The Total Man Package: Albert "Huff" Huffstickler - Great Man Right Under My Nose
by Dan Murphy
On February 25th, 2002, Albert Huffstickler, known as "Huff" to locals of Austin's Hyde Park Neighborhood, died from a ruptured aortic aneurysm. I saw him often, but never spoke with him and was unaware of his significance until today. It turns out he was a poet, author and artist whose poetry has appeared in literary publications throughout the country since the early '70s (source: "Learning to Lie" by Albert Huffstickler). He was even honored by the Texas Senate for his poetry in 1989.
I happened onto this story by accident. I went into the Pronto Food Mart on 43rd and Duval to buy some gas and when I went inside to pay I noticed some pictures of Huff in front of the cash register with his birth and death dates listed. I mentioned to the cashier that I had seen this man around Hyde Park often and asked her about the picture display. Diane (the cashier) then told me he was a well-known poet and artist in the area and that there was an article on the front page of the Austin American-Statesman about him. Michael Ambrose (a friend of Huffstickler's who helped him publish his writings) said in the Statesman article that Huff's specialty was "writing about ordinary working people, down and out people. And he felt himself part of that slice of humanity."
I had seen him frequently around Dolce Vita Coffee shop in the Hyde Park area in Austin. Huffstickler was a regular to the area. I said hello to him a few times and noticed he was always carrying a notebook around with pens to scribble on. I remembering thinking to myself this guy must be some type of struggling writer. He also looked a little unkempt, so I also thought he may have been homeless. Apparently I wasn't the only one who thought this. The Statesman article said a police officer once tried to arrest him for vagrancy until Huff got some people in Quack's on 43rd to vouch for him.
After reading the Statesman article at Pronto, I decided to go to the Dolce Vita Coffee Shop across the street and take a look at some of his writings. Dolce Vita is selling copies of his writings. I picked out one of his Chapbooks called "Learning to Lie" because I liked the title. By the way, a Chapbook is a booklet and "Learning to Lie" was a booklet of poetry Huff wrote. The book didn't have a price listed inside like the others on display. Therefore, the girl at the counter told me she would have to ask Huff's daughter, who was sitting in the shop, what the price was. The counter girl got busy so I just took the book over to Huff's daughter (Margaret) myself and asked her what the book was selling for. She had to check the price list and in the meantime I told her I was sorry to hear about her father and wished I had gotten to know him. Like Huff, Margaret had a pleasant smile and made some nice small talk with me while trying to locate the price of the booklet.
Dolce Vita was buzzing with Huff interest. Several people dropped by while I was there drinking coffee to pay their condolences to Huff's daughter. I also heard one of Dolce Vita's employees fielding a phone call about the Huff Memorial. Dolce Vita even put out some flowers and coffee on a couple of tables Huff used to sit at as a tribute.
Even though Huff is now gone, he's still a great example of going after your dreams. According to the Statesman, "Huffstickler arrived in Austin at age 37 and worked odd jobs for about eight years. Needing a steady income so he could focus on writing, he reluctantly found full-time work at The University of Texas Perry-Castaneda Library." I've got a lot of respect for someone who has the guts to really do what they enjoy in life. I can certainly relate to the working odd jobs.
There will be a memorial service held at 8:00 p.m. Monday, March 4th, at Hyde Park Theatre, 511 W 43rd St. Drop by Dolce Vita on 4222 Duval if you're interested in sampling or buying Huff's work. You can also find more info about Huff by doing a search on www.google.com. I put "Albert Huffstickler" in the search and about 10 listings came up.
Hey, not only am I stumbling on to the fact that there are famous writers in my area, but I just found out last week the Secret Service is working nearby. That's another story.
Thanks for reading!!! Take care!!!
THE TOTAL MAN PACKAGE WOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!