Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

BlogHer ’10

Jesus, I’m popular!  Newbies wanted to meet me at BlogHer.  Bloggers wanted to take their photograph with me, sometimes even asking me to hold their blog mascot on my lap.  I’m on a first name basis with Jenny, the Bloggess.  Even the snooty MamaPop writers came up to me to shake MY hand!  I’m not bragging or anything.  I’m just stating a fact.  Bloggers love me!

After the parties on Saturday night, I wandered the streets of Manhattan by myself until Sunday morning.  More later.

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Like everyone else writing BlogHer recaps today, I have a list of my favorite moments.  The speakers at the keynote session.  Showing SweetSalty Kate how to use an American ATM machine.  Watching the dry-witted Marinka throw a party sponsored by a vacuum cleaner.  Talking medications with Aurelia Cotta.  Gossiping with Lizriz.  Telling the Bloggess how much I love… The Redneck Mommy.  Meeting the talented Two Busy at the Sparklecom party.  Hiding my eyes from the cleavage of pure as snow Maggie Dammit in her sexy party dress.  Kind words about my father-in-law from Her Bad Mother.  Seeing Bernthis rock her humor panel.  Resolving issues with Kelly.  Telling Sarah (Slouchy) that I would have dated her in college.  Dinner with Debbie and Gwen.

But I’ll be honest.  I wasn’t truly into the festivities this year.  I never went to the Expo.  I never danced with anyone.  I gave away all my drink tickets.  As much as I tried to avoid it, there was no forgetting that I had just attended a funeral two days earlier.  Last year, in Chicago, it was hilarious to meet Mr. Potato Head walking around the hotel.  This year, it just seemed… depressing.  I think I would have been happier flying to see V-Grrrl and sitting on her patio with her kids.

It was all too much.

BlogHer is well run.  Congratulations to another success.  My only complaint this year involves the logistics.  The organizers tried hard to diminish the chaos of last year by insisting that the private parties be held off-site.  This had the unfortunate side-effect of creating a fractured conference.  There wasn’t a central meeting place (the Hilton lobby didn’t have much of a lounge), and everyone seemed to be running somewhere else.  Rather than the average attendee gossiping about the sessions, I heard more excitement about New York sightseeing and parties and meeting Martha Stewart!  When the host city and the parties become more important to a majority of the attendees than attending the keynote of their peers, you know there is a problem.

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Oh, about my night wandering the city.  My decision to attend BlogHer was a last minute one.  On Friday, I stayed at my mother’s place in Queens.  I had a tentative plan for Saturday — if I got drunk, I would sleep on the floor of a blogger friend.  At the last minute, she decided it was a bad idea, seeing that she was married with children (wimp!) and apparently, I am irresistible.

It was 2AM. The parties were over.  I left the Hilton.  As I walked through the revolving doors, I remembered that I left my knapsack — with my house keys — in the coat check room.  I had two problems I needed to overcome.

1)  After midnight, you needed to show a hotel pass to return to the hotel.  And I didn’t have one.

2)  The coat check room was closed.

I sat outside the Hilton waiting for one of beloved Twitter followers to pass by — I’m not sure why or what I would do.  Would I plead for shelter?   BlogHer was officially over, and no one was wearing name tags anymore.  I didn’t recognize anyone.

I thought about calling Schmutzie and Palinode, who I assumed were fast asleep inside the hotel.  I looked at my iphone.  It was dead.  The plug was in my knapsack in the coat check room.

I thought of climbing the outside wall of the Hilton until I reached the window of the “Serenity Suite” on the 32nd Floor, but I left my Spiderman suit at home.

Next idea.  I have a childhood friend who lives in the Upper East Side.  He would have no problem with me showing up at his door, but I could only imagine the angry stares of his wife if I rang the doorbell at 4AM, waking up the baby.  For his sake, I nixed the idea.

The most logical step was to go home to Queens.  Surely, my own mother would answer the door, even at 4AM.  But I didn’t feel like going to Queens.  I would just have to wake up in a few hours and return to pick up my knapsack.

