I blame those swine at HEB. When they shut down the HEB supermarket on S. Presa they effectually killed a neighborhood. Restaurants and retail establishments in that area have been going out of business recently. And, importantly, the guy who used to set up his taco truck next to the HEB parking-lot has stopped coming. I guess he just had no customers. This forced me to try another taco truck.
Ah, I can remember the carefree photo I shot last week of this quaint and crude signage while the nice fellow assembled my three tacos al pastor. I even sent a Twitter notice, letting my peeps know how I’m down with southside street eating.
Forty-eight hours later, I was, once again, able to face solid foods. If you find yourself in the vicinity of the fruteria on Roosevelt, a few blocks south of Mitchell, do not be tempted to pick up a tasty treat at the taco truck advertising, among other items, “brakfast tacos.” Do not let my warning keep you away the fruit and veggie shop. They have excellent produce. They also have their own taco truck on premises. This is not the one which poisoned me. What a frightful ordeal. It brought to mind that Monty Python sketch about an Australian wine show, where the expert praised one vintage which was “guaranteed to open the sluices at both ends.”
I was still a bit shaky Saturday morning when I headed out to attend the César E. Chávez March for Justice. It began at the plaza adjacent to the Guadalupe Theater and wound it’s way through downtown to the Alamo.
It’s fairly straightforward to get to the Guadalupe by bus. The #68 stops at St. Mary’s near Durango. So I caught the Blue trolly, got a transfer, and took it down to St. Marys. Walked two blocks. As I was waiting on the 68, an SUV drove by and sounded the horn a couple times. It passed by too fast for me to see who was honking at me. Later, while I was on the bus, I noticed I had a text. It was from Drew. “Need a ride?” The Film Commission offices are near that bus stop, so I assume he was putting in some weekend hours. Don’t let no one tell you the San Antonio Film Commission ain’t out busting its ass.
There was a small crowd when I arrived at the Avenida Guadalupe. Various speeches from activists and politicians. I only recognized three people. They were all on stage. After some crowd-boostering chants and some music interludes, the people slowly started to move out to the street, lining up with their groups. I hung back sitting on a bench. That’s when I heard a familiar voice shout out: “E Boss!” It was Jessica Torres running my way. She climbed the rising tiered amphitheater rings until she was towering over me.
I asked her why she wasn’t lugging a camcorder around. She said that that was last night when she was videotaping the Lila Downs show. I asked here about some of the student video groups she works with — just catching up on gossip. There was one question that had been bugging me about one of the organizations, so I asked. She pulled back and gave me a look of pretend shock, as corny as though she were acting in a silent film. “Let’s just say, I know something you don’t know,” she finally said. “Fair enough,” I replied. “It’ll make its way out. Everything does, eventually, in this town.”
She went off to join her mom. I wandered around, checking out the politicians making the rounds, shaking hands, and trying their god damnedest to be noticed. And then I saw Veronica with her husband and daughters. And, of course, no cultural event would be of note without John Standford, octogenarian communist — you probably have seen him and his wife at art events passing out copies of “The People’s Weekly World.” His wife, Jo, has been having trouble getting around. So John was in attendance alone with his infectious smile and his hand-made anti-war sign.
I sent a couple Twitter updates during the four mile march. And I’m a bit surprised that no one whose twitter feed I subscribe to was in the march. True, this march isn’t as huge as San Antonio’s MLK march (the largest in the nation), but I’d guess we were about 700 strong.
Somewhere near the Alameda, we came abreast a couple dozen tough-looking vatos sitting astride their Harley’s parked in a neat angled row. They saluted us as we passed with raised fists and the deafening roar of their bikes being revved full throttle.
As we filed our way through the barricades into the area around the Alamo, I looked up to see Tonya Drake, Special Events Manager for Downtown Operations. If there’s one thing that San Antonio does well, it’s to run massive events all year round in the downtown area. And Tonya is in the thick of it all, making things run smoothly. She (and all of the downtown ops people) was invaluable during all the planning for Luminaria. Whilst we, the steering committee, were busy patting ourselves on our backs because what we were doing was huge — fucking HUGE, I tell you! — Tonya would be sitting quietly in the corner with a note book smiling indulgently and patiently. She facilitates at least a dozen events every year of the scale of Luminaria or bigger. The César Chávez march is an example. And when she reached out to shake my hand Saturday, she was as calm and in control as usual.
