Small Town Historians in the Fleshpots of the Alamo City

Friday morning I had a few things to do, so I left Enrique and Roberto to fend for themselves. The beckoning flesh pits of San Antonio might have their allure on lesser men, but these two historians loose in the big city, they found themselves at the downtown public library just as it opened it doors for the homeless keen on free internet access or a comfy chair to sleep in.

I drove over noonish to pick them up. Roberto wanted barbecue. Enrique, still suffering from indigestion from hotel coffee was indifferent. So I drove to a place in my neighborhood I've not yet tried. There was quite a bit of activity on S. Alamo Street, and then I remembered it was First Friday. The locals were gearing up for the drunks, the artsy people, and the drunken artsy people. We sat outside. The food was pretty good, as was the people-watching.

In an attempt to play tour guide, I suggested we see one of the Missions. The Alamo aside, the nearest was Mission Concepción.

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Enrique chewed some on the ear of a park ranger. He suggest several books he thought the gift shop should carry. He explained that the mission built in Redford (a small adobe ruin) considerably pre-dated the missions of San Antonio. And he told the ranger the story of the “Lady in Blue” (AKA, Mother Maria de Jesus de Agreda) — and how it was his, Enrique's, forbearers, the Jumano's of La Junta, who brought this story to the attention of the Catholic honchos in what is now El Paso way back in 1639.

I pulled Enrique away from his proselytizing (history, that is — the man's a confirmed disciple of Dawkins and Dennett), and we headed back to the hotel.

The AV equipment for the screening was due, and I wanted to be there. Yet when we arrived at El Tropicano, I found out that the guys from AVW-TELAV had already got everything set up. Phillip Sherrod (and I forget the other man's name) had everything needed plugged in, calibrated, and all I had to do was hand them the two DVDs I intended to screen, and they played them and made a few adjustments to the equipment.

I don't know what strings Drew Mayer-Oakes at the film commission pulled to get this to happen (gratis — at least for me), but, damn, what a sense of liberation to have professionals like AVW-TELAV. (If this sounds like a commercial, fuck yeah! I had enough stress as it was, and these guys alleviate a good chunk of it.)

Dar showed up. She was kind enough to volunteer to run the registration table. Pete also volunteered. And this was nice. Made me feel less alone. Bob, who I hadn't seen in over a year, came by. And Lisa and Roger from NALIP showed up. Ramon Vasquez with the American Indians in Texas was there. I got a call from Carlos. He was having trouble finding the place. I guess I should have mentioned that El Tropicano is owned by Holiday Inn, and, from a distance, that is the largest and most noticeable logo on the building. When I told Carlos to look for Holiday Inn, he had no problem.

Nikki Young and Chadd Green from PrimaDonna were there. As was Konise Millender.

All told, about 45 people showed up. Thank you everyone! Janet Vasquez from the Film Commission. Brilliant actress Catherine Crowley. Ignacio de la Vega, who is working with the Jumano Apache people. A good crowd.

We started off with four short pieces by Ray Santisteban. His work always has a polished and an intelligence to it that makes it a joy to watch. In my awkward introduction to his pieces I explained that every grant and every festival I tried to get into, there was Ray, ahead of me, picking up the swag and accolades. And I couldn't get pissed. His stuff is great! He deserves what he gets.

Afterward, Ray talked some about his work. Fielded some questions. In retrospect, I would have liked to have stretched it out some more. I think I needed some assistants who had collaborated with me the schedule of the night's fare. Dar and Pete were great, but we never really talked about how it was going to play out.

“The Devil's Swing” played without mishap. I was nervous around the 45 minute mark. When I previewed the DVD on my player, it froze at that point. But I cleaned the disk and that seemed to help. There were no technical difficulties.

Well, there was a bit of a problems when I pulled Enrique and Roberto up to the front. Pete pulled up three chairs and I sat with them in front of the screen. I guess I hadn't taken into account how softly Enrique talks. I should have assigned someone to audio and brought in some of my microphones.

But, dammit, it's over! And if I were to slip into a more candid mode, I would be railing about all the problems that faced me in this journey towards this little screening. I managed to piss off some folks. Perplex others. I blame it on my inexperience, sure. But I also blame the problems on the fact that I was working with two non-profit organizations with divergent agendas.

Success? Sort of. But, it weren't no failure.

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Mr. de la Vega wanted to take Enrique and Roberto out to dinner. Enrique invited me along. I explained that NALIP had, in their budget, funds for an after-event meal. So I said I'd get it — hoping that a reimbursement would one day come my way.

Mrs. de la Vega suggested Mi Tierra, a tourist place downtown. I would have suggested Tito's but with First Friday in full swing, I knew we'd never find parking.

Mi Tierra has good food. But Friday night? Avoid it. I gave me name to the hostess. An hour wait. And we waited. Pete meet us in the bar just as we were paged to our restaurant table.

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Here we have Roberto Lujan.

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Mr. de la Vega told us all about his decades as a musician working in quite a few genres. He also worked as a private detective. Also, body guard. He guarded Selena — but not towards the end (that'd be a resume-killer).

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A good time was had by all.

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Saturday morning I met Enrique and Roberto at the hotel. He had coffee and a simple breakfast at the hotel bar. I had a banana. Roberto had some granola.

On our way out of town, I stopped at the Pik-Nik convenience store near me. I knew they carried day-old newspapers. I'd promised filmmaker Alan Govenar that I'd send him a copy of all the press. And as I had sent a press release to the San Antonio Express-News, I assumed they'd put the event in their Weekender event supplement. Well, the bastards didn't. Everyone else did.

Anyway, we decided to have something which more resembled a real breakfast. And so we sampled the 50 cent tacos at Pik-Nik — and then it was west Texas-bound.

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