I decided to get a hotel room.  Not at the Hilton, but at the nearby Sheraton.  But would it pay to spend $250 to sleep in a hotel for three hours?  I decided it was a dumb idea.  (and I’m cheap)

At 4AM, I found myself getting hungry.  Across the street from the Hilton is a popular halal food cart selling shish-ka-bobs.  Even at 4AM, the line was snaking around the corner.  Was the food that good?  I decided to try it.  Who were all these people coming for these shish-ka-bobs and where were they coming from?  The crowd was mostly Pakistani, and I talked with these two dark-skinned women from Brooklyn.  I sat around on the edge of a non-working public fountain, eating my food.  After a while, I felt self-conscious, thinking I might look like a homeless guy, out on the street, while the rest of the blogging world was resting comfortably in the luxury rooms of the Hilton directly above my line of sight.

I walked.  And walked.  NYC.  4:30AM.  All the way up to 110th Street and Broadway, to a 24 hour Greek-owned coffee shop I used to go to in college.  I went inside, ordered a cup of coffee and a slice of cherry pie. There were others in the coffee shop.  A grad student?  A cop?  I like that New York is a 24-hour city.  With no iPhone to play with, I thought about BlogHer.  Why do I feel so close to some of these people who I see once a year, and talk to for ten minutes?  Do people really like me so much?  Why?  Surely someone hates me.  Why doesn’t anyone ever tell me that they hate me?  What is blogging doing for me?  Should this be my last BlogHer?  Should I be more cliquey?  Do I talk more to women who dress sexier?  Why do I get along with one person better than another?  Would I really shell out thirty bucks to buy this guy’s memoir?  Why did Schmutzie, Kate, Maggie, and Palinode go out for lunch without me?  Should I write a book?  What is the real reason Redneck Mommy didn’t show up this year?  Should I ask X why she unfollowed me on Twitter, or just forget it?

A few days earlier was Vartan’s funeral.  There was only a small turn-out, maybe under twenty mourners.  During the service, one of Vartan’s long-time friends went to the podium.  He made note of the small crowd, and and wanted others to know that this had no bearing on how much he was beloved by his friends.  Many of his close friends and colleagues had already passed on.  He was one of the last of his generation.

“If this funeral was taking place in Odessa twenty-five years ago, there would be a thousand people waiting outside.  Not only all his friends and family, but all of the women he saved (he was an oncology cancer surgeon in Russia).”

Vartan was buried in a quiet ceremony in Los Angeles, next to his wife.

While I was in this coffee shop by Columbia University (the same one they used to go in Seinfeld), I toasted Vartan’s memory with my coffee cup.  He would have liked the cherry pie.

I stayed at the coffee shop until 6AM.  I took a half hour nap on a bench outside.  And then I walked back to the Hilton to say good-bye to my blogging friends.   It was a weird night, but somehow I needed it.  I arrived back at the Hilton Starbucks around 7:30 AM.  When Lisa of the blog “Smacksy” asked me where I slept last night, I lied and said “a friend’s home.”

It was nice being so popular for one weekend.  Thanks for the fun and camaraderie.  Now, I’m back home.  Tomorrow, Sophia and I are going to start clearing out her parents’ apartment.

82 Comments

  1. One of the best parts of blogging is being able to think out loud as you did here.

  2. Sniffle.

    I wish I could have met you. I’d have toasted Vartan too.

    Big, Big hugs. And one for Sophia too.

  3. This sounds like the BlogHer I’m going to tell everyone I had. Especially the part about being really popular and sleeping on a bench.

  4. That’s tough. It was lovely to see you. I wish I had said “I’m sorry” instead of just “I’m glad you made it.” Sometimes those weird nights can be the most introspective and necessary. Sometimes they can really suck too, but I hope you had more of the former and less of the latter.

  5. I saw you but didn’t say hi – totally my bad. I also didn’t sleep the night after the parties. Instead of wandering the streets of New York, I packed my bags, took a cab to Newark, and spent the rest of the night sitting on the floor in front of the Air Canada ticket booth hoping to snag one of the last three seats on the plane (I got them). As I sat bleary eyed on the floor I thought everyone else was snug-a-bug. I feel a little camaraderie to you, knowing that you were as bleary-eyed as I was. Maybe I’ll say hi next year.

