My Love Note to Lovejoys

RIP, Lovejoys

RIP, Lovejoys
RIP, Lovejoys (by Jessi Cape)

The doors of Lovejoys closed forever Sunday, August 5th, and for me and many people I know, it was the final chapter in a story that changed our lives.

“Most folks out there do what they’re told. They watch all of the popular T.V. shows, they communicate using email and fax machines, read Michael [Crichton] novels, drink Miller Lite, listen to Top 40 Radio, go dancing on Friday night and to dinner and a movie on Saturday. These folks are good people and they are generally happy.

Then there are the others. Cut from a different fabric, these others, they seek a different sort of hero, from within and outside their community. They prefer conversation and camaraderie to television. They write love letters, music, prose and poetry. They create their palates, [pursue] potions of different varieties, not the ones in all of the ads. These folks don’t always do what they’re told. Mere existence is not good enough. These people live. It is for these others we created Lovejoys. - Celebrate Life!”

Considered one of a handful of holdouts west of I35, this diviest of dive bars was a sigh of relief in the commercialized tourist trap of 6th street nightlife. Sure, there was always a faint scent of gnarly fluids, but Lovejoys is integrally woven into the tapestry of my life. I like to think of it as the Cheers of the underground.

Saturday night I paid my respects and bid farewell. I said goodbye to the velvet Elvis and took a shot of Jagermeister with my boyfriend and a bartender buddy. Waiting in line for the infamous cesspool of graffitied bathrooms, I copied down the quote above, scrawled in paint on the hallway wall, and realized how full circle Lovejoys and I have come: it was in that very hallway that my boyfriend told me he loved me for the first time many years ago. Just outside, in between the motorcycles four rows deep and the pile of bicycles chained to the street sign, we had our first fight, so long ago now. The jukebox inside built the bridge between our polar opposite musical tastes, inspired the name of our child, and sparked righteous beer-splashing anthem-chanting.

I will forever have flashbacks of debaucherous but love-filled evenings with friends I met inside of those local art covered walls. My SXSW haven from chaos (ironically filled with its own special metal mayhem) is no more. My penchant for local craft brews was born and raised in Lovejoys; my first (and last) experience with Barley Wine remains a distinct but cherished scar on my palate.

The now treasured koozie advises, “Celebrate your vices,” and though I never attained Fez status, I certainly celebrated testing my limits and honing a special set of social skills. Well-worn picnic table benches, slightly warped pool tables, and tinted windows are staples in many of this city’s bars, but none will facilitate the same time-warp that Lovejoys gave us.

This last visit was different, a distinct air of sadness mixed with exhaustion lingered. For the first time since embarking upon my patronage, I left willingly before 10pm. The coffin that stood guard over the southwest corner of the bar for as long as I’ve known was drunkenly laid down across the picnic table to become a photo op for a group of people that seemed to miss the weight of the weekend.

I perked up a bit when I heard a woman calmly ask, “Why is that guy bleeding everywhere?” It reminded me of a surly evening years ago, straight out of a movie, in which a girl at the bar unwraps her beach towel to reveal a blood-soaked tangle of flesh wounds on her forearm – allegedly the result of a stunt gone wrong. She asked for a Jameson neat before she agreed to medical treatment, and bartenders and bystanders alike understood and obliged.

That's the thing about Lovejoys. Good hearts and good folks, a general lack of judgment, and the ability to see past strange misfitted outsides – even through multiple language barriers- to the beauty inside. The dingy physical shell housed some of the most fascinating Austinites anyone could hope to know – staff and customers alike. Just as the bar itself was often misinterpreted as a reprieve for fuck-ups and dreamy wanderers, those of us who spent more hours there than we should probably admit know that it takes time sometimes to see the best parts of the story. Lovejoys taught me how to see the underbelly of Austin, and I'm forever enamored.

Most everyone I had the chance to hug and lovingly scream with over the deafening music said they have a plan, and I'm very excited to see how some new visions pan out over the next few months. It had been months since we visited, our frequent flyer status was revoked after the birth of our child, but the faces on both sides of the conversations were just as warm and welcoming as always. Perhaps this is the real story. Maybe the times have changed, maybe the city is changing, but maybe it's all of us that are changing for the better.

Although this is the end of the era of Lovejoys, the closing of this Austin institution is recognized by many of us- the Others- as symbolic of the divide between our beloved Austin and the Austin that the big money envisions. I have faith that the artistic soul-filled innards of the Capital City will live forever in the nooks and crannies and we'll all find each other again. Because that's what kindred spirits do. That said, sometimes we all need a reminder to get off the barstool and step outside of the comfort zone, to find new inspiration, celebrate new vices.

It seems to me that Rebecca, Sam, Norm, Woody, Cliff, Carla, Frasier, and the rest of the bar will all be just fine. Long live the Order of the Fez.

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