San Antonio, Texas, the land of ma’am, terrific tacos, Chicana literature, and Nora Jones.
I’m here for a writing conference, which ended yesterday.
The place where I’m staying called me back to the neighborhood of my childhood.
Wood houses with peeling paint, chain link fences, front yards of abundant flowers, blossoming succulents. Stucco homes of bright green, azure, yellow and old white guarded by courageous dogs, barking their heads off, but tails wagging. The sleeping cat lifted her head when the man selling paletas jingled by.
After a few days of workshops, I needed alone time, so I spent the morning walking the San Antonio River (the non-restaurant row part). There are 15 miles of RiverWalk, from downtown through Hemisphere Park, and through several neighborhoods, should you care to take on the whole adventure.
Gentrification is around the block, across the train tracks, where the ten-story apartment buildings begin and Airstream trailers sell bar-b-que, tacos, and cold beer under a rainbow of stringed light bulbs. Breweries take up full blocks buffered by outdoor cafes.
The walking path along the San Antonio River is rimmed with Cypress trees, duck marshes, leased dogs, stately homes, and from time to time, the sight of an older man fishing off the ledge.
“There’s still catfish, bass, and gizzard shad,” the man tells me when I stop to see where his fishing line landed. I nod, wish him good luck, and good eating.
Cool wind pushes along marshmallow clouds, giving a respite from a warming sun. A passel of joggers run by me. “Run the Alamo Marathon” began twenty-three miles back.
Two men, one in front of the other, sing out a call and response in cadence, encouraging one another for the last mile. Two women in their fifties, who look like sisters, hold hands, one slightly in front of the other who is flushed red, but wears a face of granite determination and trust. They jog almost shoulder to shoulder. Their whispered cadence call is for them alone.
A “Do not feed the ducks” sign is posted by a toddler throwing bits of saltines in the water. Soon there is a duck fight among the reeds, where the mallards flap, circle, and honk until one dives underwater and upends his opponent.
Sugar aromas of Belgian waffles drift by. A large Art Nouveau house, turned restaurant, looms into view. The library now houses a museum of Dresden china, gas-lit chandeliers, and original 1920’s memorabilia.
Hunger won out after mile three. I bypassed the colossal restaurant and explored a much smaller venue where I had more coffee, veggie scramble, homemade bread, and jam.
Music from nearby DJ’s played, the sun broke through the clouds again, and I rested.