Chicago: Paris of the Midwest

On July 28, 2009 by Eden M. Kennedy

I got to the Santa Barbara airport at 7:00 a.m. last Thursday and nine hours later I was at the Sheraton in Chicago ordering room service and trying to decide between “Confessions of a Shopaholic” and “I Love You, Man.”

Chicago is awesome. Did you know that? You probably knew that.

There was a conference going on downstairs, a lot of bloggers milling around and thinking that everyone else looked vaguely familiar. Meanwhile, I’d settled on “I Love You, Man” and was sort of regretting my choice. I think everyone was doing the best they could, but I had higher hopes for that movie. I think in general I like my comedies to be a little angrier.

Yeah, so! I guess I didn’t leave my room Thursday night, which I rationalized by telling myself that the conference didn’t officially start until Friday morning.

Friday morning I got up and did my yoga practice on the surprisingly-slippery-yet-also-inconveniently-grippy hotel room carpet. I made some somewhat terrible in-room coffee with a Starbucks “pod” and a tiny container of unrefrigerated half-and-half that perhaps had been irradiated or somehow futuristically modified never to expire. Countless informative blogging sessions were going on downstairs and there I was locked in my room, happy just to BE ALONE for god’s sake. I love my husband and my son and my dog and my tortoise and I guess even the hamster but I could not in any satisfying way justify piercing the veil of this rare solitude.

Oh, wait, yes I could! I had a lunch date with mimi smartypants.

Mimi, like Chicago itself, is formidable from a distance and yet approachable once you get within, uh, spitting distance*. She asked me to meet her and Nora at this place in Wicker Park that had such a long menu of crazy sandwiches that I started to wish that I’d taken her more seriously when she’d sent me a link to it a week in advance and suggested that I might want to take a few days to decide what I wanted**.

*Let the record show that it never occurred to me to spit on, or near, mimi smartypants.

**Brie, apple, basil and chutney on Tuscan white, as it turns out. It was very good.

Nora was wonderfully impressive as well. She showed me her loose teeth, the “Beast Quest” book she was currently reading, her sweet Converse kicks, and her badass ink.


I made it back to my room and began to prepare for my event, the Community Keynote, that was due to start at 4:45. I had gone to a Walgreens near the hotel to pick up some index cards, and then I busied myself writing out introductions for all 21 speakers. I’d given myself about ninety minutes to do that, which was a BIG MISTAKE. I didn’t realize until I was actually on stage how wildly inconsistent and scribbled my introductions had become the closer I got to showtime. And I was horrified to find I had no index card at all for Catherine Connors.

Catherine waves at me before discovering what a giant dork I am, while Tanis coolly remains above the fray.

I had meant to take pictures of all the readers and blah blah blah, but in fact I ended up just doing my bit and listening to everyone instead. How about that! I fully participated in the event instead of spending three-quarters of my time wondering what I was going to post about it. Surely they’ll suspend my blogging license when word gets out.

This year’s event was just as much of a rollercoaster ride as last year’s. Posts that I’d thought were terrific on-screen turned out to be far more funny and/or heartbreaking when performed by the people who’d actually lived through the events described. (The list of readers and links to the posts they read is here.)

Afterward, I stood in the lobby and began the long and rewarding process of calming the fuck down. Heather B. helped by being disarmingly lovable, as usual:

Look, it’s Polly again! Honestly, she looks like about twelve of my cousins:

Basking in the afterglow as well were readers Nina and Danielle, who both kicked ass.

I missed having my usual gang of lady friends with me, but going it alone gave me more freedom to hide in my room drinking beer hang a little longer with people I normally see once a year for two minutes, like Kelly:

who has some stories, my friends. I sat with Kelly and Heather in the hotel bar and finally relaxed into this whole conference thing. For me BlogHer continues to be a purely social event. Earlier that day I had poked my head into a session about monetizing your brand, but as someone who thinks the point of blogging is to be funny and awesome, the main thing I got out of the session is that I love Liz. And that I need to write more about cleaning products.

And then I saw a unicorn!

There was some incredible thunder at the end of the night, which I enjoyed from the 19th floor.

Saturday morning, I had a much-anticipated date with the aforementioned Danielle to go meet the Byrneunit.


