Monday, August 27, 2007

The Lone Star Spectacular, one more time!

This past Saturday, 25 August, was quite a day at Fiesta Texas! Projected attendance was very high, with a major portion of it being employees of Dell (the computer company, headquartered near Austin). Therefore, the gates opened about 9:15 a.m. and we interviewers were asked to clock in if possible by 8:30.

Yup, I switched positions at the theme park again. I'm now an interviewer for Marketing at the front gate, and later in the day within the park. The later interview involves approaching Guests who are resting in the shade (e.g. while other family members are on a thrill ride they don't care to experience), striking up a conversation with them and then asking if they'd consent to do an in-line survey of their park experience once they return home, to help Six Flags make the park experience even better. That part of the job is "right up my alley" so to speak, and gives me opportunity to "push" the terrific shows of this park, winner of the "Golden Ticket Award" for Best Shows for eight straight years!

Earlier in the day (usually 9 to 2) I do palm pilot surveys (demographic) in the front gate area; this is what I did in '04 and '05. For once, today I gained 100 surveys! One question on the palm pilot survey asks for the Guest's ZIP, and Saturday I got a lot for Pfluegerville, Round Rock and other Austin area ZIPs, thanks to so many Dell employees coming in.

But God bless Dell and their employees! You've heard of a show being "back by popular demand"? Well, thanks to "Dell demand" the park showed the Lone Star Spectacular one more time this past Saturday nite!

I got to spread word about the showing and to thank Dell employees for it. While I was doing the in-park interviews I "pushed" the extra showing, giving proper credit to Dell for this. I finished with 11 consents to do the on-line survey, just after 4 in the afternoon, and went to the Admin Building to drop off the forms. As I passed the Arboledo Picnic Grounds, reserved for a huge and (I'm told) de-e-elicious Dell employee picnic, I heard Toby Keith's recording of "Shoulda Been a Cowboy" -- I love that song! It perfectly expresses what I've cherished in a corner of my heart since growing up in the remnants of the Wild West in Idaho.

. Shoulda been a cowboy, shoulda learned to rope and ride
. Wearin' my six-shooter, ridin' my pony on a cattle drive
. Stealin' the young girls' hearts, just like Gene and Roy
. Singin' those campfire songs, Oh, I shoulda been a cowboy!

Having delivered the papers at Admin and taken a second break at the Take-A-Break employee cafe, I returned to the front gate area, to hand out coupons like I did on 5 July. Whenever I saw someone wearing a Dell shirt, I smiled broadly and thanked them (for the return of the L.S.S.).

As soon as I got signed out (or "off the clock" so to speak) just before 9:00, I made a bee-line for the Lone Star Lil's Amphitheatre and my favorite spot in it to watch the laser and fireworks celebration of Texas and America. I inquired from Guests already sitting nearby if they'd ever seen the show. When they said "no", and I ascertained that they were Texans I assured them that they would lu-u-uv the Lone Star Spectacular!

Since more than once I've mentioned this, my favorite feature of Fiesta Texas, I should give a synopsis. The show opens with laser clouds, laser lightning and the sound of thunder, then the galloping of a herd of mesteƱos (mustangs). Then laser images of two huge hands -- the Creator's presumably -- take a hammer and chisel and shape a laser outline of the State of Texas on the cliff wall, and then lift a huge branding iron to brand it with "Texas" in playbill-type letters. A longhorn erupts thru this, and then a cowboy appears, to tell the audience that "it takes a lot of songs to tell a story as big as Texas". He's San Antonio Sam, the laser-image narrator of the show. His assistant -- she's too pretty and smart to be called his sidekick -- is Alamo Annie.

Together Sam and Annie lead us thru a quick history of Texas, starting with indigenous tribes like the Caddo and Comanche and ending with admission of the erstwhile Republic into the Union as a state. Strangely, nothing is said about the Confederacy, and indeed little is made of the six flags that flew over Texas -- despite this now being a Six Flags park! (The first park of the corporation was Six Flags Over Texas, opened in the early 1960s in Arlington.) Then we get a tour of a few of Texas' cities, each represented by at least one song, starting in Laredo ("Streets of Laredo") and going thru Dallas (theme from the TV soap "Dallas"), etc., to San Antonio ("San Antonio Rose"). The latter being the home of the theme park, it gets a little extra treatment: mariachi music, mention of Fiesta (the April party-to-end-all-parties), the "Chicken Dance" celebrating the German heritage, and Rodeo.

Then Sam boasts that Texas also features plenty of sports competition, indeed "a plethora of teams" -- to which Annie interrupts that she hopes Sam isn't using a word like "plethora" if he doesn't know what it means. Various Olympic or professional sports heroes are celebrated (my faves are late Cowboys coach Tom Landry and former record-setting Rangers pitcher Nolan Ryan -- oh, and David Robinson and Tim Duncan of the Spurs) as well as teams. This athletic celebration segues into a celebration of America, which includes salutes to the five military services by the playing of their anthems. This US Army veteran always sings along on "Over hill, over dale, we will hit the dusty trail as those caissons go rolling along. . .", the Army's anthem. Presidents associated with Texas are honored, including the current occupant of the White House and our First Lady -- they were Governor and First Lady of this State before moving east to DC. And the Americana portion wraps up with "God Bless America", rendered so movingly that my head always leaks.

The finale is San Antonio Sam's laser image returning to the cliff (assisted by Alamo Annie, of course), asserting that all the varied regions in the huge state make up Texas, and that "it's people like you who make Texas the friendliest State". Sam calls for a loud "yee-haw!" from the audience, and then the laser rays and fireworks go crazy as a recorded orchestra plays a rousing rendition of "Deep in the Heart of Texas"

And this is the Lone Star Spectacular -- back by Dell demand for one more '07 appearance. God bless Dell! God bless Texas!

