Or at least it used to.
What follows is an essay I wrote over 20 years ago. I’m publishing it because I’ve been grieving it; thought it was lost forever but it was merely in a huge stack of paper with typing all over it.
It features my dear friend Jeff, the most alive and joy-filled person on earth, who died of a flu long before COVID. As I have said, if I went to his funeral 1000 times I would never believe he could be dead. I still refuse.
A recent New Yorker article by Lawrence Wright was a piece about Austin then and now, so you know my fair city isn’t like my essay any more.
Austin Does Austin
Or so said the marquee of a downtown blues club at the time. In this capital city we do Austin all the time in all kinds of places, wearing our town like the Texas-shaped belt buckle you can’t help seeing under the Texas-sized beer bellies of toothpick-chomping good old boys in every ice house from Nacogdoches to El Paso. This is about one night when even I did Austin.
Like many of my city-mates, I started out at happy hour with friends, using up ‘ritas and chips on a shaded patio where there was still enough heat to make one of my tablemates comment, We should have ordered frozen.
We did, another guy told him. Oh.
It was that hot. Jeff had the idea that once we had a suitable buzz on we ought to head up to the bike-in movie at Waterloo Cycles. “Slacker” is playing, Jeff said.
The idea seemed postmodern enough: get useless drunk and go watch an indie film about useless lives in the Austin we all used to inhabit and still miss dreadfully. The one before ozone action days and the birth of The Warehouse District. Back then it was real warehouse. Now it’s all swank bars and sushi restaurants with valet parking.
We got up to Waterloo with time enough for Mexican Martinis at Trudy’s, split three ways. We were celebrating Andy’s new downtown job, a side benefit from a round of Dell layoffs. We celebrated by having a contest to see who could flick an olive off the patio railing the farthest. Jeff won every time.
“Slacker” was supposed to start at eight, but we knew better than that. No event, especially an al fresco event, starts on time in Austin when…