SXSW Recap Part 1

SATURDAY
I woke up at the ass crack of dawn. Brugos hired a town car to take us to the airport. I said goodbye to the kitties and hauled by suitcase down the stairs. It was early. I am not into early. My stomach gets all rumbly. But we still made it to the airport with enough time for me to grab a nice stomach-settling breakfast of coke and Chex mix. Since it was going to be a long day, Brugos also bought us sandwiches for later. Mine was a no-frills cheese sandwich: white bread and 3 slices of cheese. No mayo, mustard or lettuce. Fuck you, vegetarians.

On the first flight there was a movie. Most of the time, I will watch the airplane movie no matter how bad it sounds. That’s how I know that “Sweet November” is one of the most ridiculously clichéd scripts every written, or that “The Princess Diaries 2” is so embarrassing that it almost cancels out the triumphs of the early the careers of Julie Andrews and Michael Caine. But I just couldn’t bring myself to shell out $5 for “The Family Stone”. The trailer they showed features lots of yelling and falling. But as Brugos and I talked through it, it appeared that the trailer was pretty misleading about the slapstick. Mostly, actors just stood there and talked to each other. And whatever they were saying was apparently HILARIOIUS to everyone around us with headphones. Still, I feel I made the right decision on this one.

We quickly changed planes in Dallas and hopped on a smaller plane. The flight was only about 35 minutes long so we were pretty sure there would be no drink service. But lo and behold, right after the captain announced that we would begin our decent in 10 minutes, the stewardess brought out the drink cart. Brugos thought this the perfect opportunity squeeze in a Gin and Tonic, but the Stewardess had other plans. “You don’t have time to drink a Gin and Tonic”, she said. Brugos protested that he could drink one pretty quickly in a pinch. She didn’t believe him. We’d get non-alcoholic beverages or we’d get nothing and we’d like it. Why she didn’t just say “We’re not serving alcohol right now” instead of making a character judgment about the speed at which he can consume a drink, I don’t know. I’ve since come to the conclusion that Texan stewardesses are a surly bunch.

We landed and met Jacob, who had been dropping off his rental car. The three of us hopped in a cab and headed to our respective hotels, with the requisite careless cabbie at the helm. Jacob and I checked into the Days Inn and freshened up. I changed out of my heavy dark winter clothes into my thin, dark summer clothes. We downed some delicious, wet-dog infused tap water and then headed to the bus stop to go downtown. The first stop was the Convention Center to pick up our film badges.

Already, everyone in town seemed to be revealing themselves as extremely and genuinely friendly. I hadn’t realized how much I’d trained myself to ignore strangers who call out to you on the street. In Seattle, it either means they want money, they want to canvas you, or they just want to talk to you at length about some sort of conspiracy involving the government, the police and/or badgers. In Austin, they want to tell you that you dropped something or that you have nice hair. It takes some getting used to.

After picking up our badges, we grabbed our schwag bags which were nice SXSW canvas bags filled to the brim with magazines and ads and two bottled of flavored Aquafina each. Since paper is extremely heavy, and we had miles to go before we slept, we emptied as much useless crap as we could into a garbage can. The thing still weighed a ton though.

We met Brugos on 6th street for dinner. We were pretty hungry by then, so we weren’t too picky. We settled on an Irish Pub for our first Austin meal. On our way in, Brugos ran into someone he knew from childhood, thus cementing him as the surrogate Ben for the trip.

Brugos and I shared some sub-par queso and quesadillas and Jacob had the Irish stew. That’s what we get for going to an Irish pub for Mexican food.

We decided to catch a 9:30 showing of “Brothers of the Head” at the Alamo South Lamar. We had plenty of time and it was a beautiful (albeit hot) night, so we decided to walk. Brugos was none-too-pleased with his digs at the Super 8, which was much further north than our hotel, so we foolishly thought we would see if we could find a room in a different, less dodgy and inconvenient hotel.

