Chuckwagon in the University of Texas Student Union was a great
gathering place that attracted the crème de la weird. About
1970, into this crowded lunchtime café walked a notably peculiar
figure of the time, Charles Gandy, totally nude, holding a Bible. To
the enthusiastic approval of the diners, Charles launched into a
semi-religious rant. After a few minutes someone near the door told him
that the campus police were coming down the hall. Charles opened the
Bible pulled out a pair of leotards, put them on, and sat a table
nonchalantly. The police came and went.
Episode 2 - September 2002
Working Downtown, Late Night
A "Chronicles of Weirdness" Story by Melissa Boyd
"Are you an assasin?" Jimmie asked quietly. His voice was low, nasal. We were the only ones left in the office. I didn't turn around.
"Are you an assasin?" he repeated patiently.
I smiled. His "Apocolypse Now" Marlon Brando had come a long way. It must have been midnight, 1 AM, I had no idea, but we were tired. I sighed with the kind of despair people feel when working unvolunteered overtime. It was late; I could feel it in my eye sockets. I leaned back from the computer for the first time in hours. Jimmie was the only reason I hadn't quit this godforsaken job yet. I turned to look at him.
He was leaning back in our boss's leather diamond-tuck Boss Chair, stone-still, balancing a roll of shipping tape on his forehead. Another talent.
The tape wobbled, fell off his forehead and rolled across the wide Boss Desk. He slowly rose and stretched, "Come on, let's take a break."
We stepped outside our building and faced Twelfth Street, now deserted on this Wednesday night. The Capitol hovered in our view, chalky-white with floodlights, motionless as if it too were about to fall asleep.
The air was cool with the residue of winter, but just warm enough to promise spring. We started to talk about beer, our favorite labels and microbrews, but then re-lapsed into our fatigued, late-night silence.
"Kinda chilly," one of us said.
"Yeah," said the other.
Jimmie leaned against the building in spite of his tailored suit, and his gold watch sparkled beneath the crisp cuff. Mid-yawn he managed to ask, "Wanna call it a night?"
I debated. All around us, empty buildings stared down with blank, black windows. The traffic lights had longsince ceased their green-yellow-red cycles and were now simply flashing red. What the hell were we doing at work at this hour anyway?
I almost answered him when a sound caught my ear. I tilted my head and paused.
A distant, muted ruckus, for lack of a better word.
A strange white noise. Whatever it was, it was getting closer. Slowly.
We waited. Nothing moved, not us, the parking meters, the sky, or the tall empty buildings. It was as if all of us were perched, cocked, collectively listening. Silence. And then:
A bicycle bell cha-chinged.
And a mob of people exploded around the corner of Guadalupe. Screaming, running, jumping in the air.
My body jolted awake. Riot? Is this a riot?
Then I saw the bicyles. And the huge, furry gorilla. And a man in a pair of Speedos. And a clown blew a large, plastic trumpet and a lady on a unicycle twirled this way and that. Tambourines banged and jingled. And half a dozen whistles blew simultaneously. They were laughing and yelling, and many were singing what seemed to be a song of some kind. Part of the group began breaking away into a conga line. A tall, gangly man yelled to us and did a somersault. He was wearing a blue bikini. Something in leopard-skin and pasties streaked by, leaving a wake of bubbles. They shrieked. They cackled. They sang and hollered. A woman wearing a neon-green afro wig jumped along, releasing a hyena call into the air. A trumpet player appeared from the bunch, squawking in time to 'the song'. They bounded and danced and threw glitter and confetti in the air. And their balloons bobbled this way and that, yanked about by their leaping, joyful owners.
And then they were gone.
A thick, wooly silence returned to Twelfth Street.
As if for explanation of the oddity I'd just witnessed, I looked to Jimmie. Through a yawn, he said simply, "that was weird" and held the door open for me.
Surveying the empty street where this mobile party had taken place, I could find nothing to say. Jimmie caught my dumbfounded expression and chuckled, "Welcome to Austin."
somewhere down Lavaca, a bicycle bell cha-chinged.
Episode 3 - September 2004
updated August 8, 2006