When Pecan Trees Dance in the Hail Storm

I just read a blog from my friend Melanie in Fort Worth.  She was musing on her dislike of storms — fear, actually.  (While she was writing, a storm was raging outside her home.)  She went on to mention specific incidents of devastation inflicted upon her and loved ones from lighting, tornados, hail, and the general wrath of the big storms that march through central Texas.  And just as I closed my web browser and starting writing this blog, I heard what I thought was a neighborhood kid throwing a rock against the house.  The second time it happened, I realized what was going on.  I rushed onto my porch, expecting a delightful, dramatic hail storm.  You see, I love that kind of stuff.  But all I saw was Jerry rushing back to the cover of his porch, pulling on his big black Labrador, their leisurely evening dog walk interrupted.  It might pick up some, but right now it's more rain than hail.

At least it'll be a cooler night then last night.

I didn't sleep too well last night.  I hadn't invested in a bottle of NyQuil, so the need to get up and blow my nose or cough up some mucus kept waking me.  For the best, I suppose.  I was having some fairly nasty dreams.  One sticks out.  I was wandering around an empty space which a friend wanted to rent for a shop or a gallery.  As she was talking to the realtor I looked around.  It'd be a great space for a bookstore, I found myself thinking.  In each room I made a quick count of how many bookcases would fit.  There were probably about nine rooms.  In the last room, I noticed a door, slightly ajar.  It had no lock, not even a knob.  I pushed through.  I found a narrow corridor  maybe five feet wide, twelve feet high.  The floor was cement.  The walls were painted a dingy green.  Flickering florescent lights in the ceiling were interspace at enough of a distance to keep the place in gloom.  Feeling adventurous, I started moving at a good pace along the corridor.  I was going up a slight slope.  There were doors every so often, and other corridors branching off here and there.  At times I would be going down a slight incline, at times, up.  After a couple of minutes of all this, taking a left branch here, a right branch there, I thought I should stop before I got absolutely lost.  And then, with a sinking feeling, I realized I was already lost.  Most dreams of labyrinths I welcome.  Getting lost is what it's all about.  One odd tableau would give way to another, even odder.  But here, it was all the same.  Unlike Borges' endless library, this place was unpardonably bleak and dead — besides, there was nothing to read, nowhere to sit down.  Just locked doors and narrow passageways.

I was happy to cough myself awake.


Around one thirty I drove to UTSA.  Lisa Cortez-Walden was defending her dissertation (“Compromisos: Strategies of Transformative Media in the Latino Community”), and I was on her invite list.  I never knew such things were open to the public.  I was curious about the process.  Also, I'm very fond of Lisa and was happy for a chance to show my support.

Just as I started up my truck, I got a call from Christy Walsh.  She's the choreographer who Russ and I spoke with a couple months back about collaborating on a video dance piece for Contemporary Art Month (which is July, here in San Antonio).  She didn't get her grant, but she still wants to do at least part of her project.  She called to see if I could make a meeting with her and Russ tomorrow.  Of course, I said.  I had Saturday free from Leftovers (we'll be shooting Sunday).  She brought me up to speed on several of her projects.  And then she explained that she intended to see Anne Gerber in Cabaret this weekend.  I expressed my distaste for musicals in general, but my desire to see the show nonetheless, because of Anne.

By this time I had parked in the lot under the elevated section of I-35.  I put six quarters into the metal box, slot 242.  I walked toward the UTSA downtown campus, still talking on my phone.  I asked Christy to tell me more about her Dada Banquet.  She explained that this is a staged event where a dozen or so diners are seated at a banquet table eating absurdist meals of their own design.  There would be dada public speeches and bad tango dancing.  There would be an audience.  I expressed interest, as I no longer fear public speaking.  Also, I'm as capable of bad tango dancing as anyone else — more so, I suspect.  She was mostly concerned about a venue.  She really wanted an outside area in the Blue Star Arts Complex, but she was getting lost in the phone tag game of getting the go-ahead from board members.  She said she was heading over there right now to meet someone.  I wished her luck, hung up, and looked at the building I thought Lisa would be in.  She's mentioned in her email it was building MB, which stands for Main Building.

I was standing in front of the Durango Building.  I was already a minute late, so I hurried across the quad to the line of connected buildings.  None were the Main Building.  At the final building, I saw the offices of the campus police.  I leaned in and asked a man seated at a desk where I might find building MB, “You know, the Main Building?”

He smiled.  He looked over to a guy who was sitting half asleep at another desk.  He looked back at me, his smile half an inch larger.

“Yeah, I know where it is.”  And he laughed a little bit.  “You're not going to like it.”

