Sandra Cisneros Visits Ghost Country

It seems my neighborhood is becoming a movie-making mecca, even when I'm not around. Sunday, while I was on a shoot at Canyon Lake, AJ Garces was shooting a scene from a short film across the street from my place at Jerry's house. And, this afternoon, as I returned from a few errands, I heard my name called out from a slow-moving SUV. It was Manuel Pena. He said he and Dora were shooting in Ross' house, next door to Jerry. I walked over and chatted some with Manuel, Robb Garcia, and Ross. Dora stuck her head out long enough to greet me with a smile. I politely made my goodbyes. There's rarely time for chit-chat during production. I was glad to discover that Dora resolved her location issues.

After some sunny days which almost resembled summer weather (though not hot enough and, still, humid as hell), it's back to the damn monsoons. I hate this weather. It pissed down from mid-morning to late afternoon. And I really need to do some laundry. I don't have a dryer, so I need sunshine to dry my togs on the line. Maybe tomorrow?

I decided to check the website of the local NALIP chapter to see when their next video slam will be. I assumed it would by the last weekend of July. Nope. It's this coming Saturday. I want to get Heartcore edited in time for the screening. Me and Russ are only about a quarter of the way through. I think that's what we'll be doing tomorrow.

Last week as I was tying up loose ends for the Josiah Fest, I wandered up to the Urban-15 performance room. George was sitting with Sandra Cisneros. (Sandra Cisneros is no relation to the San Antonio Cisneros — she moved here from Chicago some years back.) For some reason, when I drove into the parking lot just minutes earlier, I suspected that the new black SUV hybrid I parked next to might be hers. I really had no reason to think this. Her usual vehicle is a large black SUV, somewhat similar (I don't know one brand of car from another, nor do I particularly care). But my suspicions were correct.

George introduced me to Sandra — a woman who, for the last three and a half years I've been in this neighborhood, has lived less then 100 yards from me. She was very gracious and sweet. I tried not to make a fool of myself. Around 1990 a Random House promotional booklet found it's way into my hands. It had chapter excerpts from books slated for the publisher's 1991 releases. The only thing I recall from that collection was Sandra Cisneros. Her “House on Mango Street” was being reprinted by Random House. I bought it when it came out. I rarely do that with books (having grown up in a second-hand bookstore, I usually wait for the book to be resold). The pre-release snippet had turned me into a convert to the Cisneros style. I let everyone who'd listen to me know how important a writer she was. And when I finally got around to reading the entirety of the slim book, I was only further convinced of her genius. As the years passed, I'd pick up her new books — prose or poetry. I have had the good fortune to have seen her read three times. And when I found myself living in San Antonio just half a block from her house, I felt pretty lucky — you know, just to be in the proximity. I mean, shit, a recipient of the McArthur “Genius” Award lived on my block! How cool is that?

She's still a beautiful woman — no doubt about that — but a decade and a half back, when she was so easy to find on the lit fest circuit, she had this smoldering sex-appeal that could break a man's heart at a hundred paces. Now you have to look out the corner of your eye to see that in her. But it's still there.

George explained to Sandra that I lived on her block. She furrowed her brows.

“I'm across the street from the big house that Carlos and Hope moved into,” I said, assuming that she knew the couple, seeing as they are part of the San Antonio arts community.

She nodded and asked if they had spoken about the ghost in their new house.

I said they hadn't. Sandra cautioned me against mentioning that the house was haunted. “Well, certainly not around their children.”

George then mentioned that the Urban-15 building was haunted.

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And then I listened to another typical San Antonio ghost discussion. Fuck me Mrs. Marple, but this is one haunted city.

“But they're nice ghost, right?” Sandra asked.

George shook his head and explained that of the original four ghosts, two of the meanest ones had to be exorcised. The remaining two were rather benign.

Sandra seemed to understand the ghost issues. Anyway, I said my goodbyes, and allowed George to give her a tour of the facilities.

I've heard ghost stories before at Urban-15. Last year Catherine had told me about the ghost up in the second floor of the dormitory. I expressed mild curiosity (okay — here's the deal — I don't believe in ghosts … but I'm a skeptic, even of my own skepticism). Catherine was doing something at the time, and, as an aside, she suggested I go up and see for myself. “The first three rooms on the left at the top of the stairs. That's a likely place.” And she went back to her computer working on a spreadsheet or something. I climbed the stairs and hung out in the suggested rooms. Nothing.

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And so, yesterday, I found myself back at Urban-15 to close out the Josiah Festival. Thank-you letters, filing all the paperwork, and I had to send out the award to the girl from Minnesota who won best experimental film.

Catherine and George were scrambling to make a deadline for an on-line grant, so I didn't want to be too much of a pest. I asked Catherine if they had any boxes around, as I needed something in which to send the gift bag to LaShae Brooks in Minnesota.

“You'll have to look around,” she said over her shoulder. “There's plenty of boxes upstairs in ghost country.”

Ah. Ghost Country. Now the second floor of the old dormitory wing had a name. I'm learning.

Up in Ghost Country I took my time, poking around, keeping my back turned for minutes on end just like Eddie 'Rochester' Anderson would do before the spirit-generated histrionics ensued. But, alas, the Ghost Country had nothing to offer me. Maybe someday I'll talk George and Cat into letting me spend a couple of nights up there armed with camcorder and my most delicate microphone.

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Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Oh, and to move quickly from spooky to nauseous, here's a picture I took the other day while riding my bike near the low-water crossing at Mission Espada.

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Unpleasant? You bet. But you should always carry a camera, you never know what you might encounter. It might not be no ghost, but I'm pushing into the rumor-mill that it's the skeleton of the rare Northern Chupacabra. Yep.


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