  6. Wow. I did NOT know. We did not know. I would have gladly made you my roommate since I had an empty extra bed on Saturday night. (Too late I know…) I wish you had tweeted. With your loyal followers, the word would have got around. “Neil needs a place to stay for the night.” and I KNOW you would have gotten tons of offers.

    I had food from that “meat cart”. It seems to be always crowded. And when I passed by it at around 3 am, both times the line seemed to be consisted of post-party young crowds. I hope you found the meat as tasty as we did, and I hope you did not make a mess that we did…

    This did make an unusual experience, eh? How would you have had the opportunity to see NYC in the day break… Now I remember seeing you sitting in the lobby as I rushed to catch my plane. Knowing what you have been through, that image now carries more significance and an entire story in my mind’s eye.

    You are still popular. You still have friends. That is all.

    • Did you notice there was another food cart on the other side of the street that NO ONE went to at all. I was curious as hell to know what exactly the difference was in the meat….

    • I know this is gonna sound rude, but just so I can put the name and face together…. are you Asian and we talked at Sparklecom?

  7. You said something at our Sunday morning coffee that made perfect sense to me if I go next year. If I go next year I will attend the sessions about the blogging I don’t do–political, activist, etc…when I’m not supporting my friends at their panels.

    Because I already found my voice, and I mostly know the writing tips my peers are offering–I have a nice tribe, etc.

  8. Well if you had ventured into the diner at 3:30 AM you would have ran into me and I gladly would have offered you my sofa for the few hours of sleep. I don’t know how you would have felt having a semi-drunk bald woman come up to and ask what you were doing Uptown, but I had adult beverages in my system and that is exactly what I would have done.

    As a newbie to the BlogHer conference it is an exciting and highly weird experience. I enjoyed it, but if I was coming off of a funeral I am sure my sentiments about my time at the BlogHer conference would have been the similar.

    And in closing, I’ve sat a table with you at the Aiming Low HP NYC party and spoke to you at BlogHer ’10 for about 3 minutes and I really like you. Not that it probably truly matters to you, but often times you say (or write) something that may seem so insignificant to you, but has me pondering that point for hours. So if you come to BlogHer ’11 I hope I can actually get to talk to you for a whole 10 minutes (hopefully more) because I’m ready to think, something I rarely do. As you can tell because I use the words, “would have” about a 100 times in the comment.

  9. See Neil? This is why I follow you.

  10. It was so good to see you, and such a freaking surprise! You are one strong man, my friend.

    PS: Snooty? You must mean the part when I staggered over a chair and hugged you like a long lost cousin at breakfast Friday. I was pretty snooty then. And snotty. But that was just my sinuses. 😉 xoxo

  11. “It was a weird night, but somehow I needed it.” I think you’re right about that; you’re introspective enough to know what you need and to get it. Best of luck with the apartment, Neil.

  12. Oy, oy, oy, I can’t believe you were homeless in New York for a night. All those BlogHer dames who love you are probably feeling very guilty (especially the one who promised you could sleep on her floor!). I immediately think of Jack Lemmon wandering all over dangerous New York in “The Out-of-Towners” and I’m glad you didn’t venture into Central Park at that hour. Too bad synagogues or churches aren’t open in the middle of the night.

    I wonder why the thought of attending a blogging conference fills me with such unease. Probably the fear of cliques, drunken debauchery, marketing mania, and the frequent pronouncements that “blogging is dead.”

  13. Danny, i thought of the Out-of-Towners, too. But that was NY in the 70s, when it was dangerous. It was odd. I felt more safe walking around manhattan at night than I do redondo beach. Queens is another story.

  14. and good lord, man. Homeless for the night? WE COULD HAVE SPOONED. 😉

    • I had everyone’s phone number on my iphone, but it was dead! I would not own an iphone in NYC. IN LA, I always recharge it in my car. Half the time I was in NY, my iphone was out of juice. If you go on twitter a lot, it seems to last 2 hours….

  15. I wish you’d flown to see me instead. : ) There’s a deck chair waiting for you and a glass of ice tea. I have dreams of us eating BBQ and coleslaw sandwiches in a dive downtown.

