The graffito reads “DUDE some-one seriously needs to show me what it feels like to get my ASS giggled.” “Bend over” suggests some subsequent respondent, reasonably.
Because the compulsion to illuminate the infinitely tedious minutiae of Central Texan existence is what separates the spinster aunts from the boys, today I inaugurate my latest project, a new photo series I like to call “Public Cans of Austin.”
It began thusly: After getting outside four exquisite courses at the excruciatingly decent Jeffrey’s on West Lynn, Stingray and I sped off into the night. Forty-seven seconds later Donn’s Depot Piano Bar and Lounge hove into view.
“Why not?” I asked.
“Why not?” Stingray agreed.
When liquid refreshment lies on the other end of a proposition, Stingray, it must be noted, is Congeniality itself.
So I crammed the truck into the last parking space, and the stoop of Donn’s Depot—already afflicted with an unnatural crepuscularity—we did proceed to darken.
Donn’s Depot is a capacious, shambling dive reeking of denial, Ben-Gay, and crumbled dreams. Keepin’ it real, I ordered a Budweiser, a habit formed during my 25-year exile in St. Louis, but Stingray kept it local with a Tito’s Handmade Vodka (“handmade” vodka! The American fetishization of an utterly flavorless booze is a constant source of mirth to the cynical spinster aunt/wino. Verily I say unto thee: vodka, like Jesus, is encrusted with baloney).
Smoking in Austin bars, even one like Donn’s Depot which is begrimed with enough nicotine residue to immobilize the lungs of anyone who so much as drives by, is by unpopular decree considered a crime against humanity punishable by 25-to-life. So, bearing our cocktails like chalices, Stingray and I lambada-ed on feather-light feet across the parquet dance floor and made for the deck to fire one up (an Austin bar without a deck is like a day without Fox News reporting on a serial killer against a backdrop of bouncing teen boobies).
On the deck a perfect breeze whipped up from the lake. In the cavalier fashion of spinster aunts who have just been well stuffed with exotic cuisine and New Zealand bubbly, we leaned back with both elbows on the rail watching the SUVS roar hypnotically down 5th Street. Stingray chatted of this. I chatted of that. Some little time later we observed a booze cruise pull up and disgorge into Donn’s Depot a murder of revelers who, sharing but the flimsy bond of some tedious daytime interest, couldn’t spend the evening in one another’s company without being imprisoned on a bus together and fed quantities of alcohol.
The band began an ill-advised cover of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.”
“Hmm,” I ventured.
“Hmm,” Stingray agreed.
A whipping sound above our heads caused us to glance upward. We could naught but perceive an enormous sheet of red, white and blue fabric snapping in the night wind.
What was this thing? A strong sensation of familiarity washed over me. I felt deeply as if I’d seen something very like it, yet very unlike it, before. The enormous Twisty brain eventually formulated the most likely explanation. It was some poor, inept outsider artist’s attempt to create one of those “Kill Iraqis” ribbon magnets one sees on all the Ford F-150s. Only the poor chump had gotten it all wrong. It was too big, too flaccid, too unmagnetized to be of any use to a truck-driving bigot. And so here hung the failed endeavor, a drooping, emasculated, almost nonpartisan anomaly, suspended from a lonely pole at Donn’s Depot, helping to Keep Austin Weird.
During these deep ruminations, the Budweiser had worked its singular magic upon my internal systems, and it became necessary to repair to the Ladies Room. Behind the door of which privy I beheld a spectacle of uncommon and romantic magnificence. Whereupon tears of red velvet kitsch welled up in my eyes, and Public Cans of Austin was born.
Left: Donn’s Depot’s little-known 4000-year-old joshua tree. Right: Stingray enraptured by the grimy red shag grandeur.