I had mentioned before I left for Charlotte that I was going to try an experiment of bringing an iPad in lieu of a laptop. On the up side, it was much easier to carry around. On the downside, it is not possible to get photos off of it into the blog. Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? Sure. Blog? No way. Thanks to Oreo for putting my photos into posts. But there are more, MANY more, and I'm still sorting through them. Some of the most interesting are from the "MSNBC experience" - I need to draw a map so you can get a sense of what that was like, and will work on that later today.
Some random thoughts in case you're planning on going to the 2016 convention. By the way, I think you should, and I plan to go again.
Money: Conventions are expensive. For the people putting them on, for the people attending. Start saving now! From volunteers through delegates, everyone pays their own way, and certain things (like hotel rooms) are more expensive than they are normally at the same hotels.
Best decisions I made ahead of time: First, because I didn't want to stay downtown (which is actually called "Uptown" in Charlotte) I rented an underground parking space at the edge of Uptown with in-and-out privileges. It made everything MUCH easier. Second, I wore sneakers every day. There is an incredible amount of walking at every convention. One of the runners from Current TV told me that he'd lost 10 pounds in Tampa from all the running around. He was on Day 1 at Charlotte when we spoke, and we were laughing about that as-seen-on-tv belt hole puncher thing. He needed it as his belt was on the last hole, and he really needed another one. Third, bringing cash. In my normal life, I use my debit card for most everything. At conventions, there are tons of vendors and they only take cash. Fourth, studying the map ahead of time. I'd been to the Charlotte airport many times, but only to the city itself once before, and briefly at that. I had looked at overall maps, and especially the Uptown maps. I printed out an Uptown map and marked on it the places I knew I would want to go. Since I read DCW in addition to writing here, I had a list of panel discussions and breakfasts I wanted to attend, and I had all the locations marked on my little 8 1/2 by 11 map. It lived in a file folder with all the attendance confirmation paperwork.
Best decisions I made after arrival: First, to go into town early. While "the convention" is, for most everyone, the nightly speeches, I liked seeing the morning people...I had a lot of great conversations with vendors, protesters (they were there overnight in addition to having day crews), volunteers, workers, as well as delegates and guests. Everyone is walking around. I couldn't BELIEVE that Robert Gibbs was just walking up the street. As I said earlier, everyone walks. It was so thrilling! He was friendly and forthcoming, although a little surprised about my level of gushing! Second, to keep trying to catch up with people. Convention areas are incredibly dense with people, and it takes a lot more time to get from point A to point B than you'd think. Thus, it pays to keep calling and texting to be able to get to the same place at the same time with friends! Whatever you're planning on doing, add 15 minutes to your travel time if you're walking, and an hour if you're driving or taking a shuttle bus. Finally, find a respite spot inside the convention zone. A place to charge your electronics, sit down, get something to drink....I ran around each day from 7 or 8 in the morning well into the evening, and have a place to get a break is great. If you're staying in the zone, you could use your hotel room, but you probably won't want to!
Umbrellas. Umbrellas are not allowed in a lot of places in the convention zone. Which means you end up with a lot of places that look like the picture. That's taken at one of the checkpoints for the train between the Charlotte Convention Center and the Time-Warner Arena. You could take the 2 minute train, or walk the path along the tracks, but no umbrellas. There were a host of other things (make the picture bigger and look at the list) that would get taken as you entered various venues where they had manned checkpoints. This included things like food. I watched one guy try to be allowed to keep his apple, but the Secret Service was having none of it. He stood to the side and ate it. Ponchos ruled in Charlotte: blue ones from the DNCC, pink from Planned Parenthood, and clear from the street vendors.
The radio. This is a true story, and reading it in print cannot do justice to the guys on the radio. But I share it because it's just so much fun. I stayed over the line in South Carolina, which was an easy ride in, except I needed to go near the closed off area of Ballantyne where the Obamas were staying. I forgot to check the traffic map one morning, so decided to find a traffic report on the radio on the way in. I thought that AM would be a good choice, was winging through the channels, and heard that this one station was going to play the Star Spangled Banner and then give the traffic report. So I listened to the music, and then heard that the music was brought to you by [name withheld] who could fix your tractor or combine, and then they gave his phone number and he said in a very thick Southern accent "And now for the traffic report. The damn Democrat convention is in Charlotte and they've closed most all the roads. So don't go into Charlotte....unless you gotta go to court. Never miss a court date. That's today's traffic report." Yes really.
So that's what I've got for now. I need to get myself in gear because if it's Saturday, it must be voter registration. Last night, we had 3 volunteers per shift, plus a trainee. TONS of people stopped by. Few were unregistered, but all wanted to check that their registration matched their drivers license, or wanted Voter ID information. A few absentee ballot applications. AWESOME! We've got great staffing today, too, and are expecting a large crowd again.