Today was my first day at the BlogHer ’12 conference. It’s technically not the first day of the conference, it’s actually a “pre” conference day, but two specialised streams of the conference took place that I did not attend and the most awesome thing I have ever seen – a live video cross with POTUS himself – I did.
The trip in to the Hilton New York on 6th Ave takes around half an hour on the M-train (walk included) and I figured I should get to the conference by 3.30 to give myself time for registration and a bit of the old faffing around. A reasonable combination of nerves, excitement and general nerdiness contributed to my 2pm arrival despite a pit stop at the most awesome bakery I have ever eaten in.
For the uninitiated, the Magnolia Bakery is like mecca for cupcake lovers, where you should go if you’d like to know what it would feel like to have an angel shart in your mouth. I won’t explain what sharting is because there are ladies reading this, but just be happy with the angel reference. I had a vanilla cupcake with vanilla bean frosting (blue) and sprinkles (multicolour) and of course, my new favourite beverage, iced coffee.
Nutritious requirements for the day fulfilled, I proceeded to trounce up 6th Ave (or down, I’m not sure which is the correct vernacular) and on the way spotted this awesome place. The design of the signs in this city just blow me away.
I also passed NBC studios (sweet) but I’m saving that pic for the day I catch someone awesome walking out. Or maybe tomorrow. It was too much excitement for one day and I didn’t want to peak too early on Instagram.
The Hilton New York is a grand old dame, a little brassy but not without it’s charm. The actual conference itself is in it’s 8th year and now has around 4000 blogettes attending, plus a handful of male blogettes, which equals a lot of very excited and slightly tipsy women (and some men) snatching up a giant motherload of product samples and wifi usage.
Registration was so fast (bonus points for efficiency!) I barely had time to whip out my NSW driver’s license before I had a lanyard and program. The great part of that was it left me with plenty of time to wander the halls and wonder what on earth I have gotten myself into.
You see, attending the BlogHer conference wasn’t part of my grand plan. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought I really should attend. Yes, there is my recent blogging activity. My long standing obsession with social media. My PR background and interest in all things marketing. My looking for a job. The abundant opportunities to network. My love of hotel buffets. And wanting to make new friends here in NYC. All good reasons to attend.
So you can imagine my delight when I found out that the President of the United States (POTUS!) himself would be addressing the conference LIVE via satellite link.
And you can also imagine my horror and impending sense of doom at being at a conference of thousands of (mostly) women, recreating a scenario not unlike the all-female school-type institutions I attended. I’m one of those people that shudders when people say “school – ah the best years of your life” because if you paid me $10,000,000 to go back to school I would say no thanks and stay happily in my 30s – in fact, I’d possibly even take an additional 10 year penalty and go into my 40s, just to further distance myself from it.
Why the melodrama, Adriana? I think it’s summed up with a few more A-words: awkward, acne, anxiety, adolescence and also just being told what to think and how to be by teachers, parents, and mostly peers frankly sucks. Alright, so I don’t have the acne (just the scars) anymore and I’m not an adolescent, so this should be a cinch? Hmm. If female-dominated workplaces have taught me anything it’s that women, en masse, require Survivor-like skills to be endured. Sadly western culture and the glass ceiling have not done great things to the sisterhood. Corporate life teaches us “eat or be eaten”. Some decide they didn’t get enough of the popularity contest in high-school and keep recreating their sorority in each new environment they encounter. The bitching endemic in mostly female workplaces kills me.
So you can imagine my (pleasant) surprise when nobody I encountered today was even remotely like the people I’m referring to. My first encounter whilst waiting (an hour early) for POTUS-link to commence, was with a lovely lass, a health writer for a medical website from San Francisco. My response to her question “Can I sit here” was “Yes please!” and quickly trickled into a lovely discussion about the state of FDA regulations in the US and the fact that you only have to prove your product DOESN’T kill anyone, not that it does. And the fact that San Fran really does seem lovely and she was staying recently in Nantucket which I thought must have just been a funny hick-town’s name they put in a limerick but it turns out it’s actually an island.
Crazy. The next women I met were both contemplating a glass of wine after POTUS-link at the bar. We each drank a glass of white wine and discussed the state of our careers and what we wanted out of our blogs, which was all rather different but as it turns out we all had sage advice to share, and really if you think about it, most women do a wonderful job of being nurturing so why the hell don’t we nurture each other more rather than tearing each other down?
DIGRESSION! (I just re-read Catcher in the Rye, so if you don’t understand the reference, you could read it. Or you could guess what that means. You’d be right)
President Obama filled the grand ballroom at the Hilton New York today. Actually his projected image on 3 video screens did. President Obama also won me a $10 Starbucks gift card (THANKS, MR. PRESIDENT!) because I was the first person in that entire ballroom to live-tweet a picture of his head on Twitter.
THE FIRST! In a whole ballroom of bloggers.
I didn’t even know there was a competition on.. But I can guarantee you that seeing as I have finally received the remuneration I deserve for my rapid and unrelenting social media over-sharing, that I will surely continue it, and then some.
Mr. President Obama’s speech mainly addressed the female health aspects of his campaign, pointing out that Romney is planning on closing down Planned Parenthood (BOO). Several grown women hollered out “I love you Obama” like he was a rockstar. He also acknowledged the term “Obamacare” was thrust upon him but that he was glad to accept it as he was proud of the reforms he has been able to bring in. Lots of people stood up after his speech and clapped the video monitors.
And the most beautiful part of it was that the two event organisers that were there – Lisa and Elise – both hugged each other afterwards, because for them it had meant the achievement of something really special – to have established a community of bloggers so highly regarded that the President himself would bother to address them.
Really inspirational stuff.
We then had a couple of hours to explore the exhibitors stands which, let me tell you, are equal parts marketer’s dream and nightmare.
I will regale you with more stories about the loot later but here’s the loot so far:
And just because I cannot understand what they were thinking, booby prize goes to this effort from Poise:
Tomorrow I have to be up early to take full advantage of the buffet breakfast before a full day of workshops/seminars so I’m going to sign off now.
Sounds like a cool name for a band, huh?
If you use it I promise I won’t sue you but I will ask that you include a mention and possibly photo of me inside your album sleeve. Another teenaged aspiration achieved. Adriana – 1, Adolescent Angst – 0
Now I’m on a winning streak – I hope you’ll forgive me for this tardy recollection. Forgive me, it’s been two days since this actually happened, so I may in fact exaggerate, or distort facts for my own amusement, for a change.
Our lovely downstairs neighbours, Derek and Shaniqua (changed to protect their identity, I always wanted a friend named Shaniqua, as a side note), invited us to come to a baseball game to which of course we said yes. I had forgotten we had made such an arrangement until Shaniqua helpfully reminded us on the weekend. Thank heavens for her. Seriously.
Neither of us had ever been to a baseball game and I had never even watched one (though I had schooled myself via The Simpsons and the Madonna-tastic A League of Their Own so was clearly an expert). Derek and Shaniqua also hadn’t visited Coney Island for ages, so were keen to see the sights.
Derek and I, being dutiful stay at home “wives” took the subway into Manhattan, picked up Shaniqua at her work (in the garment district – like Surry Hills if it was huge and nothing like Surry Hills) and walked the ten blocks to the husband’s workplace. Due to the incredible heat, and tourists milling like blinded cattle around the base of the Empire State Building (WALK IN A STRAIGHT LINE!) I was reduced to a particularly hot, hangry** mess by the time we got to the h-place.
The hangriness* subsided somewhat in the air conditioned ride on the F-train out to Coney Island where we were ecstatic to be received by the hot-dog stalwart Nathan’s.
Hot dogs are somewhat an institution here and strangely edible.
Oh, I know they’re like the roulette of meat products.
It hasn’t stopped me from enjoying them on a semi-regular basis – in fact I’ve had two since I’ve arrived here a month ago, and based on my previous rate of consumption (around once every ten years) I have increased my intake exponentially by the power of pi x infinity*** since leaving Australia.
The first hot dog I ate was at Costco, and it was $1.50 including a refillable soda pop (Diet Coke, of course) and was delicious.
The Nathan’s hot dog I would rate secondary to the Costco hot dog for two reasons:
1 – The price, which was comparable to a Harry’s pie v a Four and Twenty pie but without the extra mushy goodness to justify it
2 – The size, which matched my hand and not my forearm.
What gives, Nathan’s? I’m sure your founder, Nathan Handwerker, would be interested to know what his non-Polish cousin Peter Costco**** is up to.
The h also bought a poutin-type side dish to accompany his hot dog which was a sore-looking mess of crinkle-cut fries topped in bacon bits and (neon orange) American cheese. American cheese is excellent – when I asked what it was nobody could tell me. God bless America!
