Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: BlogHer (page 2 of 4)

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.

++++

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.

++++

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.

A Different Type of Pre-BlogHer Freak-Out Post

I feel weak and small.

My emotions are big and strong, like the blazing sun on my shoulders.

One false move and I’ll burn to dust.

I’m not afraid of meeting new people.

Or important people.

I’m afraid of meeting old friends.

I know your secrets.

Even scarier, you know mine.

It will be hard to look into your eyes.

I might avoid them.

August in New York

I’m going to attend BlogHer again. It is my only chance to see so many of you, and it is important to me to have some real life contact to make my blogging “real.” Last year was a lot of fun, but I still have this nagging feeling that I don’t really belong — and that it might be time for me to expand my horizons. Maybe next year, I will look into SWSX, or a conference that isn’t so gender-based. But I appreciate that I was accepted so readily by everyone, as if I were one of the girls.

(Danny, if you want to argue why I shouldn’t go at all, please do! Maybe we both should go to SWSX!)

I am excited that the conference is in New York. Last year, Amy and I submitted an idea for a “room of your own” on Storytelling. We thought it was a good idea because there were no real sessions on writing.

This year, I am glad to report that there is a whole writing track, with several sessions slated.

Currently, my blogging mind is less focused on my writing (which really bothers me) than on figuring out what my online experience means to me — and whether it is even healthy.

That’s when I thought of this new “Room of Your Own.” — Blogging, Twitter, Facebook, Whatever — The Online Addict’s One Hour Support Group. I didn’t see any other session that deals with this problem. Of course, I would like to keep this discussion on the funny side — hey, we all know what I am talking about with this issue — despite the seriousness.

This idea comes out of a personal need to engage in this conversation rather than an overwhelming need to stand in front of a bunch of bloggers again who want to fight with me. I’d be just as happy hanging out with a few of you in Central Park and talking about this issue.

I hate the popularity contest aspect of these rooms, but if you want to vote for the room, you can do so here. (if you have any suggestions for improving the concept, please tell me)

The proposal —

Blogging, Twitter, Facebook, Whatever — The Online Addict’s One Hour Support Group

Blogging is a lot different today than it was a few years ago. It has become more than just writing or career development. It has become a 21st century of making friends and establishing relationships. But with this wonderful development comes a whole new set of 21st century social issues and anxieties, one of them being that our online life frequently BECOMES our life.

Are you an online addict? Take this quick quiz:

* 1) Are you writing a blog post in your head while making love to your husband?
* 2) Have you accidentally called your three year old son “Guy Kawasaki?”
* 3) Does “enjoying quality time with friends” mean playing Words With Friends on your iphone?

Is there a point where our online life becomes TOO MUCH?

We all love our blogging friends, but have you ever asked yourself, “Who are these online friends anyway? Are they our real friends if we only see them once a year at BlogHer? Are we neglecting our old friends at home because it is “easier” to deal with virtual friends? Have we spread ourselves too thin on so many social media sites? Is it even possible to follow 1000+ people? Who should we care most about? Influentials? Readers of our blog? Community members in need, even those that are strangers? When does “caring” about each other become unhealthy?”

The truth is more of us quit blogging because of this personal issue than anything to do with our writing or the branding of our blog.

Since this session is run by bloggers, not trained psychiatrists, we can’t give any professional advice, but as bloggers, we can discuss our feelings and responses to this growing problem, as well as share our solutions to keeping our sanity in a virtual world. Participants will learn methods of reducing their information overload, as well as analyzing various ways to improve the quality of their online relationships — without it taking over their lives.

Meeting Kate

Tomorrow, I will writing a review of The Dread Crew: Pirates of the Backwoods, written by Kate Inglis, who blogs at Sweet l Salty. I wanted to use today’s post as a disclaimer, explaining to you how I got to be reading this book about Canadian pirates, as well as to assure you that that I did not receive any money or sexual favors in return for giving this blogger any special attention.

