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The Alamo Hour
47 minutes | a month ago
Marcus Baskerville, Owner and Brewer of Weathered Souls Brewing Co.
Marcus began brewing with a cheap home brewing kit. It spawned a passion for brewing that found him in San Antonio opening Weathered Souls Brewing Co. As if that wasn't enough, he started the Black is Beautiful initiative that was joined by over 1200 breweries around the world. It raised money and awareness for social justice causes.Transcript:[music]Justin Hill: Hello and Bienvenidos San Antonio, welcome to the Alamo Hour, discussing the people, places and passions that make our city. My name is Justin Hill, a local attorney, proud San Antonian and keeper of chickens and bees. On the Alamo Hour, you'll get to hear from the people that make San Antonio great and unique, and the best kept secret in Texas. We're glad that you're here.Welcome to the Alamo Hour. Today's guest is Marcus Baskerville. Marcus is the brewer and co-founder of Weathered Souls Brewing right here in San Antonio. As if the story about all the inventive beers is not impressive enough, you spearheaded and created what turned into a international movement called the Black Is Beautiful Movement, which ended up including 1200 breweries across 22 countries and for us Texans, 122 participating breweries just here in Texas. I'm really excited to meet you and chat with you and thank you for doing this Marcus.Marcus Baskerville: Yes, no problem. Thank you for having me.Justin: You are in your yeast lab is what I think I heard you say a second ago.Marcus: No, office used to be my use lab. Now I'm in my crate office.Justin: [laughs] When you grow a business, you grow where you can grow.Marcus: Exactly. [crosstalk].Justin: We do all these similar. I want to ask you a few questions, get to know you a little bit, talk to you about San Antonio. I know some of the answers because I did some research beforehand, but when and what brought you to San Antonio?Marcus: I moved to San Antonio almost eight years ago, I think June will be eight years. What brought me to San Antonio was actually a promotion. I used to be in fraud prevention dealing with banking. I came out here to train some new employees as they moved to corporate office from Sacramento to San Antonio. In the process of that, ended up getting a little promotion and decided to stay.Justin: Born and raised in Sacramento, right?Marcus: Yes.Justin: You moved here eight years ago. How have you liked it so far?Marcus: I've enjoyed it. I'm still here, right?Justin: I mean, the weather is very different than Sacramento.Marcus: Weather is this huge difference. That's what keeps my family from coming too often. They're like, "Oh, your guys' weather is so sporadic." Outside of that and the occasional bad drivers, I've really enjoyed San Antonio.Justin: You haven't been here all that long. Eight years is a while, but what are some of your favorite hidden places in San Antonio, hidden gems, places that when you moved here, nobody really told you about and then when you found them, you thought, "Wow, how did I not know about this?" For me the Botanical and the Japanese Tea Gardens are two of those things that when I finally went there, I thought, "Why didn't anyone tell me about this?" Do you have any places like that here?Marcus: That would definitely be one of them. I actually just went to that recently with my children a couple of months ago. That was the first time I had been. I was like, "Wow, this is a beautiful place. I wish I'd known about this years ago.|Justin: You wouldn't even know when you're hear.Marcus: Yes, exactly. Then outside of that, one of the things originally when I first moved here was the Pearl. I really enjoyed Pearl area just to be outside and that type of thing. Nobody really put me onto the Pearl back in the day and outside of that really, some of the like different trails and hiking, different things like that. I like to try to get outdoors, I'm always inside all the time. When I do have the opportunity to get outside, I like to [unintelligible 00:03:44].Justin: The hiking and all those options--Marcus: To get a little bit of sunshine in my life.Justin: Those have improved a lot since the time you've been here. When I first moved here-- I haven't been here that much longer, but the mission trail South and all that stuff, wasn't even an option back then. I read about your really big obsession into homebrewing, how you came up in the brewing world. One of the things was you were very passionate about it, very focused about it. Do you have any odd hobbies outside of brewing?Marcus: [chuckles] Bourbon collecting has become a new hobby for me. I got into bourbon about three years ago. Then that's transitioned into other things. I've been on a quest to make the perfect Old Fashion. That's something that I do at home. I've changed my ices from the sphere, and now I have the cubes and been working with different oranges, different bitters and different whiskey combinations.That's turned into a little hobby for me even reading on the history of old fashions, but definitely the whole bourbon thing. Outside of that. I mean beer evolves most of my life. When I do have the opportunity to get out of here, it's mostly spending time with the kids and making sure that they get their daddy time in.Justin: Do you boil your water before you make ice?Marcus: No. I actually have ice molds that produce clear ice.Justin: All right. Have you done any of the Fiesta events? Do you have a favorite event?Marcus: I've only been to Fiesta once. I am very much the introvert despite the fact that I've had to do a lot of talking as of the last year. Those large, huge groups if there's people around make me very nervous.Justin: I'm not a big fan of the really big events.Marcus: I've been to Fiesta once.Justin: There's a lot of small events too you should check it out.Marcus: I know I did-- I can't even remember the name of which one I went to. I don't remember, but it was when parents came to town and we ended up going out and enjoying Fiesta, but it's a lot of people. Even then you look at many people. Generally, if I'm doing stuff, it's in the smaller crowd, small crowd room where I can count the number of people.Justin: I appreciate that. What is your favorite beer to drink just every day? What would be your go-to beer style?Marcus: My favorite to-style would definitely be probably a Pilsner. Also in that room's definitely West Coast IPA. I'm a huge West Coast IPA fan, just because that's where I came from basically. One of the first styles that I got into, gravitated towards when I actually got into the beer scene. Generally, if I am going to have a beer, it's going to be something on the lighter spectrum. Something lighter, so it's not as heavy on your stomach or you got more than one of them. Generally it's a lager or a West Coast [unintelligible 00:07:06].Justin: Y'all do some hard ciders as well. Are you planning on or are you interested in branching out into other fermented alcoholic drinks?Marcus: At the moment, no. I have gotten a steal recently, so I do want to get into the realm of doing my own whiskey and bourbon. It's made me nervous. I need to have somebody come over and assist me. The whole blowing up my garage thing has made me nervous. I'll wait until the expert has some extra time to come by the house. I have a few people in mind and we'll test it out and see what we can come up with.The way that I am when it comes to when I get into interest of things, like I get full blown into it. Even with the [unintelligible 00:07:58] I'm going to make sure that I can either source me in a white American Oak barrel, or I even want to go ahead and try my own barrel, but when the time comes, we'll figure it out. I want to evolve into the whole experience of creating my own whiskey or bourbon. When I do get some additional time, we'll go ahead and experiment with that a little bit [inaudible 00:08:19].Justin: Is a barrel maker called a cooper? Is that what [crosstalk].Marcus: Cooper. Yes, I guess with the [inaudible 00:08:31] I think so.Justin: Do we have any coopers in San Antonio?Marcus: I don't want to make barrels. I don't think so. I know there obviously has to be someone in Texas with all the distilleries that are popping up in the state of Texas, but I've never heard of one in San Antonio.Justin: I had a boy in from Dortch Alon, they started as a distiller and then they got into brewing. His still has its own interesting story to coming over from Serbia.Marcus: I didn't know he was from Serbia.Justin: They bring in nectarines or gosh, I feel bad that I can't remember. Not peaches. Apricots. They bring in apricots from Serbia, still for their Rockier. It's interesting.Marcus: I haven't been to [unintelligible 00:09:27] since COVID. Maybe I have to go by and check them out. You have a little cocktail.Justin: He's got a really interesting family history behind the [unintelligible 00:09:36] and the rockier and all of that stuff. I think he even got stopped by the feds bringing in rockier. Basically, he got arrested for bootlegging when he was 12. He's got an interesting story about that.Marcus: I'll have to pick his brain about that one day.Justin: You've gotten into old fashions, what's the perfect old fashion right now?Marcus: My favorite to make right now is a mocha old fashion. I ended up creating a coffee bitters-- Well, excuse me, a coffee [inaudible 00:10:12] a little bit of chocolate whiskey, and then obviously orange. I like the dry mandarin oranges from Trader Joe's, those are really good. Yes, those are really good.Justin: I have an orange tree that was just gangbusters for years, but I think the freeze probably wiped it out, which is pretty unfortunate because it was probably 12 feet tall. It was a big old naval orange tree.Marcus: Oh, man.Justin: Let's talk about it. You got into homebrewing in the way that a lot of people thought they were going to at some point. I even had that Mr. Homebrew kit or whatever it was called and that's how you got into it, right?Marcus: [chuckles] Yes. My brother had got a Mr. Beer kit for Christmas from my sister, and he had root brew it beer in it, it was horrible. Mr. Beer kits don't make the beer as it is, but it was one of those things where it was like, "I can make a better beer than you." We actually ended up doing our first couple of beers together, and then I ended up moving to San Antonio about a year later.When I moved out here, obviously I didn't know anybody, was really more focused on work and that type of thing, and so I ended up homebrewing here in San Antonio. At some point, I ended up getting in a car accident within the first couple of months that I moved here and I took the money that I got from the accident and upgraded my homebrewer with it. From there, did a couple of beers here and there and nothing ever really hit, nothing was ever really that good.At some point, I actually almost quit homebrewing, and then somebody ended up talking to me and saying, "No, you've invested all this money within homebrewing. You need to go ahead and keep at it, see what happens." I actually remembered the catalyst point of when I made my first good beer and it was listening to a brewing network podcast that had Annie Johnson on it.Annie Johnson was 2013 homebrewer of the year. In the conversation, she had talked about dealing with not drinking while you're brewing, certain little processes and practices that she implemented into her [unintelligible 00:12:40] that brought her success. Being that she was the first woman home brewer of the year, she was also the first black person that has achieved homebrewer of the year, and she was also from Sacramento where I'm originally from.You see that where it's like, you see somebody has reached the pinnacle and you look at them, they look like you and it's like, "Okay, I can do this too." The next beer I ended up doing was a robust porter, and I want to say that it was actually a heretic clone for [unintelligible 00:13:15] and it was from a more beer kit that came and mind you I made some little adjustments here and there just because that's the person that I am, and that was actually the first good beer that I made.That recipe has changed over the course of time, and it's now one of our staples in the taproom, which is around about midnight.Justin: What year would this have been?Marcus: That's 2013.Justin: I was reading a bunch of interviews with you and one thing that really stood out to me, which made me think of Malcolm Gladwell's books about how do you become really good at something that you want to be good at. They talk about the 10,000 hour rule and all that, but while you were in Sacramento, you went and even volunteered at breweries, if I read that correctly.Marcus: Yes. I actually just got the 10 times rule book yesterday.Justin: Nice.Marcus: I started diving into that last night.Justin: That wasn't your job, that was your passion, but you went and just volunteered your time to learn more.Marcus: Yes. Once I started making some good beer, I started bringing beer to local restaurants, bars, breweries, and that type of thing. From there, I had brought my beer to a local brewery here, they enjoyed what I ended up bringing and offered, "You have a tap take over." I ended up having a tap take over in my beer that the home brew actually sold more than what their standard beer was in their taproom.I didn't really volunteer too much outside of just going to hang out and watching what's going on. They ended up offering me a job, and I ended up taking an assistant brewer job on top of working full-time, 50 plus hours at the bank as a manager. I worked at this brewery for about a year, learning the do's and don'ts, things that you should do brewing, some not so good practices, that type of thing.From there, I grew unhappy. I wanted to be able to experiment more, and create my own recipes and brew my own beer. Mind you in the standard brewing setting, I mean, that's standard. You go to a brewery and you're an assistant brewer, you're not brewing your own recipes and you're doing whatever needs to be done. That was fine at the time, but for me, it was a part-time job.It wasn't like I had to have this job on top of I'm making great beer at home. If I don't work here, then it's not going to end all for me. Being said, I ended up leaving and continued making my own beer, that different types of things. Had another tap takeover at a local bar. They're no longer here, but it was Missions untapped, a wonderful place. It was a little dive bar off Broadway. Well, not really a dive bar, but craft beer bar.I guess I can add to the list of place that people didn't tell me about that I enjoyed. Had a tap take over there, and it went fantastic. I think I had four beers on tap and all four of them tapped out. These are [unintelligible 00:16:24], so five gallon slims. Me and my current business partner, used to hang out, have a couple of drinks at that local place. One day we were out drinking and I was like, "Mike, when are we going to open a brewery?" He looked at me and he goes, "I've been waiting for you to ask me that." We literally started working on the business plan a couple of days later.Justin: Awesome. You talked about these tap takeovers. I remember whenever you were doing it, but I didn't know it was you at the time, because there was a big buzz on social media about it. Talk to me about sort of how those opportunities really just-- That has to just catapult your trajectory, in sort of an unforeseen way, right?Marcus: It definitely helped out within the local craft beer community, because they introduced me to a lot of people that didn't really know about me or beers that I was producing. Even before we had the brewery opening, pretty much that garnered a following for some of the beers that I was producing, and some of the fun stuff that was going on. On top of being in a couple of tap takeovers, I had won a couple of local homebrew awards, and a couple of little local homebrew competitions and stuff like that.Some people knew about the beers that we were producing. I mean, literally when we started going into creating the brewery, we started hosting sensory panels and stuff like that, to get feedback for some of the beers we were doing, what direction we should go with some of the beers we were doing. We had tons of people that offered to come drink these beers for the sensory program, just based off of what they knew of me from these couple of tap takeovers and working at the other local brewery.That definitely helped us within the local scene starting out. It brought an excitement to our opening and helping us get off on a good foot. You can say, within the San Antonio craft beer community.Justin: Yes. When I was in college, I was really into craft beer, but back then, there was only a handful of craft brewers in the state of Texas. I remember, they were just trying to be good at their three or four, and then you had St. Arnold start their divine reserve program and that was just such a big buzz. I was looking at your list of beers and it's a very unique list of beers on tap at your tasting room.Talk to me when you all finally decided to open your own brewery, you obviously wanted it to be different than what else was on the market. What was your idea? What was your vision for your own brewery?Marcus: Yes. Dealing with the type of beers that we have on tap originally, I mean, obviously, we gravitated towards things that San Antonio wasn't really familiar with, and that helped us, as well as gaining some support within the community. I was heavy into imperial stouts, barrel aged stouts, IPAs, sours, that type of thing when I used to drink within California and back home and that type of stuff.That was more so what I had...
59 minutes | 2 months ago
Anya Grokhovski, CEO and Artistic Director Musical Bridges Around the World
Anya Grokhovski is the CEO and Artistic Director of Musical Bridges Around the World a 501(c)(3) dedicated to sharing music through education and performances in and around San Antonio. She is a classically trained and educated musician herself. She is funny, charming and well worth your time.Transcript:[silence] [music]Justin: Hello and Bienvenidos, San Antonio. Welcome to the Alamo Hour, discussing the people, places, and passion that make our city. My name is Justin Hill, a local attorney, a proud San Antonion, and keeper of chicken and bees. On the Alamo Hour, you'll get to hear from the people that make San Antonio great and unique and the best-kept secret in Texas. We're glad that you're here.Welcome to the Alamo Hour, today's guest is Anya Grokhovski. She's the artistic director and CEO of Musical Bridges Around The World. She herself is a very accomplished pianist. I think you have a PhD in music or piano?Anya Grokhovski: DMA, Doctor of Musical Arts.Justin: Similar, I've got a doctorate in jurisprudence, but nobody calls me doctor. Anya started Musical Bridges Around The World, which really sounds like just your passion project and your attempt to share your love of music, and bring a really different style and quality of music to our city.Anya: Yes. That is all.Justin: Thank you for being here. I want to talk about Musical Bridges. I want to talk about your history as a musician and also in bringing this to our city and all of the events that you've put on. It's beautiful, what you're doing from children all the way through to older people. You've got a program for everybody and we're going to talk about that. I start this little getting to know you so we're going to go through our top 10 questions that I ask a bunch of people. They change a little bit but a lot of them are the same. You mentioned it already, what kind of pets do you have?Anya: I have two large dogs.Justin: How large? Great Dane large?Anya: No, not quite as large but pretty large [chuckles]. I've got German Shepherd and I got a mutt, when we got him from the [unintelligible 00:01:58], we hoped that he will be a golden retriever, but he turned out to be made out of parts of different dogs and he's the sweetest thing you can imagine.Justin: What are their names?Anya: The mutt is Duke and the german shepherd is Lexi.Justin: I grew up and I had a golden retriever named Duchess.[laughter]Anya: They're related [laughs].Justin: Duchess had puppies with a dog named Duke at one point in life so it comes full circle. Now, with COVID, it's a little bit different but what are some of your favorite spots to eat at, and now it's almost what are your favorite spots to get takeout out at?Anya: I'm really big fan of ethnic food. Every time I can get excuse to go to Indian restaurant, I will. I just recently ate again in Indian Palace. I love them. There is Afghani restaurants and there are all kinds of restaurants. There's no Russian restaurant, unfortunately, in San Antonio and it's crossed my mind maybe in my next life I would open one [laughs].Justin: I don't want to be insensitive but are Russians known for their cuisine?Anya: Yes, it's a very good cuisine. In general, Russian culture was very influenced by French culture. The Russian ethnic food is based on vegetables and famous borscht, I even made video of me making borscht because people been asking me for years, "Anya, how do you make that famous borscht," so I made a video of that.Justin: I love borscht and I love beef.Anya: I'll share it with you. I'll share the video.Justin: Then, I think, caviar too for whatever reason when I think of the Russian cuisine.Anya: Caviar is a good stuff too.Justin: Indian Palace is your favorite Indian spot in town?Anya: It is, yes and I am not getting paid for this promotion [laughs].Justin: Neither of us are.[laughter]Justin: You've lived in San Antonio a while, how long?Anya: Oh, I came here in '91.Justin: What are some of your favorite hidden gems? When I have people come to town, the Alamo and those things are great but I tell them, the Botanical Gardens are-- If you live here, you probably go the further down Missions. I didn't go for 10 years to see the other Mission. What are some of your favorite hidden gems in the city?Anya: When we bring guest artists from all over the world, we show them around and it helps for us. I've been here for a very long time. It helps me to look at San Antonio through their eyes which is very interesting. We always take people to McNay Art Museum. I think this is absolutely fabulous, fabulous place in San Antonio. We take, of course, Riverwalk and Pearl but where I would lately started to take people to, is wineries around Texas.We get all these musicians from France and Italy and they're all cocky about their food and wine and all that. We'll say, "Wait a minute. Let's try some Texas wines." I think that's a hidden gem, still, actually the Texas Hill Country with [crosstalk]Justin: Have they liked the Texas Hill Country wines?Anya: They say they do. I don't think they have choice when we take them around [laughs] but I do. I think this is great wine and overall the situation is just [crosstalk]Justin: The experience is fun.Anya: The experience is fun, yes. Absolutely, and we're so close to this. It's fabulous.Justin: I was just talking to my wife. It's going to be a good, get out of the house, pretty safe trip, and we're going to go up there and do that. I haven't done in years. It's different now than it used to be. I have a bunch of friends that worked in the restaurants in San Antonio, who are now up there working in wineries.Anya: You'll be surprised, they're just growing. It used to be 48 wineries, I think they doubled right now.Justin: Is that right. The state of Texas gives them a lot of support to open wineries, the Go Texan stuff. We have nine appellations in Texas. The state's done a really good job to encourage that kind of wine tourism. You're a musician, obviously, do you have any other hobbies?Anya: Oh, I have too many hobbies, for normal human being [laughs].Justin: Any odd hobbies?Anya: I don't know how odd but I'm a good cook. I like to cook. I had different hobbies in different periods of my life. I used to sew, I even used to sew for living when I was in Russia, and then somehow that was over, then, I was doing ceramic for a while. My latest hobby is interior design. I just remodeled my house, I'm still recuperating. I'm going to survive the next five years. It's like PTSD after a while, but it's very rewarding, and it's a great opportunity to exercise the interior design aspirations.Justin: What's your favorite type of cuisine to cook?Anya: Probably Italian more than the French I would say. I like clean products. I don't like to overwork whatever I work with [laughs]. We have this series of home concerts and for many years, I used to cater, pretty much myself so [laughs] that was interesting experience as well.Justin: I keep saying I'm going to learn how to cook ossobuco, I still have not learned. I feel like it can't be that difficult, but I still haven't tried to really do it.Anya: I'm sure it's not. I've done it once or twice.Justin: What's your favorite Fiesta event?Anya: I'm embarrassed to say, but I'm not very much into Fiesta.Justin: Okay, but you've been to some events if you've been here since '91?Anya: Yes, I've been to some events. The biggest event I've been to was the flower parade. I believe it was nice and interesting but overall, I'm not the crowd kind of girl. I like to stay quiet [laughs] which is weird because I run performing arts organisation [laughs].Justin: I'm not a big crowd person either. Have you been to the Arts fair at the Southwest School of Arts?Anya: Yes, I have and I love that school.Justin: If you get there early, the event's great. It's not packed, by four or five, it starts getting pretty packed but early on it's great. It's one of my, if not my favorite event. You're a classically-trained musician, you're obviously into classical music, but what do you listen to in your car? Do you have guilty music pleasure?Anya: I do, my favorite actually is Bossa Nova. I think in my previous life maybe I was Brazilian [laughs] I don't know [crosstalk].Justin: I didn't know, I thought you'd say rap or something.[laughter]Anya: No, I didn't go that far yet. Bossa Nova touches some strings in me I didn't know existed.Justin: I think that's fair. We've touched on it but you're a classically-trained musician. You've toured all over the world is my understanding, talk to me about you come from a family of musicians. Give us a little background of how you got into music in such a sort of in-depth way?Anya: I was born and raised in Soviet Union, for the starters. My father was the violinist in Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra all his life. My mother is a violinist as well and she was a renowned teacher in Russia, as well as she played in the musical theaters in the orchestras. As far as I remember myself, I was always backstage in an orchestra or in a symphony, so that was really not a matter of choice for me to become a musician.We have this going joke in the family that two violinists needed [unintelligible 00:09:44] that's why they took me to a music school. I started my piano lessons when I was five. Nobody asked if I want to do it. Nobody asked if I have talent. Nobody asked this, whatever. It was what I was supposed to be doing and that's what I did.Justin: You hear everything about how it was grown up over there, but was that your education was music, or did you go to school all day like you would in America, and then music after school?Anya: Yes. I went to public school just normal school in the morning. Then I went to music school three times a week since it was socialism, things were costing next to nothing, practically free. I had my piano lessons twice a week. I also had [unintelligible 00:10:32] and choir and music theory and whatever. They really have that system there working well. That's why Russia is still producing enormous amount of fabulous musicians.Justin: How long was your father with the Moscow Philharmonic?Anya: For 45 years.Justin: Wow. That's a pretty competitive thing, right, to become--Anya: Oh yes. I think he got there. He played auditions for like 10 times to get in the orchestra. That was very competitive. That was a totally different life than what normal Soviet people would experience because he was traveling all the time with the orchestrate at a time when we lived in a closed country, nobody knew anything about the West. It was pre-internet time. You remember that time?Justin: Yes.Anya: He had seen the entire world, really, where majority of Russians only saw what they've been shown on TV.Justin: Did you live in Moscow?Anya: Yes, we lived in Moscow.Justin: Did you get to travel with him when you were a kid or did y'all have to stay put?Anya: No, we had to stay put. I know for Americans it's really hard to understand, but it was impossible to travel or to leave the country or nothing because you needed exit visa. Now I think Russians only need entrance visa to the country they go to all the time. I have this funny story. I don't know how funny, it's funny now. When I was a teenager, my mother was going to go to Bulgaria for vacation. She wanted to take me with her and it was part of the group too. It was not like you're just going wild to the wild West and stuff.In order for her to take me, I needed to get permission from the college I was in. The college called me to the meeting of a communist leadership, and I was not really into communist, more politics in general at the time. They asked me why I'm not member of the [unintelligible 00:12:31], which was the step on the way to. I said, "Well, I wasn't invited." They thought that it was politically not savvy answer and they did not sign my papers and I've never went to Bulgaria. The first country I came to actually was United States when I was 29, before that I never left Russia.Justin: It's funny hearing you went to vacation in Bulgaria because it's not known as a grand vacation destination these days, but [unintelligible 00:13:00] limited right?Anya: Bulgari actually has-- I've never been to Bulgaria to this day, but I've heard that they have beautiful beaches and the sea. For Soviets, that was the place to go at the time. I was not even able to do that because, at the time, I didn't know how to say right things in the right time. I made a lot of progress since then.Justin: Even though it was within the iron curtain, as we called it, even though it was within that, you'll still had to get special permission to travel within?Anya: Yes. [unintelligible 00:13:31]Justin: I went to law school with a guy who's from Bulgaria and his parents hid under a raft and floated down a river to get out of Bulgaria and they're Americans now. It was a wild story he told me about his parents, different time. Were you there when the wall fell?Anya: No. I was already in the United States. I came to US with my ex-husband and my son, in exchange program. That was the first time I left Russia and it was '89. The wall fell in '91. We were driving from Illinois in the car to San Antonio when we already were moving here and then the car we were listening, the reports from Moscow were like shooters were on the roofs, and gangs were coming down the streets. I remember there was absolutely surreal feeling.Justin: Was it emotional for you?Anya: Yes. Although by now I've spent most of my life here already, I'm more American than Russian. Still, I grew up in that country, I know the culture, I know the people, and every time something goes wrong, I do take it personally.Justin: At the time when the wall fell, you hadn't been here all that long?Anya: No, I just came. I was worried about people, tanks in Moscow, I've never seen-- I only seen tanks on TV in my life. The streets where I went to school there were tanks, they were showing and talking, CNN was on the roof somewhere. It was still pretty bad. Now looking back, I believe it was a good thing that it happened, but that was pretty scary.Justin: Tons of uncertainty too at that point. You became an accomplished pianist while you were in Russia or the Soviet Union at the time. Talk to me, you went to school for piano, but then did you, at some point break from schooling and just take up piano, or was it all school, all piano until you were done?Anya: The system there is like you go to public school and then you enter what's here would considered to be a magnet school or college from 15 to 19, so I did that. Then there's master degree, which is five years in Russia, so I did that. Then there's doctorate separately. I did everything up to my doctorate and then we immigrated to United States.I did doctorate later, already after I'd been in the United States for a while. I did it in Russia mainly because I chickened out, I didn't think my English would be good enough to go through doctorate here at the time, so I went back and did doctorate there.Justin: Some of the stuff provided by Rudy, who's a mutual friend of ours and a PR extraordinaire in this city who could be, he's just so calm about it. He's so good at what he does. Some of the stuff he told me was you did a lot of touring around the world yourself as a pianist. Was that in your Soviet time or was that once you were in the United States?Anya: That was once I was already in the United States. In Soviet Union still, I lived at a time where things were not possible. The only way pianists could go to the West if they take part in a competition or something, that has to be sanctioned by the government as well.Justin: Was there a real fear that if they let y'all go that y'all were just not coming back?Anya: I think so, yes. My dad traveled with his orchestra and they always had couple of KGB guys with them.Justin: Is that right?Anya: Absolutely, yes. They knew they probably carried a little something in their pockets, but they were young KGB dudes, orchestra had 50 people, so maybe like five to seven KGB guys.Justin: I assume there'll be in part of the Moscow Philharmonic meant that he was provided some creature comforts that normal citizens were not. I doubt he was having to stand in the bread line because that was a pride of the Soviet Union, wasn't it, so they were probably taken care of pretty good?Anya: I think that the main difference was that they were able to travel and see the world. They also were able to bring things like where I was telling the story to my friends, they can believe it here. If you see the line, you'll go to the end of the line. When you get closer, you'll find that what is it they selling? Then whatever it is they selling and no matter what size it is, you just buy it.He was traveling, he was bringing clothes and little souvenirs. I tried Coca-Cola for the first time when I was like 13. There was no Coca-Cola in Russia, you can imagine. There was some privileges in that. Also, it was a wonderful life. He loved his work. He loved music, he loved orchestra. I think he was a happy man. He just passed away two years ago.Justin: The stories he has I'm sure were just incredible. You came over, how old were you when you came to the...
