Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Ten Best Moments from YKos (in no particular order....)

Home now, getting unpacked and collected, and recovering from the sheer intensity of the past week. The political coverage of the events has been extensive; but before we move onto other things, there are a few personal snapshots of my first Yearly Kos that I'd like to pass around.

1. Talking to John Dean in person. There are a few people whom I call out to my kids as heroes whenever they appear on TV. Daniel Ellsberg is one of them. John Dean is another. I got to tell him this to his face -- and also thank him for writing the book that launched my blogging career. We had a wonderful chat.

2. The town hall meeting with John Edwards, who confirmed once again the reasons he's my (current) pick of the litter. Nobody else seems to grok the magnitude of change we're heading into. Edwards does. That's a start. (Sitting next to Norwegianity's Wege and Mrs. Wege -- whoops, no, she's not Mrs. Wege, Tild is his co-blogger -- the three of us huddled behind my furiously fluttering Chinese fan in the overheated room, was a high spot, too.)

3. Finding out I had groupies. Who knew?

4. Finding out that my groupies include Digby, Amanda Marcotte, Joe Conason, and Max Blumenthal. The five-pound box of ego candy really weighed down the suitcase on the way home, but I'll be feasting on it for months.

5. Finding out that, thanks to the full-saturation media coverage (there was one reporter for every 10 attendees), my mother finally decided she needs to start reading my blog. Hi, Mom!

6. New friends. Mary Conley from Blue Oregon, with whom I toured the Art Institute on Sunday afternoon. Barbara O'Brien from Mahablog, who is the font of all wisdom, including the wisdom of doubt. The wry and wicked Pam Spaulding, of Pam's House Blend. Michelangelo Signorile, whom I was almost all the way through dinner with before I realized who he was. The inimitable Spocko, mild-mannered warrior for truth, justice, and removing hate speech from the American airwaves. Pacific Views' lovely Natasha, and many many other people from the Pacific Northwest blogging community. El Gato Negro was nowhere in sight...but that doesn't mean he wasn't there.

7. Shutting down the hotel bar Friday night with Talk2Action's Chip Berlet and Fred Clarkson, plus Max and Dave Neiwert -- in a conversation that just got boozier and more interesting as the hour grew later and the stack of glasses grew taller. Chip and Fred know more about the far right than any two people on earth, and I'm grateful for several hours of great education (more on this below).

8. Meeting our own Hubris Sonic and his lovely and charming entourage. I don't know what I expected -- Special Forces guy, I figured maybe bald and brawny and given to muscle tees. But HS has hair and glasses and wears polo shirts (OK, Special Forces polo shirts) and otherwise looks very normal. And he's just nice.

9. Attending the Street Prophets worship service on Sunday morning. After four nights of party-till-dawn, it's astonishing that 80 or so bleary souls actually dragged themselves out of bed at eight am to be there. But for me, it was one of the high points of the whole conference.

Four things in particular: 1) If it were possible to commute to Kenosha every Sunday to attend PastorDan's church, I would. 2) Any church service that ends with Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" is worth showing up for. 3) The company couldn't be beat: I sat between Barbara from Mahablog and Mary from Blue Oregon. It turns out that Barbara has the sweetest operatic soprano you've ever heard. 4) And she's not the only one. Apparently, there are a huge number of bloggers who are stalwarts of their local church choirs, with trained voices and great ears for harmony. We made the place rock.

10. The other people. We shared the hotel with the Prince Hall Shriners. And therein also lies a tale.

I grew up in a Masonic family. As a young sprout, I used to ask why black people couldn't join our organizations, I was told not to worry about it -- they had their own Masonic groups (as if "separate but equal" were sufficient justification to maintain racism). But, as the years rolled on, I came to doubt this, since I never saw evidence that such groups actually existed. I figured they were just a figment created by embarrassed grown-ups resorting to making up fables to cover their own guilt. It would not, after all, be the first time.

But the national Black Shriners do exist after all, and they were there with us in Chicago -- black and beautiful and glittering in their jeweled fezzes and regalia, their wives dressed in their best Sunday suits and evening bling -- a very classy show in the elevators and restaurants, shining out like rubies amid the dull, muted tones of bloggers in jeans and tees.

Chip Berlet clued me in on the backstory. Turns out that centuries back, in the early days of Masonry, the Masonic orders in Europe used to initiate blacks without much of a quibble. (These were, after all, the guys who provided the political juice for the Enlightenment.) When some of those black Masons moved to America, they found that the lily-white American lodges slammed the doors in their faces. So, in the 19th century, a Haitian immigrant named Prince Hall started up a network of African-American Masonic lodges, continuing on with the European lineage and traditions rather than adopting those of the New World lodges that excluded them.

The American Masonic orders did finally start integrating their lodges about 30 years ago. Which means there are still a few all-white lodges in places where integration hasn't taken hold; a large number of integrated American Masonic groups all around the country; and, even still, the Prince Hall strain, which -- as we saw in the halls and elevators of the McCormick Place Hyatt -- still remains strong.

More about Masonic history than you ever wanted to know, I'm sure. But I enjoyed getting at least one old nagging question answered.

Good to be home. Now, to get back to work....