A few weeks ago in Memphis, I had one of those experiences that you only see in the movies. I was at the Folk Alliance International Conference http://www.folkalliance.org/ being held at the Marriott Hotel.
For those of you who don’t know, the top three floors, 17, 18 and 19 turn into night club alley. Every single room has music being performed in it by groups as varied as music itself; with and without sound systems.
It is joyous, cacophonus and just plain fun. The hallways are clogged with musicians and music afficianados of every age, size, culture and creed. It’s what the UN should really be like.
In any event, the hotel was sold out and everytime an elevator door opened, it was like the clowns getting out of the car at the circus. You could not believe how very many people were in one elevator car.
You couldn’t believe it until it was empty and you and 15 of your soon to be closest friends jam into that little space. But I digress…imagine that.
So I jam myself into this elevator and away we go. I was going to the 19th floor to see a band that I had heard was wonderful.
We were all on the express elevator that went directly to the music floors and as we came to 17, the elevator stopped and then…nothing.
We stood there, thirteen of us, and waited. Nothing happened. The doors didn’t open and the elevator wouldn’t move.
And then it began to get really warm, as all thirteen of us were standing up, jammed together and there was no ventilation. Did I mention the pregnant woman? Or the amazon who was wearing her guitar on her back and would not even consider taking it off?
Oh yeah, now the fun started.
We called down and they suggested we try what we ‘d already tried ten times. So we tried it again with the same frustrating results.
Soon everyone is on their cel phones and we’re talking to our loved ones or the hotel front desk who promised that someone was on the way up.
I texted my wife and told her I was now fifteen minutes into being trapped in a crowded elevator. I ended up texting her every fifteen minutes for an hour and fifteen minutes.
I began thinking of every funny thing that I could in an effort to keep everyone laughing and calm. I dreaded the ignominious ending of my life as being trampled to death by panicking folkies in an elevator in Memphis. I figured if I kept them laughing things would be fine. I even read to them from my favorite political comedian, Will Durst http://www.willdurst.com/ Check it out if you can.
And that’s what I did while we talked on the phone, got the door cracked, yelled to the hotel employees that we were suffocating in the heat, had them try to find a fan to put against the door we had forced ajar by an inch or two, and finally as we talked to the fire department who popped a hole in the ceiling for us to escape if need be.
Just as I was trying to imagine how we were going to hoist a two hundred and fifty pound pregnant woman through an opening the size of a large pizza, the doors miraculously opened and as suddenly as we were trapped, we were free.
Almost ninety minutes in there and me in my favorite cashmere sweater which now smelled like a meat packing plant.
Ah the exotic life of a living folkie. Eat your hearts out kids.