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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Creepy Spurs Fan is Back...

Yeesh - this guy can't help himself!As the 4th quarter of the Spurs - Phoenix game is in question, Mr. Drunk Spurs Fan represents San Antonio on National TV via TNT.

Thanks Career Point!

Reminder for GNW Residents

Just a quick note to remind the local readership of two important events:

Wednesday 30 April 7:30 PM at the Lodge: GNWatch Meeting. We will have representative from San Antonio's Animal Care Services come give us some information about dealing with vicious animals. The ACS folks have received a package of complaints from our residents and their person is going to provide some responses to the assembled crowd.

Following the Q&A, if we have time, I'll present some information on the recent rash of tagging in the area and what has been done. Hope to see you there.

(Oh, and my wife and I celebrate our anniversary the same day - am I a romantic, taking my wife out to a neighborhood watch meeting?)

Thursday 1 May at 7:30 PM is the Great Northwest annual meeting of the members held at the lodge. Please, if you have not sent in your proxy, hand carry it down to the office - there is a drop box for after hours. We must have a quorum or the money spent to put on the meeting is a total waste, and we'll have to try again.

Better yet, why not come to the meeting? Hope to see you there.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

GNW Green Report: We Need to Take a Walk...

One of the fantastic things about living in a community with a Home Owners Association, or as ours is technically called, a Community Improvement Association, is that everyone is committed to the common good of the area, at least in the form of the yearly assessments due. Through these proceeds, things such as community pools, playgrounds and tennis courts are made available for common use, and we have a staff that can maintain them, run programs and manage the entire effort.

In some bigger associations, like the one we live in, The Great Northwest Community Improvement Association, we have a large greenbelts that can be used for the common benefit of the association residents. In what is commonly thought of as a water run-off area, we have installed picnic tables and grills. I'm sure some associations have running and biking trails carved through their greenbelts, and these are all little add-ons that can make life that much better in the community.
At our current rate of yearly assessment, we simply don't have the resources to have the maintenance staff take 100 percent responsibility for keeping this space in pristine condition. When I first heard this, I was sort of surprised, I thought to myself, how bad could it be? To me, a big tractor to mow the grass, a few hours worth of weed whacker action, and it could look like a golf course, right? As one of the volunteers who went out on Saturday for the GNW Goes Green event, I found out it just isn't as easy as that, and why.
I should tell you up front that in my 10 years living here, I had never ventured down to the greenbelt, though as the crow flies, it is only about 1,000 feet from my home. I had always thought the small part from the street looked fairly nice, but never really saw myself taking the dog for a walk out there. I should have gone a long time ago.When it is dry - which is most of the time, the area shares many of the same features as Cathedral Rock Nature Park, just outside the neighborhood. Large boulders and trees that make for an interesting and peaceful walk; the winding creek bed created by years of flash flooding makes a navigable path when dry.

Wearing good shoes and gloves, I walked through with other volunteers, and several of us commented on how this same type of environment brought back enjoyable memories as kids, playing in similar spaces for hours on end. Back before cell phones and Nintendo and The Cartoon Network, it was not uncommon for a group of 12 year old boys to explore the outdoors, climb trees or even take their bikes into such an adventurous area to get what we now call exercise. And the thing is, I don't recall us ever leaving any trash behind.
As Central South Texans, we know all about flash flooding and the power of water to move vast amounts of trash and debris miles down what is ordinarily a dry-creek bed. I figured there would be some tree limbs, lots of plastic shopping bags and the occasional piece of junk that had been discarded in some other neighborhood and found its way to our beautiful spaces. Yes, there was that, but it was worse.I was disgusted to find that there was a whole lot of outright littering by residents of our association and from my neighborhood. My neighbors simply tossing their discarded bottles and cans, roofing shingles and old fence boards directly over their back fence into the greenbelt, without an effort to even disguise their behavior by spreading it out as if it was the result of years of floods moving other people's junk.

