Thursday, December 28, 2006

My Family

Recently it came to my attention, that I seldom mention my family in this blogsite. One reason for this omission, among others it being the most important, is that my blog IS about San Antonio (and south-central Texas), and none of my blood relatives live closer than Georgetown and Cedar Park, north of Austin. I live in San Antonio by myself, solo.

However, that's no reason to not include anything about my family. So here is the scoop on the Grahams.

My mother and father, Thelma (nee Sansom) and Frank, still live in Boise, where for the most part I was raised. They divorced the year after I moved to Texas the first time. Both of them are well into retirement; in fact, my last visit to Idaho was for my dad's retirement party in A.D. 1994.

I'm the oldest of three children. My sister Debbie now lives in Berkeley, CA, where she's studying for the Episcopal ministry in one of their seminaries on the Bay. She's a year and a half younger than me, but while we were children, folk often considered us to be twins! Our "baby" brother, Patrick, is an EMS medic in Pocatello, Idaho. He served one tour of duty in the US Army, and now is about to re-enlist. He is married to LaRae, who by a previous marriage had a couple of children, including Zane. Zane just returned to the States from a tour of duty in Iraq, with the Army.

That's my family of origin. As for my immediate family, I married Ellen on 19 August A.D. 1978. I had met her at TCU in Fort Worth, during my first sojourn in the Lone Star State. She was born and raised in Tampa, Florida, and had received a Bachelor's degree from Vanderbilt University. Her mother's family are Tennesseans, so our marriage was at the family church, Martha's Chapel UMC, in rural southern Montgomery County, near Clarksville. Ellen had just received her Master's in psychology from TCU when we wed. In the late '90s she added a PhD from TSU in Nashville; she was the first to receive a PhD in psychology from that institution. Doctor Ellen Graham's birthday is 22 October.

After I commenced my tour of duty in the US Army, we had a son, David Dwight, born on 14 November A.D. 1981 in Darnell Hospital on Ft. Hood Army post in central Texas. David is the only native Texan in the family. The Lord blessed him with two great talents: drawing (he had an earlier career goal of being a professional cartoonist) and acting or drama. Currently David tours with the Christian drama ministry the Covenant Players. He's engaged to marry another CP trouper next summer. She is Allison, from Nebraska.

Ellen and I lost another child, Rebecca Ruth, to stillbirth in 1984. Then our youngest, Sarah Elizabeth, was added to the family, on 30 June A.D. 1986, at Baptist Hospital in Nashville. Sarah began studies at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, but is currently working full-time at Convergys, an outsourcing company (phone work) for which I worked about a year when it first opened its branch in C'ville.

I confess that I was far from a model father or husband. This would sum up a significant portion of why the other three are still in C'ville (David currently being on Christmas break from CP) while I'm sojourning here in S.A. Ellen and I separated a couple other times in the late '90s; this one goes back to the end of 2001. I was in a 7-month unemployment crisis when it began, and came to S.A. in search of work after all possibilities in C'ville seemed to be exhausted.

As for the family located closest to me, they would be Uncle Chuck, my dad's oldest brother, and Aunt Alice (a native Texan), who after he retired from the Army a Major General spent a few years in the Atlanta, Georgia, area before moving to Georgetown. This move not only put them in Aunt Alice's home state but also close to their eldest, my cousin Susan, who lives with her husband and children in Cedar Park. My guess (without consulting a road map) is that both towns are about the same distance from here, altho' Georgetown has the advantage of being right on IH 35 north of Austin.

So there's the scoop on my family.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

S.A. Xmas traditions - Part Two

Whoops! When I posted about distinctive Christmas traditions to be found in San Antonio, I forgot several! So, here are some more, for this day after Christmas. "Xmas", BTW, is simply an abbreviation for the name of the holiday. Some folk think it's part of the effort to take Christ out of Christmas. But the "X" is actually the Greek letter chi, and thus the first letter in the title "Christos" or Christ ("the Anointed One" in English, and ha-masshiah in Hebrew). In fact, if you have ever noticed in historic Christian art something that looks like a capital "X" and a capital "P" together, THAT is the "chi-rho" monogram, representing the first two letters in the Greek word.

Also, it may seem like the first item on my previous list was a Christmas tradition that's universal, that is, lights and lighted decorations. True, but I was calling attention to Christmas lights of a fashion one will not find elsewhere. What other city (at least in these United States) has a Riverwalk like San Antonio's, or a Tower of the Americas with red, white and green lights shining in a ring at its top? So, my first item herein will also be something found universally -- but I experience it with the flavor of the Alamo City!

Cantatas and caroling. Singing is a VERY important part of the Advent-Christmas scene for me. After all, I greatly enjoy singing -- that's why I'm in the church choir. We at Alamo Heights Christian Church (Disciples) have a choir cantata every year, before Christmas. Since the Fourth Sunday of Advent this year was also Christmas Eve, we sang the cantata on Sunday the 17th. Janis Erwin, our director, actually tailored a printed cantata, to conform with what we had in the way of voices and other talent. So, on one song we had handbells, and on another a flute for instrumental accompaniment. We had one solo, by Kathy Huth, singing "Mary, Did You Know", a profound song about the meaning of the birth of the Messiah, composed by Mark Lowry.

Later that day (the 17th) I went to nearby St. Andrew UMC to join in an old-fashioned caroling. It started just after four in the afternoon, so the sun was still up and it was warm -- not the slightest chance of snow! That, however, didn't take away the enjoyment, as several folk of all ages climbed up on a pickup-drawn flatbed trailer and sat on the rows of hay bales. The pickup pulled us slowly around the neighborhood, as we sang many of the traditional favorite Christmas carols. And we made sure to sing the one that fits SO WELL in San Antonio: "Feliz Navidad"! Afterward, there was a brief "old-fashioned" Christmas program in the church's fellowship hall, of music, singing and scripture readings, and then refreshments.

All-Christmas Music on the airwaves. Yeah, this is another one that's not exactly unique to San Antonio. But still, it IS Texas-flavored, if you know what I mean -- and if you don't, it's ANOTHER reason for a visit to the Lone Star State! FM 101.9, generally airing soft rock music, dedicates the entire month of December to "all-Christmas music" and I seldom listen other times of the year, but LOTS during December! And another popular station I listen to, KKYX-AM 680, will also occasionally air Christmas songs. Usually of country music stars, but sometimes of other pop artists.

This year I seem to be paying more attention to Christmas ballads, recitations or other songs that tell a story about Christmas. For example, the late Grandpa Jones of Grand Ole Opry radio and Hee-Haw television fame has a recitation about one Conrad (or Konrad), an old cobbler with no family left living, who gets a message from the Lord that He will visit his lonely cobbler shop and home on Christmas Day. Conrad does get visitors -- first some friends with whom he shares the good news of the impending visit, and then three individuals, a beggar who needs shoes, an elderly woman who needs to sit down and rest from collecting firewood, and a little girl who's lost. Conrad graciously helps each one, and then notices that the day has gone, without a visit from the Lord. But when he prays in complaint, the Lord responds that His shadow had crossed Conrad's threshold three times -- for He was the beggar, the widow and the child! Get out the kleenex! And get it out on another I heard at least twice on 101.9 -- about a little boy who wants to buy shoes for his mother on Christmas Eve. The shoes are just her size and style, but please hurry and sell him them, because his mom's been ill a long while and is about to die. And the boy wants his mother to look beautiful "when she meets Jesus tonite". Let's hear it for Christmas songs! And for radio stations that air them!

Los Pastores. Like la Gran Posada, this is a very old Christmas tradition of Spanish origin. It's an example of the "morality plays" that entertained and taught average folk during the Middle Ages. In Spanish it's called una pastorela, or a play about shepherds. With singing, dialogue and dramatic action it tells an imaginative accounting of the shepherds and their journey to Bethlehem to see the Christ Child, of whom the angel had told. On the way various demons seek to impede their pilgrimage. Finally, the Archangel Michael goes into battle with the chief devil himself, Luzbel (Lucifer), and defeats him, so that the shepherds can pay their homage to the Christ Child. Thru the dialogue and the action, various moral points are taught, such as perseverance.

The best-known presentation of Los Pastores is done between Christmas and Epiphany (6 Jaunuary) at Mission San José, where it's performed by the Guadalupe Players, under the sponsorship of the San Antonio Conservation Society. But the Guadalupe Players also perform la pastorela in churches and at private residences that have requested it in fulfillment of a vow. I've seen Los Pastores performed at the mission several times over my years in Texas, and a couple of years ago I was invited to a home on the Westside to watch it there. I once read an analysis of la pastorela, that stated in detail that there were differences in the play when it was performed at a private home, at a church and at the mission. The script is the same, but the setting gives a distinct "feel" at each locale.

The enactment at the mission is oriented to tourists or new and curious residents of the city, of course, and so the emphasis is less on religious devotion or on doing a spiritual act, and more on performance itself. It's supposed to give viewers a taste of something that took place at the old Spanish missions in their heyday (the 1700s), something that the Franciscan missionaries taught the indigenous converts (of the Coahuiltecan tribe) in order to emphasize Christian teachings and make the new faith more real to them. However, 1) the script that is used is less than a century old, and was dictated to Father Carmelo Tranchese by a man who had experienced it in Zacatecas or some other part of north-central Mexico. And 2) the masks and robes or capes worn by the shepherds and the demons MAY resemble ones worn back in the 1700s, but under those costume parts the actors wear jeans and other contemporary garb, as does the audience, who sit close by, under a large tent roof, well-lit by electric lights; a professor from UTSA narrates and comments, using a microphone with loudspeakers. In other words, the realism of what MAY have taken place in the mission's heyday is quickly lost!

