Elaine Mesker-Garcia
Mr. Balls (pictured) in his heyday

Excuse us, we're looking for Gay Street?

We were driving down Lower Westheimer the other day, taking in the sights — drag queen, street kid, Numbers, street kid, Helios, crack whore, Felix, street kid, Condoms Galore, drag queen, street kid, suburbanite pretending to be a street kid, Burger King, drag queen, street kid — when we practically drove right off the road. It wasn't that we were distracted by all the tattoos and track marks. What got us was the realization that the mural on the side of

Mary's Lounge

had been painted over.

Complete with Blue Oyster Bar characters and a sign announcing the intersection of Gay Street, the Mary's mural was a local landmark on par with, well, whatever counts for history in this sprawling palimpsest of a city. But the masterpiece has been buffed over, completely whitewashed save for the image of a cat sitting at the bar.

Have the gents finally decided to gentrify?

"Mary's is Mary's," manager Al tells us by phone. "Mary's has got a lot of history and a lot of tradition and we're not trying to get away from that."

But "it's time for a new mural," he says. "We're just trying to upgrade the place a little bit."

Plans are in the works to print up some lithos of the old mural, which included caricatures of Mary's longtime regulars. And Al tells us the new one will be designed with help from the bar's current Norms and Cliffs.

As for the cat, he says, "Everybody who's been coming to this bar for any length of time knows about Mr. Balls." — Keith Plocek

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