“You’re A P**** For Not Moving To Austin…”

Posted: May 3, 2009 in The Roper Files
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Man has it been ten years already? I’ve been sitting here like Barton Fink or those million monkeys at a million keyboards attempting to write the Great American (fill-in-the-blank) ?

This humble little web page of mine has gone from a sidebar on another site way back in 1999 and a number of other versions until it has evolved/devolved/revolved into what you see here today. Way back in 1999 File23 co-conspirator Brandon lived in a tiny garage apartment with his then-current girlfriend and a huge Rottweiler named Rudy.
I didn’t even own a computer at the time; I would type up video, CD and book reviews on an ancient manual typewriter and Brandon would post them on this strange new and scary thing called The Internet and File23 was born as a footnote on a site called  www.excite.com  or something like that.

The years passed and I eventually got my first PC; a grossly-over-priced Dell with Windows ME.
Brandon, bless his heart diligently showed me how to operate it and how to type on a PC keypad
(“ Hey where’s the shift bar on this thing?”) He went through the ordeal of step by step showing me how to post, how to scan my photographs and how to insert them into the posts.
I always had a vision of how I wanted file23 to look: write my own text and use as many of my own photographs as possible and wouldn’t have been able to do it without him.

I went through two more PCs . Brandon went through a cycle of breaking up with his girlfriend and then moving back in with her over and over. They went through one final breakup and then Brandon moved in with a stripper half his age and moved a few miles away from me. The visits and phone calls became fewer and further apart and Brandon posted his last post here in September of 2007. Pity because he wasn’t a bad writer. I’m still proud of the “Midnight Ramblers” Podcasts we did together ( see the link to the right of this) even if no one seemed to be listening; we had fun assembling them.
He went on the manage The Pit barbecue restaurant over on Henderson Street last year until late one night when a drunk driver careened right through the place the night before Halloween .


For a few months though it was fun. I would drop by at least once a week to eat and visit Brandon. The owner Matt built a large stage behind the place; I even drug my Fender Prodigy and a mini-Marshall over there one night and let loose with my own mutated version of Link Wrays “Rumble” while sitting on the front porch just a few feet away from busy Henderson Street. Matt’s barbecue got rave reviews from the local press, but after mulling over what the insurance company wanted to cover versus how much it would cost to re-open the Pit shut its doors forever. Drove by there last Sunday and snapped the picture below; the sight of it closed was pretty sad.


Brandon and Matt sold everything and headed south for the hipster doofus capitol of Texas, Austin. The elephants graveyard for old hippies and middle-aged punk rockers here in the Lone Star State. Brandon dropped by the other day before taking off on his bicycle around the corner for the last and final time and trying to convince me that I should move down there as well. That’s the two of us in the photo below in front of my house.


Got a phone call from Brandon yesterday .
You’re a pussy for not moving to Austin. There’s jobs, girls and gigs down here…”


Middle-aged crazy takes on a lot of strange forms. Some guys spend their weekends out in the garage restoring that old 1968 Mustang. Others are out popping wheelies on their Harleys. I have friends who play guitar that are absolutely Spinal Tap; floor to ceiling Marshall stacks, a half dozen or more guitars etc. As we push fifty it all works itself out in some strange ways. Our wives and girlfriends are left to shake their heads and ask: ” Oh Lord what-the-fuck…”

I have a middle-aged friend who has taken up skateboarding. We were driving down the street the other day and he sees some kids skateboarding and slams on the brakes and pulls over and gets out with a newly-purchased skateboard of his own: “Show me how you jump that curb!”
The teenage kids are absolutely slack-jawed at this silver-haired guy old enough to be their Dad coming at them with a skateboard instead of reminding them that Hey This Is Private Property or some such shit and oblige my friend by giving him a quick lesson on how to jump a curb on a skateboard and land back on it. It takes him a try or two to get the hang of it but he gets it right and is for a brief moment ecstatic about learning this new trick. He thanks the confused-looking teens and we get back in his truck and leave.

I turn 51 myself this year; fuck!

This is a scary thought; I am not indeed getting any younger. And as an additional reminder I didn’t really want my father who had a stroke two years ago was recently diagnosed with emphysema. He has smoked all his life and will in all likelihood pass on from something or other related to it.
I used to smoke tobacco and anything else I could get my hands on when I was a younger and more foolish teenager. Stopped smoking tobacco years ago and I quit drinking back in 1991. Don’t really care if anyone believes me or not anymore. Haven’t even had as much as a bite of rum cake. Until the other night.