    The Boy, who thinks the Buick La Crosse is a pretty cool car, was impressed when I told him you’d gotten to drive one for a weekend in LA. And the Girl wants you to tell her all about Columbia…and the cat misses you too. : )

    • Of course, you don’t usually wear hot dresses at home, so there WAS an advantage to going to blogher. Do you even own a dress?

      I wore pleated pants the entire time and no one said anything.

      • I wear dresses in summer because I don’t like shorts or capri pants. But they’re not “hot” dresses. My daughter thinks my dresses make me look like Susan Boyle.

        P.S. My Man wears pleated pants. I don’t get all the pleated pants haters out there. They look better on him than flat-front pants.

  16. I was at BlogHer only for a few hrs. Friday before I had to catch a flight to CA. Missed seeing you this year, but after reading this, I feel as if I did—which also explains why you’re popular.

  17. That is probably the deepest thinking that has ever gone on in Tom’s before. I hope it treated you well. I love the city at night. It’s my favorite.

  18. “Even the snooty MamaPop writers came up to me to shake MY hand!”

    Except for me. I saw you several times but you were surrounded and I didn’t want to cock-block.

  19. I really enjoyed meeting the great Neil in person. You are so much more than a 1×1″ picture.

  20. Reading this makes me glad I didn’t go. I couldn’t have handled it emotionally. Though I’m sorry I didn’t get to meet Slouchy and say to you again.

    • It is odd that something so silly makes us feel so emotional. I think you might have liked it because there was always New York City to escape to when things seemed too much. I know this will make me sound like a drama queen, but I missed the drama from last year. A lot of people are touting this year as more professional and dignified. Yawn. I like the fist-fights.

  21. But why did you lie to me about how you spent your night?
    (I like coffee. And pie.)

    • I thought it made me look crazy. Or a loser. Or like Sophia better than me.

      • I adore you and I already know that you are crazy.
        And Sophia is a peach.
        Toasting coffee to Vartan at an all-night diner is a beautiful way to remember him. And I’m sure a much more memorable evening than if you had actually crashed on someone’s couch.

  22. Wow, I thought for sure that impromptu hug would’ve gotten a mention. Sigh.

    Agreed on many of your points, for me it will be a weekend that was worth it for the bits of smiles, sequins and sunshine I snuck with dear friends from places too far to visit.

  23. This post is totally tragic, and yet I found myself settling in and enjoying it. Does that make me a dick? I wasn’t enjoying your pain, I was just completely comfortable inside your honesty. That’s what I like most about you, Neil. Of all the lovely people I’ve met through blogging, you are most what you appear to be. And it’s not always pretty. But it’s always human.

    I can identify with that feeling of having a thousand friends and feeling completely alone. I think a lot of us can. That’s what makes you good as a writer. Your most humiliating moments are totally universal. And yet, like I’ve said to you before, you are not a character on a website. You are Neil Kramer. You’re my friend.

    I wish I’d known you felt alone. I wish I’d known you wanted to go to lunch. But I know now, and I know because you know how to say it so well, and so I can’t fix it but I can sit here settled comfortably in your words, even when they’re unsettled and uncomfortable. That’s good blogging. That.

  24. I was so pleasantly surprised to see you there.

    I’m sorry you weren’t into it, but it felt like every time I saw you, you were surrounded — both times I talked to you I felt like I was rudely barging in. But it felt OK, because it looked like you were well taken care of.

    But I am glad I got to see you in person, even if you called me boring 🙂

  25. I hate you. Don’t you feel better now?

  26. There was an eerie, inexplicable reason why I kept spotting you, tall, lanky, Neil at least once a day in the hallways of the Hilton. Why I didn’t approach you for an awkward introduction is beyond me. Perhaps I was too wrapped up in the this-that-and-the-other-thing to slow it down and soak it all in. There was more to the experience of BlogHer this year I definitely missed out on, that much I know. I guess I’ll need to mosey on over to Craigslist and post my missed connection to the one, the only, Neil.