Nevertheless, Los Pastores, wherever in San Antonio one may see it performed, is a Christmas tradition that you, dear reader, ought to experience at least once. Yes, Christmas in this city shares many elements with all the rest of the country (and other northern countries) -- but it also presents elements that are distinctive, either due to the unique nature of our city or to its origins as a Spanish-frontier city and its continued proximity to the border with our southern neighbor, Mexico. And, as I've pointed out, much of the distinctiveness of Christmas observations here promotes the REAL REASON for the season: that we celebrate and remember that God gave us the very best gift He had to give, His very own Son, Jesus! CHRISTmas is about Christ!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

San Antonio Christmas Traditions

Since I've affirmed, time and time again, that San Antonio is a community who likes to party, you should not be surprised, dear reader, that we also get into the festivities of Advent and Christmas. Especially when one considers that the dominant faith in this city is Catholicism and the majority ethnic group is chicano or Mexican-American, and another prominent ethnic group is der Deutsche or Germans.

Here are some of the significant and distinctive, unique traditions of the end of the year, here in S.A.:

The lights. San Antonio is famous for El Paseo del Río or Riverwalk, and the way it's decorated from Thanksgiving thru end of year. At first, seeing the lights of the Riverwalk trees only from street level, I didn't think much of them. However, once I actually went down onto the Riverwalk, walked under the trees and got a fresh perspective, I became more enthusiastic. Especially when at times the riverside sidewalk's edge is lined with luminarias, paper bags weighted down with sand and each containing a burning votive candle. (This custom came out of Mexico.) Also well-publicized is the lighting of the University of the Incarnate Word. On that campus all the trees are strung with colored lights, and some of the buildings' rooflines have white lights. Beautiful! And folk talk about going out to the northeast suburban city of Windcrest to view home Christmas decorations. I did see Windcrest several Christmases ago, but I fear that nowadays it's probably overdone. I prefer to ride the bus(es) thru the Westside and the neighborhood west-northwest of St. Mary's University, and see those decorations, especially front-lawn Nativity scenes.

Other light-style decorations here include the ring of lights atop the observation deck of the Tower of the Americas, and the flood-lit upper levels of the classic Tower Life Building. Both of these shine in the traditional Christmas colors of red, white and green.

Champurrado and tamales. Tamales are an ancient tradition de los mexicanos y chicanos para la Navidad. I've known about these corn-husk-wrapped food delicacies for years -- and hadn't liked them. But upon my arrival in San Antonio and my voicing my dislike to Hispanic friends, it was suggested that I really ought to try chicken tamales. And yes, chicken tamales ARE deliciosos! But a couple of Advents ago I got introduced to something even more delightful: champurrado. This is a Mexican hot chocolate drink, which includes spices (of course) and a little corn meal, which gives some sips of it a gritty texture. I can see why some of my chicano friends say you have to develop a taste for champurrado, but well, I developed the taste at first sipping! Alas! the drink is very hard to find, since apparently it is a homemade item.

Nacimientos. These are Nativity scenes (or creches) set up inside Mexican-American homes. They are more elaborate than the typical creche in an Anglo-American household. Of course, one has to be invited into the home to see un nacimiento, so it's good to have lots of chicano friends! The fact that el nacimiento is so prominent in the home serves as visual evidence that for Hispanics the birth of Jesus remains "THE REASON for the Season". Even tho' I firmly believe that Jesus was born at some other time of the year (most likely October or April) -- those Bethlehem shepherds would have had their flock in barns and NOT in the fields during a Palestinian December -- I do like to celebrate Christmas on 25 December. And I will remind anyone and everyone that the first syllable of "Christmas" is CHRIST!

La Gran Posada. This is my FAVORITE Christmas tradition of all traditions. Note that I say "Christmas" and not just "Navidad", so herein I'm affirming that THIS is my FAVORITE tradition regardless of cultural origin. I've participated in la Gran Posada three years in a row, and delighted in it every time! The crowd of several hundred gathers at dusk in Milam Park. This park, on the north side of el Mercado (the Mexican Market), was the first cemetery of San Antonio. Thus we are in a place of darkness and death. A young woman and man are chosen to represent Mary and Joseph, and the "Mary" rides on the back of a donkey built on a cart, while "Joseph" stands beside her. They make their way thru the streets of downtown San Antonio, like Mary and Joseph seeking lodging (posada) in old Bethlehem. The crowd walks with them, singing villancicos (Spanish carols). Some of these villancicos are just the Spanish versions of carols English-speaking Americans sing all the time. Others are unique to the Iberian-American cultural celebration of Navidad. My favorite is "Campana Sobre Campana" or Carol of the Bells (of Bethlehem). At various points the traveling group will be met by a small group at the door of a prominent landmark building (e.g., the Spanish Governors Palace or the Bexar County Courthouse). The "Posada" carol is sung: the travelers (afuera or outside) sing the verses of Joseph, requesting posada (lodging), and the group at the door (adentro or inside) singing the refusal of the innkeeper. Finally, we arrive at San Fernando Cathedral. There the entire "Posada" carol is sung; it ends with the adentro people (the supposed innkeeper) finally welcoming Mary and Joseph to come inside. Lights suddenly blaze out all over the Cathedral and Main Plaza -- because we have arrived at the place of light and life and faith! We sing a few more villancicos in both English and Spanish, and then there are piñatas for the kids and tamales and champurrado for everyone!

So, dear reader, I wish you: ¡Feliz Navidad y un próspero Año Nuevo! "Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year!"

Monday, December 18, 2006

AHHS Mules! '06 State Champs! ! !

"State Champs!" Oo-oo-ooh, that tastes sweet on the tongue when you say it. And I was saying it lots all day Sunday -- and still saying it today. The Alamo Heights Mules are the 2006 Texas State Champions in 4A-Division I high school football!

The championship game between the Mules and the Bulldawgs of Copperas Cove was everything I prayed it would be. E.g., there were no injuries. However, I forgot to pray that it NOT go into overtime -- and it didn't exceed regulation time. BUT it WAS one lo-o-ong game Kickoff happened at 6:20 PM Saturday and the final play came about 9:50 -- three and a half long hours later!

My companions to attend the game were Howard, a friend from Emmaus (Walk #1005) and AHHS '74 alumnus, his dad who was a member of the AHISD Board years ago, and Jimmy, '74 classmate and longtime friend of Howard's. Howard's elderly dad is very hard of hearing and walks distances with difficulty (he has both cane and walker). So it was arranged to drop off him, Jimmy and me beside the Alamodome, and Howard then go park the car. A 'dome staffer met us with a wheelchair for the elder Mr. Haring, and took us to seating for handicapped near a 25-yard-line (but high up and near an exit tunnel to concourse level). By cellphone commo between Jimmy and Howard, the later was easily able to locate our position in that crowd of over 16,000.

The Mules stormed to a 17-0 lead by first quarter's end. But the Copperas Cove Bulldawgs retaliated with two scores before Heights kicked another field goal just before the half, to lead 17-14. The halftime show, like pre-game, was colorful and entertaining. During the AH portion, the dance team, the Spurs (NO connection with our local NBA team!) performed costumed as Santa's elfs or helpers. The Cove marching band was HUGE -- but then, CCHS had been a 5-A behemoth last year!

In the third quarter Alamo Heights surged to a 33-14 lead. And they continually dominated the field. Final stats showed the Mules leading in such areas as first downs, 26-14, and total yards, 518-247.

However, the Bulldawgs refused to roll over and die. Well, I had prayed that BOTH teams play their best, and the CC Bulldawgs HAD been state-ranked in 5-A football in '04 or '05. So our opponents from up north beside fort Hood Army post fought back, with two scores, to narrow hometown Heights' lead to 33-28.

So here we were in the final quarter, getting nervous! Cove seemed to be on its way in for a go-ahead td. But they hiked the ball way past the Bulldawg quarterback, positioned in shotgun formation. Mules defenders swarmed over the fumble! And then with about 5 minutes to go, I commented to my partners that altho' Heights' offense shone with substantial passing, NOW was time to grind out the clock with runs and short passes. Coach Byrd must have read my mind (or me, his?) because grind out the clock AHHS did! With half a minute left, star qb Giovanni vizza ran the ball into the end zone for the coup de grace against Cove.

Final 4-A Division I championship score: Alamo Heights 40, Copperas Cove 28.

And the celebration began! Team, coaches & cheerleaders swarmed into a huge cluster on the Alamodome field. At one point on the big screens, I could see the trophy being lifted high by a Mule. At another point I spotted AHHS Principal Dr. Linda Foster in that crowd.

We foursome up in the stands had to await an Alamodome staffer with the wheelchair, to escort the elder Mr. Haring out following the game. But that was all right. Jimmy and Howard were occupied with greeting and hugging classmates of '74 and other alumni. And I was simply reveling in the feel of "State Champs!" Once the wheelchair arrived we exited the 'dome and three of us waited on the curb while Howard went to get the car and fight the departing traffic jam to come back and pick us up. But we had fun talking with folk, from both sides of the game. I was quick to compliment CCHS fans for the good game the Bulldawgs had played. Once we returned the elder Mr. Haring to his home, Howard, Jimmy and I drove past the school and down Broadway, where several fans were celebrating on the sidewalks while the continuous stream of cars returning from the game slowly drove past, sometimes honking in victory. And we celebrated with drinks and nachos at Good Time Charlie's!

