Monday, October 12, 2009

Now Boarding at Gate 23

Everything Grizzly Bear lead singer Ed Droste said was followed by a squealed “That’s so awesome!!” from the American Apparel-wrapped girls beside me, making me feel like I was standing in the middle of several thousand smiley emoticons.
“That’s so awesome!”

“OMG! So awesome!"

Colon. Parenthesis. Stab myself.

Grizzly Bear’s harmonies were as gorgeous as anticipated, although sometimes an over-amped bass overpowered their delicate vocals. A shimmering version of “Two Weeks” followed, with Daniel Rossen on keyboards and bassist Chris Taylor cooing into the microphone like Gizmo the Mogwai. “THAT’S SO AWESOME,” American Apparel said, her head on the verge of exploding as she made a note to update her Facebook status when she got home.
--ACL Festival, Day 2 [via BitchBuzz]
“She’s, like, 97,” a kid in a backwards Texas Longhorns hat said when Kate Pierson and her radioactive-looking orange hair took the stage with new-wave pioneers The B-52’s. He was only off by 36 years but Pierson--the oldest of the Georgia foursome--was the most well-preserved especially compared to a paler-than-usual Fred Schneider, who looked like he may have just eaten a bad plate of--ahem--rock lobster.

The somewhat-listless crowd was unmoved by their newer material and didn’t stir until they played back-to-back karaoke favorites “Roam” and “Love Shack”, with Schneider barking out his trademark over-enunciated spoken parts. Twenty years after those songs were released, I’ve started to worry that the Love Shack--what with its rusted tin roof and faded sign--has probably been torn down and replaced with a Starbucks.

--ACL Festival, Day 3 [via BitchBuzz]

I'm not sure how it took me a solid week to catch up from a five day trip, but it did. It also takes me half an hour to cook Minute Rice. ZING! Anyway, I’m back from Austin and--seven days later--no longer have the lingering scent of breakfast burrito or hotel shampoo.

The ACL festival was a totally different experience compared to Bonnaroo, which I covered for Bitchbuzz in June. Not only was Austin slicker and dotted with more corporate sponsors, it had an entirely different demographic, which managed to skew both older and younger. Older, because some mid-afternoon crowds looked like orthodontists on their day off, endless rows of recently-exfoliated fortysomethings raising their Lone Star tallboys and kicking off one Topsider at a time.

The youngest ACL-ers were asleep in the strollers I sidestepped on the way to buy another pair of fish tacos. I'm horrible at estimating the ages of both children and pop stars but at Friday night's Them Crooked Vultures show, a woman held a child who was still in the Plastic Underwear years, which put him somewhere between 3 and Cher. Well played, Responsible Parent. It's never too early to introduce your children to hearing loss.

This time last Monday, I was heading to the airport in my rented white Toyota, the one that I would've described as my RAD-4 if I'd actually spoken with anyone who wasn't checking to see how many $4 KitKats I'd swiped from the minibar. I did briefly exchange pleasantries with the hotel's front desk staff who were no doubt delighted to see me wandering through the lobby on Sunday night both barefoot and wearing a trashbag as pants.

After having to discard my ruined flat shoes on Saturday, I went to Walmart and scored a pair of $7 sneakers from the kids department. Did they fit? No. Did I care? Absolutely not, since I was pretty sure that we were only going to spend seven or eight hours together. The festival grounds on Sunday were so epically disgusting that my new Starter kicks were abandoned beneath the RAD-4's rear tires in the ACL parking lot. After that, I scurried behind a dumpster to swap my mud-caked denim for the finest in Hefty Cinchsak couture.

Keep in mind that I grew up in The American South. Shoeless, naked beneath a trash bag... if somebody queued up the dance mix of "Cotton-Eyed Joe", it would've been every Homecoming dance I ever attended.

Anyway, my plastic bottoms and bare feet were an attempt to preserve the integrity of the RAD-4, even though the passenger side was already littered with a beat-up baseball cap, three empty Whataburger bags, and countless crushed soda cans. It probably looked a lot like Michael Moore’s living room.

My flights back were chock with delays, all weather-related. When I finally boarded the plane to Atlanta, I was wedged between a woman who turned Delta #1672 into her personal slumber party and a flight attendant who spent an inordinate amount of time rearranging his fuschia pocket square.

