Some non-political personal observations…as a first-timer to one of these events:

1. The East Wing of the White House is stunning, and many attendees were having their pix taken beneath the official portraits of past Presidents (we were no exception). At right: a chair in the Blue Room; Blogmistress keister was planted in it for a few moments.

2. Blenders are everywhere, even the White House.  Since I don’t get out much (being in NC, I’m not at national political functions), it still surprises me a bit when I go to DC or an event like Netroots Nation when PHB readers come up to me to say they are fans of my work, or, more amusingly, say “are you Pam?” Though it’s really weird to have elected officials and prominent political figures do the fan reader thing. I’m just a regular schmo, certainly not a real celebrity or major political figure, lol. But thank you all for reading and I appreciate it. It helps offset the crazie fundies or calls for me to find Jesus and a man to breed with, for example.

3. Some of the attendees lost their minds trying to get to the front to the rope line to be able to see/shake hands with the President. Was I at a rock concert? Actually it was worse than any I have attended from the perspective of fan crushing. If you are short and wanted any hope of seeing the President speak, you stood in the room around an hour as seriously rude, pushing, fawning people, claiming others closer up saved them spots in a now standing-room-only crowd (!). We were about 6 deep from the front. Poor Kate was getting continuously elbowed in the chest by the man next to her who was positioning for the best camera angle. I couldn’t move at all at one point. From my position I couldn’t see the President at the podium unless I held my camera straight up in the air and watched through the LCD display. I finally did get a glimpse as he worked the front line shaking hands. At that point I was about to pass out from the crush. Is this normal?

4. This event format (large open room, no seats, no receiving line, etc.) is not for the physically challenged. The day before it was reported that the First Family would depart for Chicago directly after the ceremony, so it was apparent that attendees would have very limited face time with the President (probably explaining #2, somewhat). Some veterans of this kind of event chose to view the President’s remarks from another room where there were chairs and video monitors. I mention this only because at this point in the week, the effectiveness of the Enbrel that I take for my rheumatoid arthritis was tapering off and my pain meds were doing zip, so my joints were screaming while standing in that crush. I know I couldn’t cover an event in that format again. It’s pretty clear that I’ve got to stop being in denial and ask for disability accommodations soon.

Of course, since RA is largely an invisible disease, at early stages before bone deformity occurs. So people frequently remarked how good I looked, even as I limped around and was fighting off searing flaming neuropathy in my feet. But asking for accommodations usually means less access, less mobility; I’m still at the stage where I can suck it up for short times so I can have access like the able-bodied, but I think I reached my limit at the event, the rest of the night was a struggle until I could sit and relieve my joints for a while during dinner. And the next day I was grateful for the handicapped bar in the shower of my hotel room. I could barely hold myself up. If Kate wasn’t there to carry my travel bags, I don’t know how I would have managed the air travel back home. It’s now Sunday and I feel like I’m 90.

No regrets, though, I had a great time meeting so many working for equality there, and seeing young activists like Jacob up front to show that many of us will not remain patient – we are asking for full civil equality and will not stop. The updated slideshow…