My alma mater Borah High School (Boise, Idaho) was mythical state champs all three of my years there. And I loved it and was proud! BUT THIS is different -- there's NO "mythical" about this Texas championship. The AHHS Mules are the REAL DEAL!

And what a year '06 has been for the Mules football team! Opening game was a loss to 5-A Georgetown, then the Mules won a close one over another 5-A school, Clark. And then they handily defeated two other 5-A schools and wrapped up the season by trouncing every opponent in District 28-AAAA -- including archrival Boerne and nemesis Kerrville. Finally, there was the playoff run, beginning with a blanking of San Antonio's Fox Tech (winner of 27-AAAA) 46-0 in Alamo Stadium, Tech's home field. The Mules marched on for two strong wins in the Alamodome, and that trip to Round Rock north of Austin, and their stunning 42-14 upset of Lamar Consolidated, a Houston-area school that was not only undefeated but had not trailed in an '06 game!

AND NOW, with Copperas Cove the final victim, Alamo Heights High School is Texas State Champions in AAAA football! State Champs! ! !

Saturday, December 16, 2006

AHHS Mules - Go! Win State!

When I was in high school in Boise, Borah Class of '72, the Borah Lions football team lost only one game (my senior year, to our archrivals), and was mythical state champions all three years, plus the previous year when I was still a ninth-grader in junior high. And the football team even went over to Honolulu and beat Hawaii's best high school team. But let's not ignore that word "mythical". Idaho didn't have a formal playoff system, to determine a bona fide state champ.

BUT NOW the Alamo Heights H.S. Mules are about to play in their first ever state championship game! This evening the Mules will play in the Alamodome downtown, against the Copperas Cove H.S. Bulldawgs. Copperas Cove is one of the "bedroom communities" beside Fort Hood Army post in central Texas, about a two hour plus ride due north of San Antonio. Sadly, while I was stationed at the post, Cove was the only local military town I even began to like, and I attended a couple of the high school's football games, and rooted for them. So I keep thinking, "if only Heights was playing ANYONE but Copperas Cove!"

Friday nite there was a community pep rally in the AH football stadium. At Borah we had some terrific pep assemblies during and after our 36-game win streak. But AHHS's pep rally last nite was AWESOME!

The entire west (home, pressbox) side of the stadium was filled with students, parents and other supporters. We all were treated to rousing speeches by local entertainment personalities, an alumnus from a '70s football team, and Coach Byrd. Also treating us with an appearance was the Spurs' Coyote, who led the crownd in the cheer "Win. . . State!" Then, after performances by the dance team or cheerleaders, two screens went up, the lights went out, and we saw hi-lites of the playoff run of the Mules. Behind the screens, visible in the gap between them, was a stairstep of the names of the four teams so far defeated, topped by Copperas Cove. Those names became lit up, and we heard the recording of the song "And Another One Bites the Dust". Each time the singer sang the title phrase, a red "X" appeared thru the name of one of the schools, in the order they were defeated, and finally a red "W" thru Copperas Cove! Then the team, cheerleaders and a couple other groups were called to go over thru the dark stadium to an opposite corner, where in Homecoming-bonfire fashion a hollow outline of the State of Texas came ablaze!

How exciting! And may the championship game be that exciting, too!

Saturday morning's newspaper, in covering the pep rally (on the front page, no less!), commenced by mention of the mantra "We Is The Key!" Until the playoffs (or perhaps late during the season) I had not paid much attention to this slogan, considering it just a tauntingly deliberate grammatical error for whatever or whomever. But then I realized that 1) it specifically referenced the football team, and 2) the pronoun -- first person plural -- was the true subject, as tho' it were a noun! That is, "we" forms the subject as opposed to "I" or any other pronoun. Put another way, it reads, "Putting all of US together as ONE is the secret to success". What a "mantra of unity", as the article reflected! And of course, as the article went on, this unified teamwork by the Mules had led the alumni to their own mantra: "How about those Mules?"

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe

Today is one of the "big three" national holidays in Mexico, holidays which set our neighbor to the south apart, and during which Mexican citizens AND Mexican-Americans or chicanos celebrate lo mexicano. The other two holidays are Diez y seis or 16 September -Independence Day, and Cinco de mayo or 5 May. This blogsite has covered both holidays.

TODAY is right up there with them -- if not above them! Unlike the other two, this one is a holy day -- a spiritual remembrance and not simply historical. Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe -- Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. On this date only a few years after Cortez conquered the Aztec Empire and converted its city Tenochtitlán into México, a humble native convert who had been given the Christian name of Juan Diego had his third encounter with Mary the mother of our Lord. She told him to pick some roses that were miraculously in bloom on the hill Tepeyac north of Mexico City and take them to the first Bishop of Mexico, Fray Juan de Zumárraga. Juan Diego wrapped the out-of-season blossoms in his humble native cloak or tilma. When he opened it to present the roses, there on his cloak was the very image of the woman who had appeared to him! It is said that Fray Zumárraga and all others present fell on their knees at the sight of the miracle of the roses and the image. The Bishop at once obeyed the order sent from Our Lady by Juan Diego, and had a church built on Tepeyac Hill.

That's the short relation of the story of why Mexicans and many Catholics thru'out the New World consider and cherish Our Lady of Guadalupe as the patroness of Mexico and all the New World. Now dear reader, I'm not one for stories of apparitions of Mary; I'm honestly skeptical about most of them.

But not this one. For one, she appeared to a mature man rather than to an impressionable young girl or girls. A skeptical bishop was converted to belief that the Mother of Christ had appeared to this man, a native convert. The cloth on which the image appeared, composed of material that normally decays after a couple decades is STILL whole -- centuries later! AND the cloth image of Our Lady even survived a bomb blast by atheist Mexicans during the troubles of the Mexican Revolution of the early 20th Century!

For such reasons and others, I accept that the mother of Jesus DID appear to Juan Diego. I suppose that the strongest reason for accepting that Our Lady of Guadalupe is real, is that conversion of the just-conquered natives (who were depressed at the conquest and destruction of their ancient culture) proceeded rapidly onc word of the vision got out. After all, she had appeared to an indigenous man rather than to a Spaniard, and she appeared looking much like an indigenous woman. That latter doesn't bother me at all, because I know that a typical First Century Palestinian Jew such as Mary of Nazareth would resemble more a typical, swarthy native American woman than appear like a western European -- Mary was DEFINITELY NOT a blue-eyed blonde! Neither was Jesus!

Indeed, I find the image of Guadalupe rather attractive, and very much in line with the woman described in the book of Revelation, who was opposed by the evil dragon. And so, I have had a copy of the famous picture and I like to attend Mass on 12 December. I don't give Mary the homage and acclaim that devout Catholics do, but I appreciate their calling my attention to her as a model Christian. Read her story some time, in Luke 1 and 2 -- especially her wonderful and inspiring (also inspired!) song, the "Magnificat"!

Monday, December 11, 2006

AHHS Mules - to State Champs Game!

After I returned from Dilley and the Kairos Instructional Reunion Saturday, I simply stayed put in my efficiency. I could hardly wait 'til 7 PM, when the football Mules from Alamo Heights High would start playing a semifinal playoff game against Lamar Consolidated HS of the Houston area.

Please know, dear reader, that when San Antonio lost one of its two daily newspapers in the early 1990s, it lost the better one, The Light. And earlier in the week the Express-News gave another evidence that it is the lesser of the (former) two papers. In the Sports section their "Fearless Forecasters" picked Lamar Consolidated to beat Alamo Heights -- every one of the forecasters! I was furious, livid! Setting aside that I already am a confirmed fan of the teams from the high school at which I sub-teach, I prayed for the Mules to win -- just to spite those "foolish forecasters" and their utter lack of faith in the local team!

And spite the nay-sayers the Mules did! Alamo Heights led 21-0 at halftime. Later I learned that this was the first time Lamar Consolidated had even been behind in a game, and they didn't know how to handle being behind! The Lamar Mustangs attempted a comeback early in the second half, closing the AHHS lead to 21-14. But on its ensuing possession, the Mule team took the pigskin in for another td. Later Alamo Heights' talented football boys added another td, and another. Final score Lamar 14, Alamo Heights 42.

Put THAT in your pipes & smoke it, you E-N "Fearless Forecasters!"

AND NOW it's on to the STATE CHAMPIONSHIP in 4-A Division I! The AHHS Mules have NEVER competed in a state championship football game. May they win this one, Saturday in the Alamodome, by overcoming the Copperas Cove Bulldogs!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Fall-out from #1 at Briscoe

In my two most recent postings I shared some of the marvelous Kairos Weekend #1 in the Dolph Briscoe Prison Unit near Dilley. But if you've been reading my blogsite all along, you know there is much, much more to Kairos Prison Ministry than just the three-day weekend retreats. (In the same way, there's much, much more to the Emmaus or Cursillo renewal movement than just the "Walk to" retreat!)

As I've mentioned, Kairos actually commenced in Briscoe with the weekly "Prayer & Share" meetings -- but they allowed us to conduct these only on first and third Thursday evenings. Well, this past Thursday was, of course the first Thursday in December -- as well as being the first one following that awesome Weekend! And what a Prayer & Share it was!

Generally Paul and Chuck and I ride to Dilley together for the first Thursday P & S, but THIS time we had a fourth man in Paul's car. He was Ed Palow, my motel roommate for Briscoe #1, a fellow table family clergy (he St. Mark & me St. Luke), and fellow Disciples of Christ clergy. It was de-e-e-lightful to have Ed along, too! Especially when he got a call on his cellphone from Buzz, a member of his church, San Antonio Christian, who had served with me on the Team for Walk #1327. He handed me the phone at one point to I could chat with Buzz for a few minutes.

