Monday, April 30, 2007

Fiesta '07 is history

The 2007 edition of San Antonio's party-to-end-all-parties is over. Finis. Kaput. Done & history!

As I declared in the previous posting, I won't go into detail about Fiesta events I attended, since I covered these a year ago. However, I shall share any unique or otherwise notable happenings.

The Texas Cavaliers River Parade on Monday evening had a new originating point this year: the former finish point on the river near Municipal Auditorium and the Central Library. Thus the floats floated down the river, for once. Being in my accustomed viewing spot, I was now near the start rather than the finish of the parade route!

As usual, two or three barges passed by to commence the River Parade, and then there was a long gap of several minutes before the remainder began to pass. But this time during the gap we had some excitement! A woman on the opposite bank fell inte the river (it's only little more than waist deep). While she was attempting to climb up out of the water, a man on my bank decided to play rescuer and dove in. By the time he swam to the other side spectator there had assisted the woman out of the river. Then they had to turn their attention to assisting the wannabe hero!

Also, this year I personally knew two float (barge) riders: my Councilman "Chip Haass" and another LCA brother, and undergrad from UTSA. Both of them tossed me throws, chip a string of green beads adn the UTSA Lambda Chi an '07 UTSA Fiesta medal.

Tuesday evening's Tejano Explosion, a Fiesta event presenting live concerts by several Mexican-American musical artists, had Emilio Navaira in its line-up. I went to Cattlemen's Square (on the near Westside) to hear Emilio, who was probably THE leading male star in Tejano music during my second sojourn in Texas (1992-94) -- only to discover that due to the strong threat of thunderstorms the concert had been moved to Sunday evening. Oh, well!

The extra time I thus found on my hands allowed me to attend a debate at the Semmes Branch Library (far northeast, on Nacogdoches Road) of the two candidates for the District 10 Council seat. They are Rey(naldo) de los Santos and John Clamp. Both made favorable impressions, but I'm leaning toward voting for the former candidate.

Each Wednesday evening for three or four years I've gone to "Fiesta in Blue", a concert at Laurie Auditorium on the Trinity University campus featuring the excellent Air Force Band of the West (headquartered at our own Lackland AFB). As always, the musicians looked superb in their dress blues (the military uniform equivalent of the tux) and sounded jsut as superb! This time they ahd a guest performer, John Johnson of the country-rock group Little Texas. He sang a patriotic song of his own arrangement just before intermission. Following intermission he was joined by a quartet of the AF Band who had exchanged the dress blues for apparel that included shirts that resembled the flag of Texas. They backed him up as he sang three greatest hits of Little Texas: "You Gotta Kick a Little", "What Might Have Been" and "God Blessed Texas". On the latter, which rapidly became an unofficial state anthem, we of the audience were up, clapping, stomping feet and singing along!

. "God blessed Texas, with His own hand
. Dropped down angels fron the Promised Land
. Gave them a place where they could dance
. If you wanna see Heaven, brother, here's your chance
. I've been sent to spread the message:
. Hm-m-m, God bless Texas!"

One major difference of this year's Fiesta experience is that I resolved to NOT just give myself over to ten days of partying. (Cancellation of Tuesday's Tejano Explosion assisted me in this resolve.) Hence, after the Battle of Flowers Parade on Friday afternoon, instead of doing the usual further Fiesta participation I attended a Lambda Chi Alpha initiation ritual. The zeta, or chapter, of St. Mary's University initiated four udnergrads into the Brotherhood, in an old Spanish-mission style church just south of downtown. One of the four has an uncle who is an alumnus of the zeta, and he came down from Austin to witness the ritual also. I cannot divulge details, of course, but the ritual of L.C.A. is well worth foregoing a Fiesta event or two!

The Battle of Flowers Parade was the Fiesta-topper it always is, but I only got to see the Fiesta Pooch PArade from a distance as I rode bus to work on Saturday morning. Instead of my usual concluding the Fiesta experience with attendance at Mission San Jose's Fiesta de la Familia, I went to Fiesta San Fernando in la Plaza de las Islas in front of the Cathedral on my way to Tejano Explosion (to try again to hear Emilio). As I arrived at the plaza one stage was broadcasting recorded music, the song "Hey, David, Who's that Gringo?" This song by David Lee Garza's conjunto band, is on the Fiesta CD for 2005. I truly enjoy this song, because I can easily fantasize about being a "white boy" in a conjunto group. "I may be white on the outside, but I know my heart is refried."

