One of the more amusing stories here in San Antonio at the moment is the Mulch Fire in Helotes. Helotes is a town to the north. And this fabulous smoldering mulch is an 80 foot mount of brush cleared from the lands being developed in the Outer Cracker Belt where the rich assholes cohabatate and cavort in their gated monocultural ghettos which are swallowing up some hitherto beautiful countryside. Teenagers have been blamed for starting this fire. I have my doubts. Teenagers as vandals are the 20th century scapegoats. The current crop lack the cojones to step outside, let alone climb over a barbed wire fence. But whatever the cause, the fire has become a thing of legend. It will not die. The recent monsoons have not fazed it. And fire trucks and aerial dousings can't kill it. It's too huge. The fire is now inside the mountain, smoldering at its own pace. It's exposed some serious problems with bureaucratic jurisdictions. No one wants to take responsibility. I've seen reports in the paper where various companies specializing in, well, I guess, mulch fires, have crunched the numbers and come up with a range of 1.7 to 6 million dollars to take this beast down.
All the absurdity was brought home to me the other day while reading the San Antonio Express-News. It seems the Mulch Fire has it's own MySpace page. You bet it's been folded into my friends list. On the MySpace site there's a very nice piece of video showing the entire humongous mound blazing away during the first night. I doubt that currently any flames can been seen. Just smoke. But, early on — wow!
That was one mean mulch fire!
The recent rains had made my weekly hike with Dar problematic. The parks we normally visited would be muddy as hell. She suggested the downtown River Walk.
We'd done the River Walk a few weeks back. Back then it was drained for cleaning. After New Years, tourism is marginal enough to justify shunting the river around downtown through the networks of tunnels and canals that were part of the whole WPA River Walk project. But today the water was back, coursing through the middle of town. This week we bypassed some construction and made our way to the more touristy loop that includes the convention center which we'd avoided previously.
This took us into La Villita. This is where the historic settlement affiliated with the Mission San Antonio Valero (AKA the Alamo) once stood. The WPA River Walk project attempted to preserve the buildings. And by the time of the 1968 HemisFair, the real bastardization must have commenced. Now we have this hybrid of old buildings and new buildings made to look old to house tourist shops selling scented candles and “starving artist” quality paintings.
La Villita has its charm, but what really caught my attention is that area of the River Walk. This is where you'll find the Arneson River Theater. It's an outdoor amphitheater where the tiered seating faces the stage on the other side of the river.
We were climbing around the seating area. I was wondering how this might be used as a location for a film. And then I wondered how I might go about arranging to use the theater itself to do some sort of weird puppet theater or something.
At that moment one of the tourist barges nosed around a bend in the river. I heard the boat captain give the spiel about how this theater had been used for Miss Congeniality. I had forgotten about that. And then I realized the captain was my neighbor, Cara. I waved to her. She saw me and smiled. “If you look to the left, you'll see Erik, my neighbor.” I couldn't help but start laughing as about twenty guileless, smiling tourists waved excitedly at me. Of course I waved back. They will all return to Nashwauk, Minnesota and Dime Box, Texas gushing about how “everyone knows each other in San Antonio!” And, you know, they'd be right.