I walked over to the portable stage (I believe it’s called a showmobile). Jaime Martinez, the tireless activist and head of the César Chávez March for Justice was onstage adjusting the microphone. I could see, in the wings, Gabriel Vasquez, architect, DJ, and one of the most fearless and outspoken Chicano activists working to rouse the rabble in San Antonio.
I also saw my friend Gloria Vasquez talking to some people seating in folding chairs. She’s been working with Jaime on the march, so I didn’t want to keep her from the schedule of events. I just called out to her, said the day seemed a great success, and snapped this photo of her.
I stayed for a few songs and a few speeches. Henry Cisneros gave a very smart and rousing speech about the history of Chavez and why the man’s legacy was still important. But I was fairly beat. And around three I decided to head home.
Sunday I headed out for a bike ride. It’s been a little chilly lately because of a recent cold front down from the north. But we’re back with strong gusts from Mexico, sure to warm us back up. That’s what I had to contend with on the outward leg. A strong head wind. It was also a Sunday, and the parks along the river were packed with families doing what families do. So, I was often down-shifting and riding around on the grass when I came up on sprawling barbecues, families fishing, kids walking frisky puppies on twenty foot leashes, and a couple of truly graceless skateboarders (kids, give it up, you’re like elephants lashed to grocery carts).
I took the low-water crossing at Espada dam, took the road behind the refinery, and then I was cruising along the field where Tom Otterness’ installation, “Making Hay,” has been drawing attention from the locals. I like the piece. Three sculptures surrounded by circular hay bales. The installation draws lots of local families. It has also attracted some vandalism. No real surprise. I have heard nothing which has led me to believe that this installation took into account the neighborhood. I suspect that there was a serious community outreach vacuum, and the local young people see this as nothing more than cultural colonialism. But as I like the piece, I hope there was a healthy budget for repairs. And also, because I love the movie “The Wicker Man” (you know, the original) and I love juvenile delinquents, I rather hope that when the neighborhood kids do the obvious (and, really, I’m not talking about human sacrifice) that someone is one hand to video the conflagration.
As I took a right to loop back around to the main trail, a familiar face flashed by. And he waved to me. I pulled over. It was Drew. Twice in two days. He was out with his wife and two daughters. They were all riding bikes and enjoying the beautiful day. The family had paused to enjoy the art installation. We chatted for a while, and then I waved my goodbyes and continued to Mission Espada.
Tonight (Tuesday) I attended the Westside Arts Coalition’s mayoral forum at the downtown public library. Five of the nine candidates had responded to the request. Trish DeBerry-Mejia, Diane Cibrian, Julián Castro, Sheila McNeil, and Rhett R. Smith. For some reason, Sheila never showed.
I’m not sure if all the candidates had actually been contacted. Amongst the more fringe candidates, only Rhett had a seat at the table. Trish, Diane, and Julián have all served as city council members — so they have viability. And Trish, well, she has money, and that’s another form of viability.
The mayoral race is nonpartisan. But, man, all these four viable candidates who bothered to show up all sounded like Republicans to me. Nary a progressive nor a Green amongst them. This pissed me off. Sure, we had Rhett, with his quasi-Libertarian ramblings. But because he lacks even the most rudimentary communication skills, I was never clear on his positions. He seems rather intelligent. And philosophically I agree with his aggressive defense of civil and human rights. However, I gather he’s a staunch pro-lifer … yet it didn’t come up tonight.
The candidates had been given the questions in advance. A moderator asked the questions and the candidates were allowed to check their notes while make responses. Most of the questions involved the arts. There were about 120 people in the audience. And they did well holding their tongues. Sure there were the occasional catty hisses and low throaty groans when a candidate said something ill-received. I was rather surprised. Is this the best these folks can do who want our votes? I mean, dammit, you guys are supposed to be pandering to artists. How out of touch are you fuckers? Could it be true? Did none of these candidates understand that 70 percent of the people in the audience aren’t Democrats? We’re pretty much Socialists. Get with the program.
