CHARLOTTE -- The Huffington Post Oasis is tucked in a side street in Charlotte, cattycorner from S. Tyron. That street has been taken over today for a massive street fair loaded back to front with unofficial Barack Obama merch. The Oasis has taken over a Tardis-like chunk of an office complex -- bigger inside than it seems from the outside.
Entry to the Oasis means access to a cornocopia of free, crunchy stuff. Pick your body lotion: MINT Romney or O[range]bama. Get free food at the LYFE kitchen, which heats up nutricious victuals as one of an endless supply of happy, orange-tied flacks explain how the ingredients were farmed. Snag a free Dean Ornish book, then book a free massage or yoga session. The benefits are so frou-frou that muckrakers -- unable to get into the good lobbist parties -- have been hectoring HuffPo, asking why the masseuses are working gratis. The answer: HuffPo donated $40,000 to Off The Mat, a yoga nonprofit that's responded by providing some healing hands.
Good enough for me. Full disclosure: I got a 20-minute rub-down at the Oasis, after only a very short wait, eased by free "adult gummi-vitamins." My masseuse, said she'd flown down from New Jersey; when I mentioned this to Arianna Huffington, she sounded surprised. "Everyone here is local," she said. Someone else can solve this mystery, because the masseuse was distracting me from Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Democratic leader in the House.
Pelosi had arrived for a special tour of the premises and for a sit-down with bloggers. I only saw the first part of the tour -- a guide to the "GPS for the Soul" station, an Apple Store-esque guide to a new HuffPo-co-sponsored app that checks your pulse and measures your stress. ("All of us have within us a sense of harmony and balance," says Huffington in the promo video that plays on repeat. "We will all veer away from that place again and again.")
When the tour was over, Pelosi sat down in the yoga room* with blog reporters for an ask-me-anything session with folks who might be sympathetic. HuffPost's Ryan Grim asked whether Pelosi agreed that the Romney campaign's attack on new welfare rules was race-baiting. Pelosi dodged the race aspect of the question. "It's flat-out, no equivocation, totally false," she said. "It's simple not true." So little of what Republicans were saying was true, like the Medicare claim -- Medicare would "wither on the vine" if Republicans won -- and like their denunciations of Todd Akin. 'They're all like this in the Congress," she said. "Paul Ryan is on all of those bills. Who they are is very obvious."
This was typical of the press event you get swept into at conventions -- lots of reporters, nothing super-exclusive. (I think I counted five HuffPost reporters in the room for the leader.) The special feature came after Pelosi left, and Oasis managers walked in to gently encourage us to shut down our laptops and stop writing.
We'd like to ask you to power down and unplug. We're trying to create a space for relaxation. Thank you so much!
So I headed outside to write. Apparently, I narrowly dodged an accident in the main room. A "guest" of the convention (according to her laminate) held up a soggy sandal to her friends, and said: "Somebody poured coconut water all over my shoe!"