Despite being one of Delta's Li'l Platinum Milers (or whatever), I'd never had a seat beside the airline staff before. I was disturbed to learn that on their seats, they get an over-the-shoulder harness that straps them in like they're about to jump Snake River Canyon. Meanwhile, all that keeps me from certain death is an adjustable strip of nylon and a non-functional ashtray.

Anyway, Miss Window Seat to my left immediately unpacked her oversized carry-on tote to remove a smaller bag decorated with cartoon characters, something that would’ve been cute if she’d been seven, with a missing front tooth and a light dusting of freckles across her nose. Since she was damn near fifty with a hairstyle last seen on the late Jerry Garcia, it made her look either creepy or mentally deficient. Or both.

She wedged both bags under the seat in front of her--earning a head nod from Delta’s own Evel Knievel strapped in beside me--wrapped a velveteen neck pillow around her head, popped in some ear plugs, and wriggled into a garish fleece pullover that looked like it was made from dead Fraggles. Next, she kicked off her Keds and changed into a pair of rainbow striped socks with non-skid bottoms, just in case we'd be asked to stop the plane with Flintstone-style foot brakes.

Finally, she pulled a sleep mask over her eyes, turned at a 45 degree angle to the window and STRETCHED HER LEGS OUT UNDER MY SEAT, her goddamn nonskid socks napping on my own carry-on bag, the one with my iPod, this month's MOJO magazine, and all the other distractions that keep me from making a list of the ways I can die during air travel.

We were halfway across the country before I stopped hating her and probably somewhere above Alabama when I decided to kick her.

She didn't move.

I kicked again.

She snorted.

And three times a lady.

She pulled one corner of her mask up and glared at me. I shrugged.

She deposited her feet under her own chair, curled herself into a ball like a recently-salted slug.

I was finally--FINALLY--able to grab my iPod as the flight attendant adjusted his harness and pretended not to notice.

I had a four hour layover in Atlanta, which turned into five thanks to another delay which turned into me eating a giant bag of animal crackers and purchasing a paperback book I never intend to read.

At the gate, the endless loop of CNN kept shuffling out the same story about an elderly woman being mauled by raccoons and--after thirty minutes and three reruns of the story--I wondered if I could summon any kind of bloodthirsty woodland creatures to Terminal B.

To my right was a sixtysomething woman with a waxy complexion and a t-shirt that said “My Period Is More Like An Exclamation Point”.


Her Period Is a Question Mark. Three, actually: 1) Where does one acquire such a Klassy Garment" (says the girl who wore a garbage bag not twelve hours earlier) ; 2) Even if you do own that 50 cotton/50 poly gem, why would you wear it in public? And 3) Why does she still have a period? It seems like her Baby Factory should’ve bricked its windows and boarded its doors by now.

No, that's not the first time I've thought about a stranger's uterus. Thank you for asking.

She was eating an oversized cinnamon bun--as if there are any other kinds--loudly sucking the glaze off of each of her swollen fingers before wiping her hand on one leg of her nylon pants and returning to the Laci Peterson paperback she was reading. Chomp. Suck. Wipe. Chomp. Suck. Wipe.

I don't have many marketable skills, but one of them has to be the ability to actively hate someone without exchanging more than a sidelong glance. I'll be adding that to my resume, sandwiching it between "Doesn't Bite Unless Provoked" and "Proficient in Microsoft Office".

Color me more than relieved when she boarded the next flight to arrive, heading toward Omaha and--with any luck--a pack of Cinnabon-craving raccoons.


Anonymous said...

dude, you saw couples retreat?? and i thought you were cool.

J-Money said...

It could not have been more terrible. And it was the only thing that fit between Whip It and Zombieland.

There's really no justification for this kind of behavior.

Miss B said...

Oh, I just had to tell you -- a friend of mine in London (@chrispresswell on Twitter) just got a copy of "Night of the Crabs"!

Also, he recently interviewed Robyn Hitchcock (I don't really know who that is, but I know that you're something of a fan...)

I think he's maybe your 21-year-old English soulmate.

He's a sweet guy -- if you send him a message on Twitter maybe he'll let you borrow the book.

RazZDoodle said...

omaha represent! crap.

Michael said...

Clearly, your ticket was misprinted. You were supposed to be seated in the Awesome section.

You're the best.

shenanigans said...

I LOVE your writing. Thank you for making my work day more tolerable :-)