We were thirty minutes or more into the two hour forum. I had already taken a washed-out fuzzy photo and attached it to a Twitter comment. I confess I was getting rather bored. And then a dark hulking figure walked down the central aisle and I glanced up to see a portly man in a cheap suit standing facing the candidates.
I whipped out my iPhone and punched out a Twitter broadcast: “Fringe candidate Napoleon Madrid just showed up, yet he wasn’t on the list. Is there gonna be a rumble?”
One of the guys video-taping the event pointed to the sign-up table at the back of the room, and Napoleon lumbered back to talk to someone in charge.
The candidates continued, though a bit off-balance. Clearly they all knew who that large man was.
My assessment of the candidates:
Rhett is a nut. He may have been the only pro-civil rights candidate there, but his ability to verbalize his thoughts are abysmal. He had made some comment about secularism. And afterwards he came up to talk to Deborah, Rose, Dave, and myself. Dave asked him to explain his secular statement. “Are you advocating a theocracy?” Dave asked. The candidate replied no, quite the opposite. And when the four of us told him that we thought he was pushing religion, he seemed unfazed. Rose even said: “I think you need to explain yourself more clearly.” We were all nodding. But he wasn’t listening. I felt like grabbing him and shouting, “dammmit, we’ve 8 college degrees among us, we’re not idiots, and we don’t have a clue as to what you’re saying.” But we smiled and shrugged and let him go on his way.
Trish. Well, she was just going through the motions. She’s pro big business all the way. She’d just as soon turn the Alamo into a Hard Rock Cafe were the Daughters of the Republic of Texas not meaner and more inflexible and, yes, even whiter than she. She may well have been the only candidate in the room who truly did realize that most of us were a bit to the left of Daniel Berrigan. We were not her constituents. She wasn’t courting our votes. She didn’t give a rat’s ass about artists, and it showed.
Diane. She surprised me. I thought she’d have me gagging on her phoniness. But, as she was seated next to Trish, she came across, in comparison, as a genuine human being. But don’t get me wrong. She’s a phony. But she believes her rhetoric. There’s a sweet honesty about her. I think she has a good working idea as to how San Antonio politics work. But what a ghastly mayor she’d make.
Julián. The last time he ran I voted against him. I felt he was too interested in building ties between he city and big business. I don’t know if he’s changed, but the other two viable candidates seem even more horny to sell this city off to the highest bidder than Julián was last election. I don’t know if he’s taken on a spark or two of progressive ideals, or maybe it’s just that the other contenders are all such vile reactionaries, but I’m going to indorse Julián Castro for mayor of San Antonio. The sad fact is, I’m not so convinced that I’d put a sign in my yard.
We’ll see how he does as mayor. I’m convinced he’ll win. The northside affluent anglo vote will clearly be split between Trish and Diane. We’ll have Julián. And I would like to say that when the candidates were asked about the LGBT question, all of them were unanimous in their rush to decry intolerance. But only Julián had the guts (or political savvy) to use the words GAY and LESBIAN, and in a positive manner. And I was pretty sure he was making eye-contact with those well-known queer folks he recognized in the audience. He’s the only clear queer-friendly candidate. I guess that’s the most I can hope for in this year’s mayoral crop.
In closing, I’ll quote my FaceBook addendum to my Twitter (which is linked to FaceBook) … the Twitter comment which read “Fringe candidate Napoleon Madrid just showed up, yet he wasn’t on the list. Is there gonna be a rumble?”
I followed it up with: “No rumble, but he remained on a slow simmer. I got one of his tri-fold manifestos with densely-packed declarative sentences ripe with typos and inexplicably capitalized letters. I’ll say it again, Napoleon Madrid would be my man if only voting ironically weren’t oh so 20th century.”
Also, in the “better late than never” category, fringe candidate Lauro Bustamante also showed up. But, please, he’s about as exciting as a damp Saltine.