Stevie and Louie
I was young, and a tourist, and in Austin, so I was on Sixth Street. Also, I was drunk. I found Sixth Street similar to South Street in my hometown, Philadelphia. There are the out-of-towners steered there by a tip from a website or concierge. There are the college students with fake I.D.s. There are the cops on bikes. There are the bars: the hipster dives, the jock spots, the douchebars for douchebags. There are the t-shirt shops and general bric-a-brac vendors vending general bric-a-brac. I was aiming to get drunker and listen to some live music as I pulled out my camera and snapped a picture of a big brown building that looked just fancy enough to be historic.
“You havin’ a good time?” came a voice from behind me. I turned to see a crustache across a broad, yellow grin. The crustache wore a cap advertising Miller Lite and wielded a Big Gulp cup. Back in Philly, my reaction to this figure may have been something along the lines of “Face, muthafucka! Get out of mine!” However, as I mentioned, I was a young, drunk tourist, and felt like maybe this simple Texas sketchball wouldn’t lead me into a dark alley where I’d be beaten, robbed, and sodomized. So I responded in a more affable vein.
“Oh yeah. Great time.”
“Visiting Austin? I noticed the camera,” he said, sucking at the straw of his Big Gulp. I had only been in town for two days, but already noticed that if I snapped a picture people would ask me where I was from. This was all very eye opening for an East Coaster. If I see someone snapping a picture back home, I don’t get the urge to play good host. I just consider the fact that their rental car is making it harder to find parking in Center City. “Where are you from?”
“I’m from Philadelphia,” I told him, “Heard Sixth Street is the place to be for some nightlife.”
“This is a party street,” he said, “You should be here on the weekends. The cops block it off so there’s no cars. Tons of girls. Titties flashin’. It’s great.”
“That’s cool, man.”
“I’m Stevie,” explained Stevie.
“Oh hey, I’m Mike.” I held out my hand to shake his as he held out his fist to bump mine. So I closed my fist to bump as he opened his hand to shake. We oscillated greeting methods like this a few times before Stevie put an end to our manual dance.
“Just bump it, Mike” he said resolutely, and I complied. Then he said, “C’mon,” and led me into a greenly lit convenience store so he could refill his Big Gulp with what I discovered was Malt Liquor.
“Beer is expensive at bars,” Stevie reasoned, as he emptied a 40 oz. bottle of Olde English into his plastic cup. I inquired about several tourist opportunities in Austin and Stevie responded enthusiastically. He ushered me up and down Sixth Street, my personal tour guide.
“That place always has good bands,” he explained, “and on Tuesdays this place across the way has some seriously cheap drink specials. But the bouncers, they don’t like me cause one time… they just…I was in there and like…I don’t know. They’re dicks. Cause you know me, Mike,” in point of fact, I didn’t know Stevie, but had just met him, “I just try to get my drink on. This joint with the Christmas lights in the windows is a little bit more chill, mostly faggot-ass college kids. Oh, man, that place on the corner has some great ribs. They fall right off the bone. And the sauce, it’s got a tang to it. You like tang? Hey, how ‘bout some yayo? You want some coke?”
Cocaine with Stevie. I’ve done a lot of stupid things in my time. You’re reading the writings of a man who has Netflixed Weird Al’s U.H.F. nearly a dozen times and owes upwards of $15,000 to the I.R.S. I’ve been called reckless, irresponsible, and idiotic, mainly but not solely by my grandmother. However, at that moment, it was difficult for me to conjure a scenario in which I’d do cocaine with Stevie and not end up broke and/or hospitalized.
“No, man, I don’t know if I wanna do any coke,” I said, “You know I’m only in Austin for a few days. I hear they got a great music scene here. I’d love to hear a blues band.”
“You got it. We should probably find some weed first,” replied Stevie, and he made a good point. A little pot seemed harmless when compared with the option of getting wantonly zooted on cocaine in a strange place with a strange Stevie.
Stevie led me to a bus stop just off Sixth Street where a dozen or so Austinians awaited their various modes of transport. He told me his former cellmate would probably be waiting for his ride home from work.
“That’s him,” he said indicating a man sleeping on a bench. Stevie walked over and jabbed the man in the shoulder. “Yo, Louie. Louie, get up, man.”
“Hm? Oh, Stevie, what up, homes?” Louie groaned, stirring into consciousness. Louie’s pink shirt hung on him like a hospital gown. Notable among his many tattoos was a great cannabis leaf stretching about his tawny neck that served to complement the few remaining jagged teeth in his mouth.
