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....
(It was Heathercrest then, called Sixth Street West now).
I lived there from January 1985 to June 1988. My apartment was small and cramped and there were roaches (this seems to be a theme in my early Austin residences). I sadly don’t have any antique photos, so all I have are these more or less recent shots from Google Streets.
Those big hills at either end of the parking lot were kind of cool. During ice storms—and especially during the big snow of January 1985—cars were wiping out all over the place! (That snow was magical—I went for a wonderful walk past all the stalled or wrecked cars down to the Deep Eddy).
My apartment was on the west side, looking down into a tree-filled ravine. The property line was about two feet from my door—the ravine belonged to the University of Texas, part of some married student housing that was further down the hill.
The ravine—a problem. The people on the second floor of the unit next to me were too lazy to take their trash to the dumpster, so they just tossed bags of trash out their window. There were bags of trash dangling from tree branches and busted on the ground spewing all sorts of nasty shit and attracting rats and raccoons and various vermin.
One night I was leaving with a friend to go see the True Believers and just as we went out the door a bag of trash shot out the upstairs window and tumbled down through the branches to the ground.
“Why are they doing that?” DY asked.
“Assholes don’t need a reason,” I said. One of the few philosophical truisms I’ve ever uttered.
I complained about the trash to the apartment manager, who said the trash was on UT property, so the trash was UT’s problem. I called UT, and whoever I talked to told me that the trash was coming from Heathercrest, so it was Heathercrest’s problem.
The trash tossers eventually moved out and were replaced by a couple of nice young women, Zoe and Caroline (?? I think). One time we were up all night being bad and I was complaining about the trash, and Zoe said—“Let’s go pick it up!” And so we went out at about 430 in the morning and filled five or six bags of trash and took it to the dumpster.
Good citizens, we.
Heathercrest was crime-ridden.
Every now and then the Statesman would run a crime statistics story, and Heathercrest was always this red dot of violence in the middle of a safe part of town.
Domino’s stopped delivering pizzas there because the drivers got robbed so often!
And I got robbed one night. One evening I came back from the laundry room and literally bumped into some asshole who was leaving the apartment with my jambox.
“Hey!” I said.
“Fuck you,” the burglar said. He took off running.
I didn’t catch him. I called the cops. They came and looked around my apartment. “Wow,” one cop said. “They ransacked the place!”
“No,” I said. “It’s pretty much always like this.”
More crime, and worse: I got jumped and sucker-punched by some thug in the parking lot. Again—coming back from that fucking laundry room. Just some drunk thug. Damn. That hurt—cracked my jaw. I stumbled back to my apartment and got my deer rifle and sat pointing it at the door, but the thug never came after me. I never saw him again—not that I got a good look at him before he drilled me.
That was at the end of April 1988. I moved out in June. Good riddance.
Heathercrest Pros: Interesting traffic during snowstorms.
Hearthercrest Cons: Thugs, trash, robbers, roaches, no pizza delivery.
Verdict: Stay away.
I suppose you've wondered how I got those handsome scars on my nose....
Well. One night I was at the Deep Eddy drinking beer with MDC, who was down visiting from Alaska, talking mostly about fly fishing. After a while we left the bar to go get something to eat, and crossing the street to where MDC was parked, I was trying to demonstrate a roll-cast pickup—demonstrating with an imaginary fly rod—when I TRIPPED OVER MY STUPID FUCKING UNTIED SHOELACE!
Bang! I weighed about 220 pounds then, and all 220 pounds came crashing down on my poor nose. BOOM! My hands didn’t catch my fall, of course—they were in position to hold an imaginary fly rod. BANG!!!
Did I get knocked out? Maybe. I don’t know. Probably. I guess MDC rolled me over, because I do remember looking up at him, and he seemed concerned.
MDC took me to the Brackenridge ER. There were some cops there, and I heard one of them ask MDC, “So, why’d you beat up your buddy?”
MDC said, “Officer, it was the damnedest thing I ever saw….”
Inside the exam room, the doctor asked, “Is your nose broken?”
Before I could answer he grabbed it and twisted--
“It is now!” I said.
But it wasn’t. He gave me six stitches and sent me home—without pain meds! No pain meds for head injuries, a nurse explained. That's pretty rude. I'm still mad about that. I was fucking hurting.
MDC dropped me off—I was living in the basement of the Deep Eddy in those days. Don’t know what time it was—it was still dark. I went into my apartment and got my camera and took a photo of the blood I lost. Nice!
Somewhere in some box there is a photo of me taken the next day—my face is all swollen and I’m a glorious fucking mess! It’s a great picture. If I ever find it, I’ll scan it in and post it as an update….
But, anyway, that’s the story of the scars on my nose. I’m quite pleased with them, though I’m still regretful and angry about the lack of pain meds at the time. Pain is no fun, even in memory.
But...you know what? You can assuage my pain (past and present, physical and emotional) by buying a book, or by leaving comments on Amazon or Goodreads. Why not start with Professed....?