These Chicago kids sport some tuff ink, I tell you what. Henry has long been one of my Flickr favorites, and it was a joy to meet him in person and to really get to the bottom of the Swedish fish vs. lollipops conundrum.

We met Henry and his mom and dad at a place called the Eleven City Diner. I got a plate of lox and a bagel because THE RABBIS TOLD ME TO.

I don’t know if I’ve ever been in the presence of so many awe-inspiring tattoos.

The Byrneunit abides.

The rest of Saturday was spent dorking around the hotel, doing an interview for Frontline, and wishing I had the strength to go to the devastatingly generous Isabel’s CheeseBurgHer party. But I was starting to exhaust myself and was frankly still somewhat emotionally fragile what with the events of the last few months and all, so I retreated to my bed with my giant book so I could get u
p at the crack and find my way back to California in the morning.

There were a lot of people I missed seeing in Chicago and I’m sorry about that. I was pretty selfish about my time there, but I think that was the only way I could have made it through without losing my shit altogether.

I think my Twitter feed sums it up best from here on out:

Oakley outlet at O’Hare blasting Led Zep’s “Going to California” at 8am, just for me. 6:29 AM Jul 26th from TwitterFon

should have been in the air an hour ago. 9:01 AM Jul 26th from TwitterFon

Some airlines personnel are taken aback when you chuckle blackly at the news that you’ll be home 7 hours later than expected. 9:09 AM Jul 26th from TwitterFon

United airlines owes me dinner if they’re going to fuck me like this. 9:48 AM Jul 26th from TwitterFon

Rerouted from SFO to LAX, so I’ll be flying *over* my house but it will take me an extra 4 hours to actually get there. 2:40 PM Jul 26th from TwitterFon

I’ve found the cloaca of LAX and am drinking a beer within its glistening mucoidal folds. 5:23 PM Jul 26th from TwitterFon

But at least I’ve been able to read a lot of Infinite Jest. In fact I may have read about 2,000 more pages than DFW actually wrote. #infsum 5:38 PM Jul 26th from TwitterFon

16 HOURS from Chicago to Santa Barbara. I shall now remove my bonnet and beat my calico dress against a rock, then feast on mini pretzels. 9:28 PM Jul 26th from web



32 Responses to “Chicago: Paris of the Midwest”

  • I spoke to you for about 5 seconds while I was in line for the MamaPop party, which I totally don't expect you to remember, but seriously, the "OMG I just told Mrs. Kennedy that I love her & I'm a huge awkward dork but it's ok because she was so nice about it!" was a high point of my entire weekend. You know, just FYI.

  • Wow, now I feel EXTRA lucky to have met you! Your blog is one of the very first I ever read and it was wonderful to get to say hi in person.

    FWIW, I think next year my conference experience will be a bit more like yours was this year. More me time. As much fun as I had this year, by the end of the weekend I never wanted to speak to anyone again.

  • Aw, looks fun! Someday I will make it to Chicago…

  • The pictures from your hotel room are absolutly flipping beautiful!

  • This is the best BlogHer story I've read to date…it's one of the few that make me want to attend! I'd love a little silence, too.

  • I'm still bummed that despite our flurry of emails, we never actually got to see each other.

    Desperate Bloggers 2.0, baby. You better be there.

  • I saw you alone for a moment and am kicking myself for not introducing myself and saying hello. You did a lovely job on Friday. Maybe next time I'll have the guts to say hello!

  • You know, you don't get enough praise for your photos. They are fantastic.

    I like your conference strategy, myself.

  • Forgot to comment on your sneakers. The best at the conference. It was lovely to see you and wish there had been more time spent together for shits and giggles, mostly giggles not as much shits.

  • As a resident of the Midwest (MKE) I must thank you for giving Chi-town some well-deserved props with your gorgeous pix.

  • Um…I didn't go to Blogher. Your story is one of my favorites.

    I don't know if that's weird or not. But it's so totally true. I think that says a lot about me…or maybe it says a lot about how I feel about you, LOL.

  • I normally don't ever take 'me' time in fear of missing out?! However walking aournd like a tired zomby IS missing out, hmmm.
    Thanks for the Chicago photos. My daughter is planning a trip there next year, had no idea how big it was.

