10) Planet Harlem
Actually, Harlem has been a very comfortable and problem-free place to stay. Riese has a beautiful apartment, lovely flatmates, a wicked rooftop, a Starbucks within walking distance and one of the most comfortable couches I've ever slept on. When I told Riese that I was coming to NYC, she kindly offered: "we have a couch [available]. It pulls out. It's gotten really good reviews, four stars." Now I don't want to the kill-joy that points out false advertising, but the couch doesn't actually pull out into a bed. To Riese's credit, I'm sure the couch did once pull out before Carly and Alex broke it (allegedly). [They did.]
Crystal at SXSW on Sixth Street
Initially, the SxSW journey was all about 2008's hype bands, sex, drugs and rock n' roll - but that changed after Cait & Riese discovered that Uh Huh Her was holding a SXSW fan documentary competition. Clever, right? 'Cause Uh Huh Her's new album is called Common Reaction, and this video is all about recording the reactions of the fans ... anyway so moving right along... [SIDENOTE OMG IT'S OUR VIDEO! WANNA SEE IT? HERE IT IS!]
Me: Then I hope we'll be able able to get into the [Uh Huh Her] showcase.
Cait: I'm going to SXSW at 8am tomorrow. I'll scope us out a good spot.
We agreed that this video competition was a basically personal invitation from Uh Huh Her to Riese to create/win a contest, and so we were 100% focussed on attending all three Uh Huh Her shows and capturing stellar footage. Tara and I did manage to get out and see some real bands, specifically The LK (from Sweden) and The Breeders, both of who rocked our socks off. Oh, and - I bought a cowboy hat, and it's the best cowboy hat ever.
PHOTO: Natalie models Crystal's cowboy hat.
8) Meeting Uh Huh Her / Leisha Hailey
When they finally started their DJ set, we convinced Cait to go ask Leisha to play some BETTY. The jury is still out on whether Leisha Hailey understood the joke, but hilarity ensued regardless. Stef, a SxSW warrior, got kicked out of the venue prematurely for being drunk and disorderly, and we followed shortly after.
7) Hotels / community living
Times Square's Paramount Hotel -- where I stayed sans-Riese for three days prior to relocating to Planet Harlem -- was the most interesting experience. I booked this hotel 'cause I read a review where some disgruntled guest rated the Paramount 0 stars out of 5 'cause "the staff was flirtatious." 'Cause I've got no standards, this review SOLD me and I picked a room called "The Petite Suite." The whole hotel had some crazy decor and the room would've been more fairly represented as the "Don't Bother If You're Over 5'1 or 90 Pounds Suite."
A stuff up with our hotel reservation in Austin lead us to spend our first few nights in a room about ten minutes away from downtown. The room wasn't really equipped for four adults, meaning we had to sacrifice all available floor space to achieve adequate sleeping arrangements. It was close living quarters, but as long as you didn't want to open the mini bar at the same time someone wanted to open their suitcase, it was all sweet.
Riese: It's like summer camp!
6) Public Transportation
It's probably a well known fact that the cab drivers in this town are kinda crazy, but the past few weeks I've experienced madness to an extent I hadn't anticipated. Tonight, my cabbie jumped out mid-drive to engage in a lengthy screaming match with a policeman telling him not to drive down a particular street -- with the meter running. I tipped him anyhow 'cause I was a little scared he might yell at me too.
I also learned about these modes of transportation that Riese (and no-one else I have yet to meet [sidenote: everyone]) calls "Gypsy cabs". I was amazed when Riese told me that if I was to stand on her street corner, random cars would just pull up beside me and offer me a ride... [sidenote: this's cause they seem to think any white person in my neighborhood is clearly looking to get out asap] and that it's completely normal and safe to get into the vehicle. In Australia, we call this kind of thing Stranger Danger.
5.) The L Word/Parties
As soon as I got here, Riese sat me down in front of the TV and forced me to start watching from Season One. [sidenote: "Guess what I'll be able to do when I get to the states, tiger? I'll finally get to see this L Word show you're always talking about!" - Crystal, email, a long time ago] I made it through S1 and part of S2, but needed to take a break when Jenny started writing a short story about a woman who's born mute who one day discovers that she can understand and speak the secret language of the manatees. Also, did anyone else find it incredibly disturbing when Tina set a place a the dinner table for her positive pregnancy test stick? OMG.
4) Some of my Non-L Word/SxSW social activities
1) Meeting Riese and Co.