Basically, it is the story of how I met Kate.

But this is more than a story about one blogger. It is a tale about online relationships. I could write a post like this about so many of you. I’m the one always complaining about the lack of real contact online, and you are the ones always scolding me, insisting that relationships online are as valid as those in real life. So, if we are going to consider these virtual friendships as “real,” no matter how limited they are because of the great distances between us, what is wrong with retelling our stories of first encounters in the same way that we do those cherished stories of meeting a IRL buddy in that sixth grade gym class?

+++

Last spring, Sophia and I took a trip to Las Vegas. One night, we had dinner with BHJ, the talented writer/blogger, and his cool wife, Jenna. At the time, I was a little testy at this blogger because even though he had only been blogging for six months, he seemed to know every big-shot writer in the blogosphere. I noticed that my readers were attracted to his writing. There was a meme going around where you were supposed to list “the five bloggers you most want to have dinner with at a private party.” Let’s just say that I noticed that he received a lot of dinner offers while I wasn’t even invited to share a foot-long sandwich at Subway.

At dinner, we talked about blogging, much to the boredom of Jenna and Sophia.

“Do you know X,” he asked.

“No,” I answered.

“Have you ever chatted with Y?”

“Uh, no.”

“Have you read Kate at Sweet l Salty? Isn’t she great?”

“Who?” I asked.

“She’s Canadian.”

“Bleh.”

I had absolutely no interest in reading another Canadian. I already had plenty of Canadians on my blogroll, and I promised myself to only “Read American” from now on.

A week later, I caved in and read Kate’s blog. It was very well-written I particularly liked that she separated her ideas with “+++,” something I blatantly stole from her blog without her permission.

I left a comment on her blog. Days passed and there was no response.

“Bitch,” I muttered to myself.

+++

I knew this “type” of literary snob who never returned a comment. I was an English major. She was clearly the type of snooty priss who only dated the guys in the berets who wrote about “inner pain,” and wouldn’t be caught dead interacting with a guy who talks to his Penis.

I hated her.

I secretly read her blog a few more times, without commenting. I thought of becoming a troll, but I was afraid that she could follow my IP address back to Queens.

In August, I attended BlogHer. Kate was involved in a session with Kelly about “writing passionately.” Kate was an amazing speaker, and as she talked about the tragedy of losing a child, the entire audience was in tears. There was something different about this too-pretty, too-educated literary snob bitch. There was a white glow surrounding her, protecting her from evil, and she seemed to spread a message of goodness, reminiscent of the heavenly aura around the virginal Lady of the Lake as she rose from the deep to protect the young King Arthur. During this one hour session at BlogHer, I went from intense hate to wanting to be her BFF!

The next day, Amy and I were slated to do our own session on Storytelling. Unlike Kate’s heart-felt dialogue, our talk was filled with comic shtick and “story structure.” I wanted to scrap the entire script and rewrite it. I wanted to be as inspirational and honest as Kate was that morning.

During lunch, I saw Kate on the other side of banquet room, and decided to approach her. I was nervous. The lunch that day was sponsored by Ragu. The entrees were lasagna and spaghetti. The tables were decorated in the colors of the Italian flag. I had spilled some tomato sauce on my faux bowling shirt, so I walked with my hand to my heart, like Napoleon, trying to hide the stain.

“Hello,” I said to Kate, my voice wavering in fear, much as it did on the infamous afternoon when I tried to talk to Tammy Weingold in high school about pairing up for the math team together.

Kate and I stood directly under a huge plastic sculpture of a Ragu tomato sauce jar that was propped up on the lasagna table, next to a stack of coupons offering a free sample of Ragu’s new “Spicy and Hearty” sauce. I will never forget this giant Ragu jar for the rest of my life. This is where I had my first real conversation with Kate Inglis. The setting was as dramatic as when Humphrey Bogart said goodbye to Ingrid Bergman at the airport in Casablanca.

“I loved your session,” I said.

