Anyone who read Volume I of How Scott (Almost Never) Got to Austin for SXSW might have noticed that I was slightly ... irked at American Airlines, when in fact I SHOULD have been unloading my blogular umbrage upon the guys at the Dallas Fort Worth airport who are in charge of watching the morning weather report. Seriously, 40+ flights and a whole LOT of people were royally screwed because nobody thought to have the de-icing machines warmed up when the words "freezing rain" were mentioned. (So I offer an apology to American Airlines, partially because it wasn't really their fault, but mostly because I'm flying American HOME in a couple days, and I don't want to catch any stewardess stink-eye.)
But whatever. I've been in Austin for almost a week now, so that miserable trek from six days ago seems like nothing more than a infuriating little memory. I did, however, promise a Part 2, so let's pick up where we left off...
I'd been informed that A) my flight had been canceled (after I'd been sitting on the plane for nearly five hours), B) there were no hotels or rental cars available from anywhere within the airport, and C) my luggage and I would not be seeing each other for a day or two. Fun little note: My suitcase -- OK, fine, my massive red duffel bag that my sister got for free from Marlboro -- contained items like: my phone charger, my laptop charger, and my herpes medication.
Nah, just kidding, The herpes cleared up months ago, and I could probably live without my laptop charger for about two (online) hours, but my phone charger? Yikes. Not the best thing to misplace in the best of times, let alone when you're stranded in a strange city (alone) while traveling to a film festival. But the phone was fully-charged ... as was my seething brain. Fortunately I remembered Eugene.
Eugene Novikov is a good friend of fine. He lives right outside Philadelphia, and he's been studying to be a lawyer for the past 7.5 years. He's a very fine film critic, a passionate Futurama freak, and a good guy to hang out with in general. By some stroke of random luck, I happened to remember that Gene was scheduled to leave Philly only a few hours behind me! Could he be ... also pathetically trapped in the soul-deadening swamp known as Dallas Fort Worth Airport (airport code: DFW)!??!?!?!? How excellent it would be if one of my good friends was ALSO knee-deep in misery! I reached for my phone, clicked down to "E," and enjoyed a conversation that went a little ... like ... this ...
Gene: Um, hi!
Me: Are you trapped in Dallas airport?
Me: Holy *$*#%ing $(#(*, that's awesome.
Gene: I don't see how that's awesome.
Me: Well, I am too, so now we can have a nightmare together instead of separately.
Gene: Wow, that is good. Relatively. What terminal are you in?
Me: I'm on an effing plane. Five hour squat for a 35-minute flight. Terminal 1. Meet me at gate 666.
I should mention that our conversation was not nearly that light-hearted. We both growled and whined a lot. Also, I have no idea what the gate number really was. I just guessed.
So remember how I mentioned that Gene was studying to become a lawyer? Right. Well, you don't do something crazy like that unless you're also smart enough to ignore the airport car rentals and call directly into the heart of Fort Worth and find a HERTZ that would hold a car for us! Yeah, Gene! Woooo! One catch: It was 4:39 and we had to get to downtown Ft. Worth by 6pm. Yikes.
Now here's where it gets a little surreal: Gene and I wander outside. I suck down three cigarettes at once because it's been about seven hours since my last Camel Filter, don't forget, and I'm only human for god's sake! (Kidding again, it was only two smokes at once.) So we're in front of the airport, we look left, and we see ... easily the longest "taxi wait" line I've ever seen at an airport. I've seen a lot of "taxi waiting" lines in my time, and they're always short. Always. We bolt into line and I realize we're standing behind (I kid you not) Anjelica Huston, who's just as classy-looking in person as she is in the movies. I felt bad that someone as cool as her had to deal with this sort of crap, but then I remembered that I'm cool too, so I just got more miserable. Her presence made the scene feel like something out of a Wes Anderson movie, but then I remembered something else: Wes Anderson's movies are funny.