"Professed is a novel filled with the struggles and rivalries and oddities and many weirdnesses American higher education--favor-dodging, ex-girlfriend avoiding, grade-dreading, plagiarist-busting, dissertation-reading, office-mate annoying, litter-box spilling, book-stealing, unprofessional forbidden lusting, unprofessional forbidden lusting-fulfilling, lost cat-chasing, wrist-breaking, inopportune body-betraying, boring boyfriend-dumping planning, dead professor missing, committee-meeting texting, student misfiling, classroom failing, hidden Confederate-history uncovering, book-writing, student advising, professional dysphoria-feeling, drunk-tank loitering, book discussion-leading, unwise nasal behaving, paper researching, non-academic schooling, sink fouling, New Years' kissing, celebratory pool-playing, stranger-disemboweling, paper-writing attempting, paper-writing failing, drinking-game playing, incomplete-taking...yet, as the characters fight to fit into a rapidly-changing institution, medicating themselves as best they can with sex, drugs, and literature, learning actually happens----Somehow."
The 700 Club.
I lived there 1980-1981. My apartment was small and cramped, and there were roaches. My apartment was on the other side of this recent Google Streets photo, on what we called The Elite Inner Circle (it wasn’t a circle, more like an ∟), on the second floor, looking out into the upper branches of a big live oak.
I chose the 700 Club because of its location—on East Riverside I’d had easy access to beer and fast food, and the 700 Club was close to beer--The Deep Eddy Cabaret, which became a big part of my life for many years. I went out and saw bands and did youth things several nights a week--to Club Foot, Raul's, Duke's, the Alamo Lounge, the last days of the Armadillo--but the Eddy was where I hung out.
My neighbors were a mixture of old people and students. There was a WWII ex-POW who spent much of his time loud and drunk. There was a woman who spent much of her time typing—you could hear her out in the courtyard under the big oak, and I liked to think she was writing a novel, my friends thought she was “just practicing,” while in reality typing was probably her job. There were a couple of Scientologist bikers. Just before I moved out there was a pleasant man and woman, both married but not to each other, who kept an apartment for afternoon trysts.
For a while there was a massive ex-convict living in the apartment below me who one night got mad and started pounding on his ceiling—my floor—with a broom handle. I was sitting with a couple of friends trying to watch the baseball playoffs. After a while we called the cops, and a pair of cops talked to the convict, and then came up to talk to us. “He’s not really rational,” one of the cops said. “If he comes to your door, don’t let him in.”
Good advice there, chief.
(The convict later disappeared—a parole violation, I think.)
The big event that happened that year was the Memorial Day Flood.
We had a barbecue that Sunday afternoon, as we often did, with chicken and ribs and beer and what-all, and the day was cloudy and humid and no one expected it to rain—the newspaper forecast said there was only a slight chance of rain.
But about the time the food was ready it did rain, not hard but enough sprinkles to force us to move from the courtyard up to my apartment. And after we ate, several of us walked down the hill to the Eddy.
The great KB was tending bar that night and we drank beer and played pinball and some of us watched the Indy 500 and then it began to storm—really storm. We stood in the doorway and watched the lightning show for a long time and drank more beer and played more pinball until it was closing time and KB forced us out into the rain and we walked up the hill in the storm. Notorious TWS came over to my place and we ate barbecue and watched Bridge on the River Kwai until TWS got sleepy and headed back to his house. None of us had any idea what was taking place elsewhere in the city….
I moved out a couple of days later. My lease was up and I went off to spend a few weeks with my grandparents. When I came back in August I moved into the building next door and into another story….
700 Club pros: Close to the Eddy.
700 Club cons: Roaches, tiny, cramped.
700 Club verdict: It was okay.
The wonderful Kathryn Milan sent me these photos of a couple of my books on display at the Austin Central Library. Thanks, Kathryn! And thanks Austin Central Library!
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.
This is where Redneck Village once stood—Redneck Village, I named it, a collection of a half-dozen or so single-wide trailers fanned out along a circular driveway, on McCall Lane just off 183 South.
I lived here 1978, 1979, just after I moved to Austin. It wasn’t much, but I didn’t want much at the time! I was interested in having adventures, and Redneck Village was an adventure. I kind of liked it.
Austin Speed-o-Rama was down the road, and I got to enjoy going to the stock car races on Friday evenings before heading downtown to do young people things.
Bergstrom Air force Base was just across the road and those RF-4Cs were noisy. Woke me up a lot of mornings. One time I called the base and told them to turn down the noise! But they didn’t….
The landlord’s daughter kept a pack of angry little black dogs that yap-yap-yapped night and day. They were part Yorkie, maybe, but they looked like atomic mutants, so I called then the Atomic Mutant Dogs.
The landlord himself was an old drunk redneck with what appeared to be a serious case of psoriasis. He once asked me how old I thought he was. Like, he looked freaking 90! He looked like he was dead! I said, “Oh, fifty-five or so.” He laughed and laughed—said he was 57.
