Pop Culture, Race & Politics, Theory & Essay

Road Tripping To SXSW: Part Three

The "after" shot. Did The Champ make it in time to take a "before" shot? We'll see

The “after” shot. Did The Champ make it in time to take a “before” shot? We’ll see

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 somehow jeopardize 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.

Oh well.

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 Lucas 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 were confined 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? 

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. 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 I definitely 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 decision occurred 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.”

“Me neither.”

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 Chigurh 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 Olympics strictly 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 would definitely 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 regular occurrence 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!!!!

the roots

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.”


***Go here for Part 4***

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Filed Under: ,
Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a columnist for GQ.com and EBONY Magazine. And a founding editor for 1839. And he's working on a book of essays to be published by Ecco (HarperCollins). Damon is busy. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at damon@verysmartbrothas.com. Or don't. Whatever.

  • That bug story SLAYED me. One of my college classmates went to the Super Bowl in Indianapolis, and the Bates Motel was charging $500+/night. She demanded a refund and looked for another place, since the Bates Motel had bacteria visible to the naked eye, and she got jumped by some lice. Problem is, Indianapolis is a big city in the middle of nowhere, so she couldn’t find another place. Her old room at the Bates Motel got sold, so she ended up paying $100 for a PARKING SPOT at a truck stop and slept in her car. It was like 20 miles or so from Indy. Her fault for being a thug *cough*wannabegroupie*cough* and driving from Chicago alone

    • Todd

      ROTFLMAO You people KILL me!

      • WIP

        For real. I can’t get with these last minute arrangements. I have to run everything through Trip Advisor.

        • AfroPetite

          *takes notes*

          Do not…..procrastinate

        • mena

          His girl isn’t bougie enough which means they are still at the beginning stages. Trust, if they were together past a year, side eye daggers would have been thrown.

          • IcePrincess3

            Rite! And he wouldn’t have talked himself out of being annoyed by HER lateness. Clearly, they are still in the honeymoon phase. When all those sex hormones where off, that’s when sh*t gets real.

            • IcePrincess3


            • “Rite! And he wouldn’t have talked himself out of being annoyed by HER lateness. ”

              LOL, even if her being late was partially my fault?

        • “For real. I can’t get with these last minute arrangements. I have to run everything through Trip Advisor.”

          we actually did everything through hotels.com. And surprisingly, the refund process was pretty seamless. i expected it to be more difficult.

    • camilleblue

      lol…ummm yeah…i live in indianapolis and $100 for a parking spot was cheap during superbowl…and it was ABSOLUTELY her fault for waiting until the last minute for everything b/c…it was superbowl – duh…she needs to up her groupie game so that she gets a real room – paid for by someone else – next time…and we aren’t exactly in the middle of nowhere – shyt just starts getting scarce the farther out you go…

      • Dignan

        For real? I lived in Indy ’90-’92. I had no money, so I lived in the hillbilly neighborhood down by Fountain Square. Man, those were desolate times.

        Do you like living there?

        • camilleblue

          lol….they tried to “revitalize” fountain square, but it’s still hillbilly as hell…Indy is ok…pretty decent place to raise a family, but not the bomb for singles….

      • Rewind

        lmao @ you being an expert in this matter

        • camilleblue

          *side eye*…i’m just saying…that’s groupie 101…i myself had a BALL during superbowl b/c one of my friends sons got drafted to the giants that year…his @ss ain’t step on the field 1 time all season, but he got a ring his rookie year….she gave me all access passes to the parties and believe you me – i took FULL advantage of that hook up…

          • Rewind

            I just teased buddy, I know you never do that…but you will be laughing at them ho’s.

  • iamnotakata

    That sounds about right for a weekend in SXSW. I’m from the place and every year I go I get into so crazy shenanigans lol! But the moving circle of bugs wold have messed me up!! I don’t do bugs…smh

    • IcePrincess3

      Kids, just say “no” to bugs.

    • it wasnt so much a roving circle as much as a semi conscious collection of dots

  • Good stuff man. Good stuff!

  • Where is everyone? Still popping mollys at SXSW

  • Dignan

    SXSW used to be really cool before it went mainstream…..

    • Just like Sundance was

    • IcePrincess3

      And Kevin Heart.

      • Rewind

        Dagger to the heart.

        But judging from my birthday present of him at Madison Square Garden last year..I would agree.

    • “SXSW used to be really cool before it went mainstream…..”

      still seemed pretty cool to me

  • “I don’t rhyme for the sake of riddlin’…”
    -Chuck D/Public Enemy

    Top of the morning to you champ,
    Glad to see that you made it out to the legandary sxsw shindig and back in one piece! Your travelogue is an entertaining read.

