I Survived the Alamo? (prologue)

"Well, the weatherman has been saying we were supposed to get thunderstorms for the last two weeks. Figures. It's been beautiful, but it looks like they are finally arriving." So said the man checking us out of the Avis Rent-a-Car lot at the San Antonio airport as we arrived at sunset on Friday evening. The giant Texas sky was, well, massive (Everything IS bigger in Texas, or so the T-shirt said), and the sun setting was leaving a broad smear of purples, pinks and oranges across the sky. The rains came, all two hours worth, and left us a wonderful time in Texas.

Fred and I were going on a vacation. Normally, trips anywhere involve going with some specific agenda and staying with "someone" who "knows where to go" and "what to do." While this trip did have an agenda, it was to be fairly neutral territory.

My mother lives overseas (in Guam, if precision is of any interest to you, Latte Heights if you want more specifics...Street addresses are meaningless there, so I can't go that far). She also a member of the IRA. That one gets people. No, it is not the Irish Republican Army. God, I could see our Danish and Croatian ancestors rolling if we thought it would be a good idea to be members of the nationalist army of a completely different country. Especially since the most notable of historic figures our family has produced was a lieutenant in the Austro-Hungarian military that helped squash the Boxer Rebellion...Big on migratory freedom fighters us.

Actually, my mother one year, co-taught (she's a teacher, by the way) with a woman from Ireland. In order to be polite, she asked the new teacher if she would like to go with her to an IRA meeting. The vibe of the introduction changed immediately. Mom, realizing what she had just said, quickly added that she was a member of the International Reading Association. "Jesus, Mary and Joseph, gurl, I thought ya were asking me to join the army." They hit it off quite well after that.

Anyways, mom was coming to the States for the 50th International Reading Association's conference. She doesn't get to the States that often (I think this is the second time in like ten years), so it was a big deal. We had already lobbied hard for her to take personal days (in contract time, that's not easy) to go after the convention to see my brothers in Chicago. Therefore, it behooved Fred and me, with our flexibility and whatnot, to go see her while she was conventioning and conferencing in San Antonio. To boot, Fred's parents have a condo on the Gulf Coast in the "last undeveloped stretch of coast land in the United States," so we would also see them on this trip.

It was about time to finally meet his parents. We've only been together for 4 or 5 years, now. I think an appropriate courtship period has passed to finally ask his parents for his hand in marriage, or at least try to turn over the first impression made with my ever preceding reputation.

So...We go.

We planned on spending 4 nights in San Antonio hanging out with my mom. Then we'd drive down to the coast and spend 4 nights with Fred's folks.

The San Antonio airport is quite lovely. They have a whole bunch of tile murals on the walls of cowboys, Mexican dancing girls and limes.

We get to the Avis rent-a-car desk (Avis was the cheapest rental of our search, so we went with Avis. Yes, I get a commission for every time I say "Avis" in this text. If I had the skills, every "Avis" would also be a link to their website. Alas... Avis.

This lovely girl behind the counter was so much fun. She wanted to know all about the reason for our trip and what we were planning to do and such. According to the name tag, her name was "Trainee." I don't know if that was her name or her title. With some people's names these days, you never can tell.

Title or given name, Trainee was lovely. She had a smile and an opinion for everything. Included in these bits of opinion was the profluence of confusing one-way streets in San Antonio that changed names after a few blocks ("I hab lived here for 15 years, and Ah steel don't know mah way from one place to anuder."), her husband's attempts to provide her with Jamaican food in Texas to stave off homesickness (Boy, dat's not how chicken is made in dah islands. What's wit da soupiness? He tries, but jus doesn't know.") and the Gulf Coast (Well, dat place is not like dah beach. You want sand? Or gravel?" With this she would hold up both hands as if weighing the possibilities). We were having a marvelous first five minutes in San Antonio laughing it up with Trainee.

Then she asked, "Are you brudders?" No, was our reply. "Oh, are you spouses?" Wow! That was not the sort of question one expected to be asked while traveling with his boyfriend in Central Texas by the Jamaican woman at the rent-a-car counter. I love Trainee. I hope she changes her name to Manager sometime soon.

We got our rental car and headed for our Microtel, chosen for its free wireless broad band internet access and price as our lodging for the duration of our stay in San Antonio. It was located in one of those typical not-so nice areas, often downtown adjacent, in cities. After getting lost, ending up literally on the wrong side of the tracks, looping around the river which seems to also loop around us, and stumbling upon a building (I think it is the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Centre) whose facade was a giant replica of one of those Virgin Mary glass candles oft seen in supermarkets and dollar stores. Way cool, but for a moment if felt like I was back in the islands myself, with shanty structures and close-to-naked children playing in the semi-paved streets. Oh boy...Where the hell is our hotel?

