This past weekend I attended the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC. This is an annual gathering of conservatives from across the spectrum of age, establishment and fame. The youngest unknown can mingle with influential members of the media, meet politicians and candidates for office, or (perhaps best) socialize with other members of the conservative movement.
My own CPAC experience can be summed up in a single word: exhausting.
This weekend had equal potential to be the most interesting and exciting thing I had done in months, or an awkward series of forced conversations, too much drinking to cover up the boredom, leading to a hangover and disinterest in the actual conference I’d paid to attend.
Within a few hours, my fears were dispelled. I met one person after another who exceeded their already considerable reputation in my mind.
While the night wore on, the excitement of meeting so many excellent people did not flag, but I did. At a certain point I began to sway back and forth, unable to keep my balance. I then realized that my lack of sleep and long day of travel were catching up with me pretty quickly. I retreated to my hotel, where I collapsed into an approximation of sleep.
The next morning came early, and as is my custom I awoke with the dawn despite the late night. I had paid for this conference, after all. I dressed in some rather loud red pants and a blue blazer (hoping the clothing would signal my allegiance to any Occupier who may have nested in the vicinity of the event) and was on my way.
That day, I attended several speeches (my favorite being Daniel Hannan’s) and continued to meet interesting people from my online world. By the time the late afternoon rolled around, I was nearly worn out, but I had a lot left to do yet.
Regrettably, I left before Sarah Palin’s speech really got into gear. In part this was to avoid a crowd at the conclusion of the conference, and in part it was because Palin no longer holds the appeal she once did for me. I was kicking myself later that night, as the speech received favorable reviews. But really, at this point the last thing I need is more bitter disappointment about the state of the Republican nomination. It’s better that I left.
The night’s engagement was Reaganpalooza, billed as “the” event. Chic cocktail attire was the dress, but I am so very sad to report this was not strictly enforced. In truth I was disappointed with the affair. I suspect the young man at the door bilked me out of $10, and the barman relieved me of a further $10 for a terrible glass of cabernet. When I am in a hurry I hemorrhage money, and I wanted to get inside and get lit that night, as the weather had taken a turn for the sub-Arctic.
Despite the problems with the event itself, some of the very same people who had made my weekend so enjoyable were in attendance. Even still, the situation quickly became hopeless as the crowd pressed in. There was hardly room to move, let alone drink. I slipped out after an hour in search of more elbow room and less offensive drink prices.
The next morning, I woke again at my usual hour (whenever the sun hits my face), and made ready to fulfill my Sunday obligations. The parish I attended had a phenomenal choir and organist. I really never have heard the like, back home. My home parish has a skilled organist (though I think he plays too fast), but the cantors can only be described as enthusiastic. The hymn selection gladdened my heart, bereft as it was of the Haugen-Haas-Schutte dreck that has poisoned the well of liturgical music for the last 40 years. Even the Mass settings were markedly superior, for the ease with which unskilled laymen such as myself could actually sing them.
Brunch afterwards was mainly a matter of finding a place with a fire, as the rising of the sun had only mildly improved the temperature. This accomplished, I settled in for good conversation and an acceptable Bloody Mary (I have been chasing one that I had in Charleston, SC once upon a time, and have, to date, not found its equal).
A few hours, and a maddeningly phlegm-besotted fellow passenger on a train later, I was home. I was home, and I was dead on my feet.
Suddenly my decision to put in for time off on Monday seemed not just prescient, but a stroke of genius. I slept the sleep of the just, and woke up with the bone-weary contentment that can only come from a truly memorable experience.