Wednesday, June 27, 2007

My Summer Adventure: A Wedding

This time last week (i.e., Wed. mid-morning) I was fixin' to set out on my adventure of the Summer of Ought Seven -- a trip to a wedding. No, not mine, dear reader! My son David's, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

The start of the adventure was WET! The skies above San Antonio opened up for a "gully-washer" as I finished my prep to go to the S.A. Greyhound depot. I got soaked from the knees down (i.e., below the poncho's hem) while out doing last-minute errands. So I phoned for a cab to take me from my door to a VÍA bus shelter and keep my luggage and me dry. They say that you should allow 20 minutes for the taxi's arrival; it was there in about 5! So my final packing was very hurried. And I skipped over a few items, the only necessary of which were my meds. Oh, well!

All during the bus trip there and back the buses were running from half an hour to over an hour late. And in most cases the drivers insisted on taking the 20 or 15 minute layover at stops listed on my ticket summary! Also, on the return the typical Greyhound thing happened in Dallas. My scheduled bus to S.A. was full, so I had to wait for the next scheduled one. Oh, well!

But 'nuf 'bout me. There was a WEDDING!!! It and the whole stay in Lincoln were wonderful! David wed Allison Nelson, oldest of three daughters and one son to Randy and Kathy Nelson, natives of Lincoln. Melissa, one of Allison's sisters, had married last June, and she was matron of honor; brother Aaron was a groomsman. David's best friend Arthur was best man. It was the first time I'd seen Arthur in over five years. He kind of surprised me by wearing cornrow hair and a wispy goatee. But he still had his delightful-to-be-around personality: easy-going and cheerful.

Back to the Nelsons. They're a very nice family. I'd had a good feeling about Allison since David first said anything about her. Meeting her and her family simply confirmed that that "good feeling" was real and valid. They home-schooled the four kids, and the home-schooling included courses (high-school level) involving other home-schooled students. The Nelsons are very active in their church in Lincoln.

We had rehearsal in Warren UMC Friday afternoon the 22d, followed by dinner at Da Vinci's, a pizza and salad buffet café. As we ate the skies opened up -- but this Nebraska gully-washer lasted only a few minutes. Then as we left Da Vinci's, we saw a beautiful double rainbow in complete arcs across the eastern sky! Several of us took this a sign of blessing upon the upcoming nuptials.

The photo session was Saturday, 23 June, in the morning a few hours before the ceremony. Dominant colors for the party were lavender and light blue. The groom and his comrades wore black tuxes. The bride wore the same dress worn by her mother and grandmother; talk about "family heirloom"! During the couple hours between pictures and the ceremony I used my cell phone to call first Mom and then let her speak with the groom, her grandson. Then I phoned my brother Patrick and let him likewise speak with the groom, his nephew.

And then it was THE event! The music was fine, and included two congregational hymns in the early minutes. Ellen and I were both impressed with Allison's vocal projection of her vows. It was very evident that she'd had good drama coaching even before she joined Covenant Players! There was a good-size crowd in Warren UMC to witness the event. I was told to stand beside the mother of the bride in the receiving line, and thus Kathy introduced me to most of the folks in attendance. Several, who were either members of the church or fellow home-schooling parents, commented to Kathy, "two down and two to go!" This referred to Aaron and the youngest daughter, Leighann, still being single.

After the reception family members drove out into the country to to the Nelsons' home, where David and Allison opened the few gifts and the many cards. Since they will continue their travels with CP, they had asked for gifts of cash or gift cards of chain stores. Most of the cards contained one or both such gifts, including mine, which had $60 and two tickets to Fiesta Texas. I was sort of impressed that the newlyweds received more than one Kohl's gift card (I've heard ads for Kohl's many times on S.A. radio, but have never been inside; guess I'll have to check out the department store).

The next day, Sunday, I joined the newlyweds and the bride's family at Warren UMC for worship. Then we had Sunday dinner at the Village Inn. And then Randy Nelson gave me the "grand tour" of Lincoln, including a visit into the Nebraska State Capitol. The city is neat and beautiful, and the skyscraper Capitol is fascinating. It was being built when the Great Depression commenced and still got finished, and altho' over-all it's Art Deco in style, it's an eclectic Art Deco. Numerous exterior bas-reliefs and interior murals and mosaics celebrate the history of humankind with focus on the progression of law and government into 20th-century American democracy. The building also celebrates the history and culture of Nebraska up to the Depression. I couldn't help but notice that this city and state, which is stereotyped as homogeneously white-race farmers (in my mind anyway), emphasized the diversity of its cultural heritage -- including the original indigenous (or Native American). Just like San Antonio!

