In part 1 I discussed the fine dining and fine wine aspects of the COSMIC II gathering in Denver. But as I mentioned, we also had some very fine conversation. As I recount some of those conversations, please remember that as the evening went on, I had an appropriately celebratory amount of wine, and so I may be a little fuzzy on a few of the details.
Also, I’m not a creepy, amoral rat like Michael Cohen, and thus did not have a tape recorder secreted on my person. So what follows are my paraphrased recollections, rather than a verbatim transcript.
During dinner, CO himself made a short speech about the site, and how it started as mostly a happy accident, and his subsequent plan for building a culture at the site that would be collegial and respectful and smart. He talked about how Ari Rodriguez was one of the first respondents with whom he had a lot of exchanges, and who was thus an early and encouraging sign of the kind of vibe he was looking to create at the site.
He also thanked the lovely and gracious Laura Belveal (the COSE) for her deft editing and organizational skills, and the crucial role she has played in maintaining high standards on the site.
Ari Rodriguez made some heartfelt and moving comments on what the CO site has meant to him. He talked about being a bit of a troll in the past, and hitting critics hard, and said that CO’s rules really challenged him, and helped him to grow as a contributor. It was interesting to hear that, because Ari has struck me as a civil and well-mannered commentator; I sort of wish I’d seen some of his early trolling, just because I appreciate some rough elbows thrown at some deserving targets. (As you may have noticed, I am not as mature as Ari, or many of the other CO denizens, either.)
Don Deere also had some eloquent things to say about the site and the sense of camaraderie that he’s found there. Laura then made some sweet and gracious comments, some of which would have made me tear up a bit, if I weren’t as tough as a two-dollar steak.
I sat between Laura and Christopher Silber, whom you may know from his erudite pieces on various economic issues. He is also a sparkling conversationalist, and while I exhausted all of my knowledge of economics – which took about 3 minutes, tops – I learned a lot from listening to him. He lives in San Francisco, so of course my first thought was: how’s the poop-in-the-streets situation near your place? Thankfully he lives in a pretty much poop-free neighborhood, so he’s got that going for him.
I said a few words myself, focusing on how much I’ve appreciated CO and the site, as an amiable virtual community amongst the ocean of bile that the internet can so often be, and – on a personal note – as a forum for my rants and tomfoolery. I work in a very politically correct field, and thus have to bite my tongue pretty much all the time. So it’s been a great blessing to be able to let go with some rambling, often free associating, cathartic rants, and to get mostly positive responses.
After dinner, we went up to a kind of lounge in the hotel. Christopher Silber had brought two very good bottles of wine, and we uncorked and shared those, as we talked for several more hours. The only drawback was that there were too many interesting people, and not enough time to spend with all of them. I talked for a while with Ari and his wife Mona, and Don and his wife Jody, and appreciated the fact that both wives – like my own, and like CO’s wonderful wife – are mostly a-political, and yet encourage and/or indulge their husbands to participate on the CO site. The clear consensus was that all of us guys have married up.
At one point in the evening, when CO was temporarily out of the room, his sister offered to share some secrets of his earlier life. But then she mysteriously passed out with a small dart in her neck; when I whirled to see CO coming into the room, he appeared to be replacing a small blow gun in his vest pocket. So his origin story remains shrouded in mystery. Hopefully we will learn more in future COSMIC get-togethers.
As the end of the evening, Christopher graciously agreed to give me a ride back to my car, which gave us the chance to chat a little more.
All in all, the event was a lot of fun, partly because of how easy it would be for such a gathering to go wrong. What if people don’t get along? What if they aren’t as collegial and fun as they seem on the site? What if my smart-assery isn’t as easy to take in person as it is online? What if there isn’t enough wine?
Thankfully, none of those worries proved true, and a good time was had by all.
A common theme of the evening was what a sweet little miracle it is to have a site that has drawn such an eclectic bunch of people from all over the country. All of us look forward to reading and contributing to the site, and we’ve made real friends there. So it was such a great experience to meet some of them in real life, and a relief to find that they are all the kind of good eggs that you’d expect from their writing on the site.
As CO and Laura plan future gatherings, I hope that I’m able to attend, and I hope that more of you will be able to, too.
And, in that glorious reunion, will we find the time to mock Elizabeth Warren?
Abso-freakin’-lutely we will. #wemustneverstopmockingher