Anyway, back to our protagonist.
Sated, we ambled around to the stadium which was exactly like what you see in The Simpsons only with slightly more concrete, and Coney Island amusements in the background.
The Cyclones C team is a minor league team that has some promising members but on the whole plays like … well, me. Shows potential, but can’t catch a ball with a bucket. The only terminology I have to reference here is from my own juvenile exploits in primary school compulsory soft ball so I am excited to share with you my cultural analysis of the experience:
– everyone gets their own scoreboard graphic and theme music. Theme music best described as urban versions of “Coco Jambo” by Mr. President.
– Medieval Times, evidently a sponsor of the stadium, hands out free crowns in either red or blue, depending on which team you go for. They also had a halftime.. ahem.. show of knights in team colours sword fighting. I never thought I’d be one to say this, but it was a little exciting. There were sparks flying off their sword strikes, loud banging noises, grunting… it was AWESOME. It also appeals to my newfound love of cosplay which means I WILL be making the trip to Jersey to go to Medieval Times (more on that later) and also to the New York Renaissance Fair the day before I come back to Sydney. But like I said, more on that another time. SO. Excited.
– Various fried foods – corndogs, burgers (deceptively called sandwiches), fries, cheese on a stick, and the smell of your pants melting as your butt expands faster than the speed of light. Seriously, the only non-fried food options were a pretzel or ice-cream. Delicious, but hardly dietetic. Particularly after a hot dog main.
– Chatty McChat Chats – you go to a ball game to be heard, and not seen, so it’s important to note that there was a lady there actually wearing pyjamas, and several men that alternately either kindly let us eavesdrop on their oral history of baseball coaches or would graciously correct our conversational mis-steps.
We relished the game experience (reminds me – we saw a hot-dog race – Relish won but as Derek informed me – there is no winner, cause you need Ketchup, Mustard, AND Relish all together for a hot dog to be a winner) for about an hour then decided to split and take a stroll along the boardwalk.
Now, Coney Island is now a “cleaned” up version of its former self. That’s to say, it still attracts a colourful crowd and a fair chunk of that crowd is not familiar with the concept of a belt to hold their pants up.
The crowd itself I don’t mind (actually quite enjoy the people watching) but they clearly don’t understand the social mores of public ablutions.
There was one public toilet block open on the boardwalk by the time we left the game. Stupidly I had been deaf to the call of nature inside the stadium and once outside realised the urgency of about a litre of Diet Coke working its way through my kidneys and hitting my bladder.
Thinking quick, one gentleman had decided to pee on the door of the nearest closed facility. Shaniqua and I shuffled on to the open one, which is where I was greeted by the dirtiest, no, that’s not the word for it. The grungiest toilet block I have ever been into. One side of stalls was POLICE TAPED and a lady was still in there – possibly passed out, possibly dead. Who could know. The other side was fortunately available for use and featured the usual wet floor you encounter in public toilets (why is it that people don’t seem to be able to aim their crotch directly above the bowl? I get it, there’s no way I’d sit on the seat – if there is one – either, but you can’t get the pee in the toilet? Is your chakra misaligned? WHAT IS THE PROBLEM HERE?). I was wearing shoes that are easily hosed off, so wasn’t concerned with the wet floor. What was interesting was that I noticed the cleanest part of the bathroom – walls, door, empty toilet roll holder, etc.. WAS THE CEILING FAN. Which was covered in about 10cm (not kidding) of dust. But dust seems cleaner to me than miscellaneous body fluids, used gum, or sanitary refuse. Am I alone in this?
After a full body hand-sanitiser rub down we continued our promenade, walked through the amusements (I didn’t ride anything though the scariest would have to be the Cyclone – built in 1927 and wooden) and busted a move outside this awesome looking joint.
By then our Coney Island paradise had faded beyond dusk into darkness. The streets, still steamy, filled up with more slack waisted pant wearers, and their loud female accompaniments. We hailed a town car (possibly the only town car with no air con) and Shaniqua and I shang***** our little hearts out to the radio, to the wild bemusement of the driver who the h implored to have pity on him for having to live with me (sucker).
Then we were home. To the cleanest, coldest, sweetest place in Brooklyn that night.
* hangriness – (etymology: a combination of hungry + angry) when you are so hungry you feel like eating your own fist, which is ironic considering all you want to do is swing it at the nearest person.
** hangry – like hangriness but an adjective, instead of a poorly constructed noun
*** in case you have your calculator out, this is not really an accurate value but I haven’t done maths in a really long time. As a frame of reference, this value is inversely proportionate to the quality of my digestive health which is another story (and equally corrupt formula)
**** Not actually founded by someone called Peter Costco, some dudes named James and Jeffrey from Washington. Guys who clearly know their way around a hot dog…
***** shang – past tense of shing, when you shout + sing at the same time. Often a result of excessive ingestion of alcohol, in this case, heat induced delirium
Did you miss me?
I’ve been very busy, being sick. It takes extreme dedication for someone like me to stay home and do nothing, and as a result I cultivated a lovely mood which those close to me know is best avoided at all costs. Do not poke the bear. Do not pass the doorway in a jaunty fashion. Do not turn on any lights, or deign to laugh however funny I might look scowling over a glowing laptop in bed.
Seeing as I’m dead cert you want to know, I am feeling much better than I was now that I’m not cracking temperatures every day, and/or fretting about it. The former finally subsided yesterday, after some tentative visits to the outside world on husband’s orders. The latter development because I am journeying back to Australia for a thorough servicing, in early August.
Things that happened last week:
I bought a 42-piece Snapware set for $19.99 at mother of all grocery stores Costco. Note to self, not every piece needs to house rotting left overs, or at least, not all at the same time. Addendum: for those who have never seen a piece of Snapware, Australians in particular, you totally have you just never called it that. In fact, I don’t know what you would call it without using the ‘T’ word (Tupperware). Which I shouldn’t because both are licensed brands and of course like, totally different. But it looks like this:
I visited a judgemental doctor in Little Poland (Greenpoint) who when I asked for antibiotics for my sore throat and fevers prescribed what most doctors would prescribe had you contracted a nasty STD – hilarious. All because I had the audacity to ask for a script for birth control. Never did I think that as a 31-year old married woman I would be made to feel like a teenager for asking NOT to have a baby right now, thanks.
I saw Spiderman (excellent, but not a notch on Batman which I am dying to see) and found out the mayor is trying to outlaw super sized soft drinks in NYC. Of course this was after a well timed “Jesus, that’s a REGULAR???????” from me, from which point the candy bar attendant launched into an explanation which involved a derogatory comment about the Mayor. This pressing issue has stirred a wonderful debate amongst those who would like to exercise their liberty to choose a huge soda instead of a middling one, and spawned a plethora of clever t-shirts, pictured below:
I’ve seen people wearing these shirts everywhere – from the cinema to the markets, Costco and the chemist. This campaign by New Yorkers for Beverage Choices is excellent, and I think the muscly guy holding the soda (in the logo) could also double as mascot for marriage equality (those arms!) and legalising abortion (who wouldn’t want a huge soda to celebrate that?). If the marketing geniuses behind this would PLEASE STAND UP SO I CAN GIVE YOU ALL MY SOCIAL, ETHICAL AND MORAL FIGHTS TO FIGHT?
Interestingly, a law passed in NYC in 2008 that required particular food outlets to post a calorie count beside each menu item. There are those who say it has little bearing on what people order. I beg to disagree. It has provided me with the information I need to decide what to eat based on my self-esteem/tightness of pants that day to judging my peers’ food choices more accurately.
Other helpful and interestingly named NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (I’m not kidding) campaigns you might be interested to know about:
– “Latch on NYC” – a campaign to encourage support for breastfeeding
– A press release titled “Health Department Issues Statement Strongly Advising That Direct Oral-Genital Suction Not be Performed During Jewish Ritual Circumcision ” (I particularly liked the use of sentence case in the title)
Other things also happened but I am going to pace myself. And spare you an excessively long post. And give you something to look forward to tomorrow. And remember, latch on!
DO YOU LOVE ME NOW, FRIENDS?
So it’s the fourth of July, which is a holiday here.
I’m taking the holiday, and not blogging today. Here’s some pics of the view that i took tonight from our rooftop in Brooklyn. Fireworks everywhere, and a blood moon. Beautiful.
Also met our super sweet neighbours from across the hall who have invited us over for a drink. Super excited they seem lovely. Two cute, friendly, gorgeous guys who have been together for fifteen years! So sweet. And they have two dogs too. Both in the rag trade as well. Can’t wait.
Happy Independence Day, this one’s for all the lovers out there. Haters need not apply.