49 minutes | 3 months ago
Judge Monique Diaz, 150th District Court Judge
Judge Diaz is still in her first term as an elected district court judge, but she is already making her mark on creating new systems to address domestic violence. If you enjoyed the episode with Gary Slutkin, you will enjoy hearing about this innovative approach to domestic violence.Transcript:[music]Justin Hill: Hello and Bienvenidos, San Antonio. Welcome to the Alamo Hour, discussing the people, places, and passion that make our city. My name is Justin Hill, a local attorney, a proud San Antonian, and keeper of chickens and bees. On the Alamo Hour, you'll get to hear from the people that make San Antonio great and unique, and the best-kept secret in Texas. We're glad that you're here.[applause]All right. Welcome to the Alamo Hour, today's guest is Judge Monique Diaz, the 150th Judicial District elected judge here in Bexar County, thanks judge for being here.Monique Diaz: Hi Justin. Thank you for having me, that was quite the introduction.Justin: Well, we put a lot of work into it. Judge Diaz and I go way back long before either of us were really more than just trying to find our way in the legal, and showing up at political fundraisers for one reason or another, and the lowest of the low people on the totem pole at that point. We met a long time ago and we've stayed in touch and now you're a judge, and I kind of know how to find the courthouse now so we've grown up a little bit.Monique: We sure have. It's been quite a while and there's no need to really find the courthouse anymore because everything is on Zoom so-Justin: This is true.Monique: -you can find it at the comfort of your home, Justin.Justin: Unfortunately, some of the smaller counties though don't really like the Zoom and there are some places that are requiring people to show up.Monique: I have heard that that's the case and it's my understanding that under the Supreme Court has issued a series of orders that have helped guide our decisions, in whether we can have in-person hearings or not. It's my understanding that some counties can do that, if they have a plan that's been pre-approved and if their local county officials decide to proceed with that. Here in Bexar County, we're not quite ready for that yet.Justin: Well, there was a federal court case in Sherman, Texas that got going and last I heard, they had traced it out to 40 people that had gotten sick from just that trial. They canceled it midway and then just, it went gangbusters.Monique: I saw that Justin, and that's one of the reasons why we're being really careful here in Bexar County. We do have a plan that was approved by the Supreme Court already however, our local administrative judge and our local officials are not ready to proceed yet. They're really relying primarily on the Metro Health recommendations on when it's safe for us to all proceed.Now, we have plexiglass up in our courtrooms and we're ready to go otherwise, but I think they're looking at things like-- They have some a matrix where they look at the positivity rate, the death rate, and the amount of hospital beds, so that's part of what we're looking to. I don't see us being ready by the tentative April-1st deadline that you may have heard about.Justin: It's good that we have elected officials paying attention to science in their decision-making. We're going to get to the courthouse here in a second, I want to ask you some questions about that, but just some of the-- We go through general getting to know you, this is San Antonio podcast, San Antonio stuff.Judge, what are you doing to decompress during all this, because honestly it, at first I think we were all like, “Oh, let's make a sourdough bread,” and now we're watching an insurrection? It's taken on a life of its own, I wish I had a better way to decompress, but instead I've just put on a few pounds but I'll lose them. What have you been doing to stay sane?Monique: Well, I also put on the COVID-19 as I like to fondly call it.Justice: Nice.Monique: I was one of those people that got in line to buy a bicycle and I've been trying to enjoy the outdoors as much as possible, I ride my bike wherever I can. I actually sold my car because I [chuckles] [crosstalk] so little. Besides that, I've been working really hard but I've been enjoying podcasts like yours, trying to catch up on reading and puzzles. I'm a little obsessed with puzzles, they've been a good way to decompress.Justin: Do you live close enough to the courthouse to ride?Monique: Well, I don't like to comment on where I live Mr. Hill, but [chuckles] I do like to ride around the city wherever I can. My partner and I have a car, so when I need one or I need to get [crosstalk].Justin: You have access to a car, okay.Monique: [laughs].Justine: I tell people I ride to the office and I do ride to the office, I just don't tell them how close it is because it's way less impressive when I tell them that.Monique: [laughs].Justin: I've gone bike-crazy. I bought an electric bike, it kind of got forced upon me, which is really awesome but I also did the Peloton thing and now I'm in that never-ending trap of, “It'll be delivered in two weeks” and then it keeps getting pushed so I don't have it yet.Monique: Oh, man. Well.Justin: We're in quarantine, we don't get to go out. You and I have both always been social people, we'd see each other out and about at whatever's going on in town. Have you gotten into any of the Netflix stuff or any of the shows, any of the streaming stuff?Monique: I have binge-watched about everything you can binge-watch, I've maxed out on that and circled back around the shows that I watched in the past even, but I’ve really been trying to get away from the streaming and really trying to spend more time outdoors. I went fishing this past weekend,-Justin: Wow.Monique: -popped my rainbow trout first time I went fly fishing. I'm really trying to stay away from that, and to try to keep a positive outlook-- A lot of those Netflix shows and the news nowadays can really add to the heaviness that we're experiencing [chuckles].Justin: Yes, I agree.Monique: There's not a lot of things to watch out there. I did watch The Mandalorian lately, I've binge-watched that, and that was a fun life-hugging show to watch on Disney+ that I highly recommend.Justin: I've just never got into any of the Star Wars stuff, but somebody told me I'd still like The Mandalorianeven if I did not get into it.Monique: I am in the same boat.Justin: Part of my COVID-19 was that early on, “Support local, go to your favorite restaurants and do takeout, let's help them stay afloat.” I could float now because of it, but have you had any favorite places for takeout or, that you've trended into during COVID?Monique: Unfortunately, so many folks in the industry have really been affected, a lot of my favorite places I've watched shut down, or have to scale back and that's been really hard to watch. I am still trying to support all of the local businesses, at least through delivery, contactless delivery, I'm really supporting that. In terms of specific restaurant, I have specific genres of food that I like. I really like Thai food, so anywhere that I can get some good Thai food delivered to me, I'm really enjoying that. I'm trying to eat a little bit healthier to take care of this COVID-19 issue though, as in my pounds. [laughs]Justin: I live very close to Thai-D, so I eat there more than I probably should. You're born and raised in San Antonio, right?Monique: Yes, born and raised here but part Puerto Rican and Dominican,Justin: Well, you should be good at this question. I always ask people what their favorite hidden gems are in the city, sort of the off-the-beaten-path places. Nurenberg gave me Denman Estate Park or something I'd never heard of. I thought I knew San Antonio okay but I've been put back in my seat from some of them. What are some of your favorite places in town, maybe off the beaten path that you have somebody in town say,"Well, you really got to check this out"?Monique: Oh man. I know it sounds really cliché, but the extension of the River Walk. People have not enjoyed going on the south end of the River Walk and going all the way to the missions. It is so different from what it looked like growing up which was unusable. That's really been something that I encourage people and I try to take folks to go enjoy. There's some really great gems on the Southside and the Westside, some good restaurants that I try to take people to. I still do take people to the St Mary's Strip and the Pearl and you have to have that experience to see how San Antonio has been developing.I grew up more so on the Northside so I've been enjoying learning what else there is available. I'm experiencing the city almost as a newcomer as well because it's changed so drastically over the past decade or so, the decade of downtown has been really beautiful to watch. Enjoying watching that development has been wonderful, just taking people on things that used to be touristy, things to do that are now things I think locals can really appreciate just as much as tourists can.Justin: Japanese Tea Garden was always one for me that I thought, “This is--,” And if I take people there, they're always still just blown away by it. It's just a unique, weird place tucked over by the zoo.Monique: That's a very good one. I'm glad you mentioned that, some of my favorites.Justin: What's your favorite Fiesta event?Monique: Coronation. [chuckles]Justin: I assumed you were going to say that.Monique: I used to be able to participate. I was on stage and made a fool of myself quite a few times for a good cause before I took the bench but-Justin: You can't do anymore?Monique: As a judge, it's frowned upon. We're not allowed to solicit funds on behalf of other organizations. There's a perception that that could be considered that, that's why I don't participate anymore while I'm on the bench, but support it however I can otherwise.Justin: I did see Kevin Wolff get on there and make a joke about getting a DUI, but I guess he wants listening funs, so that would be a little bit different.Monique: Well, he's not a judge. I don't think he has that prohibition. That's specific to judges.Justin: Okay. It's not elected officials, it's judged-specific.Monique: It's judge-specific, yes. We can't lend our name to causes like that.Justin: We're going to talk about a cause you're involved with, but that'll be an interesting question about whether you can be involved in that. You became an elected official, an elected judge in Bexar County in, I guess 2018 elections, sworn in, in 2019?Monique: That's correct.Justin: You're halfway into your four-year term?Monique: I am, yes. I have to start running again this summer.Justin: Okay. What made you decide you wanted to run for judge, district judge at that?Monique: Well, when I decided to run was right around the time that former President Trump was elected. I, along with a lot of other folks I think just-- I felt a true sense of helplessness in terms of what was happening at the national level, the political discourse that we were all experiencing and the trickle-down effect that had on families, children here in our community. I personally looked around me and thought I wanted to do something about this more than what I was able to accomplish through my law practice and my community service.For me, running for judge was an opportunity to show people in my community that you can be treated with dignity and respect no matter your race, or how much money is in your pocket, or who you love. I think that's really critical for-- Especially at the courthouse amongst our judiciary, for us to understand that that is what our elected officials should really exhibit and especially our judges. I saw it as an opportunity to show people that respect, and I love the law and I love community service.You know that I've always been very giving with my time on the side and done a lot of things for free, much like you're doing with this show as a service to our community. I saw it as a chance to make a bigger impact for the folks here in San Antonio. It's where I was born and raised, so wanted to give back to the city that's given so much to me.Justin: You were always involved in politics as long as I have known you, then you were a practicing lawyer and trended more into the practicing lawyer. There's lots of different places you can go in elected office as a lawyer. Is there a reason you chose a district court bench over maybe a county court, or a criminal bench, or any of the other options?Monique: Yes. That's a good question. For me, that was where I had the most experience. I had a general law practice, so I did criminal law but I did more civil law than anything. Before I took the bench, I had a law firm that represented small cities, governmental entities, did a lot of practice in Civil District Courts. I did a lot of family law. That was my home, what I was most familiar with, but having had that experience on the criminal side has really been helpful on the civil bench, and also having had a general law practice. There's not much that comes across my bench that I haven't experienced or dealt with in some form or fashion as an attorney. It's been really helpful for me.Justin: You decided to run for office, the one thing I always hear people complain about is you got to raise a bunch of money and that's an overwhelming piece of the campaign, but outside of raising money and shaking hands and giving your stump speech, anything surprising about the campaign or actually becoming the candidate that you didn't expect?Monique: Sure. You're right. I worked on the side of my law practice doing some consulting and fundraising for other people. It really made it a lot easier for me to raise money for myself, to know what the basics were required to run a successful campaign. I wasn't quite ready to talk about myself in the way that you really have to be so self-promoting. I was used to promoting other people not necessarily myself. One of the things that when people ask me that are interested in running for judge, "What should I do to start off with?" One of the things that surprised me was I had to sit down and figure out, “What is my story? What am I about? What is my vision?”Those really overarching questions were things that I had not thought through for myself or for other candidates before. That was a really interesting learning experience about myself. Reaching out to my family members and asking them what their opinion is of me and what they thought I was going to be when I grew up, and what experiences they feel molded me into who I am today. I learned a lot about myself.Justin: I've been through quite a few election cycles here and you ran a very different judicial campaign. You pulled from your friends in the industry, you threw--I think it'd be fair to say some of your events were almost backyard parties catching up with old friends. It was a different way of running a campaign, especially for something that's always serious and austere like a judicial race. Was that just a product of who you are in your social circles, or did you make a conscious effort that you were going to run a different campaign to try to draw in more people?Monique: I'd say it was both, Justin. I think for everyone that runs for any office, it's really important to tap into your circles, your friends, your family and make the most of what you have available. I did make a conscious effort to try to bring more people into the fold that may not otherwise think that who you elect for your judge matters. I wanted to bring in folks that don't usually get involved in judicial races to help them understand the importance of knowing who your judges are, voting for your judges. I'm confident that we had an impact on a different base of people that never voted for a judge in their life before, never knew why it mattered. Now, hopefully do and will continue to vote in judicial races going forward.Justin: It was definitely a different crowd of people that were at your events. It just really was. It was the crowd I would see at Fiesta events or at social events, but you got people excited about a judicial race. It was fun to see, it was a different set of events and it was a different thing to enjoy when some of these events are-- You've been there. They're like-Monique: You've got to take people who want to go.Justin: No, I think that's right. There was one event on the near Eastside, right outside of the Pearl, it was in a backyard.Monique: I did have an actual backyard paella panchanga, Paella took off where we had a King Pelican playing for the pachanga part of it. If we were not about 110 °, it would have been a little bit more enjoyable [laughs].Justin: I was going to say I went with Tim Maloney and I just remember watching his suit gets wetter and wetter as the day went on. We didn't stay super long, but it was a great event. Somewhere along that time you've been on the court, Judge Sakai put in head of, or spearheaded the effort to create, and it's a mouthful. The commission on collaborative strategies to prevent and combat and respond to domestic violence. I butchered that, but he became the spearheading main guy on it. He asked you to be a co-chair as best I could tell with Judge [unintelligible 00:18:07]Monique: Almost correct. We like to refer to it as just the Collaborative Commission on Domestic Violence shorthand, because that is a mouthful. My co-chair on behalf of the City of San Antonio because this was created as a joint city-county collaboration for the first time ever. We had leaders in our community in the area of domestic violence spearheaded by the city and the county. I was the representative and the coach here on behalf of the county.On behalf of the city, my co-chair was Dr. Colleen Bridger, who you may recall has been our Metro Health Director.
68 minutes | 3 months ago
Dr. David Lesch 2.0
Dr. Lesch was one of our earliest and most popular guests. We could not cover it all in one hour so he rejoined us for some additional discussions of what he has been working on lately. This includes local elections, hostage negotiations and upcoming publications.Transcript: [music]Justin Hill: Hello, and bienvenido, San Antonio. Welcome to The Alamo Hour, discussing the people, places and passion that make our city. My name is Justin Hill, a local attorney, a proud San Antonian, and keeper of chickens and bees. On The Alamo Hour, you'll get to hear from the people that makes San Antonio great, and unique, and the best kept secret in Texas. We're glad that you're here.[music]Justin: All right, welcome to The Alamo Hour. Today's guest is our first repeat guest. You may remember he had a giggle fit last time, and said that he met Bashar al-Assad on a dating website. Dr. David Lesch from Trinity University. Thank you for being here.Dr. David Lesch: I can't talk about that. [laughs]Justin: Before this, I said I was going to ask him things, because lately in our friendship, he has become very self-important in telling us things he can and cannot discuss in public settings.David: I can't talk about that either.Justin: Yes, I know.David: I'm going to be a great guest, I can't talk about anything. Why the hell you got me on here? [crosstalk]Justin: Most of this could just me being like, "Hey, tell me about," insert a thing or a person, and then having you turn red as you laugh and say you can't talk about it.David: Exactly.Justin: Like our previous conversation about your telephone, I could ask you about that, and you also would have to say, "I can't talk about that." [crosstalk]David: Well, they're listening on the telephone right now. [crosstalk]Justin: I think they are.David: Probably are. Whoever they are. [crosstalk]Justin: Probably going to advertise-- [crosstalk] I don't know.David: Here, I am talking about it, so you already got me to--Justin: On most of my episodes, I normally go through like a top 10 list and what are you into and what do you like. I generally know that about you, but what have you been up to during the shutdown?David: Writing my next book.Justin: Yes, what's the title? [laughs] It's not ambitious at all. What was it?David: It's the history of the Middle East from the Prophet Muhammad to the present.Justin: 78,000 pages long.David: I'm through five pages, man. At this rate, in the 23rd century, I will be done.Justin: I asked you how you broke down what to include and what not to include, and you use the word triage. [crosstalk]David: It's a historical triage. Absolutely, I've done that before. You just can't go over every little thing, or else it would be 78,000 pages. This will be about 350-400 pages. Oxford University Press will be putting it out.Justin: It'll be $250.David: Only for you. Only the hard back copy. [crosstalk]Justin: You had one book that was approachable and at normal price. [crosstalk]David: That's only if I don't autograph it. If I autograph it, it's down to $2 or $3.Justin: I paid $7.80 for your Syria book on Amazon. Does that make you feel bad?David: [crosstalk] Oh, used? The thing is, you got it used. [crosstalk] It was only out for like a month. It's like, "Okay, who read it and sent it back?" or, "Who didn't read it and just sent it back?"Justin: What a jerk friend, "I'll buy your book." [crosstalk]David: Yes, exactly. I was like, "Geez, maybe I can make some money off of this," [laughs] because it's like $15.Justin: Is that the only book you're working on now?David: I think one at a time is enough, thank you very much.Justin: No, I think you said you were working on more than one.David: Sometimes I am, but this time no. This is focusing on that. I've got a lot of writing done since I'm at home more often than not, not traveling as much, obviously. I'm halfway through. It should be published in 2022. I'll finish the manuscript first draft by the summer. It is for the interest of general public. I'm trying to write it at that level, which is why there's a historical triage, which is why I'm not going into the details of this, and the other thing that would bore people and put them to sleep like my other books, [laughs] this actually will be interesting.Justin: Between your upcoming book and Tom Friedman's From Beirut to Jerusalem, which one do you think will be better?David: Oh, god. Are you kidding me? [crosstalk] No. I like Tom, he's a good guy.Justin: He wrote one really good book.David: It's a good book, and I read it, and it's not bad. It's based on a first person experiences.Justin: That was my first book to read about the Middle East, and it got me interested.David: This is why you're so tendentious and skewed and prejudice and-- [crosstalk]Justin: This was in the freshman year of college.David: Yes. That's the only book, in fact, you read in college, I heard.Justin: No. I read quite a few in college.David: Law books, but nothing else [laughs] .Justin: No. In law school, I read law books. What kind of jerk would say something [crosstalk]David: That's the thing, I have not read a novel since college.Justin: Grisham?David: No. Nothing, because I read for fun books about World War I, or the Civil War, or some other country, just because I like to accumulate knowledge and learn about these other things. Actually, I've read some historical novels that I have assigned for my class, just so they have something other than read and dry academic material, like [crosstalk] books.Justin: You've been writing a book. You keep quite the social calendar that I have learned to know. Where have you been your haunts? It used to be J-Prime, but you have a new haunt.David: I'm not quite the social calendar. [crosstalk]Justin: Oh, god, I went to one of them. I thought it was going to be me, you, and Tim, cutting up and having a good time. Instead, it's you holding court with 14 people.David: [unintelligible 00:04:37] we had the whole restaurant, we were socially distanced. [crosstalk]Justin: It's just not than fun. You can't get your butt going with a group of 14.David: No, because I can't rely on you and Tim's actually showing up.Justin: When we say we're going to be there. [crosstalk]David: No. You are so unreliable.Justin: Hold on.David: You are so unreliable.Justin: Tim, maybe.David: Yes, but he was driving. [crosstalk]Justin: If I say I'm going to be there, I'm there.David: I invite all these other people in case you guys don't come, but you guys actually came. [crosstalk]Justin: I mean, I just usually tell you no.David: It was a good time. [crosstalk] You just kept moving around away from people [laughs] .Justin: Oh, god. I felt like they weren't being safe. [crosstalk]David: Only half of us got COVID, only half of us. I think that's a successful social outing.Justin: I appreciate you're already making COVID jokes.[laughter]David: It's terrible, I know.Justin: Okay. Where have you been going? What's the name of that spot?David: J-Prime?Justin: No, the other one.David: No? The other one, Frida's.Justin: Okay, that's right.Dr. Davis: Frida's. A Mexican restaurant bar, it's in Stone Oak as well. A good friend, Fernando Davila, opened it up.Justin: I thought it was Davil.David: One or the other.Justin: I don't think there's an A at the end.David: Okay. I guess he's not such a good friend because I don't remember his last name.[laughter]David: Fernando is a great guy, incredible musician. [crosstalk]Justin: We're recording this at 2:00 PM, sober. I just want to be clear about this. [crosstalk]David: Well, not quite, not for me. Justin Hila [laughs] who is a very good friend of mine is interviewing me right now.Justin: Anywhere else you've been going? Any other spots, new spots out?David: I went to Perry's, took my son out for his birthday on January 22nd because he likes that. Just about every places I go, they're doing a good job in socially distancing. Now, with this new variant out, I'm going to be I think a little bit more careful [crosstalk] .Justin: Which variants are you the most scared of? South Africa, South America, or Britain?David: Can I get back to you on that? [crosstalk] I haven't studied the South African one.Justin: I think I'm a little scared of the South America. [crosstalk]David: South America, just because--Justin: I think. Did you read about what happened in Manaus? Is that how you say it?David: Who?Justin: In Brazil.David: What happened?Justin: Is that how you say it? Manaus? Manauss?David: I don't know what you're talking about.Justin: There was a city in Brazil that had been completely wiped out by-- [crosstalk]David: It is Brazil, it's Bolasario, or wherever the hell his name. He's worse than Trump in terms of that. [crosstalk]Justin: Bolsonaro.David: Yes, whatever, who is not taking it seriously, and so forth.Justin: I know, but they had an outbreak. [crosstalk]David: Not taking it seriously, and cutting down the Amazon rainforest. That's two strikes against themJustin: I'm trying to give you some information about international affairs, and you just won't accept that I know something you don't know.David: You don't even know the name of the town.Justin: Manaus.David: Manaus, what? Is that a city? [laughs]Justin: All I think about is Muppets, Manaus, Manaus. All right, you've been writing a book. Same haunts, you really haven't branched out, unfortunately. Nothing to add there.David: It's places I know, places I trust that I can go, that they take-- [crosstalk]Justin: Did you just go to Pakistan?David: No, but I may.Justin: You were planning on it not long ago. Have you done any international travel as part of your job?David: No.Justin: I guess you can't do diplomacy and stuff like that by Zoom. [crosstalk]David: Or via Zoom, right. [laughs] I can't talk about that either. Well, we're really getting far, aren't we?Justin: Yes.David: No, you can't do that stuff. At first, I didn't miss it because I was doing so much, and it was like, "Oh, man. I can just sit back and enjoy," but now I miss it. I want to get on a plane and go to Europe. I want to get on a plane and go to Middle East. Hopefully, this thing develops as it has been developing, and I'll go to Islamabad in Pakistan soon. I know you've been there. [crosstalk]Justin: You might be the only person that's sitting around right now, pining for the days to go to Islamabad.David: I'm not pining for Islamabad. I'm pining to get on a plane and go internationally. This is all that's offered me, well okay, fine.Justin: All right.David: I'm signing up for it.Justin: All I thought of was-- [crosstalk]David: I heard Islamabad is a beautiful city.Justin: Sure, there are parts of it.David: I won't be going around-- My contact there said that Pakistan takes the COVID-19 situation about seriously as Texas. I said, "Okay [laughs] I guess I'm going to get it there when I go there." As he said, look, the Pakistanis, they're taking certain precautions, but life goes on. They've been through these wars. They've been through Al Qaeda being in the midst Osama Bin Laden being there, and all the stuff with India. This is nothing. He said, "What are you Texans worried about?" I said, "Well, there is the Alamo." [laughs] Come on.Justin: [crosstalk] This is self-inflicted wounds. I wanted to talk to you about a few other things because last time we ran out of time. You sent me an article. It's funny, you like to send me articles like, "Talk to me about this thing that makes me sound awesome." We might talk about that.David: Why would I send you something that makes me sound like an idiot?Justin: Well, I mean, I want to talk to you about some things that had not come to [crosstalk] fruition yet, but that you have been--David: I still need to convince you I'm awesome. You're not entirely convinced. I keep trying.Justin: Well, because I know you.David: Even making up these articles and stories.Justin: Let's talk about Austin Tice. I found that to be an interesting story. There's an article that you partly wrote about that situation over there. Why are you looking at me like that? This is public information. This is an interesting story.David: It's a heart rendering story.Justin: There's a Texas connection to this, right?David: Yes. He and his family are from Houston. Austin was a contract photojournalist at the time with the Washington Post. In August 2012, he went into Syria, and he was taken captive. I've been working with his parents closely since that time to do whatever I can to help with my contacts in Syria. For those of you listening don't know, I'm a specialist on Syria, and I've been to Syria quite a bit. As Justin referred to in the beginning, I got to know the president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, not over eharmony, but through-- [crosstalk]Justin: That's what you said.David: It is what I said, yes. Just through contacts and so forth. Whatever I can do to help in terms of advice and whatever. I just feel for them so much. We have every indication that Austin is still alive. There have been a million different reports on who is holding him. We're just trying to do our best to work with various groups, including the Syrian government, to try to find him and bring him home.
55 minutes | 4 months ago
Suzanne Taranto-Etheredge, CEO of Culinaria
Suzanne Taranto-Etheredge is the CEO and President of Culinaria. She has been deeply involved in the San Antonio food scene and being an advocate for improving the visibility and notoriety of it for a decade. She has a lot to say about our city and the scene.Transcript:[music]Justin Hill: Hello and Bienvenidos, San Antonio. Welcome to The Alamo Hour, discussing the people, places, and passion that make our city. My name is Justin Hill, a local attorney, a proud San Antonioan and keeper of chickens and bees. On The Alamo Hour, you'll get to hear from the people that make San Antonio great and unique, and the best-kept secret in Texas. We're glad that you're here.All right. Welcome to The Alamo Hour, today's guest is Suzanne Taranto-Etheredge. Suzanne is the president and CEO of Culinaria. Culinaria is a 501(c)(3) committed to promoting San Antonio's area food scene, making it a better food destination and wine destination. They're involved with what everybody has experienced in Restaurant Week, that's something they put together. I learned today I'll have other things like what do you all call them? Food tours.Suzanne Taranto-Etheredge: Yes. We have a lot, [unintelligible 00:01:00] food trail.Justin: I didn't know that, I thought that was super cool. I was looking into it. I learned some stuff about our food scene today and I thought I was probably pretty good. I'm the guy that like all the North-side guys who have wives and kids will call and say, "We have a date night, where do I go?" There was a time I was good at that. I'm not as good at that anymore.Suzanne, thank you for being here. Thank you for joining us. I know it's the middle of Restaurant Week, so it's probably your busiest time of the year.Suzanne: It is a little busy, but it's a different kind of busy now with COVID protocols in place. It's been very interesting to adapt and change and pivot in the middle of our world. It's never too late to eat out, that's the good news.Justin: Well, I was looking at the Restaurant Week menus, most of them have to-go options, which is the first time I've ever seen that. We're going to get into Restaurant Week here in a second, but I'm going to do what I do with all of my guests and go through some top 10 questions with you being part of the food scene and the wine scene, yours are going to be a little bit different. You're not going to hurt anybody's feelings so I'm going to ask you some questions and let's start.Suzanne: You never know, Justin. There's time, you don't know.Justin: Everybody's thin-skinned these days.Suzanne: [chuckles]Justin: I had Stefan Bowers on here and I really appreciated how he was not concerned with hurting anybody's feelings. Let's take inspiration from that today. Starting off, what brought you to San Antonio? How long have you lived here?Suzanne: Oh, my gosh, a job brought me to San Antonio. I had a choice to live in either Austin or San Antonio. Everyone was cra-- They couldn't believe I chose San Antonio, but I knew the minute that I got here because I was doing a lot of things strategically statewide for another organization, and so I had the choice where I wanted to go. The minute I got to San Antonio, I just was in love. I've been here for gosh, over 15 years now. It's flown by like crazy.I was just the child when I got here. It's been a really fun ride. San Antonio, more than any other city just, made me feel at home. People here are so welcoming and so gracious, and I just loved it. I'm a Texas girl. I'm from North Texas so it just was a really great fit.I'm from Canadian, Texas.Justin: You're from Panhandle North Texas.Suzanne: I'm from the Panhandle. Absolutely right.Justin: I'm from North Texas, you're from the Panhandle. My dad was born in the Mineral Wells area, he was raised in Borger.Suzanne: Got you.Justin: I grew up in the Wichita Falls area, which still falls, I think is more like traditional North Texas.Suzanne: Yes. You get it, that North. I really love San Antonio just because everyone was so friendly and kind, and it just feels San Antonio still, to this day, feels smaller to me and I like that. I liked that we get to all be interconnected and [unintelligible 00:03:52].Justin: Did you go to Texas Tech?Suzanne: Myself-- Two of my siblings did, but I did not.Justin: Where'd you go?Suzanne: I went to A&M.Justin: Okay, I went to A&M.Suzanne: Technically, I started at A&M and then I finished at West Texas A&M.Justin: Well, everybody regionalized as where they end up going to school. You moved here in what? 2015?Suzanne: Do what?Justin: I mean, 2005 is that about when you moved here?Suzanne: Yes.Justin: All right. Where are your favorite spots in town to eat now? I won't say universally, but now where? I know even though you're culinary, you got to share your love.Suzanne: It's literally picking my favorite children, so I'll go with pandemic. Right? I'm loving the to-go option from Meadow. They have this great-- They've done a really great job since the pandemic started and I don't want to cook, let's be clear. I'm not into cooking, I don't want to do it, I go out for a reason. They did a really good job bringing everything to you and they have free delivery within a mile.I thought they did such a great job like they have half-priced burger night and then they do half-priced wine nights so I would just order all my wine on Tuesday and get my burgers on Thursday, it was great. I've been loving that. I love Jardeen, I think great thoughtful new place added into the scene. I just went to Rebelle this weekend, I love Rebelle.I eat everywhere though, so it's really not fair. I love El Jarro for good Mexican food. I eat everywhere, so I really love all kinds of cuisines. I start popping around the genre wide and then I love Tre at the museum. I think that's a really cool spot. I love everything. This is the hardest question that I ever have to answer.Justin: Well, they're going to get worse. El Jarro was in your neighborhood, right?Suzanne: Yes. During the pandemic, I stayed closer as I assume most people did. We're seeing a lot of people who are staying closer to where they live now, because that's where they're working as well and so I found it really easy to somewhere that's close to me when I'm Zooming until six o'clock or whatever and just have my food show up. I was really liking that.Justin: I have found myself going to Playland more than I should and I also found out Sichuan house will basically deliver anywhere.Suzanne: They'll take it anywhere. I love that place, it's so good. I think it's so good.Justin: I live super close to Tidy, so I get to cheat with it. Have you been there?Suzanne: [unintelligible 00:06:39]. Who hasn't been there?Justin: Well, a lot of people still haven't and you cannot wear tank tops in there. Just as an aside-Suzanne: [chuckles]Justin: -you have to have sleeves on your shirt, which is surprising considering the decor.Suzanne: You need to dress appropriately to go to Tidy, exactly.Justin: Well, I have a pool, so there's been moments that at four o'clock, after a day in the sun, having some drinks, everybody's like, "Let's go to Tidy," and the gas station next door sells T-shirts, just in case you need to know. What are your favorite spots for drinks right now? Cocktails, wine, whatever.Suzanne: Well, I like them all. I wish that bars were open, that would be a great place to start. Friendly Spot is always a great place. Really, I'm sticking to patios right now, I'm trying to do my part to be COVID-free. I like to drink all over town too. I like to drink at Pearl. They all have really-- I really like the people watching at The Pearl right now in particular for a shop for all of my mask so I see what everybody else is wearing and then I go and order a billion masks after I see them walking around, but I love both Pica. Have you been to Best Quality Daughter? That's phenomenal.Justin: I have not, I saw it though. Honestly, I'm sure this is an unpopular opinion, Hot Joy makes my tummy hurt, so I don't love Hot Joy. It's pretty heavy food. I loved the Granary so I will go though eventually.Suzanne: Got you. I did love Granary, I'm going to miss that. I love Southtown, I love going to La Frite. I love that patio. I love South Alamode, so really everywhere again. Tick all the box.Justin: The Pearl needs-- The people watching is great, but in that place where you can watch all the people on the lawn, there needs to be a cocktail bar that you can sit outside because there's really not.Suzanne: Actually, I agree with you. I don't know why they haven't done that.Justin: Yes, there's beer and wine, but if you want to have a cocktail-- Like you want to have a margarita and sit outside and watch people play with their dogs and whatever else they do. That's what I want to do and that's not an option yet. If that happens--Suzanne: They don't have-- You need that in a plastic glass, even when walking everywhere.Justin: You're allowed to walk around with drinks there?Suzanne: Yes. You'll walk [unintelligible 00:08:51] but not many people want to drink their wine in a solo cup. Some people do. It's not bad, whatever.Justin: I'm not above that. Next question, what are some of your favorite purveyors in town of either food or meats? We're now getting this industry in San Antonio that I think is a little bit beyond the normal consumer, but we have The Farmers Butcher. We have some of these specialty meat shops and we've got wineries and breweries here too that people don't know about. What are some of your favorite purveyors of the product?Suzanne: Oh, gosh, I love Maverick. I love-- Really, what is that one that is right by Elm Creek? I can't think of the name. You're putting me on the spot, Justin, I can't remember it.Justin: The one what?Suzanne: The little book shop at Elm Creek and it's like they were so good because during the pandemic, they had stuff for everyone. It was great and nobody was thinking about it. You could pop into any of these meat shops when everybody else was going through chaos and ACB. You could just pop in there and they had all the meat where you couldn't buy it anywhere else. Gosh, it's going to drive me crazy.Justin: Well, when you think about it--Suzanne: Ask me another question and then I'll remember that-Justin: You can tell us--Suzanne: -and I'll shout it out.Justin: Something we do with everybody is favorite hidden gems in the city. We're going to cover-- We've already covered beer and wine and all that. [crosstalk] Nuremberg pointed out there's Denman Estate Park. I'd never heard of it, looked it up, still haven't been, it's beautiful. It's a cool, off the beaten path local attraction.Suzanne: I hadn't heard that either.Justin: I hadn't either. Do you have anything like that in the city when you have friends that are like, "Anything we should check out?" The Botanical Garden's always one for me-Suzanne: Botanical Garden.Justin: -but also the Japanese Tea Garden is really great if you've never been.Suzanne: I love Japanese Tea Garden. I love-- What is it called? Justin, I'm having a mental breakdown over here. I just can't even think of what I'm thinking of.Justin: It's my hard [crosstalk] questions.Suzanne: I don't know where Denman is though.Justin: It's somewhere in the Northside-ish.Suzanne: I love Botanical Gardens. I also love to go-- There are those great-- In the North right by-- In-between where La Cantera Resort is, there are those great trails through there and you get these beautiful views of the Hill Country, and they're just these walking trails and I love to take people there. That's one of my favorite spots.Justin: On La Cantera Parkway?Suzanne: Yes. Well, it's in-between the resorts. There's those two big resorts right there and if you go to either resort-- You don't have to go to resorts, but I always start there because I know where it is. You can just go on all those walking trails through there and it's beautiful.Justin: I didn't know that.Suzanne: It's really nice.Justin: You've got a good one there.Suzanne: I always feel that's a definite hidden gem.Justin: Favorite dishes in San Antonio. For me, it's always--Suzanne: Oh, my gosh.Justin: At Cured at one point, he had a lamb in a puff pastry, and I don't know what it was called, but to me, that's still just one of the best things I've ever eaten in San Antonio.Suzanne: I've never had that. I love-- At Botika, he has that sushi that's piled high with all the things and he puts this-- I think it's apple cider vinegar, but I'm not sure. They're soaked in them and he puts those on top and I am obsessed with that dish. I should know what it's called, but I don't, of course. Then I love-- Gosh, what else do I love? I'm trying to think of really weird things that I love all over town. I love Jason Dady does this great gluten-free bolognese that I love. I know gluten-free is weird but I do love it. It's so good. Then there is a bakery that does these beefed little tartlet things that I'm obsessed with those too.Justin: Do you like--?Suzanne: I like things everywhere.Justin: Do you like pizza?Suzanne: I love pizza.Justin: Have you ever had Chicago's deep dish?Suzanne: Yes.Justin: At Chicago's on Blanco?Suzanne: Yes.Justin: Everybody I've fed that to is just blown away and they're like, "This is the best pizza I've ever had."Suzanne: It's the best pizza in the world.Justin: It's so good. That's also walking distance for me.Suzanne: So good. Have you had to Trilogy? Have you had that? That's up in the North too.Justin: No.Suzanne: Have you had Trilogy? Everybody's raving about Trilogy. I haven't had it yet, but I'm hearing great things.Justin: What is it? Pizza?Suzanne: It's like dish pizza as well. They've got stiff competition, but we'll see.Justin: I don't know if I'm considered Northside.Suzanne: [inaudible 00:13:20] whatever.Justin: South of 410, is that Northside? It's all--Suzanne: South-- Yes, you're middle city. You're the middle of the city.Justin: I'm of the people. What's your favorite junk food?Suzanne: People. [laughs] Popcorn. I like caramel, I like chocolate, I like salt and vinegar. I like all the popcorn and chocolate. Any time, I'll take chocolate every day.Justin: I'm a personal injury lawyer by trade and there is actually an injury called popcorn lung that popcorn workers-Suzanne: Stop it.Justin: -and people that eat too-- You would have to eat so much popcorn-- [crosstalk] I'm not shitting you.Suzanne: You are lying. What are you talking about? You're just such a liar.Justin: I swear.Suzanne: Are you kidding me?Justin: If you googled--Suzanne: Have you had one of these cases? Have you had one of these cases?Justin: I had one in San Antonio. If you Google-- [crosstalk] It was for a lady who worked at one of those popcorn stores in the mall.Suzanne: What?Justin: It only affects people that either are around making popcorn all the time or you-- There are some consumer cases because there are some people that are out there and will eat six bags of popcorn a day. It's the vapors that cause-- It's called bronchiolitis obliterans. It actually can be caused by other things, but people that are around aerosolized, fake butter flavoring can get a degenerative lung condition.Suzanne: What?Justin: Eat popcorn, don't breathe--Suzanne: Well, now I'm giving up pop. I'm super depressed now. What's happening?Justin: Well, don't breathe the vapors.Suzanne: Don't breathe-- Okay. I'll try not to.Justin: You know the old commercials, they would pop it open--Suzanne: Is that a real case?Justin: I swear. Yes. [chuckles] As crazy as it sounds, I'm not funny.Suzanne: I'm going to google that. I'm to google so many things. I'll go to Google.Justin: All right. Well, you're going to learn this and you're going to step away as it's vaporing when you're done cooking it until it's done, then you can eat it. All right. What has been the biggest change-- How long have you been doing the Culinaria stuff?Suzanne: 150 years now.Justin: Well, I don't think so. How long have you been doing it?Suzanne: Gosh, it's probably since 2009.Justin: What have been the biggest changes you've seen in San Antonio's food scene since then? Obviously, we have more better...