Alas! As I arrived at Cattlemen's Square Sunday evening the sky opened up in a gully washer. It didn't last long, but water got into the sound system. They tried to find a replacement system to keep having the concert. But in vain. So I still haven't heard Emilio live! Oh, well!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Party-to-end-all-parties, '07 edition

Yes, dear reader, the A.D. 2007 edition of Fiesta San Antonio, the Alamo City''s party-to-end-all-parties, is well under way! And as usual, I'm in the thick of it!

This year I won't go into detail about everything, since I covered Fiesta '06 rather well. If you missed my reports about last year, scroll down (i.e., back in time), looking at the dates of the postings, until you get around 21 April. That date is significant, because the ten days of Fiesta always include this, the anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto victory of the rebel Texians under Sam Houston over the forces of Santa Anna.

But I shall cover a few specific and unique items of this year's Fiesta! First and foremost is that I have FAMILY living here, to introduce to Fiesta! When Patrick and his wife LaRae moved here in February, I asked specifically when my brother had been at Fort Sam Houston for his training to be a medic in the Army. He replied that it was August to December. I remarked at the time that he had missed all the best stuff: Rodeo, Folklife, and of course the party-to-end-all-parties. And LaRae hadn't ever been in this city prior to the recent move!

Yep, I was lickin' my lips and rubbin' my hands in anticipatory glee!

We three celebrated our first Fiesta event together by going to the San Antonio Botanical Gardens for "Walk across Texas" this past Saturday morning. The sky was cloudy, but it didn't rain. As in each year's Fiesta, this one-day event featured free coffee and homemade biscuits (with gravy or jelly) using the locally-milled Pioneer Flour. And there were demonstrations and guided exhibits around the three areas of the Botanical Gardens that present three of the major environmental areas of the state: the East Texas Piney Woods, the Hill Country and the South Texas chaparral. I could tell that LaRae really enjoyed some of the demonstrations/exhibits!

Then we drove across town to the Westside, for "Piñatas in the Barrio" at Guadalupe Plaza. I feared we would arrive late and miss opening ceremonies, but not to worry! Latin American types are always fashionably late, and "Piñatas" was no exception! I delighted to point out to the two new S.A. residents, that chicanos or Mexican-Americans are about THE MOST PATRIOTIC of all ethnic groups in these United States, and for instance have a disproportionate number of Congressional Medal of Honor earners among them. Such loyalty and dedication to US military service is the more remarkable, when one considers that a large percentage of them have ancestors who were already living in the area that is now the southwestern states when it was part of Mexico, and by force of war they were taken into the USA. As chicanos like to say, "We didn't cross the border, the border crossed us!"

It was also a great delight to introduce Patrick and LaRae to Council Member Patti Radle, who represents District 5 (the bulk of the Westside) on the S.A. City Council. Patti and I have known each other for about as long as she's been on the Council. She's been a good public servant, and was the only Council vote in December 2004 against permitting the PGA to build a luxury golf resort over the aquifer recharge zone. But alas! soon she will have to step down; our Council elections are coming up in just days, and she cannot run for re-election. By city law the Mayor and Council members serve two-year terms and can be re-elected only once.

After "Piñatas" we drove to another Fiesta event, a "Pow-Wow" in Mission County Park near Mission San Jose. It appeared to be typical of one-day Fiesta neighborhood events: some live performances in a stage area, surrounded by booths, mostly for typical Fiesta food items. These are: gorditas, funnel cakes, tacos, roast corn, etc. It didn't look interesting to my brother and sister-in-law, so we didn't go in. Instead I spent some afternoon time at their quarters on post.

