Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
Welcome to the first installment of another special MCC miniseries, representing the original travelogue from our 2005 drive from Indianapolis to San Antonio, Texas, and back again in far too short a time…
Our hometown of Indianapolis has its own Downtown Canal Walk, patterned after similar, larger pathways developed and fostered in other states. There’s something about a swath of nature cutting through the heart of civilization’s artifices and escorting tranquility and beauty into an otherwise hard-shelled environment. Anne and I have also visited riverwalks in Pueblo and in Milwaukee, but my favorite is still the first one we did through faraway San Antonio. Once we started up its staircases and across its bridges, it wasn’t long before wanderlust kicked in and I wanted to see every path through to its end, or as far as they’d take us before we collapsed in the dry Texas heat.
* * * * *
Once everyone had seen as much as they’d wanted to see of the Alamo, and not one sight less…then and only then did we move on. Since I hadn’t wasted much money on really pointless endeavors yet, I indulged my son and blew too much money to take us on Ripley’s Haunted Adventure, across the street from the Alamo like many other brightly colored tourist cons, more than one of which has an identical twin located on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. Ripley’s Haunted Adventure begins in a rickety cage-shaped elevator.
The guy on the right is the employee on duty, whose job it was to escort us into the cage, then pretend to attack us with a tiny plastic knife while we waited for more customers to board. After the gouging I took at the cash register, Chubby Knifey Guy was Ripley’s strike-two. From there, the cage-elevator is dragged up a diagonal track onto another landing, at which point commences a Halloween haunted house. Indianapolis haunted houses only operate in October, so I suppose it must be an attractive proposition to San Antonio’s diehard Halloween fans to have a year-round haunted house, even if its production values appear to have been bankrolled by a real humdinger of a school fundraiser.
I couldn’t escape the Haunted Adventure quickly enough for my tastes, although my son the Halloween fan just loved it. I did pause next door at the Guinness Book of World Records Museum next door for this photo:
A couple storefronts down from Hucksters Alley, we accidentally discovered an entry point for San Antonio’s other star attraction, the Riverwalk. Near as I can tell, the city planners went to great lengths to co-opt and divert a good stretch of the San Antonio River to suit their decorating needs, with brilliant results. The most attractive parts of it run below street level and alongside some nice restaurants.
BEGIN PRETEND SLIDESHOW.
END PRETEND SLIDESHOW.
Around 11:30 we stopped on the Riverwalk for lunch at Casa Rio, which had been recommended by Anne’s coworkers as well as my own. An early lunch arrival guaranteed us a spot right by the riverside, where we could feel the cool breeze and my son could feed most of our appetizer chips to the passing ducks. The food was probably the best Mexican fare we’d ever had up to that point in our lives. We Yankee hicks liked their idea of serving soft tortillas as a dinner bread. Our selections were plebeian but delectable — I had some kind of large sampler platter, Anne had a taco, and my son had a chicken taco that turned him off because they used authentic pulled chicken instead of factory-processed chicken cubes straight from the cafeteria can.
After lunch we followed the Riverwalk down to La Villita, a village made entirely of self-run craft and souvenir shops. It was a lot like the town of Nashville, Indiana (no relation to Nashville, Tennessee), but less whitebread. A few stores were closed, but a surprising number were still open on this hot Tuesday afternoon. My personal favorite was a random gewgaw shop one run by a bearded man dressed in buckskins. He was the first person all week long to take the time to ask us blatant tourists where we were from. He was one of only a few shopkeepers to say more than “hi” to us and provide backstories to his merchandise. I bought a small metal butterfly decoration just to reward his simple yet gracious display of showmanship.
At a scented-chip shop my son picked up a bag full of wax chips for his mom. One authentic-looking craft store offered an item I’ve been dying to have for years — a necklace shaped like barbed wire — but wanted twenty-five bucks for it, so I left without buying anything. At another tinier craft store I grabbed a small ceramic pencil holder that looked like a fourth-grade art project from a distance, but whose intricacies were revealed upon closer inspection. At a much larger clothing and craft store where the salesgirl chatted with me more than once, I picked up another long-sought item, a necklace with a cross on it. I’ve wanted one for some time now, but it seemed like such an obvious gift idea for me that I’d actually been avoiding them just in case. This one had the added bonus of a cheap faux-emerald inset at the crux. Cheap, cute, and colorful, but I dug it.
As we tried to cross through a restaurant toward more stores, a security guard stopped us and wouldn’t let us pass. The reason: they were using a portion of La Villita to film a new commercial for (we were told) Bud Light. I Am Not Making This Up. From what we witnessed, the spot focuses on a small group of diverse people — working stiffs, suits, at least one Goth girl, a delivery guy, etc. — walking along arm-in-arm, smiling as their group grows larger and larger as other people join in the walk. All of this was filmed in numerous takes to the blaring accompaniment of Harry Belafonte’s “Jump in the Line”, best known to our generation as the epilogue to Beetlejuice. I have no idea if the ad was ever used, or if it even aired with the same song. YouTube was no help in finding it, but I’d love to know if a watchable copy exists.
We worked around the film crew the best we could, then gave up and stuck around the aforementioned restaurant for a time. While Anne and my son grabbed a table, I approached the counter and ordered a drink for myself and some ice cream for my son, at which point a friend of the clerk’s, standing nearby, smiled at me and told me which flavor was her personal favorite. I mumbled or chuckled some sort of small-talk acknowledgment and sped off as soon as I received my purchases. As luck would have it, of all the fountain drinks available, Diet Coke was the only dispenser not working. Diet notwithstanding, I settled for the solace of Dr. Pepper. On top of that, I wound up finishing my son’s ice cream for him.
Once the film crew went on lunch break, we finished touring La Villita, which wasn’t much else. Beyond a closed glass shop and another interchangeable Mexican knickknack shop, all we found was the La Villita “museum”, which is only accessible on the second floor through their office space, and looks more like a 4-H art exhibit spaced out to fill an exhibit hall three times the size it really needed. After La Villita, we finished the rest of the Riverwalk, which also wasn’t much left to speak of in the way of unusual sights, unless you count one all-female tour group gliding across the Commerce Street bridge all riding Segways and forgoing the “walk” in “Riverwalk”.
To be continued!
[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email signup for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my TV live-tweeting and other signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]