Finally finding it, we check in, get to our room and collapse. I figure I should call mom to see if she made it in alright and if they wanted to do dinner or something. She had gotten in earlier in the day, and I figured she was probably wiped from the lengthy air travel and already asleep. I called and left a message in the hotel room's voicemail (fancy, that). Fred and I hadn't eaten, and did not feel like going out and getting lost some more, so we picked up the flier shoved under the door. It was from a "Chicago Pizza" place in downtown San Antonio. It also made a big deal of advertising that they use "Real" cheese (with that little swoopy logo you see everywhere making you think that yes, the real does belong in quotes) and if you order using your "cell" phone, you get a free Coca-cola. Well, how could I pass up a Chicago pizza (I do believe that it most certainly did not say "Chicago-style pizza" but only "Chicago pizza") with a free Coca-cola? So I ordered, and made damn certain that I let them know I was calling from a cell phone. I want my free coke!

It arrived quickly. My coke was a generic brand "cola" and I think the reason they say "Chicago pizza" is not that it is like pizzas made in Chicago, but was probably mailed down and reconstituted for delivery in Texas. Still, it served as dinner as we lay on the bed and watched the A&E Biography on Paula Abdul (what a trooper). Hey, we don't get any channels at home, so a definite part of staying in hotels is taking advantage of cable in all it's glorious reminders that I really don't want to pay to have it at home.

By the way, mom called. She wasn't out cold from travel. She was out, having dinner and seeing the city. Bugger.

We made plans to meet up in the morning for breakfast and assorted sundry mayhem, and in the meantime: "Good night. Sleep tight. Looking forward to seeing you in the morning. Love you. Bye."

That night, pizza gone, "Coke" drank, credits rolling on Paula Abdul's life story, George Orwell's Burmese Days started upon, I slept and I dreamed. I dreamed that firemen with axes were trying to breakdown my hotel room door and kill me. In a series of amazing action hero moves I could never pull off in real life (at least, I really hope I am never given the opportunity to prove that I cannot do it in real life), I dodged axes so that they plunged into each other, kicked some fireman ass (turning heroes in gyros), and ran for the fire escape (you don't use the elevators in such circumstances).

Waking with a start, I opened my eyes yto find there were flashing lights blinking around the corners of the warped and faded curtains of the Microtel. I got up, peered around the curtains, and there were fire trucks lined up in front of the hotel.

Oh hell!

It was 4:30, and I was not going back to sleep. I know that the Fire Department's presence was the reason for the dream, but I was not about to put myself in the way of any axes. I hid in the room, lights out, paranoically peering around the corner of the curtains, waiting for the fire trucks to go home. Fred was sound asleep.

As it turned out, it was prom weekend, and an after-prom party was underway on the third floor. Some kids thought it would be fun to spray the fire extinguishers. This set off the alarms (which Fred and I somehow slept through and therefore did not evacuate the building because of), summoning the Fire Department, invoking my action packed dream sequence, leading to about 4 hours of sleep for poor Matthew.

Matthew! Welcome to San Antonio!

Stay tuned for:

*Smiley Face Cigarette burns and CNN
*The Secret Knock, our first breakfast in San Antonio
*"Romantic, Historic, Newly Renovated" the Hotel Valencia Riverwalk
*The San Antonio Riverwalk
*Andean Cover Bands, and the Mall
*Monty's Guide to the Alamo
*Lyle Lovett
*More Andean Cover Bands, La Cucaracha at your First Communion and Santa Coming through the Roof
*Dolores Del Rio Ristorante - Italian Food, Mexican Decor, beatnik vibe, Chicago blues band and a bellydancer
*Joe's Crab Shack - Got Crabs? Hope not!
*Goodwill towards Blind Men, Cold tourists, and parking restrictions on the Governor's Palace. If this is a regular candy bar: "Mommy, mommy, can Ricky come out to play?" Then this is an O'Henry: "Hi, Rick. Busy tonight?"
*The Triple Threat: Davey (I mean, David) Crockett, Casket makers and the Museum of Texan History and Taxidermy.
*So Long, San Anton.

And then!

*Port Aransas, the "last undeveloped stretch of coastal real estate in the United States."
*The Sand Castle
*Talcum Powder, Black Goo and Salt
*Giant Sharks Eat Tourists, Maybe Santa
*The Ferry, don't feed the non-existent dolphins your vomit.
*The Prophetess
*What Are Mexicans Doing at a Mexican Restaurant!?

And finally!

*This Hitchhikers Guide to Ontario California