Slacker, the Map
It's been over a decade since Slacker premiered at the Dobie Theater. Since then, the lifestyle it celebrated is largely gone, along with the locations it helped make famous. In this "Slacker map," we look at what's disappeared and what's endured.
slacker (slak'er), n. One that shirks work or responsibility, especially one that tries to evade military service during wartime.
-- The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition, 1992
It's been more than a decade since Slacker premiered at the Dobie Theatre, thrusting that little-used term into the mainstream alongside a picture-perfect chronicle of an Austin era now long since faded. In the time in between, Slacker has morphed from a small film about a (reasonably) small community in a (somewhat) small town to legendary status, right up there with Steven Soderbergh's sex, lies, and videotape and Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing. Like that latter film, Slacker freezes a specific community's zeitgeist and traps it forever on celluloid; sometimes I think it's less of a movie, per se, than some funky historical object. Richard Linklater's film should be required viewing for the hordes of new arrivals that began inundating Austin some four years ago. Of course, the film's popularity -- and the cultural popularity of the "slacker lifestyle" that it engendered -- almost certainly sounded the death knell of the very community it was celebrating. That's the way things work sometimes.
In his "making of" book (St. Martin's Press, 1992), the following passage, Linklater's own, appears: "I guess it all started for me when I wandered into a Dead Kennedys show in the summer of 1984. ... As Jello Biafra took the stage and started belting, 'MTV -- get off the air, now!' or about how, in relation to the star quarterback having his neck broken, the Coach said, 'That boy gave 100%,' I suddenly felt a surge of energy ... In a very short time, I went from thinking (as I had been told over and over again) that my generation had nothing to say to thinking that it not only had everything to say but was saying it in a completely new way ... Each individual had to find it in their own way, and in the only place society had left for this discovery -- the margins. I think that's where Slacker takes place."
Oddly enough, that Dead Kennedys show -- at Liberty Lunch, with openers BGK, Cause for Alarm, and Austin's the Offenders -- was also my first eye-popping punk rock gig. And when, in 1992, Linklater's film was suddenly meriting major media attention from CNN, The New York Times, and a hundred other arbiters of cultural taste, my father called me up to discuss an article he'd read on "Austin's slacker phenomenon," wondering, no doubt, if I was a part of this vague anti-movement. I told him yeah, I supposed I was, and did my best to explain to him what it all meant, if anything.
Slacker cameraman Clark Walker wrote -- also in the Slacker book -- that the term had become a handy catch-all word. "In a sense, we were all slackers," he writes. "Aside from a consuming passion for cinema, what we held most in common was a desire not to work for a living, if work meant doing anything we didn't love."
The map above, illustrated by Jason Stout, is intended to serve as a walking tour of locations used in the film. The task was baffling; the film covers so much of the city, often so quickly, that the final product couldn't help but be incomplete. Instead, we focused on the film's -- and the city's -- most integral locations. Much of what you see in Slacker today is long gone, but like a good friend since passed, the memories of the fundamental locales linger in the minds of those who were present at this magical, formative time. And, of course, depressed, aging slackers such as myself can always pop in the Slacker tape, crack a cold Shiner Bock, and return to the old school. Who says you can't go home anymore? Not Rick Linklater, and certainly not Slacker itself.
1. Bus station at Highland Mall
"Man, I just had the weirdest dream."
2. Mad Dog and Beans, 24th & Nueces
"Whose body is this?"
3. Ollie Trout's ("the Fingerhut"), 2405 Nueces
"Oh, drag. Did anybody get a license plate number or anything?"
4. Captain Quackenbush's Intergalactic Dessert Company and Espresso Café, 2120 Guadalupe
"Who's ever written the great work about the immense effort required not to create?"
5. Party house, 809 W. MLK
"Can I have his room?"
6. Second Street Warehouse
"It's a Madonna pap smear. I know it's kinda cloudy, but it's a Madonna pap smear."
7. G/M Steakhouse, 626 N. Lamar
"You should never, never traumatize a woman sexually. I should know. I'm a medical doctor."
"Stop following me!" growls Chronicle Editor Louis Black in one of Slacker's many cameos. Amazingly, the G/M is still there, although rumors of its demise often circulate. In the meantime, though, it still serves some of the best diner breakfasts in town and exists as a reminder of Austin's smaller, cooler past, surrounded as it is by all sorts of new construction.
8. E. MLK bridge
9. Sound Exchange, 2100-A Guadalupe
"You're just pulling these things from the shit you read."
10. Half Price Books, 3110 Guadalupe
"You know me, I've been keeping up with my JFK assassination theories."
11. South Congress Junk Yard
"Are you gonna pay for that?"
12. Les Amis Café, 504 W. 24th
"To hell with the kind of work you have to do to make a living."
Right next to the also-now-departed Inner Sanctum Records ("Austin's first independent record store!") inside Bluebonnet Plaza, Les Amis' lovely outdoor/indoor sidewalk cafe was a habitual stop for students and slackers alike, a place where nobody cared if you stayed all night -- in fact, it was almost expected. Cheap house Merlot and cheaper entrées -- black beans and brown rice and cheese, yeah! -- went easy on the wallet and provided more existential, late-night conversations than any other place in town. It's now a Starbucks, which just goes to show that God can be a real smart-ass when he wants to be.
13. Foodland, 1120 S. Lamar (now City Market)
"I'm always glad to see any young person doing something."
14. Parking lot off I-35
"Well, that's her menstrual cycle."
15. Les Amis
16. Blue Bayou, 2008 S. Congress (now Trophy's)
"I'm on the guest list. Steve plus three, or four."
17. Austin Media Arts, 2120 Guadalupe
"It's my Pixelvision camera. It's for a project I'm putting together."
Some of the most important film screenings and series in Austin's history took place in this smallish space above Quackenbush's, a natural choice for coffee-starved cineastes like Linklater, D. Montgomery, and Lee Daniel, who used the venue to unspool the works of Stan Brakhage, Michelangelo Antonioni, and Jean-Luc Godard, as well as a host of other artistic endeavors specifically tailored to the funky art-happening groove of the AMA.
18. Continental Club, 1315 S. Congress
"I'm an anti-artist."
19. Mount Bonnell, 3800 Mount Bonnell Dr.
Special thanks to Clark Walker, Lee Daniel, Robert Pierson, Kathy Crane, and Detour FilmProduction