Love my country, love my city, love the democratic process, do not love my president . . . a blog about the 2020 RNC coming to town
“Are you watching TV? Anthony Foxx is on.” I grabbed the remote and found News 14 Carolina or CNN or some other local and/or national station that for the first, but not last, time would run the same report simultaneously about my hometown. That’s how I first heard that Charlotte had landed the 2012 Democratic National Convention. As it turns out, the fact that this heads-up came from my friend and writing compatriot Tracy Curtis was fitting. When the circus eventually came to town the two of us would be plucked from our stay-at-home existence and thrust into the thick of the action, writing for our local paper while trying to keep the family business intact. It’s not that you must have a girlfriend with you to have a really cool adventure that is full of meaning, and laughs, and exciting once-in-a-lifetime experiences. But man, it’s really, really fun when you do.
The thing about Tracy and me is that our writing mojo preceded our abiding friendship. When we first met, our oldest boys were in the same class at the church preschool. Much to my horror, I somehow had landed the Room Mom role. Much to Tracy’s dismay, she somehow had not. It was a particularly hectic time in my life, with my mother living with us post-knee replacement and my toddler and four-yr old systematically destroying my house. I was a little scattered, to say the least. When I had to send out emails for the class they were always, well, pretty much *close* to right, but not completely. Luckily, Tracy always quickly caught the errors and would kindly bring them to my attention.
“GOD . . . BLESS AMERICA!” I shrieked after the fourth mistake/correction, utilizing my new strategy for not cursing in front of the kids – a technique that left them clearly startled at my exuberant love of country yet with their innocent ears intact. “This woman has got to think I’m the BIGGEST idiot on the planet.” I wasn’t used to screwing simple things up, and I hated that my imperfections were displayed so publically.
At the class Mom’s Coffee, an event that’s not always exciting (but is an excuse to be showered, in normal clothes, and sporting full make-up – or a similarly composed look – at a time when that is not a given), we connected. I was on the front end of a master’s program at Queens University and was getting into writing; she was blogging for The Charlotte Observer about being 40 and pregnant. Pre- kids we had enjoyed unconventional jobs that had totally consumed our lives. Now we were stay-at-home moms. We had a lot in common, but also some differences. This is what you want in friendships, I noted at the time– but I wasn’t completely feeling that vibe six years later when Tracy was dragging me through the covert media entrance to do our arena tour the Friday before the DNC began.
“Ummm, I don’t think this is meant for us,” I said nervously as we looped around the white-tented walkway, gingerly stepping over taped down cords and wires. I thought about the end of the movie ET when the US government swoops in to get ET and drapes everything in white tenting. We passed someone walking purposefully in the opposite direction and his professional, non-trespassing credential glowed from his chest. I pulled my cardigan tightly around mine, naked and unofficial.
Our bumbling through the arena wasn’t helping the overwhelming imposter syndrome that had settled over me like an itchy blanket. Who did I think I was, trucking through the media entrance? I was not a columnist, like Tracy, whose blogging job had morphed into a humor column that appeared weekly in The Charlotte Observer. While I had finished my master’s degree several years prior, and did have to write a lot for my program, only a select few Organizational Communication cohorts saw those papers. I loved grad school so much: the complexity of communication, of writing, of how we connect as humans – but studying the effects of this endeavor on writers themselves had left me very hesitant to put myself out there. I saw how brutal the repercussions could be, with sometimes vicious responses to heart-felt, personal pieces. In addition, learning about the unintended but widespread phenomenon of falling down an endless internet rabbit hole left an impression. And so I became perhaps the only person in America with a graduate degree in communications who was not on social media, and eventually a blogger who only wrote under a pen name.
But when I heard that the DNC was coming to Charlotte, I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to write about it. I grew up in Charlotte, was obsessed with politics, was a life-long Democrat – heck, I was a high school and college friend of the mayor, who was primed to play host for the Queen City. The stars were aligned; I wanted to help tell the story of the DNC in Charlotte.
Trying to get that gig in an official capacity was a bit mortifying (and why I have a website today). I reached out to The Charlotte Observer very early on with a hot mess of a pitch. Unsure of what kind of writing they might need, I included a little bit of everything: humorous blogs, serious graduate research, mainstream freelance samples . . . all in a monster email replete with attachments, hyper-links, and cut-and-pasted excerpts. Hoo boy. (Retrospectively, I realize I probably should have just cut to the chase and put “I AM NOT A PROFESSIONAL” in the subject line.)
For some reason I wasn’t immediately added to the team lol.
So I signed up to intersect with the convention in every capacity available to me. I volunteered with the DVAs, and the Host Committee. I worked on getting onto the convention floor. And just when I’d made my peace with the idea of blogging on my own about the many experiences I was now slated to have, I got the call.
I was going to be part of the editorial page team, representing the liberal side of the DNC experience in a column called “Left Turn, Right Turn.” The column would appear every day all week; I’d have a 5pm deadline, and after consulting with an editor, my essay would be posted immediately online and then appear in the printed paper the next day.
Daily deadline . . . online . . . in print . . . plus all of the commitments I’d made to volunteer. I’d teed up the first time I’d ever write publicly under my real name, and it would be for an international audience.
God . . . bless America. Left turn, you got that right.
As the event became imminent, I wondered how I would ever pull it all off. Figuring out bus schedules and arena spaces and a transformed uptown seemed like a good first step. It also occurred to me that maybe I shouldn’t act like a complete nerd while navigating this new experience. The rule follower in me couldn’t stay quiet as Tracy plowed ahead . . . but I also didn’t hesitate to go right along with her.
Besides, probably no one minded how we got into the arena. (They might have cared a little bit when we accidentally traipsed behind a press conference in full swing.) Unsurprisingly, though, the Secret Service didn’t swoop down to arrest us as we made our way from the back of the place to the front, where greeters and hall managers were getting organized for the onslaught. This wouldn’t be the last time during this action-packed adventure when my people would propel me forward in a way that embraced adventure and possibility. Boldness. It would come in handy during convention week.
Other UNCONVENTIONAL posts: