Thursday, June 26, 2008

One More/Last Meeting with the Society

Last evening, it being the final Wednesday of June, I attended the general membership meeting of the San Antonio Conservation Society. These meetings are usually held in the River House on the bank of the San Antonio River behind the Steves Homestead in the historic King William neighborhood.

As I approached the River House I noticed a significant difference: the food was being served outdoors, to the right of the door. And the sign-in table was to the left. When I stepped inside, I saw that more seating was set up in the resulting space available by having the two activities outdoors. Apparently the Society was expecting a major turn-out of members, both Active and Associate (I'm in the latter category). And indeed, the May membership meeting had been so very well attended that we had standing room only.

The food was delicious! We ate meatballs, breads, and three salads. And indoors was a chocolate chocolate cake for dessert. Also liquid refreshments: wines, Bud Lite, lemonade, coffee and water.

Various officers' reports on the past year, since mid-2007, formed the main item on the Agenda. These included our President Marcie Ince's general account of the year's activities, successes and failures. One of the Vice Presidents' reports included an update on the digital billboard struggle. The Society has constantly opposed all manner of billboards and has been fighting since late last year to get the City Council to reverse its December '07 approval of the digital variety.

We also had the installation ceremony for the new officers, who had been elected by the Active membership last month. And finally the Actives got to vote for three new members of the Board of Directors, to fill recent vacancies. The candidate who received the most votes was Braxton Smith, a sharp-looking Afro-American gentleman. He and the second-most-votes recipient got two-year terms while the third candidate (with fewest votes) got the one-year term. Congrats to all!

While votes were being counted we were treated to a slide show (or PowerPoint?) about the Women's Pavilion that still stands on the HemisFair grounds. This will be renovated for new uses, one of which will be as a party room or getaway for leaders and officials of conventions meeting in the nearby San Antonio Convention Center.

You may ask, dear reader, why I commence this post with "One More/Last Meeting. . ." Well, it's because the very same day, Wednesday the 25th, I learned that my clergy standing with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has been reinstated. This wonderful news, sent by e-mail, clears the way for 1) me to pursue a calling I've had longer than I've done this blog and 2) for me to move back to Tennessee! The "calling" is to become a full-time prison chaplain. And the move is thanks to a visit I made there in mid-June. The visit was to explore the possibility of a reconciliation with my wife Ellen. After a very good lunch with her and her pastor, who gave us very sage counsel, and after a couple evenings of line dancing -- Ellen became active in line dancing for exercise and weight loss as well as the fun, during my residence in S.A. -- I flew back to Texas rather encouraged. And truly sensing that this, too, is God's "calling", the Lord's directive for me at this time in life.

Certainly these have been eventful years of living in San Antonio, "Party City", Texas. I shall miss the unique qualities and elements that make this city what it is. But I'm going back to family, and to the "greenest state in the Land of the Free!" Tennessee has its charms, too. The biggest, and one S.A. lacks, is family.

So, dear reader, cherish your family! And cherish the place you live! It's God's camping spot for you on the earthly journey of life, and they are your God-given companions for the journey!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Thursday, Juneteenth, A.D. 2008

Texas has several rather distinctive holidays, in addition to the special days celebrated all over these United States or the world. Of course there is Texas Independence Day, 2 March, which commemorates the declaration of Texas' independence from Mexico and the launching of her status as one of the sovereign nations of humankind. And there are the anniversaries of the fall of The Alamo, 6 March, and the Battle of San Jacinto, 21 April, when Texans and particularly San Antonians remember the events that led to that independence.

However, a most unique holiday in this state is Juneteenth, on 19 June. On that date in 1865 Union General Granger landed at Galveston and proclaimed that all slaves in the state were free. So, yup, citizens of black African heritage are the major -- but hardly the exclusive -- celebrators of Juneteenth! In the morning on my way to work, for example, this white bread wished folks a "Happy Juneteenth!" One of the first I greeted thus was an African-American young lady who works with me at Fiesta Texas. But believe me, I was "equal opportunity" in my spreading of the greeting!

Perhaps because of the holiday, I got a "wild hair" and decided to celebrate Juneteenth by attending the evening Texas League game of our AA minor league team, the San Antonio Missions, in Nelson Wolff Stadium. This despite listening on the radio the evening before while the hometown boys lost 7-2 to the visiting Corpus Christi Hooks.

As I approached the stadium following the long walk down Callaghan from the bus stop on Old Hwy. 90, I was listening to the broadcast of the game. And I could see that even tho' the game was already in the third inning, the lines at the ticket windows were still long. By the time I got to the window it was already the sixth, so I contented myself with purchasing a "grass berm" ticket -- just to get into the stadium.

Once inside I got in another long line, for a the concession stand, to purchase a couple slices of "dollar pizza" -- Thursday games at the Wolff are "Dollar Nites" with dollar pizzas, hot dogs, beer and soft drinks. Now, the dollar beer isn't a bargain (except compared to the regular price in stadiums); I know any number of convenience stores in the Alamo City where I can buy a 16-ounce Lone Star Lite for less than a dollar. And Wolff Stadium cups aren't any 16 ounces! Nevertheless, I took my pizza and beer and sat down at a nearby table to enjoy these while still listening to the broadcast of the game on KKYX-AM 680. Stu Paul and Roy Acuff (NOT the Roy Acuff of the Grand Ole Opry, who's been dead for some years now) do the play-by-play on the air.