You might say, dear reader, that this past Saturday was a Grand Finale for the Summer of Ought Seven! Today the park is closed, and it will only be open on weekends (to include Labor Day) until end of October. For today is the first day of classes for 2007-08 for public school students and teachers here in Texas. And I already have a substitute teaching assignment for Thursday and Friday in Alamo Heights High School -- defending State Champs in $-A Division 1 football!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Lunch with a Brother

Wednesday (day before yesterday) I had a lunch date with a Brother. No, not my blood brother Patrick, even tho' he now lives here in San Antonio. This Brother is a fellow Lambda Chi Alpha brother. He's Christopher "Chip" Haass.

Until June of this year "Chip" had been my Councilman, representing S.A.'s District Ten on the City Council. But that's over-and-done now. Indeed, one reason I wanted to get together with him was to learn what he's doing these days, now that he's no longer on the Council.

We did lunch at Jim's - Jim's #1 on Broadway at Loop 410. When Brother "Chip" was a newly-elected Council member back in A.D. 2003, I was working at that Jim's as a sometimes waiter and sometimes cashier. I was doing cashier duty during one lunch-time, when "Chip" stepped up to the cash register to pay his lunch bill. I recognized him as one of the rather impressive young new members of the Council, and I congratulated him on his election to the body. Since I had first met him there it had occurred to me for us to do lunch at the same place. Not to mention that Jim's has long been one of my favorite places to eat in the Alamo City, going back to my residency in Devine.

I was rather surprised to learn that Bro. "Chip" had been to Mexico City since leaving the Council, as a private citizen at Mexico's invitation. Turns out that he had been heavily involved in getting San Antonio to take a stand on the current "hot-button" issue of immigration. Apparently he hadn't been able to go south during his service on the Council -- he described it as a very busy and demanding post -- and so he had gone afterward. He also let me know that he will be starting law school this fall, at the excellent School of Law at St. Mary's University here.

We also chatted about experiences at our mutual institutions: Texas Christian University, where I studied in the late 1970s for a Master of Divinity in the seminary (to qualify to be an Army chaplain) and he much more recently studied for a bachelor's in education, and Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity. Turns out that "Chip" hadn't associated with the brotherhood until after his freshman year, but was so impressed with the demeanor of the TCU brothers and the teachings of LCA that he knew it was the fraternity for him. Later he served as High Delta of the Zeta (chapter)at TCU. I myself had served as High Kappa (fraternity educator) and High Phi (ritualist) at the Idaho Zeta.

Let me tell you, dear reader, that I had ordered one of my three favorite burgers on the Jim's menu -- which is much more varied than just burgers -- the "Golden Mushroom" burger. But I was so focused on conversation with Bro. "Chip" that I basically just ate the burger without savoring it! Indeed, it was such a pleasure to converse with Bro. "Chip" that I hated for the lunch hour to end. But he had things to do and I had to go home and get ready to get to work at closing shift at Fiesta Texas. So we gave a hearty handshake and said farewells with blessings. But I shall not soon forget this terrific lunch-time date with a beloved brother of our beloved fraternity!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

In & Out of the Hospital

This time last week (Wed.) I was experiencing some symptoms that were cause for concern. I'd recovered from all-over body aches and mild fever of the day before. BUT now I saw that my right shin had a red rash all over -- varying intensities of red. And by mid-day the shin was also swelling!

Now, every time that right shin even feels a bit weird, I get nervous, because in early 2003 I had suffered a staph infection and blood clot there. And now it was looking just like back then! I sighed, "Here we go again!" as I rode the bus the the ER at the VA Hospital that Wed. afternoon. After a few hours' wait, I was seen by an ER physician, a Dr. Vu (a Vietnamese man?), who told me he would admit me to the hospital, and then sent me to Radiology for an ultrasound and X-rays.

Once I was in room #517 on Floor 5A, I got word that the X-rays indicated no clot. Thank God for that! And they got me on IV antibiotics immediately. After 24 hours (Thu. PM), I noticed no change in the looks of my shin. However, I was less likely to feel pain there when I'd stand up (before walking a few steps). I was seriously beginning to wonder if the IV was having any real effect, and for how many days I'd be in the VA Hospital -- and missing necessary days of work?

But not to worry! When I awoke Friday, I could see that the red rash was shrinking, and likewise the swelling. AND the sun came out for the first time in days! The windows of our room faced easterly, so upon finishing breakfast I walked over to a window and just stood there, relishing the feel of sun rays on me. I'm a witness: there IS such a thing as "solar therapy"!

I say "our room" because I was sharing room #517 with three other vets. It was good to share space with these fellows. I particularly appreciated the man next to me (I was in bed #23 and he in #24), Howard Wakefield. He's from Brackettville (about 100 miles west of San Antonio), is in his eighties and is a brother Christian and a brother Mason. So we had some great conversations. The other two occupants of 517 were a Mr. Ruiz, a quiet, elderly chicano, and Steve Brady, closer to my age, but always up and about the hospital corridors.

Release from the IV came by Friday evening (to be replaced by antibiotic pills), and from the VA Hospital came mid-day on Saturday. My brother Patrick and his wife LaRae came to get me and take me home. The care by the VA staff on 5A was excellent. Nevertheless, it was GOOD to be "free" and on the way to familiar places again. And especially to return to my necessary employment -- the rent HAS to be paid on time, ya know, dear reader!