“Louie, do you got one of them little bags?” Stevie asked, “Me and Mike are gonna go see a band.”
“Oh hey, how’re you doing?” I said, reaching out my fist to bump Louie’s. He didn’t seem to notice.
“Is Mike a cop?” Louie asked Stevie. “Cause if he’s a cop, he’s gotta identify himself if I ask.”
“He’s not a cop,” Stevie vouched for me.
“Are you a cop, Mike?” asked Louie squinting at me. “Cause if you’re a cop, you gotta identify yourself if I ask.”
“I’m not a cop,” I assured him.
“Okay. Cool, then, homes. You can never be too careful with white boys, you know,” Louie explained. “But if you’re a cop, you gotta identify yourself if someone asks.”
“Gotcha,” I said.
“We’re looking for some of them little bags,” Stevie said, expediting the sale.
“Yeah, homes, how many do you need?”
“Just one.” Stevie proceeded to buy a thin, three-dollar bag of seeds, stems, and shake from Louie. He poured the entire contents of the bag into an EZ wide cigarette paper and tightened it up into a neat little joint, which he then lit and handed to me.
“Don’t you think we should go to a more secluded spot with this?” I said, holding up the joint. We were, after all, still standing just off the heavily trafficked Sixth Street at a very public bus stop.
“It’s okay,” Stevie reassured me. “The only thing you gotta worry about is the cops.” That’s exactly what I was worried about.
“They’ll fuck you here, man,” Louie told me. “Texas cops don’t fuck around. Did you hear they executed this guy, and he was innocent, yo.”
“No, I didn’t hear that,” I said.
“If a judge woulda heard his story, he woulda been innocent.”
“A judge didn’t hear his story?”
“No. Not enough time before they executed him. But he was innocent.”
“It’s fucked up, man.”
Stevie interjected. “Mike’s here from Pittsburgh.”
“Philadelphia,” I corrected, my head darting around, scanning for police. I desperately wanted the joint to burn faster. Not because the conversation wasn’t scintillating, but because we were so exposed to law enforcement. I felt like a vacationer left behind in the open ocean when his cruise ship sailed away while he snorkeled. I expected a cop, like a shark, to jolt me from behind. The police could smell the tokes in the air like blood in the water, and I feared I would be caught unawares and out of my element.
“Right. Philadelphia,” Stevie clarified.
“You’re from Philadelphia? Do you know Rakim, um…?” Louie searched his memory for a moment, “Rakim. I forget his last name. He works for the city.”
“Hmmm… I’m not sure. Philly’s a big place.”
“Yeah. Fuckin’ Eagles, right,” Louie said laughing.
“Hell yeah, man!” I answered.
“Yeah. I’ve seen them play Dallas. Did you see that game?” Louie asked.
“Um, they play Dallas twice every year,” I said.
“Yeah. It was a good game.”
To my relief, we finished the joint. Louie decided to forgo his bus ride home and joined Stevie and myself as we walked to a blues bar.
“So guys, the first round is gonna be on me when we get to the bar,” I said.
“Really?” asked Louie.
“Thanks, Mike,” Stevie said through his constant grin.
“You guys are showing me around your city,” I told them, beginning to cross the street. “And it’s the least I can do. Austin’s a pretty hospitable place. People have been good with giving me tips and directions. I got out to Barton Springs and walked the trail along the —”
Suddenly, Stevie yanked my arm backward. My heart blipped. My adrenaline surged. My head careened around, looking for the car that must have been about to hit me. But there was no car. The street was empty.
“You want a ticket or something, Mike?!” Stevie asked as he pointed at the Don’t Walk sign, the grin now gone from his face.
“Yeah, homes,” Louie added gravely, “Don’t be jaywalkin’ in Austin.”
We hopped from bar to bar. We listened to this band and that band. We chugged beers. We downed shots. Stevie and Louie regaled me with tales of narcotic consumption, jail time, and illegitimate children. Stevie told me about how he supported his girlfriend’s career ambitions by getting her an interview at a strip club. Louie showed me his stab wound. We cursed and howled and lied and laughed and peed in parking lots. But all the while, Stevie, Louie, and I crossed at the crosswalks.
About the Author
Michael Connor is a humorist from Philadelphia who studied English Literature and Film at Oberlin College. His work has appeared in Hot Psychology Magazine and Examiner.com. He has written numerous comedic pieces for the stage including the musical The Hoppers Hit the Road. In addition, Mike has performed stand-up and improv comedy throughout the country, and can be seen regularly with the comedy troupe the N Crowd.