"We may be encountering some rough spots ahead, so I'm going to turn on the fasten seatbelts sign..."

Evelyn runs the shuttle bus from the main Houston terminal to the Car Rental compound. If you see her, tell her we said 'hi'.
Wednesday, March 17, 2004
SXSW 2004: Part One
Detroit, MI

We'll start off by getting something out of the way: we booked our tickets way too late. It's a long story why, but the end result was that, 10 days we were supposed to fly to Austin, TX, we did not have our tickets. And this was a very expensive problem to have.

The Austerity Program, whose motto is "Too Big To Fail" has a lesser known moniker as well: cheapest individuals on planet Earth. Therefore, the plane tickets were not just going to hurt the APÕs bottom line, it was going to violate almost-religious beliefs.

Our travel agent friend told Justin - "you're in big trouble." Priceline told him that a round trip from NYC to Austin was going to cost $877 and they were the cheapest option by at least $100. Trying to be clever, he kept putting in ridiculously low prices on the "name your own price" part, trying to see if some computer glitch was going to give us tickets for $75 or something. This didn't work, and he could almost feel the contempt from the remote computers that regarded this price with thorough disdain.

So we drew a mental circle 200 miles around NYC and 200 miles around Austin, and began searching for alternate places to take off and depart. We'll make a long story short, for once: After a sweaty night of watching two or three options jump up hundreds of dollars in a matter of hours, we bought two tickets from Newark (kind of near NYC) to Houston (about 170 miles from Austin) for about $250 each. It would mean driving for about 3 hours, but here's a question - would you drive 3 hours twice to save $1200?

Yes you would.

And so did we, but we're getting ahead of myself. Due to a hectic weather disruption, we actually left from NYC's LaGuardia -

(Justin - named after the last good Republican mayor that this city has had, although the jury's still out on Bloomberg)

(Thad - the former mayor Giuliani, while not ideal in any way, had flashes of greatness that made him an overall good mayor)

(Justin - Thad, you're nuts. Crisis management skills notwithstanding, Giuliani was a terrible mayor and history will bear me out on this)

(Thad - A mayor is supposed to do three things: 1) Keep the streets safe; 2) Keep the streets clean; 3) Educate the tippie tais. Giuliani accomplished 1 and 2; NYC Mayors just received the responsibility of number 3. The only people who didn't like Giuliani were 1) Criminals; 2) Terrorists; 3) People who aspired to either 1 or 2. And history will bear me out.)

(nb: the AP is currently working on the definitive history of New York City local politics which will answer the much asked question: "Who was the best NYC mayor of all time?" Right now, most indicators point to DeWitt Clinton)

at 6:00 AM, which meant Justin picking Thad up at 4:30. We had one guitar, one bass, one rack unit with the drum machine and a few bags carrying clothes, cords and the pedals for the guitar. To be honest, we didn't feel like top shelf entertainment by the time we got onto the plane.

The plane took us to Detroit, where we switched planes. The Northwest hub at Detroit is one strange airport terminal. It's one really long hallway, with gates littered throughout, an indoor monorail to whisk people from gate to gate and nowhere to get a decent bite to eat. (Okay, that last one isn't unusual.) Justin wanted to stand at one end of the terminal, hurl a bowling ball down the nicely polished floor and then hop on the monorail and race the ball to the other end of the terminal. Thad wouldn't let him. And he didn't have a bowling ball, but claims that next time he's going to bring one.

So we rode the monorail to our connecting gate. After we got off, we were forced to walk by the gate for a flight leaving earlier than our Houston flight and going to Austin. There were people there who were obviously going to South by Southwest. It was, frankly, a little painful to see them.

When we got to our gate we found that our flight was delayed by a half hour or so. We got some crappy snack food and then stared at the 20 foot by 20 foot TV screen perched high above our gate like Big Brother. The TV had some sort of technical glitch, so it kept skipping in the middle of broadcasts. It was like watching Max Headroom while trying to keep it together on 3 hours of sleep. We can only imagine this is how the boys from Hydra Head feel most of their waking hours.

Anyway, the big screen was forcefully broadcasting CNN (of course), and it got Justin thinking - Ted Turner probably gets really excited every time he sees something like this. When you think about it, CNN seems more in its element broadcast on poor resolution gigantic screens. At least, that's the way it seemed at 8:45 in the morning.

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