The stars at night
Are big and bright
Deep in the heart of Texas
At the tail end of 1996, I was living in the big city of Dallas, Texas, and all that entails...big hair, big boobs, big cars. In other words, a lot of flashy Jerry Jones-esque white people and every stereotype you see on GCB. (I've never seen that show, but the previews nail Dallas to a 'T').
My life then was in a bit of transition. Boring job, great friends, cheap apartment in the most crime ridden part of Dallas (fact), and at a crossroads in my love life: in December of that year, my then girlfriend (now belle) had just been offered a job in San Antonio, Texas.
I only knew San Antonio through my brothers, who both attended medical school here. The belle, however, was born in San Antonio. In fact, she has so many family members living in San Antonio that if you took them all out and replanted them in the middle-of-nowhere-West Texas, you'd create the highest populated city, with the absolute *best* Mexican food, for 100-miles in every direction. That certainly made for an easy decision when it came to taking the job, but it still left me back in Dallas. Over the next few months, I got to know the route from Big D to "the big city with the small town feel"* like the back of my hand.
The first thing I noticed when I started visiting was how friendly people are. It might have something to do with the fact that San Antonio is known as a destination city, what with the Riverwalk, the Alamo, Fiesta Texas, SeaWorld, USAA, and Wilford Hall, the United States Air Force's largest and best medical facility.
That's part of it. A genuine sense of hospitality seems almost bred into people here. But it's not because they're trying to sell you a good time. It's more like they wake up every day knowing how lucky they are to live here. Personally, I think it's the beer, floating the river, and the Mexican food. (dude - it's the Mexican food).
But here's how it worked for me...I followed my heart to San Antonio during those weekend treks up and down I-35. Got offered a job after filling in as shortstop one Saturday night at a local softball game (read: excuse to sit on tailgates and drink beer). Accepted because it meant lurve with my belle and gainful employment before starting law school. Packed up what little I had in my cracktown apartment and made one last trip through the hell of Austin traffic. And there I was - rolled into town on a Friday planning to finish several errands before starting work the following Monday.
What I didn't know, however, was that I'd made plans to *get things done* in a city that shuts down, entirely, for two weeks every year.
Bleachers start going up on every street leading into downtown.
Riverboats get tuned up.
Food and drink booths are constructed and packed into La Villita, Main Plaza, El Mercado, and every crack and crevice in between.
Dogs undergo grooming transformations in preparation for the biggest little parade in the world at the King Williams Fair.
People start making hats.
And cab company phone numbers are dutifully added to cell phone contacts to avoid the PoPo, although some people still haven't gotten the memo.
And, every night, the Tower of the Americas (as seen in the photo at the top of this post) shines down like a benevolent abuelita who's lit a candle and sits in the dark, waiting for a wayward child to come stumbling in. Usually trailing cascarones crumbs with every footstep.
Needless to say, when I drove into town, pleasantly surprised at the lack of traffic, I couldn't open a checking account (bank closed), rent an apartment (manager back later), sew up this severed limb (doctor's in very important meeting...down at the Riverwalk), or anything else of so-called importance.
What I could do, though, was experience Fiesta. And that's exactly what I did. I remember thinking to myself after driving away from the third bank that wasn't open for business that I could probably really get used to living in a city that was secure enough to shut down everything all for the sake of a party. When you think about it, is there any better reason?
From that moment on, I've been having a love affair with this city, and my belle, that I hope will never end.
When you hear people say Texas is "a whole other country," I'm here to tell you - they ain't lying.
But don't take my word for it...come see for yourself.
Viva Fiesta, baby!
* San Antonio is the seventh largest city in the United States.