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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Sad State of Affairs Report: Mission Drive-In...

On our way back from Mission Concepcion, we decided to drive over to Roosevelt Ave and take a gander at an unofficial Mission, the Mission Four Drive-In Theater. Like most San Antonians, we enjoyed many fun evenings, taking our kids to The Mission.

In mid March of this year, the owners of the landmark, Santikos, said that they would not be able to reopen the drive-in, a result of vandals who had come in and just beat the crap out of the place.
I'll spare you one of my famous rants about little vandals and taggers that should be shot on sight - after all, they just want to share their artistic abilities with the rest of us - but I will tell you this, I don't blame the owners at all.

So, here it is, a few happy-snaps of the now beat-up and broken drive-in. Even though we hadn't been in several years, it just seems like such a loss. Hell, I don't even like going to the regular movie theaters these days, but the fact that little thugs ruin a good thing for everyone just pisses me off.

Anyway, the good news for those people that might have been using The Mission for a place to, uh, entertain a date with more than just a movie, the ol' Motel El Tejas is still available (probably by the hour) just across the street. According to the sign, in addition to Television and a pool, they have Refrigerated Air, and you sure couldn't get that at the drive-in.

Mission Report: Mission Concepcion

You may recall from a previous report how my wife and I met a very nice family during our visit to SAS. The husband mentioned to us that not enough people get out and see the San Antonio Missions (the actual missions, not the baseball team), so if the rain ever decides to cease and desist, we are making an effort to visit them.

Last week after leaving Espada Park, we took a short drive up the Mission Trail to Mission Concepcion. The road seems to be one of San Antonio's typical dual-named roads, called Mission Parkway or Padre Drive depending on which intersection you are at. (Don't even get me started)

Anyway, we took the drive up Mission Parkway to where it turns into Padre Drive near Padre Park, then up further to Mission Park. This is a really nice drive where the city has gone out of their way to make things look nice. There are lots of fancy looking street posts and in conjunction with regular sidewalk, lots of brick work.

I was surprised at how nice things were along this drive and thought of people on bikes or joggers taking advantage of the area. Unfortunately, there are lots of heavily wooded stretches that, frankly, say "mugger or sexual assaulter, please hide here". And, this may explain why on the first break in rain in several weeks, it was not full of joggers and bike riders.

I don't mean to scare you away, but before you explore a new place outside of your car or by yourself, you ought to at least get a lay of the land. I'm sure that during the day on weekends and such, there is nothing to worry about, but I'm about certain that I wouldn't take a nice late night stroll along this road without a can of mace or a shotgun. I could be wrong though.

By the way, from what we saw, Mission Park looks awesome with baseball and soccer fields etc. Thumbs up to Parks & Recreation. Also near Mission Park is a thing called the San Antonio Charro Association. They have a regular rodeo stadium right there like something straight from Mexico. That looked really interesting, but I was not equipped with my spurs, lasso or fancy sombrero. Perhaps next time.

After a short zig and zag, we were off Padre Drive and back on Mission Parkway on the way to Mission Concepcion.

When you see old movies where the star rides up on a church out in the middle of nowhere, think of this place. Of course, now, there are neighborhoods built around this one. But in sort of the same way they have strategically built the city of San Antonio around the Alamo where you can still take a good photo without the disturbing visual of progress and tall modern buildings, you can visit Mission Concepcion and appreciate the architecture and the beauty of the place without feeling like a traffic jam complete with honking horns and the obnoxious thumping of stereos will take away from the religious history of the place.

And yes, it is a church. They do hold mass there and though quite small, it is very beautiful.

You can tell that there is a lot of work taking place to rehabilitate the mission. In fact, they had one area blocked off to visitors as work progressed.

I think if you have any interest in photography, this is a must see place. Some of the shot set-ups are obvious - I was surprised that Kodak had not figured out a way to post those little "Photo
Spot" signs in front. For example, I took this one shot of the porch in front of the mission using my inexpensive, often beat-up, just hanging on by some scotch tape, digital camera, and I thought the picture came out okay. It may have been nicer had some guy not walked into the scene just as I snapped the picture, but you get the feel of the place. Only later, I was doing some searches on-line and found a web page where some guy had taken pretty much every photo I had taken, though he used a professional camera and seemed to understand something about lighting and such.

There are lots of other spiffy shots you can take, so even if you are like me and just want to take pictures as a reminder of the things I saw, or if you are into setting up the shot and doing it as art. By the way, if you are getting married or just want to take some really nice family photos, this would be a great place to use as a backdrop.