P & S is held in the Chapel, at Briscoe as at Torres. We had a full house! But first, Ed wasn't on the primary entry list for P & S, and so almost didn't get in. However, "the Major" who had been involved with Briscoe #1 was still about the prison, so Ed DID get clearance. This made us seven volunteers going in for P & S. Seven: the Biblical number of perfected completion!

The music team was already in the Chapel practicing to lead singing to open the P & S meeting. So there stood Eduardo "Banana Man", who had sat at my left at St. Luke Table Family. Hugs all around! Soon I was also greeting Alex, our St. Luke Family Steward and Isreal who "is real" in his faith, and so on.

When I took los hispanohablantes apart for the small group prayer time, we totaled twelve (including me) and I delighted in pointing out that this was the number of the original Apostles (who are often called simply "The Twelve" as a result). AND that one of the teachings of the Kairos Weekend is that we are ALL apostles -- ones SENT to spread the good news message about the God who loves us and His Son who died to show that love! Then I shared with them that I wanted to sing una canción navideña with them, and led the singing of Noche de Paz (Silent Night). I noticed that the sharing tonite was more from the heart than it had been in some months; thanks to the Weekend experience in which at least half of them had participated.

Then came Saturday! The Kairos manual calls for an "Instructional Reunion" to be conducted the Saturday following a Weekend, to show the inmates who were candidates how a monthly Reunion goes, and how to do Prayer & Share. While Paul & I had been on the road for the Thursday P & S we arranged for Paul to pick me up very early on Saturday, to get us to Dilley & the Briscoe Unit by 8:15 (it's and hour and a half drive from S.A.) But when a vehicle pulled up to pick me up, it was Tom's tall white pickup truck! Thomas Becker was Lay Director for Briscoe #1 and would also conduct today's Instructional Reunion. Tom is rather young to be such a leader for an Emmaus or Kairos event (lay directors are often retirees). But let me tell you, dear reader, Thomas or Tom has a great maturity & leadership skills -- way beyond his age! God is using young Tom, for His glory and the blessings of others! So, Tom, Paul & I had a delightful drive down Interstate Hiway 35 to Dilley.

We had just over 20 volunteers assembled at the gate of Briscoe to go in and do the Reunion. Dozens & dozens of cookies were left over from Weekend #1, and we supplied sandwiches, chips & beverages, so we didn't want for food, any more than we had on the Weekend itself. And when we got to the gym door and the guard opened it, there were the brothers in white inside, in two lines, clapping & cheering. Just as we had clapped & cheered each time they had come to the gym for a session of the Weekend! Wow!

The heat was malfunctioning in the gym, so it was cold. But our hearts were warm as we listened to & discussed five short Talks, prayed together (usually in pairs or threesomes) and sang. The Spirit of the Lord kept us warm! It was a very good event!

I chose to call this "fall-out from #1. . ." because in inmate slang a prisoner will sometimes mention that "I fell out at (a certain city)" and by this indicate where he was arrested or "fell out" of being a free citizen of society. Hopefully, participation in Kairos will help these fellows to "fall out" of the chains of past habits and attitudes (which got them incarcerated) and into the freedom Christ offers by His truth revealed in Scripture. His is a freedom NOT bound or limited by the fences and bars of any prison! To God be the glory!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

St. Luke Table Family

At some point Wednesday or Thursday, during the final Kairos team formation and preparations in Dilley's American Legion Hall, our director, Tom, insisted that HE did NOT choose who was on the team nor what ourr assignments were. It was the Holy Spirit! And I firmly believe the same to be true for the membership of each of the Table Families. God knew EXACTLY which three volunteers and which six Candidates and which one Steward would make the best mix to compose, not just a set of ten individual around a table, but rather a FAMILY of brothers in Christ who really opened up to and loved one another.

And what a family we were at St. Luke! The other two volunteers were our leader Dale Vickers and assistant Dale Miller. It was the latter's first Kairos, but he clearly related well to the inmates and they to him. Dale, Dale and Glen (Alan). . . Hmm-mm! Now don't you try to tell ME that THIS first-name match of us three -- in Celtic tongues Glen means "valley" or "dale" -- was mere coincidence or just Tom's random selection. No siree! This was a "God thing"!

Our Steward was Alex(ander) Alonso, a rather tall Hispanic with a ready smile and a true servant's heart, who had been transferred only a month or so ago to Briscoe, from the unit where he'd been a Candidate on a Kairos Weekend. To my right was Isreal, a Hispanic, and to my left another Hispanic, Eduardo, who is very active in chapel and the music program at Briscoe. To his left was C.J, a mulatto with a cheerful smile and sunshiny personality -- despite missing his lower left leg. Across from me sat Homero and Jeremy; the latter had the look of a "skinhead" but a gentle spirit. And next to Isreal -- he DOES spell his name that way, he's not the country but he "is real" in his faith -- sat Jimmy, an Afro-American who missed out on a little of the Weekend because his wife had come from Dallas for visitation and couldn't have postponed it, because her next opportunity will be next year.

Eduardo was ravenous for the salads at the lunches and dinners; he also craved the plentiful bananas. So we took to calling him "Banana Man"! He was also an Army veteran, who had been stationed in Germany (where he had picked up some Deutsch) and also at Fort Hood as a tank mechanic with the Second Armored Division -- at about the same time I was a Chaplain for the 62d Engineer battalion across the post! Small world!

There is an exercise the entire Team for a weekend does on Thursday before the inside team leaves for the prison. It's the Prayer Circle. One almost has to be there and do it understand the dynamics and the awe of a Prayer Circle! We sit in a circle of chairs, count off, and then half stand up and take positions behind the chairs that still have occupants. By an orderly system, we move around the entire circle of chairs, until each Team member has been prayed over by all the others and has prayed over all the others. The standing member bends down by the sitter's ear and softly prays thanksgiving for that person and affirmation and blessing on them. Then the standing one moves to the next sitter and prays. And so on. . . .

Folks, this Prayer Circle exercise is powerful! POWERFUL! We really ought to do it in our local congregations, Emmaus/Cursillo groups and other fellowships and ministries. I'm fully convinced that if we did prayer circles universally, that old evil adversary of ours wouldn't stand a chance!

I've confessed to being an emotive sort, so you can guess my head leaks frequently during the team's Prayer Circle. There were further tears falling on Saturday, when St. Luke Table Family went apart, into a corner of the dining area, to offer up prayers. Some of these brothers in white had deep remorse for broken relationships (especially for broken relationships with their sons), or other burdens. We were all -- volunteers and inmates -- limp, wet rags by the time we concluded our prayer time.

But the best was yet to come! Somehow I forgot, until we did it Sunday morning, that there is a second Prayer Circle exercise! In this one, each Table Family does the circle, and the other groups (e.g. kitchen-dining crew, music team) also form circles. Because these are multiple small prayer circles it takes much less time than did the first Prayer Circle involving only the Team (and one huge circle). It was not one whit less moving a time, dear reader. Most of us teared up again. A couple of St. Luke Family members didn't just put their hands on the shoulders of the one they were praying for, they slipped their arm around the sitter and gave him sort of a hug from the backside.

And if I could I'd form one huge bear-hug, embracing the entire Table Family at once! I love these brothers in Christ! May God be with and richly bless each and every one -- volunteers, candidates, steward -- of the St. Luke Table Family!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Kairos Briscoe #1 - WOW ! ! !

Dear reader, for almost a week I've been unavailable to post on this blog, or even check my e-mail. You see, I was in prison. And I wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere else!

Do you remember my earlier postings about my clergy service on the Team for Men's Walk to Emmaus #1327? And how I made mention of my participation in Kairos Prison Ministry? (See, e.g., 18 September post about "San Anto - Always something to do".) Well, Kairos is a version of Emmaus (or Cursillo or other 3-day renewal retreat with "4th-Day" follow-up), tailored to the prison environment, for Candidates from among the inmates.

In September of A.D. 2002 I had attended the Closing Ceremony for Kairos Weekend #8 (the 3-day retreat) in the Torres Prison Unit outside Hondo (west of San Antonio). When I heard the joyful praise singing of the brothers in white (Texas inmates wear all white) who had already been on a Weekend, and then the powerful, moving testimonies of the candidates as to what that Weekend had done for them, I was "hooked"! I could not get on a team fast en'uf, so that I could witness this three-day transformation first-hand!

Service on Kairos #9 and #11 and attendance at various "4th-Day" follow-up Kairos activities had been such a blessing. I came to dearly love both my brothers in white (Monty and Kelly with whom I served as "chapel crew" during #9 are particularly close to my heart) and my fellow volunteers. When the TDCJ permitted Kairos to enter the Dolph Briscoe Unit outside Dilley (between S. A. and Laredo), I got involved at once. Kairos Prayer & Share began in July of A.D. 2005 on first and third Thursdays. (P & S is supposed to be a weekly small group prayer exercise, but for whatever reason Briscoe only allows twice monthly).

As soon as I learned that the dates had been set for the first Kairos weekend for Briscoe, I signed up for the Team. Then I began to pray. After returning from Walk #1327, I prayed all the more fervently: that ABBA, Daddy God, pour out His gracious Spirit so powerfully that we volunteers individually would become vessels and together a unified vessel for His amazing grace to reach the 42 Candidates. And that He make this THE BEST first Kairos weekend retreat ever, anywhere!

