I’ve been asked to write an occasional column, and as most of my neighbors know, I have a problem with that little word “no”. Just can’t seem to summon it up when desperately needed. Of course, if one is going to write a column, it probably needs to be called something. What to do?
I was ruminating on this while doing what I usually do after a long day, sitting on my second floor front porch in the rocker I inherited from the last owners of my house. While sipping a glass of wine I was looking at the downtown lights twinkling among the silhouettes of the skyline. What I’ve come to love about my house is that it makes a perfect observatory. It’s extraordinarily tall, so the second floor porch is at the elevation of a more typical third story. The front porch not only frames a wonderful view of the Tower Life Building, it also looks toward the Tower of the Americas when the leaves are off the trees across the street.
The back porch, equally high of course, has a panoramic view of the southern horizon. In the foreground, the yellow rectangles of neighbor’s windows, in the greater distance, lights atop the Pioneer Flour mill’s crenellated tower, the dark shapes of trees along the river, and periodically, the navigation lights on planes slowly spiraling into a landing at Lackland Air Force Base. My observatory is surrounded by city lights.
And so is my beloved neighborhood. Living in King William is like dwelling in the navel of the universe as far as I’m concerned. I like to tell friends that my daily life is lived in a three-mile radius of the Alamo, and that is literally true. I can and do walk or bike to my office, not as much as I’d like, but when I know I don’t have to run to a distant client meeting or construction site. When I’m teaching at UTSA downtown, I can make the same distance trip but in the opposite direction. The almost completed Mission Reach of the greatly extended river walk beckons from the back door. The short walk to restaurants reminds me of all the places I’ve lived and loved before, Philadelphia, Chicago, Rome, Siena, London, Oxford, they all consist of walkable neighborhoods like ours. They tend to function like autonomous villages. San Antonio is a remarkable place and its center city has the promise of becoming a humane and deeply satisfying place to live and work. Tonight I’ll be watching the herons skimming the treetops with city lights beneath their wings.
- Michael Guarino