In truth I haven't been as productive as I should have been. But some work has been done--and of course what is to come!
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.
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 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. Behind the pulled-over car were 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. The next day the Statesman said that there had been a stabbing at one of the bars way out on East Riverside, by Montopolis, and that the shot-up car matched the description of the car the fled the stabbing scene. (Though the car guys weren’t the stabbers, it turned out—they just had some weed in their car and were worried about getting busted).
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.
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 was house-sitting in a beautiful compound on Long Island Sound just up the coast from New Haven. House-sitting and working on a novel. The typewriter belonged to the house. Note beer can. Note backstage passes from the Clash and Squeeze. Note notebooks, folders, paper. Note photo of cast members from All My Children, a show I loved and found inspiring.