So, spring of 1980. I was living on Parker Lane, which I’ve written about earlier.
It was late April, and it was late at night (or early in the morning, depending on how you tell time), and I was doing some schoolwork. Don’t remember what, exactly. That spring I was taking the basic journalism class, a class in Italian Baroque Art, a class in French Film, and a class about the Spanish Civil War. I don’t remember finals in any of the classes—I mostly had to write essays. So I was up late, reading—probably something for the Spanish Civil War class, which had a pretty heavy reading load. And I heard—sirens.
The sirens sounded close.
I got up and looked out the window.
A sedan stopped right below my window. A cop car right behind it. Another cop car went around and stopped in front of the sedan, and a cop got out. Two cops got out of the car behind the sedan.
As the first cop approached the sedan—the sedan tried to pull away!
Bang! Bang! The cop was shooting his pistol into the car!
BOOM! Bang! The cops behind were shooting with shotgun and pistol!
The sedan lurched up onto the curb.
I’m standing there in the window like an idiot. My first thought—they’re gonna shoot me! Like, just see me move up here in the window and reflexively shoot me.
I sort of stepped back and peered around the corner of the window.
The three cops went up to the sedan and pulled out the occupants and they beat those guys. Just stomped them.
I went downstairs and out the door to get a closer look. People from the other units were out, too. There was quite a crowd.
More cop cars arrived. An ambulance. Cops tore the car apart—pulled out the seats and tossed everything on the street. Looking for drugs? A weapon? The ambulance took one of the car occupants away. Cop cars took the others away. A tow truck showed up and towed the shot-up car away.
My roommate, TWS, had been across the street at Mother Earth. When the bar closed, he came home and I tried to excitedly tell him what had happened. TWS was unimpressed.
“Lowell, we were witnesses to a murder back in January. Cops shooting a guy is nothing.”
Maybe. Sort of maybe.
When I read the article top left, I called Jim Berry at the American-Statesman to offer my eye-witness account. He didn’t return my call.
Subsequent newspaper stories, below, say the cops got in trouble for shooting up the car. Good.
I wasn’t able to find any resolution on the incident. Nothing more on the guy who got shot, nothing more on the cops.
Probably nothing more happened, and, like most things, the incident was mostly forgotten....
Just about forty years ago, as I write this—the early hours of January 1, 1980—I was witness to the murder of Anthony Noble Sparks.
A cop told me it was the first murder of the decade in the state of Texas.
It was a pretty traumatic event for me—and worse of course for poor Sparks, and for his family, wherever they are.
I’ve written about it (sort of) fictionally twice—in the story “It May Be a Day, it May Be Forever,” (my first published story, found in the collection The Messes We Make of Our Lives), and in the novel Professed. I’ve never written about it factually, in a historical/personal context, though maybe I will at some point.
A few years ago I was in San Antonio and found myself a few blocks from the murder scene. I went looking for the New York Pub. I found the address, but the building was totally different—remodeled beyond recognition or just replaced. It was vacant. Where's Spark's ghost?
Does anyone but me think about Sparks forty years on?
This is where I moved after Redneck Village—the Tivoli apartments just off Riverside. My roommate was the infamous/legendary TWS and we had many adventures. My bedroom was in the center unit shown, and my window was that double one not quite over the front door.
The photo below is more or less the view from my window—that large flat surface is the roof of a strip mall and was, in 1980, the roof of Mother Earth, after it relocated to East Riverside. In the winter and spring of 1980 “My Sharona” was a big hit and all the cover bands at ME played it—ALL the bands! Every evening when I was trying to study the opening quickly-tedious bomps of “My Sharona” would come thumping up across the street and through my window…
But—I loved Mother Earth. I’d go over for happy hour two or three times a week. It was cool and dark, and there were a bunch of middle-aged drunk regulars, and I enjoyed hearing their stories. Blind Bobby Doyle played piano on many nights—he was really good. Sometimes I’d stay on into the evening, sometimes I’d go home to do classwork, and on other nights I’d head on out to Antone’s or the Armadillo or wherever. Mother Earth was great.
And—there was another bar in the strip mall, TA Station, and a Conan’s Pizza, and a Safeway. Up the street was the Back Room and Paula’s Playpen. So there was plenty of food and beer and fun.
One night TWS and I were out and about, one our way to Spelman’s, and some cops pulled us over on West 6th, just past Lamar. TWS was driving. The cops made him walk the line, touch his nose, etc. The cops said that while TWS had obviously been drinking, he wasn’t drunk drunk. But he needed to go home—and so we drove back to our place, with the cops following. And then, of course, we walked across the street to Mother Earth. Austin!
There was some crime in our neighborhood, too. Someone (?) left the patio door open one night and we woke to find that TWS’s coin jar had been stolen, along with a few dollars I’d stupidly left sitting out. And then I got the battery stolen out of my pickup—not once but three fucking times, and the third time the thieves also cut the fucking battery cable, which was a pain to replace. And then someone(s) stole the license plates off my truck!
Oh—that window in the top photo. There was a kid named KH who used to come crash on our couch, and I got tired of him hanging around. One morning after Mother Earth closed he was out there knocking on the door—and so I urinated out the window on his head. Ha!
Also that window—one night in late April or so I was studying and heard police sirens, and then saw flashing lights. I looked out my window. A car was pulled over right in front of my place. There were also two cop cars with three cops. As one cop approached the car, it tried to get away. Bang! Bang! BOOM! The cops opened fire on the car—two pistols and a shotgun. Whoa! Then the cops pulled the people out of the car and beat the shit out of them. I went outside to watch, along with most of my neighbors.
East Riverside pros: easy access to beer and fast food, a window to pee out of.
East Riverside cons: crime, KH, police shooting people, “My Sharona.”
Verdict: my least favorite Austin residence.