Let’s start with setting.
It was December, 1981. I was living in the Haunted House on Pruett.
The Tex Lounge—not to be confused with the Austex Lounge, on South Congress—was a sleazy beer joint on 4th Street, just west of Congress. The photo below is the best I could find—the bar's entrance was just to the right of the awning on the far right side.
My connection to the Gutter Brothers was through Peter Nye, the band’s bass player, who was also a bartender at the Deep Eddy, and also a neighbor at the 700 Club. One Sunday night we were hanging around the Eddy watching TV and when the bar closed, barmaid KB sent us on home. We walked up the hill to the 700 Club, and as we crossed 7th Street three or so cop cars screeched up and swarmed around us. Not city cops—UT cops. They got out of their cars and one of them grabbed me by the arm.
“There’s been reports of prowlers around the married student housing,” one of the cops said. “You don’t match the description,” he said to Peter. “But YOU do,” he said to me.
“Oh,” Peter said. “Well, I’ll see you later.”
He crossed the street and went up the steps and into his apartment. Ha. I wasn’t too worried—it was like a big joke. I had an ironclad alibi—down at the bar all evening being a ne'er do well. I got to sit in the cop car until someone came by and looked me over and said I wasn’t the prowler and then they cut me loose and I went on up to my apartment. Peter later bought me a beer and apologized for bailing.
The Gutter Brothers’ biggest song was a punk number called “Killer Waitresses.” It was sort of inappropriate in 1980, and certainly inappropriate in 2021.
They got big tits
They get big tips
They also had a great t-shirt, which you can see me wearing here.
I guess that was inappropriate, too. But amusing!
So, I don’t know, we were all at the Deep Eddy one evening, and I was ranting about something. Probably complaining that someone (my professors?) didn’t recognize my greatness or whatever.
“Well, you’re a great American,” Peter said.
“Yes!” I yelled. “I am a great American!”
And so it was on. The Gutters had a gig coming up at the Tex Lounge, and Peter set it up as a tribute to me.
The night itself was fun.
Many people came—I didn’t do a count, so I don’t know exactly how many. Mostly people I knew, but also people who came in off the street because it was Saturday night in a sleazy bar in Austin. Much beer was drunk. At one point the band invited me to read a poem—and this was my first public performance.
I kind of sucked. I’m the weird kind of introvert that wants people to pay attention to them, until people are paying attention to them, and then they get anxious. (Also I mentioned much beer, right?). I started to read a poem. I’d never used a microphone. People had trouble hearing me. Peter Nye came over an adjusted the mic a couple of times. Maybe it was better. I continued reading—a punk poem I’d written a couple of years before in Minneapolis after hearing the Sex Pistols record for the first time.
My mommy was a sterno bum
My daddy was a whore
Granddad was a newsboy to the age of 84
(what a slimy bastard he was)
I’m never ever gonna go very far
I’m never ever gonna drive a nice car
Every day is just the same
I’ve never even been to a baseball game!
And I’m so pissed.
But! Despite the poetry, it was a great night! A big sporting evening, as they say. And when the show was over, I was grabbed by some characters and we drove down to the coast to watch the sun rise.
Youth is exhausting.
“That Demon Life has got Austin in its sway, or at least this novel's motley crew of characters. A horny judge, a defense attorney with an attitude, an entourage of petty criminals, a dating service maven, a self made internet porn star and a boy toy or two—they're all slouching toward Sixth Street and beyond. This is a fast-paced, hold-on-to-your-bar stool satire, a hilarious, stumbling romp through law and disorder, urban ennui and its after-hour antidotes, Texas-sized lust and doom.”
—Alison Moore, author of The Middle of Elsewhere and Synonym for Love.
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