If peculiarities were plumes, San Antonio would be a rare ostrich*

*With apologies to William Sydney Porter (O. Henry) for lifting his sentence from “Retrospects and Prospects” and turning his porcupine into an ostrich to suit the Author’s own selfish purposes.

Few people pause to read acknowledgments at the end of a book, so the Author is plucking them out of An Ostrich-Plumed Hat, and Yes, She Shot Him Dead and plopping them right here, front and center. The Author wants you to understand her lengthy journey and who helped her along the way.

Continue reading “If peculiarities were plumes, San Antonio would be a rare ostrich*”

Jimmie Draper: Rain, shine, sleet, heat

mariachi-festival

This post needs a soundtrack. Nothing would be more fitting than San Antonio high school students belting out mariachi music, so please play this while you read. For Jimmie.

1968. I think James Miller Draper, Jr., was there when the Paseo del Rio Association started, raising his hand to volunteer to do whatever it took to get attention for the River Walk.

It might be hard to imagine now, but the few businesses opening along the river were desperate. There were times when the only live things walking down the sidewalk in the heart of the river bend were pigeons. Things were so dull, there was even a night when some bored unnamed river operators shot fish. With guns.

Jimmie served as president of Paseo del Rio Association twice, in 1975 and 1984. But assumption of that responsibility is minor compared to his continual presence through thick and thin for more than four decades.

The coldest mornings in December always were the Fridays we placed luminarias along the river’s banks. Bob Buchanan made the coffee, and Jimmie brought the doughnuts. Without fail. For decades. Nancy Hunt, current executive director of Paseo del Rio Association, said that even last year Jimmie rode the bus downtown to deliver sweets to those delivering bags to the river’s banks.

No weather forecaster was more accurate than the first night of the annual Great Country River Festival the first weekend in February. Guaranteed sleet. Jimmie was always there.

The event closest to his heart always, though, was the Fiesta Mariachi Festival. It was his. I believe he was the first and only chair of the festival for more than 40 years. He threatened to retire one year. Paseo even threw him a party to recognize chairing the event 25 years or so. That just made him sentimental and mushy about the whole thing, so he kept coming back. Every year, he gave up four nights of Fiesta to meet the high school students boarding the barges. Without fail. Until this past year. Being 86 is a pretty good excuse for easing up a bit.

Generally Jimmie had the patience of Job. The time he really lost it, although not publicly, was at City Hall. The Paseo’s contract with the city in the late ’70s required we continually appear before Council to request approval for each event.

It should have been routine, but poor Mayor Lila Cockrell had a rather rowdy bunch to try to keep corralled. Those were colorful times.

I could almost see the hairs on the back of Jimmie’s neck bristle as a councilman went off on a rant about gringos being in charge of putting on a mariachi festival.

Then there was without a doubt the most incredible remark I ever heard at City Hall. Councilman Joe Webb interrupted the diatribe: “Mariachis. Cucarachas. What’s the difference? They’re all the same to me.”

Councilman Bernardo Eureste leapt to his feet and challenged Councilman Webb to duke it out. The scuffling councilmen went out in the hall to settle things, but were restrained before striking any serious blows.

Permission to stage the admission-free festival was granted, but, on the way out of City Hall, Jimmie said that was it. He would never go back there and be insulted like that again.

But he kept on volunteering again and again and again. Rain, shine, sleet, heat. No matter.

Gringo Jimmie might not have been known for shouting loud gritos in public, but, in those early years working with Belle San Miguel, his belief in bolstering the talents of young musicians gave fledgling programs in public schools a stage on which to shine. Before there were statewide competitions, the Mariachi Festival was the event inspiring students to strive for professionalism in their performances. Jimmie loved to see students board the barges, proudly wearing their festival medals from each year they had participated.

This spring will bring the 44th annual Fiesta Mariachi Festival. Jimmie was there for 42.

luminaria

Light a luminaria for Jimmie this holiday season. If it goes up in flame, it’s his unselfish and generous soul flying up to heaven.

Mudslinging Season along the River Walk

There are so many trucks, cranes and workers in the muddy river bottom this week it looks more like Loop 410 than the river bend.  The silt-removal effort is a major (de-)construction project. 

When the river bend was drained for its annual maintenance in “the old days” – back in 1985 when we staged the First Maybe Annual River Bottom Festival and Mud Parade and votes for mud royalty had to be paid in cash, literally a nickel at a time – only a handful of Parks and Recreation employees would be spotted in waders in the mud, fishing out chairs, glassware and utensils tossed in by river revelers.  Workers might patch a crumbling wall or two, but that was it. 

Fortunately, the water will be returned to the river by January 11.  In the mean time, it’s actually entertaining to watch the big trucks get stuck in the muck and it all just means another excuse to party for the Paseo del Rio Association.

Maybe if the city elected not to refill the river, the owner of the Riverwalk Plaza Hotel would not be forced to erase the lime green paint from the wall that assaults pedestrians as they head into downtown from King William.  Then he could even remove “Riverwalk” from the hotel’s name.  If he does not want to be governed by the standards that apply in the district, why market the property that way?  It also would be so convenient to reserve the river bed for overflow parking (Sorry, but that wall just invites mudslinging).

Update on January 6:  Learn who is campaigning to serve as Mud Queen and King and how you can join in the festivities.

Update on January 7:  Mud news in USA Today

Update on June 5: Finally, the lime green wall of the Riverwalk Inn has been painted a more subtle tan, blending in with the brick of the nearby Granada and Tower Life Building.