You know how cabs normally work? A cab pulls up. You and your party get in, and then you ask the driver to take you somewhere. Easy, traditional, universally accepted concept. Not in Dallas when cold rain is involved. The new method is this: A cab (or a mini-van-type cab) will pull up and the driver will yell "12th and Flat Iron! Anyone?" And then about 41 people raise their hands. Three random people from somewhere near the front of the line then leap into the cab and that's it. Another driver pulled up and yelled something that sounded like "Macaroni Broom Junction!!," and he found five takers. This went on for a while, so when a driver actually yelled "Downtown Ft. Worth!," Gene and I reacted like our genitals had just been cast as the leads in Hostel Part 3.
Me: "Yo! Downtown Ft. Worth! Both of us please! Or just me, at the very least!"
Gene: "Yes! Lovely Ft. Worth! A fine name for a fine town! There's a HERTZ there with a car there with our name on it. Provided we get there in .... 51 minutes. Yikes."
To be totally honest, I felt really rotten about getting into a cab while Anjelica Huston was left waiting for a cab driver going to "Airport Hilton." To be fair, it sounds like a really long drive. So we're in a mini-van cab. Me, Gene, a driver, and three old ladies who felt obliged to remind the driver what their hotel was called about 611 times. My body wanted to nod off for a brief series of bite-sized mini-naps, but I knew if that happened I'd end up sleeping overnight in Dallas. And just to remind you: I was born in Philadelphia, so I am NOT spending a night in Dallas. Nothing personal, Dallasians, but it's a football thing. (Go Eagles.)
Anyway, dang this post is getting long. We drop the bitties off at the hotel (which the driver had plugged into his GPS the second we left the airport, so the silly old ladies were just wasting valuable oxygen for 37 minutes) and we finalllly find the HERTZ place at (get this) 6:02pm. If it's possible to knock on a door both politely and maniacally, then that's how I knocked. I look slightly left and I see a sign that says "Closed due to inclement weather. Sorry for the inconvenience." Yes, really. For a brief second I begin to feel like Griffin Dunne in After Hours. I consider insanity, but it's too cold out. I droop back to the cab and explain to Gene / Driver that the place closed well before six -- because of cold rain. I can only assume that HERTZ rents only convertibles with broken roofs. It's the only logical explanation.
With the help of DRIVER and someone called RANDOM HOTEL VALET, Gene and I find an ENTERPRISE location .... which had also closed at 6pm. (Dude! It's a weeknight! Come on!) At this point it's about 6:25. But I do see some fuzzy shapes inside the building that look sort of like humans. I try the magic knock again. Get this: A person opens the door. He's very friendly. He's a cool guy, sorta like me, only dressed nice, young, and slightly good-looking. I explain "the entire day," only in much shorter fashion than I am here. He invites Gene and I in. We sadly part ways with DRIVER, who gets a large chunk of what I call "Gene's Money."
The ENTERPRISE guys are seriously awesome. I was half-tempted to go rent some movies and spend the night chilling there. But they rent us a car, I get behind the wheel, Gene and I drive a few miles to a Waffle House, enjoy a meal (and dear lord COFFEE), and then we get on I-35 South. Oh, and just to make things more fun: My cell-phone is showing signs of battery death -plus- Gene realizes that *whoops* he forgot his driver's license at the ENTERPRISE office. Yeah. No license!
Then we hit a deer and we both died instantly. Nah, that's not true. The rest is pretty much boring. We drove for three hours (only by "we," I mean "I," since Gene didn't have his license, that fool), talked about movies, drank beverages and bemoaned our miserable misadventures like only two cranky young Jewish men can. Right before we hit Austin proper, we made a pit-stop at my pal Devin's house, and then voila. The sparkly little town that was named for Jack Tripper's fictional brother: Austin, Texas! (Cue Raiders theme.) Yay for me and Gene! We made it without flying, dying or crying! South By Southwest could officially begin!!
Only I had no clothes, my cell phone was dead, and the hotel lost my reservation.