If you go straight through those trees in the photo—straight into the past, as well—you could see the screen for the Rebel Drive-In, the famous porno outdoor theater. I couldn’t see the screen myself—there was a trailer in the way—but if I went outside and walked around the other trailer, I could see giant phalli marching across the horizon. The landlord’s grandson, Little Kevin, was in middle school, and he set up folding chairs on the roof of one of the trailers and charged his classmates to climb up there and watch porn through binoculars….
The AC didn’t work very well and it was hot and those jets were noisy and the landlord thought I was a radical troublemaker and the Atomic Mutant Dogs were yapping nonstop and those kids on the roof were creepy and when I moved out I didn’t get my damage deposit back and it’s all gone now!
When people talk about the lost bars of Austin, the places that usually come up are Liberty Lunch and the Armadillo World Headquarters, and both those places are full in my memory of fine interesting people and stories. But there are other interesting lost places, too—does anyone remember the Alamo Lounge? The Malamute Lounge? Paula’s Playpen? TA Station?
Does anyone remember the sleazy rumdum bars on the 200 block of Congress?
Oh, the sleazy rumdum bars! They would open at 7am, which was perfect for a young ne’er-do-well heading home after a long night of misadventure. They were unheated in the winter and barely air-conditioned in the summer. They were full of story-telling people down on their luck with no place else to drink.
A few things that happened there:
As always, I relate these stories for your edification, not your emulation….
(Photo from the Austin History Center).
I am very sorry to hear of the death this week of Austin newspaper columnist John Kelso. As his former colleague Michael Corcoran said, “He loved his job and so he was better at it than he had to be.”
Kelso was the model for the character Wes Leonard in my story “Bad Guts” and my novel That Demon Life. When he interviewed me for the column below, he said that he approved. He even said That Demon Life was funny--as nice a thing as has ever been said.
Writer's Book Came Together Between Cab Fares
By John Kelso
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Lowell Mick White may be the only author to ever write a 182-page novel while driving a cab.
OK, so he wasn't really driving the cab around Austin while he was writing "That Demon Life", a book full of colorful, sketchy and disreputable characters you probably wouldn't want running your Brownie scout meeting. While writing, he was parked between fares.
"I sat there with my clipboard and a cheap notebook I got at H-E-B, and I'd write," said White, who, from 1998 to 2002, spent time driving around Austin in a Yellow Cab putting his book together. "I'd find a place to park and I'd write 'til I got a call and I'd pick a passenger up. Yeah, I did it old-school with a pen."
Macs are for sissies.
This guy is no slouch with the words. He was the recipient of a Dobie Paisano Fellowship, which includes a six-month residency at J. Frank Dobie's former Hill Country Ranch and a payment of $1,200 to write out in the country.
But most of the book was composed in the cab, on Austin streets. White says you can tell from looking at the structure of the book when the passengers climbed in.
"You might have noticed those little short subchapters. That's where I got passengers in the cabs."
This is one of those deals where life imitates art, or steam imitates steam.
"They sat naked on the mussed bed eating greasy chicken and drinking warm beer, and Richard felt like nothing in his life — nothing, nothing, nothing, ever — tasted better," it says on page 35. "He was just so damn happy."
Then, in real cab life, White remembers the time the drunken wealthy attorney got in the back of his cab and did a strip tease as he was giving her a ride home. He didn't say if he had tinted windows.
"Her friends didn't want her to drive and they put her in the cab, and I was taking her home and she was taking her clothes off," White recalled. "And when I got her home she didn't have her (house) keys, so I was taking her back to the party. I had no place else to take her. But her daughter showed up" and let her in the house.
It's not easy writing a book in a cab. Your cab is your office. White recalls the four slobs who got in the cab and messed everything up.
"I worried a lot of the time that I might lose whatever notebook I was working in, or that it might get damaged," wrote White, who is working on his Ph.D. in English at Texas A&M. "I remember once on Fourth Street some older drunk guys got into my cab, four of them, three in back, one in front, and the guy who sat up front plopped his fat middle-aged butt down on my notebook before I could move it. I totally lost my temper — started cursing, yelling, kicked them all out before I even started the meter."
It's a fun book. There's a little round judge named Cantu, who has the hots for a chick named Giselle, who has a gigantic bird tattoo on her back. There's Paige, who will nail every male that breathes. There's a defense attorney named Linda, who hates her job and thinks all the criminals should be lined up and shot.
White appreciates his characters and loves Linda. He says at a book signing recently when a reader came down on Linda, it made him kind of mad.
"This guy said, 'I didn't like Linda very well; she's not a very moral character.' I said, 'I lived with Linda in the cab for years, she's a very moral character. I like her.' "
Hey, at least she didn't throw up in the back seat of his cab, like some of his real customers.
I can't find a link to the column on the American-Statesman website. The story "Bad Guts" is included in Long Time Ago Good. And of course you need to read That Demon Life.