70 minutes | 4 months ago
Christian Archer, Political Strategist and San Antonio Democratic Leader
Christian Archer moved to San Antonio in 2005. In 15 years, he has made his mark on local politics, bond projects, and the city's move politically to the left. He is full of stories and backgrounds of some of the biggest San Antonio stories of the past 15 years. Transcript:[music]Justin: Hello. Bienvenido San Antonio, welcome to the Alamo Hour, discussing the people, places, and passion that make our city. My name is Justin Hill, a local attorney, a proud San Antonio, and a keeper of chickens and bees. On the Alamo Hour, you'll get to hear from the people that make San Antonio great and unique, and the best-kept secret in Texas. We're glad that you're here.[applause]All right. Welcome to the Alamo Hour. Today's guest is Christian Archer. Christian Archer is a man of many things, I was learning today. I think best-known to me, is you were good friends with my old boss and former mentor and former guest, Mikal Watts. You all worked on a bunch of projects together, but I knew you also ran Julian's campaign, Hardburgers campaign. You were instrumental in getting Sculley to come to the city and you're also a filmmaker and author now I read.Christian: [laughs] Yes. That's right.Justin: When's the movie coming out?Christian: We're working on it. In fact, I'm working on it today. We've got a guy who is closely associated with Bradley Cooper, who's now taking over the project and he wants to do a several part series. Back when Mikal got indicted on 95 felony counts, most people thought he was going to prison.Justin: Because most of the people when that one happens.Christian: 99.7% of them to be exact.Justin: Yes.Christian: When Mikal got indicted, a lot of people thought Mikal was done. His story was just beginning I think. Obviously, it was a terrible, terrible time but I lived it with my best friend, a mentor to me. A guy who I love dearly. I know, we both do, Mikal Watts, he's just an amazing person. I wrote a book about that experience and what it was through my eyes, to watch somebody go through 95 felony counts and watch a lot of people turn their back on him. A lot of good friends disappear. You really do learn who your friends are. I went to trial with him in Biloxi. We planned basically live there for four months and he defended himself. It was the craziest thing you've ever seen in a lifetime, and it was enough to make a movie and a book about.We're working on the book, and the movie, right now, the second part to that is we're looking at an eight-part episodic series on what happened to Mikal because during the trial, I don't know if you know this, but I filmed the whole thing. Brought in a film crew and shot the whole thing.Justin: I knew there was a crew, I didn't think you were actually the one holding the camera, though.Christian: Well, I wasn't holding the camera thing.[laughter]There is actually usable footage of this.Justin: When did you all start the film? When did you all know you all were going to start making a book or a movie about this?Christian: You know what, it was funny. What was it that big Netflix hit?Justin: Making a Murderer.Christian: What was it?Justin: Making a Murderer.Christian: Making a Murderer.Justin: Yes.Christian: Had just come out [chuckles], and Mikal and I were talking about this. Obviously, look, there was severe depression. After so many years of not knowing if you were going to get indicted, then the indictment in the trial and all of the above, and just to lighten the mood I told him, I said, "Wouldn't it be great to write a book about it or do a making of a murderer style, a Netflix doc." It's like a light bulb went off. It gave him a little bit of hope and a little bit of something to take away from his daily dose of 95 felony counts, which was a brutal, brutal thing to watch. [crosstalk]Justin: Jesus. Because people who listen to the Watts episode, they're going to know, like there was the investigation in the raids, then there was nothing for a long time. Then Ron Johnson put a bug in somebody's ear and next thing we know there's an indictment. When did the film and bookmaking process start?Christian: It was really after the indictment. After we read the salacious stuff that Watts didn't know about, regarding the other people who were indicted, Greg Warren and Kristy Lee, who ended up obviously going to prison for what they did to Mikal. But it was really after the salacious parts of how they blew through his money and all of the lies that they told. It was like, "Wow, you couldn't even make up that script." Nobody in Hollywood would buy it if you tried to sell the script. Yet, I got to watch my best friend go through that tragedy of his life in the prime of his career. Right smack dab in the middle of Mikal Watts, his trajectory was like the space shuttle at the time.Justin: Yes.Christian: Then it all came crumbling down for four years. It just crumbled around him. It was hard to watch. Obviously, there's a redemptive part to that, part of what will be included in the series. I think one very important thing it was missed out was here he was. Our close friend preparing for the trial of a lifetime. The pinnacle of his career and he worked a year just tirelessly on this PowerPoint presentation about BP and everything that went wrong. Kind of the, we were all robbed of watching him and his genius at work.Justin: People who don't know Watts as a worker, at a different level than you would think. When you say he really worked, that guy's a different kind of animal when it comes to working.Christian: Yes, and watch that switch, when he realized I'm going to do this and the decision making of representing himself, which every major, every well-known lawyer in the country called either him or me and said, "You are a lunatic. If you think you're going to represent yourself against the 95 count felony charge against yourself--"Justin: To be fair, he had a good co-counsel and Mike McCrum who was going to be trying it with him. It allowed a little bit of extra padding than just literally trying that alone.Christian: Yes. Justin, it was a beautiful thing to watch those guys battle back and forth during the trial itself. Mike McCrum is a genius. Mikal Watts, he was wanting to know is a defense lawyer and it's a good thing he had Mike McCrum. It really is, and to watch those guys, it was truly a ballet each day to watch them in court and how they played off of each other. That experience watching the jury, watching the federal prosecutors just do such a horrible job, and two really brilliant lawyers going at them in court, was something special. That'll be the basis of the first part of the series. The next part, a second season we'll actually deal with the California wildfires. This is what we've been working on for the last three years.Justin: His first season is kind of part Mikal, but also part of the problems with our criminal justice system?Christian: It definitely is. There are some real problems with criminal justice reform. I'm not a lawyer. Watching the fight that he had to go through each day, when it came to all of the roadblocks put up in front of someone trying to make a defense for themselves, it was incredible. The power that the federal government had over the judicial system and how they just robbed him of knowledge of, "Well, what are you trying to convict him of?" They wouldn't give him who was going to testify him. Who's going to be in court the next day until six o'clock at night. Then they'd give him this long, completely bogus list of 30 people when you know they were only going to call five, but yet we had to prepare for 30 because you didn't know which ones would actually be called.Justin, it was the craziest abuse of power. What John Dowdy did, who was the guy who ended up indicting him, the wannabe governor of Mississippi, who was the interim federal prosecutor. He just wanted to notch on his belt. He wanted to bring down a big name trial lawyer, and it was embarrassing what he did to our judicial system, what he did to Mikal. Then the guy quit about a month and a half before the trial started because he knew Mikal Watts was going to whoop his and had that guy showed up in court, he would've had his whooped. Instead, these other prosecutors kind of inherited this case and it was an embarrassing thing for the government. Mikal and his brother, David, and Winter Lee, just slammed the door shut, on their case.But in the end, Justin, when you think about a civil case and how there's remedies. In a criminal case, "It's just go home." You took all of his money, froze all of his bank accounts, destroyed him reputationally, destroyed him during the prime of his career. Then it was, "Oh yes. Not guilty." "Okay. Go home." No repercussions, no slap on the wrist. No, "Oh, sorry. We destroyed your life and everything you'd built over your career, but you can go home now." It's scary.Justin: Now Mikal's rebound has been quite impressive in itself so, "Destroy yes." I think for most people it would have, but for Mikal, he has bounced back in, I think even a bigger way than he was before, it sounds like.Christian: Justin, I think the way that he works, we talked about his work ethic, it's unparalleled. The guy just works his tail off, but I don't want to speak for Mikal, but I can tell you, buddy, he went through a real depression. I think his brother, David, who's a dear friend of mine is still suffering from PTSD. Look that year, there was a 99.7% conviction rate. Mikal knew that he was going to go to prison for the rest of his life and his brother, David, was for something that they didn't do. It took a while for him to get out of that and now I think he's out of it. I think that he's just so incredibly driven to go get those four years that were robbed from the guy's life.He's just not going to slow down. He's just going 1,000 miles an hour. There is redemption. I think that his work ethic and what he's doing now is trying to get those four years back, but his brother, David, still suffering from it. You can see it in his eyes.Justin: I can't imagine. The toll it takes on everybody around you, not just yourself, your family and your friends and reputationly and people abandoning you. There's just got to be a lot.Christian: Yes. It was really, really tough to watch somebody who at least in my mind and in my eyes, such a bright light in Mikal Watts to watch him go through it was incredibly impressive.Justin: I'm glad he had you there to help out and to make sure it got documented because documenting it turned out to be a really good idea. If it had not turned out the way y'all wanted it to, that probably would have gotten tossed.Christian: Justin, in the end, he ruined the end of my movie. The end of my movie was going to be him going to prison. He wrecked the end of my movie.Justin: Just have a Choose Your Own Adventure version and people can decide what they want to do. We got off track of my normal process because I was wanting to know about your filmmaking, which now I think I know, but I want to run through a few small things I do with everybody who comes on the show. Obviously, you've got San Antonio chops, but how long have you lived in San Antonio? What brought you here?Christian: I came in 2005. I just come off of the successful mayor's race in Houston in 2003 for a guy named Bill White and I met Phil Hardberger. My very first meeting, I think I fell in love with him. He was running for mayor in '05. There were three major candidates running, a guy named Carroll Schubert, who was the Republican North Side city council member. Obviously, Julián Castro was the favorite in that race and was blowing Hardberger and Schubert away. It looked like he might even win without a runoff.Justin: How old was he then?Christian: Who, Castro?Justin: Castro.Christian: Oh, gosh. [crosstalk]Justin: Yes.Christian: I want to say he's probably 28.Justin: Yes, maybe.Christian: He was young. He was coming off a rough period of time in San Antonio's history. Three of the city council members went to jail for minor bribery charges, but they took $1,000 bribe here and there. We made a joke during the Hardberger campaign that if two more council members went to prison, that they would have their own quorum in jail, so we needed to be careful so nobody else would go to jail, is to be able to hold council meetings inside the Bexar County Jail.I moved here in 2005 to run Hardberger's campaign. I really didn't think that I would stay, didn't realize how much I would fall in love with the city and like you said in the intro, what a hidden gem the city is. The power that the people have in the city was awesome. In '05 is when I moved here. I ran Hardberger's campaign. My every intention was to run the campaign, hopefully, win, and then go on and run another political campaign, but we came from way behind to end up beating Julián in the runoff.Phil asked me to stay onboard outside of city. I never wanted to go to work for a city. I wanted to be a outside political arm to be able to get things done from outside City Hall. We made some real magic things happen for the city and it was the funnest time that I had in politics, were the four years that Phil Hardberger was mayor.Justin: We're going to talk a little bit about Harberger because it wraps into the scaly thing in a second, but you brought me to one of the next things I do with everybody, is some of your favorite hidden gems in the city. Nurnberg brought up a Denman State Park, I think, and some of these things, I've never even known about in the city. Do you have any, those hidden places in the city where you tell people, "Hey, you really got to go check out this thing you've never heard of?"Christian: I would say it's so sad I wrote about it in the newspaper, my favorite little restaurant. My mother [unintelligible 00:14:54] my family is from New Orleans and there's a restaurant called The Cookhouse, which was my favorite hidden gem restaurant in this tiny little house over off of St. Mary's. I think it's maybe 20 tables in the old place and it was some of the best food-Justin: They shut down?Christian: They're going to keep it. He's just changing, I think, what they're doing, but that would have been it. It was in the newspaper that it's closing.Justin: For good?Christian: There are so many hidden gems, Hot Wells is probably a hidden gem. It's beautiful. If you haven't been on the Mission Reach of the San Antonio River, you're missing out. Hardberger Park is another one of my favorite places to go in the city.Justin: I got to check out the landbridge.Christian: Wait, say that again.Justin: I need to check out the land bridge.Christian: A land bridge is now open.Justin: I went to Cookhouse for lunch one day and I guess it wasn't open but the front door was open. I walk in and it is death metal as loud as you can imagine. There's just some dude cleaning. That was my last time to Cookhouse. The food's great, though.Christian: Oh, my gosh, the food's great and it's open for another month.Justin: Then closed or just changing menu.Christian: He's changing the direction of the restaurant. Restaurants have a lifespan and Peters just reached the lifespan of the New Orleans Style Restaurant.Justin: It was a trailer in EatStreet at first, wasn't it, in that little trailer park that Jodi and Steven Newman own? They ran across from battalion. I think that's where it started and then they got their brick and mortar.Christian: Y[crosstalk] It's open, go check it out. I think it's open for another month.Justin: You covered two things in that answer. What are your thoughts on the most recent election locally? I'm not going to get into Donald Trump stuff, but it was a pretty surprising election. What do you think it told you about San Antonio or San Antonio-based podcast? What did you see in terms of trends here locally?Christian: First, we elected the first two women to the Bexar County Commissioner.Justin: Are those the first two ever?Christian: Yes.Justin: I didn't know that.Christian: Rebeca Clay-Flores defeated in one of the biggest surprises of the Democratic primary, was Rebeca Clay-Flores beating Chico Rodriguez.Justin: Blowout.Christian: It was a blast. That's right. I certainly didn't see it coming. Chico's a good friend of mine. I think that we thought he was going to win. I wish he had run a more aggressive campaign, but good for Rebeca Clay-Flores and her campaign manager, Frankie. They ran a heck of a campaign. Then Trish DeBerry on the Northside had her own runoff in the Republican primary against a guy who ran against Nelson Wolf, who's one of my clients, a guy named Tom Rakoff.I was glad to see Trish win and the fact that there are now two women on the Bexar County Commissioner's Court is great. I think Bexar County, every year that goes by is becoming more and more Democratic when you look at the fact-- Used to be Justin, that in the gubernatorial years was the big year for the Republicans to be competitive and then in the presidential years because of the turnout, the county would go wholeheartedly Democratic.In the gubernatorial races, they were mostly Republicans would win. In the last gubernatorial election, the Democrats swept out all of the judges every seat, if there was a Democrat running for it, the Democrat won and elected a lot of new judges. This two years from now, if it's affirmed and Democrats continue to win, I think Bexar County is going to be a solid Democratic county for the foreseeable future.Justin: Yes, that was going to be my question to you because when I first moved here, it was like that and it was even what, maybe six or eight years ago when they had that election that every Democratic except for David Rodriguez in the...
76 minutes | 4 months ago
Gerry Goldstein, Attorney, Activist, and Defender of Civil Liberties
Gerry Goldstein has spent his career fighting for what is right. From fighting for conscientious objectors in the Vietnam war era to fighting the Patriot Act's attack on civil liberties. Gerry is a hero to me personally and a great entertaining guest. Transcript:[music]Justin Hill: Hello, and bienvenido, San Antonio. Welcome to The Alamo Hour, discussing the people, places, and passion that make our city. My name is Justin Hill, a local attorney, a proud San Antonian, and keeper of chickens and bees. On The Alamo Hour, you'll get to hear from the people that make San Antonio great and unique, and the best-kept secret in Texas. We're glad that you're here.All right. Welcome to The Alamo Hour. Today's guest is Gerry Goldstein. Gerry is a criminal defense lawyer with Goldstein & Orr. I could go on and on about all of your lawyer accolades and awards, but we'd be here all day. Recently inducted into the criminal defense hall of fame. Gerry, you're a personal hero to me. I read about you in law school.I learned about you in law school, and then you randomly show up in a restaurant after I'd had way too many drinks about six years ago, and I thought it'd be a good idea to go up and introduce myself. You were so gracious and so classy, and so was your wife, and I asked you to get a beer with me at some point, and I'm a nobody fifth-year lawyer, and you agreed, and met me for a beer. I thought that was just the coolest thing.Gerry Goldstein: I learn a lot from my fellow lawyers and brothers and sisters in San Antonio. What a wonderful place to have grown up and continued my practice. Thank you so much, Justin.Justin: I agree. The San Antonio Express, I read, one of the writers was so gracious to call you a rich libertarian and druggie mouthpiece. That was something you were very proud of, and I found that to be pretty funny when I was doing some research for this.Gerry: That was Paul Thompson who had a front-page column, and he malign me weekly, and probably was the best-- I'm not a big fan of advertising, but I will tell you it was the best advertising any lawyer could ever get.Justin: [laughs] That's when the newspaper wrote a little different than it does now, it seems like.Gerry: It was, but so did the judges and lawyers.Justin: Fair enough. Okay. I do this with everybody, and it's really exciting to do it with you. A sort of top 10, who knows how many it will be. You have grown up in San Antonio. You now have a house just blocks away from where you actually grew up in the King William area. You throw a Fiesta party that is famous, that I knew about immediately when I moved here. I saw a guy pushing a shopping cart full of booze down Alamo one day. I said, "Where are you going?" He said he was going to restock your party there in Fiesta. It precedes you.Gerry: Thank you. I take that as the highest form of flattery, Justin.Justin: No, it's legendary. What are some of your favorite spots in San Antonio?Gerry: Well, years ago, in the late '60s and early '70s, we actually opened and owned the original Friendly Spot, which was at the corner of Beauregard and Alamo, which the alcoholic beverage commission shut down after the number two then dinners, played in the crowd, spilled out into the middle of the street. We own the Beauregard. My wife obviously has nixed any more bars or restaurants, but I still hang out at La Tuna.I think it's a wonderful spot, although it's been encroached upon by all these new condos and apartment buildings. I grew my long teeth, hanging out at the Escobar back in the old days. Wine 101 out in Helotes, I think is a wonderful spot. I did my time crawling back home from the local wineries and various alcohol spots in the King William area where I'd grown up.Justin: Well, so Jody Newman was the first guest on The Alamo Hour, who's now the Friendly Spot owner, and you and I went to LA Tuna. That was where we met for drinks that day.Gerry: That's true.Justin: What are some of the biggest practices or biggest changes you've seen in San Antonio in the last 20 or 30 years?Gerry: Well, having grown up in the King William area before it knew it was historic, it was a serious slum, and it's become gentrified. I think San Antonio is unique in the fact that it has, I think, and I'm very proud of this. We have maintained our historic character, rather than tear down our buildings and building modern structures, like Dallas and Houston in Texas.We take pride in our historic city. When I grew up, I grew up three blocks from downtown. The river was my backyard. Back then it was like a jungle. It was exciting for a young kid to have that as his playground. It's not at all what you see now, and we had a wonderful relationship with downtown San Antonio, having grown up there. That hasn't changed. It's still-- There weren't the restaurants that we now have, but there weren't the dives.When I was a little kid, I wouldn't have known a dive if I had seen one. I think San Antonio is proud of its history, and for a good reason. It is a historic place. People all over the country tell me, "We'll go see. You don't sound like you're from Texas." I would like to tell them, "Hey, look, if I had an accent unique to San Antonio, it would be Hispanic."The truth is South Texas is different from the rest of what people think is the stereotypical Texan, and I think we're very lucky. We've now got wonderful restaurants. I love La Frite, Zocca's wonderful. La Focaccia's great. In the blue star you have, Stella, and Halcyon. Bliss is down there. They're just one restaurant, battalion, one restaurant after another. I can walk to them. More importantly, after imbibing a little fruit of the wine, I can make my way home-Justin: Safely.Gerry: -not having to drive through traffic.Justin: I think Zocca might be shut down. I drove by the other day, and it looks like it's gone.Gerry: Well, no, it's still open. You just need to be there on the right-- The COVID-19 has taken its toll on everything, but they're still open. I was there the other night. They have wonderful owners, and a wonderful clientele. La Fritte, when I'm in town, I probably eat there twice a week.Justin: So good. I liked Zocca's run at the fish restaurant that didn't last very long. I thought that was great, too.Gerry: That was his son, who by the way, was a graduate of the CIA, the Culinary Institute in New York. I understand he's now doing well. He is a chef-- I think it was called Starfish.Justin: Yes, that's it.Gerry: He went to California, and then was in Dallas. I think now is in another resort and doing well for himself. His parents are delightful people, who I considered close friends, like I do most of the restauranteurs down there. I hang out, and they treat me very well. I think they treat everyone well. [crosstalk]Justin: Yes, I had Stephen from Battalion on-- I've gone through a lot of the restauranteurs, I think, because I eat too much.Gerry: Me too.Justin: One thing-- [crosstalk]Gerry: [crosstalk] pretty well in the King William area.Justin: That's really happened in the last 10 years, really.Gerry: It has. Absolutely. I'm proud of what we have done. Well, if you look at the Pearl, when I was in elementary school, Kit Goldsbury was a classmate of mine. We got kicked out of the--Justin: Is that right?Gerry: We got kicked out for putting the cherry bombs in the girls' toilets in the restroom. When he first married Linda Goldsbury, but it was Linda Pace. When they got a divorce, I think he paid a 100 million or something for Pace, her interest in Pace [unintelligible 00:08:57] . I went around and say that he was the dumbest kid in my elementary class. Within a year, he sold it for a billion and three, or something. If there was only one dumb kid in my elementary school, then it was me.Justin: What school was that?Gerry: Pardon?Justin: What school?Gerry: Travis Elementary. I went on to Mark Twain, and then Jefferson. I made great friends in the senate. There are still high school friends that we see each other regularly. We still reunite on a regular basis and reminisced about-- I've been to jail in more than one country with some of my [unintelligible 00:09:37] . If you look at what Goldsbury did with the Pearl, that's a unique spot, I think, in Texas and around the country. What a wonderful tradition San Antonio takes pride in.Justin: He's left a lasting legacy with the Pearl and everything that's going to grow up around it.Gerry: [crosstalk] I want to apologize publicly to him for all of the bad things I said.Justin: [chuckles] One of the unique things about San Antonio's Fiesta-- What's your favorite Fiesta event other than King William Parade?Gerry: Well, I have to admit that that Fair is my favorite. As a kid, I could walk down to- all night in San Antonio, and we would take inner tubes, and ride down the river for the parade and into La Veta. We got in a lot of trouble as kids. I still find all that wonderful and fascinating. San Antonio really is unique, like San Francisco and New Orleans. Fiestas like Mardi Gras.I only got into two colleges that I wanted to. In Brown and Tulane. I went to Providence, and it seemed dreary and cold in New Orleans. The French Quarter was wide open, and I felt very fortunate. My father claimed that he paid for our matriculation, not an education, and he's probably right. San Antonio has that same kind of flare. Unique food, unique music, unique culture, that separates it from other places. I wear my badge as a San Antonian probably.Justin: I'll say the same thing about New Orleans because every time I go there, which is similar to San Antonio, if I go out to a bar, I'm going to make a new friend. People are friendly. They're going to chat you up, and you're just going to end up wherever the night takes you with the new people that you meet. San Antonio and New Orleans are the only cities that I've been to, I've run into that kind of friendliness, and just kind of a joint party.Gerry: I think that kind of character builds a community's ability to be eclectic and to reunite. When you think about what we left after Katrina, New Orleans is a more historic and a unique place than Boston or New York or Philadelphia, and just as old. It has a troubled history with slave trade and other things, but we're going to get over all this. We're going to take pride in the unique cities that we have. There's a reason why.I have to admit that having the opportunity to spend four years in a French Quarter, and called it college, it was a wonderful opportunity for a young kid from San Antonio. I was only 17 when I got to college.Justin: How cool. I have friends that went to college there, and I was thinking, that's not fair.Gerry: It really [crosstalk].Justin: You're a criminal defense lawyer. I want to walk you through some of what I've learned and some of the stuff I found interesting. There's a big lawyer in town named George Salinas, who's an injury that was doing this. He said, "Man, ask him if he'll ever meet me for a beer." There's that weird-Gerry: Of course.Justin: -amount of enthusiasm for people that want to hear your story and get to know you. Let's talk about it. I know you started--[crosstalk]Gerry: Tell George I'm very flattered. Thank you.Justin: Well, I will. Then, he'll say, "When can we get a beer?" Then I'll bug you when you're back in town.Gerry: First thing.Justin: You started working as a lawyer with your dad's real estate firm. Then somehow, you transitioned into criminal defense by defending those that you just felt were wronged. Talk to me about how that went about, and talk to me about Maury Maverick, who seemed to be such a big influence in your life and your development as a lawyer.Gerry: Well, yes, he was. It was 1968 when I graduated from law school. I had gone to law school. My dad was a lawyer. My mother was one of the first women stockbrokers in town. Her first job was being a doting Jewish mother. I was a spoiled only child. I got back and I met my bride. Can I tell you that story because I think she deserves this tribute?Justin: Yes.Gerry: I had met her, and she had been at Trinity. She was somewhat disappointed. A friend of ours at the time, Julia Armstrong, who was a friend of mine when I was in law school. I walked up to her at a party and slapped her on the back. She was about to go back to the Sorbonne in Paris. She's a Brit, and Julia slapped her on the back and said, "You look like a girl likes to have a good time," and brought her to my house. I will love Julia till the day I die for that.That summer, she went back to England as she had planned to do. I met my parents at the airport. They were coming back from a nation trip. My dad told me- I had just gone to work for him. I was making $10,000 a year. He thanked me for coming to pick him up. I said, "Well, actually, I'm about to leave, dad." [phone rings] Let me turn that off. I explained to him that I'd met a girl and I was heading to Europe. He said, "Oh, really?" He said, "When do you plan to come back?"I said, "Well, I'm not sure." He said, "Well, you may not have a job when you get back." I said, "Well, I thought about that." He said, "Where did you get the money?" I said, "Well, remember my grandpapa left me the gold coins that I hid in that lockbox." He said, "You'll know the time when you want to use it." I'll be honest with you, it was probably the best money I ever spent. I cashed in the-- Norman Brock, had a little coin shop on Houston Street, and he probably paid me face value for the- probably got $1,500.I left, and met Chris. We hitchhiked and traveled through Europe, and Morocco, North Africa, for four months. I proposed to my wife in Morocco. She laughed at me, and I thought, "[unintelligible 00:16:24] could have been a lot worse." I [unintelligible 00:16:26] said something terrible, but we got married in 1969. It was the year of love. I married my bride. We had a Volkswagen bus. We had taken the seats out, put a Persian carpet down, put little pillows in it, had a big peace symbol on the back of it, Ramsey Clark for president on the bumper.We got run out of more counties than we were invited back to. I met Maury Maverick. Well, I'd known him. He was a close friend of my family's, but I met him as a lawyer. Maury was very special to me. That's a picture of me and Maury, let me move over a little bit, back in those days. Maury was wonderful to me. We tried cases together. He took me to the Supreme Court. I met Supreme Court justices. I would have lunch with Hugo Black, who had been in the US Congress with Maury Senior, Maury's father.By the way, he really did keep a Bible in one coat pocket, and the first 10 amendments in the other one. I got to meet Thurgood Marshall. We argued cases in the Supreme Court. We argued wonderful cases in the Fifth Circuit, and we tried cases together. He was an inspiration. He was my mentor and patron saint. I owe a great deal, serious debt to him in terms of the practice of law. One of the things that-- I want to read this to you just because it's worth reminding everybody.We had a case, Piper versus-- Adrien Spears had appointed me to represent all the inmates in the Bexar County Jail, who had a civil rights suit for their jail conditions. By the way, after I convinced Judge Spears that it was unconstitutional, he declared the jail unconstitutional, and the Bexar County built what was then the new jail, which is now being- it's in a state of flux once again. By the way, as a consequence, the county refused to allow federal detainees to be kept there. They had to go all the way to Bastrop.The marshal service hated me because they'd have to get up at three o'clock in the morning to go pick up prisoners. It was an all-day, all-night, affair, and it was my fault. In the process, the district attorney had-- There was a gag order, but it seemed like every day he would make Paul Thompson's column or the front page, bitching about my lawsuit. I filed a motion to hold him in contempt for violating the gag order. This is the letter Maury wrote to me, and I'm going to read it to you because it's too hard, unless you're really young to read that.He says, "I'm not going to let you get off the hook with a mere telephone call where your motion to a federal judge to have assistant DA's, or whomever held in contempt for talking to press. You, you, you of all people are the last person in the world next to me who should file such a motion. What you should have done was file one like this. Comes Gerry G and moves the court for an order setting aside its gag order because the district attorney's office is violating the same and because your undersigned attorney would also like to have the right of free speech. This would have put the judge on the spot.""Go in there with a straight face, not a smile, not a smirk, and speak up for free speech and mean it. It would have run the judge wild. Out of sight, out of mind is the rule of the establishment. I told your mother about this. Show this letter to her. You keep this letter, and the day I die, you read it, and you read it once a year for the rest of your life." We'll count that as the one for 2021 in your honor, Justin. [crosstalk]Justin: How cool. Will you share that with me so I can post it?Gerry: Absolutely.Justin: How cool. What just a great take on what you were trying to do and to throw it in your face.Gerry: Maury had a great sense of humor. He was harder on his friends and his pals than he was on his enemies, and for good reason. He always made so much sense.Justin: You said he had an old Texas sense of righteous indignation and a keen sense of righteousness. What does that mean to you? You're in a world where you better be righteous as a criminal defense lawyer, especially in the civil rights and our civil liberties context. What did it mean to you in terms of Maury Maverick? How did he exemplify that?Gerry: Well, and he called me out for this regularly in his articles in the newspaper. I admit that I fell prey
45 minutes | 7 months ago
Molly Keck, Bee Keeper, Entomologist and Beekeeping Teacher
One of the most consistent questions we get is about beekeeping. I am a beekeeper and always learning about it. We asked Molly Keck to come on our show and discuss beekeeping. She taught my class and is full of good information.Transcript:[music]Justin Hill: Hello and Bienvenido San Antonio. Welcome to The Alamo Hour, discussing the people, places, and passion that make our city. My name is Justin Hill, a local attorney, a proud San Antonion, and keeper of chickens and bees. On The Alamo Hour, you'll get to hear from the people that make San Antonio great and unique and the best-kept secret in Texas. We're glad that you're here.All right, welcome to The Alamo Hour. Today's guest is Molly Keck. Molly is an integrated pest management program specialist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. Did I get that right?Molly Keck: Did. Yes, you did.Justin: She has a master's in entomology. You and I were at A&M at the same time. I'm '04, but then I went to law school and you stuck around and got your master's in entomology.Molly: I did.Justin: She's a professor, adjunct professor. She teaches adult education courses, writes, presents on a wide variety of topics. I saw you do a YouTube video on murder hornets. You taught the beekeeping class that I took at the San Antonio botanical gardens. I wanted to get you on and talk about something that has consistently been one of the most common questions I get since people found out that I keep bees is a bunch of questions about that. I wanted to have you on to talk about it.Molly: I'm happy to be here.Justin: Thank you. We had somebody on last week talking about real in-depth media issues about San Antonio's return to work $150 million initiative. This is going to be a much more fun discussion I think.Molly: Good.Justin: I always start it with just some general background information. When and why did you end up in San Antonio?Molly: I never left San Antonio. I was born here. I'm a San Antonio native. I went to Buena Elementary, Rudder Middle School, and Clark High School. My husband is from San Antonio also. His parents are from San Antonio. My kids are a third-generation San Antonian, probably, actually, more than that because actually, my husband's grandparents were from San Antonio as well and I'm pretty sure his great grandparents. We always joke that we don't know where we came from. We're just Texan. I went off to A&M. That was the only time I left San Antonio. Then because my family and life is here, this is the best place to live. We moved back home.Justin: I've had a lot of people on the show and most people are like, "Me. I moved here 12 years ago, 13 years ago." A lot of people moving in.Molly: There are a lot of people moving in, but also if I look at the majority of the people that I went to high school with, maybe 15% left San Antonio and the rest of us came back home. When you're born here and you're from here, you don't really want to leave here.Justin: It's great, it's great cost of living, people are nice, and it's a great secret place in Texas I think.Molly: It is. It's also a really, really good family town I think. Also, you get the small-town feel in a big city. It's like everybody knows everybody or it's the Kevin Bacon thing. Eventually, you'll figure out a way that if you meet a stranger, you have some ties somehow.Justin: When we did our beekeeping class, we did fill [unintelligible 00:03:03] I think that was at your house.Molly: It was, yes.Justin: You're in the Northside of San Antonio. You also have chickens. Do you keep any other animals?Molly: Just pets. The only livestock we have really are chicken and bees. Then other than that, dogs, cats, and a parrot. Yes, dogs, cats, and a parrot.Justin: How many dogs?Molly: We have three dogs, we have two cats, and we have one parrot. My dad is a vet. I've never not had a house full of animals. It would be very unusual not to hear animals everywhere.Justin: I'm going to butcher all of the words wrong today. I'm going to say bugs instead of insects. I'm sure. Is he a general vet or is he a livestock vet?Molly: He's a small animal vet. He's semi-retired now, but what he really did was emergency veterinarian with small animals.Justin: I spent a small amount of time in Houston and Gulf Coast Veterinary Clinic is there. I had a friend who had an open account because apparently, people will fly their animals in from around the world for that place and you just set your account limit. I thought that was the craziest thing that you just say, "Here's the max I'll spend." You're an entomologist. What is entomology and why did you get into that?Molly: Entomology is the study of insects. I got into it by accident I think like everybody gets into whatever their profession is. I started out school in science because my mother's a nurse and my dad's a vet. I really didn't understand that there were other careers other than science. I took an undergraduate class, an elective in entomology and I just got it. It just made sense, I really liked it, and I thought, "Well, maybe I'll stick around and get a second degree in it." To be very honest, I got really lucky that this position opened up at the time when I was finishing up my master's work. I was very blessed to be able to come back home and be able to stay here.Justin: We're going to talk a little bit about that because y'all get to do a lot of different things in your AgriLife Texas and Agro Extension program it seems like.Molly: We do. I always say I'm like a event planner for insect stuff because I get to-- like with beekeeping, I thought that a lot of people wanted to learn about it. I learned about it and then I started putting on classes. We do outreach education to the public, and then whatever industries that we support. Mine is the pest management, pest control industry. We get to listen to the public and hear what they want to know about. I talked to my friends and we have leadership advisory boards and then we base our classes on what people want us to talk about.Justin: Some of them are taught at the Botanical Gardens, some are taught at facilities you all have around town it seems like.Molly: We only have just our extension office and we have a very small classroom, but we have a lot of wonderful partners like the Botanical Gardens and even in San Antonio and just other groups that we work with. We can borrow their facilities or get it at a much cheaper venue cost.Justin: Sure. The Botanical Garden one was fantastic. The classroom was great, the facilities were great, and it's very close for me.Molly: Yes. It's beautiful there. They're working on a really big event center for giant weddings for hundreds of people. I'm excited to see when they finish that, but we're really lucky to work with them a lot on different programs and partner with them and be able to use the space because they're even on an ugly day, it's not an ugly day there. When you take a break, you can actually walk in the gardens. I think that makes anybody happy to see flowers.Justin: It's always different. Something's always in bloom different than the last time you were there. Funny question, but do you have a favorite insect? Is there an insect that in your time, you thought this one really fascinates me?Molly: I have different favorite insects based on different groups. If you asked me what my favorite butterfly is, I like a zebra butterfly. I still get excited when I see praying mantises even though they're like a dime a dozen, but I get excited when I see them. There's weird unusual insects like snake flies that get me really excited. Seeing one of them is like I say is akin to seeing a mountain lion in your backyard. It's just they're there, but they're just not commonly noticed. One day one landed on my shirt and my neighbor was over and he was like, "What is your problem?" You don't understand how exciting this is to have it land on your body.Justin: Do we have walking sticks here?Molly: Yes, we have tons of walking sticks.Justin: I haven't seen one. You did a lot of work in research. You mentioned it in the class, but I saw your CV or bio today on fire ants. What is it that drew you to researching and studying fire ants?Molly: I got my masters in a lab. My advisor is an urban entomologist. That's really my background. In that lab, you worked on ants, cockroaches, or termites. There was really a project that was available on fire ants, but I wasn't really wanting to do any other insect necessarily. I studied them. Then when I got into beekeeping, I realized I studied the wrong thing. Bees were much more interesting than fire ants, but they're both social insects and they're-- I don't know. I just think they're really fascinating how they're their own little community and they work with