  27. Last year, when I saw that BlogHer10 was taking place in NYC I decided I should go and mentioned it on Twitter. Lots of my friends said “what a great idea! do it” and even helped me figure out some of the logistics I thought I would need to be able to do it.

    I even arranged my summer schedule around the idea that I would go, which made one of my sons a little upset, because it meant I had signed him up for a different camp session than the other years and he feared he was going to miss his friends.

    Then, when it came the time to actually register for BlogHer, I had second thoughts, didn’t register, and decided to keep it to myself. I had a very busy year, and it would have definitely made sense to wrap it up with some “professional” advice and meeting in person with bloggers I know, but I have not a single regret.

    On Thursday a friend in our congregation passed away, she was like my mother, so I would have not gone to BlogHer had I registered and not made the decision to pass the opportunity. I have no regrets at all. I can’t even imagine how lonely it must have felt for your to be among the bloggers – as fabulous may they all be – while in the week of mourning. At least I have been with my congregation and my community, cried a lot, and never felt lonely.

    Today, just coming back from sitting shiva with the family, the first blogpost I read is yours. My heart goes to you my friend, once again. I wish you could find your community and not feel so alone…

  28. Oh Neil. You are so honest. It is tragic. And, it is lovely. I like you very much. I’m happy we had our moment at BlogHer. Ya know, I saw you Sunday morning. If it is any consolation, you did not look like a man who spent the night walking the streets. Pleats are very becoming on you 😉

  29. Like Maggie said, I found this beautiful and it drew me right in and through. I wasn’t at blogher, and I don’t know you well enough (at all, really) to comment on the content of what you’ve said here, but the way you say it is lovely.

  30. Sleeping on the floor was the best offer you got? I guess you left your penis in LA.

  31. I loved seeing you at the Gala, Neil. I didn’t expect to, and I was beyond tired, too tired to be witty at all. But I was glad you were there, trying to enjoy yourself and see your tweeps in real life.

    I’m so sorry for your loss — and the world’s — of Vartan. I’d forgotten he was an oncology surgeon. Wow.

  32. Its funny how much we each seem to be so cool while at these things when really inside we’re all so insecure. Add that to the list of things bloggers have in common and why we like these events…we get to experience those 5 minute periods where we’re cool. If only inside our own heads.

  33. Are you mad at me? Do we have blogger drama?
    I would have slept with you if I’d known you were outside on a bench.

  34. this is the only post that made me wish i was there, Neil. and mostly for the three in the morning part.

  35. OMG Neil. I know that Hilton and the halal sandwich cart. I stay at that Hilton everytime I come to NYC. My friends and I always talk about having a meal at the cart but never have tried it. Was it good? Did you worry about where the servers clean their hands? I can’t believe you couldn’t hang out at the Stardust (?) diner and listen to show tunes ad nauseum.

  36. I remember looking over at you during the session where Jenny the Bloggess made me WEEP from laughing so hard. And you weren’t laughing at all. I mean, who can not laugh at/with her?!?

    Ahh. Someone who is in mourning and has had a pretty tough time lately.

    I’m glad you came. But I’m sorry it was sad. And I’m sorry I didn’t tell you that in person. At least this year I said hi!

  37. I’m sorry to have intruded on you during such an awkward time, but I have to say that my conversation with you was one of the high points of my experience in NYC. Thanks for taking the time to speak with me, and again: my condolences to you and Sophia.

  38. I don’t really know why, but this kind of sucker punched me

  39. Wow. Lisa introduced me to you on Sunday morning, after all this had just happened. Before she did, she leaned in to me and said “Do you know Neil? You have to meet Neil. Neil is . . . Neil is . . . he’s just great. He’s really great.” So I got to meet you, really great Neil, just under the wire before we all left. And I’m so glad I did because otherwise I wouldn’t have read this blog entry, particularly the part where you barrage yourself with a thousand questions, hardly any of them benign, and then enjoy your pie. And I loved reading that. So here! here! to you and here! here! to Lisa.
    –Jennifer
    @thesearedays

  40. Dude. I was still up. We could have bonded!

  41. i’m really glad i happened onto this post via twitter (where i find all my news and so on and so forth–sad). this was my first year at blogher, and although it wasn’t overwhelming for me (i’m originally from nyc so i knew the place, and i didn’t have any expectations so i wasn’t disappointed in anything), but at the same time, there were a lot of things i would have changed.

    first thing: i would have introduced myself to you when i was standing right next to you at jessica bern’s panel. i was introducing myself to everyone standing around you, but i didn’t say hi to you because you look kind of intimidating and i’m a weenie. i’m totally kicking myself now because you are an amazing writer and sound like an even more amazing person.

    dammit.