As we walked, I answered a call from my mom. I never would have picked up if I’d known what was about to transpire. I had been worried that she was mad at me, after she’d called my office the week before and hadn’t wanted to speak to me. Turns out she WAS mad at me, since the last time she was in town, I’d told her to cool it with the “What the Bleep” talk. Perhaps I hadn’t phrased it in the nicest possible way, but she didn’t seem so hurt at the time so I thought I didn’t apologize. Apparently, she took it to mean that she couldn’t tell me ANYTHING anymore, and didn’t know what to say to me. That’s why she didn’t tell me until that night that her mom was sick and she had to go East to tend to her. Yeesh.

So this lead into a marathon argument about whether or not what she believes in is a religion or a methodology and whether or not I was a closed-minded asshole for not trying out every single “cure” that she learned in her workshops. She used logic like “you can see gravity or wind, but you can feel it” to explain it all to me. Finally, I told her I was an atheist, thinking this might better explain where I was coming from. She got really quiet for a minute and then said in the most hurt voice I’ve ever heard, “So you don’t believe in anything just like Ray…”. I explained to her that my lack of “faith” had nothing to do with my father, since it was a conclusion I came to entirely independently of him. Furthermore, it didn’t mean that I didn’t believe in ANYTHING, just that I didn’t follow any of the existing faiths. She still didn’t believe that this didn’t make me an immoral heathen, so I attempted to convince her that basically all of my closest friends are also atheists and they are all very nice, very moral people. At one point, in response to my saying that I wanted to be able to hang out with her whilst agreeing to disagree, she told me that if she had to censor herself around me that it made me “as bad at people who burn books”.

As my mom compared me to Hitler, Jacob and Brugos noticed that we were all hopelessly lost. We were in a very suburban looking area with little promise of stumbling across a movie theatre. As they stood in the road scrutinizing maps, some folks who were drinking beer on their porch called out to us “Hey, are y’all lost”. Unbelievable Austin hospitality struck again. The lovely people not only told us how to get to the theater (we weren’t that far off track), but they also gave Brugos a beer.

At that point, the argument with my mom was winding down, but I still couldn’t hang up. As we walked in the direction of the theatre, an SUV pulled up behind us. It only took us a second to realize that it was one of the people from the house. He offered us a ride which we graciously accepted. My mom finally guessed that I was a little busy and let me off the phone.

We got to the theatre 10 minutes before the movie was to start. Knowing what we did about the structure of other film festivals, it seemed hopeless that we would get in, but we decided to try anyway. Miraculously, Jacob and I were let right through with our film badges. We said we’d try to save Brugos a seat, thinking he was out of luck. To our surprise, the theatre was only about half full and Brugos came in about 3 minutes later with no problems.

I really liked “Brothers of the Head”. Thematically, it’s a lot like “Twin Falls Idaho” but, I suppose there are only so many different themes one can explore in regards to young, attractive conjoined twins. The music was also really good. It was very authentic for the style they were going for (early 70's pop/punk). And lucky us, we even got free CDs featuring music from the film.

Next, we decided to try and catch the bus back into town for the “after party” at Maggie Mae’s. When a bus finally showed, the driver told us that he was “not going downtown”. However, after it drove off, it became apparent to us that it was at least getting pretty NEAR to downtown. It was then that we realized that Austin is not a bus city. Not only are there no schedules ANYWHERE to be found, but people seem to think that if the bus isn’t dropping you off at your door, it’s not the bus you want.

We got some quick reinforcements at a gas station and waited for a cab. While waited, Brugos and I were mesmerized by a giant orange T-Rex which who clearly resided in a mini-golf course. This was Peter Pan mini-golf, and we resolved to go back before the week was out. Seeing our new dexterously challenged friend also allowed us to conceive a new character: Rex T, the foppish T-Rex. Stay tuned for his adventures.

Our cab driver was very surprised when we told him our destination. “You don’t look like the type of people who would want to go to Maggie Mae’s,” he said. Apparently, both the bar, and 6th street in general is usually the fratty part of town. We explained to him that we were attending an after party for a film. Evidently, he was more correct than we were. The “after party” was letting everyone in off the street. The Filmmakers, from what we could tell, didn’t even go into the bar. Perhaps they couldn’t afford to reserve the place? Regardless, we had a few drinks and then hopped into a cab to go back to our hotels. In a small town moment, we realized that it was the same cabbie who picked us up from the airport.

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