each other so much better than humans do and there's just a lot of interesting things about them.Justin: I ask everybody on the show and you're going to have a different take on this since you're from here and been here so long. Do you have any favorite hidden gems in San Antonio, off the beaten path places that you should check out, but a lot of people don't know about?Molly: Oh, gosh. The Botanical Gardens, but everybody really knows about that. Mexican Manhattan is a really good one downtown. If you're going downtown, if you're thinking of food, my favorite place to get Mexican food is always La Fogata. I don't know if that one's hidden anymore, but it was at one point.Justin: Is Mexican Manhattan getting raised? They might be tearing down that whole block I think.Molly: I think so. I know that they were having some issues and some problems and then when COVID hit, I thought I saw some stuff on social media about having a hard time making it. I don't know where they stand right now, but if they are still around, they are a great place to go there. To me, it's the best Mexican food on the Riverwalk.Justin: It's a low bar for the Riverwalk though.Molly: That's true.Justin: Are you seeing any changes here locally in our insect population? There's a lot of discussion on climate, weather, and all those types of things. Is that relating to changes in our insect populations around San Antonio? Are we having more pests, less pests, less insects, generally?Molly: It just depends on the specific weather that we're having. What's weird about insects is that sometimes when you have very wet months, you would assume that you'd have more insects, but there are some species that don't do as well. Like ground-dwelling species will have more fungal issues that kill off the eggs. Texas and San Antonio, you cannot ever predict the weather. There's just no telling what's going to come out. It's hard to know what insect is going to be a big issue. I don't think that we have seen populations decrease at all. I think habitat destruction plays a much greater role in that than climate probably. Even just worldwide, I know The Times came out with the thing about how all insects were going to go away at some point. Our Entomological Society of America has worked really hard on trying to combat that article because there were a lot of things that were incorrect about it. It was very Doomsday and not likely to happen in the next several generations.Justin: Okay. I really care that my yard has a lot of diversity and plants and all kinds of things. Anything normal backyard, I'm a backyard beekeeper, I guess I could say, but do you think just somebody with a backyard could do to increase the diversity of the bugs that they see in their backyard?Molly: They could plant more flowers, and they'll definitely see more pollinators of all different types. When you think of pollinators, you usually think bees and butterflies, but there's lots of wasps which you may or may not want. Lots of native or solitary bees that will come to flowers, flies, beetles. There's a lot of other species that pollinate, so I would plant color, and then just cut back on your pesticide use. People that have those mosquito misters are knocking down a huge fauna of insects that are out there and oftentimes causing more issues because they're killing off a lot of their beneficials that kept the bad guys in check.I'm absolutely not against the use of pesticides, I use them, we talk about, we teach how to use them properly. I'm just more of the mindset of know who you're trying to kill, don't just do it because you think you might have an issue. Use more of a targeted approach to know who you're killing and do your best to do your research to figure out how to not harm the beneficial or neutral insects that are in your landscape.Justin: We have a ton of carpenter bees, passion line or I think is what it's called.Molly: Are they carpenter or bumble bees?Justin: They're carpenter because they're just like that hard, shiny thorax, right? That's carpenter?Molly: The abdomen. Yes, so no joke, this is what we learned in school. The carpenter bee has a shiny hiney.Justin: Okay, well, that's what I looked up because as a kid I saw we had trumpet vines and we had a ton of bumblebees, but I've never seen a bumblebee here in my backyard but lots of carpenter.Molly: We have bumblebees, I had a lot of bumblebees last year, and then I've seen a fraction of what I saw last year. I don't think I've done anything different and people say this all the time. I had so much and now this year, I don't see anything of whatever insect they're talking about. It's just nature. They move on and sometimes you get lucky and sometimes you don't.Justin: Let's talk about beekeeping. I saw another clip you did where he just generally talked about it. What are the benefits of bees for all of us every day? Why are they important to our society.Molly: Simply put, we wouldn't have food or we wouldn't have the amount of food that's available to us. We eat a lot of grains and corn, and things like that, but even then we would have a decrease in pork and chicken and maybe not beef as much because they eat a lot of grains. We wouldn't see a lot of meat on our tables either because those things eat fruit and vegetables also. They are not even arguably, they are hands down the most important pollinator for agricultural crops. A lot of people will argue that they're really not that great for flowers and things but that's what our native bees take care of.Honeybees are super important agriculturally because they have massive numbers, and they can pollinate these huge acres of land and we wouldn't have the Poteet Strawberry Festival if we didn't have honeybees.Justin: European honeybees were introduced, but before that we just didn't, I guess have the yields of fruits and those types of things in America naturally.Molly: Right. We also didn't have the amount of people that we have today. Those native bees could handle Native Americans.Justin: We hear a lot about colony collapse, and I think you talked a second ago about some articles we read how alarmist they can be. Is colony collapse something we should be concerned about on a real long term, macro level, or is that a natural thing that occurs every so many years or something?Molly: It's a little bit of both. We have in the past seen major declines in honeybee populations. Our honeybee population decline we've seen as a result of varroa mites, and when those were introduced, we just never really got our populations up enough, but I think that there are so many people that are doing backyard beekeeping. If you talk to people who are an older generation, if you talk to your grandparents, they'll all say, "My grandparents did beekeeping." There was a time when everybody kept bees. Then we stopped doing that when we started being more urban and suburban, and now people are doing it again.I think we're helping the honeybee population and helping with colony collapse quite a bit. Then there's just other organizations that are teaching people about treating for mites and recognizing different diseases because it's pests and diseases that caused the major decline. Colony collapse is not like one single thing, it's a combination of eight different things really, that you see these giant collapses in huge numbers of colonies. You and I won't see it or be able to really diagnose it in 10 or less beehives, but if somebody has hundreds or thousands of hives and they lose 10%, that's a lot of hives, then you can say something weird happen.Justin: Can mites just hit and knock them out that quick for someone who has that many hives?Molly: They will if you're not treating, or if you're not monitoring for mites and making sure they're in the proper threshold that they're below the mite load that you want for that time of year, then your colonies will 100% die.Justin: Okay. I didn't realize this till I took your class, there's lots of different species of honeybees and something I didn't realize was you talked about that if you don't requeen, your hives will likely breed with a what we used to call Africanized honeybees, which was all the fear whenever you and I were kids that people were dying by honeybees. I have one of those hives now that is what you call hot. They just cover me and they're all trying to get me. What are some of the other species of honeybees and what's the most common that beekeepers keep?Molly: Well, they're all the same species. They're all apis mellifera, but then their subspecies or called races, which are like a hybrid of multiple species, or subspecies, sorry. There's probably the most common one that people can get their hands on are Italian honeybees, and they're very gentle and that's why most people like them. Africanized honey bees are a hybrid of the Africanized bee. They bred with a lot of our European honeybees also, so it's like a muted version of what flew in in the '90s.I have hot hives too and there's some benefits to having them. If you had a little small backyard and your neighbors were close by you probably wouldn't want those mean bees. I don't have to take care of them very much. They find food very well on their own,
60 minutes | 7 months ago
Stefan Bowers, Cook, Industry Advocate, and Social Media Must Follow
Stefan Bowers walks us through his career as a cook--not "chef." He discusses the struggles in the industry, the challenges of growing too fast, and his exciting new venture. Stefan is an advocate for his industry workers and a good person who tries hard to build up his colleagues. We had a fun exchange.Transcript:Justin: Hello and Bienvenido, San Antonio. Welcome to The Alamo Hour, discussing the people, places, and passion that make our city. My name is Justin Hill, a local attorney, a proud San Antonion, and keeper of chickens and bees. On The Alamo Hour, you'll get to hear from the people that make San Antonio great and unique and the best-kept secret in Texas. We're glad that you're here. All right, welcome to The Alamo Hour. Today's guest is Stefan Bowers of the Goodman & Bowers group in San Antonio. Stefan is first and foremost a chef, I think it'd be fair to say, right?Stefan: Yes, I call myself--Justin: I don't want to call you an executive or one of those things.Stefan: Yes, you can call me chef, I'll call myself a cook.Justin: All right, there you go. Not only that, he's a veteran, a prolific social media poster, which we'll get into in a little bit. I think one of the more interesting things about you that set you apart from whether you like it or not, you're a celebrity chef in this city is you are less about the self-promotion than a lot of our celebrity chefs. You're very big in promoting your industry to the lowest level employee in the restaurant. I think that sets you apart in a lot of ways and that you glorify and you celebrate everybody that's back in the kitchen as opposed to people that are glorifying themselves all the time.I think that's an interesting part of your persona. I think it's an important part of your persona and I like reading about it. I know that you have a very loyal following, not only from people who love your food, but also people that work with you, it seems like. We're going to have you on to talk a little bit about the food industry. I don't want to belabor the point of what's going on with COVID. Everybody's talking about that ad infinitum, but we're going to talk a little bit about that. I'm going to blame you probably for me putting on about 15 pounds during the shutdown due to your pizza, right? I get the pizza a lot.Stefan: Right.Justin: I do this with everybody, I start and I think you're going to have insights that a lot of people would want to know. Just some general questions about who you are in San Antonio, when and why did you end up in San Antonio.Stefan: I ended up in San Antonio in 2005 via Houston. I moved to Houston in 2003 to go to culinary school, moved there blind. I was living in San Diego with my wife. Believe it or not, San Diego didn't have any culinary schools.Justin: Is that right?Stefan: That's right. They had one in, I want to say-- I don't want to say La Mesa, but there wasn't one anywhere local to where I was when I was living in Pacific Beach. All my wife's family's from Texas. She's got one of these cliched giant Texas families. She wanted to move back to be my family, so we moved to Houston. Then I did school there. My wife got in two really bad car accidents while we were in Houston. After the second one, we wanted to get the hell out of there. I was time to go to San Antonio, and that was it, we moved here in 2005.Justin: What was the school in Houston?Stefan: It's called the Alain and Marie Lenotre Culinary School. Just small French school, and that's why I picked it. It only had financial aid for GI. It didn't have government financial aid at the time, so of course, classroom size was tiny. There was around three to five people in each class. We even went down to around two people. All Expat type chefs that were there, that were recruited or brought over from France that were there, basically, almost enslaved. They were paid very little and they were held on in order to get their visas by Alain Lenotre. They were grumpy, underpaid, and very qualified.Justin: So classic French training?Stefan: Very classic.Justin: Did you work in Houston [unintelligible 00:03:49]?Stefan: Yes, I worked in Houston. That was where I springboard was. I worked in San Diego for a couple of time [unintelligible 00:03:54] but the real first full-service kitchen that I worked in on the line was at a place called The Sam Houston Hotel Downtown. At the time, it had just relaunched their new restaurant 17 and the talent there was special. Everyone that's worked there that I know of, that I worked around has gone on to very successful things today.Justin: That was a great place to start. I lived in Houston for a little bit no 09, 10, 11 time and Mark's was just about to close and that was the nicest place ever in Houston.Stefan: I have forgotten about Mark's. [crosstalk] Aries and Mark's and those were--Justin: And Da Marco down the street from Mark's. How did you get into cooking?Stefan: Looking back at my childhood, I should have known that I wanted to be a cook. I have just a natural pension to just go into the kitchen and create. It was an easy way for me to exercise creativity, I was not good at drawing, I wasn't good at painting or any of that sort of thing. It seemed like in the kitchen, I could walk in there and I could just throw things together. As high school progressed and we cut school and smoked a lot of weed, we'd go into the kitchen and I'd start to cook and I would just start to make stuff, barbeque, steaks, whatever. milkshakes, anything, hamburgers.[laughter]Justin: Milkshakes.Stefan: Yes, milkshakes all the time, cheap milkshake non-stop. We did that. Then it never materialized in my head that I should cook, no one ever suggested to me, "You should maybe go into cooking." It wasn't until I was in the Navy that I realized, once I had gotten married that I did like to do the cooking.Justin: I'm going to ask you about restaurants in a second, but are there any off the beaten path, hidden gems in San Antonio that you like? I've had people mentioned weird trails or historic homes, are there any sort of things in San Antonio that you recommend, out of town guests, "Hey, this isn't going to be in the guidebook?"Stefan: Restaurant wise--Justin: I'm going to get there. Touristy type spots.Stefan: Touristy type spot, my ashes are gonna be spread at Hardberger Park, right on the Savanna Trail. That's my favorite place to be in the world in this city. I've walked that path countless times and I walked it even to the-- The resurface did about five years back, that was heartbreaking to me because it was such a pure simple three-foot trail. That to me, I take anyone in my family that comes here on that park in an oak loop on that part, that trail and it's very personal to me and I love it.Justin: Savanna Trail is your trailer?Stefan: The Savannah loop within Hardberger or the--Justin: I've never done it.Stefan: You got to do it.Justin: I know, I need to.Stefan: It's good, especially in the morning. Plenty of rabbit, deer, plenty of armadillo just peaceful, quiet. That's where they're going to be putting over the land bridge.Justin: Now, restaurants.Stefan: Restaurants are always tough in terms of being asked where I like to eat because once I had kids, the options really dropped off the table. They were adventurous in the beginning and as I've gotten older, they've gotten less and less adventurous and all the places that that most people do. I've loved Carnitas Lonja's for lunch. I think that's just one of the more solid place I get.Justin: Have you been to Loncheria del Popo?Stefan: No, I haven't been to these new--Justin: This is a strange place that has three sandwiches, they're 225 and they come with a bag of Lay's chips. It's on San Pedro. It's from Laredo, 50 years there, but it's got just this weird cult following.Stefan: I've got a confession to make, over the last, of course, it's-- I've got a horrible short term memory. It's terrible. Remembering names and remembering places and having a kick out places on the spot, it never works out. I'm going to get my car and I'm going to remember 50 when I'm driving home. Something has happened, there's definitely been a sea change in San Antonio over the last year, I'd say where there's a lot of killer small places that I'm seeing, especially on social media.I am definitely the one that needs the inside on where to go because there's so many-- it's hard to stop--Justin: Your social media following, I'm sure you could just ask and you would get thousands of recommendations.Stefan: I do. I do get them and then I've just--Justin: Loncheria del Popo, even your kids would like. I think it's like a hamburger, like a weenie burger. It's just this strange place that has this huge following. You get a little thing of pickled peppers and onions as part of the deal.Stefan: That sounds great.Justin: Super simple menu. You're talking about the food chains you've seen over the last year? How would you describe the food chains since you've been here? I moved here right after you moved here in '07. Back then there was like two nice places to eat and then lots of chains, but it's been a quite a big progress for our city in terms of the culinary scene, right?Stefan: Yes. The first restaurant that I had introduced to me while I had first moved here and my brother-in-law was moving here was driving down I-10 and then pointing out Mama Margie's to me, that was the option for me to get a job at. I thought I was completely, I was like, I'm fucked." I've done some research, I knew that Weissman was here, I knew that. There was the four guys at the top, there was Weissman, Auden, Mark Bliss-Justin: Daddy?Stefan: -and Daddy, but I didn't know about Daddy.Justin: You'd been then.Stefan: It was Weissman, Auden, Bliss, and Damien Watel. Those are the godfathers of San Antonio fine dinning in my opinion in the city. I was going to work for one of them when I was coming here. I wrote a letter to Andrew I got no reply so screw you, Weissman. I did letters to all of them I got replies, but they didn't have any jobs and I mean that in jest, but I did end up getting a job for Jeff Balfour at Valencia in 2005. That was the right Hotel experience, worked there for six months, and then discovered Danny in a little pamphlet. Went out and literally tracked him down while he was building Bin555 and got my job.Justin: When you moved here did Damien have that monster complex thing-Stephan: NoJustin: -they were building over there? That was after that?Stephan: Damien was still in his almost location. 2005 Weissman was just really ramping up to become just the zenith that he was about to attain with the New York Times about a year away from that New York Times article where he got I think it was three stars. Then big on the banks was what it was I never really inquired what have you but-Justin: It's still just solid.Stephan: Yes, it's probably the same then as it was as it is today other than a few decore changes.Justin: I don't think many decore changes. [laughs] Still a bunch of big dried gourds. I always look at those every time I come on there. You told me one time what is your favorite cookbook. For anybody listening who wants to try their hand at cooking what would you recommend? You recommended a Mediterranean cookbook and I opened it up and thought, I don't know what the fuck any of this stuff is. I didn't even know the ingredients.Stephan: Was it a person or was it generic?Justin: If you said the name I would remember.Stephan: Mediterranean cook oh, was it a Silvena Rowe cookbook or?Justin: I say Mediterranean there was just a lot of Mediterranean ingredients in there.Stephan: I'm sure there was so when Feast opened in 2011. I feel I was a little bit ahead of the game and I was trying to bring something new into the city that hadn't been done. I really went deep into eastern med and basically Gaza Strip style food and brought a lot of those North African flavors. Now it's commonplace to see Harissa and all these things all over menus, but back then I thought we were pretty much the only ones doing it on a non-ethnic base restaurant scale.Justin: For a beginning cook any books you recommend-Stephan: The Joy Of Cooking. The best cookbook in the world is the Joy Of Cooking.Justin: That's not the one you told me. You told me one and I remember thinking, I don't even know the ingredients.Stephan: I was probably still a snob at that time and still really cared about it, but no The Joy Of Cooking.Justin: Your lamb lollipops over there those had a lot of Mediterranean flavors in them.Stephan: Big time totally taken from definitely readapted, but taken from a Silvena Rowe recipe. She's a chef out of England, but she's, plus I don't want to probably overstep myself here, but I feel like she's Hungarian. That's the direction I went. I bought all our cookbooks before we open Feast and I just studied anything I could that had Eastern med flavors.Justin: People get drunk and they talk about stupid shit and one day we we're sitting around talking about the best three things we've eaten in the city. Mine were lamb lollipops, your steak at Rebel right when you all opened and you all had those duck confit potatoes that came with them right?Stephan: I'm so glad you remember those.Justin: Yes, so good.Stephan: That's badass that you remember those. Those are the rooster potatoes that we had sourced out through Benny Ki to make duck to make confit potatoes.Justin: Yes those two things and then the third was it was almost like a Beef Wellington that McHugh did right when Cured opened. It was fantastic, but you made two of the top.Stephan: Thanks.Justin: Then I remember you all were retiring the lamb lollipops and I was very sad, but I wasn't sad to see Feast go because that building seemed it was about to fall down.Stephan: Rock hard and put up wet.Justin: It smelled like it was put up wet sometimes. You have a feud going with burger boy I see on Facebook? Soul feud?Stephan: A foe feud yes. They got upset. I think there's more of a deeper there's an undercurrent going on between they're very busy during the pandemic fast foods boom.Justin: They are long line right now.Stephan: Everybody's it's easier obviously it's safer feeling to go through a drive-thru. They blocked the parking of people that are trying to that are at little desk shopping and they can't get out. They probably tried to be reasonable whatever and there's just nothing we can do about it situation. One morning when we were doing our pop up the guy was just out there and he's just stickulating at me definitely as we were setting up and on his phone and what have you. Then the cop showed up at the end of the day. The cop came and said there's nothing I could do. I was called because no one's wearing masks, but it's everybody sitting down eating not wearing masks.Justin: They're allowed to, also outdoors.Stephan: Also outdoors. It's chill now.Justin: Nobody likes having competition next door.Stephan: I'm not picking a fight with Burger Boy. I know who, I respect the hustle.Justin: You go sell 100 and they sell 100 every two hours probably.Stephan: 15 minutes.Justin: What's your favorite thing to cook and what's your favorite thing to eat?Stephan: I would say my favorite thing to cook is I love making Sunday night pasta. I love making a good simple, but very long stewed beef ragu with spaghetti.Justin: You post a lot of it.Stephan: Yes I love that. We usually this is thrown through a loop because it's Sunday night dinners every night. Back when there was really an important night right before school started. We would sit down every night for sure and have pasta. Eating wise I love hamburgers.Justin: Me too.Stephan: Straight up. I'm simple. I've always have been my dad's taken me to all kinds of places growing up. I just like a good burger.Justin: That's my favorite thing to drink with wine or take it with wine.Stephan: Cheeseburger?Justin: It's a cheeseburger and a good glass of wine. I actually had that as one of my questions. What do you think the secret is to a good hamburger? Me smoke. I do grill put mesquite wood in it and just smoke the hell out of them. That's my way of doing it.Stephan: To me that question is crazy because what you've got is each category within inside from top to bottom bun. One thing that I feel that the bond can ruin everything. Patty that has no flavor that's too thick. The quality of meat. To me, the most important the best burger I ever had in my life was at Zuni grill in San Francisco. It was as basic as it get, but it was about a six-ounce burger. It was a thick guy, but the flavor of the meat was just beyond anything that I've ever tasted. I just never had tasted ground beef like this. They're probably getting real sustainable. Really well cared for beef. It was unbelievable in its flavor in its simplicity.Justin: You still remember it?Stephan: I remember it like yesterday. Buns to me ruin burgers. That's why the bun we'd use it when we do them, we get a very small bun because to me a burger is not a two-handed meal. I'm really real picky about it. Burgers
50 minutes | 8 months ago
Jorge Urby, Campaign Manager of SA Ready to Work and Local Political Heavy Hitter
Ron Nirenberg is committed to retraining and training San Antonio workers for higher paying jobs. To that end, in November, voters can vote on an initiative creating a fund of $150,000,000 to do just that. The campaign manager for this initiative joins us to discuss this campaign and what it can do for the city.Transcript:[music]Justin Hill: Hello and Bienvenido San Antonio. Welcome to The Alamo Hour, discussing the people, places, and passion that make our city. My name is Justin Hill, a local attorney, a proud San Antonian, a keeper of chickens, and bees. On The Alamo Hour, you'll get to hear from the people that make San Antonio great and unique and the best-kept secret in Texas. We're glad that you're here.[applause]All right. Welcome to The Alamo Hour. Today's guest is Jorge Urby of The Glider Group in San Antonio. Jorge and I have been friends for a while. We actually took a break on The Alamo Hour, so we're getting back on. We've got Jorge on to talk about a few things. He's been tapped by our mayor, Ron Nirenberg, to run a campaign that the Express-News call Build SA, but it's actually been now changed and named to SA: Ready to Work. He is one of the most sought after political consultants and political communications guys in towns of San Antonio. Express called you a heavy hitter. Did you know that Jorge?Jorge Urby: I heard that. Somebody told me that.Justin: [laughs] You've worked on Beto O'Rourke's campaign, Julian Castro's presidential campaigns. You're very involved in our city. Thank you for being here.Jorge: Thank you, Justin. Thank you for doing what you're doing. I think it's a great thing for the community and I just appreciate you having me on your show.Justin: Yes, it's a new medium and San Antonio is just far behind on things, sometimes technologically. I wanted to be in the front end of this, and I get to interview interesting people. I had the mayor on as well.Jorge: Nice. Nice.Justin: I would start and just get a little bit of color commentary on who you are. Just a few questions, background, your thoughts on San Antonio. When and why did you move to San Antonio?Jorge: Absolutely, man. I'm from Del Rio, Texas originally. My family goes back there many, many generations and loved it, man. I loved growing up in the small town and the small community feel, but as most people when you turn 18, you start to look into wanting to go to college and what that experience is going to be like. I went to school at Texas State and I was there for some years. I always had a kinship with San Antonio, man because I loved the Spurs. I grew up not too far away. We would come up for family vacations or gatherings or something like that. I always knew that I would end up here, but I did bounce around definitely, especially in my 20s and early 30s.I got involved through the Castro brothers and other people in the community, and I just fell in love with it and the people, so I just thought, "I want to make my life here." I really moved here, I guess it would be late '04, maybe early '05, something like that, and then I did a stint in the Dallas area, Fort Worth area. I lived in DC for a while, Austin and then I came back here.Justin: What was the DFW run for?Jorge: When I moved up there the first time, I was working for the mayor of Forth Worth actually. I worked at city hall there and really came to love that city as well, but then I got an opportunity to move to Washington to pursue my master's degree. I got a master's in public administration from American, then I worked at USDA and I worked at HHS.Justin: Okay. I didn't know that. Your big city was San Antonio. My growing up, big city was Fort Worth. I grew up two hours from Fort Worth. That's where we'd go if we wanted to go to the big malls or one of those things.Jorge: There's a lot of similarities actually between the two cities that I found. I like that city a lot. I go visit when I can. My dad used to live up there for a while. I would go up and see him. He lives in Illinois now.Justin: Del Rio reminds me a lot of where I grew up, which is Wichita Falls because they're both real heavy Air Force bases and a regional big town with a lot of agricultural-type country living people around. They've always reminded me very similar of one another. I asked Ron, favorite hidden gem in San Antonio and he said the Denman Estate Park, I think, was the one he said and I'd never heard of it. Do you have any hidden off the path places in San Antonio that you think are these great hidden gems that you tell people, "Hey, you've got to go check this place out if you haven't been."Jorge: Yes, for sure. The Botanical Gardens. I know they're popular, but I don't know if a lot of people have been there, but that's a great place to check out if you haven't checked it out. You know what I love about San Antonio? Is obviously the hidden gems. There's great restaurants, for example. One in Southtown called QPV. I know a lot of friends of mine haven't checked it out and I'm always like, "That's a great place if you haven't seen it." What I love about San Antonio is there's a lot to do in a lot of different places. [inaudible 00:05:03]whether it's the North, the West, the South, the East, of course, downtown in Parole. Then it's also the small cities surrounding it like Gruene, Fredericksburg, and Blanco. You also get to experience that and I think it adds to it.Justin: I hear those towns brought up and I had a guy on my show who has the Texas State Trooper program. It's a PBS program where he goes to Texas cities all over. He's done hundreds of episodes, and he swears by Seguin, and I thought, "I don't know." [chuckles] He thinks it's great.Jorge: You know what? I've been there maybe once or twice. They have a nice little downtown, but I don't know it well.Justin: They've got the river that runs through it and all that. Who are your political heroes?Jorge: That's a great question. I would say I admired Obama a lot. I thought some of the stuff he did was really good. I will caveat and say that there's never been a perfect person or somebody who served that I could say, "Oh, I loved everything they did with either side." I just admire the guy because, number one, he broke barriers. Number two, such an eloquent speaker and his character was unbelievable. The way he carried himself, the way he was a family man, all of that because I think that stuff matters, especially at that level. I admired him a lot.One of the guys who helped me grow and maybe understand the way politics was, was Congressman Joaquin Castro, who I think the world of. I know him personally and I can really say that his heart's in the right place. His brother, same way. Mike Moncrief, man. The mayor of Fort Worth. I learned a lot from him, working for him for a little over a year. Very gregarious person, got a lot done. Bill White in Houston; honorable man, super smart.All these people that I've been blessed to work with and count as mentors. When I have a big decision to make in my life, I'm able to call them and they walk me through it. Those would be some of the people. On the national level, probably Obama and LBJ in some ways just because, again, not perfect, did some things probably I didn't agree with, but I thought he got a lot done. He's a fellow Texan so I have to add him in there.Justin: His ability to influence people is just-- They said there was never somebody that ran the senate as effectively as he did.Jorge: Oh, unbelievable. If you read the books by Robert Carroll, which I don't know if you have or not, but, man, you're just in awe of the skill that he had to really get legislation passed. You know what I mean? I don't know if we had somebody that effective ever.Justin: The Johnson treatment, they called it.Jorge: Yes, yes.Justin: I was just reading about this the other day. I watched his last interview he did which I guess was with 60 minutes. He was 67 when he died, I think. He was pretty young.Jorge: Yes. He was young.Justin: You've been involved on the political side in this city, which means you hear and see the issues and they are brought up day to day because politicians run on issues for the most part. What do you think, personally, are some of the biggest issues facing our city that keep eluding us?Jorge: Absolutely, man. Look, I have my business which is The Glider Group. I do communications. I used to manage campaigns and I've been involved in politics in government and stuff like that. The reason I got involved with what I'm doing now is because of what you just asked. I've always felt and I've heard other people say this as well. That San Antonio was missing that knowledge-based economy. The jobs that pay higher wages. When companies look at the cities in Texas, we might get looked at, but they may go to Austin or Houston or Dallas or even Fort Worth.We're the second-largest city in Texas. We absolutely should be getting looked at and also landing those types of businesses. For me, I think that's the main thing in San Antonio. Our literacy rate is not that high. I think investing in that. Also, what they did with the Pre-K 4 SA, which is investing early because the studies show that it'll help in the long run. Homelessness, I think, is another big issue that needs to be dealt with in the city and of course, COVID showed us that we are absolutely in need of helping folks break that generational poverty and elevate themselves so they can create a better quality of life for them in terms of economics. For me, that's why I took a step away from the business, man, because this was important. I said, "You know what? I'm always talking about this. I got a chance to do it so I'm going to do it."Justin: Do you think our rising tide in the cybersecurity world is going to be that wave that gets us where we need to be because every city that has ended up with this high education, knowledge base workforce, has had some industry that has brought them there, it seems like. Rackspace didn't really do it for us, even though we had this cloud computing thing pop up for a little bit, but it seems like maybe cybersecurity will be that impetus to get us where it needs to be. Do you think that's a likelihood? Do you think that's going to be a small part of our industry? What's your thoughts on that?Jorge: I think that's one of them. For sure, man. We're doing a lot of work in that sector, but I think tech in general. If you look at all these tech entrepreneurs that are moving to San Antonio, some of it's because they're getting priced out of Austin. They're coming here and you're seeing these bubbles pop up and these folks are really investing in the community, creating this energy downtown that I've never seen before and I used to live downtown. I think tech is going to help us get there, but there's other opportunities besides that that we need to build upon.Justin: I want to talk to you a little bit because it sounds like SA: Ready to Work is exactly what we're talking about here. Talk to me a little bit about about The Glider Group and your past. I spent some time working on campaigns. It's funny I worked on Alex Sanders senate campaign in '02 against Lindsey Graham, the first time he ran and did some fieldwork in Missouri and South Carolina. I was familiar with it. I thought about maybe working in politics and I decided to go this route. Sounds like you're in communications. What got you to that and because in the politics side, there's field, there's direct mail, there's communications, there's polling? What brought you to the communication side?Jorge: Yes, sure, man. I've done all of that. I've worked enough in it that I got to see every department division, every aspect of the political campaign. Honestly, I was going to go to law school. I had moved up to Dallas. I was working in health care. I was working at Parkland Health and Hospital System and I really loved that job. I'm doing it, I'm really loving it, but I'm thinking, "I might just go back to law school because I've been doing this for a while." I moved back to my hometown because we had a family tragedy and I wanted to be home with my family. This was about four years ago. I moved back home. I hadn't been home in 17 years.Justin: Wow.Jorge: That was a long time. I'm getting acclimated to my community again and I just thought about it and I said, "What do you really love? What do you want to do?" I think for me, it wasn't the legal aspect. I just said, "You know what? That's just not really what I want to do." I just really love communications. I started thinking about what I was good at and what I thought I could put together. That's why I started the company. As you start anything, it's like you start thinking it one way, and then as you go, you start shaping it based of what it is that you can do.Justin: What does communications mean at The Glider Group? What type of services do you provide to clients?Jorge: Absolutely. Strategy work, we do production, commercials, documentaries, that kind of stuff. We do design, creative. We do digital. It's like an all in one because I had studied the market and I felt like there wasn't that many places that you could go to one place and say, "I need all this stuff." That's why I was like, "You know what? Let me go ahead and see if I can get this off the ground." I started with one client and then it was two and then it was three and then it just took off.It's funny, man, because when I was younger, I worked really hard throughout my 20s and my early 30s. I was just really, really, really working hard and that paid dividends without me even knowing because you're not thinking that. I wasn't thinking this grand plan of I'm going to start a business and all these people I'm helping, I'm going to be able-- It's just like people remember me and they remember that I was a hard worker so they gave me a chance. I'm almost five years in, man. It's been a blessing.Justin: Is there any lobbying or more communication side?Jorge: No, no, no. Not a lobby. I do public affairs sometimes. Education, letting people know how to attack something or who may be to talk to and stuff like that, but I don't lobby per se. I'm not even trying to get votes for people or anything like that. There's a lot of good ones in town, but she's not something we do.Justin: What are campaigns have you worked on in a major role?Jorge: [crosstalk] I'm not even sure.Justin: [laughs]Jorge: I'm not even sure.Justin: That our San Antonio listeners would know about.Jorge: Sure, sure. I was involved when Jessica Rodriguez ran for state rep and then when you ran for commissioner. Phil Cortez in the Southside. I helped [unintelligible 00:16:08] Donya a little bit. Julian, for sure. Joaquin. Not that it not sounds very specific, but when Bill White ran for governor, I was in charge of Bexar County for him. I've done big county races.Tommy Calvert is another one that I've helped. Now the mayor, of course, through this initiative. Honestly, one of the things that I wanted to do when I knew I was going to go into this, was I wanted to know all of it from the grassroots all the way to the top in both sectors; in government and in politics. I've worked school board races, for example, in Edgewood. I've worked on presidential races. All the way from school board to presidential. On the government side, I've worked at the local county state, and national level. I did that on purpose because I really wanted to know everything. That's how I did it for myself.Justin: All people campaigns or have you done bond campaigns and initiatives or is this your first foray into the initiatives?Jorge: No, I've done some initiatives. I did one recently for water, for example. There was a campaign to provide water infrastructure for communities that were lacking that throughout Texas. It was called Turn the Tap Texas. I did that recently and then, of course, this one that we're doing now, SA: Ready to Work, Pre-K 4 SA a few years back in some ways.I've been involved in both. Actually, I enjoy the initiatives or the propositions a lot, especially if I believe in them because that's the thing. If you ask anybody who moves [unintelligible 00:18:01]. I'm involved, but I'm involved in the things that I would like to do. If I think it's important and something that I really care about, I get involved and I go 110%.I'm not one of these guys, honestly, that's jumping from campaign to campaign to campaign and just trying to help everybody. I want to meet the person. I want to know what they're about. Are they really in it for the right reasons? Then maybe, "Okay, let's go," or something like SA: Ready to Work, I just think it's a game-changer for the community and I didn't want to not be involved.Justin: You've been named the campaign manager by Ron Nurnberg for the SA: Ready to Work campaign. Talk to me a little bit about how the mayor is involved in this initiative that has its own campaign and we'll talk about it, but seemingly it's own financing for the campaign. What is SA: Ready to Work, to begin with?Jorge: SA: Ready to Work is a program that's going to help people get training and education to get higher-wage jobs. Here's what happened. The mayor, COVID hits, and he's trying to help as many people as possible, keep them safe first. Let's save lives, let's make sure everybody's good and then I don't know if you remember that photo for the food bank that went viral?Justin: The long lines? [crosstalk]Jorge: Basically what happened was, the food line went from 60,000 to 120,000 like that. [snaps fingers] All of us are looking at each other like, "This is messed up. That's our city." Everybody in the country-- If you probably think of one thing that encapsulated that time, it's probably that photo.Justin: Yes, I think that's fair.Jorge: It's like, "You know what? Enough. We got to do something about this." The mayor sat back because if you remember before that, he was really pushing something called SA Connect, which was the transportation initiative that he [unintelligible 00:20:15]. Priorities had to shift. It was like, "Okay, how do we not let that happen again?" That's why he came up with SA: Ready to Work and he's like, "Okay, here's what we can do. We...
