Monday, August 25, 2003

"Changes Aren't Permanent, But Change Is"

Rush, "Tom Sawyer"

I had to go out this weekend and buy a new glass jar for my matchbooks. I got several more at my recent trip to Vegas and finally couldn't fit any new ones in the old jar. So I took the opportunity to dump them all out on the floor and go through them.

I started thinking about why people collect matches (as well as other things) - it's a tangible link to something they've experienced. You can't bring the restaurant home with you, but you can look at the matchbook cover and remember what you were doing there and who you were with. But it's also a link to the past, there are plenty of matchbooks for places that don't exist anymore. And that makes you wistful and nostalgic.

  • Fizz (1989), a club in Houston on the Richmond Strip. Before that it was Hippo, after that who knows how many incarnations it's gone through. It was one of the very few places I dared to try to sneak into when I was in high school. I think we went to Fizz after our 5-year reunion. The book has spaces to write "name", "real phone #", "phony phone #", and "hobbies". I think it's currently aimed at the Hispanic market as "T-Town 2000".
  • Boardwalk Beach Club and Speedy's (1984-88) on 6th Street in Austin. Those were two of my favorite bars when I was in college. I used my fake Missouri drivers license to get in when I was a freshman and junior, and my regular ID when I was a sophomore and senior - the drinking age went up from 19 to 21 at the beginning of my soph year and Texas didn't grandfather anyone. Speedy's was a great piano singalong bar, I still have my copy of the lyrics sheets somewhere (probably still smells like beer). Boardwalk is currently Mekong Delta, a Vietnamese restaurant, while Speedy's is Gatsby's.
  • Magic Time Machine (1984-86) is still around, but only in Dallas and San Antonio. A great and fun place to go eat with a bunch of friends, with themed rooms and a salad bar built into a fire truck. Got a lot of people? Get an Orgy. You even get a pin with that Orgy (I still have mine). Landry's seafood took over the spot years ago.
  • Confetti (1984), a club in Dallas where all the college kids up for Texas/OU Weekend went to party. I drove up there with my roommate Bruce and another guy who was our friend at the time, and we ended up facing the wrong way on I-35 South on the way home when Bruce somehow oversteered and we did a 180. The two have nothing to do with each other but it's all part of the memory of the that weekend. The location is now a strip club.
  • A brown book of matches from my bar mitzvah (1979). I just turned 13. I don't think they were on the kids' table, but it was apparently still OK for the adults to smoke.
  • Eastern Airlines (1970's), from when it was still OK to smoke on airplanes. At the time, the now-defunct airline was "The Official Airline of Walt Disney World" - "We know the way to the Magic Kingdom." Apparently the way went through Chapter 11.
  • J. Larkin's (1988-93), where I spent practically every Friday afternoon and evening from 1988 to around 1993. My drinking buddies then are still for the most part my drinking buddies now. Happy Hour with quarter beers (14 would fit on a tray) followed an hour later by Power Hour with quarter you-call-its. It morphed into a huge dance club in another building - "J. Larkin's ConXion" - that died a couple years later. The original place is now an office, I think.
  • Premier (1991-1995?), the place we went to after Larkin's closed down. Used to be a movie theater before being renovated into a dance club. It had a few more incarnations before ending up as the Oriental Gourmet Restaurant, which you might recall as "Modang Food".
  • Pat O'Brien's (1990, 1994) in New Orleans. Finally, a place that's still here. This would have been either New Years Eve with Dave, Pete, Robin, and my sister, or the Final Four with my dad and my sister. One of my all-time favorite pictures of myself was taken at the New Years blast - I'm standing on a newspaper vending box with a giant Hurricane in my hand, my head just inches from the "Bourbon Street" sign.
  • Steve's Fajita Bar (1986) in Fredricksburg, one of the places we road-tripped to on Spring Break in 1986 (other stops being Astroworld and a campout at Canyon Lake near San Antonio). Tim Ager, Laurie Welch, Michelle Wayt, Michelle Watts, Maggie Buttemiller - if any of you are around, give me a holler! I have little memory of Steve's fajitas, but I remember having lots of fun that week.
  • The Roney Pub (1970's-84) in the Miami Beach area. It's still there, but it was one of the places we used to go with my great-grandmother whenever we'd see her every Christmastime. She died in 1984, right before my high school graduation, and I don't think I've been back since.
  • Coconuts (2000) in Cocoa Beach, Florida. We closed the place down one night in May 2000 while waiting for the launch of shuttle mission STS-101 - me, Kelsey, Doug, Dave and his wife, Lisa, and some guy Javy who kept hitting on another friend we were with. That was back in the good old days when we were still flying shuttles.
  • Cody's (1994) Jazz Bar and Grill in Houston. It's now Scott Gertner's SkyBar and Grille, but it was Cody's when I went on my first date there with Chris.

Amazing how a little piece of folded cardboard and some cardboard sticks with phosphorus at the tips can evoke such memories. Most of these places aren't around except in the memories of those who went there - and brought home a matchbook.

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