January 17, 2005

What I Did on my Three-Day Winter Vacation

Shelly and I had a great time in New York. She had work to do and I didn’t, but New York rocks even when you’re busy. (Who isn’t busy in New York, anyway?) She was still able to join me on most of my blogosphere social outings.

We met Jeff Jarvis at a Cosi coffeeshop which, apparently, is the place for wi-fi blogging when you’re in Manhattan. The first thing Shelly said to me after we left the café was “What a terrific human being that man is.” Well, yes. But I knew that already. Thanks, Jeff, for being you and finding some time for us.

20 minutes after saying adios to Jeff we met Steve Silver for dinner at the Heartland Brewpub, which just so happened to be located right down the street from both my hotel and his day job. Steve is younger than me, but (so far anyway!) a more accomplished writer. Peg Kaplan notes in my comments section: "I knew Steve Silver's mom long before she was pregnant with him - and now he's a successful writer in NYC??" You rock, Steve. Thanks for hanging out with us Thursday night.

Friday night Megan McArdle (Jane Galt) and her boyfriend Jim took us into the countryside (inner Queens) to a Spanish restaurant with live flamenco dancing. Krikey, she’s tall. She’s taller than me, and I’m taller than almost everybody. Megan and Jim, too, were great company: worldly, wise, well-read, funny, and charming. Shelly and I were instantly comfortable with both of them. And she was my Instapundit guest-blogging colleague. How could I go to NYC and not meet Megan?

The next night I went out with Eric Deamer (Young Curmudgeon), Judith Weiss (Kesher Talk), Mary Madigan (Exit Zero), Jeremy Brown (guest-blogger here and proprietor of Who Knew), and Jeremy’s wife Cara Remal who also occasionally blogs at Who Knew. (Jeremy and Cara have pictures, too, by the way.) We had dinner at a place in Brooklyn that unpretentiously calls itself Cambodian Cuisine. (My favorite unpretentious restaurant name is “Eat,” but “Cambodian Eat” doesn’t quite work.) Then we went to the Brooklyn Academy of Music to listen to some nice piano music before getting psychically chased out by the waiter for (apparently) showing up late, pushing tables together without asking, and daring to ask for a desert menu after the kitchen had closed.

All of us, I think it’s safe to say, have been made to feel like freaks at least a couple of times at various social gatherings because we voted for that Very Bad Man in the White House. That’s what happens to people who live in blue neighborhoods of blue cities in blue states and have a bunch of blue friends. (Don’t get me wrong, I love my blue friends, even the ones who think I’ve gone off some kind of political deep end. Besides, I voted for Ralph Effing Nader last time, so I’m used to getting the Treatment.)

It’s nice to have dinner with people who all read each other’s work and who don’t look at me like I have horns or two heads because of a one-time voting preference. It occurred to me half-way through the meal: I don’t think I’ve ever had dinner with a group of people who all voted for a Republican president. Not even once in my life. That kind of thing just can’t happen by accident on the East Coast or in the Pacific Northwest.

Go ahead and call me ridiculous, but it actually felt weird.

I looked around at all these people and noticed that it wasn’t just me: they don’t have horns or two heads, either. In fact, they’re all quite normal. I’m so accustomed to hysterical denunciations of conservatives as knuckle-dragging right-wing death beasts that I really did have a moment of minor surprise. (This may be because only one of us – Eric – is an actual conservative. Judith has long been independent, and the rest of us are disgruntled lefty types who gave the middle finger to “our own” John Kerry and the peaceniks. So, who knows? Maybe it’s the Republicans in Tom DeLay’s Texas district who have horns. Somebody’s gotta have ’em, I guess.)

(Jeff Jarvis and Steve Silver were refreshing in a different way. They’re both lefty bloggers who don’t give me a bunch of crap because we didn’t vote for the same guy. (I don’t give them any crap either.) Who you vote for shouldn’t make any difference on a personal level, but in news junkie circles it’s sometimes a Really Big Deal for people who mistake politics for high school.)

After dinner on Saturday the six of us went to C’s (A Picture of Me) birthday party in the East Village. I met a bunch more bloggers there. All of them (apparently) were actual hornless one-headed conservatives. Jessica, who blogs at The New Vintage. Karol at Alarming News. Ivan Lenin, who moved to the U.S. from Belarus.

Ace of Spades apologized for “taking a shot” at me a few months ago on his blog. I told him that wasn’t necessary. I get scrappy on the blog, too, sometimes. Big deal. There is more to life than this. No hard feelings, Ace.