L to R: Crystal, Natalie, Alex
It's impossible to realistically answer the question of whether two internet friends would've become friends if they'd met in person first -- and thanks to the internet itself, we really don't have to answer this question anymore. Many of my friends back home couldn't understand why I'd go stay with someone I'd only ever communicated with via email [sidenote: and skype! 'cause I freelance for Crystal's company and she had to train me, I haven't open that application since.]
They definitely couldn't comprehend how this person had become someone I'd consider to be one of my closest friends. Walking into Riese's apartment and meeting her for the first time is one of the most comfortable first encounters I've had -- I didn't feel like I needed to impress her or show her who I am, 'cause I knew I'd already done so virtually. On the surface, we're not that similar as people or personality types, but underneath it all we share the same basic human qualities, the ones that really matter: e.g., compassion, love, kindness. And for those of you who wonder about such things, in 3-D Riese is similar to as advertised on this blog: outrageously funny, intelligent, warm-hearted, and not at all keen on leaving her house (for real). I also had the pleasure of meeting most of her friends, such as Cait, Alex, Natalie, Stef, Tara and Carly - and they were all awesome people, because like attracts like.
Okay, that's all from me, it's my last day in the USA and I've got a plane to catch. later.
Hi guys it's me again, Riese. Unfortunately Crystal whipped this baby out prior to last night's journey to The Red Lobster in Times Square (trivia! Red Lobster's owned by Darden, which also owns The Olive Garden, where I used to work). I felt The RL would offer a pure American Experience, and, had we gone earlier, she would've been able to discuss her very first bite of a Cheddar Bay Biscuit.
Last week Crystal had drinks with Diana, who she'd met through my blog, and last night Diana joined us for Red Lobster. Natalie was telling Diana our (Nat & I's) legendary love story -- how we'd met (English 125), the first time we'd really hung out (we ran into each other outside of the bookstore during the first week of our second year at Michigan), the standard lies Natalie infuses this story with (Natalie: "Marie! Hi!" Me, In Natalie's Creative Re-Telling of the Sory: "Let's go get dinner, I think I have AIDS."), how Natalie'd pursued our friendship. And it was funny, really, that Nat had to emphasize that unlike most of my VIPs, we hadn't met online.
I never thought I'd be the kind of person to make so many cyber-friends, you know? ... though I was likely destined for that fate the moment I picked up my first pack of Magic the Gathering cards. I met Haviland through a friend (a friend we'd both met on the internet) pretty much the same week I started Auto-Win, but aside from Natalie, most of the people I talk to regularly are people I've met through blogging.
Maybe it's easier this way 'cause blog-friends, unlike real-friends, will say: "it's okay, we don't have to hang out, I want you to finish the recap so I can read it." But mostly I think my plethora of cyber-originated friendships can be attributed to the fact that these people, by reading and talking to me, are at least kinda drawn to my sensibility and sense of humor ... and consequently, I'm drawn to theirs ... during the Dark Fall of '07, I probs talked to Crystal more than I did to any living breathing friend -- maybe around 10 emails a night. It helped that I was writing for her company and she was sorta my boss (instant legitimacy beyond any instinctual certainty). I worked out a lot of issues talking to Crystal that I couldn't discuss with anyone in my "real life" -- blogfriends or not. Before Crystal even landed stateside, we already had at least 10 facebook friends in common, and Tara even met her before I did (I was still in L.A.), which was funny, and awesome.
I think in a few years, when the internet's been around long enough for us to step back and think about it really -- it'll probs seem quite marvelous. For loners, who don't believe in the inherent value of live socialization, this is a pretty legitimate space to communicate. Most cyber-connections never translate into real life, but it's quite affirming that they so often do. That someone who knows the ugliest rawest weirdest parts of me would actually want to sleep on my couch, which doesn't pull out, 'cause Carly and Alex broke it.
"The internet is, for loners, an absolute and total miracle. It is, for us, the best invention of the last millennium. It educates. It entertains. It transforms. It facilitates a kind of dialogue in which we need not be seen, so it suits us perfectly. It validates. It makes being alone seem normal. It makes being alone fun for everyone."
(Anneli Rufus, "Party of One: The Loners' Manifesto")
"No one, wise Kublai, knows better than you that the city must never be confused with the words that describe it.
And yet between the one and the other there is a connection ... on the outskirts where men and women land every evening like lines of sleepwalkers, there is always someone who bursts out laughing in the darkness, releasing the flow of jokes and sarcasm."
(Italo Calvino, "Invisible Cities.")