I'm not trying to sound like someone's grandfather yelling, "Get off my grass, you kids", or to suggest that we go back to the good old days when people had some sort of respect for themselves and for each other. But I do wonder what happened in say the last 10 or 15 years to people and their simple lack of concern for doing the right thing?
To this day, I still remember the Public Service Announcement from the 70's where some Indian chief (sorry, Native American) is paddling his canoe up a stream and it is just totally polluted. Then, he looks over and sees a car full of people driving by as they toss a bag full of garbage out of their window. Pan back to the chief and there is a tear coming out of his eye. That public service announcement had an impact on an entire generation of people and this nation cleaned its act up. And somehow it seems to have been lost.
There was one house in particular, that left a small group of us disgusted, and frankly, pissed-off. In what is a nice neighborhood not even 3 or 4 streets from my house, we came upon an area behind a house that has a pool and a back patio cover. Scattered all over the ground were emptied beer and wine bottles (if MD 20/20 is still considered wine), broken furniture pieces and trash. Oh, and these pillars of the community had thoughtfully picked up the dog crap in their yard, placed it in plastic bags, then tossed it right over the fence. You gotta be shittin' me. Toss your dog crap over the fence if that's what you think is right, but in a plastic bag? Thankfully we were all wearing gloves.There was some general discussion about simply throwing all the refuse right back into the yard and moving on, but I tried to reason that perhaps there was an explanation. I was reaching for anything to give these slobs the benefit of the doubt. Then one volunteer pointed out the roof of the patio in this yard. They had trash and old boards thrown on top of it as well.

In other words, these people simply couldn't care less about the community property or their own property. We simply cleaned up the trash and moved along to the next disaster.
Lest you think the entire greenbelt was a lost cause, I'm here to tell you that with a little TLC, there is the potential for a really wonderful area. I'm a big fan of the A-Team concept that our association has - volunteers who try to get together for projects that can benefit the community. But we are just getting going again. And this greenbelt requires some assistance. If we could get several groups from churches or scouts or other organizations to help with several volunteer sessions taking a section at a time, I think we could clean up what we just couldn't get to during the Green Day event.

Then, when the flash floods bring brush and debris, between maintenance and other smaller volunteer efforts, we could keep the place clean.

Here is just an idea. If like me, you had never taken a walk through the area, I'd like to suggest that you give it a try. Take a single garbage bag with you and if along the course of your walk, you see an occasional beer can or plastic soda bottle, pick it up. I think you'll enjoy the walk and you'll feel better about the place.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Spurs - Suns: Gorilla Situation...

So I'm minding my own business watching the Spurs-Suns game and as they come back from a commercial, I catch the Suns mascot, The Gorilla dressed up as a taco. I have to ask (since I wasn't at the game to hear the MC), was the Gorilla mocking San Antonio's Henry the Puffy Taco? If so, that's just wrong.

If not, that's a pretty damn ugly shirt for a Gorilla.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Fiesta Report: Smells Like Fart...

We got in the habit when our kids were a lot younger that we would take one day during Fiesta, go down to the Market Square for a brief wandering through the area, eat some vittles, see all the weird people found during the day, then leave before the evening crowd arrived. It isn't that we are anti-social (okay, maybe a little), but the truth is, if we wanted to have our kids mingle amongst a bunch of sweaty people spilling beer on everyone and acting all a fool, we'll just have a cook-out at home and save a bunch of money.So over the years, we got in this habit of going to the same place, doing the same thing and we have it down to about a two or three hour operation. Since we did it today, I took a few pictures that I'd like to show you and perhaps make a comment or two about.I already mentioned that we had lunch at La Margarita, then it was off to gawk at our fellow citizens and the tourists who try so hard to understand our ways.

During the early afternoon, people drink just as though they were attending in the evening. Granted, many of the same people who drink during the day continue drinking into the evening, hence my references to spilled beers. But what this causes is a serious fart smell that permeates the area.
And imagine if you were at face level with every ass in the crowd? The music is loud and when people gyrate to the sounds, I guess it just happens. Or in my case, I wait until I'm around someone who looks like they would be the guilty person, and I generally let loose there.You can always tell who started really early. They are the lone dancers. They got the beat. The rest of us gawk. The tourists assume that it is part of the show.San Antonio is not a svelte city. But we look good at it.If you live in San Antonio and understand the "lingo", you would recognize this picture as a solid candidate for Jay Leno's Headlines. But I don't know about "Delicious".
Lest you think it's just a freak show, there are lots of otherwise entertaining things to see at the Mercado. Great bands and people who can do more than make fools of themselves on the dance floor. This couple put on quite a show.My wife wanted me to get out there and dance with her but she realized that some idiot would take pictures of me doing my fantastic dance-moves in public, and she'd end up as an example of what not to do on someone's blog, so instead, we just enjoyed the sights and were happy to leave before anything really got going.

Town Hall Meeting Report...

My wife and I took a short drive down the street to attend a town hall meeting presented by The Great Northwest Community Improvement Association (GNWCIA) so the board could present some By Law amendments that are to be voted on in our upcoming annual meeting. The idea is that interested residents could ask questions and better familiarize themselves with the by laws before voting on them at our annual meeting.

