The queer punk icon shares the best spots to dance, eat tacos, and cool off in ATX.
This article originally appeared in print in AdHoc 28.
In Best In Your Town, we ask artists to talk about the local institutions that make their city like no other place on earth. For this issue, we asked CHRISTEENE—who makes what she describes as “gender-bending, booty-pounding” electronic punk music—to chat about Austin, Texas. CHRISTEENE, who lived in ATX for thirteen years before moving to New York in January, told us about the best spots to watch the sunset, cool off, and eat “pizza dicks.”
Best place to dance
CHRISTEENE: There’s this bar called Elysium—an old, old piece-of-shit bar on Red River [Street]. Red River used to be an old gay strip, and then all the straights came in and turned it into a music strip, but it’s still good. And Elysium still holds all the magic in its walls from its ugly, ugly old days. It’s run by a man named John [who] always shows up in a cloak. He’s very strange and nice, and he still welcomes all the weirdos to come dance on his floor, especially on ’80s Night on Sundays.
Best place to go out on a weekday night
[Where] Chicon Street hits the river, there’s a little park. And hidden in the bushes, where the water meets the land, is a little wharf, and you can sit on that little wharf at sundown, because Austin, Texas has the most beautiful sunsets in the world. And there’s bats that will fly over your head and hopefully not shit on you, because I hear bat shit will kill you—it’s very poisonous [Editor’s note: this has not been fact-checked]. But if you sit on the docks and watch the sun go down on a weeknight, you’ll pretty much be in your own personal Valhalla.
Best local radio station
The best local radio station is called [91.7] KOOP [“co-op”]. I call it “coop.” It’s a community station. They’re very supportive of the arts and a lot of homo [and] LGBT shit. And they have a lot of rules that you can’t cuss on the radio, so every time I’ve ever been on it, I cuss a lot and get in trouble.
There [are] so many venues in Austin. Many of them are bars, and many of them are geared just toward music, but there’s an old, old theater here called the Paramount Theatre. It’s smack-dab downtown on Congress Avenue and it’s one of those crusty old theaters where Mae West and Carol Burnett performed. I’ve seen Patti Smith perform [there], and they also have a [classic] movie series.
It gets boiling hot in Austin, so you go sit in the very cold Paramount and watch movies and it [has] a beautiful, beautiful proscenium. [There’s also] a hole in the ceiling. They claim that Houdini put a hole in the ceiling when he was hanging a chain that went down to the stage.
Best place to cool off
Most anyone would tell you Barton Springs. It’s a natural underground spring in Austin that pees up into a big hole that [is now] a public pool. The water is FUCKING freezing all year round—so if you ever have a hangover, or you’re having a heat stroke, or you have an enemy you want to push into something frozen, the springs are the best.
Veracruz All Natural on Cesar Chavez Street. It’s a little trailer that’s been around forever. They taste like, I don’t know, the Golden Fleece of the gods in your mouth.
I have always brought my friends to Iron Works Barbecue. [A lot of tourists] go there, but it’s real laidback and dirty. They put the old piece of white bread on top of the tray, and there [are big rolls of] paper towels on every table. I brought Lady Bunny there, and she ate a lot of ribs in front of me, so I’ve always been fond of it. But my main belief is that you should always eat your own BBQ in your backyard with family and friends, and it should only be cooked by experienced dykes.
Best late-night bite
There [are] food trucks all over Austin now that are all late-night bites, but for my late-night bite, there’s a pizza place called Austin’s Pizza. [It] has these pizza rolls—I call them pizza dicks, ‘cause they’re so fucking good—and I get vegetarian pizza dicks with ranch dressing. That’s about the only thing you need crawling up on you late at night.
My [favorite] neighborhood is called Cherrywood. It’s not a party neighborhood—it’s just old, old, old and there’s lots and lots of trees. You can walk on the streets and look inside people’s houses and see them doing weird shit. I like that. It’s a quiet place with lots of birds and animals and stray cats. The rest of the city is so fucking developed that these old neighborhoods are precious.
The best thing about Austin is an ancient-ass video store called I Luv Video. “I Heart Video,” is what it’s called—the little sign of the heart, like “[I heart] New York.” As we all know, that’s a dying breed—the video store. And this one is just [filled] to the brim with videos. They even have VHS [tapes] and LaserDiscs, and you can rent VHS and LaserDisc players to take home with you.
One time they had a LaserDisc of Nell with Jodie Foster behind the counter, and they gave it to me for free ‘cause they didn’t want it in their store anymore. They [also] have a huge mural on the side of the building that was painted a long, long time ago—it’s in the movie Slacker, and it looks like a very troubled young child painted this mural. It really looks like shit. It’s a special place, and the people who work there are really nerdy and fun.