59 minutes | 9 months ago
Nico LaHood, Former Bexar County Criminal District Attorney
Nico LaHood was the Bexar County Criminal District Attorney for one term. During his time, the District Attorney's office was changed in many ways with the inclusion of new programs. Outside of his time in elected office, he is a well-known criminal defense trial attorney and now hosts a podcast called R-Rated Christianity. We had a great talk on a broad range of topics.Transcript:[music]Justin Hill: Hello and Bienvenido San Antonio. Welcome to the Alamo Hour discussing the people, places and passion that make our city. My name is Justin Hill, a local attorney, a proud San Antonian and a keeper of chickens and bees. On the Alamo Hour, you'll get to hear from the people that make San Antonio great and unique and the best-kept secret in Texas. We're glad that you're here.All right, welcome to the Alamo Hour. Today's guest is Nico LaHood. Nico's the former criminal district attorney of Bexar County, criminal defense lawyer. He's got his own podcast, R-Rated Christianity. He's a public persona. he's very vocal about his faith, being a father and a husband.Nico LaHood: Thanks for having me [unintelligible 00:00:53]. How are you doing?Justin: Nico, thanks for joining us. I'm doing great man. I'm doing great. Are you hanging in there?Nico: [crosstalk] no complaints. I was shocked to hear that you're a keeper of chickens and bees.Justin: I do. I have two beehives. Well, I've got to keep my hands busy, I think. It's idle time, right?Nico: I'd like to-- we're talking about a garden, God Willing in this next season, especially with all this craziness, you can't find toilet paper or food during these last months. I'm not going to do anything about the toilet paper but the chickens has been an idea and people have suggested the bees because we have some land that it might be beneficial.Justin: The chickens are really easy, and they're funny and they're social animals and the bees are set it and forget it.Nico: We have foxes and coyotes in my area though. We have to be really thoughtful.Justin: You've to have a good coop that you close at night. That's the key. Nico, I start all these with usually about 10 questions. If there's any way you can speak up a little louder or get closer to your mic, I want to make sure that I don't sound completely overpowering. I'm going to do fewer questions with you because I want to get into some stuff. First, I always ask people, what are your favorite hidden gems of the city? You're born and raised here, so what are some of the kept secrets you think of the city?Nico: Being around my family. [chuckles] I love my kids, [unintelligible 00:02:11] my wife is too good for my stupid ass. Oh, I'm sorry, [unintelligible 00:02:15] podcast. [crosstalk].Justin: Go for it.Nico: I married up. I'm really kind of a, it's either church, workout and I work out in my garage now. I've been doing that for years since I've been in public office. I started working out at the house to save time. I just enjoy my family now. Now that I'm not out speaking six, seven days a week in this meeting or that meeting, I have rediscovered weekends. We just have occasional dinners, invite a lot of friends and fellowship. We're just really simple.Justin: What about visitors who come in? I always tell them go check out the Japanese Tea Garden. I think that's a great [crosstalk] thing in the town.Nico: I send people to the missions. I love history, now. I think I got a D when I was in history, younger.Justin: There you go.Nico: I can't get enough of history now. I've gone back and started setting the Constitution and the Articles of Confederation, the federalist papers and Bill of Rights and all that declaration and constant. I just love it now, I can't get enough of it. I like to send them to historical places. Of course, they already know about the Riverwalk. That's it.Justin: That's a good one. I think the other missions-- I was here three years before I finally saw them and was disappointed it took me so long. Next question. Have you caught up with Chasnoff lately?Nico: I have nothing for him anymore because [unintelligible 00:03:34].Justin: You all had such a public spat. I didn't know if I have to get [crosstalk].Nico: If Brian reached out to me and he wanted to talk, if he ever needed prayer, if he ever needed counsel, if he was ever accused of a crime, I would fight for him like I fight for all my clients and I would minister to him like I minister to anybody with I'm doing prison ministry or somebody in our Bible study. I also tell him when he's wrong, and I'll tell him the truth and I'll tell it harshly or softly. However he wants.I have to admit that he is irritating because I don't believe and this is my opinion that he's an honest person. I can prove that if he ever would ever talk to me, but he hasn't. Even though I'm called in my faith, Justin, as you know, to forgive, and it's a choice, it's not a feeling. I've chosen to do that with a lot of people and I forgive him. If he ever needs help or if you ever need anything, I'm here for him.Justin: That was really just messed up.Nico: That's an honest answer.Justin: No, no I appreciate it. I didn't know if after it was all said and done there was like a call of, "Hey man." How would you describe R-Rated Christianity? I've listened to a few episodes.Nico: The R-Rated catches people's attention. It stands for real raw and redemption. The real is we talk about real topics. We're not very Christianese language, obviously. We don't talk about the typical Kumbaya topics in a church to feel good. We talk about real topics. We do it in a raw way. I use some slang that that pisses off some church people. I never use the Lord's name in vain. I don't drop any f-bombs on that podcast because I consider my audience and my faith and Ephesians 4:29 tells me to consider my audience. [crosstalk].Justin: [unintelligible 00:05:14]Nico: I didn't get close on some of these, but it's an apologetic style podcast. What that means it comes from the Greek word of Apollo Gaea to give an answer. When you look at the Greek Apollo Gaea, it's to give a defense almost like a defense attorney defending your client. I always tell people my number one client is a first-century Jew named Jesus. He went by Joshua, but as they translated it to Jesus.I give a defense for why are you a Christian? What does that mean? Tell me about this topic. I think the church has done a crappy job answering some really good questions that people have and especially our young people. I think that sucks and they don't honor God, [unintelligible 00:05:48]. Did you say I could use slang every once in a while? Is that okay?Justin: Do whatever you want.Nico: It drives the shit out of me when people, they falsely accuse and convict my faith and God for something He didn't do. Bill Maher's really good at it. I would love to talk to him someday. He just has a misunderstanding of the faith. I went through a deep dive, Justin, as you've heard probably in some of my talks. After my brother was murdered, I was pissed off at God. I asked a bunch of questions. Questions that the typical Christian or the typical church person doesn't ask and there's answers to that.It was a hard road. It was a rough road, I lived in the prism of anger and unforgiveness for years. I was released from that and I'm forever grateful to God for that. I had answers for why I'm a Christian. This podcast in a raw way, not fake Kumbaya way talks about a real guy, who I believe was the Messiah and God incarnate. Then there's answers to all these questions people have, and so we try to address the real questions.Justin: I was the editor of the law review at Baylor and one of the articles we published was a analysis of the criminal prosecution of Jesus. That Professor then went on to write a book about it. That was [crosstalk].Nico: I would love to read that. Let me tell you, because that is the most famous murder scene in the history of mankind, Jesus Christ. You should describe it. In this first-century, he was murdered by the Romans and they were really damn good at murdering people. He did not get the due process as you know from doing that review, there was a Jewish law in place that due process they tried Him at nighttime.Caiaphas and Pontius Pilate and Herod, nobody could find anything wrong with Him. They just gave into the mob mentality, kind of what we're seeing today, ironically. Pilate just said, screw it, man, give them Jesus. I don't know what the hell you want Him for. We'll give you Barabus, kill this guy. He couldn't find anything wrong with him. There was no due process. He didn't confront His witnesses. He didn't have effective assistance of counsel. He wasn't tried by his peers, and it was done in a very expedient way and in the night. It was a murder scene. It was not done justly. It's interesting you did that article. I didn't know about that.Justin: I didn't write it. I published it though. I will send it to you. That Professor went on to write a whole book on it and it's been redone. I think they did a video of it too. You're an attorney, you're a trial lawyer, I have heard people that even have said, "Well, I'm not a big Nico fan but man that guy's good in trial." Some of these prosecutors that you ruffled their feathers back in the day. I've heard many people say how good you are in trail. What are your thoughts on Zoom trials?Nico: None at all. [unintelligible 00:08:24] There's no way. You've got someone cross-examination, your read body language, walking, and talking evidencing, objecting. How do you approach the bench? How do you know that if you're not or in a jury box right now, how do I know that [unintelligible 00:08:39] my uncle was in the back watching too, and he gives me history's damn sense and nobody asked for. It's a horrible idea. I have a lot of opinions about what's going on right now. Zoom trials it's not constitutional and I would never support it or advise it for a client.Justin: Yes, there's an ABA article and there was some jurors, one of them was on a peloton working out for another one cuddled up in their bed with her cat. I want to talk to you a little bit about your run as DA. I think, to some extent it unfairly got clouded in some of the controversies that happened, but you actually did a lot and changed a lot of the processes within the DA's office that I don't think got enough attention at the time. You did pre-trial diversion. You changed the Public Integrity unit. Maybe I said that wrong, how you titled it, but talk to me about some of your accomplishments in the DAs office.Nico: We went from [unintelligible 00:09:30] public integrity unit. We started a law enforcement integrity unit that of course, pissed off some of the union at first. They realized damn, if I'm in the right Nico is going to stand in front of us. If I'm in the wrong, I got some problems. That's the way it should be, by the way. We started a conviction integrity unit because it was like only the ninth in the country, third in the state only at the time, because we should have honest and good convictions.Our oath was to ensure justice was done not to secure convictions. That means did we get it right? And people are, why are you starting to conviction integrity unit? Because I'm the DA and my responsibility is to protect the community from itself, but also from the government. I'm not a big government guy, I'm a libertarian leaning Republican now but I've always been the same.Even when I ran as a Democrat, I was a blue dog Democrat. I was proud to be a Democrat back then and a blue dog Democrat but I believed in small government [unintelligible 00:10:23] take care of my roads, make sure we don't get foreign invaders, make sure we can do business and protect us from each other, and that includes a good justice system, and I was honored to serve as District attorney. I never thought I could. Justin, as you know, I was arrested for selling drugs when I was younger. My brother was murdered in my driveway. People thought I was going to go straight to prosecution and I ended up being a defense attorney for almost a little over 13 years and I did it passionately, as you mentioned earlier, and I was honored to serve as DA and I think I did a different perspective.What I am not good at, brother, is I am a shitty politician because I don't tell people what they want to hear. I tell them the truth. My no is a no my yes is a yes, I'll give you my answer. I won't try a case in the court of public opinion and I'll meet with anybody. I never--you can ask anybody that worked with me at the time. Anybody would--I never said no to a meeting. I've been in the toughest meetings, Justin, you can ever imagine in meetings where the prosecutor's like, damn, Nico, why'd you do that to their family? Because I either chose against the death penalty or something.Everyone thought I was going to be this pro death, which I am. I'm a responsible supporter of the death penalty. Responsible, that's the keyword. Many times I chose against it because of the facts or law or the way juries were moving in that season and I met with every family. I never told a family no Justin, and because that wasn't given the respect to us by Governor Perry at the time, I made sure that I didn't-- I wasn't a hypocrite.Justin: Talk to me about the pretrial diversion because Susan Reed was very staunchly against any type of pretrial diversion program. What is a pretrial diversion program and then how did you Institute it or what did you bring to pass as you [crosstalk] with the DA?Nico: Yes. We did a couple of things. We did the first adjudication on obstruction of highway, which is different on DWI cases. Before they changed the laws, we were ahead of the curve on that because people were forced, their lives are being substantially altered and rightfully so, they've taken responsibility, but come on, man, they had a conviction on their record. So we started there and then pretrial diversion, think about pretrial, diverting the adjudication of any type of adjudication of guilt or even deferred adjudication and the key to pretrial diversion is you can get it expunged.That's the key so it's a special type of supervision. It doesn't--we ran it through the probation office. I worked very well with the probation department. It's just a no brainer. It's in the statute. We allow it. Why would we want to do it for certain nonviolent crimes? You know, I had a huge advocacy and I think we instilled a restorative justice model because I think I'm a product of restorative justice from what I went through with the justice system when I was young and very foolish, but yet I was harsh on violent crimes.Genene Jones, no one said could be prosecuted and we prosecuted Genene Jones because of the hard work that one of my law partners, Jason Gossan and Jay and other people and myself, we worked on together, she's going to meet the Lord from prison where she belongs and that's justice, that's the right result.Pretrial diversion, you get back to that answer, it's a wonderful opportunity for a first time offender or for whenever a prosecutor used their discretion and feels that it's appropriate for someone to expunge a case if they fulfill all the stat, the requirements of their agreement with the state and with the government and the judge, so it doesn't go on their record and it can be expunged. So we implemented that and I think it was the right thing to do.Justin: What would you say were your biggest accomplishments at the DA's office?Nico: The culture change. I think people enjoyed-- there was a lot of things and you'll never hear me say, and I never did when I was in office, me or my or I, it was always we, us and our. I was the leader of that organization for a period of time, the buck stopped with me. I never passed on, threw people under the bus. I took responsibility. I stood in front of the folks that worked with me, but the culture, I think people even now are saying that the culture was very different. I like to think that people enjoyed coming to work and took pride in being prosecutors. There was-- it's right here on my where's it at?Oh, it's up there, everybody that left my office, it's right behind me said, do what's right not what's easy. Everybody knew that. Do what's right not what's easy is whatever-- here's where the only rules in the office don't do anything illegal. Obviously it's a DA's office. Don't do anything unethical. Obviously that's fine but do what's right. Do what's right. Not what's easy. I might not agree with you. You might get spoken to about it and learn from it, but you're never going to lose your job if you did what was ethical and what was legal.For me, I always add in their moral, but I don't impose on anybody else, but so that was it. I think people enjoyed coming to work and appreciated the environment. Around 200-500 employees roughly.Justin: Okay. We're a little different than some cities because our DA's office is also our County attorney, in which other counties have a County attorney and a DA. In our County, the district attorneys is in charge of both of those functions, right?Nico: It's called the criminal district attorney, so in Travis County, they have a district attorney and to have a County attorney. The County attorney is the county's civil firm and they're also the misdemeanor prosecutors and then the district attorney handles all felony. For us in Harris County, I believe Tarrant County, there might be one other one. I can't think, I think there's one other one, but they're criminal district attorneys. That means that they handle all the felonies, child protective services, all the civil work and all the misdemeanors, so it's a big operation to overlook.Justin: Yes. You would always say you were the criminal district attorney, even though you all had the civil function in house. I never really understood why. Your time in the DA's office and to be fair, I helped out with your first campaign where you were unsuccessful, your second campaign where you were successful. Your first campaign, those meetings at Panchito's I made friends that I still stay in touch with.Your time in office, there was some controversy. There was the vaccine issues and there was the people that you would kind of engage with on social media or in the comments section of the San Antonio express. Do you think those took away from the good...
62 minutes | 9 months ago
Sheryl Sculley, Former San Antonio City Manager, Runner and Author
When Sheryl Sculley was hired in San Antonio to be the new city manager, she was confronted with a variety of issues that had long been neglected. From internet usage to wages, she had huge hurdles to overcome immediately. By the time she left, she had become the face of the police and fire union's fight with the city over their contract. She joins the show to discuss her new tell-all book about her experience.Transcript:[music]Justin Hill: Hello, and Bienvenido San Antonio. Welcome to The Alamo Hour, discussing the people places, and passion that make our city. My name is Justin Hill, a local attorney, a proud San Antonian, keeper of chickens, and bees. On The Alamo Hour, you'll get to hear from the people that make San Antonio great, unique, and the best-kept secret in Texas. We're glad that you're here.[applause]Justin: All right, welcome to this episode of The Alamo Hour. Today's guest is Sheryl Sculley. Sheryl was the city manager of San Antonio from 2005 until 2019. Under her tenure, there are so many accomplishments that we're going to discuss a lot about today, but for most of us, who just look around The Henry B Convention Center being redone into what it is today, our Mission Trail, the Mission is becoming a world heritage site. Some of the behind the scenes things include how our government works, and our new contracts for our police, and fire unions. She discusses in her book a lot of these accomplishments, we're here to talk to her about some of those accomplishments discussed in her book, and her new book, Greedy Bastards: One Cities City's Texas-Sized Struggle to Avoid a Financial Crisis. Sheryl, thank you for joining me.Sheryl Sculley: Thank you, Justin. I’m happy to be with you.Justin: Before we got going, I made sure that we could see some of the books behind you on the shelf that people can know that this is a book tour, and I’m part of your book tour today.Sheryl: Thank you for doing that. This morning I learned that I just made the Amazon bestseller list. I’m excited.Justin: That's awesome. Now, you're going to be scrolling through, and paying attention for reviews as they come in?Sheryl: Yes. I’m sure we'll get a few of those.Justin: Okay. I start all these with a little bit of background information. Everybody knows who you were, and are, but I don't know how many people know much about you, I learned a lot about you in the book. Unfortunately, for a lot of us-- I moved here in ‘07, a lot of what we heard about you, and learned about you had to do with the public union fight. There was a lot of information put out about you, which was I think a little bit unfair obviously. Let's give a little bit of background to who you are, you came from Phoenix, Arizona. What was your experience with San Antonio prior to coming out here to work as a city manager?Sheryl: I was the assistant city manager in the number two position in the city of Phoenix, I worked there for 16 years, watched, and was a part of that city growing, doubling in size, and expanding. We worked on major initiatives for that fast-growing city. Before that, I was city manager of Kalamazoo, Michigan. I actually grew up in the Chicago area, went to school in Indiana, and my first job out of college was with the city of Kalamazoo, Michigan. My husband Mike is from Kalamazoo, and our children were born there. I worked for that city for a total of 15 years, I wasn't born a city manager although I am the oldest of seven children. My siblings accused me of trying to city manage the family.I started in a research position, joined the city manager's office as an assistant city manager, and worked there the last five years as city manager. Then I was recruited to Phoenix. We've never been there, but our kids were pre-school age, it was good timing to move across the country, take on that new challenge, so we did. I never thought I’d leave Phoenix, I was in the number two position and hope to become the city manager when that manager left. Then San Antonio came knocking, I did turn down the position the first time it was offered in 2005, Mayor Garza was mayor at the time. They were going through an election. After the election, Mayor Hardberger was elected, he contacted me, and convinced me to come to San Antonio.I did, I was appointed in the summer of 2005. The hurricane Katrina hit the coast the following week, which perhaps was an omen as to the experience I’d have in San Antonio. I signed a two-year contract, it was a really great experience to work with Mayor Hardberger. He's a wonderful man, he had never been on the city council. I think for both of us, me being not from San Antonio, being new, the council was looking for an outsider to come in, improve the professionalism of the city government here, develop some big bond programs, and improve their service delivery to the community. Here I am, 15 years later I just retired from city management a year ago. That's after 45 years in public management, but it's been a great ride and I've loved working in San Antonio.Justin: You make a joke in your book that-- You speak very highly of Phil Harburger who's been nothing but a nice man every time I've met him. He's previously a lawyer in another life like I am as well, but you made a joke that he did more courting you than his own wife. It wasn't just he convinced you, there was a lot of back and forth before you finally decided to come over. Then it sounds like baptism by fire straight into hurricane Katrina.Sheryl: Yes, that's pretty much the case. Actually, his wife introduced me once at an event and she is the one who said that "Heck, he spent more time courting her than he did me for my hand in marriage." Yes, Linda is a wonderful person and she, Phil, Mike, and I have become close family friends. They're wonderful people.Justin: Good. I'm hoping to get him on the show because he's got some just wild stories about his adventure stuff he's done. I ask everybody on the show what are some of your favorite hidden gems in San Antonio, you probably know the city better than almost anybody at this point. What are some of the things in the city do you think, maybe don't get enough attention, or people should go check out?Sheryl: Yes. Let me say that you had asked me earlier about the Where I Live Column that I wrote during the COVID shelter-in-place situation this spring. I wrote it because as someone who lives on the Riverwalk, we live downtown and it was just so exciting for me to see more people coming to the Riverwalk and using it for exercising. When we first moved here, I'm an old marathon runner, I would go out and run in different parts of the community and I would rarely see anyone out running in the community. There are so many wonderful places now to run in San Antonio.The Riverwalk is full of people walking, running, strollers, bicycles, no scooters, but there are even people kayaking on the river. Now the extension to the South through the Mission Reach, all the way to Mission Espada it's gorgeous and beautiful. I encourage people to take advantage of it to even drive to one of the locations and you can cycle, run, walk the entire length of the Mission Reach without crossing a street, and likewise to the North.I worked with Mayor Hardberger and others on the Mission Reach extension to the north that goes all the way to Brackenridge Park. It's beautiful as well, so there are some great spots. Hardberger Park, if people haven't been there, there's a gigantic dog area as well for dog lovers, but great places to run there. Government Canyon for running is spectacular and beautiful, so lots of places to get out and about in the community.Justin: Yes, I think I've done all of the Riverwalk and the Mission Reach, but there's that weird chunk between where you live and King William that I've never done. Last show that was somebody's hidden gem that I needed to go do that chunk, so I learns something every time I asked somebody.Sheryl: It's beautiful, yes. It is beautiful.Justin: Yes, sure. What are you doing now? I know you're a consultant, but what does that mean and what are you working on?Sheryl: Yes, I'm working a little bit on consulting, not a whole lot with Strategic Partnerships. They're out of Austin Mary Scott Nabers is the CEO of that organization. I help them think through with companies that are interested in doing business with cities. Not San Antonio, because I don't want to bother my staff there, but cities around the state that are looking for help on how to improve different systems and companies that have products that can help them help. I've been helping them think through some of those issues and how to put those proposals together in those strategies, but mostly, what I've been doing is working on my book this past year.I'm also probably over-committed on my non-profit work. I did join the Texas 2036 board that's chaired by Tom Luce and Margaret Spellings, the former education secretary, is the CEO. We're working on the bicentennial 2036 for the state of Texas, what do we want it to be in that year, in what areas does the state need to improve, in terms of education, government performance, health care, environment, transportation and infrastructure, business development? What do we need to do to be better and that's been an exciting statewide project. Here locally, I'm still involved with the United Way, working on the International Piano Competition for musical bridges around the world.I'm also working on the campaign for the renewal of the Pre-K for SA program. Some of your listeners may recall that the voters approved that program in 2012. We implemented that program successfully. We have four schools that educate 2000 four-year-olds annually, and provide professional development for early educators throughout the city and all the school districts and also give grants to private schools as well as public schools to help them expand their early childhood education.We have outside people that its evaluated success. It's proven to be very effective for families, and it's free to the lowest income families in the community so, educationally it's important to San Antonio more so than ever. Now through COVID and that's on the ballot for renewal November 3rd, so I'm busy working on that effort.Justin: Well, you make a comment in your book about how you're a marathon runner and you're in for the long haul and it sounds like you haven't slowed down really since you've retired.Sheryl: Not really full days.Justin: Before we got started, I said you're my third Anchovy. The other two actually have commented on this post on Facebook already. You also auctioned off your great sachets full of metals for charities after you retired, what are your favorite Fiesta events?Sheryl: Well, my favorite is cornyation. I confess I was king anchovy in 2009 at the urging of my friends, Tony Bradfield and Dr. Kevin Black and others and it was a great experience. Probably the most fun I've had since I've been in San Antonio. My husband Mike managed the green room and we have lots of--Justin: I want to know what that means. [laughs]Sheryl: Well, liquid refreshment before, at intermission, and between shows. It was a great time. Those who have participated know, it's a lot of fun. We raised more than $150,000 for the AIDS Foundation that year. It was a great experience. Had a lot of fun, and all my sachets and there were hundreds and hundreds of metals and we did auction those at my retirement event, and from the proceeds from that event, the auctioning of the Fiesta items and my own $10,000 contribution, we donated a total of $40,000 to the Young Women's Leadership Academy at San Antonio Independent School District to help those girls go off to college so very, very excited to have done that.Justin: That's fantastic.Sheryl: I know you said that you bid on one of the sachets, but you didn't bid enough money.Justin: Well, there was an online bidding process and I think I just didn't pay attention at the time I really needed to.Sheryl: Okay. All right.Justin: We're going to get into the book, but what was your outfit for cornyation?Sheryl: Oh, boy. You've probably seen it that's why you're asking. It was a one-piece red Wonder-Woman, Superwoman outfit with a big royal blue cape, red leather boots that laced up above my knees. It was definitely out of character for me.Justin: Appropriate for cornyation.Sheryl: Very appropriate for coordination. We had a lot of fun. Phil Hardberger, Mayor Hardberger even did a voiceover as part of the skit for my opening number?Justin: Well, good for him.Sheryl: It was a lot of fun.Justin: I could talk to you about San Antonio for a whole show, but I want to start talking about your book. I learned a lot about your book. Like I said, at the start, I think my first knowledge or seeing you in the public eye other than articles in the Rivard Report or the Express was this deluge of bad publicity and ads and Facebook stuff about you during the police negotiations. I learned a lot about that process through your book, but let's just start generally, San Antonio has a different form of city government than a lot of cities. Can you explain how we run our city different than other cities?Sheryl: We have a council-manager form of government that was adopted by the residents of the community by city charter in 1951. What that means is that the mayor and council members who are elected, and we have 11 elected officials, the mayor is elected at large and then we have 10 single-member districts, so that all areas of the city are represented that happened actually the single-member districts in the 1970s. They serve as the policy directors or the board of directors for the Municipal Corporation, and they hire a CEO to run the business of city local government at their direction.The city manager functions in that way. I'm responsible to hire and fire all city employees and we have a total of 13,000 city employees. What they asked me to do when I was recruited here was to assess talent, make changes, get the financial house in order, I'm not sure they understood the condition of the city government when I was recruited here in 2005, but it definitely needed a lot of improvement. The city manager functions as the CEO of the Municipal Corporation to run the business to hire staff.Justin: The alternative to that-- You just clicked off for a second we're back. The alternative to that is just a regular a city council and mayor-- Where the mayor serves the role of the CEO?Sheryl: Well, in a strong mayor form of government, let's take Houston, Sylvester Turner is the mayor. He's also the chief executive. The mayor is appointing department heads and staff in that case. The council-manager plan is what's considered a professional local government system and so I'm not hiring friends of elected officials. There's no political patronage system. I'm trying to hire the best and the brightest from the community as well as nationally to provide the best service for the residents of the community. Chief Bill McManus was one of the first people I recruited to San Antonio. I considered internal candidates, but in the end, I thought that he would be the best, and I think most residents agree he's done an outstanding job as chief of our police department.Justin: He tried to leave at some point and just had to come back it sounds like?Sheryl: He did he went to CPS for about nine months I told him, I thought that he was too much a cops cop and that he would miss that adrenaline rush constantly and sure enough, he called me that summer and said, "Okay, you were right. I want to come back." I was able to hire him twice.Justin: I was surprised. In the council-manager form, Phoenix is the largest city of San Antonio, the second-largest city who has that sort of structure?Sheryl: Yes, we are the second-largest. Dallas is the third-largest?Justin: Is that trending one way or another nationally, are more cities moving to the council-manager or is everybody stuck in their ways at this point?Sheryl: Well, it's the most popular form of government nationally, more so in the medium and smaller sized cities, so there aren't as many large cities so if you think about New York, Chicago, LA, San Francisco, Houston those are strong mayor form of government cities, but Phoenix San Antonio, Dallas, Austin, Corpus Christi, El Paso here in the state, are council-manager form of government. I'm a huge advocate for professionalism and as I have discussed with the mayors I've worked with here and I worked with four different mayors during my tenure here and a total of 47 different elected officials.There's so much turnover that you need professional management for the continuity and yet we take the policy direction from the elected officials but because we have experience at delivering those services and understand what it takes to recruit, to manage, and to service deliver in those specific fields, then if you think about it, we're a very diversified Corporation. We do everything from policing, to firefighting, to emergency medical services, to building roads, to maintaining parks, to running the libraries, public health departments, social services, municipal court, and then all the backup house that goes with those major corporations. I'm an advocate for professional city management.Justin: Even more so we have some involvement with our water and our electric that a lot of cities don't deal with, would that be fair to say?Sheryl: That's true. Yes, we own as a city-- City of San Antonio owns the San Antonio Water System and owns CPS Energy. If CPS Energy were a private utility, they'd be paying taxes to the city. They don't pay taxes to the city. Instead, the city is entitled to 14% of gross revenue, and that represents about 30% of the city's general fund budget. It's an important part. Then the city manager has charter responsibility to make recommendations on their rates.We have a division within our finance department that actually studies and works with both utilities, water, and energy to discuss what their needs are. We collectively make recommendations then to city council that decides the rates for both of the utilities. Running a municipal corporation is a big and complicated job. It takes someone who has experience at doing that and understands the fundamentals and also can work within a political environment.Justin: You talk about being a juggler. Now we're starting to get some sort of...
69 minutes | 9 months ago
Poncho Nevarez, State Rep, Attorney, and Recovering Addict
Poncho Nevarez and Justin have been friends for a decade. Poncho was elected as a State Representative in 2013. Since then, he worked his way up into powerful positions. In 2019, he ran into trouble with drugs, got clean, chose not to run again, and joins us to talk about his journey into the dark and back. His honesty is refreshing.Transcript:[music]Justin Hill: Hello, and Bienvenido, San Antonio. Welcome to The Alamo Hour. Discussing the people, places, and passion that make our city. My name is Justin Hill, a local attorney, a proud San Antonioan, and keeper of chickens and bees. On The Alamo Hour, you'll get to hear from the people that make San Antonio great and unique, and the best-kept secret in Texas. We're glad that you're here. All right. Welcome to the Alamo hour. Today's guest is Poncho Nevarez. Poncho is a current state rep of district 74?Poncho Nevarez: Yes.Justin: Covering Eagle Pass all the way out through Big Bend. I think it's one of, if not the biggest political district in the contiguous US.Poncho: In the world. [chuckles]Justin: Well, probably not. He's an injury attorney. He's a musician. He's a rancher. He has a Watusi or three, maybe, a father, husband, friend. Admittedly, and he just wrote a big article about it, we'll talk about some, an alcoholic and an addict. When he's not running for reelection, he is working on an album, apparently, which we're going to talk about a little bit as well. Poncho, thanks for being here.Poncho: Thank you for having me. I couldn't help but catch in the promo you were talking about, "This is about San Antonioans, for San Antonioans," and I would ask-- I spent a good part of my adult life in San Antonio for law school, and then because of my law practice, so if they'll claim me, [chuckles] I'd say I'm somewhat from San Antonio.Justin: So, you're co-opting me here. It's a show about San Antonio, but there's a lot of people that have some interaction or have lived here in the past that they have something to add about our city as well.Poncho: Well, it's like Eagle Pass, I'd say. It doesn't matter where you go. There's some connection to Eagle Pass. You could be standing outside the pyramids of Giza [chuckles] and there's somebody from Eagle Pass there. I think the same thing applies with San Antonio. It's the same thing.Justin: Well, good. You've got something to add. When I met you, you had a home here yet, an office here. I think you still practice law here on occasion.Poncho: Yes. I think that was back in maybe 2005 or 2006 a bit.Justin: Well, you went to law school here, and then you and I would have met around 2007, 2008, and then we worked on that case through '11 probably.Poncho: I graduated from law school '99 and then I was away. I was here in Eagle Pass for a few years and then I moved back and then Miguel Chapa and I were partnered up and we're in San Antonio. That was back in 2005 when Miguel and I got together. He'll deny this, but we put that firm together at a Hooters.[laughter]Justin: I'm not surprised by this.Poncho: True story. We were going to go to Vegas, that night, I think. It was me, Jason Hoelscher and Miguel, we were going to go to Vegas and we were killing some time and that's where we formed the firm.Justin: Well, I do a top 10. It's just a general number of questions. Sometimes it's 3, sometimes it's 10 with all of my guests to give some sort of flavor and background on who you are. The first one was, "Talk to us about your time in San Antonio." We've already knocked that one out. The next thing I want to ask you is what are some of your favorite places in San Antonio that people maybe don't know about? We talk about hidden gems in the city.Poncho: I liked the McNay, the museum a whole bunch. I really do. I lived in that neighborhood, different parts of Alamo Heights through my last two years of law school. Then it was the first home that I bought over off of North New Braunfels. I really enjoyed the McNay. There's a cafe there, two Twin Sisters. I really like South Florida Street. To me, Latin America starts in downtown San Antonio. That's where Latin America begins. So I have an affinity for that. I love the Mission Trail. It's great. I can go on and on, but those are places that I-- I love the Alamo man. That's just one of those places that I'll never not want to go to or experience. It's just one of those places.Justin: The Missions are like that with me. The first time I went, I'd lived here four years and thought, "How did it take me so long to get there?" What does prone to brawling mean?[laughter]Poncho: I don't know. When I read that, one, I'd forgotten they said that about me and it reminded me of a speech that Dr. Evil gives in the first Austin Powers that he said his dad was prone to buggery.Justin: Yes, that's right. That's right. I forgot about that. For background, Texas Monthly did a little bit on Poncho and they said, of many adjectives, that he was prone to brawling and I didn't know what that meant.Poncho: Well, I don't know. [inaudible 00:05:17] I think maybe the session before, or two sessions before, they had likened me to Sam Houston and I'm starting to think, not the good parts. [chuckles] Not the good side of Houston.Justin: Well, maybe you'll have an 80-foot marble statue made of you at some point. [crosstalk]Poncho: [unintelligible 00:05:34] Justin: Right. [chuckles] One time I was in DC and I got a tour of the Capitol and I learned all these neat, weird tidbits about the Capitol. Do you have any of those about Austin Capitol that people might not know about?Poncho: Yes. There is, one, it's a fantastic place and if you haven't been there when we get past all this madness, you should because it's just great. I want to say by just a little bit, it's taller than the US Capitol, which is by design. Then I was told my first session that my desk had been Sam Johnson's desk which had been Lyndon B Johnson's dad. I was told that Lyndon B Johnson would play at his father's feet at the desk. I don't believe that to be true.Justin: Cool story.Poncho: I thought so. One of the other things too is the original. During the session, the original battle flag from San Jacinto is exhibited behind the speaker's dais. Only during the session as the original battle flag there, which is pretty damn cool. It's just one of those neat places. I remember my first session, I would look up at the place and think about, one, all the characters that had been in there and then two, just the amount of history. The conversations, all kinds of stuff. It can't help but affect you in a good way, I think.Justin: How can a normal Joe like me go get a good tour of the Capitol?Poncho: I got four more months there. I can give you one. [chuckles]Justin: Do you just contact your Congressman or your state rep?Poncho: That's exactly right. That's probably the best way is to go. You can get a tour and the tour guides are phenomenal. I used to sneak away on Sundays when stuff would get really heavy and follow the tours. I learned a lot following the tours but your state representative's office should be able to guide you on a pretty good tour.Justin: I asked Ina this when she was on the show a couple of weeks back, any unlikely friendships in Austin that you formed?Poncho: Wow. You'd be surprised. I got along really good with a lot of these guys that you would think publicly, I wouldn't have any business with them. Guys like Briscoe Cain.Justin: Oh, that was going to be the name because her, I did Stickland and she said they actually were really good friends.Poncho: Sometimes we'd get into it. Especially Briscoe, I could really relate a lot to him because he was trying so hard all the time and he's a really smart guy. He's got this [unintelligible 00:08:26] that I don't understand but I guess he looks at me the same way.Justin: He looks very young.Poncho: He's pretty wise when he's not. [chuckles]Justin: Was Rinaldi the one that you butted heads with?Poncho: In hindsight, one of the things that you do as a recovering alcoholic and addict is you try to make amends where you can. I probably only got an apology for getting physical with him because you should never do that. Although I say that, I'd probably do it again. [chuckles]Justin: Well, now I know what prone to brawling means.Poncho: There you go. In all seriousness, I think there was something about him, he just wasn't a very happy guy. Unless he was taking lunch money away from school children. He just wasn't happy.Justin: [chuckles] Is he still there?Poncho: No. He lost. I hope he's doing well. I really do. I don't wish the guy any ill.Justin: You've got a new album coming out. We'll talk about it a little bit but who would you compare the sound to?Poncho: I hope it sounds like T. Rex and The Sweet had a love child with Jason Isbell and Bryan Adams, but I know it doesn't. I started thinking about when I started writing songs, some of the artists that influence me, and I grew up listening to a lot of rock and roll in the '70s. I wanted it to sound rough and it does. There's something really grainy about it. I can't describe it, it's really mean where it needs to be mean. It's a rock record. Somebody was asking me like, "What kind of music is it?" I don't know. It's fast sometimes, it's slow sometimes, it's loud, it's [unintelligible 00:10:29] and it's rough. I take credit for all of that shit.Justin: Is there a release date?Poncho: I'm trying to pin myself down but I'm avoiding that because-- I may have told you this last week when we were texting back and forth, is that we're finishing up most of the vocal work this week so it should be in a form for us to be able to start mixing it next week. I can't wait because I'm already hearing some of the stuff that we've been doing as we finished each track. There was one song that I had some doubts about and I just went back and I reworked it and I'm a lot happier about it.I resisted the urge to allow myself to be married to certain things and saying, "This is the way it's got to be because it's got to be." I allowed myself to be guided by what I call a really talented producer and musician too because he's helped me musically on the record too. It's worked because I'd been reading this biography of Tom Petty, and he made a point in stressing about how you can change everything up until the last minute. I'm very indecisive about a lot of things but it allows for a lot of flexibility. I think that long answer to your short question is I don't know when the release date is.Justin: It's not the longest answer I've gotten before. What is your current lineup of animals at your home menagerie? You bought a house that had almost essentially a zoo in it, you kept some of them. What do you have now? Do you still have a kookaburra?Poncho: The kookaburra was eaten by a [unintelligible 00:12:14]Justin: [laughs] Is that true?Poncho: True. There was one lone feather in an orange tree that survived the attack and then a very traumatized waka maya that, because of the trauma of surviving the attack ,pulls the breast-- He died an untimely death, I think he committed suicide. He would pull his breast feathers out and I can only surmise that he had survivor's guilt. I hate to diagnose--Justin: No, go for it.Poncho: I think he had PTSD, dude and he had some depression. I really believe that he ended his life untimely. I had a vet that came by to help me with some other animals, I went to high school with her. I asked her, I said, "Dahlia, what do you think?" "She needs a bird psychologist." I'm like, "Huh?"Justin: [laughs] That's a thing, or a joke?Poncho: I guess. I did my best but look, two sick people together can not help each other so I was [crosstalk]Justin: That's a good point. Do you still have the watusi?Poncho: Yes. I moved him out to what we affectionately call the bigger ranch that we got, about 500 acres. I moved them out there and they're doing real well. I've got another herd of about 50 [unintelligible 00:13:41]cattle that we got on there. They've got a better chance out there. We still have fallow deer, the axix deer, I've got Dorpers now too. Those Dorpers are something else, bro. You can put them in a parking lot-Justin: What's a Dorper?Poncho: It's a sheep. They're lambs, so you put them in a parking lot, they'll eat rocks, they'll eat anything. One of them ate half of my catcher's mittens which is pretty sad.Justin: Why did it have it?Poncho: I was playing catch with my son, I set it down and when I looked at it again it had eaten it.Justin: Any other animals in the cages?Poncho: We have a parrot that is-- The kookaburra was really good at mimicking voices, not necessarily the words, but the sound of your voice and the cadence. So you'd say something, he'd say it right back to you in a few minutes almost the way you said it. It was obviously nonsense, but also what you were saying was probably nonsense anyway. The reason I believe the bird learned that is because we leave the radio on, so he was always constantly mimicking whoever the DJ was.Justin: If you take this too far, I'm going to start wondering how bad your addiction got in those time periods. Now your kookaburra is talking to you and--Poncho: I didn't talk back to it.[laughter]Justin: All right. So you were city councilperson at one point, you were state-Poncho: School board.Justin: School board, state rep, are those the only two elected positions you had other than class president or whatever?Poncho: That's it.Justin: Have you been to any Fiesta events?Poncho: It's been a long time, I think the last one I went to was in 2019. We went to the IBC parade. We were at the IBC bank building for the river parade. That's always nice, Fiesta is such a great time.Justin: I love it, I'm a huge advocate of it. I want to talk to you about the legislature. The last thing I want to ask you in our top 10 is what has been the most important piece of advice that you have been given in your path to recovery?Poncho: There's been a lot, but if I had to pick one, it's, "Live in the present," that's the biggest one. Live in the present. One of the things that overwhelms people that are sane or that are not suffering with this disease, is living too far in the past or futurizing everything. A lot of times people will mistake, "The guy's nostalgic," or if you futurize things, "He likes to plan ahead or he's thinking several moves ahead." You can do that without living in the past and without losing what you're doing today. That living in the present applies to a lot of things, I just keep things in front of me that I need to keep in front of me.It's not that I don't think about my future, I think about it and I hope I have one and that it's healthy but my future won't matter if I don't do the things today that I need to do that are important to me and that make me happy. I'm not talking about indulge some petty notion of happiness that I have, I'm talking about happy. It was always there for me, I just lost it. The further I got along in my disease, the further I got along in feeding my dark angels or the worst part of my angels, I lost sight of that. Winning wasn't something to be happy about, I was relieved. Losing was gut-wrenching and I don't feel like that anymore, I don't feel like that today.Justin: Good. I want to talk more about that but I want to talk about something. You wrote a big essay that was just released and a bunch of people on Twitter passing it around, but some of the things that stuck out with me were about your frustration in working in the legislature. Just for a little bit of background, you're in your third term?Poncho: No, this is my fourth term.Justin: Last session you were given some really big committee chairs, you were appointed to some really powerful committees. What have been your roles in the legislature and how has it progressed?Poncho: Just like anybody else, you start at the bottom and I was fortunate in my second session, worked my way up from there and speaker Straus was good enough to see something in me and give me an opportunity on some good committees. That carried over to the last session that he was a speaker which was my third. This is my fourth and what will now be my final session. Speaker Bonnen was good enough to give me that responsibility.Up until that point, I've been vice-chair of that committee for two sessions going in. So it seemed logical that I would get the chair, but nothing's ever logical in the legislature, but I got it. I think I wrote in the essay that I'd become a more influential figure. I think I had, but the amount of pressure that one feels to be able to deliver some things, especially when you're in the minority party, you have to dodge 141 days of stated and undercurrent opposition to just about everything you do.I just wasn't enjoying myself. The process was so frustrating to me, so dehumanizing in terms of what you can do, the pandering you have to do sometimes to get it done. 'Frankly, I'll say this. I felt that way. The process is what it is. I can't sit there and say, "These people are to blame for it." I'm the one that allowed myself to feel that way. I let it overwhelm me. The truth is for most of us, if we're being honest about the process as we were there, there's a lot bad about it. That's just unavoidable. If you can keep yourself sane and healthy and readjust your attitudes about a lot of things on a continuous basis, then you're going to be okay. I just couldn't anymore. A lot of...
