Kisses No Ass, Pulls No Punch

Last night I headed up to see how things are developing at the Woodlawn Theater.  Jonathan Pennington has been pulling things together quite well even with the very daunting work still to go.  But in the true theater tradition  of the show-must-go-on, he keeps the performances running.  Attendance is strong, volunteers are committed, and Jon Gillespie is a tireless champion to the cause of local theater.  I'm scoping out possible venues for the 48 Hour Film Project, and the Woodlawn certainly meets seating requirements.  Parking is a situation that will need to be addressed.  As will the renting of a powerful video projector.  We'll see how things shape up.

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The sun came out today, and finally I could truly enjoy my current status as a gentleman of leisure (i.e., an unemployed bum).  I was able to hang my laundry up on the line … sometime between my first and second cup of espresso.  And then I went out for a bike ride along the Mission Trail.  I've gotten way out of shape and ballooned up easily 25 pounds since last summer.  I decided to toss the bike in my truck and drive it to Mission Park.  This shortened my usual 20 mile bike ride out to and back from Mission Espada down to about 12 miles.  I'm going to have to work my way back up.

Along one stretch of the trail, some guy in cycling shorts and hundred dollar sunglasses buzzed by me.  Good, someone to motivate me.  I'm not a terribly competitive person, but I can rise to the occasion, especially when someone passes me on a bike.  I matched him for about four miles, and then, I looked up, and he was gone.  I remember, not so long ago (or so I tell myself), when I would have had no trouble keeping up with these serious dudes.  A goal to work towards, I suppose.

When I returned to my truck, I decided to make a couple of phone calls there in the parking-lot.  I leaned against the side of my truck and was chatting away when this guy in jeans and a grimy pearl-snap western shirt rolled up to me on his rusty single speed jalopy of a bicycle.  The wire basket attached to the handle bars  held three of those chunky 6 volt lantern batteries, you know, with the coiled terminals on top.  All were wrapped in duct tape, and he had a greasy shop rag draped over them in some attempt to hide or protect them.  He stopped about ten feet from me, and waited, politely.

“Hold on,” I said into the phone.  “What's up?” I asked batteryman.

“Um, I see you have a bike.  Do you know how I can get back on the trail?”

“Yeah.  See that fence over there — horses behind it?  Ride straight to it and turn left.  There's a short path that'll get you back on the trail.”

He nodded, but made no attempt to move.

“Yes…?” I prompted.

“I'm headed to South New Braunfels.  I could take the trail or I could stay on the street.”  He scratched his head.  “This trail will get me to South New Braunfels, right?”

“I don't know that street,” I said with a shrug.

“Of course it will.  It's alongside I-37.”

Now he was telling me, not asking me.

As the exchange was going on, a grizzled coot had pulled up near us in his wheezing Ford Fiesta.  I was wondering if this senior citizen wanted my attention, or that of the battery guy.  But eventually he lost interest and puttered off. 

“Sounds like you've got a good plan,” I said to batteryman with a smile, lifting the phone back up to my ear.

I don't know if he wanted a handout, a ride to his destination with his bike in the bed of my truck, or maybe he just wanted to chat. But finally he got the hint and rode away.

Several minutes later, while I was still in the same phone conversation, I saw, coming up from the bike trail, two young men on mountain bikes.  They were dressed in black slacks, white short-sleeved Oxford shorts, and narrow black ties.

Fuck!  I was still leaning against my truck.  I tried to lower my head, in an attitude of distressed sorrow, hoping they'd think me the midsts of a very personal phone call.  I probably was even trying to squeeze out a tear.

They didn't care.

“Um, sir,” said the older of the two.  He was maybe 20.  They were stopped five feet from me, straddling their bikes.

I lowered my phone.

“Yes?”  And I suspect I was grinning at the absurdity of it all.

“We can see you're on the phone, and all … but do you know if we can get across that bridge from here?  I can see you have a bike and all.”

“What?  What bridge?”  They kept smiling at me.  “You mean that bridge?”  I pointed to the bridge over the river not a hundred yards away in clear sight.  “Sure, you cross the parking-lot to that street.  You know, that street, right in front of you — the one that crosses the river.  The bridge across the river.”

I smiled and began lifting up the phone.

“We don't want to take up your time, but let me give you one of my cards.”