I don't know if it is part of the official rehab or if some volunteers have pitched in to clean things up, but out in front of the mission
is a little grotto similar to what we saw at Lourdes Grotto near Blanco Junction. People seem to be putting in a nice do it yourself stone walkway and adding some bricks and other landscaping work.

Like all national parks, there is an office which has information and of course, souvenirs and books for sale. But the most important thing you should know abou this place - assuming you decide to visit, is that the bathrooms are clean and have the most kick-ass air conditioning EVER! My wife went in to the ladies' and I stood out in the shade looking at a map of the mission trail, but due to the high humidity, I started sweating just standing there. I decided to hit the boys room and I swear, as soon as I opened the door, the wave of cool air nearly knocked me over. I stood there at the junior sized urinal mumbling to myself about how good it felt before realizing how incriminating it might look to Park Police. I did take an extra long time to wash my hands and comb my hair as a father and son walked in and both started commenting on how nice the air felt inside. My wife later told me that a young lady in their restroom who had worn long pants simply wasn't going to leave the comfort of the restroom.

So - note to homeless folks: Be a good tourist and wipe down the counter-tops after you take your afternoon bath. And hit the donation box on the way out.

And as is obligatory in our fair city, please Do Not Write on the Wall.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Visit Report: Espada Park...

Last week during a brief break in the rain, my wife and I took a drive to south San Antonio and stopped in to look at Espada Park, just off of SW Military Drive. We actually were interested in checking out the dam there, just to see if it was busting at the seams. It wasn't.

There isn't a lot to the park itself - some picnic areas, the dam, and while we were there, a guy selling raspas (shaved ice with flavored syrup), and lots of people just chilling out. The water was rushing over the top of the dam, but I confess, I don't know if it was rushing any more than normal.

According the the official website of the SA Missions Trail, "Espada Dam, built between 1731 and 1740, is the best existing example of the four Franciscan-designed dams placed on the San Antonio River. The dam is still in use today." I'd say it was hanging in there.

One thing I noticed was a tree that seemed to be singled out with a plaque. Turns out that the tree was planted by Senator Ted Kennedy, quite possibly after a night of Margaritas on the River Walk, and dedicated to his late brother, JFK.
The tree seems rather small for having been planted such a long time ago, but upon closer inspection, it appears that what remains of the tree is just a small twig growing from the larger trunk that was either chopped down or otherwise damaged. If anyone knows the story behind that, e-mail me.

I thought one enjoyable aspect of the park was the long drive along the river from the entrance all the way down to the damn. Many people were walking, riding bikes and skateboarding along the street and I thought, for the person who wants to get out for a little exercise but would like to avoid heavy traffic, you could park your car, walk down and back and it would be nice.

We didn't go all the way down to Mission Espada while we were there, but perhaps we'll make a trip back soon and take some pictures.

So, looking for something to do? I wouldn't say you could make a day of it, but if you wanted to check out the missions, you could certainly stop at Espada Park for a picnic during your tour.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Pothole Report: Patch me, Baby...

The hell!

Okay friends, I'd say we've had about enough of this rain.

Lee sent me a picture of a huge pothole that basically confronts you if you attempt to exit my neighborhood.

So, buckle up and pay the extra $2.00 for that extended warranty on your next set of tires.

Sweet Mother of Pavement.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

GNW Watch Meeting Report: My notes...

Last evening I had a chance to attend my very first meeting of the Great Northwest Neighborhood Watch. You'd be interested in knowing that I think there were more people in attendance at this meeting than what I have seen at the HOA meetings I've attended.

Just a few brief notes to let you know of my observations.

First, if you need any excuse to attend a GNW Watch meeting, the food was outstanding. I have noticed at the board of directors meetings, they usually have coffee and some cookies and such. This event had sandwiches, a veggie spread, cakes, cookies and more. If I were homeless, I'd become a member of the GNW Watch, just for the food*.

I didn't know how long the meeting was supposed to last, but for the first hour, we got a really good breifing and Q&A session with Mr. Jose Morlett. Mr. Morlett is the GNW Deeds, Restrictions and Covenants Officer or DRACO for the association and he is actually a certified code compliance officer. You can tell from his cheerful attitude that though he fully expects people to be upset with him when he has to notify them that they are in violation of the codes, his goal is to help the homeowner fix whatever the issue is.

Mr. Morlett gave us multiple examples of homeowners who were violating policies where it was a matter of time before the city was going to come in and issue a citation. Had the homeowner taken the cue from our own DRACO and fixed the problem, they would have saved the expense of a $200 fine from the city.