I told her how I was going to change my session, because it was “a superficial pile of shit compared to what you did.”

Kate sat me down in front of the giant tomato sauce jar and told me NOT to change the session. She said that in writing, structure is as important as passion.

“You can’t write a story without a beginning, middle, and end. I’m looking forward to being there!”

I could not believe that she was coming to our session!

She told me about this book she had just finished. She was about to enter the “promotion” part of getting a book out and self-promotion did not come easy to her. She had barely mentioned the book to anyone at BlogHer.

I related to this writer. I have a huge fear of self-promotion. On the other hand, pushing other shy folk into promotion mode is a great joy for me, as long as they are the ones suffering, not me. For the next two days, whenever I passed Kate in the hotel, I bugged the hell out of her.

“Tell people about your book!” I would say.

I grabbed strangers to tell them about Kate’s book, even though I wasn’t quite sure what the book was even about, or when it was coming out.

I grilled Kate with questions.

“Do you have a website for the book?” “Can I read it?” “Can I review it on my blog?”

I saw myself as her Mister Miyagi and she as my Karate Kid, even though in the real movie — Mister Miyagi actually had some KNOWLEDGE. I knew nothing about book promotion, but I knew Kate had to step up to the plate. She was an amazing, passionate writer – and I wanted this woman standing next to the Ragu jar with the halo around her head, this blogger who I once thought was a snooty bitch, to succeed.

Tomorrow: The Book Review

My Last BlogHer09 Post

I see most of you as writers.   Good writers.   But few of you are as good as Tolstoy.  The main difference between you and Tolstoy is that Tolstoy would not dance with me at a party, or even return my email.   Blogging is writing + the addition of you returning my email.   I lose interest in blogs where I don’t have some sort of interaction with the author at least once a year.   BlogHer was special to me because it gave me an opportunity to do regular shit with other writers:  talk, drink, make fun of people, gossip — as well as discuss common writing and blogging issues.   For one weekend, you get the opportunity to break bread and eat Ragu-sponsored spaghetti with people you have never met in real life, but know so much about, from their marital issues, children’s quirks, and what type of vibrator they enjoy.

I was pretty impressed with the conference.  The organizers work their asses off trying to make this chaos work.  Every year, there are new dramas.  If you do some searching, you’ll find a lot of commentary about all the infamous swag bags and Nikon hating babies of BlogHer09. You’ll also see a lot of finger-pointing.   The influential PR bloggers will blame the greedy mommybloggers.   The mommybloggers will blame the party organizers.  The feminists will blame the homeschoolers.  Badges will now go up announcing a blogger’s integrity and kindness and allegiance.  None of this is surprising to me.  Everyone wants to transform the organization into their own image, like God did with Adam.

Can you see the real problem?  There is no one “woman blogger.”  Some are college professors.  Some are truckdrivers.  How do you get them all to feel happy at the same table?  It is impossible.

My friend became a rabbi after college.  He was always into spirituality.  He is now a rabbi at a synagogue in New Hampshire.  He tells me that his job deals less with religion than personal politics.  He has to please the Board of Directors who run the ship.  He has to juggle which wedding to attend when two congregants have an event on the same day.  He has to say nice things at the funeral of the town jerk.  If a congregation of 300 Jews have 300 views at one synagogue, imagine how hard it is to please so many women, black and white, rich and poor, at BlogHer.

If politics is an inevitable part of any organization, with different “tribes” fighting for their role at the table, I would like to push the writer-types to speak up a little more.  You shouldn’t let the others steal the blogging thunder away from your blogging world.  Writers should be center stage at a blogger’s conference, not those using blogging to sell things, or for self-promotion.   Creative female writers should try to force the organization to fit their own image… just like everyone else.   The personal is political.

Amy and I enjoyed doing our Storytelling Session (link to live-blogging of session), but I was surprised that the bulk of the sessions had little to do with writing.   Where is the writing at BlogHer?   Isn’t that what blogging is all about?  Writing?