“Um, is this a bad time?”

“Naw, it's not like that, man.  The Main Building is on the Main Campus.  Up at 1604.  Sorry to break the news?”

1604 is the outer loop highway.  I was something like 15 miles away from the main campus.

I shrugged, told the campus cop not to worry.  And I walked away.

It never occurred to me.  I associated Lisa with the downtown campus.  Oh, well.

I headed to the post office and mailed my IRS “I-need-more-time” form.  It's the 4868, if you're curious.  I never make enough to have to pay them money — and that's hard to do when you're self-employed.  But they still want all my information, and I just don't feel like making sense of it all right now.

Back home I took the little peanut butter jar I keep my change in to the HEB supermarket.  I fed the contents into one of those coin machines that counts the contents and gives you a redeemable ticket for the full amount … less 8.9 percent.  I remember back when banks used to do that.  It was just one of the services they provided for “free” — although it was understood that these services were underwritten by the interests they made holding onto the money in your account.  They don't give those “free” services anymore, do they?

I found myself 25 dollars richer.  Or did I find myself two dollars and something cents poorer?  Shit!

I made the rounds of HEB, shopping for the basic staples needed here at Casa Erik.  At the checkout, I noticed that the man in the next lane looked like Marcus Neundorf (the father of the late Josiah Neundorf, the namesake of the Josiah Youth Media Festival that I'm coordinating with Urban 15).  I'd only met Marcus once, and I wasn't certain it was him.  Five years ago I'd been too shy and neurotic to give it a shot; but, what the hell, I shouted out, “Marcus?”

He turned, and I knew it must be him.  He smiled and waved.  After paying for his groceries, he walked over.  He told me that he had an art project in mind.  (He's pretty cool in this regard.  He's an architect, but he always seems to have several strange arty projects in the works, mostly for his own amusement.  Last time I saw him, he wanted Catherine Cisneros to give him some pointers on constructing an angler fish hand puppet.)  He told me that he had been in the Hill Country during the slight snow storm we had this Easter.  He'd taken some video with his cell phone.  And he wanted to edit it.  He had in mind “a very existential piece.”  I was intrigued.  All forms of media acquisition should be valid.  And because I do believe in this, I should know how to play around with cell phone video.  Marcus pointed to a port on his phone that took a memory card.  It was empty, because he'd not bought the card.  I asked if he had the instruction manual.  He grinned and told me he had downloaded a copy.  A hundred and fifty pages.  I could tell he wasn't keen on reading the whole thing.  I told him that when he found a way to get the file or files onto a computer (through a wireless transfer, a USB cable, or a memory card) he should give me a call.  I felt pretty sure I could work with what ever format the phone used.

These are the people I love.  The true artists.  They are always adrift in ideas and possibilities.


When tonight's storm was at it's height (it's all over now), I was standing on my porch mesmerized by how the pecan tree in front of Marlys' house swayed under the onslaught of water and wind like an Indonesian dancer, fluid at the arms and shoulders, but always mannered and formal — a counter-point to the chaotic wind and rain.

I leaned against the pillar where my mailbox is attached.  I yawned and stretched and then put my hands into my pockets.  I found a half-dried bluebonnet blossom I had picked yesterday while on my weekly walk with Dar.

For those who were taught as was I that it is illegal to pick bluebonnets in Texas because it's the state flower, don't believe it.  Pure bullshit.  Pick away.  I mean, they're hardly endangered.

The bluebonnets are out in force in McAlister Park.  We saw at least two varieties.  The short, familiar ones.  Also, the taller species similar to those found in far west Texas.

It's always nice to hang out with Dar.  Not just because she's fun to talk to, but because we're doing similar things.  I'm running three film events so far this year.  Events established by preexistent organizations, I should point out.  What Dar is doing is something more interesting.  She's starting a film festival from the ground up.  SAL.  The San Antonio Local Film Festival.  I'm not sure if she's set a date for the screening.  Sometime in September or October.  But she's got all her non-profit paperwork in order.  And she's already getting donations coming in.  Dar and SAL are serious and definitely in it for the long haul.  I'm not at the point where I can toss some cash SAL's way, but I'll definitely be there every step of the way helping in any way I can.


For those who have not yet seen my Dia de los Locos documentary, it will be screening a week from this Sunday.  On Sunday, April 22nd, the film will be shown in conjunction with the San Antonio Museum of Art's Family Day.  Bella Merriam will be running a mask-making workshop, as I understand it.  It will be a blast.  For those who have kids, check this out.  It's free.  The Family Day events at SAMA are always great fun.  The event runs noon to 4.    


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