Slipped and fell “off the wagon”; whoops.
A neighbor I hadn’t seen in a month came over and banged on the door wanting to know if I had a corkscrew. He had just gotten off an international flight and had two clay bottles of some very exotic looking liqueurs he had brought back. After a fruitless search of my kitchen drawer, I puttered around the house and came up with my trusty Swiss Navy knife which had a corkscrew on it.

And just as fast as I could spit out: “No thanks I don’t drink….” a shot glass full of something that smells like cinnamon candy is in my face. The next thing I know, without thinking about it…

That was good; I want another. And I took it. I tried the other one. Man I forgot how good this was.
Oh wow wait a minute; I’m not supposed to do this….

When I tried to quit drinking for the first time in 1988 it took many forms. One can of beer after work. One quart of beer. One six pack. One twelve pack. The next thing I know I’m waking up behind the wheel as my truck is doing full tail-to-tail spins on the highway at four in the morning….

After realizing trying to do it on my own maybe wasn’t the best option I began struggling to find some worthy advice elsewhere. On a friends advice I reluctantly wound up at AA and attended regularly for about a year and a half until the groups cult-like aspects began to get to me. Don’t mean to sound entirely sour-grapes about it; I met some good people there and also some of the craziest motherfuckers I ever met in my life. Real-life Stuart Smalley trust-fund babies who literally did nothing all day, all week long but go from one 12-step meeting of one kind to another.

“Well I’m off to my Al-anon, then it’s off to my Overeater’s Anonymous, then I’m off to my NA at two o’clock, then it’s my Gamblers Anonymous…”
You think I’m making this up? These people are out there….I have met them.

A certain friend of mine doesn’t believe in alcoholism; he thinks addiction is all in peoples heads. Being a high school graduate myself, I’m not educated enough in this subject on an academic level to say whether this is right or wrong. I do know that this same friend has the ability to walk into a bar, drink one beer and leave; this is difficult at best for me personally. I want another.

So at the age of 50 I am still struggling the demons of exorcising bad habits and trying to take up good ones. As the winter weather passes we are getting the two or three weeks of what passes for spring here in Texas. Not as often as I should I shut off the PC and go for a walk.
Burn calories, not gas. It’s not like I’m the type of guy who works out at the gym. A little exercise is good for me.

It has been raining all week long. Maybe the lack of sunlight is getting to me; I don’t know. Even though it looked like the sky could burst at any moment I took a chance and walked to the convenience store a few blocks away while ago. They have a really good grill and make a cheeseburger and fries combo that can’t be beat with a stick for just a few dollars. And oh yeah don’t forget that Quick Pick while I’m here; what’s the lotto up to? Who cares? If I had to share a million with someone I wouldn’t complain. Just want to hit it once; that’s all. Just once.

I walk down the same streets to that same convenience store I walked as a teenager and I recognize absolutely nothing. The white house my best friend lived in two blocks over is full of Mexicans. The cute long-legged blond I dated as a teenager who lived another couple of blocks over? Her house is now a towering FawltyTowers-inspired McMansion with twin matching BMWs out front. Who knows where the hell she is. Maybe that’s why I don’t go out walking more often; I just come home depressed.

The skyline here in Fort Worth is full of cranes. Old buildings are coming down, new ones are going up. Shiny new theaters featuring stupid 90-minute CGI commercials. Expensive restaurants I can’t afford to eat at and nightclubs with cute one-word names; this city is starting to remind me of well…Austin

Now don’t get me wrong but when I visit Austin I get a little intimidated by the very same opulence that I see replacing the safe familiar Fort Worth I grew up in.
Brandon said: “I didn’t give up on Fort Worth; it gave up on me” and I understand why he said that.
Most of my friends, not all of them but most of them have moved away.
Rents here have gone up ( just like Austin) and as I walk or drive around town my sense of alienation grows with each passing day. With my friends moving away one by one I feel more and more alone. And I write; it’s therapeutic and keeps me from eating a pistol.

I have been posting on  www.file23magazine.wordpress   (long-winded enough title for ya?) now for ten years. The world has neither changed or ended; I’m still waiting for that phone call: “Where have you been? I want you to write for me!” And so I sit and I type at my keypad and wonder if anybody is reading. And now with Brandon down in Austin, it’s just me holding down the fort so to speak at File23.

But before I forget: Brandon, thanks for showing me how to do this and believing in me as a writer and Good Luck down in Austin!

Hope it treats you better than Fort Worth did…


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