Imagine a conference on the television industry.  All the writers and producers of all the network shows come together, from Judge Judy to The Simpsons to Entourage, to meet, network, and learn from each other.  Now imagine that 90% of the discussion is about the COMMERCIALS!  Advertisers are walking around, trying to interest you in product placement.  The most popular sessions are about getting corporate sponsors for you TV show.  When there are sessions about the TV shows, it is usually of the practical matter — “How will this show affect the children?”  “Should I include my real name on the credits or should I use a pseudonym?”

These are all interesting subjects, but this stuff should be the sideshow.  The WRITING should NOT be the sideshow at a blogging conference.  That’s why the community keynote is always the highlight of the event.  It is about the CONTENT… the bloggers…. the writing… about the reason we are blogging.

The other aspects of blogging are important, but they should accept their place as second class citizens in a writer’s medium.  Once you let the sponsors run the show, you get crappy TV shows.  That’s why we all watch HBO.

I’m not really complaining.  I had a great time.  I was honored to be allowed to do a room with Amy.  It was fun.   But when I read the fingerpointing about the swag bags and the greed and the sponsors, I shake my head and laugh, because no one seems to be looking at the big picture.  You get the conference you deserve.   If all the conference talk is about PR and marketing, or how to sell your book, etc. then that is what the conference is going to be about — PR and marketing.   Even the blog business cards were out of control.   The parties were too loud and focused on selling something.   I love commercials on TV, but I’m not sure that is what I want to talk about when I go to a television conference.  I want to talk about the creative content with the creative people.

And to do some dancing.

I hope this post doesn’t scare anyone off from going.  This weekend was one of the most interesting in my blogging career.  I would definitely go again.  In fact, I insist that all of you go to some sort of blogging conference at least once while blogging, just to jar you from the comfort of your living room.

I did a lot of running around, following people here and there, and I was exhausted by the end.  Next time, I would take things a little slower, trying to make more time with certain people, and creating an experience that is more suitable for my personality.  I was too much of a “Citizen of the Month” on my first trip, following all the rules, going to all the sessions and parties, and forgetting to make my own agenda.

Thanks for a great time.   It makes me want to eventually meet all of my blogging friends.

BlogHer09 Recap (With Photos!)

fashion
FASHION

comraderie
COMRADERIE

anxiety
ANXIETY

sightseeing
SIGHTSEEING

anger
ANGER

ego boosting
EGO BOOSTING

tears
TEARS

truthtelling
TRUTH-TELLING

troublemakers
TROUBLE-MAKING

drinking
DRINKING

cliques
CLIQUES

support
SUPPORT

The Baby Photo

I hadn’t seen my cousin Ronald in quite in few years, since the last big family wedding.  Last weekend, he was doing a lecture on math at Columbia, and called me up.  I met him at a university parking structure.  We were going to take the #1 Train downtown to see a Broadway show.  As we walked together past Low Library, he handed me a baby photo of myself.  His mother had found it in her home in Connecticut and thought I might like it.  I had seen this photo before.  It was a typical baby photo — one your parents might take at the “photo studio” inside Macy’s.   My mother had the exact same photo in the house, but she had stored it in a cheap-o photo album back in the 1980’s (WITH SCOTCH TAPE!), and the photo had become ragged and yellow.

Ronald’s mother apparently knew how to store a photo.  My baby picture was pristine, mint condition, as if she had never opened the envelope my mother sent to her with the photo so many years ago.

“Here you go,” he said, as he put my baby picture in my hand.

Ron and I walked down the steps and into the hot and sticky subway.  The moment gave me pause.  For decades, my baby photo had survived the elements, locked away in some closet in suburban Connecticut.  Because of this hermetic life, I had remained a smiling, naive, innocent baby for years, only knowing my mother’s breast.   Now, here I was, like any great hero, being forced into a journey he was unprepared for — into the hot, dangerous hell of the 116th Street station.

