Monthly Archives: April 2010

OK, party’s over. Jeez, look at this place.

Another Fiesta has come and gone. By the hundreds of thousands, we partied ’til we puked, gorged on parades, beer, carnivals, beer, turkey legs, beer, NIOSA, beer. A theme develops.

According to the SA Express-News those who watched the Battle of Flowers & the Flambeau parades may have taken away the memories. But they left a hell of a mess.

It may be an understatement. The Express-News tells us – and why would we doubt them – that after cheering on the Aggie Band and shouting themselves hoarse to ‘Show me your shoes’ at passing floats, parade lovers have in recent years left behind 100 tons of trash. This according to Stephen Haney, environmental services manager in the city’s solid waste management department. He should know.

City pays $155,000 to clean up both parades. City makes $228 million off Fiesta. My math skills aren’t the best, but I’d say the city could afford to pay for the clean up.

Which is not to say it wouldn’t hurt for San Antonio’s Fiesta lovers to take back some of the crap they brought with them. When in doubt, remember WWDCD – What Would Davy Crockett Do?

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Why aren’t you out, enjoying Fiesta?

Go on. Get moving. Nothing to see here.

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And every year, the city throws a big party for us

We were married on April 21, 1979 in a ceremony at the Sunken Gardens in Brackenridge Park. It was Fiesta Week and it seemed a good idea at the time. Now, 31 years later, it still does.

We were witnessed by family and friends from the newspaper where we both worked. The county judge officiated. We threw a raucous wedding party that lasted until the next day. Never did the future seem so bright. Six days later, Ira Atteberry nearly ruined Fiesta forever when he opened fire at the start of the Battle of Flowers parade, killing two women and wounding six cops, before turning the gun on himself. And we went to work, trying to make sense of a madman’s actions.  But that was still ahead when this photo was taken.

Time and circumstance has knocked some of the cocksure conceit out of my face. But Ginny still smiles easily and continues to look eagerly toward the future. She makes it look easy.  We joke that every year, San Antonio throws a big party, complete with parades and lots of beer, just for us. Looking at this photo, I think maybe they do just that.

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The Battle of San Jacinto. That’s ‘san ha-SIN-toe’

Texas State Library & Archives

I always liked this painting. It hangs in the Texas State Capitol and was painted by Henry Arthur McArdle in 1895. It shows, with some attention to historic detail, the chaotic nature of a battle that turned Texas into a Republic. The State stiffed the artist on his fee. But that’s another story.

I’m ashamed to admit I was past 20 before I realized San Jacinto was pronounced san ha-SIN-toe. I spent much of my early life within 30 or so miles of the site of the battle, now a scenic park-like setting engulfed by Houston. It was – and still is -pronounced there san JAsinta. Win a war, you get to change the language. And here on a marshy field near the San Jacinto River, the endgame of the Texas Revolution played out.

Why, you ask, a post on San Jacinto? Simple. The battle occurred on April 21, 1836, a date with syncs with two other key moments in San Antonio history: One: The Battle of Flowers parade, which began by wealthy Anglo Society women to honor the Alamo heroes. Yes, I know. It has now become an anchor to San Antonio’s Fiesta. And Two: the 31st anniversary of my marriage to Ginny. More on those later.

San Jacinto is one of those lovable mutts of history – it should have been a disaster, but instead saved Sam Houston’s bacon and made the Texas Revolution a reality.  It also forced Texans to actually make freedom work.

Read more about the Battle of San Jacinto. It’s good for you. Just pronounce it correctly.

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Hello, Sweetheart, Get Me Rewrite…

"What do you mean, 'How do you spell mangled?'"

A continuing series in which we examine Newspaper Journalism, Old School and notice that the inmates were in charge of the asylum.

I was a few years out of the Army and working at the county hospital when a friend asked if I wanted to become a reporter. Sure, I thought. Why not? Just like that.  So, in 1974, I became a weekend cop reporter for the San Antonio News.

I walked into a the third floor newsroom at the Express-News building for my orientation. It was a sprawling place, littered with desks and people sitting at them, busily pounding typewriters and/or talking on the phone. (Historical note: No computers. No cell phones. No internet. No blogs. And, gasp, no cell phones.)  The job was explained succinctly by the city editor Jay Rogers, an exceedingly tall and impatient man. Check the police incident reports ‘for good stuff.’  Then drive around, monitor the police band and go to newsworthy fires, barroom shootings, and other assorted events of mayhem.

My first night, I rode shotgun with the out-going cop reporter, Sherman, a taciturn, pudgy man who chewed tobacco. He showed me the police press room, a narrow closet with ratty desks and two phones.  It smelled what I later learned was the scent of despair. He showed me where to pick up police reports from a bored sergeant.

‘Most of this shit’s worthless,” he said. We then went to the parking lot. We climbed into a battered boat of a Ford with saggy shocks and indeterminate color that smelled of sweat, fried food and cigarette smoke. It was outfitted with a dizzying  array of squawking radios with blinking lights that monitored police, sheriff, fire calls. A two-way radio linked the car with the City Desk. Voices emerged from the speakers like Donald Duck on meth. The noise was migraine-mean.

My guide Sherman turned toward me. “Don’t touch the fucking radios,” he said. I nodded. We drove off into the night.

That night, we picked up a call for a shooting at a West Side bar. Sherman gunned the Ford toward some darker part of South Zarzamora Street, then pulled up beside a police cruiser outside a tumbling frame  building festooned with Bud and Miller neon signs.  Inside, we found a patrolman, who nodded at Sherman and glared a me holding my genuine Reporter’s Notebook and a pen.

“New guy,” Sherman said. “What do we got?”

We learned that an off-duty sheriff’s deputy had made ill-advised rude comments about another patron’s wife. Said patron then blew the deputy’s life away with a .38.

I furiously scribbled notes. Sherman, however, walked over to the jukebox, inserted a quarter. Shortly, Clapton’s version of  ‘I Shot the Sheriff’ blasted out across the now-empty bar.

Sherman started taking notes. “Now,” he said. “We have a lede.”

Thus was my introduction to Journalism, San Antonio-style.

To be continued:

In future episodes: I move to the newsroom.

‘Drunks in the newsroom? I’m shocked, shocked.’

‘OK, who knew the copy girl was living here?’

‘Give me 10 inches on the Serra Club.’ and many more.

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Why I Hate South Texas Weather

It’s April 5 – FREAKING APRIL 5th –  and we’ve already had the A/C on. High humidity, oak pollen falling like rain and temps heading toward upper 80s. In early Spring.

That is just not right.

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More Joys of Spring (continued)

This Texas Mountain Laurel, one of three we planted off the side porch, lets us know it survived another winter with blooms like this.

How can  you not like a plant like that?

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