76 minutes | 9 months ago
Gavin Rogers, Pastor, Podcaster, and Social Justice Advocate
Gavin Rogers has been a pastor at Travis Park church for many years. He has been actively involved in serving immigrant communities, the homeless community and bringing attention to many other social issues in our city. He also runs the very successful Pub Theology that was once an in person meeting but has moved online. We did a joint podcast and it was great fun.Transcript:[silence]Gavin: Good evening friends on Facebook. We are having a special Pub Theology with our good friend Justin Hill with the Alamo Hour Podcast. Welcome, Justin.Justin Hill: Hey man. Thanks for having me.Gavin: If you're confused, what this is going on, Justin Hill runs a podcast called the Alamo Hour. It's a destination podcast for those who want to take an in-depth look at different people, places, events, and happenings in San Antonio, Texas. He's a local attorney and this podcast is going to dive deep into the city that we all love so much. He hosts that about every week. You can listen to his podcast on YouTube or various podcast channels like Apple and SoundCloud and all those things. Justin is a graduate of Texas A&M University graduated in 2004, we just learned that we're the same age. We have merged platforms today. The Alamo Hour and Pub Theology are of the same broadcast. Welcome, Justin.Justin: Hey man. Thanks for having me. Since we're kind of co-host, I will [inaudible 00:03:58] Gavin is associate minister at Travis park church. To me, I always like to have people on that I think a little bit more about than the resume. To me, you've always run a really good live as you speak way of life with all of your social justice stuff. I look up to you in terms of you put your money where your mouth is, but really your time where your heart is. I appreciate that.I think you do so much for people, but you're also the host of Pub Theology. Pub Theology is a dialogue group that usually meets at The Friendly Spot, but because of COVID we're meeting online, you talk about faith, the community in San Antonio, creating common good and I love the slogan, “Different brews and different views. All perspectives welcome.”Gavin: What are you drinking today, Justin?Justin: Well, I've got a sparkling water from Kirkland, but I also have a Saint Arnold's art car, IPA.Gavin: Good Texas beer. Right now-- I've never had this one, the Freetail Bat Outta Helles. Pub Theology themes, so there's a hell theme there, but it has a San Antonio scene there.Justin: [unintelligible 00:05:01] Dortch Law and I drank other people's beer the whole time and he seemed offended, but he didn't bring me any beer to drink so I did [unintelligible 00:05:11]Gavin: That’s fair. It’s good. Now, I really respect you, Justin, you've been serving in around town at various events and been supporting political candidates you are involved in everything I know about. You're also good friends with my good friend, Phil Walkins, who goes to our church and a great local attorneys in town. The stuff that you promote it always connects with me. I think a lot of the people who listen to Pub Theology and probably Alamo Hour. You started this Alamo Hour maybe at the start of 2020?Justin: At the start of the shutdown. I didn't want to do it, and all of a sudden I had time on my hands, so I was able to do it. I had started buying the equipment, troubleshooting, but then once the shutdown happened, I didn't have an excuse anymore.Gavin: Wow. That's great. Who has been your favorite guest so far? Now I've had maybe like 20, maybe 15, 20 episodes.Justin: This is 25.Gavin: Oh, wow. That's great. Yes.Justin: I like the meaty dense stuff. I've had some really interesting-- These epidemiologists, including Dr. Rohr-Allegrini from here in San Antonio, Dr. Lesch is a Syrian expert. Some of those things have been really interesting. A surprise one is I had a guy who was the Texas League Commissioner of baseball for 27 years and wrote books on it. I thought it was dry and boring and really it was just super interesting to hear the story of Texas League AA Baseball.I've had some really great storytellers and I walk away from him and feel one way, but then I get a whole bunch of people responding about what they think about him. It's just been fun. It's been fun to get to know new people and kind of share their stories.Gavin: I want to remind our listeners that as you listen today, if you're listening through the Pub Theology live Facebook stream, I know we share this with different watch parties and different groups, but if you're watching it on our Pub Theology live page, you can post comments and we will see those, Justin and I will see those. We'll answer any of your questions. Justin believes that any topic is up for discussion. So do we at Pub Theology, we talk about everything. That's why it's different views and different brews.You can go to his website, thealamohour.com to learn more about all the different podcasts that he has had 25, including Mayor Ron Nierenberg and great doctors during COVID. Go to there. If you can always follow us at Pub Theology SA, on our Facebook page or YouTube channel. He's been going online for 25 episodes. I think we started right after the pandemic and we never have been online. We've always promoted our events live at The Friendly Spot. I think we live in a new world now. We live in a new world where all this is going to become a new reality for years to come.Justin: It's a new deal. It's funny, I started a podcast and you're doing a podcast about San Antonio essentially with this, and I joked that if this was in any other city, I would be way behind the curve, but San Antonio we're slow to adopt technology and new things. We're both at the forefront of this. Good for us.Gavin: No, that's great. I really enjoyed your episodes. I did listen to the COVID doctor recently. The epidemiologist, I believe, right?Justin: Yes. Dr. Slutkin has been advising with governors and mayors, including Ron Nuremberg. A million things you could talk about with that guy, but he was really interesting and very gracious to agree to do my lowly little podcast.Gavin: That's great.Justin: I want to start with you Gavin. I do this on all of-- I see Phil reaching out. I do this on all of my podcasts, since this is joint, I'm going to go through at least my general top 10. This is supposed to be kind of short and pithy. When and why did you move to San Antonio?Gavin: I moved to San Antonio after I graduated grad school. I think we probably went-- Did you go to law school right after A&M? Did you jump into it? Yes, three-year degrees. I graduated at Duke Divinity School, after I went to Baylor and I had a few jobs lined up after at various churches, one in Houston, I remember one was in Tyler Texas, and one was in San Antonio. My sister still lives in San Antonio, after graduating from A&M she became a teacher and a principal here.It was like, “Oh, my sister is here.” I thought it was a great city to live in that I hadn't really experienced much other than vacations. It felt like a different story I could create than moving back to Houston where I'm from or the Woodlands, or I didn't really want to go to Tyler, Texas. I landed in San Antonio. My first church was a University Methodist Church on days of De Zavala Road.Justin: Tyler is beautiful. I have a [crosstalk] I’m surprised how petty it is.Gavin: I didn't want to probably move there as a 26, seven, eight. I can't remember how old I was. You’re able to--Justin: [unintelligible 00:09:47] I think we met through Jody Newman who's been on I'm sure your show, my show. I met her when she was first Queen Anchovy. Next question, what was your favourite [unintelligible 00:09:59] character that you played?Gavin: Well, I played only three. Two of them have been the same. I played Ozzy Osborne and two of those-- The first time we played Ozzy, obviously I didn't really want to play Ozzy the third time, but it was just the skit Lean that we had to do it. The first time I played Ozzy probably got the most rousing laughter when we made fun of the downtown loo that was put in by Roberto Treviño. Jody, and I wrote that skit along with the [unintelligible 00:10:33] we just had a blast with that. I think the next character was the Confederate statue that was removed. I had to play a Confederate soldier. That was fun in a way, but Ozzy Osborne for sure.Justin: I was wondering how Ozzy is still relevant. My next question you already answered, which was what beer were you drinking? We talked about-- This is the only one I gave you the heads up on. I was going to be asking you is what are your favorite hidden gems in the city and you said a restaurant. I want to know restaurant, but also, non restaurant location or a thing in the city?Gavin: Good. My favorite restaurant is Maria Cafe South of Southtown I think it's not Nogalitos. I believe that I love that place. The family run restaurant there is a blast, you can get brisket nachos and you could really make anything you want there. I think they have a name for everything. Justin, if you order something different, they'll make it the Justin Hill enchilada special. I love that. I love Maria's.Justin: Do you have a dish named after you?Gavin: I don't. I know John Berrera does. He's part of our- [unintelligible 00:11:32] group too, but I just love the family that works there and runs that operation.Justin: The first time I really hung out with John other than meeting him was watching Obama's first inauguration speech in 2008. That's my history with John Berrera.Gavin: Mine is [unintelligible 00:11:50] through Jody as well. By the way, we really want to support The Friendly Spot it's back open and social distancing we really want to support that. Please support local, support places like The Friendly Spot and all things around San Antonio that are open during this Covid crisis.Justin: Favorite hidden gem that's not a restaurant or a bar?Gavin: This is going to be a tough one. My favorite hidden gem is probably the trail that's right behind King William, that crosses into Blue Star and you cross the river on those rocks. I love that rock and I love walking around that part of the Mission Reach and down into, obviously now you can always go all the way down, but I've always really cherished that one strip, especially when it was more not known. It's known now, but 10 years ago when I lived by Brackenridge High School, I loved that spot.Justin: I've never done it. You drive by and you see it and it's got the little weird carve out there and I've still never done it.Gavin: There's Alamo Street, then you go toward the mission just by probably 200 yards and you can crawl down me stairs off of Blue Star and you cross the river and some stones and you get into the King William. It's like a back way to get into King William. I love that little area.Justin: I'm going to do it. You meet with a bunch of leaders, you talk about a lot of social justice issues day-to-day. What do you think the biggest issue facing the city is right now? Outside of COVID?Gavin: Well, that's good. We don't have to talk about COVID. We've talked about COVID so much. I only speak to certain leaders about certain topics. I don't speak to everyone about everything. Mainly, I think generational poverty is probably the number one thing. The report that came out that said San Antonio does not do very well. We're top on the list depending on what you looking at?Justin: The most stratified financially or economically of all major cities. Right?Gavin: That’s right. I think that the way we need to tackle that is difficult. Especially when it comes to issues of race and redlining in the past, and the skeletons in the closet there that really keep us from moving forward. I'm guilty of it. We're all guilty of it. We’re people of privilege even in this gentrification movement and I'm learning where I'm at fault. I think that we just have to have honest conversations about that and really how to work with the homeless situation in downtown too. Obviously, that's something that I'm passionate about, but I think homelessness is part of that discussion of the overall poverty in San Antonio.Justin: I always talk to people about what they're passionate about. That's what got me going on the Alamo Hour, and the sort of check myself on what really I'm passionate about. Homelessness has always been one of those things since I was a little kid. That's one of the questions I had for you. You're really involved with Corazon ministries. What is the best way the average person like myself who is not embedded with the ministries or the homelessness outreach, what's the best way they can help?Gavin: I think this is always important. I just actually spoke to the Alamo Heights Rotary Club. I speak to Rotary Club. I'm in the Downtown Rotary Club. I've been a member of the Downtown Rotary Club for, I think 12 years now. I'll sit at the table at Rotary still and they'll be like, “Sir, did you just join? “ I'm like, “No, I've been a member for 12 years,” because they think everybody is old there. When I speak at those places they always ask the question, “What can we do? What can we do to serve the homeless?”I think a lot of people want me to respond in a way like, “Go volunteer at a soup kitchen, go volunteer at Haven For Hope. Serve food on a plate.” All that requirement of serving food on a plate is a risk turn. If you risk and turn and put the mashed potatoes on a plate, you qualify to volunteer, it's a very low bar. I really want people to start volunteering with the homeless differently.I would actually love instead of the Rotary Club coming down to volunteer and fold clothes or serve food, I'd want them to actually eat meals with them once a week. They're like, “We don't want to eat food. That's the homeless food.” I'm like, “No, that's cheap. Food is very, very cheap. Cook.” Having conversations with people to be vulnerable with one another. That's the hard part. I think those are when relationships can be formed because you start learning what you have in common. You can start learning where you can provide opportunities. They can teach you things that you don't know.I think that's where transformation happened. Homelessness is really about trauma care. Trinity Universities freshmen, did a study years ago with Edwin Blanton. I don’t know if you know him, he's a Chair around town. I don't know where he is now, maybe Texas in San Antonio, but he led his freshmen group to talk about trauma care. They said, there's different levels of trauma care Haven For Hope with a state level two or three. There's advanced counseling, there's religious groups.Those are advanced levels of trauma care. What San Antonio does poorly on and a lot of cities do poorly on is level one trauma care and that's just interactions between me and you. Interactions with anybody that we can treat normal areas of trauma by just conversations the way we look people in the eyes if we say their name or not. I think we need to better understand how to treat level one trauma care because that's not the responsibility of the doctors. That's not responsibilities of the caseworkers, that's responsibility of all citizens in the community. That makes sense.Justin: Being human.Gavin: Yes, being human.Justin: I wanted to do that. Do I come down to one of the kitchens or a feeding opportunity and just [crosstalk]Gavin: You can reach out to Corazon Ministries or Travis Park Church, or probably even Haven For Hope and say, “I really want to mentor people.” They have mentor programs. I got to give a shout out to my favorite nonprofit that works for the homeless and I’m not going to say Corazon, it's the SA Hope Center run by Meghan Legacy and team. On the Westside and now they have a downtown location at First Presbyterian Church. They do counseling, job training.They just got a huge grant to house about 80 people in apartments during COVID. They really do a holistic look. They don't do the bandaid operations that we often serve in homeless work. They're pushing us to be more holistic in our homeless services and they do a wonderful job so check them out SA Hope Center, our San Antonio Hope Center.Justin: Two more questions, Duke or Baylor, those are your two Alma maters.Gavin: Yes.Justin: Which one? Who do you pull forward? Which one is [crosstalk]Gavin: I hadn't really have to worry about this too much until Baylor played Duke in the elite eight. When Duke won the National Championship in 2010 and they played in Houston and I wore a Baylor shirt in the sweet 16 game and I wore a duke short, and then they had to play each other and I wore a Duke shirt. I was actually in charge of the basketball committee at Duke, you could run for it. It's like being a yell leader at A&M. I managed the Cameron Crazies for one year.Justin: While you were in seminary?Gavin: [unintelligible 00:18:43] in seminary, yes. It was the coolest thing I did in seminary. I met the best friends because all those people in that basketball committee were like chemists, lawyers, doctors, undergrads. I had a blast and now my heart bleeds blue. Now, if it comes to football and they played Duke, I'd probably go for sure. I would root for Baylor in football.Justin: Duke has been coming up in that too though.Gavin: Duke has gotten better because the coach. People were like, “What are y’all talking about?” Yes.Justin: Last question. People always ask me, why did you become a lawyer? What brought you to the ministry?Gavin: I grew up in the Churches of Christ, which is a denomination that-- Max Lucado is a Church of Christ Minister. Both my grandfathers were Church of Christ Ministers. So both my parents are preachers’ kids. I really loved my granddads. One of them was very, very progressive, went to Southern Methodist for seminary, which is totally unusual for a church of Christ Pastor in the 1940s. That influenced my life and I really wanted to do what they did.The more progressive pastor died when I was 10. Then the other one died when I was like 21 and I knew him better and when I was growing up, he would allow me to go to his
57 minutes | 9 months ago
Leo Gomez, Brooks President & CEO and San Antonio Heavy Hitter
Leo Gomez was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley but moved to San Antonio after finishing school. He has moved up through the city ranks through multiple Chambers of Commerce, the San Antonio Spurs, Toyota Manufacturing and various charities. Now, he runs one of San Antonio's most exciting developments. Transcript: [music]Justin Hill: Hello and Bienvenidos, San Antonio. Welcome to the Alamo Hour, discussing the people, places, and passion that make our city. My name is Justin Hill, a local attorney, proud San Antonio, and keeper of chickens and bees. On the Alamo Hour, you'll get to hear from the people that make San Antonio great and unique and the best-kept secret in Texas. We're glad that you're here.All right. Welcome to this episode of the Alamo Hour. Today's guest is Leo Gomez. Leo's been involved in everything currently president and CEO of Brooks City Base but been involved with the Spurs, with Toyota, with the Hispanic chamber, with the San Antonio chamber. I watched a video on you and maybe they called you Mr. South side. Did I hear that correct?Leo Gomez: I've been called a few things Justin.Justin: All right. We've had your wife on here, and she was nice enough to help us convince you to come be on the show. I met you years ago, just out having beers with Tim Maloney. It's good to see you again and thank you for doing this.Leo: Beers with Tim Maloney, huh?Justin: I feel like beers with Tim Maloney could-- that go anywhere.Leo: I sure could.Justin: A lot of people can say they've had beers with Tim Maloney too.Leo: That's terrific. Good to be on here with you.Justin: I usually start this and I told you just some general information about your interaction and thoughts on San Antonio. Let's just start when and why did you end up in San Antonio?Leo: San Antonio is always that big city to the North for me and my extended family. I'm from the Rio Grande Valley, grew up in McAllen, not far from the Rio Grande river and our neighbor to the South there. I grew up in the Valley knowing only the Valley pretty much. The closest metropolitan area, the closest thing to a city that was a real city when I was growing up was San Antonio Texas.I actually visited it once or twice while I was very young to visit an aunt and some cousins in San Antonio and spend a day at the zoo. Going back home and I got into my late teenage years, and I'd never still really been outside the Rio Grande Valley except for San Antonio. San Antonio was always that big wonderful city that had me in awe to the North of the Rio Grande Valley.Justin: Did you move up here after high school or after college or?Leo: I moved here right after graduate school. It was in the late eighties.Justin: Did you get your masters in public administration? Did I say that?Leo: Public policy? That's what we call it. Public affairs at the LBJ school of public affairs in Austin.Justin: All right, so you've been here ever since?Leo: I've been here ever since. Justin, little did I know. I thought I'd come here and learn and get a career started in a real city and then take a look at real big cities on the East Coast or the West Coast and had some opportunities, but I fell in love quickly with San Antonio, fell in love with other things in San Antonio and here I am 30 something years later.Justin: Well, that's a great city.Leo: It absolutely is.Justin: You did some time in DC, right?Leo: I did as an intern when I was in graduate school. I spent six months there.Justin: I interned there for the DCCC in 2002, and it's a great city too. It's very young, it's vibrant, it's great.Leo: Oh, Justin, to go from the Rio Grande Valley, to graduate school in Austin and then intern six months in Washington DC, I was a young man that was just soaking in everything I could soak in and the experiences of DC as well as Austin during those two years of graduate school.[00:03:46]Justin: Similar, I grew up in a town of 500 people in North Texas. Similar, San Antonio still a huge town even though it's a big small town.Leo: They have small towns in North Texas?Justin: On the border of Oklahoma. People try to avoid Oklahoma so there's only a few that say up there. All right. Favorite hidden gems in San Antonio and your wife said [unintelligible 00:04:07] house, so that's off the board.Leo: Oh, well, that's not fair. I will tell you hidden gems in terms of food but in gems period.Justin: Anything that you've got friends and you say, "You got to go check this."Leo: I got to tell you the first thing that came to mind is you were saying it and that's the Jose Antonio Navarro house, the Navarro house. In downtown San Antonio, close to the courthouse, close to the police station, close to City hall. If folks don't understand who will say Antonio Navarro was, I encourage you to spend a day at the Navarro's house.His contributions to the constitution of Texas, the development of Texas, a setting of the stage for what would become Texas, his friendship with Steven Austin, that [unintelligible 00:04:58] history, Justin of contribution to establishing what became Texas is evident in the letters between him and Steven Austin.You can read some of those letters. You can walk around the house that he lived in. You can walk-- I'd love to do a little reception, a little party in the little courtyard of what's Navarro House. It's an incredible gym and those who have a hunger for understanding culture, understanding a little history and such, and wondering why is that street named Navarro? Go take a look.Justin: Where is it at?Leo: It's literally just South of Market Street, almost catty-corner to the new police station. There's a big parking lot between the police station and the Navarro House. It's a little wooden house on the corner of that block.Justin: That's a new one to me. I've never heard of it. Thank you. Thank you for sharing that.Leo: Someday I'm going to invite a lot of people there with a charcuterie board and some bottles of wine if we're allowed, and we're going to learn more about Jose Antonio Navarro and his contributions to the state of Texas.Justin: I would love that invite.Leo: All right, you're on.Justin: Need a show about it. What is the thing you miss most about the Valley?Leo: Besides family? What I remember as an incredibly tight-knit community, incredibly tight-knit community. That's probably something that can be said about a lot of small communities but McAllen wasn't exactly a small town yet it was very tight-knit. It's also where my entire extended family lived and so the family feeling and how close we were is what I miss. Justin, I had 16 uncles and aunts on my mom's side and 10 on my dad's side.Justin: Big family.Leo: I like to say if this language is allowed on air here, I have Chingos of cousins. If I had 16 uncles and aunts on my mom's side and 10 on my dad's side, I don't know how many cousins I have. We were all there in close proximity in the Rio Grande Valley. I missed that.Justin: A ton still down there?Leo: Is who's still down there?Justin: Are a ton of them still down there.Leo: Yes. My extended family is still for the most part is down there. I and just one other set of cousins represent those that ventured out of the Rio Grande Valley into that great city too.Justin: Well, it's not that far. All right. Are you a reader?Leo: Absolutely, read a number of books at the same time? Well, not literally at the same time, but I have them open--Justin: What's in your Kindle right now, or your bookshelf?Leo: Dream Big by Bob Goff. I love his stuff. It's a combination of leadership development with a Christian foundation. That's a book I'm just really soaking in right now. At the same time, I'm reading a biography of [unintelligible 00:08:21]. I am reading Lincoln on Leadership. I am reading-- well every day I read from a good book that gets my conversation with my heavenly father started. Then there's a few more. If I can look here, I can spit off some more, but those are the ones that come to mind.Justin: Big reader.Leo: Yes sir.Justin: All right. This is a personal question that I want to know. In Brooks City Base did I read something about a salt cave being created there or some strange spa?Leo: Oh, it's already here.Justin: What is there?Leo: It's incredible? It shouldn't be a secret. I'm sorry that it's a secret, but we have a wonderful hotel [unintelligible 00:09:11] ago, the Embassy Suites and the Embassy Suites has a spa in it. I would offer that it's the spa spas in San Antonio. Literally we built a rock salt cave or a salt rock cave within the spa. The rock was literally imported from Europe and brought here installed by some craftsmen from Europe. The quality of the air in that cave is just fantastic.If you allow yourself to fall asleep in there just for a 30-minute nap and you breathe that wonderful quality of air is just an incredible experience. On top of that, you can get a massage, you can get foot massage, you can get a facial, and then right across the hall from it is Linda's, which is a hair salon run by Ms. Linda, who's been operating a hair salon on another location on the Southside for 20 plus years.Justin: That's great. It's a legitimate like salt room, right?Leo: It absolutely is.Justin: Okay. It's still operational?Leo: Yes, it's operating today. You can schedule a massage today or you don't even need to schedule a massage you can schedule 30 minutes at a time or an hour, or an hour and a half, or three hours in the salt cave, and people literally rent time or buy time, 30 minutes at a time in that salt cave.Justin: I saw something about that and thought I've got to ask you questions about that.Leo: If you're interested, anybody that is interested, please call the Embassy Suites at Brooks and they'll connect you with the folks at the spa and come visit us.Justin: All right. Do you have a Spurs championship ring?Leo: I've got four of them.Justin: Geez. [laughs]Leo: I'm not wearing them but I've got four of them, yes. They're in my safe at home.Justin: I saw that you were there in stints but I didn't know which stints covered championships.Leo: I got a ring for all of them but the last one, I wasn't there for the last one.Justin: Okay. Favorite Fiesta event.Leo: Oh, my team would kill me. I should say [unintelligible 00:11:22] Justin. You know what that is, Justin?Justin: I mean, I know what it translates to, I don't know that that's a Fiesta event.Leo: [unintelligible 00:11:27] yes, it is an event in the making for Fiesta. We've qualified to be an event. We're in our second year, you got to operate for three years before you get qualified as a Fiesta event so that's, Brooks' contribution to Fiesta. It's [unintelligible 00:11:44] on the green line park at Brooks.We've got our green line park with five ponds, it's a 43-acre linear park and we literally use those grounds as a chancla [unintelligible 00:11:57] drink beer and throw chanclas at stuff and it's fun. Everybody who's grown up in Texas or South Texas, in particular, knows what grandma used to do with her Chancla when you misbehaved, and that's basically what we are building on as a thing.Justin: What month do y'all do it now? Do you do it with Fiesta?Leo: We do it with Fiesta.Justin: Okay. All right, and who's the beneficiary of the charity?Leo: Brooks Gives Back, which is our own foundation to build a sense of philanthropic activity right here on the Southside. We raised the funds to support nonprofits that are implementing initiatives in the zip code that surrounds Brooks.Justin: That's great.Leo: This nonprofit raises money to help-- this year we awarded for the second time money to the boys and girls club, for example, and their programming in the Brooks area. SISD foundation in their programming for their schools in the Brooks area, Caste Med in particular, which is actually located on Brooks.We're also supporting Meals on Wheels, not their food serving program but they have a home repair program for the elderly folks that they serve through their meals on wheels program, and so they've got a number of homes in the area that they are serving with that home repair program, and the Brooks Gives Back is supporting those three initiatives. We raised the funds in part from the activity and the fundraising that comes along with [unintelligible 00:13:30].Justin: Y'all proved out two years in one more or you've done one?Leo: Well, this last year would have been our second year.Justin: Okay. All right. Are they going to count that?Leo: I don't know when we're going to get to the second one.Justin: Yes, true. I think that's a good point, so for a new Fiesta event, you have to prove that you're viable and can raise money essentially, right?Leo: Correct. Absolutely.Justin: I think that would have to be the Southern Most Fiesta event, right?Leo: I'm going to claim it. Justin: I mean, I can't think of anything. I'm kind of a big Fiesta fan, and I can't think of anything that's sort of South of South town really. That'd be a good selling point as well. What do you think some of the biggest challenges facing San Antonio are right now outside of COVID? This is a question I've asked a lot of people, COVID obviously is the biggest challenge but outside of that, once we get through this, what are some of the things that you think the city's facing that they really need to tackle head-on?Leo: Same challenges we've had before COVID. It starts with unacceptable levels of poverty in certain parts of our town. Poverty shouldn't be acceptable anywhere, but the levels in certain parts of the town are just not-- I mean, we as San Antonians should not find it that acceptable. What that leads to in terms of an impact on education for example, and many other things as you might imagine but it starts with a level of poverty. We've got to decide we're not going to be okay with that anymore.It's a problem we had before COVID, COVID is really showing us how real a problem that is for us, and we've got to band together one way or another tackle that. It is the biggest challenge for San Antonio for a number of reasons, including economic development. We're trying to attract really good companies and good jobs and we got to keep fighting this perception of a poor town. It doesn't help us if we're doing well, it doesn't help us if we allow our neighbors to be poor.Justin: Do you think COVID-- I talked about this with the mayor, do you think COVID will sort of light the fire under our collective butts to approach poverty as a sort of community or do you think we're just going to go back to the way things were before, after COVID?Leo: I think it already has. I mean if you listened to the mayor, I mean, certainly has lit up the mayor and that's lighting up the council, and it's lighting up community leaders around town, showing them support for those kinds of agendas. I'm a believer in investing in San Antonio and I know there's taxpayers out there who don't like hearing those code words, so to speak, but if we don't invest in ourselves, what do we expect? If you have a business and you don't invest in your business, what do you expect?If you have talent working for you and you don't invest in their development, what can you expect from them? We as San Antonio have got to invest in our city and Justin, I'm going to say this, I hope I don't get in trouble or step on any toes. I love San Antonio, and I'm very grateful for what past leaders have done for our community in leading us forward, but too many times we have taken the less challenging route, the cheaper route, if I may, to address issues we need to address. I think we've got to address transportation and connectivity throughout San Antonio.We're growing and we're going to continue growing, and we should be connected. Our neighborhoods should be connected so we've got to do that. We've got to address this poverty level and help folks get a good job that pays well and has good benefits. We've got to attract the companies that bring them in, we've got to keep investing in our infrastructure. Kudos to the mayor and community leadership, the County judge moving forward and making those investments.Justin: I'm going to brag on Ron a little bit here, I mean, Ron's really taken up the mantle of it, sort of attacking some of the transportation issues in light of the fact that polling shows very few San Antonioans feel it's one of the major issues that need to be addressed. It doesn't affect everybody the same way but the people, it affects, it affects in a big way and Ron's kind of taken an unpopular opinion on some of that, and you got to give the guy credit for having courage to do what he thinks is right.Leo: Absolutely. I would challenge that notion. I've seen research that says that a lot of people in San Antonio actually support and understand it, and a lot of people in San Antonio know now more than ever that we need to invest in [unintelligible 00:18:18], in our transit system, like we should have 30 years ago, Justin.Justin: I was just reading that article where they talked about
68 minutes | 10 months ago
Dr. Gary Slutkin, Physician, Epidemiologist, and Founder/Director of Cure Violence
