Lamenting the closing of an Austin landmark and its secret rats

The rats, the rats
The rats, the rats

For many years, I resented the Texas Showdown Saloon (2610 Guadalupe) for a totally frivolous reason: It took the place of my favorite club, Raul’s, sometime around 1982. Eventually, the bitterness subsided, though not the way I’d gaze at it in passing, the years melting away like a Trey Parker montage. There I’d be in fuzzy 1979 memory, hanging out front with Jeff, E.A., Chris, and whomever, flipping off the cars full of frat boys yelling at us.

Clubs have been my friends over the years. When you work in clubs, they take on a different aura than if you just go for fun. When you work in a club you know its secrets, learn about its past, and treasure its flaws. It’s more than having a favorite bartender or door person. I've developed an affinity for standing in the same spot because the sight line is good for the stage and the crowd. Both make the show, yanno? I have preferences for certain stalls in club bathrooms, 'nuff said. There are places where I want to lean on the bar and if someone’s there, I'll doggedly inch my way in. Heaven help the person at “my” table.

This was something I understood innately but never thought about until I heard Mike Henry give a eulogy for the Electric Lounge during a poetry slam almost 10 years ago.

“I never had a friend that was a building,” he said, perhaps more poetically than I am relaying. But the sentiment was pure and blade-in-the-heart sharp. There are places I mourn like family. Liberty Lunch has inexplicably risen to the top of that list. When I moved out of Downtown two years ago, one of my thoughts was that I wouldn’t have to drive by 2nd and Guadalupe so often and inevitably spend the next few minutes stewing about dead clubs.

Sitting inside the Texas Showdown last Saturday, I tried to peer through the wood slats on the South wall because the rats are still there. Not varmints to call the health inspector about, but a mural of rats in a sewer, painted in Raul’s in 1978. It was the defining image of punk in the days when you couldn’t outfit yourself from the mall to be punk. You had to think it. This image was painted by two women whose names I remember as Susan and Sarita, and it stood like an icon in the background of so many photos from then. When the Showdown moved in, with a stroke of prescience I now cherish, they simply boarded over the mural.

The Showdown is closing next month. What is the likelihood of another one-story business going there? And why is “Keep Austin Weird” a T-shirt slogan instead of a community action organization? (Though I'm with Wayne Nagel, who says he doesn’t understand why Austin should be weird, he would like to Keep Austin Affordable.)

There’s already been a little talk about seeing if that wall with the rats can be saved, perhaps moved down to the South Austin Museum of Popular Culture. Wouldn’t if be nice if the City Council, which has such a clear vision of Austin’s future, used a little hindsight to help Austin’s not-too- distant past?

And here’s to you, Texas Showdown. You fought the good fight.

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