That the mantra “Keep Austin Weird” transitioned from the battle cry of the Texas college town’s fringe elements to the official slogan of the Austin Independent Business Alliance seems a fitting coda to the glory days celebrated in Richard Linklater’s Slacker, as well as an explicit rebuttal of the mantra itself. Perhaps compared to the rest of Texas, Austin is pretty “weird” (I wouldn’t know—I’ve never set foot in the state), but for a person fresh off a month-long stretch of debauchery in New Orleans—a city that maintains its substantial weirdness effortlessly—Austin is about as straight-laced as anywhere else in the Lonestar State.
Mike Abu recently sent me this account of the defining moment during his short stop in Austin, which includes the reasons why he’ll never be caught in that town again:
“If I get used to being treated like an adult, shit could get dangerous.”
I was telling a bartender at the R Bar in New Orleans that getting used to the city’s wonderfully lackadaisical liquor laws was an incredibly bad thing for a person like me.
I wasn’t lying. In New Orleans, I could skate down a dilapidated street with a half-finished bottle of cabernet, walk into some watering hole with said bottle of wine, finish it while discussing Wittgenstein with some scumbag, buy a whiskey on the rocks, potentially bothering to put it in a to-go cup before heading back out on the sidewalk in search of another opportunity to crash my skateboard.
I drove to Austin with some Australian kid who I met on Craigslist rideshare (yo, what up my man Simon), and found myself alone in front of some bar hosting a Japanther show. I was more than a little lonely at that moment, and I started text messaging my ex-girlfriend. We were at a stage somewhere between full and zero communication, and I kept writing and deleting words in a desperate attempt at finding something to say that didn’t expose how ridiculous I felt. I kept doing that for about ten minutes, typing and erasing, before being rudely interrupted.
“Hey guy, what are you doing with that beer out here?”
Two Austin city police officers stood over me. Apparently I had wandered outside of the gates with my beer in hand.
Apparently this was a Big Deal.
As the police shined their flashlights into my eyes, my mind went blank save for the line my former band mate Brian and I had practiced while drinking tallboys in an alley way back in Salt Lake. Without hesitation, I told the cops the unequivocal truth:
“I’m not gonna lie to you Officers—this isn’t my beer. Some guy just handed it to me and ran off that way.”
The cops were less than impressed. I probably fucked up by not saying the guy who had handed it to me was Mexican. They started going on about how Austin laws state that any person holding or in close proximity to a beer is held responsible for it, thus making me the guardian of said alcoholic beverage (Lonestar) and therefore a “law-breaker.”
“We were gonna let you go, but you tried to pull a fast one on us,” said young cop, who probably wasn’t old enough to buy beer to begin with, fresh from a police academy that clearly wasn’t as awesome as the movies would have you believe. “Now you’re in trouble.”
“Okay, it’s my beer,” I said. “I was just joking. I just got back from New Orleans and must have gotten use to standing outside with a beer, plus I was just trying to text message my ex-girlfriend.” I showed Old Cop my phone. Young Cop started rattling off how much crime happened in the neighborhood, how some girl had gotten raped on those steps over there, how hard it was keeping the citizens of Austin in line while all they wanted to do was hang out.
“You wanna talk crime?” I said as I pointed across the street towards a gas station where I had bought a tallboy earlier. “Three dollars for a tallboy is straight robbery!”
The cops were still unimpressed.
“Listen, you seem like a nice kid,” Old Cop said as he shoved a ticket in my face for me to sign, “we’re gonna cut you a break—we’ll make this ticket for Austin only so you don’t have to worry about any warrants in other parts of Texas.”
Suddenly I felt less oppressed.
“Wait a minute, you’re telling me that if I sign this ticket and never pay the fine that I’ll be rewarded by never having to come back here again?”
I said this honestly.
“Well, not exactly, I mean, you’ll still have to—”
“—that’s what you mean, right?”
“Well, not exactly, um, you can still come down and explain yourself in court—”
“I’ll take it!” I said as I signed the ticket. I had already decided that there was absolutely no reason for me to ever go to Texas again, and this glorious ticket gave me a practical reason to ensure I kept my promise to myself. I headed back into the bar, bought a t-shirt from the Japanther merch booth that said “Fuck the Cops,” jumped on stage and filmed the band while a bunch of cute girls danced alongside me. Afterwards I said what up to Japanther and had them sign my open container ticket.