I Used To Romp In AUstin
In the 1990's, I moved to Austin, TX, and called it home for six years. I was a dopey, deeply culture-shocked, twenty-something, couldn't be fresher off the boat, a mess of naïveté, pathetically tangled, knotted with preconceptions and pride. Jaysus... I have great sympathy for people dealing with me back then. This is why I regard Austinites as people with great patience.
In Austin, I
lived in backpacker hostel for nine-months, a corner bed in a musky
male-only dorm room, communal showers, with kitchen and refrigerator
access denied after 8pm. Spent a few months living on a friend's
couch, then moved into a small house with three other people, three
dogs, and three cats. My bedroom was the garage. I lived there for
several years. I worked in a library. I worked as a laborer. I
entered the country with a student visa, and for six years maintained
legal resident status as a full-time student at a two year college. I
amassed six years worth of credit hours, no degree, but then again,
TS Eliot, F.Scott Fitz, Kerouac and a bunch of others went to school
and never got a degree (sans MFA programs, eh?).
Featured in SXSW spoken-word showcase. I bought a minivan, named it
Johnny AppleSpeed, removed the rear seats and put a mattress in it.
That fucker got to 200,000 miles before it died. At 26, I was struck
by a debilitating illness, taken to the hospital writhing in pain,
screeching, given morphine, continued writhing and screeching, given
more morphine to passed-out dosage, woke up in an MRI machine that
was like a bright coffin, then sent to an isolation room for two
nights where nurses and doctors pricked and prodded endlessly with
all tests coming back negative. It was the first time I felt my own
mortality. I still suffer attacks, albeit to a lesser degree, to this
very day. Character building stuff, thanks to Austin.
Below, a poem about The Drag, a section of Guadalupe Ave along the western fringe of the University of Texas. The Drag has history of a hang-out for students and those of liberal attitude, a forgiving respite in the middle of conservative Texas for the odd birds to flock. In the 1960's, Janis Joplin probably wailed here on her way to the original Threadgill's on Lamar Ave. It should be noted that from the 1950's through the mid-1990's, the majority of undergrads at the university pursued a liberal arts degree. Today, the majority are business majors.