  • i am beyond sad that we completely missed each other. I also understand the need for solitude and beer.


  • Your pictures made me appreciate my own city. They're wonderful.

  • Congratulations on not loosing your shit and also on doing your practice in the morning. I admire the place you've gotten to with your Yoga. I has been beautiful (and sad, like most beautiful things are) to read your posts these last few months–they cut like a gorgeous knife.

  • united airlines out of chicago always equals hell, delays, and evil. that is all.

  • I had something important to say, but then I got distracted by Kelly's pretty lipstick. Want it.

  • I met you on the escalator heading to the MamaPop party. I was all, "Let's Panic About Babies!!! AWEEEESOMMMMEEEEE!" I was exceedingly proud to have mustered the courage to introduce myself and was feeling all wild. And you were completely delightful. I'm glad I met you.

  • You can rock a suit like no other, Eden.

    Having the drink in hand (I have no clue where it came from but whatevs) and a good hug is part of my charm.

  • It is so wrong for me to be laughing at that last tweet, but, as usual, you paint quite a picture and I am tearing up at the thought of you with a bonnet and calico dress.

    I am glad you came out of your room long enough for me to find you and harrass you. If I had not met you, I would have been supremely disappointed.

  • This may have been my favorite roundup yet.

    Probably because you are indeed both funny and awesome. Although I would love to see your take on new Orange-Fresh Pledge (TM)

  • I was the random woman who introduced myself to you on Friday afternoon on your way out of the hotel. I am so glad I got to say hello.

    Wanted to say I am local and I loooove Jerry's sandwich shop. It is amazing. So glad you ventured out of downtown to eat there.

    Alos, I love that first picture. I showed it to my husband and he was like, "Wow!" Great shot of my city, thanks for posting it.

  • I lived near Chicago (NW Indiana) 20+ years ago, and made it back to the area to do some research on what I had hoped to be a new book (back-burnered for now), two years ago.

    Chicago has always held a special place in my heart. I love the Lake Shore, the architecture of downtown, and your photos made me long for the blues, its food, and feeling tucked into the middle of the country again.

    I must confess, I don't know much about BlogHer, other than a couple of other blogs where I lurk mentioned it.

    Impressed you've tackled Infinite Jest, as I have. Took me awhile to get rolling, but I'm on page 648 and finally enjoying it.

  • i wish we lived closer to one another so we could be friends. sending you my anonymous-internet-lurker like/love, xox

  • Your BlogHer experience makes me actually curious to check it out.
    There's more to blogging than being awesome and funny? According to who, I demand to know.

  • That was simply lovely. And calming.

    I too continue to see BlogHer as a social event. I think it means different things for different people.

    I go to know my online friends in real life.

    My biggest takeaway from BlogHer? I'm taking a long weekend with my family in Chicago. That city is beautiful.

  • Man, that was one enviable weekend. I would have killed for some alonetime followed by those formidable internet statespeople.

    P.S. I sent you good vibes from across the Sheraton lobby.

  • "…the point of blogging is to be funny and awesome."
    You're funny and awesome. Great to have you back.

  • I checked and saw she'd had lunch with you and was jealous. Then I came over here and saw you had had lunch with Mimi and that Bossy had said "lovely to see you" and I was jealous. You three are my very fave bloggers (and maybe you can leak the secret of Mimi's real first name). For whatever reason my blogging career exists only in the comments section of others' blogs ("Collected Comments of Marcia Brady [and other screennames]" will surely be a bestseller). So I will never, sob, get to go to BlogHer and stalk anyone, thus: thank you for the vicarious thrill. And also: I used to have therapy in one of those two corncob buildings you could see out your hotel window.

  • i'm still catching up on BlogHer reports from the bloggers i read and who do i spy in the background of shots from the expo floor on pioneer woman ( you! love the orange jeans!

  • Holy cats that is a long air trip. You should travel with me. I am like the travel princess, and I have no idea why. Never delayed, never lost luggage…it all just works out.

    I think you did BlogHer just right. One truly fabulous event, some friends, some quiet time. Perfect.

  • I'm just starting to blog. Thanks for the insight on the blogging conference. I live close to Chicago, and yes – it is amazing! – Angel,