Line By Linewest
I was coming out of the Robot Petting Zoo on an upstairs floor at the new JW Marriott on Congress Avenue during the South by Southwest Interactive Festival when I nearly bumped into Gia, an area kindergardener who was trying to get into the petting zoo. (Gia, 5, is REALLY into robots right now.) Alas, since neither Gia nor her Austin -area family had badges for the event, the staffer couldn’t scan them into the petting zoo. Gia was quite disappointed.
I leaned down and told the somewhat shy Gia that I knew exactly how she felt as I had been turned away from lots of things myself at SXSW this year, and that she wasn’t alone in not getting in to see what she wanted to see. I then gave Gia’s adult posse a few tips on what things at the festival that they might be able to get Gia into.
Even though I had been trying to make Gia feel better about not getting in to see what she wanted, the truth is even with a fancy festival badge danging in front of my heart, this year during the film and technology portion of the festival I often felt like I had my nose pressed to the glass, standing on the outside looking in at where I’d rather be.
Not only were panels that I wanted to see full, but time after time during this festival I’d walked past a cool-looking temporary event, only to see a sign that said “Invite only” or “Private Party” on the door of a pop up venue with the name of a major technology company plastered to the outside.
“I guess a platinum badge doesn’t mean jack,” as one gentleman from Round Rock that I met standing on the street outside a private party venue put it.
Several times during the festival, I’d rushed to RSVP online for a cool sounding event, only to be find it was sold out. I’d hustled my body across downtown multiple times then stood in line on the street for an hour for various films and comedy shows… and still not gotten in. (Often because a film maker or someone with more influence than me had reserved a block of 25 of 50 tickets to the screening or showcase.)
I’d even made my way to the film opening party, where I had gotten no closer than seeing the cool door decorations, because standing in a stopped line that goes all the way down the block violates every principle of my life. (If only some of the levitating enchantresses that the film opening party promised had been able to levitate me into an open window of Speakeasy, I’d have been golden!)
Having the kind of life that doesn’t land me on Hollywood-made VIP lists or result in returned calls from publicists meant I was often standing on the street after the event was at capacity, wondering what I should try and do next. It was very frustrating and not good for my mental health.
I was home one morning of the festival icing down the old ankle injury I’d aggravated by repeatedly rushing across town to go fruitlessly stand on the street when my friend Byron King called.
King is currently a tour guide at the Texas State Capitol, and has all but written his dissertation to get a a doctorate in English literature. Having helped move his large collection of books several times, I know he’s well read.
When I told King about my feelings of being left out at SXSW this year, he made a leap I wasn’t expecting.
“You are like Madame Bovary, standing outside looking in at the balls.”
Umm, I haven’t read Madame Bovary, but I think I saw the movie. I understand that the 1856 French novel by Flaubert focuses on the gap between the tempting illusion of what one desires and the maybe less delectable reality of what one already has.
Maybe now that the festival is over I’ll visit the Austin Public Library and borrow one of their copies of the novel.
I know I’m on the list at the library and their lines move pretty fast.
I’m in luck that there is a new Madame Bovary movie coming out this year!