Mr. Morlett did tell one story about a disgruntled homeowner who was upset about having to move his goal post away from the sidewalk. (I feel this home owner's pain - we ended up getting rid of our goal post because it just wasn't worth the hassle). Anyway, as the story goes, while the gentleman was arguing with Mr. Morlett about what the difference was between the goal post covering the sidewalk and the mail box covering the sidewalk, the man actually ripped the mailbox off its post, ran into his garage to collect some screws, and promptly drilled the box to the goal post. As Kramer from Seinfeld might say, "Installed!"

Though I confess to cheering for the homeowner on that one, Mr. Morlett did tell us that the issue has to do with accessibility and mobility on the sidewalks for disabled folks. And, it is a city violation.

There was a good half-hour of questions from residents about specific things and lots of complaining about neighbors, but his talk was extremely informative. He told us exactly how the process works when he gives someone a notice but I'd prefer not to repeat that info as I just as soon not give any violators the big secrets. Suffice it to say, Mr. Morlett will work with you to help you solve your situation and avoid court at all costs - unless you push him to it.

One other thing to mention was that he is promoting something called The A-Team. The part I liked about this effort was that these people often come together to help out neighbors in need - elderly or disabled folks who may require some assistance with minor work around the house or something. I'm personally going to look into it and see where I might be able to volunteer a little bit. Perhaps some Granny out there needs help getting her Blog started!

Once Mr. Morlett finished his talk, Chief Roger Burton took over providing the assembled folks with maps highlighting locations of incidents of mischievous behavior, car break-ins etc. Additionally, we were provided print-outs showing the logs of calls our security staff made.

Folks, in spite of my personal pet peeve of graffiti, this area is not bad at all. I mean, a few car break-ins suck, but compared to the activity we see on KENS-5 every night, we are doing quite well, thanks.

I did want to highlight one call that the security folks responded to. It seems that a resident contacted security because a garbage man (is that politically correct?) found cause to relieve himself whilst working the route. Yes, the cad in question unzipped and whizzed as appreciative neighbors gawked in disbelief.


So anyway, I was tickled at Chief Burton's description of events as he says that the man "whipped it out in front of God and Country and proceeded to urinate." Of course, I'm easily amused, though I understand the lady who called it in, was not.

When security raced to the scene of the incident, the trash hauler had moved on and the exact perpetrator of this heinous crime could not located. Tease.

I also enjoyed Chief Burton's description of an event that occurred several years ago whereby a man (now serving some 60 years for this event) broke into a home, "wearin' nothing but a birthday suit and a gun". And it seems, the man was armed with a weapon, thus the long sentence.

Anyway, the watch meeting ended with a raffle where a very nice lady, I believe Betty Hood (Lee - correct me if I'm wrong, please), drew names for some lovely gifts donated by area merchants. I'm not talking chump-change here. She also passed out envelopes containing certificates and coupons from local business for the people hosting Block Parties during National Night Out (like me) to raffle off to the guests. You can't ask for more than that!

So there you have it. Looking for some way to get involved? August 7th is National Night Out.

* I'm certain my comments about homeless people joining the GNW Watch for vittles is offensive to some and outright blasphemous to others. I am immature and I know it. Thanks for noticing.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Baby Update: Possible Cygnet Eviction

I received a rather unsettling e-mail from our Mission Trace Correspondent, Sid Seidenberger this afternoon. It seems that Baby, the Australian Black Swan who resides in the lake at Mission Trace may be in a little hot water.

According to Sid, he had been out of town and "Baby went to the next-door neighbor's patio and shit on their Terra Cotta tile. One thing led to another and the neighbor was forced to build a barricade to keep Baby from making defacatory deposits".

He says, "Next thing you know, their HOA Grounds Chair receives a bitchin' from the disgruntled neighbors and a call is made to a supposed "swan expert", who says that the parent swans (now nesting AGAIN with 5 eggs) will eventually kill baby."

Clearly unhappy about this, Sid continues, "Long story short, I must go before the Board on Thursday night and make an appeal to them. 80% of the board members HATE the swans. It looks as if Baby will be doin' her swan song and saying so-long because the Grounds Chair said, "It's the Board's decision".

I talked to Sid a short while ago and he tells me that he has been doing research and making calls to various vets and water fowl experts all day long, and sadly, there does seem to be some consensus that the situation is not good. It would be nice if some swan relief agency was available to take Baby in and get her relocated to a better environment.

Does anyone have any suggestions? Anyone know of any swan experts who might have an idea? My wife is calling a few folks who know something about bird sanctuary's etc., but if you have any words of wisdom or assistance, give me a quick e-mail or leave a comment here.