I don’t want to shock you so please, sit down while reading this and maybe even take a quick shot of the drink of your choice (like a presidential candidate might), but the only people who showed up at the meeting were some of the Directors and a smattering of residents who normally attend the regular meetings anyway. In other words, why bother?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for this. I think this board of directors has gone above and beyond to get information out to our residents. If you live in my area, you have probably received locally generated newsletters with good information on how to understand the ballots, and explaining just what it means to give your proxy to another person. I think people are really trying to do good things for the community. But what I gather is that most people just don’t care.

So, I’m only going to mention this because I pay the yearly assessment and I hate to see my money blown. Our association needs to have a quorum at the annual meeting in order for the election to count and for the bylaws to be voted on. It costs the association in the thousands of dollars to hold the annual meeting.

Somewhere, sitting on your kitchen counter or in a basket full of junk mail, is a ballot and form for giving your proxy to someone who WILL attend the meeting. The only way we are going to have a quorum is if you get up and fill out that form and turn it in to the office. DO IT NOW!

I don’t care who you vote for, whether you vote for or against the bylaws, or who you give your proxy to. But if you do not know for 100% certain that you are going to show up at the annual meeting of members, I urge you to fill out that ballot NOW and get it in. And if you are like me and the ballot got lost in the vast piles of junk collecting in my office, please take the time to go down to the lodge and get a new one, and complete it on the spot.

And, if you are one of the readers of this Blog who doesn’t live in my neighborhood, I’ll just encourage you to go vote wherever you live. Someone needs to get elected dog catcher, right?

Lunch Report: La Margarita...

As you may be aware, San Antonio is in the midst of Fiesta which is just another excuse for us to party and such. There are so many events to pick and choose from during the two week period, but it seems like every year, we do our own ritual that involves going down to the Farmers Market or El Mercado early in the afternoon, eating lunch at La Margarita, then seeing the sights and getting the heck out of the place before any real fun starts. I'll tell you about our brief Fiesta visit later, but first, an important lunch report on La Margarita.

Many of you know that there are three restaurants owned by The Cortez Family in the same general area. La Margarita, Pico de Gallo, and Mi Tierra. Of the three, we just happen to prefer La Margarita. I have nothing bad to say about the others, but my wife would probably be willing to share her thoughts with you if you asked her.

I have always liked the beef fajitas at La Margarita and I like the fact that they serve up a cold schooner of beer. I guess I'm pretty easy to please that way.

On out trip in this afternoon, we had no wait at all. I think we missed the real lunch crowd and beat the dinner crowd to be honest. And that's fine. I like it when we can get in, and get served fast, and today, that happened.
I'm big on atmosphere and for some reason I like this place. We sat in the main dining area, where you see a really nice mural of Mariachis and other paintings on the walls.I also enjoy the bar area. I recall once, we sat in what seemed to be an overflow area and it was really a back room of some sort with no other connection to the restaurant. We felt as though we were seated at the kids table at thanksgiving or something. But not this time.We were seated, our waitress got us the standard chips and salsa, gave us our menus and took our drink orders in near record time.From there, we no sooner ordered the mixed chicken and beef fajitas for two and I just have to assume they had a batch coming off the grill in anticipation because our order was on our table before I could wolf down more than a handful of chips slathered in salsa and flush it down my gullet with a swallow or two of beer.This order comes with a cup of beans, rice, a plate of guacamole and such, and then the huge steaming plate of fajitas with grilled onions and tomatoes. The smell is simply wonderful. For those of us in San Antonio, we could argue all day long about who has the best fajitas. I'm not going to say here and now that La Maragrita's make the top of my list, but let me tell you something, they work for me. As an ordinary rule, you order either chicken or beef, but we often like to mix. I'm going to tell you that the beef are far better than the chicken at La Margarita. But the chicken is good, just not as good as the beef.

Okay, so that was all I was going to say about La Margarita because really, we just wanted to get down there, eat, take a few pictures of Fiesta in the Market area, then get back home because we had something else going on later. And the way things started off, I was no kidding ready to tell you that this was the best service experience we had ever had at this particular restaurant. And then things fell apart.

In fairness, I am convinced that this had to be an isolated incident. But after we ate, we realized that we wouldn't be able to finish everything so we started thinking about getting a to-go container for the chicken fajitas, leftover rice and wonderful tortillas. And we sat there looking around for our waitress so as to ask for the container and our check. And we sat there some more. And we looked around at all the other waiters and waitresses and the mariachis and the other diners, but we could not locate our waitress to save our lives.