Randy and I happened to enter the Capitol about 20 minutes before a tour was scheduled. So we walked a couple of first-floor hallways until time for the tour. Side hallways contained busts of famous Nebraskans. I was impressed with the detailing of some, which made them appear almost life-like. For example, a noted journalist and public servant was depicted reading a newspaper he held open. Near him another statesman's glasses frames were so real-looking that I was surprised to not see any hint of lenses. His necktie stood out from the shirt sufficiently that one felt one could run one's hand behind the tie -- and then either straighten the knot or jerk the wearer along! On the tour the highlight for me was being inside the Supreme Court chamber, wich had a very ornate, three-dimensional (kind of like an upside-down waffle) ceiling, which held my rapt gaze while the tour guide spoke about the rest of the chamber. After the tour we two went up to the fourteenth-floor observation deck and got a 360-degree panorama of sun-drenched Lincoln. Beautiful!

And thus went my adventure of the Summer of Ought Seven: a bus trip to and from a lovely city and state, for the wedding of my firstborn and only son! God's blessings be upon David and Allison, now and always!

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Dynasty now ruling roundball

"Dynasty!" Two years ago when the San Antonio Spurs won their previous NBA title (their third), the organization was hesitant to accept talk of a "dynasty" of Spurs. According to today's newspaper report, they're still a tad on the humble side. But last nite, the sportscasters covering the final game of the 2007 NBA Championship series weren't at all shy to use the word. Nor was the Express-News issue this morning. Nor am I! The Spurs are indeed the current NBA "Dynasty"!

Let's be real. San Antonio's NBA team has won three of the last five titles, and four of the last nine. In A.D. 2003 not only did the Spurs win the NBA but Coach Gregg Popovich was selected Coach of the Year. Actually, one sports journalist noted that San Antonio is THE MOST SUCCESSFUL professional sports franchise of the past decade! All San Antonio lacks is back-to-back titles, and THIS may be taken care of in '08!

I went to Good Time Charlie's cafe and bar to watch Thursday's clinching game. GTC is where I've often gone to view the Spurs on TV during NBA playoffs. When I first walked in, the place appeared almost empty, to my surprise. But by the end of the first half GTC was pretty much full. And what a game we saw!

Since I was scheduled for opening shift the next day at Fiesta Texas, I was considering leaving for home and bed if the Spurs were comfortably ahead midway thru the third quarter. And indeed San Antonio had a ten or twelve point lead. BUT. . . hold on to your seats! The home team, the Cavaliers, came back and actually got ahead by three points in the fourth! I feared that the visiting Spurs might go into meltdown and wind up losing.

But not to worry! The men in Silver and Black took control again quickly. Manu Ginobili, our native Argentine Spur, shone in the final minute or so, as he mad all but one free throw after Cleveland did the typical desperation effort of constantly fouling. The final score was 83-82 Spurs. However, the final three points of the game were a meaningless three-point basket by a Cav with time running out.

Then it was time to celebrate San Antonio's latest NBA title! There had actually been a drizzle in my part of the town during the final half, but a few raindrops didn't stop many citizens, if any. As I awaited a VIA bus to go to the typical downtown celebration, it was already commencing on Broadway itself! Cars were driving by with Spurs flags, signs or other Spurs items hanging out windows and drivers constantly honking horns. Passengers were hollering cheerfully for the Spurs, while we on the sidewalks joined in. Some people hoisted brooms aloft, a pictorial reference to the fact that the Spurs "swept" the series with the Cavs in four games.

By this time it was past 11 o'clock, or 23 hundred hours as we say in the military. (I served in the US Army in 1981-1984). I chose to play what I call "Bus Roulette". In this case, should the FIRST bus to show be the outbound 14-17 lineup, I'd go home & to bed. But the first bus to show was the inbound 9 lineup, so downtown I rode.

When the VIA bus got into downtown, even Broadway was jammed with celebrants, spilling out from the usual venues of Commerce (westbound) and Dolorosa/Market (eastbound) and Navarro (northbound) and St. Mary's (southbound). As the cars turned the downtown portion of Broadway into a parking lot, a man was actually going down the middle stripe, sweeping with a "Spurs"-adorned broom!

