustainable Bar Tab” bash – and probably rightly so.)  Though my crew initially had a little difficulty figuring out where it was (hotels with multiple towers can do that to you), we were able to locate it eventually.  There were several different speakers, but special thanks to them for allowing Fingers Malloy to talk about the #CancerSucks Fundraiser he and John Brodigan are currently hosting.  If you haven’t read about it and donated yet, please do!! http://main.acsevents.org/site/TR/Events/FriendsampFamily-NHO?pg=fund&fr_id=11240&pxfid=1103269&JServSessionIdr004=rynmql8yl8.app312a  – They’re trying to reach a goal of $5,000 by Thursday.  Every little bit helps!! 

Later, we migrated back down to the Lounge to finish off the night.  As always, very much enjoyed hanging out with my dear friends:

Special thanks to my pal Andrew Staroska (@OHCONSERVATISM) who, in a grand romantic gesture, gave me this to seal our engagement: 

No. Not really.  He’s young enough to be my son.  But I will always and forever consider “GQ” a little brother and very good friend.  He is not only a bright, talented and motivated young man.  He is also a true gentleman and an extraordinarily snappy dresser.  Some young lady will be very lucky to snatch him up!  

So that pretty well brought Thursday to a close.  I apologize somewhat for the mixture of substantive and not-so-substantive recapping.  I just can’t figure out a way to divorce the two sides of CPAC.  Nor can I believe there are still two-and-a-half more days’ worth of stories to tell.  Stay tuned!

Taxi Rides from Hell and Twitter Heaven – CPAC Wednesday

When I initially made my CPAC plans, I was so pleased to finagle a $10 plane ticket to DC, I neglected to check into the requisite travel arrangements from Dulles to the hotel.  Initially, my pal Andrew (@OHCONSERVATISM) and I had discussed sharing a cab, but then he ended up with a flight into Reagan instead.  When I looked into it a bit further, I discovered that there was no easy Metro option — it would involve a shuttle to a Metro station, and then a switch of Metro lines.  That’s a lot of shuffling around for a gal who’d be lugging three bags and a purse.  I put out the call on Twitter to see if anyone else was interested in sharing a cab.

My new friend, @Chris_Mayer soon came to the rescue.  Though we didn’t know each other well, we discovered we’d both be arriving at Dulles at about the same time and agreed to share the ride.  My flight landed a wee bit late — we’d had to circle the airport several times before landing due to trafficky skies.  But Chris and I finally connected in the baggage claim area and made our way out to the cab stand.  I will say this about our driver – he was courteous and kind enough to offer his car charger to me to revive my near-dead iPhone during the ride.  Chris and I set about friendly chatter and getting to know one another and soon found ourselves bonding over the near death experience neither of us had anticipated.

Mr. Cab Driver’s idea of getting us to the District consisted of driving at roughly 80 mph, through snowy/sleety conditions and heavy traffic.  Though I lived in Chicago for three years and took many a ride in cabs piloted by aggressive drivers, I have never in my life seen someone make so many quick stops and lane changes, nor come within millimeters of colliding with other vehicles quite so many times. I’m still not entirely certain how we survived the ride without ending up in a jangled jumble of metal.  A sample of our tweets from the Ride from Hell:

“Oh for the love of god, I think I’m gonna die….@SmoosieQ wanted a careful driver, we got the opposite” https://twitter.com/#!/Chris_Mayer/status/167374414416060417

Don’t barf on me! Eeeeeekkkk!! RT @Chris_Mayer: I don’t usually get car sick, but this cab ride just might do it! https://twitter.com/#!/SmoosieQ/status/167374179019128832

Nevertheless, we made it.  I got dropped off at the Hilton, DuPont Circle, and happily started getting ready for the evening.  Was very much looking forward to RINOCon and meeting all sorts of new friends.  The view from my hotel room that evening made me smile (even if the quality of the photo wasn’t much to brag about):

As I started to get ready, I discovered that my Murphy’s Law Life had followed me to DC.  First, my curling iron was broken.  Then, when I went to freshen up my makeup, I discovered that the liquid concealer had decided to tangle with my blush and blush brush.  Next, I discovered that my brand new travel-sized can of hairspray had no nozzle.   Ahh well, after whining about it on Twitter, I simply warned folks they’d be getting my morning make up and hair and have to deal with it.

It was time to make my way up to the Marriott, where I planned to meet up with my friend, Tuesday (@bluedevilmsn) and her daughter, Erin (@erinecosta) before heading over to RINOCon together.  I came bearing gifts — a Rally Squirrel for both Tuesday and Michelle Lancaster (@Skigarmisch) who’d both voiced their significant distaste for squirrels while the Cardinals were busy winning the World Series with their newly adopted good luck charm.  Also, several pair of tights for my dear friend, Michelle (@GaltsGirl) who’d put out the distress call for “thick tights” on Tuesday night.  (Found some cute ones!)

So, I arrived at the hotel with my Santa’s bag of goodies and began looking for familiar faces.  And not having much luck.  And feeling rather…weird.  But I soon met up with Tuesday and Erin, and decided to go ahead and try to register and get my credentials then, rather than wait ’til Thursday morning.  (In hindsight, one of the smartest things I did the whole trip.)  While up at the Media Check-In desk, I looked over and saw one of my favorite folks from Twitter, the ever-ebullient Debbie Moss (@mosesmosesmoses).   Debbie was kind enough to volunteer to drive us over to the Tortilla Coast for RINOCon, and after a failed attempt at registering at the main check-in (computers were down – a sign of things to come), the four of us piled into her Mini-Cooper and headed to the party.