What was I supposed to do with this photo?  I couldn’t just walk around, gripping it my hand the entire night, protecting it from muggers, theieves, and tourists.  I thought about giving it back to Ronald for safe protection, but one glance at his dishelved, math genius, academic exterior completely changed my mind.

“Where the hell is that Metro Pass I bought today?”  he said, as he fumbled into the pockets of his tan, way too short, Dockers.

I wish we had taken his car downtown and paid for a garage on Times Square.  I could have kept the photo in the glove compartment.  It was my dumb idea to take the subway.

I decided to put the photo in the wallet in my back pocket.

During the subway ride, we talked about family (and Twitter!), but I was distracted.  I was thinking about my baby photo in my wallet.  Sometimes, I get a business card and I stick it into my wallet.  Later on, when I go to look at it, the card is bent due to the pressure from my friendly behind.  Was my behind finally having it’s revenge for getting slapped at childbirth by creasing my pristine photo?  I opened my wallet.  Yes, it was.  As we departed the subway train, I noticed an indentation in the middle of the photo, and the cardboard stock had taken on an arc-shaped curve.

It is a cliche to say that a child grows up fast, but in one fifteen minute subway ride, my baby photo had gone from perfection to a lived in child, dirty from the playground.  Another cliche is that you can’t go home again.  I was hoping this little photo would be a connection to my perfect past – the time was anything and everything was possible, until the elements, such as being stuck and folded into a leather wallet from Target, roughed you up a bit.  But these days of innocence don’t last long when you leave the comforts of home.  My new photo, my perfect baby photo, had a crease.  And the night was not over yet.

We still had an hour before the show, so we stopped into a pizzeria for slices.  I placed the baby photo on the table, as far as way from the dripping spaghetti sauce as possible.  I placed a napkin over the photo and the salt and pepper shakers on top, hoping that the weight of the seasoning will increase the photo.  It didn’t work.  Even worse, as we left the restaurant, I noticed something sticky on the back of the photo.  Somehow, a piece of mozzarella cheese had adhered itself to the back of the photo.  I was able to peel it off, but it left a slight stain on the white back, where my mother had written the words “Neil.”  I considered this humiliation of the cheese on the photo the equivalent of my baby photo now entering junior high school, where no one leaves without scars.

And then it started to pour outside. A thunderstorm like in a horror movie.  I know this sounds fictional, but this is all true.  I put the photo in the chest pocket of my button-down shirt for safety.  I had brought an umbrella along with me because the forecast was for rain, but I had to share the umbrella with Ronald.  As I walked, trying to keep all three of us dry, I held my hand to my heart, like Napoleon, in a vain attempt to protect my “baby” from the dangers of the world.  I finally understood what it was like to be a parent, where you care more for the other than yourself, but in this case, the baby was ME, an image of purity from a day long gone.

It will be interesting going to BlogHer this weekend and meeting so many other bloggers.  Like many of us, I’ve probably presented an image of myself on this blog through the prism of my own mind.  We want others to see us in the best light.  We want to see ourselves in a certain way.  We remember how everyone doted on us as a perfect-looking baby, before we get all our creases, stains, and watermarks.  Perhaps we spend most of our lives trying to recapture that feeling.  Growing up is learning to love yourself despite these imperfections you picked up along the way.

Here is the baby photo.   It now has a crease, a stain, and a watermark.  But it is still me.

me

Because I Know

I’m getting a real kick from reading tweets and blog posts about BlogHer.  So many women are anxious about the conference!   Women are worrying about looking fat.   Women worrying about being ignored.   Women worrying about cliques.   Women worrying about standing by themselves while everyone else squeals with joy and dances in a conga line.

What a relief.    I don’t have to worry AT ALL.   I’ve been blogging for almost five years.   I know tons of people in this personal blogging arena.   I am a man at a woman’s conference.   People like me.   They like my blog.   I have been invited to parties.   My biggest problem will be finding the time to talk to all the bloggers who seem to think I am the cat’s meow!    I am feeling so confident and sexy about this event that I laugh at the anxiety at the others.   How silly you are!   What worrywarts!   It’s a stupid blogging conference.   Grow up.