    But, if i may, there are number of concerns that simply cry out to be addressed and i was hoping with great anticipation that you would do so over the course of your multi-part report; and then it occurred to me that perhaps you already have. In ways even more profound than i may have considered.

    You see, i have always held the view, that this blogging thing, for many in the blogging game, is more about personality and starpower than actually making a meaningful contribution to the matters that are constantly written about. I too got wind of the socalled BIT House, and from all that i could gather, again, the panels and the like was something akin to a kind of self-congratulatory circle jerk than raising critical questions of our time and providing compelling data with which to address them for the benefit of the readers. Instead much of the focus is on self-aggrandizing, self-promoting endeavors such as “brand building” and the like.


    I was hoping that all the many luminaries, ahem, of the afrosphere coming back from sxsw, would be able to give us some sense as to whether, for example, online dating is really worth the time or effort, for black folk? Is social media, of which online dating is a part, the huge gamechanger for the way we’re supposed to fall in love, forever after-especially for black folk? Whats the numbers on that? Wheres the data? The metrics? Did anyone at all the umpteen panels in the BIT House say?

    What about the much ballyhooed black relationship experts-do they actually work? Do those who seek them out get results? How does that track with their white counterparts? Is it better? Worse or flat?

    Why are there so relatively few black male bloggers-and why are the extant ones, basically stanning for sistas?

    What is the future of the aforsphere-whats the road ahead? Who on the horizon is really pushing the envelope-or is such a thing still very much an alien concept to/for us black folk?

    Although it began as a white indie music festival, sxsw has become associated with big ideas especially in the world of tech. But im not seeing much evidence in the way of this when it comes to the afrosphere-only overdressed partiers, “brand building” and mutual admiration society stuff. Given all this-and the audience many of these bloggers attract-one wonders if black folks actually want answers to their most pressing relationship concerns at all. Seems we’re much more into the pagentry of it all.

    We black folks love to party.


    Now adjourn your arses…


    • kid video

      Fair statement…life aint all chits, giggles, and e-dates…even at a music/tech festival.

    • Male Bloggers of a serious note would be as popular as Real House Husbands of Atlanta

      • IcePrincess3

        That’s our O- All serious, all the time.

        • @Ms. IcePrincess:
          “Nobody Smilin’…”


          • camilleblue

            this made me giggle..

    • Good morning again folks,
      Well, since her name – that being, one Ms. Demetria Lucas, the “Belle from Brooklyn”, was mentioned – and since we did ask a research question of the Ladies of VSB last week – now, it’s the Brothas’ turn…

      I am calling on all Black Men of VSB to register their thoughts and opinions in response to a recent piece Ms. Lucas wrote for The Root, and to which I’ve given my take on here: http://obsidianraw.bravejournal.com/entry/124568

      Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Have your say, my Brothas!

      And thank you, for your participation…


      • Todd

        I saw that piece, and thought to myself “when is Obsidian going to blog this”? Good work.

        I would like to add something to what you said in the blog though. I think in our society, it’s not acceptable for men “of a certain age” to be into exploring and finding themselves. A man who is 30+ who says they want to go off anywhere for an adventure and try new things is going to be looked down upon. After all, after a certain age, you’re supposed to be mature, worldly and doing mature things like having a successful career or having a family.

        However, we do make exceptions for men of a certain age. One excuse is “for business purposes”, where men will do business some of anywhere for the sake of adventure. Another is sports related. Sports-related tourism is a huge business for that reason, and often trips ostensibly to check out a game end up with side trips to things with nothing related to sports. I think a lot of “sex” tourism is of that sort. Yeah, you have your creepers who just want to get a chance to abuse as many women as possible. That said, they’d likely do the same at home anyway, so the tourism part isn’t the issue. What I see a lot of is dudes getting with cute chicks as a price of admission of sorts. It isn’t like the women aren’t fun in and of themselves. It’s more than being around those women means that they can be around those women’s cultures and explore new things that they couldn’t otherwise be exposed to.

        I also love how you broke down how men can just be with women romantically for reasons other than marriage. Good work. :)

    • good questions. a few of them will be addressed in the last part of the recap

      • @Champ:
        Excellent! Looking forward to it. Thanks!