Once there, I was simply overwhelmed.  Walking in the door, it was as if my Twitter Timeline had come to life.  So many familiar faces and people I was so excited to see.  I would try to list them all here, but I’m fairly certain I’ll screw up and leave somebody off.  And I don’t want to do that.  Because I can honestly say I so very much enjoyed meeting each and every one of my Tweeps.  I will say one, in particular, that made me smile as soon as I recognized him hiding behind his beard and ball cap was the utterly lovable John Brodigan (@Brodigan).  Had a very nice chat with @DCSeth, as well. Enjoyed meeting my fellow legal beagles Gabriel Malor (@GabrielMalor) and @AG_Conservative. The ever-gracious Loren Heal (@lheal) was kind enough to get me a drink.  Also, it was wonderful to again see my dear friends Ryan Moy (@alwaysonoffense), Dina Fraioli (@DinaFraioli), and Andrew Staroska (@OHCONSERVATISM). And to finally meet the lovely Amelia Hamilton (@AmeliaHammy).  See? Here I am listing people.  I’d better stop!

One especially fun moment came courtesy of “The Wisconsin Mafia” – Daniel Wanke (@danielwanke) and Sean Hackbarth (@SeanHackbarth):

Love those two to pieces.  And so glad Daniel finally got to bring the #DrinkingWithSmoosieQ hashtag to life!!

Before the party closed down, I hopped into a cab with my pals Thomas LaDuke (@irishduke2), Melanie Hall (@MelanieAnn79), Kristina Ribali (@ORLibertygal) and my newfound fellow-Missoureean friend, Duane Lester (@Bodhi1) .  God love Kristina – she endured me sitting on her lap for the entire 15+ minute cab ride.   Once back at the hotel, we connected with everyone’s favorite Mohawked conservative Fingers Malloy (@FingersMalloy) and the rest of the CPAC carousers and, well, proceeded to carouse.  I finally called it a night around 1:00 a.m. and headed back to my digs.  All in all, it was a very fun night.  Still, a little overwhelming.  But fun.  And another reminder of the value of true friends.

Wow.  All that, and we haven’t even gotten to the actual conference yet.  Bear with me, friends.  I just don’t want to leave out a single highlight…

Giddy Up!

Though hardly a newbie to the world of politics – I was raised by politically active parents who regularly tugged me along to all manner of political events – last summer marked the first time I ventured into the world of political conventions as an adult. I attended the Smart Girl Summit in St. Louis and, much to my delight, discovered that this was my kind of event. Such an amazing feeling to suddenly be surrounded by others who shared my political junkie affliction!

As soon as CPAC 2012 was announced last fall, I knew I had to attend. Fortunately, my Southwest Rapid Rewards card came through and allowed me to snag a $10 flight. That made the trip far more doable from a financial standpoint. Realizing that the hotel would be quite the investment, I immediately started socking away extra dollars into my savings account and lined up a roommate – the lovely @lawmom whom I’d had the pleasure of meeting at SGS.

Then came the hard part – waiting for February to finally arrive! Through the late fall and early winter, the time seemed to drag interminably. These last few weeks, though, have flown by. And as my Twitter timeline began to fill up with mentions of #CPAC and all the various events accompanying it, ’twas rather difficult to not become giddy with the excitement of it all.

Once published, the official agenda proved chock full of interesting speakers and topics. And how cool to be attending during a Presidential election year?!  To be completely honest, though, the most giddy-inducing prospect of it all was the knowledge that this would afford me the chance to finally meet so many of the wonderfully fun, witty, intelligent folk who’d fast become like family to me (and to reconnect with several I’d already had the pleasure of meeting.)

I fully realize that, to the casual observer, this purported affection for virtual strangers must seem odd, at best. My experience, however, has been that there is a genuinely warm and easy bond formed among those whose worldviews are simpatico. There is a joy to be had in finding one’s kindred spirits, and in the conservative political world, I have found many. This became readily apparent to me at SGS where, though an utter neophyte and essentially an outsider, I was quickly welcomed into the fold, forging a number of friendships I truly hold dear, and hope to always.

In any event, as the month, then week countdown to CPAC became only a matter of days, it became increasingly difficult to contain the giddy. Though I worked this past Monday and Tuesday, I was hardly a productive worker bee. There was far too much to discuss with my fellow attendees – like who would be attending which event and what everyone would be wearing. Of particular amusement to me was the ongoing chatter amongst the menfolk regarding their intended sartorial selections. From the much vaunted #NoPants option championed by @stephenkruiser to the Barney Stinson #SuitUp rally cry of @OHCONSERVATISM (whom I’ve affectionately dubbed “GQ”), there was much enjoyment to be had in following along as they purchased and packed up their intended CPAC wardrobes.

For my own part, I struggled with the notion of packing light. Always, this is the preferred way to go, but 5 days, 4 nights, numerous events, cold weather, and the need for several pair of shoes AND boots (plus a few random gifties for friends) made that a laughable prospect. Last night, I resigned myself to the sad fact that I would need 2 checked bags plus a carryon in order to do this. Thank goodness I’m flying Southwest!

In fact, I’m writing this blog on the descent into Dulles, doing my level best not to let the bumpiness unnerve me over much….

And, unfortunately, the writing of the above was interrupted by the flight attendant’s admonition to turn off all electronic devices as we finalized our descent. As you can tell by my publishing of this, I survived the flight. The cab ride from Dulles to the hotel with my new friend @Chris_Mayer? Barely.

More on that adventure in my next entry. All I can say for now is that the past 17 hours have been a whirlwind. And my giddiness was well warranted. So much more to share, but I think it best to publish this for now. Giddy. Up.