"Madame, bear in mind That princes govern all things--save the wind." -Victor Hugo, The Infanta's Rose

Thursday, April 12, 2007

More adventures in Margaritaville

Today was the day of Mrs. Toast's big TLA presentation, and I'm happy to report that all went exceedingly well. Leading up to her big dog-and-pony show, she had been very nervous about the idea of standing up in front of several hundred professional librarians, all of whom would be eyeballing her skeptically while thinking, "who is this person, and what can they possibly tell me about Collaborative Wikis that I might find remotely useful?" As you may be aware, most librarians are possessed with a vast amount of wisdom about everything in the universe, their brains full of knowledge to the very limit of human capacity. It can be difficult to squeeze in new facts without the danger of information they have already learned popping out from the opposite side of their brains to make room for them (aka "The Kelly Bundy Syndrome"); this makes them a very tough crowd to play to.

But as the lights in the conference room went down, the first of her PowerPoint slides appeared on the screen to audible oohs and ahhs from the audience, who were simply blown away by the awesomeness of her font selection, background imaging, and tasteful use of bullet points. By the end of her show, she had them on their feet applauding and cheering, and library groupies came up to her afterwards to ask for her autograph and to find out where they might catch her next presentation.

You think I'm making this up, don't you?

Anyway, while Mrs. Toast was knocking 'em dead at her convention, I decided to head back over to the Riverwalk. It's kind of odd when I stop to think about it; the first time I came here was well over 20 years ago, and although it's changed and grown over the years, it still hasn't lost the casual charm and wonderful ambiance that I love so much about this place. With its unique combination of dining, lodging and entertainment concentrated in a spectacular riverfront setting, I don't think there's another place in America quite like it. It's small wonder that the International Travel Association recently rated San Antonio as the #12 most popular city in the USA for convention and seminar travelers, one of the smallest cities on ITA's list, even beating out major destinations like New York and Los Angeles.

However, on my way from our hotel, I again passed by the Alamo and was struck at the difference in the scene from when we had been there the previous evening. Gone was the respectful reverence displayed by the few people who were present last night; in its place was something like a circus sideshow carnival. Groups of small kids ran around screaming, oblivious to the solemnity of the location, their parents nowhere to be seen. Tourists mugged for the camera in front of the mission doors, some mocking the siege of 1836 by pretending to "shoot" each other. Across the street from Alamo Plaza, barkers attempted to cajole passing tourists to enter the Wax Museum, Ripley's Believe it Or Not, House of Mirrors, and some other unknown attraction that featured a ten-foot-tall 3-D animated cartoon caricature of "Davy Crockett" clutching a rifle and wearing an oversize coonskin cap. I thought it was rather appalling, and couldn't help but wonder what Crockett, Travis, Bowie and the others might think if they could be here to see it now. Growth and popularity does have its negative side.

After a little bit I came to the Rivercenter Mall, which seemed like a much more appropriate place for commerce, and I think anyone who plans to visit San Antonio needs to spend a little time here. Now, I would not normally recommend something like this as tour highlight; after all, I'm not really a retail sort of guy. But how many shopping malls in America look like this?

For anyone visiting from out of state, this is definitely the one-stop shopping spot for all your tacky Lone Star souvenirs: cowboy hats, belt buckles, stuffed armadillos, fake longhorn antlers, giant coffee mugs and shot glasses, mini oil derricks, A&M T-Shirts, and other, er, items. I mean seriously, folks, what better captures the essence of "Texas" than shellacked petrified cow poop? No home should be without one.

The mall has a lovely outdoor foot court, where you'll enjoy being serenaded by live music as you watch the cruise boats full of tourists go by. However, ornithophobics beware: the avian life here, including ducks, sparrows,
big fat black grackles, mockingbirds, and pigeons -- oh yes, most definitely the pigeons -- are so used to handouts from humans that you will be mobbed if a crumb so much as falls out of your mouth onto the ground. At one point a woman stood up and offered a nearby coven of pigeons some sort of food item, and they swooped in and dive-bombed her like a squadron of fighter jets. Alfred Hitchcock immediately came to mind.

But I pressed on, looking for a place to hang out and consume all those margaritas you nice readers have been asking me to have for you; after all, I take my responsibilities seriously and wouldn't want to let anyone down. Finally I found it: the Ibiza Bar (left), a funky little restaurant and watering hole that's part of the Hilton Paseo Del Rio complex. I've always wanted to visit the Balearic paradise, and this Ibiza will probably be as close as I'll ever get. The beverage that subsequently appeared on my table nearly brought tears to my eyes, it was a truly magnificent frozen concoction. And as I lifted it in symbolic toast, I honestly wished all of y'all could be here to enjoy one with me. We'd have us one hell of a fine time.

Oh, and don't forget to pick up a souvenir on your way home; that petrified meadow muffin ought to look great in your den.


  • At 4/13/2007 03:48:00 PM, Blogger Daisy Martin said…

    Shellacked petrified cow poop? I know what I'm buying the kids for Christmas this year. It's the gift that keeps on giving after all.

  • At 4/13/2007 10:26:00 PM, Blogger Chandira said…

    oopsy daisy just said what I wanted to say.. lol

    Being an ex-librarian, yes, we are a tough crowd! Go Mrs Toast!! Good job..

    I love birds, I would love that mall, cow-poop and all.. But, being a Brit, the novelty value is still there, even after 7 years of this weird country.. lol

  • At 4/14/2007 01:32:00 PM, Blogger Sphincter said…

    You go, Mrs. Toast! I am in total awe of conference presenters--I'm sure she would have knocked my socks off.


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