Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Unofficial Report of Demfest in San Diego 2006

Part 1

Putting the rest of the world "on hold" is the sign of a true vacation. Not knowing the date or the day of the week reminds me that I have launched myself successfully into a different world. My mind tries to ignore a deteriorating outside world but signs kept trying to nudge its way back in as I checked in on the blog threads or when I saw newspaper with pictures of cities exploding with bombs. Ironic that I should spend such a week of world turmoil cloistered at Deanfest in tropical San Diego while I become trained and inspired to work for a better America.

The idea of spending 5 days housed in a college dorm with fellow crushies and with the prospect of seeing Howard Dean sure looked like a dream vacation to me. Being surrounded by 1500 like-minded liberal activists could also easily entice me away from other choices for vacations. Husband and children were not invited because gripping about sitting in seminars or groaning when hearing to middle-aged women swoon over Howard could not be tolerated.

I never thought there was a perfect place to live in America until I came to San Diego. The city is a little oasis on the ocean side of the desert of southern California. It is understandable why the palm trees, new buildings with old southwest architecture, and the surf have grown the city to become the second largest in California. It feels like some grand architect designed the seaside hills so the home would have a good few of the ocean. No wonder the steep roads and year round perfect weather spawned the likes of Tony Hawks. The outdoor stairway rails have small knobs to discourage sliding down on skateboards.

Boarding the plane, I couldn't help but notice that the other passengers either where overweight bald men or tattooed women. When I asked the lady with the devil on her ankle where she was going, she answered, "the Harley Davidson convention". Oh dear, San Diego was being overtaken with bikers and liberals.

I was relieved to see I had transportation to San Diego State University because, Lois, had rented a car. She basically spent the day circling the airport as all seven of us arrive one by one from all over the United States.

When I heard we would be housed in the university dorm, I tried not to have a panic attack. I hoped that if I brought my own pillow from home I could sleep. But the facilities were amazing. I could understand the ten year-old kid who was with me in the pool later that day. As we swam viewing the nearby hills he said, "I am going to tell Dad that I want to go to THIS college." Our suite consisted of 7 single rooms connected by a kitchenette/living area. It would have seem like a nice hotel except for the "loft beds" that made me fear for a broken ankle if I climbed out of bed half asleep. The common area was perfect for crushie-talk that always occurred if 2 or more were gathered there.

Cheryl had emailed us prior to the weekend inviting us to attend a party put on by Bill Moyer. No, not Bill Moyers, but Bill of the Backbone Campaign. Transportation was on your own but Charlie G didn't mind squashing in the "Crushie mobile" with 7 women. I gave him an honorary C for D pin for surviving, The house party was located in a home that gave a beautiful view of the bay. The company was energizing and it was inspiring to see the work that Bill is doing with his media grabbing giant backbone and giant heads of Bush and Co.

While San Diego is known for its moderate weather there was no moderation in the near 100 degrees we experienced. The vender at the Quick Pick store swore that this was unusual. There is something unforgiving about an area that is taken back from the desert. Combined with the sea of cement sidewalks and the cloudless sky, heat came from both below and above. Luckily most of the classes were housed close together and the ocean breeze still seemed to find its way through the canopied throughways.

Air America's Al Franken started the conference. He was live on the radio for 3 hours and WE got to be his audience. In the cases of both Frankin and Dean, I am surprised how someone so "big" could be so short. Franken runs a disciplined ship. He did a short introduction prior to the show but during commercials he would sit quietly preparing his mind for the next segment. He always opens after a commercial with a laugh and I had always assumed I had missed out on a lot of fun during the breaks. Between live segments we used the time to find other DFAers. I met Carolyn, Puddle oc, and seashell for a short hello. Frankin interspersed interviews with news. The audience of about 500 would clap, cheer and groan appropriately. When Frankin interviewed the local newspaper writer we could no longer contain our displeasure when he sprewed his republican talking points. When he talked about immigration and how kids won't work the hard jobs, Barbara couldn't help but yell out. "Pay decent wages!" Don't mess with us liberals. This is a progressive gathering (unlike TBA) and if we hear republican spin the speaker is going to hear from us. I respect Franken because he knew exactly how to handle us. He would interpret accurately to the guest why we booed and then would ask an appropriate question.

Cheryl had written on the blog earlier in the week that she was more interested in socializing so I decided to adopt this philosophy. It was easier to pass up a session than a swim or a break with friends.

I was glad to see Jim Dean attended the entire event and made himself available between sessions so we could to talk with him. Here and there were small clutches of DFAers. Fearing that we wouldn't have a chance to meet as a group I spontaneously made reservations for a large group for dinner for Friday and Sarah spread the word to our internet friends. Jim and Arshad were asked to join too.

The dinner turned out to be the only time that most of us BFAers were together as a group socially.. The Italian restaurant in downtown San Diego lined up several tables so we could sit together in one long group. The food was excellent and the wine drinkers said that was even better. Thankful and I panicked a little when we were still $200 short after we gathered money for the bill but our friends pulled through. Next time we will order out pizza and meet in a hotel room so we can give the difference to a favorite candidate.

Despite the socializing, we did manage to make the majority of sessions. Often the problem was deciding on which forum to attend. I tend to choose the grassroot organizing sessions, Marcia would go to election integrity workshops and Lois would gravitate to speakers I also love documentaries and they are especially meaningful when the producer is present. Look for "Votergate" in the future because it will be very useful for motivating possible volunteers for poll watching. It was a difficult choice between hearing Charlie speak and hearing Arshad's presentation so our group split up. Charlie also had an interview on the local Air America radio station to spread the word about his fight with his local government over election integrity.

Christine Cegelis from Illinois was also a part of two panels so I braved the walk across the frying cement to distant classrooms. I was interested to see if Christine would talk about how the DCCC screwed with her primary, which she did but it bit more articulately. This is good because LINK television was recording. I can't report on Hackett's session because I missed it. Suggestion for future Demfest - print a program with font big enough to read and list speakers for each forum. Reports have it that many were not real happy with Hackett's statements about the servicewomen who was raped and his opinion that drafting everyone was good. Kind of makes you wonder if the DLC was right on this one.

Another must see presenter was David Sirota , author of 'Hostile Take Over'. He talked only a short while and discussed cooperate take over of our Democracy. He had a book signing afterwards, so of course I had to buy one. I have learned to ask if I can have a picture of him with me for the blog.

Most evenings we would gravitate to the swimming pool. Some of us have better endurance for staying up late than others. I tended to end up back in the room with my roomates but still rarely made it to bed before 1:30 (3:30 CDT!!!)

***Well I guess I will have more time to finish writing this because our plane just turned around due to "smoke in the cockpit"!?!?!?
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