I’m not exactly sure who else I met. I don’t even know if I met C, the birthday girl, because it was almost as dark as it was loud in that joint. Some people at the party knew who I was, but I didn’t know who they were(*). They talked to me like I was some kind of a famous person, which made me feel good and also like a fraud at the same time. It’s not like I can’t leave the house without being recognized and followed around by groupies. Bloggers can only be “celebrities” at blogger parties. That is probably not a bad thing. I wouldn’t want to live like Tom Cruise. It sounds like a royal pain in the ass to me. (I’ll take his salary, though.)

Thanks, everybody, for the great company and the grand tour of a wonderful city. I miss you all out here in the remote wooded provinces.

*The two ladies at Candied Ginger were the ones I didn't know but who knew me. Well, I know 'em now and I knew 'em live first.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at January 17, 2005 06:54 PM

I love these kinds of posts - thanks for the travel wrap, MJT.

And you got out of the East Coast just in time. It's 20 degrees in D.C. right now.

Posted by: SoCalJustice at January 17, 2005 07:26 PM

Thanks for this post.Your 'travel' stuff is invariably interesting,largely because you bring 'you'into the trip,and allow us all to share a little of your adventure.
I appreciate this type of post more now that I have pretty much abandoned 'political'discourse.I was going to comment on the butchery in NJ covered in your prior posting,but the 'discussion' pretty much went the way I anticipated,with the 'loons'out in force(Hang in there,David.You are doing yeoman's work in assailing the Morks of this world)


Posted by: dougf at January 17, 2005 07:48 PM

Thanks, guys. These posts don't generate as many comments (probably at least in part because they're less controversial), so I can't always tell if people enjoy reading them or not.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 17, 2005 08:06 PM

I'm glad to hear you had a good time in NYC.

It's definitely a great city, and I encourage you to
visit frequently! (No, they don't pay me to say that.)

Posted by: Dave at January 17, 2005 08:29 PM

I would not describe you as a disgruntled lefty type, Michael.

I would describe you as an insecure liberal. :-)

Posted by: Benjamin at January 17, 2005 08:44 PM

It was great finally meeting you, Michael. I wish we'd been able to hang out with you night owls a bit longer.

We miss you too. We'll have to get out to the provinces one day, if we can hire a Sherpa to guide us. What do you, eat bark out there? (with your mocha latte?)

Posted by: Jeremy Brown at January 17, 2005 08:59 PM

Michael, if you are ver in the Washington, D.C. area (God help you), give me a holla. Everyone down here has horns, but it's to be expected.

Posted by: John at January 17, 2005 09:09 PM

This may be because only one of us – Eric – is an actual conservative.

I'm not sure if I'm "an actual conservative" anymore, though I have played one in the comments here before (mostly in reaction to the vociferous extremists of the other persuasion who frequent here), and I was a fairly doctrinaire conservative when I was a lot younger, which doesn't mean much. I think all the labels are meaningless, or at the very least are going through a period of complete re-definition. On conservative sites I'm frequently told that I'm not a conservative, nor are any of the politicians or thinkers whom I admire.

Posted by: Eric Deamer at January 17, 2005 09:14 PM

Getting cosy in here.

I thought this was Life During Wartime?

"No time for lovey dovey

I ain't got time for that now."

Posted by: Benjamin at January 17, 2005 09:22 PM

Hey Michael, glad you enjoyed NYC.

completely OT--or on topic only in the sense of giving your blue friends another reason to look at you that way:

Bush was never once asked about extraordinary rendition during his entire first term. He finally was, by a Knight Ridder reporter. His response?

"This administration will not talk about intelligence-gathering matters."

Isn't THAT reassuring? I guess we can assume that in his repeated statements that he stands firmly opposed to torture and would never condone it, he wasn't talking about intelligence gathering matters.

Posted by: Katherine at January 18, 2005 12:11 AM

Sorry, my mistake, this happened last week and we're technically still in the first term. So he was asked about it once.

1464 days to go. Thanks!

Posted by: Katherine at January 18, 2005 12:14 AM

I’m relieved that everyone at the dinner voted for President Bush. My preferred candidate was Joseph Libermann---but the national Democratic party has effectively marginalized him. Megan McArdle and I essentially came to the same conclusion. It was too risky expecting John Kerry to change his stripes. She used the normally frustrating example of a wife hoping marriage would compel her man to grow up. I pointed to Bishop Thomas Becket. He ceased whoring around and staying drunk most of the time once the responsibilities of the Church were thrust upon him. However, Becket became famous because he acted atypically. What were the odds that Kerry might do likewise? Would you bet your life on that happening?

