I was reading a few of my incomplete manuscripts the other day. One, the opening chapter of a sort of bohemian punk rock science fiction novel, seemed to be drifting towards another work, a projected novella which exists only in rough notes. It’s a Christmas story. Maybe I should hammer out that one instead. It’s about a journalist (a combination of Dahr Jamail and the Joseph Cotten character from Citizen Kane)–he’s determined to get an interview with the elusive Santa Claus, a toy tycoon who, in this parallel universe, really exists. Mr. Claus created the commercial element of Christmas in the mid 19th century with his pal Charles Dickens. Santa Claus is 232 years old. He keeps trim and feisty through a regimen goat placenta injections and daily enemas of radium-infused glacier-melt water. His workers who manufacture the billions of toys are all decedents of his original labor pool, inmates of Victorian-era London workhouses. Over several generations these over-worked and malnourished slaves have become diminutive pygmies who rarely live more than a couple of decades. “My little elves, my sweet loyal simpletons,” he’s been heard to call them. The problem our hero has in tracking down his subject is that UNICEF, Amnesty International, Green Peace, and PETA (because of rumored unspeakable and unnatural behavior with reindeer) are all aggressively tracking Santa. He’s become a moving target. Even his massive global chain of sweatshops keep shutting down and re-opening in new locations–deserted Pacific islands, secret east European cavern systems, the calderas of dormant South American volcanos, decommissioned Asian penal colonies, and the old American Motors plant in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Why not work on this one? The season of giving is just around the corner….
I remember those odd days back when my sister and I were running the family bookstore after our father passed away. Used and collectable books aren’t the easiest things to sell even in a good economy. It’s a career favored by those whose incomes are subsidized by trust funds. Or, such as our father, folks who are not concerned with amassing much in the way in wealth. Anyway, all those thoughts of my uselessness as a salesman changed significantly on those times (three or four times a year) when I would continue my father’s habit of renting a table at the Dallas Gun Show. He would attend as a book dealer, selling books on guns, hunting, and kindred macho subjects. His main reason was to sell enough books to buy a new pistol to add to his collection of, mostly, single action cowboy-style revolvers. I continued setting up at this venue. But not just to make some money for the bookstore by selling books on blood sport–see, it was also as a place to sell off some of my father’s guns. (Note to those considering turning me into the Feds: currently you do not need to possess a firearm license to sell your own personal gun collection in the state of Texas. There are limitations as to what and how much you can sell. And, by the way, I think many people are surprised that I, a self-proclaimed ultra-progressive leftist, am not overly concerned with increasing this country’s gun laws. That fact is, we have plenty of gun laws. Probably they should be better enforced. But I tend to agree with Michael Moore when he posits that perhaps the high rates of gun violence in this country has more to do with our media’s obsession with violence as well as the United State’s out-of-control military industrial complex which has institutionalized murder of foreign people by Americans in uniform as virtuous behavior…but I digress….) So there I was, selling books on one side of the table, guns on the other. Now let me just say that I place more value on books than guns (and so did my father, ore or less), but, man, if you wanna make money, my friend, sell guns. People–especially Texans–fucking love guns.
This takes me to now. I’m no longer officially in the book business. Now I’m trying to offer my services as a video producer, or, more close to my heart, I’m trying to get the funding to make the film projects important to me. But no one’s biting. The other day, when I put a notice up on FaceBook that I was selling my beloved 2001 F-150 pickup truck, I got two immediate responses. This makes me think two things. I’m selling it too cheap. And, people love trucks (like guns) more than they love art….well, buy art…..
(My father once told me that when he was younger he dreamed of owning a combination bookstore, gun shop, and liquor store. Had he but pursued that dream I don’t doubt my sister and I would have never been exposed to that shocking article of child abuse known as powdered milk.)
A month doesn’t go by here in San Antonio when I find myself involved in a futile exchange with some naif who’s pontificating on the failings of San Antonio. Because of the people I move around, it’s often about the lack of funding for the arts. Specifically concerning films and the film industry. It usually begins something like this: “San Antonio is the seventh largest city in the United States. We’ve surpassed Dallas, and now we’re the largest city in Texas, after Houston. What’s the problem?” I try my best to tell them about metropolitan population regions. “We got no sprawl. The city goes all the way out to the county line. There are no major cities in the counties contiguous to Bexar County.” It’s a numbers game, really. The economic engine of any city in the US has become highly dependent on the populations and ancillary industries of the cities and towns and communities surrounding the major city in question. The news anchor for a major Dallas TV station makes substantially more money than his or her San Antonio counterpart. It’s a bigger market. Dallas might be a smaller city that San Antonio, but that Dallas-based TV transmitter can reach so many more homes that the same tower here. And if you think that the director of the San Antonio Opera should get paid more money than the director of the Dallas Opera, because, you know, San Antonio is a bigger city, I have to ask: “Really? I mean…really?” In Dallas you got millionaires coming down from Plano, Frisco, Flower Mound, and all those wealthy northern bedroom communities. With San Antonio, we might be able to entice a couple dozen of the more cultured thousandaires from Helotes, Poteet, and fucking Bastrop. There is no comparison. San Antonio, stop whining about those nefarious forces hampering our rise to the status of a “world class city” (whatever that’s supposed to mean).
These people seem incapable of understanding that San Antonio already has a vibrant arts and cultural scene. In fact, that’s why this city is so dependent on tourism. People from all over the world recognize the unique qualities expressed by San Antonio’s creative citizens. But let’s be honest. Tourists aren’t coming here for the symphony, the opera, or the ballet…unless that’s ballet folklorico. The Chicano arts are the best of what San Antonio has to offer–the world has spoken! And these artists and the organizations which showcase them need the full support of San Antonio’s political and economical will. And so if you’re harping about how this city needs to get behind you to make your zombie movie a reality, or to bring greater attention to your paradigm-shifting post-modern installation on the politics of meat, well, sorry, but I don’t really care. And nor should this city’s politicos. My advice? Take it on the road, ’cause it ain’t gonna be tasting like San Antonio. (I will, of course, change my stance for paradigm-shifting zombie movies and the very, um, rare meat piece of genius.)
I’ve said this before, but one of the things I love about San Antonio is that it’s such a small town. If you live here for a few years you find that you know everyone. You might not know this. But you do. (Unless you live outside of loop 410, in which case you don’t really live in San Antonio, you miserable bumpkin or suburbanite.) This was brought back to my attention the other month when I was working with a local artist to videotape her work at C4 Workspace. The street in front of the place was being torn up, and she’d brought a U-Haul. I was afraid she’d have to park a block away. However, she recognized one of the contractors working on the beautiful old house next door to C4. It was one of her friends. He helped us get her rented truck right up to where we needed it!
A couple of days later, this guy sent me a FaceBook friend request. I, of course, accepted.
And when I made a FaceBook profile posting that I wanted to sell my truck, he quickly responded. The other day he made a test drive. He wants another look-see this week, but I suspect he’ll buy it. The kicker is that my next-door neighbor (who’d also like to buy my truck) has known this guy for years.
Yes, I understand, we are all connected. But forget that Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon separation. In San Antonio it should more aptly be considered as the two-degrees of separation limit. If you meet someone new, and that person doesn’t seem to know anyone that you know, best off not to even bother…unless, of course, you’re involved in some form of endeavor where anonymity is key. (And my advice for those criminally-, extramaritally-, and otherwise clandestinely-inclined, please consider heading north of loop 410. You ain’t gonna know any of those folks. Or their friends. Or their friends’ friends. Well, you might know their queer relations or perhaps their domestic help. So, be careful….)