April 20 represented a milestone in my life. It was officially the first day of my retirement. It also coincided with a counter-culture connection to cannabis consumption (known in hippie parlance as “420”), and it was the carnival kick-off for Fiesta San Antonio. Of course, it wouldn’t have been a celebration without participation in both events, all topped off by fireworks.
I have worked at many jobs spanning many different careers and found all of them gratifying in one way or another. Each job seemed to prepare me for the next one, even though the steps in-between were uneven and varied, or complete leaps of faith. I suppose I attribute my jack-of-all-trades mentality to a restlessness that overcame me by travelling throughout Europe the summer after my sophomore year in college.
When I returned to school, I abruptly changed my major from political science to sociology and photography, hoping that an understanding of people and pictures would carry me to different places.
My last job/career as a special education teacher in New York City’s high schools for the past eleven years came close to realizing that dream, as I taught inner city teenagers about the world around them through words and images. But the time was right to put it all behind me, and resume my quest for some kind of redemption by reducing my footprint and refining my senses. It was time to travel again… although this time, in style.
At precisely 4:20 pm, the ceremonial lighting of a glazed metallic iguana pipe set the mood for what was to become an epic evening in downtown San Antonio, made easy via a VIA bus shelter conveniently located directly across the street from Traveler’s World RV Resort. (The bus runs every half-hour, and costs just $1.30 a piece to carry us to the party zone.)
Once there and navigating through the thick stew of resident revelers, it becomes apparent that three things matter most to fiesta folk: medals, eggs and hats. Sashes, vests and tallis-like scarves provide opportunities for collecting even more medals and pins on an already crowded chest. Bragging rights belong to the San Antonians who would collapse under the weight if wasn’t for the support of others to hold them up.
Equally as important are confetti-filled eggs (drained and decorated cascarones) available by the dozen for the sole purpose of smashing them over the heads of adoring neighbors, and showering them with good luck. Even the cops showed signs of confetti dandruff, making police assault okay for the day.
Lastly, thematic hats of all shapes and colors are easily the most conspicuous sign of extroverted behavior at the Fiesta with a special nod to “size matters”. This is a post-Easter parade gone sideways, where the most ridiculous rule. Carmen Miranda awards for the day go to the following:
Food is also an important part of any fair. Vendors with tents and trucks tempted the hungry with long lines for tacos, tamales and turkey legs.
Yet somehow, Leah and I managed to circumvent the lines by inadvertently crashing the Taste of Texas, a VIP event for those willing to shell out $100 per ticket for tasty tapas.
We noticed a sophisticated crowd of people in a courtyard behind a hedge who were enjoying themselves, and thought to check it out, unaware–until we crossed over an ivy walkway–that wristband entry was required. It was easy pretending that we belonged with our hands in our pockets.
We even got the chance to mingle with Fiesta royalty.
The evening ended with a fireworks display in the presence of the Tower of Americas, San Antonio’s tallest lookout, which dates back to the 1968 World’s Fair. It was definitely the icing on the cake, and the cherry on the sundae.
It was Alamo à la mode!