And ABBA heard and answered our prayers! True, we actually ended up with 41 Candidates (a Steward's name erroneously got on the Candidate list). And NO Chaplain working in Briscoe (he'd resigned in October). BUT laying aside such little difficulties -- this was the first Kairos in the unit. . . Briscoe #1 was AWESOME!

Here are just a few ingredients of the "proof in the pudding". All elements of agapé were outstanding: the hundreds of dozens of homemade cookies (EVERY inmate in Briscoe received at least one dozen, in a ziplock bag delivered to his cell), the colorful and uplifting placemats made by children to grace the meals (lunch and dinner) served during the retreat, fliers and posters sent by Cursillo-style groups (to include Kairos communities within other prisons) to express the unconditional love (agapé in Greek) of ABBA God. We even had a flier written in beautiful Portuguese da uma comunidade do Cursilho no Brasil (from a Cursillo community in Brazil)!

And then there was the Prayer Chain! Each paper link on the chain is signed by someone who agreed to pray for the half hour indicated on the link, for the Kairos weekend experience and for God's blessing on the candidates. When the first portion of the Prayer Chain was drawn from a bag on Friday, it was quite long (tho' it was only for the first two days) and contained dozens of links signed by men in white who are the Kairos community inside the Torres Unit! You see, each link's volunteer also writes his or her city or country on the link. That's right, "or country"! Now, I was used to Kairos weekends getting prayer and agapé support from Canada and even Great Britain. But THIS, the very first one in the Dolph Briscoe Unit, had links from INDIA, too! Praise God, and Lord bless those Indian Christians, who had completely filled someone's prayer chain packet!

There'd been some concern, on this Briscoe #1, about matters which are of no concern on later weekends (#2 and subsequent). For example, how would the men in grey (officers, guards) respond to a Kairos weekend actually going on in their prison? Well, whatever reluctance or indifference there might have been on Thursday vanished by the setting sun on Friday; attending officers were actually singing Kairos praise songs and vying to be escorts! How about Stewards? There are usually at least 20 of these weekend retreat veterans serving on any given Weekend. By end of October we were aware of only a half dozen inmates in Briscoe who had experienced the Weekend elsewhere and could thus serve as stewards. However, someone ferreted out a few more, so we had a dozen, including that one who'd been mistakenly listed as a Candidate! Praise the Lord, bless these servants in white!

No one dropped out after Thursday evening's opening get-acquainted session! Ricky Passmore, who saw the first Kairos weekend in Torres as a candidate (yes, he WAS a criminal BUT NOW Ricky pastors a church, volunteers in Emmaus and Kairos, and wears cowboy clothes as clean and sharp as George Strait's), gave both a Talk and a meditation. I'm certain that the Candidates and the Stewards related very well and listened closely to this honest ex-offender. Ricky's meditation on Sunday was a verbatim script, like all the meditations (I recited "I chose You" and later "Who Is This Jesus?"). But after reading his, Ricky felt led to set it aside and just speak from the heart on "Sending Us Forth". Much of what he said was exhortation, like what I'd heard the chaplain give during Closing on Torres #9 and #11. Thus we actually didn't want for a chaplain. Nevertheless, there was a frequent expression by the inmates of an aching desire for a chaplain to come to Briscoe. They sometimes talked like sheep without a shepherd.

Early in Team formation concern was expressed that we would have few visitors come to Closing Ceremony for Briscoe #1. I'd sent an e-invitation with TDCJ application attached to Arlie Lammers, my roommate on #9 and #11 and likewise a Disciples of Christ clergy. BTW, my roommate on Briscoe #1 was also Disciples clergy, Ed Palow. Saturday I asked our liaison for Closing applications how many we'd received, to be cleared by TDCJ; he said about 125 and I almost hit the ceiling for joy! He added that Arlie and his wife were among them. And there they sat, on the front row at Closing, and further back others I recognized. One that greatly surprised (and delighted) me was Eunice Van Hoosen, we served together as clergy on Walk #1327.

So. . . it was a gr-r-r-reat Closing to a fantastic and blessed first ever Kairos Weekend at the Dolph Briscoe Unit outside Dilley! THANKS BE TO GOD! And TO GOD BE THE GLORY! ! !

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Tragic deaths here in South Texas

Local news, i.e., news for here in San Antonio and for a nearby South Texas small town, was not very good the day after the Thanksgiving holiday. On the South Side of this city during the early morning hours of Friday (night of Thursday-Friday) a fire raged thru the home of Frank Madla and killed him, his mother-in-law and his granddaughter. For years Madla had been a political icon for the South Side -- one of the so-called "Frank trifecta", the other Franks being Tejeda and Wing. He had just lost re-election to his seat in the Austin legislature in a bitterly contested race earlier this month.

Madla's failure to win re-election did not elicit much response from me. After all, I wasn't in his legislative district and couldn't vote for or against him. I just had a mild sensation of "it was probably good he wasn't relected", since he SEEMED to be a "good ol' boy" type, especially whenever the news media referred to him as one of the "Frank trifecta".

However, what I read of him in the newspaper on Saturday and following days informed me that he cared about all his constituents and was a champion for the common man. Even the winning opponent was quoted as declaring that it was a very sad day, due to Madla's death. I began to see that his death in the house fire, along with the elderly woman and his granddaughter, was indeed a terrible tragedy. I now can understand that there are many residents of southern San Antonio and outlying areas who are in deep mourning for Frank Madla.

And in the small Karnes County town of Falls City there was also deep mourning, as citizens buried one of their own young men who had died in the war in Iraq. Falls City is named for three falls on the San Antonio River. It is one of the tiny, close-knit towns of that area just southeast of San Antonio inhabited mostly by descendants of Polish (or Czech) immigrants of the 19th century. So it's little wonder that the entire town is numb with grief, and that most of them either attended the funeral or lined the street to pay their respects to a native son who died in combat.

The native son, Sgt. Mitchell Mutz, age 23, was killed by a homemade explosive device in Iraq on 15 November. He had been a scout of the First Cavalry Division, and was on his second tour in Iraq. His father, Bobby, was former sheriff of Karnes County and his mother was the local librarian. Even considering that he was killed in service to our country in the US Army -- a heroic and self-sacrificing death -- SGT Mutz' death is truly tragic, for his small hometown and for all us Americans.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

To God I give thanks for. . .

Today is Saturday, 25 November -- two days after the Thanksgiving Day holiday. Even tho' citizens of these United States are thereby encouraged to give thanks -- to Whom? -- annually, we who love and follow the Lord Jesus Christ KNOW that the giving of thanks is NOT just a ONCE-a-YEAR thing. Immediately I consider the Apostle Paul's words in his first letter to the Thessalonians, in Chapter 5, verses 16-18. And there are so many other places in the New Testament letters PLUS teachings of Jesus the Nazarene himself in the Gospels, which make crystal clear the crucial importance of thankfulness in the life of the believer.

So, here is a list of SOME of the many things for which I am thankful at this time in A.D. 2006. I thank our God and celestial Daddy for. . .

. . .simply being who He, Abba, is: the great "I AM", holy, holy, holy, almighty, all-knowing and all-wise, faithful, good "all the time!"

. . .loving us unworthy, sinful, humans so much that He sent the very best He had to offer us: His only Son, His living Word, His very image -- Jesus!

. . .this day -- and every day that's gone before.

. . .my family -- both my blood relations and my Christian brothers and sisters.

. . .having a roof over my head, clothes on my back and food for my belly. And for two seasonal jobs that may not pay much, but do provide those three essentials, plus a bit more. And these two jobs are both ones I very much enjoy, as I serve others. They are my substitute teaching at Alamo Heights High School and Junior School, and my conductor-stationmaster work at Fiesta Texas.

. . .life here in San Antonio -- with her diversity of cultural heritage along with civic unity, her festive atmosphere year-round, and her origins as a mission station of the Spanish Franciscans. AND,

. . .His call on my life here and now, to serve in the Emmaus renewal movement and the Kairos Prison Ministry.

To God our Abba, Savior and "breath" of true and everlasting life, BE THE GLORY and THANKS -- forever! ! !

Friday, November 24, 2006

Acción de Gracias Thanks-giving in S.A.

Yesterday was the annual holiday of Thanksgiving Day in these United States. This is one of the most-observed, most-respected of all official US holidays. It's not commercialized, even tho' the day after (Friday) very much IS. Almost everything closes down (e.g., only a few restaurants, gas and convenient stores and emergency rooms stay open, and buses run on the least-service or Sunday schedule).

It's also a time for family gatherings for most folk. Dear reader, I trust that you got to spend the day, or part of it at least, with loved ones -- and that you took time to GIVE THANKS. As for me, I have no family closer than north of Austin. And yet I gave thanks to God for His many, many blessing to me.

One manner of giving thanks here in San Antonio is to attend the morning Interfaith Thanksgiving Service at San Fernando Cathedral. I first attended this two years ago. At first, when I read in the newspaper of how spiritual leaders from such diverse religions as Buddhist and Muslim would lead, I objected: "The Cathedral is a Christian place of worship! So why these other religions?" But the "wind" of God, his Holy Spirit, spoke to me: "Would not Jesus the Christ welcome ANYONE and EVERYONE into his house? Unconditionally?"

And so, I had gone then, and again today, to this service of Thanks-giving. And I felt very blessed. I always feel blessed whenever I consider the tremendous diversity of cultural heritage and spiritual expressions one observes here in San Antonio. (See my second posting, back at the beginning of this blogsite in March.) And this interfaith service certainly presents a variety of means for thanking the Almighty -- in song, music, readings, litanies and so forth!

