Music : More tales from Taco Land

Memoirs of just another pussy - Sanford Allen recalls his first trip to a place called Taco Land

Almost 15 years ago, some friends dragged me to a place called Taco Land. I mildly protested, having heard vague warnings of shootings and stabbings, but I soon found myself stumbling out of the car and toward a brick building with a sign out front reading "Taco Land — Air Condition."

The place was tiny, cramped. Conjunto music and '70s AM radio hits thumped from the jukebox, the surly proprietor Ram called the people &mdash his customers &mdash "pussies" (those were the ones he liked), and a punk band called Sharon Tate's Baby was about to take the stage.

Sanford Allen (Photo by Mark Greenberg)

The clientele seemed like a collection of all the biggest misfits I'd ever seen: Burnt-out punks and alcoholics rubbed shoulders with broken-hearted losers and weirdos who looked like they'd spend the evening sleeping under 281.

The atmosphere became even more surreal when the band tore into its set. A haggard woman ripped off her shirt and waved her breasts at the bassist; a pair of inebriated laborers well into their 60s pumped their fists in the air as Sharon Tate's singer snarled lyrics about shooting heroin and wetting his pants.

Every other punk show I'd ever been to felt like I was standing in a crowd of normal people posing as outcasts. These people didn't have to try - they were the real outcasts.

And somehow I felt strangely at home.

As I staggered out of the bar at 2 a.m., I wasn't sure whether what I just experienced was real or part of some feverish dream I'd wake from. So, I soon was back to try to answer that question.

Now fast forward to 2002: I'm playing music at Taco Land regularly, sharing the bottle with Ram, and happily integrated into the Grayson Street congregation of misfits.

And to tell the truth, most nights I'm still not sure whether it's all real or some strange hallucination from which I'll wake.