I am not a food blogger.
Oh, I may write about my Cyclops Cookies, Tom's better-than-Hooter's hot wings, and yummy sushi from Eddie V's, but they're mingled with my stories about dogs and mice and dancing and friendship.
I'll never be a niche blogger of any kind, because I could never make up my mind. Well, I do have my photography blog, but it's still all over the place, subject-wise.
So when BlogHer announced it was holding the BlogHer Food 2013 conference in Austin, I was more disappointed than excited. I've been wanting to go to a regular BlogHer conference ever since I heard about them, but they're always held in exotic far-off lands, like New York City, Los Angeles, and, later this summer, Chicago.
Even if I could afford the cost of the conference, the travel expenses make it impossible.
(Dang it, why didn't they send the food bloggers to Chicago and have the Big Deal in Austin?)
But BlogHer must have sensed my discontent. They actually opened up the closing party to outsiders like me for next to nothing. And because the closing party included live music, dancing, barbecue and one free drink at Stubbs BBQ downtown on a Saturday night...well, I couldn't pass up a bargain like that and the chance to get at least a taste of BlogHer Food 2013.
It wasn't until I was trying to figure out what to wear that it hit me: I was going to a party where I didn't know a soul and everyone else had been hanging out together all weekend.
Blah! But I decided to go anyway. I mean, I'd already bought the ticket. There was a plate of barbecue waiting at Stubbs with my name on it. I couldn't just abandon it.
So I went. It helped that there were several nametags waiting for other outsiders on the table where I checked in.
Until that night, I'd only seen four bloggers in person, period. I wasn't sure what I expected the food bloggers to look like, but I'll just say they didn't fit into any niche as far as appearance goes. No standard gender, age, size, or even taste in clothing. That helped me feel more comfortable right away.
I traded my drink ticket for a frozen strawberry sangria concoction, filled a plate with barbecue, and found an empty spot on a picnic table near a blonde lady who looked about my age.
I don't remember her name or where she was from, but we had a good conversation over the loud music. This had been her first BlogHer conference and she said all the freebies really balanced the cost of it all.
She left and young girl named Kayla who worked for one of the vendors sat down to eat. We had a good conversation, too, about trying to find jobs (she recently graduated) then she went back to work filling cookies with ice cream, and I wandered over to the photo booth where I met Sarah, who worked for the photo booth company sponsored by Ninja Kitchen.
When she found out I was from Austin and didn't know anyone (I tell my story to everyone I meet, of course) she wrote on a chalkboard and joined me in my photos.
I thought she was just feeling sorry for me, but when all of the photos were posted online, I saw quite a few people in photos by themselves.
I guess it was that Austin connection, after all, and not (just) pity!
The awesome music of The Grooves, an Austin cover band, lured me closer to the area near the stage. Small groups of ladies had finally started dancing so I just joined in.
(Would you believe I used to be shy? I know. It's hard for me to believe it, too.)
As much as I love dancing, I confess the highlight of my night was seeing Pioneer Woman. Yes, Ree Drummond, herself, stood just inches from me at one point. And my camera joined all the others snapping away while she was telling jokes onstage.
For you non-bloggers, PW is the Queen of the Bloggers, and not just food blogging! She has it all down: Home-schooling, Home and Beauty, Entertainment, Photography, Life on a Ranch in the Middle of Oklahoma Nowhere.
She's written a couple of cookbooks, a children's book, and a memoir. Probably a lot of other stuff, too. How the heck does she do it??? Yes, I'm terribly jealous, and that's what makes her a blogging Rock Star!
Finally, the last song was sung and danced to, I grabbed another bottle of water (They were free, thank goodness. Dancing on a hot, humid Texas night under the stars = sweat!) and headed to my car.
While I waited at an intersection, I chatted with a couple of Pedi-Cab drivers. And they agreed to have their picture taken even though I wasn't a potential customer.
(This one got distracted by an actual customer, but I took his photo anyway.)
I love Austin. Amen.