A Not-So-Brief Rundown Of My Trip To BlogHer '09 In Chicago

I am not going to bore you with a wordy play-by-play of my trip to the BlogHer '09 conference in Chicago last weekend. Instead, I am going to assault you with TWENTY PHOTOGRAPHS and a less-wordy play-by-play of my trip to the BlogHer '09 conference in Chicago last weekend.

We went from camping in the woods to navigating the O'Hare airport, trying to recover my lost luggage, and piling into a shuttle filled with what turned out to be a bunch of other people who were also heading to BlogHer.

shuttle to BlogHer '09
Leslie and Liz

We drove and drove and drove, but mostly very slowly and in backed up traffic, because that's how Chicago rolls.

river in Chicago

We managed to find a roommate, because Jen, the Palinode, and I, after giving it some serious consideration, decided that three in a bed was stupid. Jess to the rescue!

Jess (drowninginkids.com)

With our sleeping arrangements in order, (but still no luggage), we set out to find our people.

Catherine (herbadmother.com) and Tracey (sweetney.com)
Catherine and Tracey

Aidan (thepalinode.com)
The Palinode surrounded (clockwise from the left) by Black Hockey Jesus, Whit, Lena, Catherine, Tracey, Kelly, and some woman with a ponytail

I went to a brands and bloggers session, which firmly cemented my suspicion that I love writing and blogging more than anything else in the whole world. It is my cuddly wuddly teddy bear and the monster under the bed grasping for my ankles. Reaching out to other humans knocks my socks off. The businessy ads-and-money end of things does not inpire in me heaving bosoms, though, but I can deal with its existence pleasantly enough.

bloggers and branding session at BlogHer '09

And then I went from basically talking about where the money is to meeting Kate. KATE, who is very real and very genuine.

"You write tall" was one of the first things I said to her, because she is surprisingly tiny in person. Something about how her writing can fill a room had led me to believe that she would be nearing six feet. It turns out that I could have easily folded her into my hopefully-to-arrive-soon suitcase.

Kate (sweetsalty.com)

And then my suitcase did arrive! Which was good, because I was travel-worn and in need of deodorant. I could have borrowed yours? Gross. That's like our armpits kissing.

I took part in the Community Keynote at BlogHer '08. I found it to be an incredibly moving experience, and it was the one event I was not going to miss at this year's conference. It goes like this: the authors drag everyone over the emotional coals from funny to heartbreaking, tossing you UP into laughter and dropping you DOWN into despair, and I am certain that the hotel laundry ended up washing a lot of blogger snot out of the tablecloths.

Check out the speakers and their entries from this year's Community Keynote.

Community Keynote speakers at BlogHer '09

BlogHer is full to the brim with sponsors, because that's how the conference stays as cheap as it does. For the most part, I can deal with this, but when a man in a giant Energizer bunny suit rhythmically banged his drum outside my hotel room for over an hour, I kind of wanted to do things that would later have me in court explaining how I managed to shove that giant battery where I did.

Energizer bunny

MamaPop threw a Sparklecorn Extravaganza, and, lo, it was good.

MamaPop party unicorn cake and Kelly (kdiddy.org)
Kelly and the unicorn cake

Aidan (thepalinode.com) making out with Twilight's Edward
The Palinode and Twilight's Edward

Something I really like about BlogHer is the absolute acceptance of babies. Women's bodies make babies, and new babies have to be with their mothers, and these facts are normalized by large numbers of attending babies, lactation rooms, and babies on stage during panel discussions.

Meet Ezra, one of the aforementioned babies and Amy's amazing little person, who was corralled by Jody while Amy attended to the MamaPop panel. I'm normally not so good with the babies, or, rather, they're normally not so good with me, if their screaming and arching is any sign, but Ezra was quite happy to stick his fingers in my mouth and suck on my name tag. I think that means that I am not the devil.

Amy's (amalah.com) Ezra on stage with Jody (jodifur.com) during a session

The session that gave me the most food for my brain was Amy Turn Sharp and Neil's storytelling session. There was no talk of money, mommyblogging was a sidebar, and people had interesting insights into the act and craft of storytelling from a blogging perspective. I kind of wanted to hang out with everyone in that room for the rest of the day. And maybe develop a spontaneous, semi-nomadic, yurt-dwelling community. By which I mean to say that they all seemed like swell people.

They made clear what it was that was missing for me at the conference. I wanted to talk blogging shop, but I didn't want to talk money or mommies. I wanted to talk writing, writing to a live audience, crafting stories, and where autobiography and fiction collide, and thanks to Amy Turn Sharp and Neil, I was able to have a taste of that. Thank you.

Amy Turn Sharp (doobleh-vay.blogspot.com) and Neil (citizenofthemonth.com) leading the storytelling panel

The Palinode and I snagged these fine people and went out for Indian food that was very nearly sexually gratifying, and I had to keep reminding myself not to groan audibly: Jen, Alana, and Jess. Seriously, go to Indian Garden in Chicago and order the malai kofta. You can thank me when you regain your ability to use language.

Jen, Alana (letterb.com), Jess (drowninginkids.com), and Aidan (thepalinode.com)

As is now BlogHer-related tradition, there was the annual CheeseburgHer Party.

Loralee (loraleeslooneytunes.com), Amy (amalah.com), and Angella (dutchblitz.net) at the Cheeseburger Party at BlogHer '09
Loralee, Amy, and Angella

And, as is also now a BlogHer-related tradition, there was the annual ousting from the CheeseburgHer Party by hotel security.

security guard kicking everyone out at the Cheeseburger Party at BlogHer '09

The day after the conference, the Palinode and I wound down before our flight home by having lunch with Liz and Karl.

Liz (everydaygoddess.net) and Karl (secondhandkarl.com)

We were left with one hour to check out the Art Institute of Chicago. Don't do that to yourself. It is huge and beautiful, and you will find yourself dragging your eyes longingly along the gift shop's windows after a whirlwind tour of Picassos and and Arbuses and cursing the fact that you have to go back to your small prairie city on a hellish flight with United.

Aidan (thepalinode.com) at the Art Institute of Chicago
The Palinode at the Art Institute of Chicago

Our walk back to the hotel was another brief tour, only this time it was less beautiful in the art-museum sense and more gritty in the homeless-and-forgotten sense, and we discovered that Chicago should be renamed Sulphur City, because, man, in fits and starts it smelled a lot like my cats' farts.

alley in Chicago

The End.*

Chicago at night from the Presidential Suite at the Sheraton Hotel & Towers at the Cheeseburger Party at BlogHer '09

* If I did not mention you here, it's because I pretty much followed my photographs to write this entry, and I kept forgetting to take my camera with me in Chicago, so I didn't take pictures of most of the people I met/latched onto/regaled with cat stories/squished/drank with/followed around. For instance, how did I not get a picture of Churchpunkmom and Onlyaman?