A few months ago I was paging through the ads in the back of Tropo, an SF-produced comic book, when I came upon an ad for Children with Glue, a collection of short strips by somebody named Shannon Wheeler in Austin, Texas. I went to high school with a guy named Shannon Wheeler and remembered that he drew for the Daily Cal -- and some sort of rumor about him moving to Texas. I promptly forgot about it and moved on.
Upon my arrival in Austin, in the bathroom of the very coffee house in which I now sit, I came across a giant portrait of Too Much Coffeeman, the star character of a mini-comic I had seen around and admired. "Neat," I thought, and scrawled so next to the drawing.
The next piece of the puzzle was a flyer I saw for a signing at Funny Papers, the local underground comic book store which I finally managed to locate (by chance, of course) after much searching. The mysterious Shannon Wheeler was going to be on hand Friday from noon to four. "Friday," I thought...."Well, I'll see if I'm still in town."
The next few days were spent in dazed and blissful dawdling. I sat in the sun a lot, I sat in coffee shops a lot, I went to a lot of weird movies. And one morning, waking up in a daze of frenzied writing in some smoky interior, I realized it was Friday. Already. The days had passed almost effortlessly.
Soon I found myself at Funny Papers and there he was, Shannon Wheeler, indeed my old high school friend and, as it turns out, also the author of Too Much Coffeeman. He was more surprised than I, I must say, but adjusted quickly and soon became very happy to see me. He invited me to stay with him, which I found a little unusual since we were never very close those 8 years ago. But the nature of traveling seems to put people at ease and spark their hospitality. I was more than a little excited about the prospect of a shower but, since I'd been planning to leave every morning I woke up, I wavered and said I'd call him. He told me about a Bruce Sterling/cyberpunk book signing later that evening at Europa Books. "Cool," I said.
And sooner than I'd expected the time had drifted by and I was at Europa, meeting Shannon again and countless other friends and freaks, one of whom (with the amusing handle of sinenomine) said she'd try to publish one of my reports in her cyberpunk zine. I emailed it to her, of course. She was extremely open and talkative in that confessional way, and I felt more integrated with the strangers around me than I had since New York or Montreal. It was neat to be assembled with the cream of the local weirdo scene. Austin is a really wonderful place full of good food, good coffee, and good people. Everything I've seen and everyone I've met here is invigorating. I'd very much like to live here some day.
Anyway, a whole slew of these folks were headed up to the Hole in the Wall to see a local band called Shoulders. I drifted up myself and sat in the back, watching pool and meeting even more friendly strangers. Eventually I ended up back at Shannon's place where I slept and showered. In the morning we sat on the porch drinking coffee and eating muffins, warm and lazy in the sun. Shannon lives in what might possibly by the coolest house I've ever seen. It's a large, one-room shack built by emancipated slaves around the turn of the century, repaneled and lofted by hippies in the 70s. It has a wonderful rustic feel of an old west trading post and the hippie homeyness of copious dark wood. It's also a central studio for a number of local comic artists, a couple of whom I got to meet and watch work.
Sitting on this comfortable and organic porch in tattered couches, sipping java and watching the hours slip by, I suddenly realized what was going on. The previous night at Europa I had met, amongst other people, Richard Linklater, the man responsible for "Slacker" -- filmed in Austin, home of the slacker. That was it. I was being incorporated into Austin, being mutated into a slacker. I was feeling the pull of unsupervised existence which somehow emanates from the rocks and soil of the area, manna permeating the flesh and transforming me into a local, perpetually hanging out. Of the Body.
And here I am in Quackenbush's at 3:30, having hoped to leave this morning. There's still a couple movies I want to see....and Shannon's offered to let me stay longer.... His coffee was mighty good, y'know....
No Simple Highway:
Last modified: Wed Feb 18 23:09:55 1998
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