The fact that I saw so many other wait staff, I was starting to think that maybe they had gone through a shift change and our waitress may have passed on the bill to someone else. We look around some more and my wife decides to slip off to the powder room, thinking that will get us our bill. Nope.

Finally, I get up and find a man at the cashier desk and tell him that I seem to have lost my waitress and I need a to-go box and a check. He runs off, returns with the styro-foam container and then runs off again. Moments later, our waitress arrives, and almost as though we have interrupted her from some sort of international negotiation with the UN, hands us the ticket with a forced smile then spins around and is gone. And just like that, her tip which my wife had already laid out on the table got cut in half.
So we walk up to the counter to pay the bill and then head out the front door. What do we see just outside? Our waitress making lovey-dovey with a waiter from the restaurant across the ally. What the hell? No wonder she was so eager to get away from our table. I thought they were going to have to get a room for a minute. So I casually snapped a picture of them. By now, they had retrieved their tongues from one-another's lungs.

And my wife went right back inside, picked up what remained of the tip and then went to the cashier and told her that if the waitress asked about her tip, to tell her "that her "F'ing" boyfriend already gave it to her".
My wife is hard core like that. But aside from that little misstep, I enjoy La Margarita and we have never had service like that. It is a great place to take guests from out of town or just a good place for a little lunch. I give the beef fajitas a definite Tasty Treat, and you will too.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Lunch Report: Cheesy Janes...

Not long after our visit to Bobby J's over in Helotes, and still sensitive to our split decision, my wife and I opted to try another burger place and see if we could agree on the taste, quality and above all, appearance of the food. We were tempted by a coupon that had been stuck to our refrigerator for at least a week or two, and finally decided to try the Cheesy Jane's over on Bandera at 1604. I should tell you that we ate at and enjoyed the one up by Stone Oak a few years ago, but just never found the need to go again.

For me, the atmosphere of the place is pretty wide open and warehouse like. A series of tables and booths, you have the old diner style grill area in the back and just a few decorations. I think they are going for the Happy Days burger joint without the associated girls on skates and regular appearances by Arthur Fonzarelli.
I confess, I'm more of a Chili's or Clear Springs, and yes, even Bobby J's atmosphere sorta guy simply because I like looking at the things on the walls. Cheesy Jane's does have a train track hanging from the ceiling that goes around in circles with advertisements on it. But we came in for a burger, not entertainment! The menu does show a Chili Burger, but my wife opted instead to try a regular half-pound burger with cheddar cheese, and all the regular fixin's minus onions. She then added bacon and some guacamole. When our plates arrived, I suddenly had burger-envy. I opted to try something called the Pecos Burger. It is a half-pound of excellent meat, cheddar cheese, BBQ sauce and covered with something called splinters, which are fried onions and jalapeƱos. It came with a side of ranch, so I poured that on for good measure!

We both enjoyed the buns (slighty toasted) and the great tastes of the burgers. The little jalapeƱos on my Pecos Burger were not hot at all, but simply added a different taste, so if you are afraid of hot stuff, worry not. Our server kept my iced tea filled and we especially enjoyed that the manager or head cook or whoever he was, brought the meals out to each diner just to make sure everything was alright. Great service and pretty quick.
Our only disappointment was with the onion rings. We got the regular order (enough for two people, easily), and they were the perfect texture. Not over cooked and not too crisp. I'm an onion ring snob I suppose, and if I recall from our first trip to the Cheesy Jane's in Stone Oak, the onion rings did not have the same unique taste these did. In spite of their good appearance and texture, the breading had some sort of awkward aftertaste to them. At first, I thought it was the taste of a corn tortilla. Surely, that wasn't what they were going for. In the end, we decided they simply need to change the oil. It wasn't enough to ruin our visit, so when you go, feel free to order them and let me know if you get the same corny taste we got.Apparently, if you order a full one-pound burger and finish it, they take your picture and post it on the wall with your comments on the card. Before leaving, we stood there and read a lot of them - pretty funny stuff. I'm thinking on a day when I'm really hungry, I might just put on the ol' eatin' pants and give the one-pounder a try. But even if you aren't all that hungry, Cheesy Jane's has a burger right for you at a fair price, good service and something my wife and I can agree on. It is a Tasty Treat and get's my wife's Eeee-Yum seal of approval.

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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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