Yes, downtown San Antonio was a madhouse. But at least it was a positive celebration! None of this turning over cars, vandalism or looting stores, as some other cities do when their teams win national championships. San Antonians just drive downtown and cruise those four streets named above -- plus others, as was the case Thursday night -- honking horns and cheering. This has happened every time the Spurs have won the NBA during my residence here, as well as when local high school football teams win significant titles. I tell you, dear reader, this city KNOWS how to party, and how to celebrate things like sports championships!

And so, NOW begins the celebration of the Spurs' fourth NBA championship. Sunday there will be a parade on the San Antonio River -- the downtown Riverwalk -- and a nighttime celebration in the Alamodome. "Four (victories) for four (titles)!" GO, SPURS, GO!

Friday, June 01, 2007

A rather sad farewell

Yesterday was the final City Council meeting for the current government of San Antonio. My own Councilman (and fraternity brother) Christopher "Chip" Haass and five other Council members will not be back on the dais in Council chambers on Main Plaza at the next meeting.

I attended the opening of this Council meeting, but not just due its being Chip's final one. At the San Antonio Conservation Society meeting in mid-month and again in the Wednesday Express-News word was out that the Witte Museum intended to destroy over a hundred trees in Brackenridge Park in order to erect a multi-story parking garage. I strongly wished to voice my strong objections to such destruction! When I arrived and looked at the printed agenda I could not find any item that seemed to be about this matter, and shortly afterward City Manager Scully and Councilman Wolff (whose District 9 includes the Witte and Brackenridge) set me straight on it, that it wasn't an agenda item and it wasn't the horror it had been portrayed as being.

But in the meantime I'd encountered an item requesting transfer of budgeted funds for a defunct summer youth program (which had been sponsored by UTSA) into on-going summer youth programs. I signed up to speak on this issue, with an "etc." afterward, in case I wanted to throw in a few words about the tree issue (or non-issue, as it were) or say "Farewell" to the departing Council members. However, after lengthy presentation and discussion (over half an hour) of the youth programs and proposed school sites for them there was no call for citizens to be heard on the matter before the call for vote.

I was shocked! Stunned! So much so that I couldn't even rally to holler "Point of order!" as had fellow citizen Jack Finger, who had almost been likewise passed over before the call to vote on the previous issue. I left Council chambers to go do errands. I was in a huff, feeling like I'd been slapped in the face by the one concern I'd had about this city government that was about to go out of office. They had been bad about sticking around for the final item of every Thursday meeting's agenda, the "citizens to be heard". And as I told His Honor (Mayor Hardberger) and my own Councilman, both of whom were chief offenders by absences, it gave the appearance that they didn't care to listen to the voice of the people. And now they hadn't even let me speak to a specific issue. So much for this being a good government for S.A., or so I concluded.

However, after riding bus with my best friend Joe Tovar on Zarzamora Street and then going to a late afternoon medical appointment with my VA-assigned P.A., Mr. Lothery in Loopland, I found I could return to Council chambers in time for both ceremonial recognitions and citizens to be heard. Recognitions involved, first, the up-coming Texas Folklife Festival, and then farewells to the six departing Council members. Of course, each departee had opportunity to give a farewell address. Hmmmm, were they mushy, gushing with emotion! A couple of them (men as well as women) came very close to breaking down in tears as they spoke about their service and accomplishments on the Council, and their admiration for their comrades on the dais (with emphasis on the other departees). Since Chip Haass represented District Ten, he was last. He began his comments by acknowledging his reputation for long-windedness and apologizing that is would probably be the longest farewell speech (which it probably was, 'tho I didn't time them all).

Listening to them all and especially to my frat brother Haass, I calmed down considerably from my huff of earlier in the day. I had signed up for "Citizens to be heard" to protest the earlier omission, but as I went up to the podium His Honor apologized for the accidental omission (seems he hadn't been given the correct sign-up sheet or something). I accepted his apology, and after briefly explaining what I had wanted to address that morning I got around to thanking the Council for their good service and wishing Godspeed to those leaving the Council.

So, a day that started in concern and quickly descended into anger, ended on a very positive note, if a sad one of farewell. These folks had their flaws (including the absenteeism for CtBH), but they were generally a very conscientious and efficient set of city leaders. I love every one of them, and most of them I consider to be truly my brother and sister Christians, "walking the talk". I truly shall miss seeing them in Council chambers on Council meeting Thursdays. And I do surely hope that Mayor Hardberger can get the city charter changed to allow longer terms of service than a mere two years with one allowed re-election! San Antonio deserves to have an excellent set of government leaders for more than just two years (in this case, June 2005 to June 2007)!