My favorite novels are normally the ones in which I hated every page of reading. I know it sounds crazy, but there is something about feeling like a story is long and extensively descriptive until the very last page. Of which, on that last 879th page, you close the book cover and feel like you know your characters better than you know your dearest friends. Or better yet, the sensation that the author had one up on you the entire time and walked you straight into what it was they fancied from you. The subtleties of stories is that you can’t quite understand what you are even in the middle of until it’s over.
San Antonio is one of those destinations that feels like a long novel, intricate and slow in its story. The influences and characters of San Antonio have merged into lengthy descriptions and colorful sentences. One can pass a downtown building and feel that they are at once looking at the past 200 years and the present in once glance.
With areas of renovation such as the Pearl Brewery neighborhood and the expansion of river enjoyment with the River’s Reach project, San Antonio walks you effortlessly through the pages of its history. It is progressing and taking visitors and locals along with it.
Put into perspective, the astounding part is that all of this was founded unknowingly on the lifestyle choices of past locals in their own building of the city. Hotel Emma’s impressive hotel style is made possible by Emma Kohler who maintained the Pearl Brewery even through the period of Prohibition. Early settlers who defended and by default immortalized the region as a precious addition to Texas and the United States carved the future of the river canals with their decisions.
On my second day in San Antonio, I had a delightful conversation with one of my Uber drivers. He had been a bus driver for some of the city’s school districts for almost two decades. He told me he had quit that job despite a profound love for the students he drove around because he wanted more time to spend with his young daughter. He wanted to be there as her drop-off and pick-up.
He was more excited to explain to me how his new job enabled him to take four vacations with her already. Many of them to Mexico so that she could experience her father’s history and explore what it means to be Mexican-American. Underneath this conversation runs stories too long to fill a book. The paragraphs are lengthy, descriptive and rich in flavor. It is the underbelly of the novel. The first of which were used to document our own journeys. Maybe we have forgotten about storytelling and we lay naive to its charm and skill, but regardless of our acknowledgement of it, we are all storytellers.
Subtly we write our choices onto the pages of a city and those will become the foundations of the stories developed in the future. Each wall we encounter has been a setting to many chapters and becomes at least a snapshot in ours.
Each turn of the river is the flow of life from one generation to the next, always slowly making new grooves in its banks, too soft to notice over one’s life.
And each conversation outside the steps of the local Mexican restaurant is the dialogue that influences the tales we will tell tomorrow, whether we realize it or not. The city has held our hands as we have built it and crafted it into a story of storytelling. We are merely characters and readers who turn the pages when the city has run out of space to weave its narrative.
The whole time we will question where we are going and why we continue to read on. One day, however, we will know where the city was leading us and we will close the cover having subtly altered our own view of the story. We will wish the city had told us just a few pages more and we will dream about the description of her walls, rivers, and street corners: adding in our own accounts of a newfound friend.
Do you feel like your city is telling a story? What would it tell to someone keen on listening?