April 24


Monte Vista takes its fight to the schools

Monte Vista is the reason I live in San Antonio. When I moved here in 1988, under duress, my parents were living in an all-beige exurb on the northwest side. A single cactus in every yard; a chlorine-blue pool for every subdivision. The people I met two-stepped at strip-mall honky-tonks like Denim 'N Diamonds and occasionally camped with hairdryers and makeup at Canyon Lake (motto: taking the 'wild' out of 'wilderness'). With a different soundtrack, you could have filed it under Anywhere USA, and I couldn’t wait to move Somewhere Else.

Then I was introduced to Monte Vista's southern fringe, where well-scuffed Tudor and Italianate houses were home to a hodgepodge of Trinity, SAC and St. Mary's hopefuls and artists (and the entire cast of NIMH).


Plazarazzi: March 12, 2012

Much like my big-mouth cousin Crystal, grassroots organizations have multifarious ways of getting the word out, but the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center seriously outdid themselves this weekend for their big musical concert celebrating 25 years of inspiring social change (and pissing off a lot of people). Affluent Mexican nationals, Chicano/a activists and everyone in between fought for precious parking spaces outside Laurie Auditorium minutes before Lila Downs took the stage. In a Selena meets Ozzy Osbourne (in his prime) performance, the classically trained Downs held the audience quite captive – even after two encores – and drove famous locals like State Representative Mike Villarreal to shake their groove cosas in the aisles. (But if you follow me on Twitter, you already knew that.)


Defining the Alamo

In a recent column, I tried to tease apart the meaning and purpose of an urban waterway by exploring the evolution of the Mission Reach of the San Antonio River. Is it a drainage system, a public space, or a natural habitat? In the end it fulfills all these purposes, albeit imperfectly.

Now San Antonio faces a similar debate about the meaning and purpose of its most iconic building and the surrounding area. The Alamo Plaza Restoration Project has published a plan to transform Alamo Plaza into a glitzy historical education center. Not everyone’s impressed. The Express-News ran a skeptical quote from a member of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, pointing out that “the Alamo is not a museum. It’s a shrine.”

Meanwhile, a third camp is forming to defend the use of the Alamo grounds as a public space that would attract locals. The public face of this group is Phillip Myrick from the Project for Public Spaces (PPS), a New York-based organization which has had its hands in a number of urban revitalization projects from Main Plaza to The Pearl Brewery, and is conducting a series of placemaking workshops with City staff.


Duel's challenge

On January 25, the suits at Border Media called radio personality Chris Duel into their office and asked him to shut the door. They coolly announced that they "wanted to go a different direction" with "The Chris and Jason Show," which he'd been co-hosting with Jason Minnix on ESPN 1250 The Zone since 2008. Duel, well-versed in corporate-speak, knew exactly what that meant. He replayed the recent hallway greetings from his bosses – the weak smiles and lack of eye contact – and knew that his month-long paranoia had been justified. He was out of a job.

But the sprightly, ever-optimistic stand-up comedian confesses that he'd known for more than a year that he "wasn't really happy" at the station whose unofficial mantra was "sports, beer, and babes."

"If I was 25, that would be a great job," he says from across the table at Southtown's Liberty Bar at the Convent last week. "But is this my life's work? Do I really want to be doing this in ten years, when I'm 61?"


Papa Larry's fifth ride

As I walk into the IHOP at 37 and Hot Wells, Barbara Streisand and Barry Gibb are breathlessly crooning "Guilty," a song with a composition as bold as the man sitting before me. He's pensively scribbling something down in a tiny notebook that he slides neatly into his shirt pocket as I approach. For the fifth consecutive time, Democrat Larry Ricketts is running for Bexar County Sheriff.

After serving in the Vietnam War as a missile-launcher mechanic, Ricketts transitioned to civilian life with a 20-year career in the elevator repair business. In 1989, he joined the sheriff's department and worked in the downtown jail for the next seven years, where he was responsible for 140 prisoners every day.

To Ricketts, that valuable experience is his golden ticket in this delayed primary election.

"Every place you could work in the jail, I did it," he says with a rhythm not unlike a seasoned country and western singer. "I'm the only candidate who has worked in that jail."


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