Letting My Vote Be Purchased with a Steady Flow of Jose Cuervo

While standing in line at the McCreless library for early voting this morning, I was heartened to see that even with eight functioning voting machines and very efficient volunteers, it still took me about twenty minutes to make my way to a machine and cast my votes. And while I was standing there, staring off into space, I suddenly realized how most of the people were quite elderly. Has the voting process become just a habit of the very old? Or was it because I was at the polling place at 3:30 in the afternoon? On a weekday. Maybe it was just a crowd of retirees, with a scattering of the unemployed and the independently wealthy, such as myself. But whatever the case, I began thinking about aging and mortality. At that point it occurred to me that recently I’ve not been overly impacted by the people I know who die. Take for instance a local artist and musician. When I learned of his passing a couple days back, my first reaction was, “good, now I don’t have to keep coming up with excuses as to why I don’t want to work on a project with him.”

Maybe I’ve just become a hide-bound old bastard. Take the last two months or so. I learned that two men who frequently hung out at my father’s book store in Dallas had died. No, make that three. Two of them I knew since I was a kid. The news really had very little impact on me. Perhaps it’s just human nature to detach those emotional bounds from people you’ve been removed from for a period of time.

This brings to mind a passage from a Silver Jews song:

I asked the painter why the roads are colored black.
He said, “Steve, it’s because people leave
and no highway will bring them back.”

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I’d been trying to get a meeting with Victor Payan, my co-chair of the Luminaria media / film committee, but we kept hitting conflicts. You know, like my last-minute invitation to sit on the panel for the San Antonio Film Commission’s October Film Forum.

We finally agreed on Wednesday night. At Joe Lopez’s Gallista Gallery. Victor wanted to kill two birds (roosters?) at one venue. We could meet and talk about Luminaria. And we could also take part in a political rally for Michael Soto. He’s an English professor running for a seat on the Texas school board. He’s a good guy. I hope he gets in.

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The event was hosted by local cultural heavy weights, David Zamora Casa and Barbara Renaud Gonzalez. I’ve meet the both of them on multiple occasions, and each only ever vaguely recognizes me. But I begrudge them nothing, as I have such high regard for their creative works as well as all the time and energy they put into education and grassroots leadership. I was also thrilled to be served tequila by the both of them Wednesday night.

Like so many events I attend on the south side and the west side, I felt like family, surrounded by friends, colleagues, and allies. Pocha later showed up to join Victor and me. When a train thundered by and Michael Soto had to pause his speech, David rushed around to pour everyone a shot of tequila. Pocha (with Victor, displaced from California) shouted, over the train, “ah, but I love Texas political rallies!” We all “clicked” out plastic glasses and downed our drinks.

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When Janet Vasquez of the San Antonio Film Commission called me up an invited me be on the panel for the October chapter of their monthly SA Film Forum, I had to say yes. Drew and Janet of the film commission have done so much for me over the years, whether it has been in my role of filmmaker, educator, promoter, board and committee member, or just an overall advocate of film making in San Antonio. I forget, at times, that the film commission in San Antonio is often over-looked. It has the unenviable position of being enfolded within the San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau. I have nothing against the CVB–they do great work–but I wish our Film Commission had greater reach and a larger budget. However, from a pragmatic point of view, Drew and Janet squeeze quite a bit out of their shockingly tiny budget. These monthly film forums are great. Also, Nikki Young and her company, PrimaDonna Productions, provide a solid base of support for these events. I only wish more people would attend these free film forums.

But I digress. Janet called me Tuesday morning. The event was Tuesday evening. Quite possibly another panelist had pulled out at the last minute because of a scheduling conflict. Fine with me. If I end up being surrounded by people I like (Drew, Janet, Nikki) I could care less if I’m choice number one, two, or whatever. The topic was something about new technologies in film making, and is it a help or hindrance. Something like that. I assumed they meant shooting with DSLRs. Fine with me. I have experience. And I’m a serious advocate of this current trend (which–cool as it might be–will be seen, ten years from now, as quirky and odd. The DSLR as a movie-making tool will one day be lumped in with the Laser Disk, or the Eight-Track Tape).

My fellow panelists possessed more serious CVs than I (Darren Abate and Eduardo Ruiz-Healy), but I hope I added some useful words. Again, my biggest gripe: the low attendance. Most all of the local film folks (whether hobbyists or those professionally employed) know about these events. They just decide not to show.

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The Mayor of San Antonio, Julian Castro, has created this series of public involvement forums. SA2020. That’s the brand. Check it out at — sa2020.org — and I’m still trying to find out how much of this is genuine, and how much of this is bogus consensus-building. You know, creating the illusion of transparency, yet pushing a pre-established agenda. I’m pretty sure it’s a bit of both. Why? City panning and real-estate development and such as that do indeed rely heavily on data-mining and surveys. And if real human beings (as opposed to fucking north side yuppies) are part of the process, I can tell you the damage will be a bit less that it could be.

The first SA2020 event was really a PR opportunity. Don’t get me wrong. Work (or the illusion of work) got done. But there were many people who appeared either out of curiosity or because they wanted to be seen as part of this process. What bothered me that day was how few people I recognized from the arts community.

However, last night, it was quite different. I want to praise Ethel Shipton (of whom I’m very fond) and Patty Ortiz (and I haven’t yet had the chance to get to know Patty very well). They, as co-chairs of the Luminaria Fine Arts Committee, took it upon themselves to distribute art-related t-shirts. Ethel gave me one. Thanks, Ethel! I was a bit fat for it, but still I wiggled into it. There were quite a few artsy people wearing those shirts at that meeting. Also, I saw quite a few other people from the arts present who weren’t sporting the shirt. People like Dago Patlan (filmmaker and educator), Candi Masorro (producer and casting director), Hector Machado (actor, architect, writer, and director), and several others. We were a well-represented tribe. I was happy to share break-out sessions with friends such as Veronica Potter-Hernandez and Susanne Cooper.

Let’s all hope that these series of public forums / workshops help to improve our city. If you’re interested in being part of the process of shaping the city’s future from within the establishment, there are still a few more of these meetings. Get on to the website.

sa2020.org

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