I hit the pavement last night to feel Austin’s heartbeat. Started in South Congress, before all the eateries stacked their chairs upside down on their tables, right around the hour when the Continental Club opened its doors.
A homeless man stepped out of TG & R DISCOUNT FOOD MART and got on his bike, black acoustic guitar strapped around his torso, brown bag in hand.
“They need to get a new tip jar!”
I didn’t know what he was talking about, so I just laughed and looked at my feet moving forward.
The homeless man navigated some treacherous schisms in the sidewalk and adjusted his guitar strap so it sat just right.
“You got a joke?”
“Ah man, I’ve heard so many jokes but I don’t remember any.”
“My brain doesn’t remember jokes. My grandfather tells me so many, but I couldn’t tell you even one.”
“I knew it was going to be like that with you.”
I shrugged my shoulders.
“Sorry, man. If I think of one, I’ll keep it in mind for next time.”
“You do that. Keep it up top, too, ’cause I’ll be seeing you again. You see, I go to this bar where I tell a joke to one table, and that table tells me a joke, and I tell that joke to another table, and it keeps going like that aaaall night long.”
“That sounds fun.”
“It’s a hoot.”
“Have a good night.”
“I’ll try, ’cause we both know this world’s going to shit.”
All I could do was laugh loud enough for him to hear, already pedaling in the distance.
My feet were on Congress Ave, but my brain was everywhere. I didn’t put my hands in my pockets. I wanted to swing my arms like a gorilla. I wanted to be every stage of my evolution.
I tried to think of a joke for next time. I thought hard and even mussed my hair from thinking so hard. Then I reworked a joke I read on reddit.
A 90-year-old man is having his 90th birthday at a bar, and all these 20-year-old girls are standing around him, doting on him.
Meanwhile, at the bar counter, this 23-year-old guy is drinking with his most trusted wingman, who says,
“My new life goal is to be surrounded by smiling, excited 20-something females when I’m 90 fucking years old. This man is my new hero.”
And the 23-year-old guy says,
“That’s my goal right now, and I’m 23.”
And his wingman says,
“Don’t worry man, only 67 more years to go…”
I didn’t know if this was funny. I think I thought it was funny. I laughed smally.
I looked around and saw a middle-aged man with a gray goatee talking to this young bird with a black shawl wrapped around her body. He leaned against some restaurant window. She stood in front of him, arched in high-heels. When I passed, I could smell her scent. Cloying.
On the South 1st St bridge, I looked at Sharpie graffiti.
I laughed and said hello to this long-haired girl and this butch girl walking toward me talking about how Austin and Madison are very similar.
I moved towards the railing when a pedicab driver thumbed his bell and these 2 girls in the carriage looked at me through their eyeglasses. I nodded and said hello in a friendly way and looked at them back through my eyeglasses. I don’t think they said anything.
I stopped on the middle of the bridge and let my spit crease the Colorado River. It was a long drop, but I wouldn’t hesitate to jump if I were in my orange swimming trunks.
I’m brave from this height.
I looked at downtown and felt a refreshing breeze. Such a beautiful Austin night. I decided to walk a little more for kicks. I even considered walking all the way to UT.
On South 1st and 3rd St, a horde of people invaded my private space on the sidewalk. I kept my shoulders to myself.
A bum walked towards us with a serious head wound on his bald pate. Blood oozed and coagulated like a horror show.
Someone on their cell looked at him and gasped and said,
“You want me to call 9-1-1?”
The bum said,
Everyone watched him lope across the street and then got back to their night of fun.
My nose picked up so much redolence. I didn’t like any of these smells. If I had the choice, I’d turn off my nose.
Press play to begin today’s tape show
On 5th St I walked east towards the bass and the movement of some generic club.
A parade of girls in skank-wear walked out of this Super Mario Bros. door with an 800 lb bouncer regulating. They fingered their iPhones and spoke in shrilly voices and waited for the cobalt pedestrian to set their booties free to the slightly different club across the street.
I walked 1 block north to 6th St and collided with a drunk guy who couldn’t walk in a straight line. I didn’t turn around. I didn’t care if my shoulder hurt.
6th St was hopping. Austin night life crawls in all directions. Music spilled onto the street. If I lived around here, this music would be a negative externality.
I walked south on Congress Ave and saw the same bum with a nasty gash on his bald head. He was perched on the newspaper dispensers. He looked like a wily character in ALICE AND WONDERLAND with a stub glowing ember-orange in between his parched lips. He gathered a puddle of cancer in his lungs and tossed the stub onto the sidewalk. I was engaged in the sparks. No one seemed to notice him. His head wound was still oozing and coagulating, but no one seemed to care.
A girl in skank-wear wiggled her booty and pulled her dress down into decency. She saw me and ran her chunky bare shoulder into mine. I didn’t turn around. I didn’t care if my shoulder hurt.
One guy lagging behind a group of guys slowed down and stared at me. He used his tongue to wet his lips.
People. People. People. These are the people who surround me. Sometimes I have to remind myself these are the people who consume. These people are the economy.
On Congress Ave bridge a guy on a boy’s bike rolled passed me, one foot on the pedal the other propelling him forward against the sidewalk, as if he were on a skateboard. He was typing some shit into his cell phone and quietly smiling to himself.
I stopped on the middle of the bridge and faced the South 1st St bridge. I could see a slightly older version of me standing across the Colorado River and spitting to see how far the jump would be. I let my spit fall. It took a lot longer to crease the river.
I wouldn’t jump from this height.
A couple walked ahead of me, somewhat slower. Eventually I passed them. It was unavoidable. I passed on the side of the girl. She made a sound when I passed, something like, “Whew.”
My gait was strong and steady after 6 miles, my arms were swinging very much like a gorilla’s. I was every stage of my evolution.
South Congress was shutting down. Servers were stacking chairs upside down on their tables. People were crammed inside the Continental Club, bobbing heads to strummy music. The brick oven fire was being snuffed at SOUTHSIDE FLYING PIZZA. I passed many storefronts, but only one caught my attention. It had a vintage typewriter on display with a paper curled inside.
On the paper there were words printed from a more futuristic laser printer, not typed by this old typewriter, but maybe some people would think this old typewriter had the ability to print gigantic bold italicized letters.
::Keep it locked on TOE::