Saturday evening, after resting, I attended a new Fiesta event, at La Villita Assembly Hall. New to me, that is; the "Patriotic and Historical Ball" has been held for some 88 years. I hesitated to go, even tho' I'd been trying to get a ticket to the free event for years (the ticket -- actually an invitation -- is for crowd control). I feared that I'd be to only attendee going stag, and that after a brief opening ceremony it would be all dancing, and also I wouldn't see anyone I knew (not counting Fiesta royalty). However, I saw a couple of other fellows attending stag, and also someone I knew thru Emmaus events. Best of all, the ceremony was rather lengthy, with numerous elements. Most impressive were the US Army Drill Team, in their dress blue uniforms, with chromed weapons, as they did their skillful precision drill maneuvers with these latter. In short, I was glad I attended, and even enjoyed observing the "Grand March" that commenced the dancing portion -- even tho' I was a "wallflower"!

Military was the emphasis again on Sunday afternoon, when Patrick and LaRae came and got me and took me back on post for the Fort Sam Fiesta & Fireworks. Part of the military ceremony of this Fiesta event (there was also a "county fair" area of a performance stage and food booths) included (again) the US Army Drill Team. Due to the damp weather the well-dressed soldiers could not do all the performance they had done the previous nite. Patrick and LaRae had never seen them live before (by contrast I had already seen them a couple of times prior to '07), so I filled them in on the missing elements. The 82d Airborne All-American Chorus of men singing a capella also performed, the same show they had done at the "Official Opening Ceremony" on Friday morning. I was glad that my two companions got to hear the skillful drill team and the excellent singing group!

After the "Pass in Review" parade the drizzle returned and edged toward rain. But we all kept on having Fiesta fun. And the fireworks went on, too. The pyrotechnics often disappeared into the cloud cover, to then let off a light sort of like colored sheet lightning. Sometimes sparks from the explosions would be seen coming down out of the clouds. And sometimes the clouds raised sufficiently to allow full view of the bursts. All in all, it was an interesting effect, thanks to soggy Mother Nature! And I was glad to be there, with Patrick and LaRae. Rain or shine!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

A Frat of which to be PROUD!

A few of my previous postings concerned (or at least mentioned) my collegiate social fraternity, Lambda Chi Alpha. Well, last nite San Antonio was the site of a historic FIRST for the Brotherhood. Here, in the Skyroom atop the newest building on the campus of the University of the Incarnate Word, was held the first ever tri-Zeta White Rose Gala.

"Zeta" is what we in Lambda Chi Alpha call a local collegiate chapter. In S.A. these are Sigma-Beta Zeta at St. Mary's U., Phi-Upsilon at UTSA and the newest (celebrating its third anniversary as a full-fleged Zeta), Pi-Epsilon at Incarnate Word. As I say, the three chapters PLUS the strong and active San Antonio Alumni Association put on the Gala. It was a wonderful as well as historically eventful evening!

Indeed, I was so impressed by the event, that I posted a report at the Website for Lambda Chi Alpha's e-magazine, Cross & Crescent. Here is my post:

Gala deep in the heart of Texas
April 14th, 2007 by Glen Alan Graham

Wow! Something very historic for Lambda Chi Alpha occurred last night in San Antonio! The three local Zetas plus the San Antonio Alumni Association put on a magnificent White Rose Gala, in the fairly new Skyroom at University of the Incarnate Word.

I’m so glad I was there! Lover of history that I am, I appreciate being involved in something of a historic or “first-time” nature. And lover of the Brotherhood that I am, I relish ANY activity that allows me as an alumnus to keep participating in the fraternity that meant SO MUCH to me as an undergraduate at the University of Idaho (Epsilon-Gamma Zeta).

Almost I hesitate to give an account of last night’s Gala; you almost had to have been there. Certainly you HAD to be there to feel the “electricity” generated by this gathering of undergraduate brothers, alumni brothers and their wives and dates! Everyone was “dressed to the nines”, and the women were stunning in their gorgeous gowns. Many of the men looked elegant in black tuxedos with either bow ties or colorful neckties. One that particularly caught my eye was a black tux with a vest and necktie in light, metallic chartreuse green. I was one of some who wore a business suit, dark brown (purchased for the occasion), and necktie — golden yellow on a dark green shirt, the closest I could get to the fraternity colors! Oh, and we had one Brother in US Army dress blues and one Brother wore the dress green uniform or”Class A” of the Army ROTC. So we had patriotic as well as elegant apparel.

