Friday Night (St. Patrick’s Day) in Downtown Austin @ SXSW

Picture New Orleans with the crowds of Mardi Gras. Now move those hordes to the area in front of the Driskill Hotel, 6th St., and all downtown areas in the center of the city of Austin for SXSW. A free concert by Garth Brooks is planned for tomorrow night (Saturday) and this night a Prince tribute concert was crowded with music-lovers.You can hardly walk through the barricaded streets because of the crowds. The smell of marijuana is in the air. It’s quite the scene in pleasant eighty degree weather.

Meanwhile,film buffs like me continue finding the best full-length films and documentaries at any of 7 SXSW venues. I saw “Small Town Crime” today at 11 a.m., and it was great! (Review to follow).

I parked in the 2nd Street Convention Parking Lot ($20) which meant a four-block walk up Brazos and then over a couple of blocks to the Alamo Ritz in the 300 block of 6th Street. Suffice it to say that it was a weird and long walk. A young man on a skateboard sent me in the wrong direction at one point (he turned out to be from Florida). On my walk, I passed a young carrying a kangaroo.

Yes, a kangaroo.

SXSWPerhaps I should say a Joey, since it was obviously a very young animal and seemed unhappy. I’ve been to Australia. I know a real kangaroo when I see one.

Why did this young man have a Joey wrapped in a brown blanket being hauled up the noisy street near the Driskill Hotel?

Beats me. When I tried to take a picture of the animal, the young man holding him bolted, so I’m guessing that walking around with a kangaroo is frowned upon during SXSW in downtown Austin. The poor animal did look distressed by all the noise, as nearly every open-air venue had live music, some of it very loud.

When I finally reached the Alamo Ritz, one of the smaller theater venues, the line, as usual, was quite long, but I did get in to see a documentary on freedom of the press (“Nobody Speaks”) that was quite good. We were all herded upstairs to the balcony where I climbed over a man sitting in the outside seat of the third row from the back. I left a seat between us and there were 2 empty seats to my left at that point.

Soon, a young man who was originally from England (but has lived in Austin for ten years) took the seat between me and the man on the aisle. Then a young couple arrived to sit next to me on my left.

I should perhaps say sit ON me to my left, as the zaftig young woman who was right next to me was like that person on the cramped airplane who takes up all of her seat and half of yours. It was a very cozy experience as this very large young girl pushed me farther into the young British person. Finally, I said, “Looks like you and I will be getting to know each other better,” to the friendly Brit (who had also lived a year in Australia).

It was warm with the girl to my left sitting ON me, to say the least. The young girl ordered up a number of Alamo Drafthouse delicacies from their menu: a hamburger, a pizza, a shake, a large Coke.

SXSWI had the children’s Diet Coke (around $3 with tip). The waiter who brought the cup made some disparaging remark along the lines of, “Here’s your tiny little baby Coke” (I ordered the child-size Diet Coke in order not to have to climb over my seatmates mid-movie to hit the rest room.)

When the documentary ended, I began the unenviable task of finding the parking ramp where I left my car. I have no sense of direction, so I have to pay careful attention at times like this. Therefore, I thought it would be a good idea to use the GPS on my phone (on “walk”) to find my way back to the 2nd Street Convention Parking Ramp, as I had used the GPS on my way TO the Alamo Ritz.

When I pulled the cell phone from my purse, I realized I had left it on during the movie. The battery was at 1% and the map function wouldn’t load.

So much for the idea of using the phone’s map function/GPS for walking back. I would have to rely on my cracker-jack memory of the direction from the Four Seasons Hotel and a business with Brass in the title that was directly across the street from me as I exited the parking ramp. (It was not helpful that the Brass Bell, or whatever its name was, had turned off its neon sign, but I did find the parking garage….after I toured the second floor of the wrong parking garage next door).

Now within the walls of the correct 2nd St. garage, I took the elevator to the 2nd floor (on the way down, I walked the stairs; my foggy memory was that I was on the 2nd floor, but it is entirely possible that this was wrong, because there were signs everywhere identifying the parking garage as being on 2nd street, so that may have been the source of my confusion).

I began my search for Prius #2 (Prius #1 is in the garage after a typical Austin driver ran into me at the intersection of Slaughter Lane and Brodie Lane causing $3,000 of damage). I walked the entire second floor.

Nothing.

I then walked up each and every floor of the 5 or 6 story parking garage.

Still nothing.

SXSWI began to wonder if I could have been on the first floor? (Unlikely. Who climbs down 4 flights of stairs from the first floor?) At any rate, I took the elevator down to check. There were uniformed officers on the first floor. I enlisted the help of a particularly nice one to assist me in finding my car within the parking garage. (At least I was certain I was in the right garage—this time—having already toured the second floor of the one next door —-which had a much posher elevator—a sure-fire give-away that I was in the wrong building).

“Give me your Prius keys,” said the kindly officer.

I dragged out not one, but two sets of Priusf keys, confounding the helpful officer of the law.

“You have TWO sets of keys?”

“Well, we have 2 Priuses, but one is in the garage. I’m not sure which key set goes to which car.” (One of the unexpected consequences of having keyless entry and no need to insert your key into the Prius ignition.)

“What’s your license plate number?”

“Uhhhh…we just got this second tan one. I remember it had JDD on the license plates.”

I sensed the officer was losing confidence in me, but, just then, the tan car’s alarm began sounding. The car itself was rather thoroughly hidden behind a large truck; that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.)

I now needed directions from Officer Friendly on how to access I-35S, since my phone was toast. Usually, I use the GPS map function to help get home.

Fortunately, the charger in my car allowed me to navigate back to south Austin.

I didn’t encounter any additional kangaroos en route.

Tomorrow, I hope to encounter Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds on the Red Carpet as the film “”Life” shows on the last night of the film festival. The music festival will go on for one additional day.

About Connie Wilson

Connie (Corcoran) Wilson (www.ConnieCWilson.com ) was the Quad City Times film and book critic for 15 years and has continued reviewing film uninterruptedly since 1970. She also publishes books (31 at last count) in a variety of genres (www.quadcitieslearning.com), has taught writing or literature classes at 6 Iowa/Illinois colleges or universities as adjunct faculty, was Yahoo's Content Producer of the Year 2008 for Politics, is the author of It Came from the 70s: From The Godfather to Apocalypse Now, and writes on a variety of topics at her own blog, www.WeeklyWilson.com.