But the laugh is a nervous one.   Because I know.

God help me if I was a blogging newbie.   A Mack truck could not drag me to a blogging conference.   I wouldn’t know what to do there.   I would either bite my tongue or chatter endlessly like my mother does when she gets nervous.   I would latch onto one person and spend the whole weekend talking to that person.    Or, more likely, I would retire to my room early and watch TV.   I would then mock you as a bunch of assholes.

Over the years, I have wimped out of attending many real-life parties and events out of fear of being exposed as unimportant or a loser or not successful enough.   I didn’t go to my high school prom. I was afraid of asking the girl.    I didn’t go to a networking event just LAST WEEK because I was insecure about meeting someone from school who just got a big movie deal.   I am not a brave person.

Of course, I do not want to show you that part of my personality.  I want you to think of me as confident.   And — I’m excited about going to Chicago.   Things will be different there.   Beautiful women, popular women, extremely intelligent women all want to meet ME!   Some newbie is going to ask a friend, “Who is that?” and her friend is going to answer, “That’s Neilochka! I would go say hello to him but he probably doesn’t want to talk to someone like me when Redneck Mommy is practically bowing at his feet like a Canadian Geisha girl.”

I am looking forward to that.

BlogHer is going to be a breeze for me.   Blogging has been good for me because it lets me write my way into your consciousness, allowing me to use my creativity to get into your pants.   This assertive part of me is becoming more and more a part of my real life, but change is slow.    I’d still rather chat on Twitter than go to a bar by myself.

I have never been to an event before where I will be known by so many people — even before I walk into the room.   While I won’t exactly be Tom Hanks of the blogging world, I will at least be the Richard Simmons of the blogosphere, known by name by at least 168 people.   It does not require any bravery on my part to attend BlogHer.   I am way more impressed by the new blogger who walks into this viper’s den without knowing one single person.   You are a better man (or woman) than me.

Good luck to you nervous newbie! Maybe we will get to talk together.   Maybe not.   But I will tell you one thing.   If I see you standing by yourself, biting your nails, drinking a beer and making believe you are enjoying yourself when you aren’t, I suggest that you… well, I don’t know what to suggest.   Do something crazy?   Expose yourself?   Throw a drink in someone’s face?   Whatever.   I know that I won’t be looking down on you and your anxiety.

Because I know.

Scheherazade

scherazarde

I know I will hear cries of bullshit from the mob, but the name of one of the baristas at my local coffee shop is Scheherazade. She is Persian. When I heard her friends call her by that name, my eyes lit up. Scheherazade is one of my favorite literary characters, the legendary Persian queen and the storyteller of One Thousand and One Nights.

The famous story goes that every day the Persian King would marry a new virgin, and every day he would send yesterday’s wife to be beheaded. This was done in anger, having found out that his first wife was betraying him. He had killed three thousand such women by the time he was introduced to Scheherazade, the vizier’s daughter.

According to Wikipedia, Scheherazade was described by in Sir Richard F. Burton’s translation this way:

“[She] had perused the books, annals and legends of preceding Kings, and the stories, examples and instances of by gone men and things; indeed it was said that she had collected a thousand books of histories relating to antique races and departed rulers. She had perused the works of the poets and knew them by heart; she had studied philosophy and the sciences, arts and accomplishments; and she was pleasant and polite, wise and witty, well read and well bred.”

Against her father’s protestations, Scheherazade volunteered to spend one night with the King. Once in the King’s chambers, she started to tell a story to the King, and The King liked it so much, he asked for another, but Scheherazade said there was not time as dawn was breaking, and much like a network promo, insisted that the next story was even more exciting.

And so the King kept Scheherazade alive as he eagerly anticipated each new story, until, one thousand and one adventurous nights, and three sons later, Scheherazade who became his Queen.