Random Report: Quick notes

A few quick things to report. First, We went over to the HEB at Grissom/Tezel/Culebra to grab an item or two and saw a great deal of turmoil in the center front of the store where the cash registers are. Thankfully, it turns out that they are installing those automated, self-service, do-it-yourself type registers where you can go in, grab something, ring it up yourself and pay without having to interact with your friendly HEB cashier.

Please note: If you are too stupid to operate one of these devices, please enroll yourself in a course or something before you get in line in front of me. Thanks.

For the most part, I think these things operate on the weight of the item scanned - in other words, if you purchase a box of HoHo's, the machine knows the weight, so you can't try to trick it by scanning a pack of gum, but sneakily placing the HoHo's in your bag. It will note the difference in weight. This is also why you can't scan in one item but throw in a dozen. Ya filthy thief.

I only mention this because some people, not trying to do anything illegal, will scan an item but put it in their basket instead of on the convenient holding shelf, or some lady will stick her purse on the shelf along with her HoHo's, then it requires an intervention by a certified HEB cashier and this little situation slows me down while I'm standing behind them waiting to get out with a hot fresh loaf of French Bread! So while we have time during construction, get your act together, people.

We got out and got home just in time to avoid yet another downpour.

Attention God: We get it. No, no need for an ark; repenting shall commence shortly. But if we can keep it going just long enough to beat the aquifer level record, that'd be nice. Thanks.

Speaking of nature, does anybody know what kind of flower this is?
We pulled these plants - we called them corn plants because of the stalk like appearance - from our front yard and threw them into a tub in the back. They have grown wonderfully for several years and now, with all the rain, they are blooming. If you know what they are, please tell me.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Flood Report: Most of us are just Dumbasses

In spite of the rain earlier in the morning, and the fact that my newly tiled back patio took a total beating from the dirt and sand that spilled over the border onto it, my wife and I still had to get some important HEB Plus shopping done, and we needed to make a quick trip into that new Wal Mart over on Potranco and 1604 to get some keys made.

I had just pulled into the turn lane to go outside of 1604 on Potranco when I noticed a Bexar County Sheriff checking out the water flow over Potranco Road. It would appear that he made the decision that the water was still coming across fast enough, and deep enough that he should leave the road closure barriers in place.

If you aren't from San Antonio or south central Texas in general, it is sort of strange to think that there are regular roads that routinely flood every time it rains more than an inch or two. I know, you'd think it would be smarter to just build the roads higher over those areas, but considering that most of the time, San Antonio is a desert and we are in environmentalist-whacko generated water rationing, people go the cheap route and hope for the best when it rains.

So, the other thing you should find strange is that, anytime we get any amount of rain, the local news goes on and on and on about how you should never go around these barriers and of course, they show footage of the dumbasses that go around the barriers, then get caught in the water and then have to be rescued at great expense. Every road that is subject to flooding has a sign that reads, "Turn Around, Don't Drown", yet, every night on the news, there are more pictures of people being idiots.

So, I see the sheriff and I see that he is leaving the barriers up so I get out of the turn only lane and back onto 1604 so I can go down the road less than 500 feet and enter Wal Mart from the other side. No problem.

As the sheriff leaves and as I wait at the stop light, people waste no time at all going around the barricade and through the water.

I know this sounds really cruel and mean spirited, but just once I'd like to come across somebody who has gone around the barrier, gotten trapped and then be the guy who throws them a rope and a life jacket. Then, before I pull them in from certain drowning, I'd like to have them state to awaiting video cameras being beamed onto the 10PM news, "I am a dumbass. I do not care about the safety of firefighters and police officers who have to risk their lives to save my lazy ass, because I am a dumbass who violated the law and went around the barricade set-up to keep me safe."

Then, I would reel them in and bap them on the head.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Rebate Report: Why I will never shop Office Depot Again

This is an e-mail I sent to the good people at Office Depot. If I get a response, I'll post it here for you to see.

Goodbye Office Depot,

I have purchased too many items to list, been satisfied with your prices and quality of merchandise always, and never once felt as though I was getting the short end of the stick when dealing with any number of your stores in several states.

Too bad I won't be back.

I never shop based on rebates, primarily because I either forget to send them in or I have problems with them. So, if I'm happy with a price, I buy something. If it is a choice between two products and one of them has a rebate and the other doesn't, I do not consider the rebate value as part of my decision process.

And so was the case when I went into one of your San Antonio stores and purchased a Laptop computer for my daughter, a portable hard drive for me, a chair and several other items that day. But, if the guy at the counter tells me I can get $150.00 back for the laptop and $25.00 for the hard drive, why not? What do I have to lose but my time and the price of a few stamps.

