11:23AM Saturday: As I anxiously waited for an elevator on the 18th floor of a hotel I wasn’t supposed to be in, wondering how the f*ck I managed to drive 24 hours to a place and somehowÂ jeopardizeÂ my reason for making the trip, I was overcome with a sense of deja vu. This exact same thing—the long trip, the phone conversation with an increasingly annoyed Kaneisha, the “will I, or won’t I actually make the panel?“—happened last summer.
I drove from Pittsburgh to Philly to appear on a panel at Blogging While Brown. It’s a 6 hour drive, so although I left for Philly the morning of the panel, I left early enough to give myself a bit of a cushion. Well, at least I thought I did. I didn’t account for how bad the rush hour traffic would be as I neared the city, and in an attempt to save time, I googled an alternative route and ended up in New Jersey. By the time I made it to the panel, I was five minutes late. And, since I didn’t have time to change clothes or wash up, I spent the first three minutes on stage wiping the sweat off my face with my undershirt. Not exactly the best first impression.
All things considered, it’s easy to see why Kaneisha was so pressed on making sure I got there on time, and so annoyed it was happening again. She didn’t want to be deja vued.
11:25AM: While (finally!) headed down the elevator, something that didn’t make any sense 20 minutes ago made perfect sense now. I saw (fellow panelist) Demetria LucasÂ walking down a flight of stairs when I first entered the hotel. She was a couple dozen feet away, though, and seemed to be in a rush, so she didn’t see me. I first assumed she was headed to Starbucks or something, but the truth suddenly dawned on me:
“Shit. She went to the wrong hotel, too”
11:35AM: I finally make it to the right hotel and the right floor. Fortunately, they hadn’t started yet, and to my delight, the delay was due to a bout of Texas-style CPT instead of them waiting on me.
The panel itself lasted 45 minutes—35 minutes of panel discussion and 10 minutes of questions from the audience—and went about as well as we expected it to.
Other things worth mentioning:
***Our panel was one of three going on at the same time on the same floor. So, if someone in the audience got bored, they could just walk out and see what’s happening next door. To my knowledge, only three people left and five walked in, so I guess that’s a win.
***The Gay Reindeer missed the first 15 minutes of the panel. And, right when I was entertaining the idea of getting a little annoyed with her, I remembered that since I rushed out the door that morning, she had to pack up the room, load the bags in my car, and check out by herself. Oh, and since I obviously had no idea where the panel was, she had no idea either. Needless to say, I stopped entertaining the idea of being a little annoyed with her.
***Did I stress already how wack it was that all the Black panels wereÂ confinedÂ to this one floor at the baby brother’s Hilton? I did? Ok, well, did I also stress that our panels were so anonymous that when I asked someone at the big Hilton for some directions, he started to give me directions to a Hilton in Houston?Â
1:00PM: After the panel, Demetria, The Gay Reindeer, and I walked to a day party/BBQ thrown by Black Enterprise. While there, I happened to run into a few EBONY.com co-workers.
And, aside from mentioning how odd it was that a crew of dudes showed up wearing wool coats and sweaters despite the fact that it was 75 degrees, literally nothing else worth writing about happened in the two hours I was there.
5:00PM: I’ve never been a fan of Mexican food.Â But, after spending a day in Austin and eating four or five of the best tacos a man’s hands have ever created, I began to adjust my feelings. So much so that when wondering around downtown, beat from being on my feet all day and just wanting to get away from the festival for a minute to recharge my batteries, I didn’t object when the Gay Reindeer suggested we hit up this Yelp-recommended greasy spoon taco spot on the edge of town, and IÂ definitelyÂ didn’t object when the first bite of my shrimp taco gave me the Guy Fieri face.
(My theory for the change of heart: The Mexican food I’ve eaten in Pittsburgh just isn’t as fresh and authentic as the Mexican food you can get when closer to Mexico. Duh!)
8:00PM: As I mentioned earlier, we had to check out of the hotel we stayed in the first night. I won’t go into exactly why, but if you guessed “you were procrastinating again, weren’t you?” you might be right. As you can imagine, it was pretty difficult finding another hotel at a reasonable rate on such short notice, but the Gay Reindeer managed to find one a few miles from downtown.
The first sign that choosing this hotel might not have been the wisest decisionÂ occurredÂ while on the highway there.
“What’s the name of this place again?”
“It’s called the Lmont”
“Hmm. Is that a chain? I’ve never heard of it.”
8:20PM: There are multiple ways of describing how the Lmont looks when we first arrive there. On cue, The Gay Reindeer and I say a few of them aloud while sitting in the parking lot and wondering if this will be our last night on Earth.
“I think this is where Ricky Bobby’s dad was living in Talladega Nights.”
“It actually reminds me more of the place Anton ChigurhÂ killed all those Mexican drug dealers in No Country for Old Men”
“Yeah, I can see that.”
8:25PM: With our alert eyes, our slow and shallow steps, and our rapidly increasingly heart rates, we walk into our room like we’re hunting a tiger, inspecting the bed and the bathroom to make sure we’re the only living things in there. Aside from a mysterious body-sized stain on the carpet, we finally decide it’s passable for one night.
8:28PM: After getting some of our luggage from the car, we both sat on the bed to plan out the rest of our night.
“So yeah, if we head back to town by 10, we can catch the….wait, why are you making that face?”
“Did you see all those black dots over there when we first walked in?”
“Hmm. I don’t think so.”
***10 second pause***
“Ok, why the f*ck are they MOVING!!!!”
8:29PM: If they ever have an OlympicsÂ strictlyÂ for Bougie Black People, “running from a somewhat rapey room with mysteriously moving Black things on a wall while also making damn sure you don’t touch ANYTHING” should definitely be an event. And, if they had a couples competition, the Gay Reindeer and I wouldÂ definitelyÂ medal.
8:45PM: Fortunately, we were able to get a refund, and we found a much nicer and much less murderey hotel a couple miles down the road. Before getting the refund, though, the manager at the Lmont attempted to switch us to another room.
The Gay Reindeer’s reply:
If there was ever any doubt that I truly do love Bougie Black Girls, my relationship with the Gay Reindeer should erase it
11:00PM: We make it back in town for a party Samsung was having. They were giving away free Galaxy Notes at this party. There was also free food and alcohol. Oh, and The Roots were performing.
I’m saying all of this so matter-of-factly because things like this are a regularÂ occurrenceÂ at SXSW. Seriously, I was a part of this group text thing that 30 or so of the Black people there signed up for, and it was nothing to get randomly texts like “Yo, I’m at this Verizon party, and Mark Cuban just bought everyone shots” and “Shit, Halle Berry and Keri Hilson just got into a fight right in front of me.”
(I still haven’t left the text group and, as I’m writing this, I just got a text about how long the line is at the Kendrick Lamar party)
12:30AM Sunday morning: The legendary Roots crew!!!!
3:30AM: After leaving the concert, getting caught in a near tornado, finding a pizza place, and eating said pizza while watching drunk people fight, fall, and f*ck in the street during said near tornado, we finally make it to our room.
“So yeah, that was one of the best nights, ever.”
—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)