  • A Woman’s Eyes

    Who had the most fun at the event (out of everybody you saw)? What is the purpose of the event, exactly? Did you bring me any souvenirs? :)

    • the purpose of the event is basically for “creatives” to all come to the same space to share ideas, inventions, and innovations. the partying is a secondary aspect to that. (well, it should be a secondary aspect)

  • Dignan

    One other thing. I’ve been in $5/night motel rooms in the Third World that weren’t as bad as Champ’s room in the Lmont.

    I’m glad you were able to get a refund, Champ.

    • WIP

      $5 you say??

      • Dignan

        $5, yes. Although there was one room that had a hole in the floor, and you could see into the room downstairs.

        Fortunately, I had friends staying in the room downstairs, otherwise things might have gotten a tad awkward.

        • camilleblue

          see the room downstairs thru the floor you say??lol…sooo much wrong with that scenario..lol

          • Sweet GA Brown

            I keep thinking of that scene in Hangover 2 when they woke up in that room with a monkey and the asian dude was under the blanket with his manhood peeping out.

        • WIP

          Oh…I was lured in with the $5. Next stop- The Hilton Bora Bora

          • camilleblue

            lol…girl…i just can’t do cheap hotels…i’m just to scary…stains and bugs and all manner of #whatthefukkisthat?? no ma’am…..used to drive my hubby crazy but i gave #notonedamn…my thing is – can we order room service?? if we can do that, then i’m prolly good to go…if not…then houson, we got a d@mn problem…

        • GypsyCurl

          I’ve had cheap hotels in 3rd world countries that were decent. My only problem is the water pressure. What is the point of having a shower head if it is trickling water. Just give me a bucket to fill up with water.

  • Breezy

    I’ve never been a fan of Mexican food. (Or Mexicans in general, but who is?¹ ¹I’m joking (obviously). I love the Mexicans. But, don’t pretend you didn’t laugh at that!)


    • After 4 years in Texas, I have eaten all the Mexicalli food I need. So I understand the point

    • AfroPetite


    • Wild Cougar

      No, I didn’t laugh, because it wasn’t funny.

      • Kema

        *nods head*

    • GypsyCurl

      I’ve never liked Mexican food. And I have been to several of my friends’ home to have authentic.

      I also hate Indian food. I like to describe the color of Indian food as various shades of brown: green brown, red brown, yellow brown. The flavor (just one for every single dish) is not appealing either.

      I have become a fan of Greek and mediterranean (thx, iphone for the correct sp) food.

    • lol, i ended up deleting that comment. after re-reading it this morning, it was a bit over the top

  • WIP

    Just reading this makes me anxious. I hate being late and I hate feeling rushed. JC…

    I’ve traveled to Austin for a night and stayed at the best hotel ever- The Super 8. I don’t don’t remember which Super 8, I just know it was nothing I expected it to be. For the price I expected passable for a night but it was beautiful and the bed was so comfortable I had to inquire with the front desk to find out the brand. I want to go back just to stay at that Super 8.

    Apparently I missed it- what were your panels about?

    • mena

      O asked this up top as well and I am wondering too. I know that the venue is tech savvy. Heck, Google just introduced google glass (look it up and it just goes to show that google is the most innovative company in the game) which looks pretty cool but why would they want relationship bloggers there?

      • WIP

        My completely uninformed guess is that most popular bloggers are probably online advertisers, coders and designers as well. If not they purchase those services and other web tools. Perhaps that’s where their interests were served.

      • “which looks pretty cool but why would they want relationship bloggers there?”

        it’s not just about tech, though. well, not just how tech is traditionally defined. it’s more about bringing creatives (tech people, writers, actors, companies, musicians, etc) together all in one place.

      • @Ms. Mena:
        I’ve heard about Google Glass, though I’ve yet to see them in action. I have mixed views about that. I guess I’ll be able to makeup my mind when I’m able to take er out on a test drive for myself.

        In the meantime, what you make of Google Pixel? From what I can tell, it seems like a real potential competitor to Apple’s line of Macbooks.



        • mena

          Here you go O:

          Google is big on cloud technology right now and their laptop is based off of that. Everything will run through a cloud and browser at the price of a mac laptop. I am not a cloud fan by any means. I want my information stored on my hard drive and I want my computer to have it’s own operating system not something that i have to get to through the internet. Innovative? Yes. Realistic? I don’t know.

          I will say that Google is the ONLY big company that is innovative right now. Apple has fallen down and become quite lazy since Jobs’ passing and it is starting to show.

          • Kema

            “I will say that Google is the ONLY big company that is innovative right now.”

            And they are getting into everything… Have you seen the google car?

            • mena

              Yep. Bc of their revenue stream, they are allowed to go into whatever idea venue that they want to pursue. Such an amazing company.

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