Posted by: David Thomson at January 18, 2005 02:20 AM

So how tall are you anyway? :)

Posted by: Caroline at January 18, 2005 04:27 AM

" people who mistake politics for high school"

Great line, Michael.

Posted by: anne at January 18, 2005 04:39 AM

'nother former RFN voter here ...

Posted by: Asher Abrams - Dreams Into Lightning at January 18, 2005 06:31 AM

Ya, it's ridiculously cold out here now. I'd say "If you're ever in Philly..." but no one ever comes to Philadelphia. I, though, will be in Portland for business (business! Of all things! I have a conference there!), meaning I'll finally be in the city long enough to meet you if you're around in early March.

Posted by: Nathan at January 18, 2005 06:40 AM

I'd be happy to welcome you to Bratislava, a fine town, too (no longer the "armpit of the Danube" '91 Let's Go E...), if you want company here or in nearby Vienna (60 miles? Two closest Euro capitals).

Your travel posts are quite fine. But at that Rep dinner, you mean you went w/o Shelly? Or, if she did go, did she mention how she felt being surrounded by Bush puppets?

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at January 18, 2005 06:56 AM

Government by democracy, or gov't by Death Squad?

Katherine, when the USA stopped bombing the Vietnamese people, the N. Viet Death Squad commies took over. In Zimbabwe, Death Squads rule. In Iran, Syria, Sudan -- rule by Death Squads.

I don't know the history of successful anti-Death Squad fights. The Phillipines doesn't make me think it's a good example. Perhaps you could point out where organized Death Squads were successfully fought back against -- and show me how it was done more humanely than what the US is doing in Iraq.

I have to confess to thinking, after every successful anti-democracy Death Squad attack -- the Sunnis are much much more afraid of the Death Squad killers than of the "nominally" more powerful USA, and this Sunni fear breeds implicit support for the Death Squads, and both anger and contempt for the USA; for USA weakness.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at January 18, 2005 06:58 AM

re: "Bush puppets" and death squads.

Hey Tom, isn't this supposed to be the warm and cozy thread with comments like perhaps, "Weren't Ginger's shoes nice" and "What did Karol wear"?.

Posted by: d-rod at January 18, 2005 07:33 AM

"I don’t think I’ve ever had dinner with a group of people who all voted for a Republican president. Not even once in my life. That kind of thing just can’t happen by accident on the East Coast or in the Pacific Northwest."

And that is sad, I'm now running a blog here too. I see bloggers getting together in various parts of the country, but know that with my conservative views it will never happen for me in Portland. Aw well, hopefully I'll be finding another job in another part of the country soon anyway. Maybe I'll find less prejudice and some bloggers in whatever part of the country I end up in.

Posted by: mike from oregon at January 18, 2005 09:03 AM
  • He's very tall.
  • I feel the same, completely refreshed way about my liberal friends who love me nonetheless. The most recent recruit is a Cuban-worshipping revolutionary who is nonetheless a terrific drinking buddy/event-organizing partner. It's just nice to feel like there's room in the world for ... most of us.
  • In short, the PNW isn't that bad.
Posted by: candy girl at January 18, 2005 09:07 AM

It’s not like I can’t leave the house without being recognized and followed around by groupies.

Those damned brochures lied. Time to shut down my blog.

So how tall are you anyway? :)

Yeah, how tall are you anyway? I suspect that I may the tallest commenter on your blog.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 18, 2005 09:42 AM

Oh, and from the photos, Mary looks like a tall drink of water as well, speaking of tallness.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 18, 2005 09:57 AM

Sorry Double (but K. started it with that render stuff...).

Thanks for the links to lots of other interesting sites; now I can start doing my work; uh, oops. Wife waits for me at home. No wonder my boss is not happy with me...

Jeremy has better pictures! But no time to log into HIS comments (this time).

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at January 18, 2005 10:15 AM

It was nice meeting you, Michael! I'm glad you liked New York. Come again, we'll give you more star treatment!

Posted by: Ivan Lenin at January 18, 2005 10:55 AM

Caroline, I'm a little over 6'0".

Tom, Shelly didn't go to the last dinner with me because she had her own people to hang out with that night.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 18, 2005 11:48 AM

These posts don't generate as many comments (probably at least in part because they're less controversial.

I guess if we wanted to create controversy, someone could play Mork and say:

"Is it one of the membership rules of the League of Anti-Muslim Ideologues that you have to criticize pretentious German waiters at least once a year? I guess we’d better kill Dieter before he kills us."