One feature which fascinated me the first time, and again today, was the Native American (American Indian) expression. Today during the processional of the various leaders to the front of the Cathedral the indigenous participants slowly and reverently beat a drum while singing in their native tongue, to the tune of "Amazing Grace". (I trust that this WAS that favorite hymn in some native language or other.) Later there was native flute playing, and toward the end of the service the very loud beating of a drum. Perhaps it was just the acoustics of the building, but one got the impression that the drum being beaten was some ten feet in diameter by five feet deep. . . but after the service I observed that it was actually smaller than the big bass drum used by traditional marching bands!

An a capella men's chorus sang a couple of different times; they all dressed in dark slacks, brightly colored long-sleeved dress shirts and coordinating neckties. And pleasantly contrasting with the men was a quartet of brightly-clad women flamenco dancers. These colorful sights as well as the sounds of music and song encouraged one to give thanks at the least for God's giving us humans such creativity -- a reflection of our Creator!

After the service I went to the Convention Center for the annual Raul Jimenez Thanksgiving Dinner. Everybody receives a free Thanksgiving meal, and there is entertainment.

While I was finding a place at a table and sitting down, a conjunto band was warming up to perform on-stage. AS they got into their first, and very danceable, song, I asked aloud, "¿Bailamos?" ("shall we dance?" in Spanish), which elicited smiles and laughs from those seated around me.

Looking up I saw hanging from the cavernous Convention Center ceiling several balloons (or orbs) in the colors of VÍA, our bus company: maroonish purple, red, orange-yellow. The thousands of attendees and volunteers were also colorful -- and more diversified in their colors! Several Junior ROTC students among the volunteers were dressed in their green and black Class A uniforms, complete with blouse (i.e., suitcoat) and tie. After eating I went toward where the conjunto band had been playing, and saw several dancers on the floor. Most were my age or older, women dressed up as for church or a party, and Hispanic men in suits and ties, sometimes with a Stetson or other hat. One dancer sported an alpine-style fedora, white dress shirt, leather (or imitation leather) vest, colorful necktie and dark pants -- not exactly lederhosen, but close en'uf to the Deutsch apparel!

And so goes Thanksgiving Day here in S.A. I hope yours, dear reader, was likewise festive, colorful and pleasing to the ears. And that you gave thanks!

Monday, November 20, 2006

50 years of witness in S.A.'s hills

Back on 25 September I reported on the 107th anniversary of Mexican Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), one of the two Disciples congregations in which I hold membership. I mentioned that MCC (DC) is not only the oldest Spanish-speaking Disciples of Christ church in the nation, but is also the oldest Disciples church of ANY sort in this city!

During the summer of A.D. 2003, my other church, Alamo Heights Christian (Disciples), celebrated its golden anniversary (50th). Compared with its Westside sister congregation it's a "young 'un", right? Still, that 50th was a memorable observation in many ways. AND NOW, yesterday I participated in yet annother S.A. Disciples church's golden anniversary.

My association with Western Hills Christian Church (Disciples) goes back to the two years I was serving the Disciples of Christ church in nearby Devine (A.D. 1992-94). You see, Western Hills' pastor Harold Guess sponsored me on my pilgrim Walk to Emmaus, Men's #327, in October of '93. Shortly afterward, several of us from the Devine church attended an area-wide Disciples of Christ praise worship hosted at Western Hills. And since my arrival here in S.A. in '02 I had attended Western Hills a couple of times for various reasons. Each time I had felt very blessed to be in the church!

Hence, I felt compelled to share in the 50th celebration Sunday. As soon as I arrived at the church I inquired if Harold Guess was there. (He had moved to Austin in the late 1990s.) Indeed he was! In fact, he was to preach the sermon for the 50th anniversary worship.

Before Harold's sermon there were memorable moments, such as introductions of charter members, former pastors and two of the three Timothys (members of the church who had answered the call to ordained ministry). And two babies were dedicated by their parents; one was an adopted Chinese girl, precious to behold. Also, the most recent former pastor, Larry West, led us in the prayer time.

Brother Guess' message was terrific. If it was typical of his preaching, I can understand at least one reason why he was the longest-serving of Western Hills' six pastors, at 22 years. He sort of re-capped WH history, thru various anecdotal incidents. Some were humorous, some were deeply moving, I for one appreciated each of them. He ended each reminiscense with "God is good" (to which we replied "all the time")... I mean, all the time. . ." (reply "God is good"). See my posting of Tuesday, 10 October (one of several about Walk #1327), for some further observation about this slogan.

And dear reader, this I truly KNEW was the case for Western Hills Christian Church! This congregation hasn't had an easy history, yet there have been numerous outstanding moments during its fifty years. Such as, being recognized nationally as the fastest-growing Disciples of Christ church of it size category midway in Bro. Guess' pastoral service. The congregation has certainly flourished under his leadership as well as Bro. West and "Rusty" Wright. This last has only served the congregation a few months -- and is its third Timothy!

After the Lord's Supper, we all adjourned to the Runnels Building of the Western Hills church campus, for the Thanksgiving Dinner. This congregation certainly has something extra to be thankful for -- every year. You see, its founding date was 18 November A.D. 1956 -- just prior to Thanksgiving each year. And of course this being the 50th, I trust the thanks in each member's heart was extra strong. As was the thanks in this guest's heart. I may not have yet, and may never, call WHCC(DC) my home congregation, but I do thank our Lord for the many blessings it has given me! May He even more greatly bless these brothers and sisters in Christ thru the next 50 years, unless Christ returns before then!

Friday, November 17, 2006

' Tis the season. . . already? ? ?

Wednesday (day before yesterday) I happened to have some time between buses during a transfer at North Star Mall. So I went into the mall to browse around -- the food court shops sometimes will offer free samples of their eats.

And. . . what greeted my ears from the p.a. system, but muzak-style Christmas songs! And 'tis the season decorations were already hung from the mall ceilings!

Now folks, this is simply ridiculous! A week BEFORE Thanksgiving, and Christmas is already "in the air. . !" ? ? ? As one newspaper comic strip put it this morning (or yesterday), the 25 December holiday is starting earlier every year!

This simply IS NOT RIGHT! There should be a law against decorating (visually or aurally) for Christmas before Thanksgiving! And now that I've mentioned it, Halloween stuff was for sale in the stores not long after Labor Day. Again, such is WAY TOO EARLY!

Leaving my too-early-holiday-celebration protest aside, here are some words about the said mall. Way back when we lived in Devine, and we wanted to do mall shopping, we usually shopped South Park Mall or Ingram Park Mall; these were the two closest to our home. But once in awhile we'd go on around on Loop 410 to Central Park Mall, one of the "double malls" that flanked San Pedro Avenue on the south side of the loop. Central Park had a double carousel inside, which was very fun to ride. As for the other of those double malls, North Star, I doubt we ever darkened its doorsteps. It had a reputation as being for the very wealthy, i.e., those who lived in Loopland.

Alas! When I moved to San Antonio in '02, I was saddened to see that Central Park Mall had bit the dust. Whatever happened to that delightful carousel I don't know to this day.

And altho' North Star Mall continues to cater to the wealthy Looplanders, there is a NEW ultra-rich mall, over near Fiesta Texas. It's called The Shops of La Cantera. THAT one even has a Neiman Marcus store, and some store called Nordstrom that especially caters to ultra-rich African-American women. As if there were very many of such women here!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Season-ending "Friday nite lights"

Yup! This weekend was the final one for the regular season of Texas high school football. Some of these games determined district championships, and certain seedings in the playoffs were determined by the final game results.

So, Friday nite I attended the last regular-season, last home game, at Alamo Heights High School. The AHHS Mules were hosting the Kerrville Tivy Antlers. The hosts were expected to win easily (Tivy had a couple of district losses and Heights was undefeated in district). So I didn't show up until late in the third quarter (anyway, I had been invited to a Thanksgiving Dinner at a small church on the Westside, and I went to that first). The Mules were ahead 34-0 at that point, and final score was 40-7 in favor of Heights. As the final seconds ticked away, cheerleaders for the victorious Mules unfurled paper banners which celebrated their winning the District 27-4A football title. Finally! After several years of losing out to both Kerrville and archrival Boerne, the Mules have kicked both -- and the rest of the district!

Elsewhere, Decatur won its game in north Texas to remain undefeated. Currently the Eagles of my former home Decatur (we lived there in 1979-80) are ranked #7 in 3-A state-wide. But alas! closer to home another 3-A "D" school didn't do so well. Even tho' they played archrival Hondo at home, the Devine Warhorses lost, and lost big. Oh, well, I'm sure that the Devine eleven will get into the playoffs anyway. Also, Dilley won Friday nite, down there near the Dolph Briscoe Unit where I go for Kairos Prison Ministry activities. So Dilley should be in the state playoffs, too.

So much for "Friday nite lights". But there are still a few high school games to play on Saturday, including the Judson Rockets, and the famous Chili Bowl -- a long-standing S.A. tradition which exhibits the two oldest high schools in S.A., Fox Tech and Sidney Lanier.

Veterans Day in S.A.

In this Year of Our Lord 2006 the holiday of Veterans Day (originally named "Armistice Day" after the ending of hostilities in Europe at the end of World War I), 11 November, falls on a Saturday. This good, because San Antonio has a very BIG Vets Day parade, and always conducts it on a Saturday. So, since 11 November falls on Saturday, the parade was on the REAL holiday!

But before I went to the parade, I took the bus out to the District Ten Fall Festival. This event was organized a few years back by District Ten Councilman "Chip" Haass. But this was the first year I had been able to attend. I'm really glad I went!

