Summer Of 1994
The summer of 1994. Kurt Cobain was dead. I was in my second year at the University of Texas. I took a test on rock and roll history the week Cobain had died. I wasn't bothered, but others in my class cried openly. I finished the Spring semester and decided to stay in town for the summer and find work. I worked with my friend and roommate who got me a landscaping job.
Other than my friend T Jay, I worked alongside felons and illegal immigrants. The felons told stories about distributing cocaine while working at Tyson chicken. Skeptical. Not skeptical. The illegals all liked Selena, not so much for her music. I lived just North of campus on Medical Arts Parkway. It was a flea infested place with a failing AC in the middle of a Texas summer, brutal. Mid-way through the summer T Jay moved back to my hometown when the felons we worked for decided not to pay us anymore. After asking them a couple of times for the money they owed us, they left town. It seemed like what a felon would do. It both angered me, the injustice of it, and scared me half to death because these were scary guys. The rest of the summer I lived by myself.
Just before my bank account went to $0, God provided me a job with a small company constructing brick pool decks and patios. The owner was a half-racist ex-surfer from Corpus Christi. Two other of my friends from college worked with me. There was also the crew of illegals who did most of the work. But they left after a couple of weeks. The Hispanic foreman took money from the boss to get workers visas for them. But once they were legal, he went off to make his own company. A high school kid worked with us for a few weeks. But he would wander off from work to try to hunt deer with a knife. He was very confident for some reason, but he wasn't successful. There was another guy who was a little older we worked with who mocked my virginity and religiosity. He thought he was a real wise man of the world.
One day stands out to me for some reason. We pushed wheel barrows full of concrete up a hill all day to the client's back yard to make a water drainage ditch. He lived out at the edge of town off Parmer Lane and Lamar. After work we played 3 on 3 basketball at a random park in the area. In your 20s you can work all day and then for fun do even more work. Not any more! Ha ha.
In the background that whole summer was the music of Nirvana's last album, In Utero. I drove from Parmer Lane to Westlake to Enfield Road that summer to do jobs with that cassette in my Blue Chevy Cavalier. My appreciation for post-punk had started a few years earlier. I started college in 1992 at the center of a distinct musical culture. Look up Austin, TX in the 80s and 90s. It was weird. It isn't any more. It was thick and dripping with music. Even a conservative, Christian square like me couldn't help but be baptized in it. Liberty Lunch, Antone's, The Backroom, the Hole In The Wall, were all places I frequented.
I remember listening to In Utero driving through the West Lake hills as both a rebel and a disciple. But what was I rebelling from? For whom was I a disciple? Looking back I know. I was pursuing, inconsistently, faith, wisdom, righteousness, and beauty. During the summer of 1994 I lived through much that was ugly. But there was still beauty as I drove to the day's work site listening to Nirvana's last album.