Then I’d comment with inks that say that black-turtleneck-wearing Euro waiters are, according to polls, 90% ruder than the rest of the world’s population, so criticizing them is perfectly OK.

And then Katherine, apropos of nothing, could say something about Bush and torture.

Which – oops – she did.

Anyway, everyone had nice shoes, and it was great that you got a chance to meet so many people. I was worried that the plans wouldn’t work, but they did. It’s funny how plans by email generated more confusion, but when everyone met face-to-face, it was easier to decide.

Next time you come to NYC, we’ll have to do this again. Hopefully, Shelly can meet everyone and the weather’ll be warmer.

Posted by: mary at January 18, 2005 03:54 PM

"Caroline, I'm a little over 6'0"."

OMG - and from the pictures I was thinking you were like 6'4". (a big shout out to the girls at Candied Ginger!)

Still - based on that picture of you on your site - I was thinking that you were about as tall as Tom Cruise! :) So yes - over 6' qualifies as tall based on my prior image of you. But then I was actually for a brief period of time thinking that you were like 6'4" - and that was really a shocking departure from my original expectation. All in all though - isn't it odd that we develop such images based on so little objective information? Well - I figure if you're gonna be a kind of blogosphere movie star you're gonna have deal with this kind of stuff! Get used to it - you know? :)

Posted by: Caroline at January 18, 2005 05:10 PM

Ace apologized?!?!?

Don't get me wrong, I thought he was unfair to take a shot at you in the first place (though dammit, he was funny as usual)...it's just it's so not right. Ace should be UNREPENTANT, man!

Anyway, this was a very lovely recounting of your New York trip. I can feel the genuine warmth of the experience from the way you write about it. I'm happy you enjoyed your NYC sojourn.

Posted by: Jeff B. at January 18, 2005 06:27 PM

I guess if we wanted to create controversy, someone could play Mork and say: "Is it one of the membership rules of t<snip>

This doesn't answer the main question:

Exactly how tall are you, Mary?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 18, 2005 08:04 PM

I’m between 5’ 9” – 5’ 10” , the shortest person in the family (My son's 6' 3" and my daughter reached Jane's height at age 14)

Posted by: mary at January 18, 2005 08:54 PM

"Oh, and from the photos, Mary looks like a tall drink of water as well,"

Mary you're taller than 5'9"
You're almost as tall as Michael.

6'0" isn't that tall.
Of course to me everyone is tall......

Posted by: Yehudit at January 18, 2005 10:30 PM

Me and my girlfriend had our first trip out to DC and New York around the New Year.

New York (actually, Manhattan, since this is all I got to see) is an amazing place to visit - similar to my home town of SF, but much bigger, without the hills, and not as much physical beauty.

So much to do though! We were going to see The Lion King (I had missed it out here in SF) but again, they were sold out. (By the way, off-topic, but if you are around the bay area, and want to see a fun play, go see the Gamester at the ACT. Very funny!)

You know, this must be my 1st post here in six months or so. I doubt I'll post again, since I got so tired of "former" liberals up on their high horse about liberalism's faults, and giving a free pass to so many illegal, dishonest and evil acts by this current administration. (And yes, I know there will need to be at least 3 bush supporters dispute that last sentence - fine, I won't respond back, I'm simply saying why in my experience I haven't posted here.)

But I liked this particular post - maybe because I just went to New York, maybe because there's a bit of humility - who knows? Every six weeks or so, I'll quickly take a look at this site, and this particular post pleased me.

Aloha til the next six months...

Posted by: JC at January 19, 2005 12:18 AM

since I got so tired of "former" liberals up on their high horse about liberalism's faults

Hee, Hee. Now we're just gloating. See y'all in two years.

Posted by: chuck at January 19, 2005 12:41 AM

since I got so tired of "former" liberals up on their high horse about liberalism's faults

There are an awful lot 'former' liberals out there. Ever wonder why?

Posted by: mary at January 19, 2005 09:22 AM

I'm 5'10" but I'd have fooled everyone over the weekend because my shoes make me almost an inch and a half taller. I have the torso of a tall person (head room is sometimes a problem for me when driving cars) but I have the legs of an average height person (I seldom have legroom problems). [chirp-chirp-chirp] Hello...? [Tap-tap]...is this thing on?

Posted by: Jeremy Brown at January 19, 2005 04:57 PM

Ever wonder why?

Not particularly; people whose convictions aren't particularly profound usually revert to barbarous revenge as soon as any kind of atrocity touches them personally.

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 20, 2005 01:43 AM
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