The Fall Festival was held near the intersection of Thousand Oaks and Nacogdoches Roads, in the parking lot of the Midnite Cowboy dance hall (no alcohol outside!), in sunny, but coolly windy weather. In fact the wind was so strong that exhibitors had to weigh down their tablecloths, signs and papers with rocks or whatver weights they could get their hands on! There was lots of information, good entertainment, free food -- and FUN!

Early on I noticed a young chicano who was nattily dressed in white pants, blue blazer, green shirt and green patterned necktie. I complimented him on his apparel -- and at once found out that he is Rey de los Santos, who is running for Dist. 10 Councilman. "Chip" Haass, who was dressed casually in an open-collar shirt and sweater-vest, cannot run for re-election. I jokingly told de los Santos that based on his great looks and great name ("King of the Saints" in Spanish) he had my vote!

Among the entertainment was a young lady who sang "I Can Only Imagine", a gospel song recorded by Mercy Me. The song has a beautiful message (about how one can only imagine the indescribably wonder of arriving in Heaven and actually meeting our Savior), and she sang it beautifully. The police and fire departments had several vehicles at the Fall Festival. My favorite was a 1953 bright red fire truck.

After thanking Councilman Haass, who not only is my Councilman but also my fraternity brother, in Lambda Chi Alpha, for the very informative as well as entertaining festival, I got back on the bus to get downtown for the Veterans Day Parade. Now, both Nashville and Clarksville, Tennessee, claim to have the largest Vets Day parades in the country. But I don't know; San Antonio's has GOT to BE in close competition for that title!

Main Plaza, or Plaza de las Islas, is where I prefer to view this particular parade. (I don't know why, I just like that spot.) So I set up there to enjoy the parade as it went by. This year all former POWs being honored were one right after another, standing in military vehicles. One of these was Alex Tovar, a World War II POW and father of my best S.A. friend, Joe. Speaking of which, as Alex, standing and dressed in a red vest of military vet style, and a necktie, passed by, I saw that sitting right behind him was Joe! Also, two of Joe's grandchildren were in the vehicle.

As usual, the parade included several high school marching bands and Junior ROTC units. Two bands that were absent were Lanier and Fox Tech. But this is understandable, because that very evening the two schools would meet on the football field, in the annual Chili Bowl. Both schools make a big deal of the season'ending game, and their bands are very prominent before and during the game. And Alamo Stadium is close to full of spectators. I believe the Chili Bowl is de facto Homecoming for both high schools, even tho' only ONE of the teams cam be the "home" team!

When I entered Alamo Stadium on the "home" side (i.e., the pressbox side) and started looking for a good seat, I was greeted by a sea of blue (& a little white). For Sidney Lanier High was "home" team this year. A few guys even came shirtless, their torsos and faces painted in blue and white. And I suspect that stores in S.A. that sell hair dye are out of blue! Ha, ha!

The Lanier Voks pretty much had a slight edge in dominating the field most of the game. After Tech scored a touchdown in the first quarter and didn't make the p.a.t., the Voks responded with two field goals, to tie the score at halftime. In the third quarter, Lanier scored a t.d. (with p.a.t.) and a field goal, to start the final quarter ahead 16-6. But alas! the Buffaloes came back to win the Chili Bowl '06, by a core of 26-16.

So, a sad ending to an otherwise gr-r-r-reat Vets Day. Oh, well. . . . next year???

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Touring the City I love

FYI, yours truly is a member of a volunteer citizens committee, the ATD Oversight Committee. ATD stands for Advanced Transportation District. This was an entity set up by a vote of the majority of San Antonio citizens in November of A.D. 2004, who approved of a half cent raise in the local sales tax to fund improvements in the transportation infracstructure here. Half the raise was to go to VÍA Metro Transit and the remaining half to be split between the city's Public Works Department and the Texas Dept. of Transportation or TxDOT.

Being a constant bus rider, I was asked to serve on the oversight group, which means that regularly -- twice a year to begin with and now quarterly -- we gather and hear reports from the three bodies, as to what they are doing with the money raised for the ATD by the sales tax increase. It's been an informative and rewarding service.

Wednseday morning we Oversight Committee members were given a bus tour (VÍA bus, naturally) of various projects funded by the ATD sales tax. These were on the Westside and South Side of the city, and reps from VÍA, Public Works and TxDOT took turns describing their specific projects as the bus approached each. The Westside is, as you should know from reading my blog postings, my favorite part of the city. The South Side, particularly in vicinity of the old Spanish missions and along South Zarzamora Street, is also dear to my heart.

Among the projects we saw were some of the newest set of VÍA bus stop shelters, which are both attractive (including being a lovely green color all over) and functional, and the very first Super Stop that VÍA has installed, which is appropriately (?) on South Zarzamora beside the brand-new "super" H.E.B. store, north of the Zarzamora-Military Drive instersection. About a half mile or so to the south of the new Super Stop we went by the location for the proposed new South Central transit center, on the IH 35 access road near Zarzamora. This center will service the South side, which is already growning thanks to the new Toyota pickup plant out in the country.

We also saw such city Public Works projects as new sidewalks being installed on the near Westside, at Buena Vista and Colorado, which meet standards dictated by the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), and crosswalks of a new thermal plastic material, which makes them longer-lasting than traditional paint. The city Public Works "tour guide" was Joe Marsilio, and one of the TxDOT officials, Carl Smith, sat next to me on the bus. One of the TxDOT projects we saw, the widening and improvement of IH 35 between Theo and Zarzamora, which is just getting underway.

At one point early in the tour the bus passed Sidney Lanier High School, the "Pride of the Westside", the football team of which will play this Saturday in the Chili Bowl. This annual celebration of the two oldest high schools in the city (the other being now named Fox Tech) is a grand tradition of this city of many traditions and parties. Alamo Stadium, if it will be near capacity for any game will be so for the Chili Bowl.

And I shall be there! Go Voks Go!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Strait from San Antone!

George Strait, that is!

You know, it's about time I had something to say about one of my favorite institutions of San Antonio and area. A living institution. I mean the Strait man!

Well, from all of this you should figure out that I'm a great devotee of THE BEST SINGER from Texas, THE BEST country music artist still performing (if not best ever!), THE BEST role model for any man of my age! George Strait!

My man George got inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame during the CMA Awards Show last nite. Certainly, there isn't a more deserving inductee than he. And I've watched, indeed, followed, his progress from rising star to superstar and now legend.

But I must confess it was a slow beginning. When in 1981 his first radio release, "Unwound", hit the airwaves, I at first tho't it was another hit from Johnny Paycheck. And when the artist was identified as George Strait, I said, "George who?" His vocal on follow-up release "Down and Out" also hit my ear as sounding like Paycheck.

However, THEN George's songs started to sound like he had "found" his own inimitable smooth baritone voice. And THEN my ears began to really enjoy the listening! (Not that "Unwound" and "Down and Out" were unenjoyable, they just didn't hit my "hot" button.) With every new song George got better, both in delivery and in content.

I clearly remember the song that truly first got my attention: "Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind?" Living in Fort Worth was my introduction to Texas; "Cowtown" also introduced me to my wife-to-be, Ellen. And so, whenever I'd hear George singing the song on the radio, I'd respond, "Yup, just 'bout every day!"

And as I say, with each subsequent radio hit George just seemed to get better and better! Gr-r-r-reat songs that come to my mind right now, not necessarily in the order they hit the airwaves, are "Ocean Front Property", "Am I Blue?" and "Nobody in His Right Mind (Woulda Left Her)". And THEN, after a decade of gr-r-r-reat hits, George reached THE TOP in my book with the song that I've ever since considered to be THE BEST country song of all time: "Love Without End, Amen".

One cannot get any better in the country music field, than this song about the love of any REAL earthly daddy, which concludes with the unconditional and all-forgiving love of our Heavenly Daddy.

. "Daddys don't just love their children every now and then,
. It's a love without end, amen. It's a love without end, amen."

Well, even tho' that song was the absolute best in my book, not only of George's songs but also of all country songs of all times, don't get me wrong! I keep on listening to the new hits of my man George, and enjoying them. "I Cross My Heart", to name just one, comes close to "Love Without End, Amen" in being an excellent song.

And then there was George's duet with Alan Jackson, "Murder on Music Row". As much as I'd come to love Nashville, Tennessee, and appreciate the key role fo Music City in the early and on-going saga of America's own style of popular music (i.e., country music), I recognize that the powers that be in country music production seldom do their best for the genre, and they usually ignore the wishes of the die-hard devotees of the genre (e.g., yours truly). So I truly HEAR the message of this mournful song, and truly am grateful that George and Alan sang together on it.

So-o-o-o, the Strait man is now a legend! And enshrined into the Country Music Hall of Fame!

Hip! Hip! Hooray!!! Go, George, Go!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Showers of blessings!

Thru'out my postings since I began this blog back at the end of March, I've made mention to the San Antonio weather of this year of '06, which has been extra hot and in the midst of a drought.

With pleasurey I report that the drought has ended! In September the official rainfall for S.A. was ABOVE the average for the month. Last time a month had surplus rainfall was March of A.D. 2005! We had suffered a year and a half of months with precipitations way below average. All too many months didn't even have an inch of precipitation!

October didn't quite make average rainfall. But it was close! And combine this with the surplus in September and one has two straight months of adequate rainfall for our area.

Thank you, Lord, for the rain showers!

Speaking of which, Sunday (yesterday) I experienced showers of another soft: spiritual "showers of blessing"! In the morning, at Mexican Christian Church (Disciples) Andrew Villarreal preached, and I hadn't seen him in awhile. (His last time to preach was the Sunday I was involved in Walk to Emmaus #1327.) We had an intense prayer time, as he invited everyone present to circle-up around the communion table and share blessings and prayer requests. And then he preached on the great value of having faith in God, who is faithful.

