Large frogs perched in perpetual rigor mortis on the roof of what used to be a bank catch the first rays of sunlight on Lowest Greenville Avenue. Across the street at Little Gus’, Nick Hronas is preparing for the standing-room-only crowd that will soon be concentrating on Gus’ famous Greek omelette and hash browns. Nick has been busy since 4:45 a.m. and will be busier; by noon the place will be converted into a favorite hamburger joint, and by midnight the caté will assume its truest incarnation as an exceptional Greek restaurant. Considerably farther north, near Park Lane, a trendier bunch is savoring a farm-fresh breakfast at Vickery Feed Store as well as their own marketing skills and management prowess.
The morning stillness is broken by beer and bread trucks bringing the staples of the street to places such as Caulfield’s, the Saloon and the Blue Goose. Hoping to get a jump on summer, young women queue up outside Prima Tan. A truck pulling a trailer stops in front of Goody-Goody Liquor. The driver explains that he has brought a load of circular saws from North Carolina, but he doesn’t know where to deliver them.
An old man hobbling on one crutch emerges from an alleyway near Bluebonnet Health Foods. Carrying a large trash bag full of beer cans, he crosses the street to the Arcadia Theater without looking up at the marquee advertising a rock concert. Another old man in faded jeans sits on the window ledge of Pinky’s, oblivious to the bright punk fashions displayed behind him.
Well-dressed business types flock to Pan-teli’s for lunch. Many order one of the best lunches on the street: half an order of dolmas, a dinner salad with basil-walnut dressing, bread and a glass of wine. The intriguing background music and sophisticated art complement conversation on topics ranging from Reaganism to the Rangers.
Two men at Clipper Ship Hair Designs are talking about a fierce storm that damaged the roof of nearby La Bare, the male strip club. “That’s some kinda place, iddnit? ’Fore long, Harry Hines ain’t gonna have nothin’ on Greenville.” Says the other: “It already don’t. Greenville’s just in a higher dollar bracket.”
Enjoying either a long lunch or an early happy hour, two couples sit on the veranda at Biff’s, watching a squirrel try to make off with an entire piece of bread in its mouth. They order another drink, comment on the new buds of spring appearing on the trees and smile at a private joke. Biff’s is on the site of what was once Vickery Park (back when there was a town called Vickery), which featured a huge swimming pool, a miniature golf course and an amusement park for kids. Now only the trees remain.
The Greenville version of rush hour clogs the street as motorists seek an alternative to an impossible Central Expressway. Drive time from Ross Avenue to LBJ Freeway: 36 minutes.
A black man with a close-cropped Afro meets a white man who is bald except for a spiky fringe of hair down the middle of his head. The two embrace and head down Greenville, arms entwined. A conservatively dressed older couple, entering the Three Vikings restaurant, gives them a curious stare.
A bartender at the Blue Goose Cantina is showing off his skill for two girls who look barely old enough to drink. Pouring carefully over a skewered olive, he builds a drink he calls an Easy Way: a layer of Frangelica, a layer of Bailey’s Irish Creme and a layer of Stolichnaya. The girls knock back their drinks with aplomb. Bombs away.
The front room of the Greenville Avenue Country Club is deserted except for five well-dressed men in their mid- to late-twenties. All are knee-walking drunk, laughing at jokes before the punch lines are delivered. A blonde woman in a long dress appears. One of the men asks, “Are you going to take off your clothes now?” She laughs and heads out toward the swimming pool in the back. It turns out she is going to take off her clothes; it’s a bachelor party, and one of the drunks is the honoree.
A Yuppie couple with Chamber of Commerce good looks stalks out of the Greenville Avenue Theater, offended by the X-rated language and full frontal nudity of Sam Shep-ard’s play The Curse of the Starving Class. The evening traffic thickens.
Aging flower children drift out of the Arcadia Theater, ears ringing from the straight-ahead rock and blues of Leon Russell, who after all these years looks like a washed-out, cadaverous Santa Claus, as do many in the crowd. Some cross the street for tequila shooters and spicy chili at the Prospect Grill.
Looking waterlogged but happy, two men and a woman emerge from one of the private rooms at The Tub Club. Their bill: $50 for two hours of watery bliss.
Fender-bending traffic gets its last wind as disheveled clubgoers zip from Packard’s to Confetti, or from Confetti to the Fast and Cool Club, or from Fast and Cool to Aca-pulco, in a last-chance shot at fun, while the battle-weary and the victorious head home. Three red-eyed SMU girls toting bags of Danish wedding cookies and a six-pack of Diet Coke nervously buy a Sunday Dallas Morning News from the old man who parks his truck outside Tom Thumb in Old Town. They give the man a dollar and tell him to keep the change, worried someone will see they are stoned. He turns up the rap music on his ghetto-blaster, and the break dancers do one last series of back spins.
Two more tow trucks roll out of the Confetti parking lot, one hauling a white Cutlass, the other a gold BMW. An angry blonde woman in a tight white dress waves her broken spike-heel at the second truck and screams something obscene. A photographer snaps pictures of the trucks until an angry driver shouts, “You take another picture and I’ll bash your f—ing head in.”
Men primp and women shrink as the lights come up in Confetti and the bar backs collect the glasses. Serious dancers and the desperate gear up for after-hours. The women’s room is overflowing.
A Porsche 911 runs the light at Belmont and hits a low-rider. A pretty leather-and-lace night urchin says she saw the whole thing and goes to the 7-Eleven to call the cops. Two young women without I.D. try to talk the tall blonde bouncer at On the Air into believing that they are 22. Inside, an exuberant assortment of the sloppy-chic dance with rabid non-commitment to Dead or Alive’s I’d Do Anything.
Four guys in a navy Cadillac heading north near Chili’s pull up to a group of girls in a black Lincoln, then speed ahead. The guy on the right in the back moons the girls as the driver flicks on his inside lights. The last amplifier is unplugged at Poor David’s.
The Confetti people drip, stumble and dance into the parking lot and try to find their cars. A street cleaner rumbles past. Two boys running across Lovers to Tom Thumb are almost hit by a Nova.
At the 7-Eleven at (Greenville and Long-view), a short line forms at the microwave oven. A large stack of Dallas Times Heralds is delivered.
Nick Hronas unlocks Little Gus’. The frogs don’t budge.
The street lights go off. Another Greenville day begins.