As co-hosts of Women of Uncertain Age, we thought it would be a great opportunity to engage with our peers in the podcasting community. I’m wielding the term “podcasting community” with great confidence now, but the truth is we went into the weekend more than a little concerned that the “community” might consist of ten people, nine of whom still live in their parents’ wood-paneled basements.
I made arrangements to arrive in LA on Friday morning and leave Sunday night.
When I mentioned my travel plans to a friend who used to live in LA and loves it, he said, “Wait a minute, let me get this straight: you’re going to LA for two days? And you’re spending those two days at a podcasting conference? Are you crazy?”
“Why else would anyone go to LA?” I said, and I meant it.
Lots of people love the City of Angels, but I had never counted myself among them. Based on a few prior visits there, I liked the weather and the beach well enough, but I just didn’t connect with the place. I like cities you can get to know on foot fairly easily, and that ain’t LA. I love cities that abound with green space and tall trees, whereas LA abounds with concrete, broken up by the occasional palm tree.
LA also has a particular aesthetic, and it doesn’t quite fit me. On my best day, I’m less “fashion-forward” than “fashion-running-in-place-and-trying-desperately-not-to-fall-off-the-treadmill.” No one seems to notice or care in D.C., but in LA I stick out like a sore thumb, a problem Los Angelinos would solve by simply hiring the thumb a stylist.
Then there’s the whole body thing. I’m 43 and all of the parts on my person are original equipment. In some parts of the country, that would get me put on a pedestal. In LA, that’ll get me put in a museum.
But I went out there determined to keep my mind open and ready to be converted, since my last visit was over a decade ago.
Shortly after I arrived and before the podfest got underway, Philippa, who’s a huge fan of LA, took me on a long walk through the Beverly Hills neighborhood near the festival venue. She even convinced me to relax my firm anti-shopping policy so that I wouldn’t miss out on a chance to buy a $400 cat t-shirt in one of the boutiques. I took in the scenery, soaked up the sun, and genuinely enjoyed myself.
The podfest started a few hours later, and it was a thing to behold.
The fact that it was held at the Beverly Hills Sofitel should have been a pretty big hint that my nerdfest assumptions might be a bit off the mark, but I had to see it to believe it. As we mingled at the welcome reception, we met one professional comedian after another. These people were managing to make a decent living doing standup and improv and had expanded that into the world of podcasting. The attendees included headliners like Mark Maron, Aisha Tyler and Whitney Cummings. I’m pretty sure they haven’t lived in their parents’ basements in a while.
We spent the better part of the next two days laughing, learning and meeting all kinds of amazing people. One of the things we learned is that nearly 90% of the podcasts out there are hosted by men, so we have a terrific chance to help change that. And we convinced one of the amazing people we met to be a guest on our podcast and offer the male perspective on Philippa’s latest date gone awry. In sum, the podfest exceeded my wildest expectations, and I can’t say enough good things about it.
I fully expect to go again next year, and I won’t mind making a return trip to LA. To be clear, the sights still don’t enthrall me, the aesthetic still doesn’t speak to me, and I still have no need for juice bars that sell concoctions with names like “The Pipe Cleaner.” But I loved being surrounded by creative people finding ways to pursue their passion. I find that aspect of the City of Angels truly heavenly.
As Philippa pointed out, the wings are a nice touch, but I’m still no angel.