That evening I attended the "Near God" alternative worship at St. Andrew's United Methodist Church. This church is within walking distance, but a rather long walk, so I usually ride bus part of that distance. As I approached the nearest bus stop to catch the bus, a car honked at me. It was Fred, who also attends and often gives me a ride home after "Near God".

This being the Sunday following All Saints Day, Bro. Brad DeHaven preached about the saints and their significance for us contemporary Christians. His Scripture was various verses from the Eleventh Chapter of the Letter to the Hebrews. This chapter is often called the "Heroes of the Faith Galelry" because the writer names several examples of men and women of the Old testament who displayed outstanding faith in God.

To sum it up, both worship services showered tremendous blessings, at least on me. And I left each in a spirit of renewal of deep faith and a sense of almost overwhelming joy that I know our Savior and our Daddy God so intimately!

Praised be the Lord!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

All Saints -- and all "spooks", witches, etc.

Today, the 31st day of October, presents a holiday that seemingly rages as popular as any other holiday on the American calendar. It's generally called "Halloween", which is Old English for "Day before (eve) All Saints (Day)". All Saints Day honored all the departed saints, when the medieval Church established it on 1 November. The day before, or 31 October, was its eve, just as 31 December is the eve of New Years Day.

Actually, the medieval Church started this holiday as an alternative to a pagan Celtic festival celebrated on 31 October, called Samhaim. (In the same way, Christmas began as an alternative to a pagan Roman festival for Sol Invictus, the "Unconquered Sun" god; nobody knows WHAT DAY Jesus really was born!) Most, if not all, of the trappings of Halloween, except for the very name, derive from Druid witchcraft. Even the jack-o-lanterns were originally turnips carved to house the malevolent spirits of the dead. When certain Irish whose Catholicism was only skin-deep and who retained some of their Druidic witchery, immigrated to America, they considered that pumpkins made a great alternative to turnips to carve into fearful faces for those malevolent dead!

But I digress. As you know from some of my earlier blogs, the dominant ethnic cultures here in San Antonio and south-central Texas are the German, the Anglo-Celtic and especially the Hispanic. Hispanic meaning of Spanish or Mexican mestizo origin. And in the cultural tradition of old Mexico even more important than Todos los Santos (All Saints)on 1 November is Día de los Muertos the next day. This "Day of the Dead" is the Catholic Church's "All Souls Day" and honors all the dead, sainted or not. In Mexico it's traditionally observed by taking food, flowers and candles to the cemeteries and keeping a kind of festive vigil at the graves of family members.

Here in these United States the Mexican-Americans, in their efforts to resemble other US citizens (the "melting-pot" syndrome) backed away from distinctively Mexican customs such as the 2 November Day of the Dead. But now again chicanos or Mexican-Americans are widely celebrating Dí­a de los Muertos, only (alas!) with Halloween additions. One element of Dí­a de los Muertos that does NOT derive from Halloween or its antecedent Samhaim of the druids, is use of skulls or skeletons, called calaveras. About a hundred years ago there came to be a whole genre of calavera artwork, showing skeletons dressed in sarapes and sombreros and engaging in various activities. In Mexico they even make candy skulls, which children eat on 2 November, just as Anglo children eat candy canes on Christmas. Another major element is the building of household altars, ofrendas, that in addition to Catholic souvenirs such as crucifixes and pictures or statuettes of Our Lady of Guadalupe, will have photos of deceased family members and favorite items of theirs that have been kept. They also will set out favorite foodstuffs of the dearly departed.

Now, all of this, and more, came to mind as I substituted for a Spanish teacher at Alamo Heights High School on Monday the 30th. Her lesson plan for two of the classes was to show a video produced right here in San Antonio, by the Institute of Texan Cultures, covering observation of Dí­a de los Muertos, S.A. style. Some aspects featured were already familiar to me, particularly the sight of Castroville Road across from San Fernando cemetery lined shoulder-to-shoulder with vendors of floral decorations to buy and take across the street to the graves. In this way 2 November for chicanos is much like Memorial Day in May for other Americans.

One of the persons featured in the video was Father Virgil Elizondo, who at the time of filming was rector of San Fernando Cathedral. (He now teaches at Notre dame University.) He is quite the author, and one of my favorite books of Elizondo's is The Future Is Mestizo. In it he describes growing up Mexican-American in the Westside barrio, and he celebrates the great contributions of the mestizo (mixed indigenous and Spanish ancestry) people. In this film he likewise celebrates what it means to be Mexican-American in the context of observation of Dí­a de los Muertos.

Someone in the video mentioned that customs for the holiday among San Antonio's chicanos differ from those of interior Mexico. The differences weren't really explained (at least not satisfactorily). But another person did mention that S.A. Mexican-Americans are now borrowing elements from Halloween. Now, to me that's not a good borrowing! Yes, I'm Celtic in my ancestry. But for that very reason I know well the pagan and occult origins of central aspects of the American observation. It's NOT a good thing to celebrate witches, or symbols of Druidism or the occult. When one researches the terrible and truly frightful practices of ancient Samhaim and one knows that there IS an evil in this creation that is more cosmic than merely the sum of individual human sin, it's no longer cute to think of costumed kids out begging for candy!

Calaveras or skeletons are different, since these occur in numerous cultures, including the Mesoamerican civilizations that Spaniards conquered in the Sixteenth Century. And the Latin-indigenous emphases on remembering deceased yet still beloved family members, and on not fearing death but rather viewing it as an aspect fo the progress of life, are good and healthy things our Spanish-heritage (mixed Latin with indigenous) neighbors can introduce to and share with us Anglos (and Germans, Afros, etc.)

So, I'd say let's forget the 31 October observation and its "spooks", witches, jack-o-lanterns, etc. Let's have a harvest festival instead. And let's remember and honor the sainted dead on 1 November and our departed relatives on the Second, that is, el Día de los Muertos.

Friday, October 27, 2006

San Antonio's Museums

Some time back I promised that I would have a word about this city's many museums. (See 18 September posting.) I suppose that now is as good a time as any to cover these houses of history and other things.

I say "now" because my previous posting was about "The Alamo", the most recent movie version of the world-famous battle. And as you might suspect, the place has a museum. The official Alamo Museum is a small one, and intertwined with a gift shop. But there ARE exhibit cases in that newer building. And outside is a wall of sorts that purports to give the history of this hallowed ground, from its founding as Misión San Antonio de Valero. Also, the old church building displays a few artifacts, and the other significant remaining portion of the original enclosure, the missionary's convento, later called the Long Barracks by the Texians, also has displays. Lots of them. So-o-o. . . , The Alamo is museum-like, all over. Of course: it's a historic site -- THE most historical site in Texas.

Now, to the major museums. Among the two biggest, best-known museums in San Antonio are the Museum of Art, and the Witte Museum. There is also the McNay Museum, but I have never visited it, so cannot honestly comment.

Between the "big two" I would most often probably name the San Antonio Museum of Art as my favorite. It's located in the old, old Lone Star brewery on the north side of downtown, on the banks of the San Antonio River. (The brewery had been relocated to the banks of the river below or south of downtown, but even that is closed now, and the beer is brewed in northern Texas.) When the museum occupied the building (1970s?) it retained the old architecture,a modified castellated outline, very attractive. In A.D. 2005 it built and opened an "Asian (art) wing" -- which isn't a wing new from the ground up but rather a third story (or fourth, or both) on top of the lowest portion of the original building. It's not the first contemporay-architecture additions the museum has made to the facilities, but the Asian wing really stands out. And I don't like it! It simply clashes with the style of the original brewery.

But en'uf 'bout what's on the outside. It's what's INSIDE a museum that really counts. Right? There are several halls specializing in artwork from various continents, civilizations or styles. Ones I like the most include the Ancient Egyptian, Greco-Roman Classical, Pre-Columbian American and Colonial Latin American. (There's also a contemporary Latin American floor, but I'm not much into contemporary or abstract art.) And the Museum of Art features traveling exhibits, in a hall behind the entrance lobby. Recently this presented "Retratos: 2000 Years of Latin American Portraits." It was a fascinating multi-media exhibition, from Mayan and Nazca ceramic portrait pieces thru colonial Spanish Baroque full-size full-length (as well as miniatures), to 20th Century masters. A very fascinating portrait paring was of a Mexican woman, one portrait in her young adult years by Diego Rivera and another a couple decades later by Rufino Tamayo. The former (the Rivera) was the publicity portrait for the travelingThis was close to being my very favorite of all exhibits I've ever seen in any museum -- and I've been in lots, to include the Met in NYC -- either permanent exhibit or traveling/special.

BUT WAIT! There's the Witte! I truly enjoy visiting this museum on Broadway beside historic Brackenridge Park (at the headwaters of the San antonio River) in April or early May. At that time the Witte will present an exhibit on some factor or other of San Antonio's annual party-to-end-all-parties, Fiesta. Other exhibits, of a more permanent nature, also focus on regional displays.

However, THE BEST exhibit I've ever seen (and HEARD, as you will find out) was a special exhibit a few years back, called "Corridos de la Frontera/ Ballads of the Border". Now, dear reader, know that corridos or Mexican ballads are very dear to me; as a graduate student at Vanderbilt University I did a term paper on the corrido as chronicler of the Mexican Revolution (1910-1917). During that research so many years ago, I became fond of certain of these usually lively and often lovely ballads.