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Things I Will Miss About San Antonio

We’re down to 132 hours.

We’ve always known basically when this move would happen … my wife, Emi, is completing her three-year neonatology fellowship this weekend, and we’ve known this whole time that this day would come.

But now, as we prepare to leave San Antonio to return to the west coast, reality is sinking in.

One hundred and thirty two hours.

Not to jinx it, but I think we are doing pretty well considering how we’re down to the wire. The boxes are nearly all packed, the clothes for the road trip picked out, and meals have been on paper and plastic for a few days now.

We’re now at the point of having our last experiences in San Antonio. For example, today was our last Wednesday here. The kids have gotten into the game, pointing out things that it will be the last time for. Some of them have gotten us a little melancholy, and have reminded us of all of the great things we have experienced here in the Alamo City.

San Antonio was a great place for us to raise our babies. We moved here in April 2002, for Emi to start medical school. She graduated from UTHSCSA in 2006 with her MD, and continued here with her pediatric residency, completing that in 2009. Since we were well-rooted here, we stayed here for her fellowship as well. All throughout, we explored the area, and raised our kids to appreciate everything the area had to offer.

This led me to think it would only be fitting for me to write a little bit about the things we will miss about this great city. Of course, as with any city, there are drawbacks (July heat, to name one) but this is about the things that we will always remember about out time living here. Of course I could load this list up with anecdotes about the kids learning to walk, their first words, and all sorts of family things … but this list is more focused on San Antonio itself.

Wildflowers in Spring

Bluebonnets, Texas state flowerThere’s a song by Nanci Griffith called Gulf Coast Highway … the version I’m familiar with is a duet between Emmylou Harris and Dave Matthews.

Some of the lyrics have stuck with me … the chorus ends with “come some sweet bluebonnet spring.” Another lyric is “This is the only place on Earth bluebonnets grow, once a year they come and go, at this old house here by the road.” It’s a beautiful song, but nowhere near as beautiful as the expansive fields of bluebonnets on those sweet spring days. It’s a time when you know summer is just around the corner, and you want to drink in the perfection of Spring before you get baked by the heat of the Texas summer. The kids love to explore and make bouquets for Mommy. We have to be careful of snakes (especially since Mommy saw way too many snakebite cases come through the hospital when she was a resident) but it’s a wonderful experience, and I will miss seeing the vast stretches of deep blue flowers alongside country roads.

Hill Country Peach Runs

When you think of peaches, you might think of Georgia. I, however, will always think of Fredericksburg, Texas. About an hour north of San Antonio, this small town is in prime peach-growing country. A couple of weekends every spring and summer, we’d drive to Fredericksburg and either pick or buy boxfuls of delicious peaches. One of our favorite spots was a roadside stand owned by Studebaker Farms, nine miles east of Fredericksburg on Highway 290. We’d get fresh tomatoes (delicious) and bags full of white flesh and other peaches.

Fredericksburg Peaches, Studebaker Farms PeachesWe’d sit in the car with beach towels spread across our laps and gorge on them. By the end of it, we’d have a mountain of peach pits filling up whatever receptacle we could find … usually empty Starbucks cups. Sometimes the peach fuzz would irritate us a little bit, but we’d clean them the best we could and demolish pounds of the sweet stone fruit. They also sold plums and other fresh fruits and vegetables, but I will always remember the aroma and taste of the peaches. Fredericksburg also had a great park downtown, as well as stores that sold (mostly) locally-made preserves, honeys, salsas, freshly-made fudge and tons of other items. Affectionately known as “The Sample Store” because you could try all of the goods, Rustlin’ Rob’s was always a popular stop on our Fredericksburg peach runs.

The drive back, more often than not, was on the Old San Antonio Road. It winds through the Hill Country and it takes an hour or so before you get to Comfort, TX. It’s a gorgeous drive, and one of my favorite road journeys in Texas.

The Cantaloupe Box

One of the things Emi enjoyed doing in her rare free moments was making and decorating cakes. She started when the kids were small, making birthday cakes based on whatever theme the kids wanted. Her mom did this for her and Carlos when they were little, but Emi (as she is wont to do) took it to a whole new level. She researched how to decorate cakes and before long, was making amazing creations of all shapes and sizes. The woman who claimed she couldn’t bake when we were first married, became the best baker and decorator I’ve ever seen.

cantaloupe boxI ended up making a site to display her cakes … … she got so into it, along with doing the kids birthday cakes, she started making them for friends’ parties, holiday events, a wedding and more. And every time she made a cake, she would always transport it in a sturdy, wide cantaloupe box. It was used for tons of cakes, but we were always careful to not get it dirty, and to clean it constantly. That box became a symbol of sorts for Emi’s caking – and in turn, for a way for her to have an artistic outlet after treating patients and dealing with the stress of residency and fellowship.

