Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Christmas Confrontations, Part One

Frat Rat Cockroaches

In Austin, more than 25 Years Ago, it was early in December like now, and the Christmas rush had already begun. I'd just hired Alton Fixley that week to occupy my "blanket spot" for me out on Guadalupe Street where I sold my hand-made leather goods during the day. Later on, I paid Alton to put in a longer day and sell for me, too, so that I was free to make belts and such all through the day. But for now it was a very simple job for Alton, just "spot-sitting" at night.

But then one night, I was in my workshop and got a call from him, sounding worried. He said I'd better get down to the Drag in a hurry because the police were going to force everyone to move off our "reserved spots" at midnight and stay off for a full ten minutes before we were to be allowed to run for our spots all over again. Like some kind of crazed Land Rush from the Old West. Every man for himself, kill or be killed. The sellers had worked things out for themselves so that everything was fairly amiable and settled, but the City of Austin felt compelled to make things "fair". This way, somebody who's never paid their dues in the heat of summer as I had could just saunter in, outrun me in a footrace, and reap the rewards of the market during the most rewarding sales season of the year.

That kind of threat, coming with only an hour's warning, shit-canned most of my hippiedom in moments flat. Anger and Capitalism rose up in me like a snarling wolf, like a mother bear protecting its young! My money! My Christmas bonus! More seriously, it was the money that would sustain me through January and February, the ass-freezing time of the year out on the concrete when the University of Texas students weren't in town much and bought very little if they were. I needed that extra financial padding just to get through the two lean months following Christmas. End of discussion.

In that snarlish mood, I stopped working and started the rush toward the Crafts Market at Guadalupe and 23rd Street. On the way there, I turned down a street that I thought would have time, but it went past some fraternity houses with a lot of traffic. I realized quickly, but too late, that I'd made a big mistake. Suddenly the slow traffic stopped utterly. My patience was short and I stormed out of my car and walked hurriedly forward. This was not typical behavior on my part, I usually had patience. But there was some stupid foul-up ahead and I couldn't wait on such witless shit tonight. I was greased and ready to kick ass!

That's when I found out there was some big scene going on with two drunken fraternity boys parked head to head in the middle of the street. They were in some argument, or maybe one was getting back at the other, I couldn't tell. They had carried their bitch brawl out to the street and wouldn't yield to one another, nor would they get out of their cars to face one another. I thought it rather sissified of them, I didn't know what else to call it. But they were drunk, and you how drunks are—being drunk is an excuse for everything, anything.

The two of them were out in front of me and I was trapped behind them. A bunch of other cars were behind me, other partygoers, adding to the noise and confusion. Parked cars on both sides of the street meant we were packed in like sardines and thoroughly blocked from backing out. I was furious. I needed to get to the Drag and make sure I didn't lose my selling spot for the next day.

I came up beside the first frat boy's car and he rolled his window up. He'd seen me coming and apprehended that I was his eneny and I was ready to eat nails. I tried his car door handle and found it was locked. I wore a heavy silver ring at the time—no setting, no stone to break—and I beat on his window with it harder and harder to get his attention, continuing to holler at him. (You're used to thinking of me as this old fart; remember that I was the boy's age when I was being so belligerant.)

"I guess you think you're not gonna move unless he moves first, eh!" I hollered. "And he thinks the same thing, huh? You two stupid candy-asses can't block traffic like this!" I was in no mood for tolerance, tidings of joy, or good will. They were fucking up my Christmas!

"You better decide to move this sonofabitch car, you little shitass!" I said, banging more loudly and relentlessly with my ring. I could see the frat rat's girlfriend's face, but he couldn't; she looked like she thought it was time he did something!

"I'm going to come in there after you, you moron, you better move that fucking car!" Bam Bam Bam! I didn't care if I broke the glass or not.

Just as my blood pressure was going through the roof and I was beginning to think how my jack handle might be handier than that ring, I heard a slight commotion behind me. I turned and saw the lights of an Austin police cruiser. All the asswipe fraternity boys and their girlfriends began to disappear like cockroaches scattering from the cat food dish when the overhead light comes on.

I turned and walked back toward my car, passing the cops on the way. The cops showed no interest in me. Someone must have called the cops and given them the details, since it would have been within reason for them to have detained The First Angry Guy at the scene. It's a wonder they didn't. I would certainly have had a brain aneurysm if they'd wasted some more of my time! By the time I got to my car and got it cranked, there was hardly anyone left on the street except the two dipshit fraternity boys who'd started it all. Probably their daddies were rich and the cops didn't even yell at them very long.

[Check back tomorrow for Part Two of this same night's adventures.]

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