What I heard while standing in lines and then eating was a very good game! Leastwise, from the hometown boys' side. Pitcher Stephen Faris pitched a good one, and most if not all the other Missions players contributed in their own ways. One name that always stands out as I listen to the broadcasts is Mike Baxter. He used to play for Vanderbilt University, and Stu or Roy will sometimes remark about how this "Yankee" by origin (the region, not the ML team!) wanted to play college ball in the prestigious Southeastern Conference. And how Vandy has a great baseball program -- and gr-r-r-reat academic credentials! Other names that always catch my attention are José Lobatón, from Venezuela, Drew Macías and Sean Kazmar.

Then I went up to the press-box and talked to my buddy Stu Paul. We've carried on an e-mail correspondence for several years, and some time back he'd invited me to come up any time to say "howdy". When he stood up to greet me I at once noticed that he had slimmed down quite a bit! I remarked on this and he filled me in on his weight-loss plan. We also jointly marvelled at the attendance for that evening and the previous evening's game. Indeed, while I was still up there in the press box word of the official attendance came: 7,538. This is the highest attendance figure for '08, and probably one of the highest in the history of Nelson Wolff Stadium!

I actually got to sit down and watch the top of the ninth inning. Since the Missions were already ahead 2-0 there was lots of celebrating going on already. And since the Hooks from the Gulf-shore city didn't score any runs in this final half inning, that remained the final score!

Go, Missions!

Monday, June 02, 2008

Baccalaureate for AHHS Class of '08

Sunday afternoon (1 June) I attended the Baccalaureate Service for the Class of 2008 of Alamo Heights High School. As with the other two times I attended, it was in the beautiful sanctuary of Alamo Heights UMC. And the pews were FULL -- of Seniors front & center, of families, of faculty and staff.

This time we also were treated to a special "graduate" who was present to give the Baccalaureate speech. You see, Dr. Jerry Christian, just-retired Superintendent of AHISD (see my post of May), began his time as "Number One Mule" when this class began kindergarten. And here he was, thirteen years later, leaving the school system at the same time as they (if for a slightly different reason and a different goal)!

Before "Dr. C", as he's affectionately known in the district, began his speech we were treated to some beautiful music. Prelude music was by organ and trumpet; these continued during the Processional of the Seniors into the sanctuary. This processional piece was "Rondeau" by Mouret, which contains rousing trumpet phrases. The entire congregation stood to sing the hymn "Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee" which is set to Beethoven's "Ode to Joy". Following the Invocation and a Scripture reading, the Girls Choir of AHHS treated us to "I Will Lift Up My Voice". This piece had a special interest for me: during two days of sub-teaching for choir teacher/director Angus McLeod a couple months ago I had been blessed to listen to the young ladies practice this piece, among others. They had sounded sweet in practice, and today sounded even sweeter singing it in the church! Then just before the "Message to Graduates" by "Dr. C", a young lady, accompanied by a young man with guitar and refrain harmony, sang "I Hope You Dance". This song, a great country music hit by Lee Ann Womack, has such appropriate lyrics for the significant rite of passage that is high school graduation!

And yes, my head started to leak. For the second time. The first was when the seniors processed in to those stirring trumpet notes of "Rondeau" by Mouret. You know, dear reader, I think it's not good for me to attend these AHHS baccalaureates! The first time I was here was okay. But last year as the Class of '07 processed in, it came to me that I'd started my sub-teaching at their school halfway thru their Freshman year, and thus I witnessed their mental and emotional growth as they acquired classroom knowledge! I was torn between sharing their happiness at their special occasion, wishing them well in their future plans, and sorrowing that I'd get to see few if any of them ever again.

And this time, if anything, the intensity of emotional conflict was greater, because I'd seen the Class of '08 since almost the first day they began their four years of high school! In a way it was harder on me than when my own two flesh-and-blood graduated from their high schools: THEN I'd had intense feelings for just one graduate at a time -- and this time it was for hundreds all at once!

And then we heard the "Message to Graduates". Our retiring Superintendent "Dr. C" did a fine job inspiring and exhorting them. Of course he made note right at the start, of that special connection he had with them, by commencing his formal association with the District when they did and by now retiring even as they were about to receive their diplomas. He shared an anecdote from a visit he'd paid years ago to a kindergarten classroom; later he reflected back on this incident, and commented how precious kindergartners are, "for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven!" Wow! did I appreciate his citing of our Savior's teaching!

Afterward I told him that since he shared three points in the message (not to mention also its spiritual content), he would make a great preacher! He agreed with a smile, that indeed he'd made three major points. And then all of us made our way to the AHUMC's Christian Life Center (a combo fellowship hall and gym) for tasty refreshments.

I personally congratulated several of the Seniors about their high school graduation. One beautiful young coed told me that she was planning to attend Vanderbilt University. I cheered, and then shared how I received a Master of Arts in Latin American Studies from that venerable institution. I also warned her to "get ready to live in the Library!" Ha, ha! And I know that several of the AHHS Class of '08 will be attending TCU, the Texas institution of higher learning where I've also done graduate studies.

But. . . for the next couple of days they can focus on celebrating their graduation from high school. And yours truly can deal with my emotions at their passage away from me and AHHS and into the future. And pray for their success and for blessings on their future!