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!