Friday, July 06, 2007

Independence Day Ought Seven

Celebration of this nation's Independence Day this year involved some rain and a lot of work. But fireworks and "old-fashioned" patriotism still got featured too!

The day started out with the usual Wednesday men's Bible study and breakfast at Mama's Café on Nacogdoches Road. Well, it really wasn't "the usual"; only four of us were present and we included neither the facilitator nor fill-in facilitator. One of the other three suggested that, since we didn't have the usual outline e-mailed from the facilitator, that we read and discuss an addendum he'd put on his e-mail notifying concerned parties that there wouldn't be a Bible study on Independence Day (to which I had replied to everyone that I would still be there). The addendum listed seven blessings given in the Book of Revelation. And no, these DON'T have to do with the seven churches, letters to which form the first section of this final book of the New Testament. The seven blessings are actually scattered thru'out the book. Anyhow. . . we had a great discussion of these seven blessings, and tasty food and uplifting fellowship.

I started work at Fiesta Texas in mid-afternoon, and we had rain sprinkles off and on from that point. (Northeast San Antonio along Austin Highway, the part of the city where I live, got a gully-washer for a couple hours in late morning.) The theme park's parking lot was only about half full upon my arrival for work, but lots of folk entered thru the turnstiles in the couple of hours prior to the park's renown "Lights of Liberty" fireworks show. This show preempts the "Lone Star Spectacular" on the nights of 3 and 4 July every year.

The daily special at Take-a-Break Café (the park employees' cafeteria) was brisket, Polish sausage, pinto beans, potato salad and macaroni salad. Just like a "fourth-of-July" picnic. Well, sort of. And this food was delicious! Oh, and I avoid calling our number one national holiday "Fourth of July". After all, every nation that uses the Western calendar has a fourth (day) of July (month)! I much prefer to call the holiday "Independence Day" -- after all, that's what the holiday that happens to fall on the Fourth celebrates.

I was "lucky" to be at the turnstile with the best view -- such little view as one gets -- for watching the fireworks when they began. I would stoop down and see much of the pyrotechnics between and thru trees. I kept going "Wow!" at certain sky bursts, and singing along and even dancing to the accompanying music. Then the supervisor on duty signed me out, and I got to watch the final few minutes of the "Lights of Liberty" from nearby Texas State Square in the Los Festivales area of the park. I actually prefer to see the show from the square rather than Lone Star Lil's Amphitheatre, the featured viewing locale.

As I approached the square I passed first Speedy Gonzales and Pepe Le Pew and then Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck watching the show. After it was over and I was leaving I passed those latter two Looney Tunes characters and remarked to Daffy, "That wasn't despicable, was it, Duck!" Ha, ha! He and Bugs both waved to me. (As one would expect, the Looney Tune characters which Six Flags added to Fiesta Texas upon park takeover do not ever speak; they just go around with "frozen" smiles, waving, shaking hands and posing for pictures with Guests.)

I also worked the next day at the theme park. It was in effect a double shift, or opening to closing of the park. For I had responded to a posted call for park employees to help out in distributing samples and coupons at the front gate from five to nine P.M. (Hmm-mm-mm! Hark! I hear a certain Dolly Parton song about "working. . ." oh! that's right; she sings NINE to Five, not my five to nine!) The coupon distribution turned out to be pretty fun, but my legs did get sore from just standing in basically one place rather than walking around or sitting down (we have stools to use when we work the turnstiles).

The best part of working opening-to-closing on this day after Independence Day was that I was released from this work right at 9:00, start time for the "Lone Star Spectacular" show, returning after two nites' preemption by "Lights of Liberty". The L.S.S. really IS better seen from seating inside Lone Star Lil's Amphitheatre, but I knew it wouldn't be easy to find a good seat by this time. And I had discovered that one got a tolerably-good view from the edge of the log flume ride beside the gate into Lone Star Lil's -- right across the way from the steps up to Der Pilger Bahnhof (the train depot in Spassburg). So there I went.

I watched what I could, listened to the narration, sang along and clapped to my favorite songs of Texas and America, did the "Chicken Dance", and cheered the various Texas sports heroes as their names lasered across the old quarry cliff. I heard the thunderous roar from within the amphitheater when "San Antonio Spurs" blazed across that rocky face, with the newly-added words "Champions 2007"! And of course this patriotic son of these United States got teary-eyes again at the song "God Bless America". And then came that grand finale, when the fireworks and laser rays go crazy while the recorded orchestra blasts out "Deep in the Heart of Texas". I joined in the cheers for the pyros and in the four quick claps at the appropriate points of the song.

And so ended what was in effect a two-day celebration (AND both days work days!) of the independence of the U.S.A. God bless America! God bless Texas! God bless San Antonio and Fiesta Texas theme park!

Monday, July 02, 2007

God Bless. . . America the Beautiful

Yesterday, Sunday the First of July in the Year of Our Lord 2007, featured a rather different Sunday worship for me.

For one, due to working later at Fiesta Texas on Saturday than scheduled, I decided to return into the Park after "clocking out" as a Guest and enjoy a couple of shows, a couple of rides and the "Lone Star Spectacular" multimedia (fireworks, laser images and rays, recorded music and narration) celebration of Texas heritage and of Americana. The latter is done toward the end of the half-hour show, and concludes with "God Bless America". Then the whole show concludes with "Deep in the Heart of Texas" while the fireworks and laser rays go crazy! So crazy that we viewers are left breathless at the final note of "Deep in the Heart" and concluding sky burst of sparks! As always, when I left the Park after the L.S.S. I felt proud to be an American, proud to be a Texan and proud to be a San Antonian working at this theme park with its award-winning multimedia show!

Now, on Sunday I was to lead singing at Alamo Heights Christian Church (Disciples). The choir director, Janis Erwin, is to be absent much of June and July and had called on volunteers to lead singing and pick out the songs for their Sunday to lead. I'd picked out mostly patriotic hymns and songs to sing, such as "America the Beautiful" -- which I firmly believe should STILL be our National Anthem rather than the limited-reference and difficult-to-sing "Star-Spangled Banner" -- and "God Bless America." (I made these selections before I even tho't I'd be at the L.S.S. the nite before!) Also, Pastor Bruce Williamson had encouraged me to sing a special song or anthem; I'd picked "Shine, Jesus, Shine" for that.

But after I got to church (where worship is an hour earlier during these summer months and during July and August is in the large foyer to the sanctuary) and had tuned my guitar, I went to play a couple of songs to warm up. And I found that my singing voice was gone! Truly I sounded to my own ears like a frog or a hinge!

And then, not only was my voice missing but also I started out not very well at leading congregational singing. An older choir member told me after the first two songs (during the greeting and sign-of-peace time) that I needed to LEAD the singing with not just voice projection but also hand gestures. Well, I tried it, and altho' I'm not the professional that Sister Janis is, I suppose I did all right. Better yet, when it was time to do "Shine, Jesus, Shine" I invited -- no, urged -- the congregation to join me in singing the chorus (the highest and most difficult notes for me to sing). Several did, and by the second time of the chorus I could tell my singing voice was returning. Thank God!

After worship several of us went to EZ's, a rather classy (and sort of pricey, too, in my book) burger, et cetera, cafe just a block away. Without my asking or hinting someone offered to cover my order. So I ordered the Alamo Bowl, which is a rather involved take-off on nachos grande or supreme. It was delicious! And the conversation was delightful, too.

Thank God for loving brothers and sisters in Christ, who bear each other up in adversity (e.g., my initial lack of singing voice) and celebrate as one the blessings of life on God's green Earth!