30 Good Minutes: Introduction + San Antonio’s moment

I’m trying something new: Each week, I’m going to set a 30 minute timer and write until the alarm goes off. When the buzzer sounds, I’ll post whatever I’ve written to this site.

The point here is mostly to thaw the ice on my fingers, or on my brain, or on the part of my brain that works my fingers. But the other purpose is to work out thoughts and feelings on the topics that concern me most these days.

Mostly, the topics that concern me are these two:

  • First, the storytelling initiative we are running in San Antonio—now known as Know Your Neighbor, which is focused on the massive wealth and opportunity gaps in our city. By “storytelling,” we mean 3 things: making media (articles, videos, photographs, etc.); crafting learning experiences (cohorts, public events, workshops, etc.); and creating learning resources (explainers, histories, guides, etc.). Our goal is to tell truer, more complete stories about the #1 challenge facing one of the nation’s fastest-growing cities: economic segregation.
  • Second, the book I’m writing about fatherhood. Working title: FourFathers. It’s a memoir about four fathers and types of fathers: my dad (the father you get), father figures (the father you seek), myself (the father you are), and God (the father who…well, it’s complicated). The book is under contract with Broadleaf Books, and it’s due this coming February, and I have a LONG way to go on it. I’ve written a lot—more words than the book has room for—but I’m nowhere close to being done drafting. The manuscript is a bit all over the place. Writing has not been my day job for some time now, and I’m finding it harder than ever to write, especially to write about myself and my family, and especially to write about such things in a way that I am excited to share with others. But I’ve got a memoir under contract. A due date, an editor, and so forth. So: more on that to come.

Some weeks, maybe I’ll write about something else entirely. Maybe cooking, or movies, or whatever I happen to be reading. But mostly, I’ll stick to the storytelling initiative (because it’s what I love, it’s what I do everyday, and it’s endlessly fascinating to me) and the book (because it’s almost due, and in spite of my misgivings, I think it’s worth doing).

I’ve almost used up my 30 minutes writing this preamble to the 30 Good Minutes series! So, before I wrap this first one, a brief reflection:

I have covid—my first time! And it’s awful!—and so yesterday I did something I almost never do, which is sit on the couch and watch a college football game. In this case, UTSA vs University of Houston. My wife is currently a graduate student at UTSA, and I’ve become a complete homer for all things San Antonio, and UTSA football is one of the nation’s best sports stories (for real—if you don’t know, google it), so I am 100% on this bandwagon.

The game was a barn-burner and something of a heartbreaker for the Roadrunners, but UTSA definitely proved they can hang with a tough opponent.

For me, the best subplot to the game was hearing the CBS announcers marvel over San Antonio throughout the broadcast—not the team, but the city. At one point one of them remarked that San Antonio is the 7th-largest city in the country. “It’s just huge!” Later the other announcer mentioned it: “This is the 7th-largest city in the country!” What IS this place? was their overall tone. San Antonio! It’s a place! It has football and lots of people! Margaritas and tacos and brisket, sure, we expected that, but also: football and a ton of people!

San Antonio has made national news a few major ways in the last year:

I do think San Antonio belongs on the national map. But the attention is complicated—and complicating, as not all change is for the better, especially not for the better of all our neighbors.

San Antonio has been a high-poverty city for a long, long time. What happens to high-poverty cities when they become destination cities for businesses and families across the country? More to the point, what happens to the neighborhoods that have been subject to that poverty for so long? Even more to the point, what happens to the people who live in them—who helped settle them decades ago without virtually any public investment? Do they have any say?

Many San Antonioans worry that the city is bound to turn into Austin: over-crowded, over-priced, and over-white. (That’s not how I feel about Austin, mind you. But it’s not not true…) Our path and pace of growth and development is extremely complicated and fraught. The rich will get richer, and many of those beneficiaries will not even be from San Antonio—the city is an investment vehicle that is no doubt accruing to the benefit of 401(k)s across the land. The main question we need to be asking and working on is: Will the poor get richer, too?


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