Chess Games with Dean and my Stone Oak friends

In 2007, like many people across the country, I was at a career crossroads. The company I worked for, GreenPoint Mortgage, was closing, and I was going to need to find a new source of income. I had worked from a home office since 2001, and we were two weeks from the due date of our third child. I decided I would open my own small company, and so EC Creative Solutions was formed.

Dean Hollis

One of the first local clients I connected with was Dean Hollis, who owned a couple of local businesses and needed web design and marketing help. I liked Dean right away, with his big persona and “I know something you don’t know” grin. We talked about what needed to be done, and then he invited me to have a beer with him and a couple of his friends. So we sat out and smoked cigars, played chess and drank a few beers and hardly talked about business at all. We ended up doing a few work projects, but more than anything, I enjoyed my friendship with Dean … we spent many afternoons playing chess and smoking good cigars at a local pub. I expanded my entrepreneurial outlook and with Dean became part owner of a newly-formed tech school and of a Yoga studio, owned by his wife. Along with my paying projects, these gave me a great feeling of working on a team to get these new businesses off the ground. I was given an office space at Rizer Tech (the biotech school) and started working more there than in my home office. He introduced me to Mike Greene, a programmer with whom I’ve worked and been good friends with ever since.

Dean had found a lot of success, but the economic downturn (and the death of one of his partners at a telecommunications company) caused his main performing business to fail. I knew he was having trouble keeping things afloat, and I was concerned about him because I wasn’t seeing that same joy. We spent long hours talking over beers and chess about things we could do and projects that we could try to push forward. But in the end, things just weren’t working for him.

Dean took his life in December 2009. I wish I had known the depth of his despair, so I might have been able to help him somehow. He inspired me to look for ways to grow and to work for myself in ways I don’t think I had the confidence to do before.

Fishing and Hunting south Texas

I’ve always loved the outdoors, and grew up catching lake trout with my grandfather in the summertime. San Antonio is about a three hour drive from one of the best saltwater fishing spots in the Gulf of Mexico. Port Aransas, TX, regularly hosts international fishing tournaments, and if you’ve ever watched fishing shows on ESPN, odds are, you’ve seen some action from Port A (as it’s called locally).

Eric Souza FishingThere are charter boat companies that take fishermen offshore for 12-hour trips … usually these bring you 20-30 miles out into the Gulf of Mexico and either tie off on one of the natural gas rigs or find other good spots where you can hook into some of the biggest and best fighting fish you can imagine. I went out on numerous charters and filled my freezer with Red Snapper, Ling, Tuna, Amberjack, Shark, King Mackerel and Wahoo. One time, I went on a 24-hour trip, and fished non-stop the whole time the boat wasn’t moving. I caught 40  vermillion snapper (about 2-3 pounds each), three red snapper, four huge kings, a 25-pound blackfin tuna, a huge jack crevalle, and finally just before we were going to end the trip, I caught a monster 118-pound spinner shark. It was the most exhilarating fishing experience for me ever.

I also met up with Jeff Snyder, a south outdoorsman extraordinaire. I contacted Jeff, a former marine and host of outdoors TV and radio shows, to see about fishing on Lake Braunig or Calaveras for freshwater redfish or hybrid striped bass. He said we could do that, but since it was nearing wintertime, he asked me if I had ever been hunting. I hadn’t, so he invited me to join him on his ranch near the gulf coast to hunt for whitetail deer. He wanted to clear his property of some “spikes” (male deer who genetically wouldn’t be producing strong antler racks) and suggested it would be a good introduction into hunting. It certainly was. He taught me about how to fire a rifle, and about what I was supposed to do on the hunt. I don’t know what it’s like to stalk or to hunt on public lands, but it was quite an experience to hunt with Jeff on his spread just off the Frio River, bordering a national park area filled with wildlife. We spent hours in an elevated blind, and saw all sorts of birds and critters. Eventually as dusk came, the deer came with it. And with the spike I took that night (cleanly from about 150 yards with a .257 Roberts rifle), I knew I would want to go hunting again.

Since then, I’ve gone out every year for the past six years, and have taken either spikes or a buck each time. One thing I didn’t do, which I could have, was hunted for the feral hogs that roam the countryside. These hogs grow to enormous sizes and are terribly destructive to the region – especially on farms and ranches. A couple of times, I spent time on a ranch with Mr. Marion Pringle, a former NASA official and all-around great guy. He and his lovely wife, MaryAnn. Mr. Pringle has a high-fenced property and guides hunts on his 470-acre ranch in Hondo, TX. One morning, we were in a blind in a lush meadow when we spotted a group of the hogs. He wanted to clear out any hogs from his property that he could, so we were going to try to each take one at the same time … but they were spooked by deer movement and scattered before we completed our count to three.

I have a few other things on my list of things I will remember about San Antonio, but my time is slowly getting away from me.

I will post a Part Two to this, including the Medical Center, the Three Parks and the concrete cylinder walkway … but I’m not sure when I will have the time to do it. After all, we leave for Seattle in … 130 hours.

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