The pre-function or mixer time was in the lobby of the Skyroom which ex-tends between the ballroom itself and an outside wall of the top floor that is a continuous series of picture windows giving a fine view eastward across the southern edge of the Incarnate Word campus toward the classic old building that used to house Brooke Hospital on Fort Sam Houston. And once we could enter the ballroom itself we had another set of picture windows oriented southward, from which we could see San Antonio’s famous and excellent zoo below, the unique architecture of nearby Trinity University’s campus to the right and the downtown skyline straight ahead! The food was delicious, a species of chicken cordon bleu on wild rice, with asparagus.

The speakers were even better. My own City Councilman, Brother Christo-pher “Chip” Haass (a Lambda Chi at TCU), was one of these. He spoke well and briefly about his fraternity experience and how it colored his undergrad years.

Keynote speaker, and representing the Grand High Zeta, was Brother Terry Means, an SMU alumnus and a US district judge in Fort Worth. Since he is ser-ving us as Grand High Phi, I wasn’t surprised that he focused on our great ritual and its teachings and ideals. His was a great exhortation to all of us, alumni as well as undergrads, to live out our ideals and teachings, to truly become Vir Quisque Vir, by kalepa ta kala and most important, make our lives truly lived Per Crucem Crescens! (I myself was High Phi at EG Zeta my junior and senior years; our ritual has always meant a lot to me, since it opened important truths of the New Testament to this then “baby” Christian in 1972.) Bro. Terry’s keynote words were very much appreciated by at least this alumnus!

Then came what was possibly the highlight of the Gala, the simultaneous installation of the new High Zeta officers for the three local Zetas: St. Mary’s, UTSA and Incarnate Word. Bro. Terry read the charge for each of the offices, each ending with description of the collar with insignia to be placed around the neck. How appropriate that a Brother who’s a sitting judge gave the charges! It was wonderful to hear again those words exhorting each young Brother as he was installed — or I should say each set of three Brothers being installed together in each office! When has THAT ever happened in the Brotherhood?

San Antonio, the Alumni Association and the three local Zetas can be proud of an event well done! Already I look forward to next year’s White Rose Gala.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Unexpected delightful evening!

While I was substitute teaching at Alamo Heights High School Monday and Tuesday, I read flyers on the hallway walls about a strings concert to be Tuesday evening at Municipal Auditorium. When I inquired about this program, I was told that it was a district concert. I interpreted this in the UIL sense, i.e. District 28-4A. And I almost didn't go. It might be nice to just relax on a Tuesday evening instead of going to some meeting or shindig somewhere.

But I went, because I like culture!

Am I glad I chose to go. When I arrived at Municipal Auditorium and received a program for the free event, it was clear that by "district" was meant the ISD. The concert commenced with performances by the fourth and fifth grade students of the two elementary schools in the AHISD. I was impressed, first, that the schools began teaching musical instruments as early as those grades, and then that the young students sounded so accomplished and talented.

Then it was the Junior School's turn. Their first musical number was "Rumbolero" -- sounds like a combo of rumba and bolero. Indeed the piece had a very Spanish sound to it! A few of the names of performers, listed in the program, were familiar to me as students whom I had had in classes of teachers for whom I had substituted. The same was true in regard to high school musicians listed. After the entire Junior School string section had their turn, there were two numbers by a combined Junior and High School "Jazz String Band" -- distinctive concept! The first number, "Tuxedo Junction", featured soloists from the Jr. Sch., while the second presented the High School soloists.

After that the High School strings did their thing. Some of these young people have the honor of earning All-Region, and a couple of them All-State. Considering how large Texas is, this is quite an honor -- more so than in the smaller 49!

And then came the grand finale. It was all musicians from fourth grade up to seniors, doing Beethoven's "Ode to Joy." It was WONDERFUL!

Upon leaving this concert that I had almost chosen to forego, I rode bus to Flores and Dolorosa streets. I waited for my friend Enrique to come around driving VÍA trolley, so that I could get aboard and chat. While waiting (in vain, it turned out), I noticed that several Catholic priests and religious were walking away from the Cathedral, just across Dolorosa Street. When I asked about this, a priest told me that they had just finished a Mass in which all clergy from around the Archdiocese renewed their vows. I pray that the Lord will help them to stand firm in these.