My wife sent in the rebate forms the following day and sure enough, I totally forgot about the whole thing. A month or so later, my wife asked me about the rebates but I figured it was way too soon to even think about it. But she insisted, so sure enough, I find your web page and enter the information and low and behold, there it is - the rebate entry forms had been received by you and they were not only received on 8 March 2007, they had been submitted and processed, and according to your website, were already in the "Required Validation Period". Incredible - and you track these things.

My gut reaction was that, like everything else Office Depot does, you guys had this system down and I need not worry myself about it.

So I didn't.

Until my wife asked me about it again in a month or so. This time, it was easier to track down the website because I had bookmarked it. I entered the information and sure enough, there was my wife's rebate, right there in the "Required Validation Period". And again, I was happy that you guys had it all under control.

Instead of me repeating the same paragraph several times to reflect all the times I checked at the insistence of my wife, suffice it to say, that checking in has been a weekly activity.

Okay, so now, the reality is, I have actually looked up the status of a rebate for a portable hard drive, more times than I have actually used the portable hard drive. That alone ought to say something.

It has been over four months since you received the rebates. So I thought maybe I would contact your rebate folks. Sometimes, dishonest rebate people will just do nothing in hopes that people forget. If the person inquires, then, they let the rebate go through. Very wrong, immoral and tacky, but hey, it's a living I guess.

So, I go to the contact form you have, and I fill it out. I go to submit it and what do I get, "Illegal Request". Nice. So I go back and make sure that I have completed all the required fields etc, and I submit again. Yet another and another and another "Illegal Request"

At this point, most of the people who write you say something like, "It isn't the money, it's the principle." I'd like to state clearly, that it is the money. If it was $5.00 it would be the money not because I need $5.00, but because I made a purchase that came with a rebate, I filled out the forms and mailed them in and now you people owe me $150.00 for the laptop rebate and you owe me $25.00 for the portable hard drive rebate. That is a total of $175.00 that you thieves owe me.

So enough with the "Required Validation Period" and at least get me moved to the "Approval Process" so you can sit on that for another 4 months hoping that I will forget about it.

I will forget about it.

But my wife won't.

And that is the reason why I will never spend another dime in your dishonest, thieving, Office Depot store again. Because not only am I out the $175.00 you owe me, but I'll never hear the end of it from my wife.

Okay, here is a quick update to the Rebate situation. I logged in this morning and sure enough there is an e-mail in my in-box from from Office Depot's Rebate people. This was most likely an auto-generated e-mail, but it says I should expect a check in 5-7 business days. I would post the contents of the e-mail but it came with a page worth of legal admonishments one of which was that "any distribution, dissemination, or reproduction of this email message is strictly prohibited" but suffice it to say that apparently the little form I submitted that got me the "Illegal Request" worked. And as I suspected, they just blow you off until you take action to do something.

So being the inquisitive type, (and to test my theory about them blowing people off until they take action), I logged back into the ol' rebate web page and looked up the rebate for the $150.00, and now, they have me moved backwards to the "Processing" step. But this time, the first step is "Re-submission".

I then submitted another one of the forms for the second rebate, the one for $25.00, and once again, I got the ol' "Illegal Request" page. So for good measure, I banged on the submit button 7 or 8 times.

It will be interesting to see if I get another e-mail several hours from now stating that my submittal of the "re-validation" request has begun and I should get something in 5-7 days.

Of course, I have not received a reply from my e-mail to the customer service people, but suspect I'll get an auto-generated response on Monday with a coupon for a free package of recycled printer paper.

I'll let you know what happens.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

GNW HOA Meeting Report: My Notes...

This will be pretty short and sweet as tonight's meeting of the board of directors of the Great Northwest Community Improvement Association made it through the open to the public session in apparent record time.

I am pleased to report that there was very little turmoil, the board and the residents seemed to behave themselves, and there were very few accusations or derogatory comments from the peanut gallery.

Prior to the start of the meeting, Mr. Jeff Peterson from State Rep Jose Menendez' office let residents know that if they have any issues for Rep Menendez, they should feel free to contact the area office at 210-673-3579. If you feel like calling, maybe you can suggest that he sponsor a bill that would give first time graffiti offenders the needle. I'd definitely vote for him if he did that.

One nice family signed up to speak before the board during the "open mic night" portion. Turns out that these people had reserved the Silver Creek Pool for a party, which they have done many times in the past with great success and enjoyment. Turns out this time around, they get there and they can't use the Kiddie pool, the diving boards are gone and the slide is off limits. That sucks.

The husband gave a very clear and concise review of the situation and it was clear to me that had I been a board member, I would have immediately moved to refund the full price of the pool rental, said we're sorry and moved on. And the people on the board would probably have gone along with it.