Scheherazade is the ultimate storyteller. Can you imagine how good a blog she would have? There would be no writer’s block for her. She would have to come up with one amazing tale after another, or DIE. Of course, the King HAD to fall in love with her because of her amazing talent. She wouldn’t have time or energy to waste her time on the 140 character Twitter, avoiding the challenge of having to come up with a beginning, middle, and end.

Sometimes people ask me why I started blogging, and I never have a clear answer. I’m not trying to make money, help anyone “learn” anything, or even hone my writing skills. I just have fun writing stories, sometimes stupid and sometimes serious. I like to be honest and I also enjoy stretching my personality so a different part of my id shows up. I love that my mother reads my blog and it makes her laugh. I love the comments of long-time readers who know when I’m lying. I once got an email from a reader who told me she played with herself after reading one of my sexually-oriented posts. I cried after saving that email. That was worth more to me than four years of BlogHer ads. Sure, I want attention, like everyone, but the fact that I am communicating to you with my direct words, saying things that I would not in polite company makes me feel like I am floating in the air while fucking the angels in heaven.

I don’t get that feeling online anywhere else than on my blog.

When I heard the barista’s name called out on that day in the coffee shop, I immediately went up to her and asked excitedly, “Your name is Scheherazade?!”

She was taken aback. She was a pretty girl, no more that twenty-three, and probably got hit on by customers all the time, and I must have seemed like some sleazy guy using some opening line.

“Yes,” she said. Or just “Sherry.”

“Sherry! Oh no, Scheherazade is an amazing name. I’ve never met anyone named it before. You HAVE to use the full name.”

At this point, she looked like she was about to call the manager to tell him to throw me out of the establishment.

“Do you know who Scheherazade was?”

She said that it meant something, like a fruit or flower, in Farsi. Who knows? Maybe it does, but clearly she was ignorant about the important meaning.

“Scheherazade was the beautiful AMAZING woman who told the 1001 Tales in the Arabian Nights!”

“Excuse me,” she said. “I have another customer.”

She dashed away to make a cappuccino, eager to leave the aging pervert with the graying hair. She had no interest at all in me or my story. Or even the story of her own name!

But luckily, YOU do. And I see this as a sign. Even Scheherazade, the ultimate storyteller, is not interesting until there is a story built around her. So I finally dragged myself off Twitter and Facebook because I had to write a story about Scherazarde, the barista in the Redondo Beach Coffee Company.

On, Saturday, July 25, at 3PM — Amy of Doobleh-vah and I will be offering a Room of Your Own at BlogHer called Blogging as Storytelling. It is for those who care about Schehrazade more than giveaways. It will be so good that you will have to return to your hotel room afterwards to play with yourself.

The Night Chicago Died


The Male Attendees of BlogHer ’09

For four years, every summer, I have been running a BlogHim on my blog, as a David’s slingshot’s response to the Goliath of the annual BlogHer Conference.

During this time, the men have grown stronger, as the female bloggers have been weakened due to their internal strife and own greed. Moms vs. non-Moms. Working Moms vs. SAHM. We deserve some credit as well. This year, the men, being the smarter gender, have easily manipulated the emotional women through a carefully crafted social media campaign, stirring up hatred and dividing the women.

Now is the time. Our time. BlogHim and BlogHer, face to face.

I booked my ticket to Chicago for July 23rd. I have been in contact with the other men attending the conference. We all agree — it is time to show the female bloggers how things are done.

Next month, Chicago will never be the same.

Who will I know there? Is there someone who is not going who wants me to send them a postcard from the Sheraton? I remember how much I hated when everyone was going to some conference, and everyone seemed to be partying and going topless except for ME! “Boo-hoo, I suck,” I would think. But you don’t have to worry about feeling like a loser. Just send me your address and I will even try to get some big shot blogger like the Pioneer Woman to autograph the postcard for you (if I can get her to talk to me)!

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