Sage, Helicopters, and Aguas Frescas

Monday I received an email from Deborah that our friend Ramon had suffered a heart attack the previous Friday. He was scheduled for open heart surgery Tuesday morning. Ramon Vasquez y Sanchez is well known in San Antonio as an artist, culturist, Chicano activist, and a spiritual leader and elder of the Tap Pilam Coahuiltecan Nation. I expect he’s known to some through my blog. I spoke this evening with his former wife, Gloria Vasquez. She’d spent the day at his side, along with her three children and her and Ramon’s extended families. The surgery is over and as of last night he was still in intensive care. I hope for a complete and speedy recovery. I’ve seen Ramon on so many occasions sharing a ceremonious Indian blessing with sage smoke and words of deep truth, and so, at the risk of tarnishing my street cred as a confirmed agnostic, I’d like to think that the entire city is returning all those blessing. Ramon is one of my favorite people, and I expect to see him soon at some art or cultural event slyly whispering some inappropriate off-color comment that only those standing near can hear, causing me to unexpectedly snort and chortle as the canapé-set shoot me admonishing glares over their trifocals and the rims of champagne flutes.

See you soon, Ramon.

Here’s a favorite portrait I took a couple years back of Ramon Vasquez y Sanchez, the man, the myth, the legend.



An unfortunate event has fallen on my friends in Redford, Texas.

My sister has been emailing me links for the last few days to news stories about the flooding in southern Presidio County. It sounded bad, and I would click over to the links and read the articles with squinted eyes, afraid I might see the name of someone I know from the region who had been swept away.

Heavy rains had swollen the arroyos in the region, but the real problem was the rising waters behind several reservoirs up the Conchos river in Mexico. There are little in the way of flood control systems, and when the waters crested the dams in Mexico, the waters rushed towards La Junta, that region where the Rio Conchos joins the Rio Grande at the international boundary where the Mexican city of Ojinaga faces the American town of Presidio.

It’s the worst flood in the region in recorded history. The international bridge is shut down. Dozens of farming communities in the flood plains of the Conchos and the Rio Grande have been swallowed up.

But it was the little farming hamlet of Redford I was concerned about. It’s on the Rio Grande sixteen miles downriver from the town of Presidio.

I finally broke down this morning and called Enrique and Ruby’s home phone number. I was surprised that someone answered the phone. I’d assumed that the entire village had been evacuated and I would have to call up their friend Roberto in Presidio to track them down in some FEMA trailer in Shafter or something. Ruby answered. And a couple of minutes later, with her on one phone, and Enrique on the extension line, the years melted away. It was back to those long and languid nights when I lived in Redford over fifteen years ago and we’d drink cappuccinos and talk of philosophy, science, literature, and local gossip. Since living there I probably haven’t visited more than once every two or three years — I hadn’t spoken to these important friends in about a year and a half. But soon we were on the conference call vibe chattering about Coen Bothers movies, the Large Hadron Collider, Schopenhauer, Herman Melville, Enrique and Ruby’s recent trip to Berkeley to talk at a scholarly symposium about the goddamn border wall, and eventually we got around to the big flood.

Enrique, in his slow and laconic manner, explained where the flooding was making trouble. There were swollen arroyos flooding the river road in both directions. Traffic couldn’t go to either Lajitas or Presidio. Enrique did explain that there was a rutted jeep trail that 4-wheel drive vehicles could travel from Presidio, but it was pretty rough going. They had been receiving their mail and emergency food via helicopter. I think we were talking about Melville (or maybe string theory) when Enrique explained that he heard the daily helicopter, and they would have to head out to check the mail and get supplies.

Below is an aerial photo lifted off the Presidio ISD website. The building at the lower left is the Redford elementary school. Just a few feet further below the image is FM-170, the only road through town. The school is directly across the road from Enrique and Ruby’s house. That big region of brown at the top would be the flood waters. The river is usually a quarter of a mile away.


I plan on visiting Redford for a week or two in early November.

Expect an update.


This coming weekend will be the fourth time I will have attended the annual Manhattan Short Film Festival at URBAN-15. This year there are twelve films from ten countries. So come on out.

I’m going to be there both Friday and Saturday night. You’ll see me selling popcorn, pouring out complementary aguas frescas, tearing your ticket, hell, I might even be running the projector. This is best annual short film festival I have ever attended. It never disappoints. You also get to vote for your favorite film.

Click over to the website and read about the films:

You can now order tickets for the Manhattan Short Film Festival online through the URBAN-15 website:

Or go straight to the ticket site:

Of course, you can also buy tickets at the door.

WHO: Why, you, or course.

WHAT: Manhattan Short Film Festival.

WHERE: URBAN-15 Studios, 2500 S. Presa / San Antonio, TX / 78201.

WHEN: September 26 and 27 at 8 p.m. (either night — Friday or Saturday — you can see all twelve films: two hours of films, with an intermission in the middle.

WHY: Must you ask?

See you this weekend!


One thought on “Sage, Helicopters, and Aguas Frescas

  1. I’m so sorry to hear about Ramon. I hope he’s up and about soon.

    Thanks for posting that Redford photo. There were so many unlabeled photos on that page I couldn’t figure where anything was. I can’t believe how close the river is!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s