Note: Just re-posting more old Facebook notes just so I have all my stuff in one place. This is also part of an art project by my friend Sandy Yin, the author of the blog “A Brief List of Rules.” She gave me good feedback and I was going to re-work it, but I edited it to fix a couple of things. It’s just a vignette. An example of a story that is much more interesting in your head than it is when you decide to write it down. It seems very mundane, but for some reason these events just stick with me.
The Yehoodi 6th Anniversary in 2004 was an incredible event. The Great Day In Lindy photo shoot; The Basie Ball; music featuring surviving members of the Count Basie Orchestra; the last American Hellzapoppin contest; the surprise performance of the Mama Lu Parks Dancers; honors for some of our forbearers. Awe inspiring and epic from start to finish. But honestly, that was all just background for what I really remember from that weekend.
Leslie Wylie drove us up to Y6A that Friday. Looking back, I think between the ride, checking into the hostel, and finding a parking garage seemed to take a lot out of us. Or maybe it was because we were trying to do all those things in New York City which seems to exponentially multiply your level of difficulty by a factor of ten.
The first hostel lost our reservations of course. They sent us to a second, even shadier looking place a few blocks away. Under normal circumstances I don’t think we would have considered staying there, but it was getting late, and we still needed to change and get to the evening dance.
Once we got there, I didn’t get to do much dancing between our lateness, the crowded venues, and the music which didn’t do too much for me. I think the only reason we stayed so late was because we subconsciously wanted to spend as little time in that hostel as possible. But we had to go back eventually.
Leslie stayed with Kristin Hershberger in one room while I shared the other with Skye Humphries. I don’t think we slept for very long when he got a call from Austin Dryer sometime late that Saturday morning. Turned out that Austin hopped a bus after his late shift at the restaurant and got into NYC around 7 am. Being the guy that he is, he didn’t want to disturb us, so he wandered around the city for four hours before calling Skye to come crash with us.
He made the best of his time walking around by buying a pair of new tap shoes. I remember him being so proud of those shoes, and I’m sure he would have told us more about them but unconsciousness won out all around.
We didn’t sleep much more since we had to go to the Great Day In Lindy photo shoot. It was a great concept patterned after the Great Day In Harlem photo. That photo brought together some of the greatest musicians in jazz for a historic picture in 1958. Someone appropriated that idea and used Y6A as an excuse to photograph as many living Lindy Hoppers as possible.
Great idea, but a very long process. Too long apparently for Skye who wandered off in the middle as he is apt to do when faced with the prospect for doing nothing constructive for a long period of time. I stuck it out with Leslie and Kristin til the end. We picked up a pizza for dinner and met Skye back at the hostel.
We found that Skye was too distracted for food because he had lost a very personal family heirloom. We figured that it was probably while he was getting ready in the community bathroom earlier that morning. Think about that, and then what a person has to go through to find a small metal object in a place that needs a regular dosage of industrial strength cleaning chemicals, but doesn’t get it.
Austin was probably the most proactive of all of us. Usually very low key and passive; he took the initiative to knock on all the doors on the floor and interview everyone who passed us. He had no fear, resorting to Spanish when he had to, and being as polite as you can be while you verbally dance around the implication that you’re accusing someone of petty theft. No luck though. Skye’s heirloom was gone.
That was one bad omen too many, and I think what finally convinced Leslie, Skye, Kristin, and myself to make the decision to head out as soon as that evening’s dance was over. We got ready, packed up, check out, and put our stuff into Leslie’s car in the parking garage before heading over to the gala. Being in a hurry, we didn’t realize that we left something very important behind.
I guess we were too preoccupied with getting to The Basie Ball. With good reason. I would say that it was probably the biggest event in Lindy Hop until that time.
There are plenty of stories out there, especially since over 1200 people attended, so I won’t go into much detail about it. I had a great time, but was ready to head home; and Kristin, Leslie and Skye felt the same way. We said our goodbyes to old and new friends before we went back to the parking garage.
Funny thing about parking garages: You give them your keys and your car, and you expect that there are all kinds of elaborate security measures in place to keep everything safe. I don’t know how most garages work, but in this one, after they store your car, they just leave the keys in it . . . unlocked.
You live in a city, you kinda expect to lock everything, which what we did after we dropped off our stuff earlier. That would be a problem if your only set of keys is in the car when you do that.
So there we were, around two in the morning, standing in a dark, abandoned parking garage. But damn if we weren’t a finely dressed bunch.
This is probably a bad stereotype, but we kinda expected the woman left in charge of the garage to know how to break into cars. After all, this must happen quite often. It does, but she didn’t.
Well, do they at least probably have the name of a reliable locksmith to come help us? Nope.
She did have a phone book. So we called one. It was a busy Saturday night. It would take awhile for them to send someone, but it wasn’t going to take more than an hour according to them. With the way our luck was running, you can see where this is going.
So we waited. An hour. Two. We called again. And again. “Someone will be over soon.” Three hours. Darkness.
You know I wish I could say that we discovered something important about ourselves or the state of the universe sitting in the dark for all that time, but no. There was lots of conversation, but nothing that I can remember offhand.
The thing that stood out was how calm we all were. Especially Leslie. Normally a very sensitive and affectionate person. She felt a lot of responsibility for what was happening, and she backed away when Kristen and I went to give her a hug; she wasn’t going to accept any kind of consolation for this. But that was about as strong as the feelings got. I think we were just too spent from everything before.
As time past, it seemed like we came to an unspoken agreement to take turns trying to keep everyone else preoccupied. Mental games, trivia, errands to the corner bodega, keeping an eye on the street, telling jokes both clever and stupid, plans for the future, memories of the past.
Skye seemed to be the most active, rarely sitting still for any period of time. Kristin played cheerleader as much as she could. I don’t remember much of what I did.
We called the locksmith again sometime after 5 am. Someone different answered. We wanted to know when they would get to us. That person had no record of our previous calls and so no one was planning to come. But they could send someone right over. Whatever. We called someone else. They said they’d be over in thirty minutes. I think they got to us in ten.
And just like that, we fled New York City. I think we made one stop to switch drivers once we hit the Jersey Turnpike. Kristin drove us the rest of the way with Leslie and Skye passed out in the back. I tried to stay awake to keep Kristin company. Aside from a few minutes, I think I was fairly successful. Or at least that’s what Kristin let me think.
A trip from New York to DC goes by surprisingly fast when you leave around dawn on a Sunday morning. It turned out to be a beautiful, brand new day.