Then the lady got up to pile on. Yes, ma'am, we get it. Kids were disappointed, nobody could dive or slide or piss in the kiddie pool - we get the problem.

What seemed like an hour later but was closer to about 5 or 6 minutes, the Chairman of the Board, Mr. Lee Besing gave explanations, made apologies, explained the history of what was happening at the time etc and really seemed like he wanted these people to be happy.

Then, the lady wanted her 9 year old kid to testify. WTF? At that point, I felt like these people had really exceeded the boundaries of good taste. It was a board meeting; not Oprah for Christ's sake.

In the end, Lee suggested that the board work with staff to give these people a partial refund and give them a discount on the pool for the kid's 1oth birthday.

Moving on.

The agenda had two pages worth of stuff to discuss but honestly, it all went very quickly. I should mention that one of the board members was not able to attend the meeting and a few residents I talked to afterward suggested that the reason for the quick meeting was that the absent director wasn't available to slow things down with her timely objections.

I missed her.

I find her entertaining.

Acting Community Manager, Jose Morlett indicated that several positions were filled, they had completed the preparation of the ballots from the last election and were ready to have them reviewed, and that they were filing some insurance claims on equipment that was damaged during a recent storm.

Ms. Teresa Carpenter from accounting indicated that the auditors had completed their audit and things were not so bad. Mr. Besing pointed out that we were $81K in the black which is good. But a gentleman sitting behind me pointed out that not long ago, we reported having over $300K. Geeze. I hope the auditors saw where the rest of that went.

One item that did concern me was that the board voted to table the minutes from previous board meetings. On the agenda, they listed minutes from meetings as late as Dec 7 2006, all the way until July 7th 2007.

I have an issue with this. If it was just some goofy guy in the audience like me taking random notes and then sitting down on the computer and spouting off a bunch of gibberish from memory, I could see wanting to have 6 or 7 months to make sure everyone agrees with what was said. But seriously, they have a person sitting at the table taking official notes, and often during the proceedings, the Chair is very precises about who voted which way etc etc.

This is just my opinion and just a suggestion that people are free to use, but why not take about $18.00 from the remaining $81K and purchase a little Radio Shack tape recorder, then if the person taking notes has any questions about what she wrote, or if the board questions any notes she took, go back and listen to the tape. If it's good enough for Dick Nixon, by God, it's good enough for the GNWCIA.

In reality, even if 99 percent of the residents of the Great Northwest don't care enough to attend the meetings, we ought to at least make a record of the proceedings at the board meetings, if only to use as sound bites if any of our esteemed board members run for public office later in life - it would be like a service to the community - proof that they stood and Pledged allegiance to the flag or voted against tabling the minutes from the previous meetings like Mr. Guy Pucci did.

Several other things zoomed by but one thing that caught my attention was discussion about setting a time line for review of the ByLaws.

You may recall that at the annual meeting, one of the things they were supposed to vote on was some new or changed bylaws. Depending on who you talk to, the bylaws never actually got voted on because by the time the board went in and out of open and closed session, many people simply gave up and left the premises. As a result, there was not a quorum to hold the vote and the meeting was closed.

More than one person has told me that this was a tactic that was purposely done. I have heard all sorts of conspiracy theories from many, many people, pointing fingers at many, many other people.

I don't care.

But what is interesting is what one former member of the by laws committee, Ms. Andrea Hall, pointed out when asked by the board. Ms. Hall suggested that it might be possible that the bylaws which would have been voted on are now void because the meeting they were to be voted on ended without the vote.

In other words, to bring them up now with no formal debate or amendment allowed would be against the rules of good order and discipline, or at least Roberts Rules of Parliamentary procedure. Ms. Hall and I both agreed that we could not remember for sure, but if someone is smart enough to verify that the motion is voided once it is not acted upon during the meeting, perhaps you could let me know and we can save on lawyers fees.

So, this is something to think about and perhaps to motivate you to attend the next meeting of the board of directors. I know it is easy to sit back and poke fun at the things I observe without the responsibility of having to sit on the board. Please always keep in mind, as I do, that these folks are regular residents like you and I and even if you don't agree with everything they do as elected members, at least they are doing something. Please, join me at the next meeting and we can sit and observe and perhaps snicker occasionally.

To any of the board members who may see this - thank you for what you do.

Now get those meeting minutes posted!!!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Free Advice to Developers...

Every so often, I like to offer up a bit of free advice to developers who may be looking for an investment. What I'm about to tell you is free for you to use, and I ask for nothing in return, though you may wish to give me credit, but again, I don't require it.

