POLITICAL BARBEQUE ERUPTS ON NORTH BEACH; Officials Unable to Count the Injured and Disoriented; Welch Communications Director Hospitalized for “Percussive Gastric Event”; Odum Also Lost; Oh, The Humanity, the Humanity!
The Curse, the Vision, and the Crew
Blogging is a brutal, lonely, cursed vocation.
Even your family and your few real friends pity you for chasing this illusion — for throwing hours each day down a digital black hole, for staring endlessly into a monitor and imagining that a crowd of readers is staring back.
And political blogging is even worse.
Every time you speak your mind, you make a friend in Richmond, and lose a friend in Rutland. Every night after midnight, mainstream journalists and pundits screech by your house on two wheels and throw dead rats on your doorstep.
And these dead rats have to be explained to your family, come dawn.
So a while back John Odum and I decided to circle the wagons, and cook up a bunch of meat, to bring all the isolated/hassled political bloggers together.
But the idea was larger than just bloggers: we also wanted to draw in all the candidates and staff and alternative media types we know, as well as the loyal, regular readers that drive VDB and GMD on a day-to-day basis.
Everybody talking non-stop politics. Beautiful. A massive political free-for-all, as we imagined it.
Like a huge game of Twister, except with 80 people playing rather than 3, and everyone talking endlessly about NSA spying and the Connecticut River Dam situation — with touch football and burning beef thrown in for good measure.
Quickly we realized that the job was bigger than two people, and we roped in Neil Jensen, who held our spot at North Beach like an incensed pit bull while Odum and I cleaned out the Price Chopper out on Shelburne Road.
And Maggie Gundersen — shown above packing spatula — proved to be the sort of woman who steps forward when the flames drive more timid folk back. She was absolutely indispensable as Adjunct Grillmeister.
Only in the final stages did we realize that we were severely digitally-handicapped: with the exception of Neil’s $2 playtoy, we had nothing in the way of serious cameras.
Enter Anita Long, a fellow UVM type, and the ever mysterious Yusef (shown below with natty VDB-reader Don) who came packing the sort of lens that makes other men feel somehow subliminally inadequate. The images you see are their handiwork, and God love them both.
The Hamburger Summit Goes Live
And as I said yesterday, the whole event just turned out to be a beautiful thing: the weather was choice, and the crowd was fascinating, by any standard.
Nearly all of the major campaigns turned out in force, with Parker and Welch and Dunne staffers blanketing the grass.
As far as Democratic politics went, it was a full-court press: with the exception of Bernie Sanders — Democratic brother-in-arms — all of the big contenders were present, and a sweeter slate you never met in your life.
And because the beach around us was full to bursting, the BBQ crowd and the larger crowd mingled nicely and naturally — a dream situation for politicos just a few months out from Election Day.
Andrew Savage, communications director for Welch, biked 65 miles early Sunday morning to prepare an appetite in line with the spread we’d put out. Sources said he planned to bike another 20 miles or so after the event, to work off the excess calories.
In hindsight the regimen seems to have been a poor decision.
Savage’s hospitalization early Monday morning — due to what the internists at Fletcher Allen termed a “percussive gastric event” — was unfortunate, but couldn’t be helped.
All politics is local, of course, but that’s really just a way of saying that all politics is personal. I’ll always be indebted to Scudder and his wife for coming first, playing hardest, and leaving last. They have my vote for the duration.
In addition to quarterbacking a fairly impressive touch football game, Scudder found time to engage conservative blogger Charity Tensel in a Vulcan mind-meld conversation about the roots of liberalism, and the way that Jim Douglas dropped the ball on the Connecticut River Dam issue.
At one point Peter Welch, Scudder, Odum and Welch’s dog held a four-way session that seemed — at least from a distance — to bear significant strategic fruit.
Matt Dunne, John Tracy, and T.J. Donovan all waded in and pressed serious flesh.
And Charity was not the only conservative to hit the beach — Brendan McKenna put in an appearance, as did Vilassa Campbell, an old UVM friend now working for Rainville —
but she was certainly the most charming.
And although the optical illusion in the shot above is deeply unfortunate, the fact is she and I took to one another right off. You’ll see She’s Right listed prominently on the sidebar from now on.
The beauty part was putting faces to names.
Brattlerouser turns out to be this very soft-spoken person in a Hawaiian shirt who just landed a job at one of my favorite liberal clearinghouses, Raw Story.
(And of course, I’ve put in a word with Brattlerouser about shooting VDB the inside dope whenever possible.)
The Carpetbagger Report, a national Washington-themed blog I’ve read for years, turns out to be written by another thoughtful, cerebral type named Steve Benen.
Recently, Steve wrote an intriguing article for the Washington Monthly on the Clintons, infidelity, and the double-standard for conservative adulterers called “High Infidelity.”
And of course the Clintons are a specialty/compulsion at VDB. So I’ll be blogging about it later in the week, if you haven’t picked it up yet and want to get the jump on it.
Candleblog guru Bill Simmon and Burlingtonpol’s Haik Bedrosian I recognized from their sites, and both were a lot of fun — real stand-up guys. The sort of imposing stand-up guys who look fully capable of kicking your ass but wouldn’t dream of it — those kind of stand-up guys.
And I had a chance to introduce the rest of the blogosphere to some political friends from Burlington, like Representative and mayor-in-waiting Mark Larson, stand-up comic and State Rep. Jason Lorber, and my own city councilor, Russ Ellis.
And more than a few VDB loyalists were there, in spite of sometimes great distances: Maggie and Arnie Gundersen, Bill Haddock, Gregg and Nanci Meyer, Ed Adrian and family, to name a few.
Best of all, my neighbor Marc Nadel — VDB’s house cartoonist and caricaturist extraordinaire — made the scene with his wife Nancy, and it was nice to be able to point him out to readers who dutifully wade through the words at this site to get to the latest Nadel images.
And so the vision of all the area’s political bloggers coming together as a sort of de facto support group — in which we could compare the number and type of dead rats thrown by mainstream journalists on our porches — became reality. It was enough to put tears in your eyes, getting toward sundown.
A motley but stalwart crew: (standing, left to right) Steve Benen, Eve Benen, Bill Simmon, Neil Jensen, Christian Avard, John Odum, Charity Tensel; (kneeling, left to right) Haik Bedrosian, Koko, and me.
In short, it was everything we imagined — but somehow greasier and more filling.
Now if I could, I’d like to conclude by asking that everyone pause for a moment in deep contemplation, to thank the various animals that supplied by-products to produce the processed meats we grilled with such abandon.
Until next year, many thanks to you all out there for what the Python boys would call a real mother of a blowout. We’ll do it again, next year, never fear.
Late Update, July 12, 10:26 am:
I would be remiss if I failed to point out that there are some really freaking weird BBQ photos over at Odum’s site — and I mean freaking weird. I mean, like, guys holding severed heads, preparing to barbeque them sort of weird. Neil’s got great photos too, all with the cheapest digital ever produced. And Haik goes arthouse, here.
Later Update, 11:08 am:
Jonas Galusha — the infamous anonymous political provocateur — has written in to say that he was in attendance Sunday, but incognito. Galusha claims to have been acting the part of a street person, collecting bottles at the fringes of the party. Anyone get a bead on his act?