Dr. Gary Slutkin has provided counsel and advice to elected leaders and health leaders across the United States regarding COVID-19. He has advised Mayor Ron Nirenberg and other Texas mayors. He has proven that epidemiological methods for disease reduction work and they work on things like violence. This was a fascinating discussion with a very interesting guest.Transcript:[music]Justin Hill: Hello, in Bienvenidos San Antonio. Welcome to the Alamo Hour discussing the people, places, and passion that make our city. My name is Justin Hill, a local attorney, a proud San Antonian, and keeper of chickens and bees. On the Alamo Hour, you'll get to hear from the people that make San Antonio great and unique and the best-kept secret in Texas. We're glad that you're here.All right. Welcome to today's episode of the Alamo Hour. My guest today is Dr. Slutkin. Dr. Slutkin is a medical doctor and epidemiologist. I'm stealing from your TED Talk bio a little bit. You're an innovator in violence reduction which we're going to talk about. Currently, founder and executive director of Cure Violence. Also, consigliere of sorts to some Metro health and mayors and city officials who are seeking your guidance on COVID.Dr. Slutkin previously served as a medical director for the San Francisco Health Department. He's worked for the World Health Organization. He's worked on epidemics all over Africa which we will discuss. Importantly, he is a well sought after epidemiologist on using data and science to cure issues and specifically, issues that people probably didn't think could be cured that way. Dr. Slutkin, thank you for being here.Dr. Slutkin: I'm happy to be with you, Justin.Justin: You're in Chicago, right?Dr. Slutkin: Yes.Justin: All right. You are my first non-San Antonio local or someone who's lived here for some amount of time but our show tries to have a real connection with San Antonio and Dr. Lesch, a previous guest and Mayor Nirenberg, also previously a guest have discussed COVID with you. I know you've provided some guidance and counsel. Talk to me about what you're doing right now in your role as providing some guidance to cities and leaders including our very own Mayor Ron Nirenberg.Dr. Slutkin: Well, I'm aware that the US has not really seen anything like this before, that's to say an epidemic of this nature that's so fast, so contagious, so lethal and many other parts of the world have. I had the opportunity to be helpful with World Health and some of the others. Although I myself have largely been working on reducing violence in this country and in other places recently, I had to quickly switch into a role of helping, supporting, guiding and training where there were needs, which is basically wherever you look and how to manage this because it's not clear.Besides the fact that it's new, a lot of behaviors need to be changed. People don't like to change behaviors, people don't want to change behaviors and there's so much misinformation as well. I've been talking with mayors and governors and the Mayor's Associations and the Governors Associations and trying to help understand what needs to be understood here. Which is that you can't tell who's infectious and who isn't, which is a really counter-intuitive thing that someone you know or someone who looks well, could be carrying it. That it's really that serious.That you can get it even just by talking and screaming or talking loud or it doesn't require coughing and that the results are really quite bad. For policymakers, they need to really make this so serious, and whenever we don't, we see the consequences and that has to do with the fact that the virus jumps when given a chance. Opening up, it means opening up for the virus and that's what everybody saw but not everybody knew it. Then also what the people themselves have to do. I've been guiding and training in this arena since late February, early March.Justin: We've all seen what's in the news and we know what we're told in the news but San Antonio did really good at first and we were all very excited and we were patting ourselves on the back. Then our state opened up fast for which San Antonio had to follow lead because mayors like Mayor Nirenberg had very limited authority to out step what the mayor says. Did you see that across the board throughout mayors and policymakers who you consult with at cities that opened faster had the bigger problem or are there still some unknowns to how it's spreading or why it's exploding in certain areas?Dr. Slutkin: There may still be some unknowns but the main things are known and just weren't paid attention to enough or taken seriously enough or confused intentionally or unintentionally. What you said about San Antonio and probably for other cities too, but San Antonio, I seem to know better because I've been talking with the mayor and other people there, is that it's exactly true. San Antonio was doing terrific, amazing actually. The rates and numbers were exceedingly low and Mayor Nirenberg and the city responded extremely fast.They're aware of this in January. They called a health emergency in February. Restrictions in late February and early March. It seems they were being followed on the number of cases. It was maybe even the lowest of big cities in the country. Certainly one of the lowest. Contact tracing was getting going.It seems that there was a reversal that the mayor and other mayors were not able to manage so well because of the conflicting communication and conflicting orders. It's an exceptional tragedy. I have a lot of confidence in Mayor Nirenberg and the other mayor, several whom I met just last night that they're going to get on this, of stopping the spread now but they are behind. It's clear as to why--Justin: When Mayor Nirenberg was on the show, it really opened my eyes because they started sending San Antonio some of the people from overseas that were Americans like the cruise ship. People that were infected that were Americans got brought to San Antonio and as a normal person who lives here and some of our electeds were very unhappy this was happening. Ron pointed out this allowed us to get ready. We already had people in our backyard that we knew had it. It allowed us to get ready for this coming wave. He credits a lot of that with why they were able to jump on it so fast which I thought was great.Dr. Slutkin: Well, there's so many things that need to be done right. They all were being done right. In terms of anticipation of visitors and in terms of tracing and in terms of restrictions. You have to do them all and they were all being done. The good news about this is if you do them all, as San Antonio was able to do, you really do control the virus and you can stop its spread. [crosstalk]Justin: Proof is in the pudding. I hate to 101 with you but I think it's really important for our listeners to understand who you are and your history and epidemiology. Honestly, we're in an era of social media science and social media experts. Talk to me generally about what an epidemiologist's real focus is and how you yourself got into it.Dr. Slutkin: I'll tell you that. Let me just say there are-- My story is basically this. I'm a physician and I'm an infectious disease physician first, and then an epidemiologist, and then I have been working on epidemics full time for about 40 years. First, I was asked to run the tuberculosis control program for San Francisco in the early '80s' when they had the worst epidemic in the country of tuberculosis. I then moved to Somalia to do tuberculosis among a million refugees in 40 camps, and then we got confronted with a cholera epidemic in Somalia when I was living in Somalia.I left that country when it was moving into civil war and got picked up by the World Health Organization and got assigned the management of the global program on AIDS which Central and East Africa, the 13 countries in Central and East Africa, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and the countries around there. I co-led the cholera epidemic in Somalia. I led the TB efforts in Somali refugees. I led the efforts in Central and East Africa on AIDS. I just want to say for almost all of these things, these were problems in which behavior was all we had.From 1980 to 1995, there was no treatment at all for AIDS and 30% of the populations in some of these cities were already infected. We had a community spread. We had a contagious virus. You couldn't tell who was infected and all you had is behavior. We got 70%, 75% drops by behavior change, and not an easy behavior which was sexual behavior. Not an easy thing to change.To your point about what an epidemiologist is, I want to say there's many people who are now using this phrase, some are from biologists, and some are from our clinicians, and care for patients, and so on. The management of an epidemic, epidemic management is a subspecialty of epidemiology. We're not the people who are doing projections or models, we're managing epidemics, and we have to succeed at reducing them. It's a subspecialty of epidemiology, which is epidemic management and control. That's what I've been doing.Justin: I listened to your TED Talk when you said you were going to Somalia that your boss said you made the worst decision that you could make to go over there. What was the impetus from saying, "I'm living in San Francisco and I've got a nice job managing something and learning, but I want to go to Somalia," which at the time was not a nice place to be is my understanding?Dr. Slutkin: I was asked to consult in one refugee camp, the Boho refugee camp because other people from San Francisco General, including close friends and colleagues, were working there in the refugee situation. I went there to consult and I got really excited about the people and the situation. I was then commuting between San Francisco and Mogadishu even more upcountry for a few years, and then myself and my colleague Sandy Gove, we decided to move there.There's over 1 million refugees in 40 camps, and there were only 6 doctors. I felt that the TB program in San Francisco was pretty much under control at the time or most of what had to be done was done. I was younger and I took it as a challenge and a necessity. We did the math as to how many cases, there were 25, 000 to 50,000 I thought. We had about 500 in San Francisco and I thought we had it managed. It was like, I felt I had to do it, that's the way I grew up.Justin: You then got into the World Health Organization and you had some incredible successes specifically in Uganda in addressing the AIDS epidemic. Can you talk to us about how that was approached differently or how you were able to get more success in Uganda than maybe some of the other countries?Dr. Slutkin: These are such great questions. I'm lucky. I got picked up by World Health. Sandy and I were working on our own in a way in Somalia. I've been working at San Francisco General with a great team, now I'm back at a great team at the World Health Organization with the best epidemiologist in the world. My boss and mentor is Daniel Tarantola who had eradicated smallpox from Bangladesh, right down the hall was, all these superstars and I'm young. I'm in my 30s.They gave me a very big assignment. They gave me the epicenter, the 13 countries in Central and East Africa. They were the hardest hit. I went at it and they gave me a team. I built a team. What did we do? We had to first find out how big the problem was by testing. We had to do a bunch of testing to find out where it was, how fast it was moving because it's invisible without the test, and then we had to set up infrastructures and networks.We saw that we had to do training and that we had to figure out a strategy. It was a brand new disease. What are we going to do? We landed on public education, information, and behavior change. Uganda is the best example because it did the best implementation public education to scale, billboards, leaflets, flyers, pamphlets, media, spokespersons, ministers, clergy, refugee situations, military, everybody trained in very, very visible public education on sticking to one partner and then on condom use.Then we had outreach workers who can help people understand why they need to change their behavior. Now, you can recognize what's missing here for COVID because we need very, very strong, very visible public education, on wear our mask, keep your distance, no gatherings, and wash your hands. This needs to be repetitive over and over and over and over again and we need outreach workers to reach people who might not get it, who needs it explained.Justin: We have our own cultural pushback in America for whatever reasons are those reasons, but what was the cultural pushback you were getting in Uganda because you're talking about sex, which every country has its own cultural hangups or different views on discussing that publicly. How were you able to overcome those, I'm sure there's some cultural conservatism in those countries about those issues? Was it government was just fully on board or y'all had carte blanche, or how were you able to overcome those cultural hurdles?Dr. Slutkin: You never have carte blanche in anybody's mind. Everybody's mind is their own, but to a certain extent, it isn't their own because they are influenced and they're influenced by others and they're particularly influenced by their friends and what they think their friends are doing and what's acceptable. We used that. There's a science behind behavior change, just like there's a science behind the contagion of a virus or of a behavior. This is really interesting, this question about culture.Everywhere I would go in Africa or in Asia, they would say, "Condom is against our culture or this isn't our culture. We're different than that place." That was basically overcome by allowing everybody to really understand the way this is transmitted. We underestimate how important it is for people to really understand transmission itself. In that particular case, it was that because they thought it was other things but in this particular case, people need to know that it's in someone else's mouth and you can't tell that whose mouth it is. Then that goes into the air around them when they're just talking to you and you just, by simply inhaling that and breathing that stuff, can get that, and it can go right into your lungs. Then you're checking into the hospital a week or two weeks later, even though everything seemed fine, and he looked fine.The mask blocks that and that the distance blocks that, and people need to fundamentally get transmission. That's part of it. Then the other thing is that what they need to get is the messaging over and over, and then beginning to see that their friends are doing it. We need to actually hire friends locally. Now, in this COVID-- I'm switching from Uganda to COVID because people need to know there's certain things we all need to get.The young people who aren't getting this, other young people are people who are acceptable, and credible, and trusted by them need to begin to talk to them, and get them, and show them that they're wearing and say, "Listen. We can't be gathering like this. It is time for us to be wearing the mask. We don't want to get it ourselves." I don't know if people know that half of the x-rays among asymptomatic people show something wrong and there is healthy people who are making mistakes.One of whom I heard as he was dying said, "I made a mistake," but basically, he was at what was called a COVID party. Then his last words to a nurse, he's 30 years old was, "It looks like I made a mistake." People need to understand this transmission, and so the public education to scale, and the peer-- This is what we did in Uganda, and we got enormous success and the countries and places that didn't, were lagging or they didn't.Justin: From that perspective of public education and getting friends to do it, it almost sounds like a little bit of a peer pressure feeling. How important were the leaders in those countries because I think just generally, those cultural boundaries and how they were overcome should give us some education on how we overcome. Were the leaders that important in that role, or was it more a neighborhood approach?Dr. Slutkin: You get benefit from all of this. The leadership in Uganda was particularly good from President Museveni. He made sure he talked about it all the time and he made sure there was training done. We at World Health had a very good partner and they mobilized their population for the education and the training. Leadership in some other countries wasn't so good.With good local leadership, with a good mayor like Mayor Nirenberg or the other the mayors who I met from Austin, Houston, Laredo, Brownsville, and other places, they are able to and from what I can see, are standing up and speaking, communicating, educating, and showing the data, and showing where things aren't going right and what we all need to do.In the more that everybody, these multiple channels is really important. A leader can't do it on his own. The behaviors themselves need to be done by the population themselves. It was the population of Uganda that got rid of its AIDS, and it is the population of San Antonio that we'll get rid of it's COVID.Justin: I saw elected representative recently even encouraging the Freemasons and if you're a part of a membership, all of you pass resolutions encouraging your membership to sign on that you'll wear masks and that you'll avoid gatherings. I hadn't really thought about that but we are all really part of a group of probably 30 in our day-to-day life. I thought that was a really smart leadership role for one of our electeds to take.After you left Africa, you came back to Chicago is my understanding. Then based on your TED Talk, it sounded like you almost stumbled into this idea of applying infectious disease principles to address the violence in Chicago. Can you talk to me a little bit about how that came about and what your framework was?Dr. Slutkin: Yes. That's really my day job is I run Cure Violence Global, which is a global NGO nonprofit, which reduces violence. It's doing this in the US and Latin America and to a certain extent in the Middle East and some other places. We are listed as the ninth-best NGO in the world now. What we do is our workers and our partners apply epidemiology and infectious disease methods to reducing violence.We see violence, exactly like any other epidemic disease. In other words, there's one case which leads to more cases which leads to more cases but the interruption of the transmission of it is what controls it, and you need outreach workers just like we were talking about COVID, you need outreach workers and we call them violence interrupters.These are specialists for stopping a shooting from happening and stopping the spread, and if there is a shooting or if there is a COVID case, to prevent it from leading to more COVID cases or more shootings depending on which epidemic you're working on. We've been doing this for 20 years. There have been between 40% and 70% drops in shootings and...
59 minutes | 10 months ago
Ina Minjarez, State Representative, Rookie of the Year, and Attorney
When Ina Minjarez was elected in 2015 to finish the remaining term of Senator Menendez, she only got one month in the legislative session to learn. The next year, after winning again, she was named Rookie of the Year by Texas Monthly. She has passed a lot of important legislation regarding bullying, foster care, and is a huge asset to San Antonio. Also, she loves Real Housewives and Chinese food.Transcript:[music]Justin Hill: Hello in Bienvenidos, San Antonio. Welcome to the Alamo Hour, discussing the people, places, and passion that make our city. My name is Justin Hill, a local attorney, a proud San Antonian, and keeper of chickens and bees. On the Alamo Hour, you'll get to hear from the people that make San Antonio great and unique and the best-kept secret in Texas. We're glad that you're here.All right, welcome to episode 22 of the Alamo Hour. Today's guest is representative Ina Minjarez. Representative Minjarez represents District 124 which is West along 90, up from 90, 1604 area. She was elected to a, partially, over term really in 2015, joined the legislature with only a month or so left, went back to her next full session, and was named rookie of the year by Texas Monthly. Even though I accidentally called her freshman of the year, it's been a huge accomplishment. You've been given some incredible appointments, I guess, you call them recess appointments as well regarding the judiciary. First, thank you for being here.Ina Minjarez: Thanks for having me. I'm excited to be on. I'm going to remember this as lucky 22. [chuckles]Justin: There you go. Repeating numbers are supposed to be a lucky thing. I didn't know this.Ina: It's a good number.Justin: I do a top 10 with everybody. I just want to get some color, some background information. When and why did you end up in San Antonio?Ina: Law school, St. Mary's University School of Law and I wanted to practice in Texas. Texas has one of the hardest bar exams and I just wanted to take it one time and be done with it. [chuckles]Justin: That's a good plan. Born and raised in El Paso?Ina: Born and raised in El Paso.Justin: College, El Paso?Ina: Excuse me?Justin: College wa in El Paso or undergrad at St. Mary's?Ina: No, college was at Notre Dame South Bend in Indiana.Justin: Okay. South Bend is not that nice of a city.Ina: When I was there it was just a different type of place to be. I tell people when I got to Notre Dame I didn't even really understand where it was located. I had no idea. I was just going to Notre Dame. I remember getting on the plane and looking down and seeing [chuckles] a lot of farm country, I'm thinking, "What the heck did I just get myself into?" We were pretty insulated. We really didn't go out into the city. They had the students really on campus. It's [crosstalk]Justin: We talked off air a little bit of Poncho Nevárez. You went to law school together. Poncho and I worked a case and we ended up in South Bend a lot and the campus is beautiful but the surrounding town is not what you expect, which, for me, was the same as when I went to Yale for some depositions, beautiful campus, not a really nice town so I was surprised about it.Ina: No, it's not. It's been a while since I've been back. It was interesting to see Mayor Pete Buttigieg. He was the mayor. I'm curious. I would love to go back to see what he did with South Bend since I [crosstalk]Justin: Yes, I would too. You have dogs. What kind of dogs and what are their names?Ina: Those are my life. I've got three. My golden retriever, I named her Fino after my favorite wine. [chuckles] I got Pepe who's a GSP, and then I got Lily who is my rescue. She's a mix of Schnauzer and I think she's part coyote.[laughter]Justin: Growing up we had a cat we were sure it was part bobcat so I get it.Ina: [laughs]Justin: Favorite hidden gems in San Antonio. The last guest was King Anchovy and he was certain there could not be anything he didn't know about. I brought up somebody's favorite Filipino restaurant so we've had some good additions. Any favorite hidden gems, things that you think even as locals don't know about?Ina: My favorite restaurant in the world Sichuan House by Ingram Park Mall. That is a gem in itself, my favorite place to eat.Justin: I haven't seen their books but I'm partly sure that my house is partly responsible for them surviving COVID by the way. They delivered up to 20 miles and I was just right in the delivery zone.Ina: [unintelligible 00:04:14] I just ordered from them on Friday. Christina was the owner. She's incredible. It's just a great restaurant. They take care of their workers and employees.Justin: What's your favorite dish there?Ina: The dry pot and the green beans.Justin: The cold noodles were shocking to me. I've never had cold noodles. They were fantastic. Our delivery guy we can only call him by his name spicy noodle. We weren't allowed to use his real name because who knows what was going on with unemployment at the time. Which show best depicts politics as you have learned them to be? My guest, I would think, Veep has to be it but that's only a dream.Ina: Veep. You know what? It's so funny. I'm trying to think of--Believe it or not, I don't watch political shows. I am so wrapped up in Yellowstone and because it has its own politics of being ranchers and owning this incredible land in Montana so, yes, I guess you could say there's politics involved in that. You got the good guys, you got the bad guys, you got the ones that are about greed, you got the ones that want to do the right thing, and it's a family-owned ranch. That's what I'm all in queue right now is Yellowstone.Justin: Is Yellowstone a Western feel or is it not.Ina: I think a little bit. Kevin Costner, he's the main character and you've got that aspect of a family of ranchers, how they got the land, and you're going to figure out, we still don't know, what the secret is in terms of how he got the land. He didn't get it the right way. Then you've got native Americans that are in the show too, and one, in particular, that believes he stole that land from their tribe. I guess it's a modern-day Western feel.Justin: You're the second person to tell me I have to watch it and I click it on Netflix and it just looks like it's going to be a slow start.Ina: It's so good though. I think every female character in that show is like a strong woman too and they got a leadership role. [chuckles]Justin: I'll have to check it out because you're the second person this week that's told me this. Are you a reader, and if so, what are you reading?Ina: Am I reader? Besides legislation and boring policy papers, I am a reader. There's different things that I read. I read a lot of motivational books. I'm trying to think one in particular. The author escapes my mind and I'm always-- Give me a moment to look up my Twitter because I have them all on my alerts. He's faith-based and he just gives a different perspective on life, but at the same time he's not telling people how to live. He's not judgmental on people because sometimes you think coming from a faith-based perspective that people tend to be judgmental and that you need to live your life according to a certain way. His name is Bob Goff and I'm reading his newest book called Dream Big and it easy to follow.Justin: I've never heard of him.Justin: He's wonderful and I follow his books and he's just plain, like I said, faith-based to the point but non-judgmentalJustin: Max Lucado seems to walk that line too in a really special way that so many people don't.Ina: I agree. I used to go to his church and just loved him. He wasn't judgmental and just would preach on a level that was present day. I appreciated that about Max. I still like to read his stuff. I got a lot of his books here at the house.Justin: I read that you're really into Bravo.Ina: I love Bravo.Justin: One of our previous guests Tim Maloney was one of the producers of Southern Charm New Orleans. Did you know that?Ina: I knew that and I watched it. I watched some of that. [laughs]Justin: It's pretty terrible though.Ina: I will admit. I am not afraid to admit. That's my escape. I watch all of those bad reality shows just to have my escape from real life.Justin: Which was your favorite?Ina: I like the Real Housewives franchises. I love Southern Charm but I like the one that [inaudible 00:08:29] other. What is it?Justin: Charleston.Ina: Charleston.Justin: Whitney and Tim did Southern Charm New Orleans together and Whitney comes out of here a lot. I used to love VH1 reality shows, I'll admit it, but I wasn't into any of Tim's stuff. Whitney and I were at Soluna having margaritas and I made fun of him. Nobody watches that show. I can tell you probably 10 different people came up, this was season one of Southern Charm, 10 different people come up and said, "Are you Whitney?"Ina: If you talk to Whitney, you tell him I think his mom is fabulous, and I think she makes the show.[laughter]Justin: Oh, no, people will ask Tim if they can pay him so that their wives can go meet her. I didn't realize she was such a breakout hit.Ina: His mom, I think she is a diamond and I think she really makes the show. I love her home. I love her style. I love her wit. [laughs]Justin: What does she call her breakfast? Martini? She's got like a name for-- [laughs]Ina: She has a name for-- Hey, I respect a woman that has a breakfast Martini.[chuckles]Justin: We just found out Fiesta is getting canceled but I've asked everybody what's your favorite Fiesta event.Ina: The hit Fiesta event. Look I love to eat. I would say going to Oyster Bay, that we go on the off day where it's not like one of the first days that it's on early to avoid a lot of the crowds but I love all of it. I love to eat. I love to drink. It's just a fun time.Justin: I agree. I'm pretty bummed about it but it'll be back. Any surprising friends at the Capitol for you? I always found the Scalia and RBG friendship to be a strange pairing, as tickling your best friend. Do you have a friendship like that at the Capitol? Ina: He's a friend. It's funny you mentioned him. Yes, believe it or not Frick and Frack. What's so funny, and he's probably going to not appreciate me saying this, but I know Jonathan on a private level so different than what he puts out there, the persona he puts out on Twitter. We don't always agree, but believe it or not, we're friends. I could talk to him about a lot of things and vice versa. Underneath it, there is a person there that has feelings. Yes, he's a friend. I think another one that I developed a friendship with former Speaker Craddick. I got to know him because I went on his committee, this session, and really just have so much respect and adore the man. I would bring them bags of Snickers because he loves chocolate [chuckles] and we got to know each other, and another good friend there.Justin: He's just going to be a fount of knowledge about the Capitol and the legislature and the process and the players.Ina: He is. He's got a lot of knowledge. His wife is beautiful, Nadine. I got to go to Odessa to go tour some oil wells down there a couple months before the pandemic happened and got to attend an oil and gas state of the state there in Odessa and got to sit with him and his wife. They love where they're from. They're very oil and gas, right? She would tell stories about what it was like to be the speaker's wife at the time at the Capitol and what went on there. They got a lot of stories, but very dear people.Justin: A very tumultuous run as speaker if I recall it, and now, he's got the best place to office in the Capitol, and you rarely hear his name.Ina: It's funny because I tell people, they're like, "You don't know what he was like when he was speaker." I know what I hear in terms of how he was very heavy-handed but, I guess, I know a different Craddick now. [chuckles]Justin: Well, good. It's good to be able to look from a fresh perspective, too, not carry resentment or any of that with you.Ina: Right.Justin: Okay. What brought you into politics?Ina: I must have been crazy. At the time that I decided I was going through a midlife crisis. I will mention his name because he's my dear friend, I worked for Javier Espinosa, who was one of your guests.Justin: That's right.Ina: I worked for his firm for a little bit. I think I'd already litigated like maybe 15 years and I was feeling just unfulfilled, not in terms of working for him, but I just felt like I wanted to do something different and decided to take some time off. I thought, "Maybe I'll go back to school, get another degree." I just felt like I was having this midlife crisis professionally. At the time, my state rep went on to win a special election. That was a Jose Menendez, who went on to become a Senator and that opened up his seat.I can't explain it. I'm trying not to sound hokey, but something kept pulling at me, pulling at my heart. I started looking into what the heck a state representative does. Look, I had to go on Google. I remind myself and figure out what exactly do they do. It was all policy-related, creating law, and reading policy. I figured, man, if I've litigated all these years in the courtrooms for businesses, for people, for kids, why can't I do that at the Capitol and actually change things and make a difference. I took a leap of faith and decided to run for the seat and luckily I won.Justin: Then your 15 years of litigating, what did you do other than work for Javier?Ina: I was a prosecutor for Baird County. I did, I prosecuted domestic violence cases. Unfortunately, I prosecuted cases where children were victims of sexual assault so that was really tough. I did a lot of felony offenses, drug offenses, murders, and then left to do the defense side. Then while I was in private practice, I started representing kiddos in child protective services and in the system as an ad litem, and then, also, represented parents who were facing termination of their parental rights. Then during that time, that's when I met Javier and then went to go work for him for a little bit doing labor law.Justin: You've done prosecution, criminal defense, and then plaintiffs civil work as well.Ina: Exactly.Justin: When you decided to run for Senator Menendez's seat, were you tied in any of the political groups or are you tied into your neighborhood? What was your sort of grassroots involvement if there was any?Ina: Really the only political exposure I had was I had also run for a County Court bench, County Court No. 5. I ran twice. At the time, I think the first time I ran was when Tim Johnson was on the seat and I nearly took him out. I lost by seven-tenths of a percent that time and then he retired. [chuckles] I was going to run again for that seat and then it was when Obama was president. It was midterm election time when that red wave came and just knocked out every single Democrat that was running for office or held office.Justin: Except for David Rodriguez, somehow.Ina: Right, he survived that. I thought I was done with politics because that was heartbreaking. It looked like it was going to happen and then just not having any control. You were just at the bottom of the ballot and that was the political atmosphere at the time. I knew who, in terms of who were the players with the local democrat electeds but I really decided to walk away from it because it left a bad taste to my mouth.When I decided to run, I really had not lived in the district very long. I had lived for some time in the Southside, [unintelligible 00:16:34]. That's where I'd lived. I came down and lived here. I was very new, very green. I think what it was, winning this election, was really pounding pavement and knocking on doors. I really think I was running-- In the race was a former city councilwoman, a firefighter who was active in the union, and then, a gentleman who had run as a Republican all his life, but decided to run as a Democrat for the seat. I think it was because I was new and "untainted" that went in my favor. I think people like that about me, that I was very new and did not have a political background.Justin: Is your district considered far Westside? Is that what you would call it?Ina: Far Westside Northwest because we're part-- I have SeaWorld and the Food Bank. I've got part of Edgewood, part of Highway 90, a little bit of Port San Antonio, but I come over to Westover Hills, the newer part. We've got a lot of growth at here. I would say Northwest.Justin: How much of that district is the old Westside neighborhoods? Correct me if I'm wrong, I've got to think there's really a hierarchy over there that if you're running and you haven't checked the boxes as you come up through the system, that there would be some blowback because you're a lot of these older communities in neighborhoods. There's a real political machine hierarchy for people that are going to run for office. Did you run into that out there?Ina: I didn't run into that. it was unique. Maybe in the Edgewood, part of that Edgewood area, they didn't know me very well, but it was funny because the Edgewood area that has Port San Antonio called Thompson neighborhood, I won that precinct versus most of Venus. I didn't win that precinct. There was a split but I'm telling you when I came in, it was a special election. It just seemed to be a very unique time that I really feel that a lot of the constituents in the district really...