There are two places along Grissom Road that could be hugely successful money making locations if they would be put to the right use. One of these locations seems to have something being done to it, so my advice may be too late. That is the empty space in front of the HEB at Tezel/Grissom/Culebra.

The second space was the original HEB from about 20 years ago located at the corner of Timber Path and Grissom. The place has been used as a dance club but long ago lost its attractiveness when it went out of business as Coyotes. Follow-up efforts to use the huge space as different types of clubs didn't work out because the place is too big to run (A/C wise) without having it packed with patrons. Unfortunately, even if the place is packed by smaller standards, (say 75 to 100 people) it seems empty because the space is so big - when a place seems empty, nobody wants to return because they think they are the only saps who find the place attractive, and therefore, must be nerds. This is why the two new bars that have opened on either side of it (Staceys on one side and Speedway on the other) seem to be very successful. They are small enough to be packed all the time.

My two suggestions: Starbucks in front of HEB and Peter Piper Pizza where the old Coyotes was.

You could put Starbucks on all four corners of any intersection and they would all be successful. That is a no brainier. But the closest Starbucks to this area is on Bandera, with another on 151 and another on Potranco. Are you kidding me?

The Peter Piper Pizza took even less thought. A while back, we attended a kid's party at the PPP on Bandera. They serve beer, they serve pizza and they have kids games. How could you go wrong? Now, think about it in this area. You have all the residents from the entire Great Northwest and other surrounding residential areas nearby. And for the parents who want to drop off their kids at a party but are shy about having the other families see them get liquored up - simply go into Stacey's Sports bar right next door or The Speedway on the other side.

Sheer brilliance!

There you have it folks. Free advice. I'm also available for free advice to city planners, mall store consultation and other general advice.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Home Cooking Report: Frying Fish

I have waited to report on this incident for at least a month now, wanting any remaining evidence to have been long ago sent off to the local landfill, destroyed via the normal digestive process, or at minimum, until the statute of limitations expire.

You see, we are up for trying new things, especially when it comes to cooking. You'd never know it to look me in the gut, but (or butt), I really do want to try to eat somewhat right, and my wife tries to help in that department. So, people always say you should try to increase your consumption of fish and, I know this probably defeats much of the point, my wife prefers fried fish. For some time, we have been thinking of getting one of those spiffy frying machines that reduces the oil splatter and makes for a cleaner fish frying operation.

As it turns out, my wife saw this little video feed from AOL showing some famous cooking guy, Tyler Lawrence who has an easy recipe for Fish and Chips. Again, you won't need to remind me that this isn't the healthiest route to adding fish to your diet, but I'm a huge fan of Baby Steps, especially if it tastes good.

So, I got home from work and my wife had gone out to one of the usual home stores specializing in Linens and Things. I'd prefer not to say the name of the company for fear of a potential law suit, but they seem to have a lot of Linens and Things in the store. Oh, and they always send us these coupons for 20 % off the purchase price of stuff.

It turns out that not only did she purchase a new special deep frying system (have you noticed how everything is a system these days - a wash cloth is now part of a face cleaning system), she had several pounds of fresh fish. I mean, if we are going to eat fish, dammit, we are going to eat a lot of it!

I may have mentioned before that my first job was at McDonald's. I know the business end of a deep frying vat - the seriously solid basket suitable for holding five pounds of Idaho Burbank Russets or a box of about twenty square filet's o' fish, and this sir, was no solid "system".

The idea was functional. Basically, for safety reasons, the basket would lower down into the vat, the top covered and sealed everything to avoid spills and fires, but the fry basket itself seemed really flimsy and cheap. Oh, and the fryer itself was made of plastic. But, we would not be deterred in eating healthy, and I was hungry.

It just so happens that I had purchased this spiffy Tupperware type box during the grand opening of the Bass Pro Shop over at The Rim, that lets you shake your fish in all the bread crumbs. It really is an awesome system, so I was eager to use it for the first time. In cahoots with this Tyler Lawrence guy, my new fry system and a Tupperware box, how could we go wrong?

So, I open up the box to the fish fryer, and the first thing I notice is that the box seems to have been opened before. I don't mind getting the floor model on something, but let's not try to fool me into thinking that I'm getting a brand spanking new product. So I inspected it and it was clean and everything seemed to be there. No problem.

We got out all the ingredients and the recipe called for the use of a beer. The only thing we had at the time was one a Michelob Ultra Light. I'm not sure that was what they had in mind, but what the heck. So, we mix up the little batter mix, we put the needed flour in the Tupperware Box thing, and we load up the fryer system with some good quality canola oil or something supposedly healthy.