I actually became intrigued.  A real business card?  Malachi Smith, Busybody Missionary.  But no such luck.  It was a flimsy postcard displaying a picture of, you guessed it, the Book of Mormon.

“Thanks,” I said pleasantly, taking the proffered card.

“There's an 800 number.  If you call it, they'll send you a free book.  It's called the Book of Mormon.”  And here followed a quick pitch of Latter Day so forth and so on that I managed to tune out.

But, soon enough they were gone — after:  “You promise me you'll call this number?”

“Yes,” I lied.  Just as the youngster had lied to me that he didn't know how to cross the Mission Parkway bridge.

I should have explained that I already have a copy of the Book of Mormon, and don't really care for it.  A bit of a snoozer, actually.  And then I would have presented my own card.  “Call this number and they'll send you, free of charge, a copy of Fawn M. Brodie's No Man Knows My History.”  (This is a wonderful bio of Joseph Smith that kisses no ass, pulls no punch.)  “You promise me you'll read it, kids?”

And they'd play my game right back in my face, with a smiling, lying assertion of, yes, of course.

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At the moment my iPod is playing some Spacemen 3, but I have my browser open to the constantly refreshing playlist of KEXP out of Seattle.  This evening is a show featuring roots country and new country.  And I noticed that by not being tuned in I missed a Willie Nelson song I've never heard of before titled “Cowboys are Frequently Secretly Fond of Each Other.”  I just did a quick internet search.  It came out a year ago, and was written by Ned Subblette (no relation, I'm guessing, to fellow Texan Jesse Sublett).  Great title.  It's that twinning of Frequently & Secretly.

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Earlier this evening I walked to Casa Chiapas for the first members meeting of 2007 of the San Antonio chapter of NALIP.

Casa Chiapas is a coffee house and restaurant on S. Alamo in my neighborhood.  It's fairly new.  In the space that Espuma (another coffee house) used to reside.

I believe 18 people showed up, me included.

There are currently three film groups functioning in San Antonio that I know of.  Short Ends, IFMASA, and NALIP.  I may well be the only person who belongs to all three.  I'm not sure what that says about me (because, really, you gotta believe me here, I'm really not a “joiner”).  Oops.  Jorge Lopez is also a triple member.  And, I shouldn't forget Amanda Silva.  Okay, I'm not so special.

I think people are put off by NALIP for three reasons.  1.) There's a fairly stiff annual membership fee (50 bucks).  2.) The San Antonio chapter, for those on the outside looking in, seems very insular and cliquish.  3.) And then there are those put off by the L in the name: The National Association of Latino Independent Producers.

Well, the membership used to be 35 bucks when I first hit town and encountered the group.  I screened my little films at each of their quarterly video slams, but never joined … because I never had that much spare cash at any given time.  But I finally took the plunge in time for the Adelante Film Forum back in the fall of 2006.  This organization provides quite a bit for the members.  For instance, as a respected national non-profit arts organization, it functions as a potential fiscal sponsor when the members are seeking grants and other types of funding.  And workshops and screenings and scholarships, and of course, networking opportunities.

The cliquishness is something that may or may not be warranted.  But the leadership is changing and the membership is growing.  If this were indeed a valid worry in the past, it's unlikely to continue.

And, then there's the Latino question.  Hmm, you know, there might only be two non-latino members in this, the San Antonio chapter.  Me (anglo-American), and Deon van Rooyen (South African).  Perhaps there are others.  But as a member of a Latino advocacy media organization, I'm confident that much of the work I've done, and work I plan to do, fits comfortably within the parameters of NALIP's mission statement.  Hell, this is San Antonio, and if your cast and crew and script doesn't reflect the cultural demographics, than you really aren't making a San Antonio movie.  Besides, my take is that if you want to make movies, and you have limited resources, play to your strengths; play to what's available; play to regionalism.  And so, los guerros, los gabachos, los gringos, et al, stand tall, fear not, join up with NALIP. 

Their last video slam proved that NALIP members (through collaboration) are making some of the strongest movies in town.  Dora Pena's “Crazy Life” is the clearest testament anyone could ask for.

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And, before I sign off for the night:

Methane Sisters.  “As Filthy As It Gets.”  The show you need to attend.  Six words: Monessa Esquivel, Annele Spector, Sam Lerma.

Jump-Start Theater.  Friday, Saturday, Sunday.  8pm.  I'll be there tomorrow night (Friday).  Hope to see you.     

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