Wednesday, May 4, 2011

PCAS/San Antonio Wrap Up

Okay, Readers Mine, with exams knocked out it’s time to finish up my San Antonio Tales. Saturday, our final full day, was not so much about the conference as it was about getting out and playing tourist in San Antonio. To which end we linked up with a couple of friends who’d driven out from Huston and set out to do the town, starting in the logical place:

The Alamo. Which is right downtown among a lovely series of public spaces and parks, where San Antonio was hosting a celebration of Turkish food and culture all day, complete with kebabs, dancers, music, and fezzes. Unfortunately we just didn’t have time to dive into that, but it was an interesting admixture to the day. For months before the trip every time I would say that we were going to San Antonio, I’d be asked if we were going to see the Alamo, and when I replied in the affirmative I’d get some variation on “Well, don’t be disappointed. It’s really small.” Actually, it’s not. First there’s this huge neo-socialist realistic monument in the middle of the street across from the mission that is anything but small. The surviving building, the mission church itself, is no Notre Dame de Paris, but it’s not exactly an outhouse either. Near this are the surviving Long Barracks were the Texians and their fellows made their last, hand to hand, stand, and between is a beautiful, cool, and shady park dominated by an ancient live oak that spreads its twisting limbs over something like half a city block. Now, maybe people are referring to the fact that the structures which have survived since 1836 comprise only a small portion of the original structures within the Alamo’s walls, but I have to say that overall the Alamo is one of the most beautiful, well maintained, pleasantly informative historic sites I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. Plus, you get a deep cut from Phil Collins, who turns out to be the world’s #1 collector of Alamo relics and a long time supporter of the historic site (pictured above in his Geneva home with some of his Alamo memorabilia). He even narrates the voice-over for the diorama re-enactment in the History Store which sits atop the active archaeological dig, and provides visitors with a look at the actual dig and the artifacts found there. One note I will make is that, when you go buy the audio guide for the mission church and gardens, but don’t bother with it once you get into the Long Barracks, the historians and Daughters of the Republic of Texas who have overseen the site since the early 1900s, have provided comprehensive historical displays and readings that far outstrip the audio-tour’s narration (NOT done by Phil Collins), and you get to the point where you can read faster than the guy on the audio tour talks. All in all it was a really fun day for a total of $11/person.

The Original Mexican Restaurant was next on the agenda, since walking about the Alamo for several hours can bring on an appetite. The Original Mexican Restaurant solved this dilemma with some fantastic Tex-Mex cuisine. I recommend the Chiles Rellenos, and if you don’t try the fresh guacamole, particularly on a hot San Antonio day, you have made a grave error, and missed something special. The restaurant is right on the river-walk, and for those looking for a bit of a break from the heat is nicely air-conditioned inside.

The Mercado. After being revived with great food, we hopped one of San Antonio’s trolleys and headed out to the Market Square, or Mercado, a several block square collection of shops and restaurants, where is stocked a truly astounding quantity of Mexican imports, up to and including Mexican Wrestling masks! Much fun was had tracking down souvenir gifts to take back to family, friends, and dog sitters, while Mock’ managed to find one or two things for us as well.

Clash of the Titans (1981). Finally, after returning to the hotel for a nap we rejoined our friends and set out for the PCAS/ACA Science Fiction Area’s annual Saturday night movie and raffle, where Mock and I sat in the back and snarked through the film a la MST3K, much to the delight of our seat-mates, fortunately. Still, how can you resist poking fun of a film that includes Laurence Oliver as Zeus, Burgess Meredith as the plucky theater owner, and Harry frakkin’ Hamlin as the hero Perseus? Release the Kraken!!!

Afterwards we bid our friends goodbye all prepared to return to their various homes and schools across the country and in Canada, and, truth to tell, I think everyone was ready. The conference was a huge success, and massive fun, but it takes a little out of you, for sure. Still, I’d go again in a heartbeat, and I can unreservedly recommend San Antonio to anyone as an absolutely lovely, fun city to play around in.

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