Dredge, Batter, in the fry basket - we were off to the races and I was so excited about having some home fried fish, that I had to actually take pictures.
Then again, I take pictures of everything, so perhaps it wasn't all that special. Either way, we followed the recipe exactly and we just knew this fish was going to be a tasty treat as soon as it emerged from the awesome, safe and clean fish frying system.

Okay, here's the deal. This fish frying system sucked. Within a minute or so, instead of the fish getting golden brown and floating to the top, it all molded itself together and welded itself to the fry basket.
Though the fish itself was not fully cooked, the batter had created such a gooey mess of Super Glue, that the only way to get the fish unstuck was to pull it away from the golden delicious crispy crunchy fried batter. A total waste of almost a quarter pound of fish.

Luckily, we still had the rest of the fish and we still had the rest of Tyler Lawrence's special recipe, so we did what we probably should have done in the first place, we busted out a deep fry wok and went to town with it.

I am happy to report that the fish fried up perfectly, there were no resulting house fires to worry about and no harm came to anyone other than the fish.

After dinner, we scrubbed the living crap out of that fryer and I went over the fry basket thread by thread to remove any sign or hint of Tyler Lawrence or his batter. We repackaged everything in the exact packing specifications as we received it and the following day, my wife took the item, fully sealed back to the store it was purchased from.

Upon inspection, the lady was satisfied that everything was there but she said, it almost had a smell of fish to it. My wife said, "Yea, that's why I'm returning it. My husband gets really freaked about using stuff that was previously opened by someone else."

The lady smiled and said, "Yea, it happens a lot more than you know."

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Must See Place Report: San Antonio Shoe Factory and General Store

Where else can you go and get a Coke for a dime, a bag of fresh popcorn for a nickel, see a bunch of antique automobiles and watch a lady make a pair of shoes right before your eyes? Right here in San Antonio of course.

Another in my series of places you should see even if you live here is the San Antonio Shoe Factory and General Store located at 101 New Laredo Highway. This place is a great outing for people who have little kids. Not so you can let them run like wild banshees around the place, but because the price of admission is FREE, and the cost to feed your little hellions isn't much more.

When you first arrive at SAS, you see what looks like an old movie set that might have fit in an episode of The Waltons, contrasted against the tire shops and furniture stores of San Antonio's South Side. Before you get in, you'll appreciate some well maintained older cars and the long covered walk reminiscent of the loading platform of the old stage coach or maybe a train station.

From the outside, you can see the nicely restored signage and a a comfortable front porch where customers sit and mostly, wait for their wives to finish shopping. Yes, not everyone who visits SAS is there for the popcorn and cookies, a good number of visitors are there for the shoes.

In case you didn't know, SAS is famous for their comfortable designs and you can see them on fashion runways in communities for the aged, everywhere. Though I do have to confess to owning several pairs of the more fashionable penny loafers, which are very comfortable.

When you get inside the store, the first thing that greets you is the kitchen area complete with old fashioned stoves, refrigerated cases and friendly ladies ready to serve up a soda from the new fountain, a hot cookie or some fresh popcorn.

Up until just recently, they used to serve Cokes in the small bottles for a dime. Now you get your choice of Coke or Diet-Coke in a fountain cup for the same price. If you'd rather skip the soda, enjoy a cup of really good coffee for just a nickel. Don't let your Starbuck's Barrista know - he may just shit himself!

Inside the store, there are several older cars that members of the staff will be happy to take your picture while you sit in them. Or you can pose with a big Brahma Bull standing down in one of the aisles.

I can't overstate what a great deal this is for the aunt or uncle who finds the need to entertain the little beasts that your sis dropped off so she could go to the mall. The cost is less than the price of gas and the kids will learn how to make shoes from scratch.
Seriously, I say put the little rug rats to work and call it a day.

My mother-in-law used to take my kids and the their cousins on a SAS field trip several times during the summer when she would watch them, and the kids loved it. They would each come home with their own bag of selected old fashioned candy, perhaps a set of free shoelaces, and quite often, a stomach ache.

Look, don't take my word for it; you owe it to yourself to take the short drive, stop in and check it out. And the next time your family comes to visit San Antonio and they have had enough of Sea World, Fiesta Texas, the River Walk, the Missions and the hundreds of other places to go, take them to a genuine inexpensive treat, and get yourself some nice loafers.

*And no, I don't get paid for this, I really do like the place.

About Your Host

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San Antonio, TX, United States
I love to observe the odd things happening around me as I go about my day. I especially like it when I can get a picture of people being themselves. Here, I attempt to report the various people and events I have encountered in my neighborhood, and my city. I'd also love to hear from you. Feel free to e-mail your experiences and photos of life in San Antonio.

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