Saturday, August 04, 2007

Postcard From the Lesser Hyatt: My Kos Adventures

Live from Chicago, some random thoughts on the heat of the weekend thus far. (Well, as live as can be expected after a night that began with three glasses of red wine on an empty stomach and ended--many, many hours of handshaking and talking and dancing later--with a bang when an inconvenient table decided to place itself in my path. Bruised? Mortified? Why, yes I am.) a Lesser Hyatt

For one thing, the Proper Hyatt, the convention center one, is situated on the premises, no cabbing required. The overflow Hyatt, on the other hand, is a ten-minute twenty-minute twenty-five minute cab ride away. In a vehicle that may or may not be air-conditioned, much to the chagrin of my freshly-pressed white shirt. It seems to me there should be a discount for passengers who get stuck (and with dark vinyl seats in the summertime, you do tend to get stuck) taking one of the saunas-on-wheels. There isn't.

The overflow Hyatt is huge--so large is it, in fact, I rarely see another blogger on the premises, and I know there are plenty of us around. There are other conventions based here, though, symposiums and gatherings that have something to do with IT, or else the marketing of dark knit polo shirts embroidered with company logos--everyone must wear one!--or perhaps some organized linguistic movement of which I was previously unaware, one that seeks to replace perfectly good English words with abstruse (and oftentimes unintentionally amusing) jargon. Interfacing the Rapid-fire Deployment of Emergent Interoffice Communication Technology With Pre-existing Prioritized Infrastructure Mandates: A Challenge For The New Century.

Forget that long-awaited nap, I told myself when I checked in and learned the room would not be ready for another three or four hours. My luggage was added to the sprawling mass of duffel bags and golf clubs threatening to burst free from the temporary roped-off corral in the Hyatt's carpeted skywalk. It wasn't long before TRex arrived, though.

"Ooh, look: Halliburton has been here," he said, pointing at the pitiful masses of detained suitcases.

Everyone Is Young and Gorgeous

Yes, there are some fortysomethings (and oldersomethings) here. Overall, though, liberal bloggers appear younger, more sociable, handsomer, and infinitely more energetic than media and rightwing blogs have led many to believe. If you were expecting throngs of wise-looking elders, what you see and hear instead are, well, throngs of wise-cracking, great-looking movers and shakers. For the most part. I love observing the wildly diverse faces walking toward and around me as I lug my very heavy laptop backpack to and fro, cursing my choice of shoes (high-heeled and misery-making--deeply so--given that McCormick Place is right up there with Heathrow Airport when it comes to the endlessly long corridors and escalators you're forced to navigate). This is a multi-ethnic, ageless, and highly motivated crowd; they talk about The Issues even when they're riding one of the four million escalators. Even when they're in the restroom.

No wonder certain media types feel threatened: they know what's happening--what has happened already, in fact. Theirs is a wounded pride, a roundly discredited prejudice.

Break Free of the Chains

I would really, really like to experience one of the many intriguing restaurants for which Chicago is famous, but many if not most of them are in the outlying neighborhoods, hardly walking distance from either Hyatt. What you do get here are versions of the same fern-bars, burger joints, and Tex-Mex outlets you've probably eaten at in your hometown. TRex and I tried the China Grill (yes, there are a few of them around the States) and devoured a monster plateful of mixed-green salad followed by dumplings, then wasabi mashed potatoes so good, they rival my own evilly delicious spuds (I start by adding plenty of sweet butter, sea salt, cracked black pepper and a few knobs of wasabi paste to the hot, drained potatoes, then whip that together, then drizzle in hot milk until the texture makes me happy).

That said, can we please have more independent (and preferably ethnic, say Cuban, Thai, Moroccan or Indian) restaurants in your downtown area, Chicago? Yes, we are tourists, but many of us enjoy trying new flavors when we're visiting new cities--we already know from Bennigans and Chipotle and Subway (especially those of us who live in Florida).

Ezra Speaks

A cab shortage (why I opted to take the aforementioned saunamobile--it was that or nothing) conspired with Friday afternoon rush hour to make me late for Ezra's round table session discussing blogs as the new news. I did catch the last fifteen minutes, though, and can report that Ezra's as poised in front of a roomful of media and blog types as he is in front of a Hardball camera. Afterwards, I was able to personally thank Max Blumenthal for his most recent film shorts, Rapture Ready and Generation Chickenhawk. I asked him how on Earth he managed to get himself and his film crew into these events; he replied that getting in wasn't anywhere near as hard as standing right there among such fanatics for hours, desperately looking forward to getting out.

Swarms and Sushi at the Swampland Party

For a while, the place was packed and the mob at the bar was intimidatingly wide and deep; then, the crowd spread out somewhat and the volume continued to rise. At the back of the room, our hosts had erected a large posterboard with headshots of the four Time Magazine Swampland bloggers, Ana Marie Cox, Karen Tumulty, Jay Carney, and the beleaguered Joe Klein, entreating guests to "Say it to our faces" with one of the marker pens provided. I watched in amusement as comedian after comedian scribbled his well wishes (hey, they did ask). The board needed something 3-D, though. A stack of Times sat on my coffee table, so I tore out Joe Klein's page from the top one, folded it into an origami Dodo bird, and positioned it over his photo, where its outer wing could twitch in the air-conditioning currents.

The writing is on the wall.

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