51 minutes | 10 months ago
Jesse Mata, King Anchovy LV and Cornyation Staple
Jesse Mata is born and raised in San Antonio. He has been involved in Cornyation for over a decade and was recently crowned King Anchovy LV. His reign has been disturbed by COVID and Fiesta cancellation/rescheduling issues. However, he joins us to discuss his passion for Cornyation's focus and charities supported.Transcript:[music]Justin Hill: Hello and Bienvenido, San Antonio. Welcome to The Alamo Hour, discussing the people, places, and passion that make our city. My name is Justin Hill, a local attorney, a proud San Antonian, and keeper of chickens and bees. On The Alamo Hour, you'll get to hear from the people that make San Antonio great and unique, and the best-kept secret in Texas. We're glad that you're here. All right, welcome to Episode 21 of The Alamo Hour. Today's guest is Jesse Mata. We had some technical difficulties, so we're back on take two.Jesse Mata: Welcome back.Justin: Jesse works at USAA and more importantly for this episode, he's King Anchovy 55 for Cornyation. Previously, he's written scripts for Cornyation. He's been involved for years. The Current said you're one of the most influential people in 2015.Jesse: Yes. I've been influential gay people, that's an important caveat. [crosstalk]Justin: Is that the thing?Jesse: A pink asterisk.Justin: I didn't see that.Jesse: Yes. Unless there's another article I don't know.Justin: Well, I just saw most influential 2015 and saw you.Jesse: Yes, that’s me.Justin: You've had a lot of involvement in Cornyation, that's where I met you. Cornyation has raised over $2 million. We're going to spend some time talking about Cornyation. Jesse, so I do this with all the guests. We'll do a top 10 list. It’s short. I asked one guy how he moved to San Antonio, he went on for seven minutes, so don't do that. [laughs]Jesse: No. That is not a very interesting story. It's a tragic story. You have a sorrowful version of this podcast, we can [unintelligible 00:01:33] [laughter].Justin: Well, now I don't know if I want to ask. The first question I was going to ask is when did you move to San Antonio?Jesse: I moved back to San Antonio. I grew up in San Antonio. I’m San Antonio native. My parents grew up in San Antonio as well. I have a long history here; my family does as well. I left in '93 after I graduated from Health Careers and went off to Baylor University. Then I came back in 1997, four years later, but that doesn't necessarily mean I had a degree, and started work and started my adult life back in San Antonio.Justin: Okay, so you've lived here straight ever since?Jesse: Yes, since September of 1997.Justin: All right. What high school did you go to?Jesse: Health Careers, phoenix, I’m phoenix rising from the ashes. That's all. This’s [unintelligible 00:02:24] alma mater.Justin: Next question, in your picture in The Current you had a dog, what's the dog's name?Jesse: Yes.Justin: What's his name?Jesse: I have a pug. Well, actually I have two dogs to be fair, not to give short [unintelligible 00:02:31]. The dog that was in the shoot was Gizmo, that's our pug. Gizmo [unintelligible 00:02:40] is his full name, but it tells you everything you need to know about my literary preferences. He's a great guy, curmudgeon, middle-aged.Justin: Pug and what else?Jesse: A pug and a Great Dane.Justin: Oh, geez. They get along?Jesse: I'm sorry.Justin: Did they get along?Jesse: They do get along. They're best friends. At first, whenever we got Gizmo, he was maybe about this big, maybe fit in the palm of your hand. The Great Dane wanted nothing to do with him. He was not even as big as your snout. I'm sure the part of that calculus was she figured she might destroy him, [unintelligible 00:03:13]or tail, or what have you. Ever since then they've become closest friends. They snuggled together, they play together, what have you.Justin: All right. What are your favorite hidden gems in the city? The kind of things that only us locals know but when you have a tourist friend come, you say, "You got to go check this thing out."Jesse: It's so tough because, are there really any hidden gems left anymore with social media influencers and all that kind of stuff. I would say that the last hidden gems that I really enjoy is probably food. Look at me, obviously, I'm a fan of food. Places like Maria’s Cafe or Garcia’s Mexican Food to Go, those would have been my old answers, but those are hardly secrets anymore. It's really those places; the mom and pop places, the small businesses. You build relationships with them over time. They recognize you, you're on a first-name basis. That's certainly part of the experience. Those are probably some of my favorite places, all food-related.Justin: Well, we've had a lot of food answers, a Filipino restaurant on Culebra was two guests ago, Los Pinos.Jesse: That is the secret. I want to know of that.Justin: Have you ever been to Denman Estate Park? I think it's what Ron Nurnberg. I'd never heard of it.Jesse: Yes, yes. A very good friend of mine lived right on around the corner from that park, I think it's called Mockingbird Estates or Mockingbird hHlls or something like that.Justin: I've never heard of it.Jesse: He and his husband lived there for a number of years in a couple of different houses there. It's right behind KENS. This great old kind of like ‘60s and ‘70s foot level garden homey type thing. Denman park is gorgeous.Justin: What about Jack White Trail? That's another one that I've never heard of.Jesse: I've never heard of that. Which one is that?Justin: I don't know. It's over that Salado Creek. I haven't been there.Jesse: What kind of host are you? Don’t you want to ask follow-up questions?Justin: Well, I'm getting good information, and if you had listened to that episode that maybe you'd have learned.Jesse: That's true., that’s true. My cousin [unintelligible 00:05:13] Cave. I've never been there but--Justin: Is that in San Antonio?Jesse: Yes, in the Alamo Heights Northwood areas.Justin: They just opened it up two years ago for the first time in a long time. I read about it.Jesse: Officially. Yes.Justin: Apparently, on Incarnate Word's campus, there's the origin of the San Antonio river you can look down in a hole and see it.Jesse: Right. The Blue Hole.Justin: Well, you've got it all figured out.Jesse: There's another one of those on the strip, but that's a difference thing.Justin: All right. Well, that's good for the next question. Favorite Cornyation moment?Jesse: Favorite Cornyation moment? I got food poisoning once during Cornyation. For a personal Cornyation moment, I had a bad subway. There used to be a subway in the theater. I ended up getting sick immediately before we went on the first show on a Thursday night. It continued to be ill throughout the evening. In fact, immediately before the last performance and then immediately after I came offstage. I was in the Ferrari Crown club. I was in the bathroom committing atrocities. I will say Angela Rubin was an angel. She brought me little ice chips and a cup, and sat me in a little recliner backstage and I was okay. The show must go on, right? [unintelligible 00:06:33] puke on stage.Justin: That's a real trooper.Jesse: Yes, that's the achievement.Justin: I'm sure that leads to other things, but we'll get there later. Are you a reader, which you already covered so this is perfect question, and if so, what do you read now?Did we freeze?Jesse: Sorry, Justin. I'm sorry. Can you repeat that question?Justin: Are you a reader? If so, what are you reading now?Jesse: I am normally a reader. I think this pandemic has thrown me for a loop. Most of what I've been doing lately has been gardening. Anything that I've been reading has been about how to best compost your plant, good soil, and how to fertilize and when to harvest your vegetables, and fruits.Justin: Any Howard Garrett books?Jesse: Many--Justin: Any Howard Garrett books like The Dirt Doctor.Jesse: No, that's another source for me to look at.Justin: I'm a big fan of Howard Garrett. He's our organic guy. He's all about the soil.Jesse: Oh, nice, nice. I've done a lot of Texas gardener type reading for things that do well locally. I've also found the local shops like Evergreen Garden or Rainbow Garden are awesome. It speaks to the power of a relationship with local business. They've been excellent tutors or guides, in terms of how to set up gardens and the right products to buy and the right things to take into consideration so just a plug for them. Normally, I am a reader. Some of my favorite authors like Gore Vidal, a lot of his nonfiction stuff, and his fiction stuff. Lincoln is probably one of my favorite books of all time.Justin: Just some light reading.Jesse: It's not big. It sounds bad. It sounds dense and thick and all that kind of stuff. Especially those narrative fictional biographies, it's not child reads like a soap opera. It's really intriguing and it provides a little fictionalized color to the events of the day. I also like Frank Herbert, sci-fi, The Dune series, and that sort of stuff I really get into. It's a varied palette but honestly, I've just been wanting to get my hands in the dirt for the past couple of months.Justin: My yard is a certified monarch habitat and Rainbow Garden helped me set that up.Jesse: Beautiful.Justin: Anything else that you're big involved in like Cornyation outside of your job in Cornyation?Jesse: Over the years, I've been involved and interested in different organizations and chipped in behind the scenes or just in different ways. I volunteered some with the Southwest School of Art for a number of years. You could probably hear my pug whining back there in the background. That was a great experience. I'm hugely into art in terms of not only visual art, musical art, being a patron, being a supporter, being a collector, just in any way that I can get involved in a local art scene. My involvement with the Southwest school was fantastic. It was a real learning experience for me. I got to meet some fantastic people. I'm really thankful to have Michael Westheimer, a good friend of mine and Ellen Wolf for bringing me into that Southwest School family. It was a fantastic experience. Other organizations, I've worked with Thrive a little bit behind the scenes, kind of in their salad days or their early stages when they were kind of thinking about how to become a nonprofit entity and really bring a board on, and all that kind of stuff. That was a really rewarding experience, to be able to get to know Sandra Whitley and Chelsea Berkowitz and a lot of the different folks who were invested in Thrive and really helped build the foundation for the success that it is today. Those have probably been my principal involvements.I mean, Cornyation frankly, takes so much out of you for five or six months out of the year that it's like I'm going to coast for the next couple of months before I have to start planning exercise for next year.Justin: How many years have you been involved with Cornyation?Jesse: With Cornyation, 18 years. Pretty soon after I moved back to San Antonio-- oh, I'm sorry, I misspoke earlier. It was ‘99, not ‘97, I apologize for that. Oh, no, I was right, it's ‘97. ‘99 is when I started working at USA but in those first couple of years, after I moved back, I found that even in just the four years I've been gone, the city has changed pretty significantly. I mean, it seemed like there- it was on kind of the beginning of the upswing that saw us through the 2000s and the twenty-teens up until now in parallel with Austin's rapid growth at the same time.When I moved back to town, and especially after I got started to work, it was kind of like that Maslow's hierarchy of needs thing. I found a house, I found a job and then I wanted to figure out [unintelligible 00:11:43] is it I can get [unintelligible 00:11:48] or what are ways that I can get to know people. I had always loved Fiesta as a kid. I think it was April of 2000 was the first time I got back into Fiesta in a big way. Joined the commission to get my revere pin and all that crap. Then, I was introduced to Cornyation and some friends had been and recommended that I go.For a couple of years, I went and was just blown away, it was riotous. I'd never seen something like that in person before. I mean, the closest had been, I forget what the hell it's called the [unintelligible 00:12:20], I think it's called Sing. It's like this big tradition where all the organization [unintelligible 00:12:25] put on little skits, kind of like Cornyation except not funny.Justin: Very G rated.Jesse: Yes, very G rated. Cornyation was a completely different experience for me, not only was it the kind of humor that I would have- that I appreciate but it was also smart. It had political opinions, it had insider references that you sort of had to be in the know or had to at least follow news or what have you to understand. That really, really struck a nerve with me and got me back into Fiesta in a big way.Justin: Have you been working with Cornyation ever since?Jesse: Yes. I went for a couple of years and then I was standing outside in line with my then-partner. One of my acquaintances from work, whom I've met very recently named Rob Gonzalez, he saw us in line as we were waiting to go in. He was the scriptwriter for Cornyation and his partner at the time also did some skits. We were talking with him and he was just making conversation. We indicated that, “Hey, we'd both love to help out in Cornyation some way.” He said, okay, “I'm going to hold you to that.” Then, the very next year, we got roped into a skit with Elaine Wolfe's brother, Matt Wolf and Steven Warner, and some other folks.We helped design the choreography, we helped build the costumes. 2003, it was the Duchess of Your Ever-Widening Ass. It was when Krispy Kreme came to town and the duchess was this beautifully adorned, kind of Star Wars, The Phantom Menace looking donut queen with these giant-like inner tube things that have been painted to look like donuts for her hair. That was my first year. All I was doing was handing off props and street clothes and I was just nervous as shit.Justin: Who was Anchovy that year?Jesse: Huh?Justin: Who was the Anchovy that year?Jesse: Lif Shitz, I don't remember, it's been so long ago. I was so new to it. I didn't know who Anchovy was from anybody else, from the [unintelligible 00:14:40] sister.Justin: Do you like corn?Jesse: I love corn, sure.Jesse: I don't eat it all that much because it's kind of empty calories. Sorry, corn producers.Justin: What's your favorite fiesta event outside of Cornyation?Jesse: This is tough because it's been so many years since I've been able to do any Fiesta events, but I like the Mercado. My family used to go there. My friends Mindy Hill and I will go on occasion alone. Actually, almost every year around Cornyation, that Wednesday of Cornyation, we'll usually make time to get under the Mercado, but King William Fair. Of course, I love King William Fair and that one I can actually do because I've recovered enough after the shows. I haven't done NIOSA in 18 years, 19 years.Justin: What about Arts Fair?Jesse: Sure, yes. The Fiesta Arts Fair is fantastic.Justin: I think that's my favorite event.Jesse: Well, that is normally the weekend before Cornyation. There's essentially no way I can go because it's usually I'm working on the script or hot gluing something with glitter and Styrofoam or whatever.Justin: As Anchovy, you'll have to go hold court and go to all those things, won't you?Jesse: I will. That's actually the benefit to me of being Anchovy, so I can finally do some Fiesta stuff.Justin: Who would you like to see of all the San Antonio people get on stage at Cornyation one year?Jesse: I mean, so most notable people, most politicians or what have you want to be on stage so it's not like you have to-- it's not like you have to work real hard to invite them, right? They'll find a way backstage. I don't know.Justin: Hagi.Jesse: Oh, Jesus no. It will be like me going into his temple, either way, it's going to smell like pork skins, that skin's going to boil. Who else would I like to see on stage? Popovich, I'd love to see Popovich on stage.Justin: That's a good one.Jesse: Did you freeze?Justin: No. Can you hear me now?Jesse: There you go.Justin: No, Popovich is a good one. Popovich is on my wish list for my show, which I'm sure I'll never get him but I'm going to keep trying.Jesse: We'll never get him either, it's all right. It's a pipe dream.Justin: Okay,...
65 minutes | a year ago
Ryan Pape, CEO and Chairman of XPEL Inc. and San Antonio Business Leader
Ryan Pape has spent most of his life in San Antonio. He returned to San Antonio after college and worked in the IT area of a software company which would become XPEL Inc. As XPEL changed course, it also ran into bad financial problems. Ryan came back and led an unprecedented turnaround in part by putting his own money on the table to take care of the company. He also has been involved with the Witte and other charities in town.Transcript:[music]Justin Hill: Hello and Bienvenido, San Antonio. Welcome to the Alamo Hour discussing the people, places and passion that make our city. My name is Justin Hill, a local attorney, a proud San Antonion and keeper of chickens and bees. On the Alamo Hour, you’ll get to hear from the people that make San Antonio great and unique and the best kept secret in Texas. We’re glad that you’re here. All right. Welcome to Episode 20 of the Alamo Hour. Today's guest is Ryan Pape. Ryan serves as XPEL Inc's Chairman, President & CEO. He previously served in multiple different capacities within the organization before taking it over, which was at the time a sinking ship, fair?Ryan Pape: Yes. I would say so.Justin: We'll get into that a little bit more. You're also involved in the woody. You've got two kids. You and your wife live in San Antonio within the Loop. One of my oldest San Antonio friends actually.Ryan: We go way back now.Justin: '08, I think.Ryan: '08?Justin: Yes.Ryan: That's by my math over 10 years. That's a long time.Justin: It is and you were my neighbor's friend who I met through them. I actually went back the other day to see if one of my other neighbors who lived across from them was still alive and he was and his wife.Ryan: That's good, still there.Justin: They're very old, very poor health and very happy to see me. Ryan, you've listened to a few of these. We're going to go through a top 10 but I've decided it has to be a top 10 in 10, because I had a previous guest who went really, really long on one single question and changed-Ryan: Maybe that was the best part of the whole show.Justin: It just wasn't.[laughter]Justin: It objectively was not. When and why did you move to San Antonio?Ryan: In 1993 at the time SBC, which became AT&T relocated to San Antonio, my dad worked for them, so we moved from St. Louis.Justin: He was a pilot, right?Ryan: He was, yes. He was a pilot since retired but that brought us here.Justin: Have you lived here straight since? You went to UT?Ryan: Went to UT. Move back after that. With the exception of UT, I've been here the whole time.Justin: What parts of town have you lived in? You've lived in the 09 areas since I've known you?Ryan: Yes. Still live there now. I was up in Stone Oak from that '93 on to going to UT [crosstalk] there was nothing.Justin: I was about to say more country back then.Ryan: Yes. I remember the last stoplight was maybe like 281 in Brook Hollow and maybe there was a stop sign 281 and 1604 and then on. It's a lot different.Justin: Were you outside 1604 then?Ryan: Outside 1604. Stone Oak and Huebner. I remember there's a gas station there. I remember when that was built.Justin: Was it a gated community?Ryan: It was a gated community.Justin: Because it's only gated community [crosstalk]Ryan: I think that's your only choice, right?Justin: I don't understand it though. You're already in Stone Oak.Ryan: You need safety. I don't know. I don't live in a gated community now and I feel perfectly safe.Justin: I have a gate on my driveway, does that make me a gated community?Ryan: You're more gated than most people.Justin: All right. This is a morphus question now or changed question because of what's going on and you also have-- you're a faster?Ryan: Yes.Justin: Is there any restaurant y'all have been frequenting or getting to go since all of this has started?Ryan: Well so maybe you talk about before it started. My last favorite restaurant before this started was the Magpie Highbury market.Justin: I still haven't been.Ryan: My wife and I ate there I think the week right or within days of the shutdown because we had the hand sanitizer out but it wasn't going to stop us.Justin: It's Asian food right?Ryan: Yes. It's Korean influence and it was exceptional. I believe [crosstalk]Justin: They're still doing to-go.Ryan: They were doing to-go. I don't know. I haven't done to-go with them. We've done lots of to-go and carry-out.Justin: Have you done [crosstalk]Ryan: No.Justin: Dude, do it. It's the best Chinese food.Ryan: We talked about it. We were going to go there and then it's like-Justin: Deliver.Ryan: - too far.Justin: Deliver?Ryan: Yes. We like to pick up, we're going out.Justin: Well, pick up it's behind Ingram Park Mall. They'll deliver to my house so maybe yours.Ryan: Yes. Want to try it. Did a lot of takeout though. Did a lot of Barbaro. Got a lot of wine from Little Death.Justin: We did Sabor yesterday.Ryan: Try to do our best.Justin: Lots of people at the bar, no masks. It's a little disconcerting.Ryan: You got asked the question these days.Justin: I think you're the only time I've ever been to Big Lou's by the way.Ryan: I think that was the only time I've ever been to Big Lou's.Justin: I didn't feel great after that.Ryan: You remember the place by Bandera town, not the street. What was that place called?Justin: Mac and Ernie's.Ryan: A couple weeks ago, ended up driving by.Justin: Really?Ryan: It's still there. Although I couldn't tell if it moved across the highway.Justin: The last time I drove by it was a much bigger concern.Ryan: It was a bigger building. It wasn't the tiny little place but that was probably close to that 10-year mark-Justin: We thought we were real hip doing little road trips to restaurants [crosstalk]Ryan: We were really hip. We thought it was cool.Justin: Little death also did an event where they served a Italian style of tripe with the chef from Feast.Ryan: I saw that.Justin: I went.Ryan: I wasn't.Justin: It was pretty funky. The food was funky and everybody-Ryan: Tripe is funky, right?Justin: Yes. Everybody had been having a very good time by the time I show up and that was very behind.Ryan: The wine is not very expensive there, so it's easy to have a good time. Or so I'm told.Justin: It was like a pot of food and you just served yourself.Ryan: Well, I've been impressed with what they're doing during the shutdown. Congrats to them.Justin: Are you wanting to go there?Ryan: Yes.Justin: Okay. I haven't done that yet.Ryan: I have and I've meticulously catalogued it with the idea, I'm going to go buy it again.Justin: Well, maybe you'll invite me over to have a glass of wine because you tell me every time I see you that that's going to happen and never ever ever.Ryan: Some people might be really insulted by that.Justin: I'm not.Ryan: You just take it in stride.Justin: No, I'm not. There's lots of people that see me and they're like, "We should hang out." Then clearly they look at their wife or significant others like, "We're not calling that guy."Ryan: I actually mean it. I may not show it, but I do mean it.Justin: All right. Favorite hidden gems in San Antonio where you tell people when they come to San Antonio, "Okay. You've seen the Alamo blah, blah, but go check it out this stuff."Ryan: Well, it's hard to call it a hidden gem but I really go for the mission reach on San Antonio River.Justin: I think it's fair.Ryan: Probably more people from out of town see it than people who live here. I think I ended up talking about that hidden gem a lot.Justin: They extended it four miles, I think.Ryan: Cycle along that a lot I forget which road it goes down to and then the golf course across the street you can actually keep going after that around the Medina River. I think it's amazing. You've got nature. You've got history. You're outside. You can wander off obviously up to all the missions. The fact that more people here haven't ever done it, [crosstalk] do it regularly like I do is surprising.Justin: How often you do it?Ryan: Probably once a week at minimum.Justin: No joke.Ryan: I've really cycling a lot there and then the Greenway trails [crosstalk] creek myself.Justin: What kind of bike?Ryan: I have a couple of track bikes.Justin: Are you clipping in and road biking the trail?Ryan: I didn't start that way, but I do now.Justin: It's very aggressive for that trail, I think. People are just horrified as you head towards them?Ryan: No. I have a bell. I call out. I try to be a good-Justin: I'd like to go ride it with you.Ryan: I'll do it with you.Justin: I can't keep up with you probably.Ryan: Well, we'll do it a few times and you will be able to.Justin: You're very aerodynamic these days.Ryan: I can get you in fighting shape.Justin: I ride on a trainer every morning. I clip in.Ryan: Then you're good. I'll do it.Justin: It's so hard for me to unclip even from the trainer. I did hear The Pearl one time as a hidden gem. I wanted to gong him on that but I let it go.Ryan: It's not that I wouldn't call that a hidden gem.Justin: Okay. Are you still involved The Witty?Ryan: No. I rolled off the board at The Witty. Still very much a fan of The Witty actually helping now with the game dinner. You've been to the game dinner. It's probably one of the best events in San Antonio. 50th anniversary this year October 19th, I think, tough year but it's going to be a really big event, some changes for the COVID situation.Justin: Is it planning on moving forward?Ryan: Yes, absolutely.Justin: At The Witty?Ryan: At the Witty, fewer people. It got to be a really big event I think 1,500 people maybe. It's going to be a little bit smaller.Justin: Which means ticket prices up.Ryan: Ticket prices up as it should be.Justin: Is XPEL sponsoring?Ryan: Yes, we will for sure. We're actively looking for [unintelligible 00:08:17] tables and sponsorship-Justin: How much are tables?Ryan: They range I think-Justin: From to-Ryan: Normally 5,000, 10,000. I think may have gone up a little bit this year but it's absolutely one of the best events in town.Justin: It's great.Ryan: If anyone who hasn't done it, make it this year to do it. It's unique. It's not your typical seated dinner event in the ballroom somewhere. It's far from it.Justin: That's absolutely right.Ryan: It's really, really, really nice.Justin: Are you on the board of any other non-profit-Ryan: No. Not currently.Justin: Taking a break?Ryan: Well, I've really been focused on two things. One, the company is been really focused on that. Some of the things we've done the past two years and then trying to find the right fit for non-profit. You realize that the non-profit's need different things. How does that really fit with what I'm good at and what I want to do?Justin: What you're passionate about?Ryan: Well, yes. I think some of the smaller ones, they need people that are more operationally focused. They don't have big staff. They just literally need help with the day-to-day. Then some need more help, raising money or networking. I look at what I think our company should be able to do and over time, we should be able to support non-profits and other groups in a really meaningful way. I look at that, so that really plays to my strengths. Really focused on that but I'm going to get more involved if I find the right fit, I think is the plan.Justin: There's one in town called Restore Education that Lindsay worked for, and they are a GED program, all free. It's the only one that has Spanish language GED, they have job training and get CNA. It's a lot of things like how Eric Cooper talked about how they spread out. I told them, I said, "If you get donors to your graduation, people are giving you money." It's such a touching-- I mean you've got 40, 50-year-old people walking the stage with their family there. The same as if they were 18. It's just so touching. I think that's the hard thing for a non-profit to do is to make that connection with people like that.Ryan: Yes, I think that's where good board members and others can help do that. Can help spread the message, and there's so many good non-profits and so much need always. Like we talked about with the food bank that you do get lost in the noise a little bit. Trying to get people to help bring him out of that. I think it's important.Justin: Do you have any in the hopper right now you're thinking about? You don't have to tell me, but are there some you're vetting and are vetting you?Ryan: We were thinking about it. I want to be able to contribute. I want a place that wants the kind of contribution that I can do.Justin: Sure, everybody wants money, but it's better to feel like you're more than that to a board.Ryan: Right, and I think my contribution to the board is more than that. Then I need to work hard to make sure our company can support all the communities that we're in. Both are important and may be best suited for how I can contribute.Justin: Right. You recently got to ring the bell on the NASDAQ. Was there any Wizard of Oz kind of behind the curtain to that, that you are like "Oh, this isn't what I expected?"Ryan: Well, it was an amazing experience. I think for me it makes you think about all of the assumptions that you make when you look at people doing things. You'd look at somebody who rings a bell on at NASDAQ and what do you think? You must think they're smart, they're rich or they're special or they are this or they are that. Then you're there the guy doing it. I'm kind of looking around like just the guy.Justin: Yes, heady.Ryan: They did a great job. You know you are in a very small room. It's super well-produced, super well-organized. We brought a big group from our team. What we did really, that I think a lot of companies didn't do was really went by tenure with the company. We brought the really I would say, almost exclusively or two to a point, people that had been with us the longest time. That was a really cool experience. I love doing it.Justin: You're in a room and then do they love to shuffle you under the balcony or what the-Ryan: Well, you're in the NASDAQ like the market sites. It's a studio in time square. You're thinking maybe NYSC they got the outdoor that[crosstalk]Justin: It's like a balcony kind of look isn't it?Ryan: No, no. There's a table with a big screen because NASDAQ's all digital. There's no trading floor. It's very impressive. They did an amazing job and an impressive studio.Justin: I saw it, I just in my mind put you on a balcony. Maybe with long flowing hair too. [crosstalk] I made this all up in my brain.Ryan: I hope a lot of people looked at it and thought it was better than they thought too.Justin: You were also recently on the San Antonio Business Journal's podcast even though I asked first. Why?Ryan: Was that the order of events?Justin: [laughs] I listened to it today, very different format.Ryan: Very different format, yes different audience-Justin: You sounded like Harvard Business Journal in a podcast guest.Ryan: I'll take that as a compliment.Justin: It was dense.Ryan: You know maybe now people will see that if they thought I was smart, I'm not that smart. It was just good editing.Justin: I was listening thinking, "Oh, shit, he's a lot smarter than I thought he was or...
88 minutes | a year ago
Dr. Carey Latimore, Trinity Professor of African American Studies and Community Leader
Dr. Carey Latimore moved to San Antonio in 2004 to take a job at the prestigious Trinity University. He teaches classes in the area of African American studies. He is leading the way to create an African American institute in San Antonio to document the past and provide a location for discourse on racial justice issues.Transcript:[music]Justin Hill: Hello and Bienvenidos San Antonio. Welcome to the Alamo Hour, discussing the people, places, and passion that make our city. My name is Justin Hill, a local attorney, a proud San Antonionian, and keeper of chickens and bees. On the Alamo Hour, you'll get to hear from the people that make San Antonio great and unique and the best-kept secret in Texas. We're glad that you're here.[applause]All right. Welcome to the Alamo Hour. Today's guest is Dr. Carey Latimore. Dr. Latimore is a professor of African American Studies and other classes at Trinity University. He got his PhD from Emory. He's written extensively. He's won many awards. He was recently tapped by the city to share some of his thoughts and some of his research regarding the Alamo Plaza project and some decisions on what to do with some of the surrounding buildings. We've asked Dr. Latimore to be on here. We asked previously to all of the protests in the city and some of the issues that have arisen since then, but the timing couldn't be better. Thank you, Dr. Latimore, for being here today.Dr. Carey Latimore: Thank you, Justin. It's my honor to be here.Justin: We had a fantastic conversation before we got to start recording which we should have recorded, but we'll probably recover some of that but--Dr. Latimore: And long time ago, too, we talked about a month or so ago [crosstalk].Justin: Yes, for about an hour. It was a great conversation.Dr. Latimore: And all this other stuff.Justin: We were introduced through Dr. Lesh, who is your best man in your wedding, and as a friend of the show. I'm not going to kid, he's probably the biggest supporter of what I'm doing here and I can't thank him enough.Dr. Latimore: Dave is a good man.Justin: Yes, he is.Dr. Latimore: I'm sure he's listening to that too.Justin: He will be listening. It's funny, Dr. Lesh will give me opinions on what to ask and he'll-- I think with you, he was like, "Well, ask him how we met," or-- I can't remember what it was, but he has to be part of everything. You've listened to some of the shows, every show we start with a top 10. I've read some interviews you've done with a newspaper, I've read some interviews you've done with Trinity's Getting to Know a Professor. Basically, anything I could find, I've read, I've watched some videos, so I found a few things I want to talk about.Dr. Latimore: That sounds scary though.Justin: Well, the internet has a lot of things out there. Compared to some people, you're fine, you don't have anything that-- There's really not a ton out there.Dr. Latimore: That's good.Justin: You academics, y'all's researches and books that cost $10 to $50 a piece so I don't--Dr. Latimore: You're right. This is true.Justin: I tried to buy a Lesh book and I don't get the Lesh special even though I know him, so I had to pay- I only bought the one that was $9, I'm not going to lie, I wouldn't buy any of his other books. Were you at his books--?Dr. Latimore: I was not. I had a class that night.Justin: It was interesting. It was like a book release party for two books at once or something.Dr. Latimore: That's how Lesh rolls.Justin: He did a reading of his book. It was hard to take it seriously, honestly, because I know Lesh socially, I don't know him as an academic. I didn't realize how austere and dry those events were.Dr. Latimore: Lesh has a very powerful presence too.Justin: He does?Dr. Latimore: In the classroom, he is extraordinarily, and I'm not saying anything that he wouldn't agree with, he has an extraordinary presence.Justin: Yes, I believe that.Dr. Latimore: There are some students who are afraid of him.Justin: I believe that.Dr. Latimore: Of course, then he's very tall and he's got that baseball background. People are not used to having their college professor being a former baseball player and drafted, I think in the first round or something like that. He's a different--Justin: He's a real deal. I think that's one thing that is always fun with hanging out with him because me and our mutual friend Tim, we just see him as our friends so we don't give him any extra deference. That's hard for him to take for the first 20 minutes. All right, so top 10, we're going to get through some stuff, then we're going to spend some time talking about your areas of research. I want to talk to you about your teaching philosophy. I think that's interesting. I went to law school at Baylor which still employs the Paper Chase style Socratic method. You're up on your feet, it's in your face, and if you don't know you get kicked out of class. It was a very intense environment. Let's start with when and why did you move to San Antonio?Dr. Latimore: Trinity University was the when and why. I did not know a lot about Trinity before I came here, but when I was at Emory University finishing up my PhD, one of the things that happens in academia is you have these hiring cycles. It's really a year-long process that begins, really at the end of the summer. All of these universities really post their jobs is for history, probably around August or September. There are a couple of different places where we find out who's interested in hiring somebody. I looked at these places and Trinity University was looking for a historian in my area. It was one of the six or seven universities that I applied to.That happened, and then around October, I think the search theoretically, the application period ended, and in December, they contacted me saying that they were interested in having a future conversation with me at the American Historical Association meeting, which is these all academic fields have these huge meetings and there are thousands of people that will go. For the AHA, it's usually in a very cold environment. When I say cold, I mean, they're going to meet in Chicago, they're going to meet in New York, they're going to meet in DC, and it's going to be the first week of January so you know it's going to be cold.You're bringing all these people to DC or somewhere, some cold environment, and all of these people looking for jobs, in addition to all the things that they do at the regular meeting. I was just a young kid, I had never done a job interview before. I knew that there were probably about 10 other people that were interviewing for that same position, or 12. They bring you up for a half-hour long meeting. There was a table of about seven faculty members at Trinity there and I was this one guy, surrounded by these faculty members.Talk about a power dynamic there. I'm sitting there, trying to ask questions right. I was so young, I probably didn't even think about it at that time. They interviewed me. I got called back to a second interview the next day, they said, "We'd like to talk again." I'm like, "Gosh, I guess I'm doing a good job." I came back, they talked to me for about another 45 minutes to an hour, and then they said, "Well, you'll hear from us at some point in time."In January, a couple of weeks later, I received a call saying, we'd like you to come to San Antonio and talk to us a little bit more. I got on the bus, no, not got on the bus, got a plane, came to San Antonio. Over a two day period, they took me around the university, they talked to me, I had to present my research and other kinds of things. Then I went home, they said, "Well, we'll talk to you later." I get a call, probably three weeks later, offered me the job.Justin: What a process.Dr. Latimore: It's a long huge process, not just go and you find out the next day. Everything in academia is long-drawn-out. Getting a PhD is six or seven years, it's long-drawn-out. Getting tenure long and drawn out. We make things seem much longer than they actually need to be, but that's how I ended up in Texas.Justin: What year was that?Dr. Latimore: That was in 2004 when I started. Trinity is very similar to my undergrad, the University of Richmond. Small liberal arts, really pays attention to teaching, they care about research, a great university in a great city. Richmond is obviously different from San Antonio, but in many ways, Texas and Virginia, share some commonalities. Both states think that they are the state. We in Virginia [crosstalk]Justin: I didn't know Virginia had that chip on its shoulder.Dr. Latimore: The Commonwealth of Virginia. When you are in Virginia, “We have the most presidents from our state,” the history of the state. When you take Virginia history in fourth grade, it is hammered into you, the prominence of Virginia.Justin: They don't have the Alamo though.Dr. Latimore: They don't have the Alamo, but we do have aspects of history, confederacy. Into the Revolutionary War was in-- You got Cornwallis' Cave and Colonial Williamsburg and all these aspects of Virginia. I think there's a bit of arrogance to Virginians about who they are and the same thing about Texas. In Virginia, the biggest thing that people want to be is a FFV, which is the First Family of Virginia.Justin: Oh, geez.Dr. Latimore: It's almost like, I guess the doors of the Alamo or the-- People trace their history back to--Justin: People that were at the Alamo.Dr. Latimore: Exactly, people who were at the Alamo or these other families and major land grant families. These two states share some things in common. Trinity was in a place that was a really good place at that time and still is, very similar to where I felt my university was when I started as an undergrad at the University of Richmond. It was like going home in a sense. San Antonio is a really cool city--Justin: I love it.Dr. Latimore: - if you think about it. Trinity was my first choice of universities and I got my first choice. I guess the rest is the rest.Justin: I don't want you to get it because I don't think I want to know, but what is the title of your dissertation? I always think those are fun to hear.Dr. Latimore: Always a Minority: Antebellum and Free Blacks in the Civil War Era. I think that was the title of the dissertation [crosstalk].Justin: That's pretty normal. You hear some that are just off-the-wall.Dr. Latimore: Always a Minority, then you have the colon and then the rest of them. Every dissertation topic is going to have the little cool thing, and then the explanation after the colon.Justin: But you know what I'm talking about, some are just absurd.Dr. Latimore: Mine was only 200 pages. Some of them are much, much, much.Justin: How many footnotes?Dr. Latimore: Hundreds, because you have to.Justin: Yes, of course. What are your main sources of news?Dr. Latimore: Lots of different things.Justin: I started asking this because news has become such a hot topic.Dr. Latimore: For me, it's going to sound cliche, but CNN is a-- For me, I always go through CNN. Then I do, in an odd way, I do searches. I'm interested in different subjects and so I do subject searches and find what's there and look at maybe the historian in me looks at the provenance and where is that source coming from. Obviously, I'm looking at MSNBC. I'll even check out Fox. For me, as many sources as I can get, that's what interests me.Justin: That's my take on it.Dr. Latimore: Of course, the Express-News, and of course, through Rivard, all those different--Justin: Rivard was very clear to tell me that he reads the Express, like sanantonioexpress.com or expressnews.com, but not myessay.com. I didn't realize those were so independent of one another.Dr. Latimore: Yes, I never thought about that.Justin: Yes, I didn't either.Dr. Latimore: I'm just finding the news because and I guess because of what I do and doing social history, African American social history, you're finding whatever you can. It's not always a treasure trove of research for you. You're getting pieces and shards here in a bit there, and you bring it together, and then you evaluate it. I think that's prepared me for the society that we live in now, in which you don't always know the validity of a source unless if you test it.That's something that I try to do with my students is trying to help them move through the process of how do you evaluate sources? One of the ways of doing this is you find out where things are coming from. You look at it and compare it to other things. Who's writing something? I think it's the same thing that we had to do when we look at the news today because there's a lot of news out there. [crosstalk]Justin: There's so much that's not news that calls itself news.Dr. Latimore: Exactly.Justin: All right, hidden gems in San Antonio. We do this with everybody. For me things like the Tea Garden, the further out missions, those are some things when I first moved here, I didn't know they existed. I think, "Oh, if you're coming to San Antonio, you got to go away from that and go check out some of these things." Do you have any hidden gems in San Antonio you recommend?Dr. Latimore: Susie's Lumpia House.Justin: I've never even heard of this.Dr. Latimore: It's a Filipino restaurant in Culebra. Is it still open? With COVID, I always have to ask because I haven't-- You never known.Justin: You reached around and asked your wife just so people--Dr. Latimore: Yes, ask my wife who's Filipino.Justin: Just so you don't look crazy asking the wall or something. [laughs]Dr. Latimore: I'm always asking. I'm seriously doing that.Justin: Susie's Lumpia House.Dr. Latimore: Yes, it's on Culebra road.Justin: Is that L-U-M-P-I-A?Dr. Latimore: Yes. An amazing Filipino restaurant. On Saturdays, they typically offer a buffet, which I don't know how that's working with COVID these days, but they have some great--Justin: Go-to dish?Dr. Latimore: Chicken adobo.Justin: Adobo?Dr. Latimore: Yes.Justin: Okay.Dr. Latimore: A-D-O-B-O.Justin: Anything else?Dr. Latimore: They have these great shrimp. There's a word that they call it but I can't think-- Just whatever, there’s shrimp. Go for their shrimp. It's really good.Justin: All right. I've never eaten Filipino food in San Antonio.Dr. Latimore: The pork adobo was good too if you like pork. I'm not a big pork eater.Justin: Adobo is the sauce I assume?Dr. Latimore: Yes. It's vinegary. At this place, it's more of a vinegary type salt base.Justin: All right. Like the barbecue you're used to.Dr. Latimore: Yes, exactly. In Virginia, we do-- Vinegar is very, which I guess is why Susie's Lumpia, it reminds me of a [crosstalk] certain things.Justin: Sure.Dr. Latimore: Now, some Filipino restaurants are a little more sweet-based than the vinegar-base depending on the island that they're from. These people actually from the island of Samar. Which is a more centrally located Island.Justin: Is there 100 islands in the Philippines? There's tons of them, right?Dr. Latimore: Thousands.Justin: Inhabited hundred?Dr. Latimore: Yes, and hundreds of languages as well.Justin: Oh, wow.Dr. Latimore: Each one of those islands often has their own language. I don't call it a language, because sometimes we classify something as a dialect and it's really a language. A dialect almost makes it sound like it's not real and legitimate versus a language when we say that that's something that's different and distinct. I may have a southern dialect, but it's a English language. These are real languages that are distinct.Justin: Okay. What are you teaching currently?Dr. Latimore: Currently, I'm on leave. [crosstalk]Justin: When was the last classes you taught?Dr. Latimore: The last of the semester that just ended, I taught the African American Experience since reconstruction. I also taught a course on the Old South, which looks at Southern politics, race, economics, really from the beginning-- When I say the beginning, looking at a little bit of the indigenous population in the south, in the early period on up through colonization, through the Civil War.Justin: Does the South cover Texas in your class?Dr. Latimore: It does.Justin: Do you consider Texas to be part of the South?Dr. Latimore: I do.Justin: All of it or the dividing line?Dr. Latimore: It's hard to cut up a state, but I do think that West Texas is not really southern.Justin: It's more the Southwest.Dr. Latimore: It's the Southwest.Justin: East Texas is more the South.Dr. Latimore: East Texas, you've got cotton. Although, you do have slavery in San Antonio. You have out in Wilson County and Seguin and all those that there-- These are pockets there....
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