  42. As I said on Twitter, you were the blogger most referenced on stage at the sessions/keynotes I went to. Even more the LOLcats. Maybe we need a BlogNeil?

    You could have had my bed Saturday night as I caught the train home to CT. But you would have been sharing a room with TwoBusy and there would have been an explosion from so much talent in the room.

    Eh, forget you. You never once stared at my cleavage.

  43. Yeah, I kind of liked you, too, until you said you hated my blog name and my writing sucked. That’s why I wouldn’t lend you our extra bed while we took care of our girl on girl bizness.

    And thanks for making me feel guilty about all of that.

    Fuck. Blew it again. Not about me, not about me.

  44. I didn’t know that you were so popular or I would have said hi. Actually, I wouldn’t have. It was my first BlogHer and I came alone – it was truly overwhelming.

    I just wanted to say that this post is beautiful.

    Maybe that’s the reason you’re popular, eh?

  45. I would have loved to meet you. If it ever happens, it will have to be in a different venue as I don’t think that I’m “BlogHer material”. Whatever that is. I think you’re special, Neil, and not in the goofy connotation that people sometimes give the word “special”.

  46. Get a life. Being a blogger is step up from being a Trekkie.

  47. What a beautifully written post.

    It was truly a pleasure to meet you. I’m so sorry about the circumstances, but I’m glad you came – my weekend was richer for having spent time with you.

  48. I don’t know you that well but I think you’re honest. And I like that in a person.

    I’ve seen you in a lot of BlogHer photos. You were everywhere! Or maybe people came to you.

  49. You’re an amazing writer, Neil. I can’t think of any other blog that so consistently thought-provoking and poignant as yours. I hope you’ll be at BlogHer in San Diego so I can spend 3 days working up the nerve to introduce myself.

  50. Well I wasn’t cool enough to swoon over you at Blogher, but for what it’s worth I had a dream the other night we were on the same flight to San Francisco and you were just as funny as I imagined. You know in my dreams.

  51. Aw Neil. I wish I was there. If only to listen to you tell others how much you love me.

    The image of you, alone, exhausted and wandering about in NY breaks my heart.

  52. –>Sometimes we all need a night to reflect on things.

  53. Neil. I totally hate you but would have let you sleep on my floor had I known.

  54. I thought it was sort of depressing, too. But I did love meeting you.

  55. Lovin’ these BlogHer posts. I know I’ll never go. So, it’s fun to see.

  56. Neil, I got to briefly meet you at the Cheeseburgher party – had I known you were without a place to sleep, I would have invited you to shack up with me and my roomie. Though I’m not sure that two potty-mouthed pastors’ wives could have provided the experience and the resulting pathos that is in this post.

    I found you to be just as warm and friendly in-person as you are on your blog And I still like your log-cabin idea for the next blog conference.

  57. I’ve had one of those nights before. I think the universe makes them happen when it wants you to force you to sit down and think.

  58. Lovely post and so many thoughts… Last year in Chicago at BlogHer I was three days out from the weekend of funerals in which we said goodbye to my father-in-law and his two friends who passed unexpectedly. And although every death is different, I do have an understanding of how surreal New York at BlogHer must have felt. In a way I think maybe that night of wandering around NYC alone might have been good for me, and probably for you too? Despite it’s inconvenience?

    Anyway, enjoyed meeting you this year. Perhaps next year again, though like you I’m not sure if this is the conference I’m going to pick to attend next year.

  59. Well, the first time I saw you the whole conference was Sunday morning and you had absolutely no idea who I was. Which was fine, I don’t expect people to know who I am. But at least now I know why you looked so I exhausted.

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