It never occurred to me that the glare produced by the sheen on my bald pate served as a great target.
Most universities have a recruiting event called something like “Commitment Weekend.” It goes something like this: admitted students who have not yet accepted are invited onto campus for a few days. They get to attend real classes, live on campus with host students, visit with professors and advisors, and get the feel of campus. After a couple of days, the idea goes, the student makes the final commitment – “Yes, I want to attend here!”
By spring of his senior year, in 2006, our middle child had been admitted to (as I recall) some seven different colleges and universities, from coast to coast. He had not visited a single one. During spring break we squeezed in a quick visit to Harvey Mudd, an elite math, engineering and science school on the Claremont, CA campus – co-located with several other outrageously expensive private schools.
Our son, Mark, a habitual over-achiever, was insanely busy at the time. He carried AP level classes every hour of his school day; he was acting in theatre productions and traveling to compete on his high school’s drum line team. Why we wasted time to visit Mudd, which offered a paltry scholarship, is beyond me.
So it was to be some other school. I can’t even remember them all. We had a single remaining weekend when Mark could get away. Early April as I recall. That limited us to two schools to choose from: Lehigh University, in Bethlehem, PA; and Trinity University, in San Antonio, TX.
At the last possible moment we chose Trinity. Mark’s drum line team was in a competition in Greeley, CO on a Thursday, as I recall. The wonderful Audrey drove him down US-85, where we rendezvoused in Commerce City. I met them, my car packed ready to go, and off Mark and I went to DIA (Denver Internat’l Airport). We flew to Austin and drove the I-35 to San Antonio. [The over-worked Mark slept the whole way from Denver to San Antonio]. Inexpensive EconoLodge saved me a few dollars.
Friday morning began Commitment Weekend, or what Trinity calls “Trinity 360.” Mark would be taken away for the weekend, hosted by an upperclassman, and there would be parent activities for me. In fact, that very night the school was putting on a production of Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes.” Cool, very cool. I knew some of the songs, but had never seen it. Starts at 7PM. I went to the ticket counter and it was sold out; but there would likely be no-shows. They’d open a waiting list at 6PM: first come, first served.
I quickly planned the rest of my day to be first in line.
After a couple of parent events (your child will be safe; San Antonio is a fun town; Trinity is in its own “bubble” within San Antonio, yeddah, yeddah – but I saw that Trinity is a wonderful and beautiful campus) I was off for the ultimate tourist trap: The San Antonio River Walk.
First open to the public as a scenic path in 1941, the original San Antonio River Walk was one of the last of the Depression Era WPA projects. As such, it serves a dual purpose. First, it addressed repeated flooding of downtown by the San Antonio River; an upstream dam provided flood control. Second, a small diversion of flow through the downtown business district promotes tourism and commerce.
I’d seen it once before. Coincidently it had to do with another more historic event of 1941: the bombing of Pearl Harbor. My wife’s dad, Art, is a survivor of that attack. He was a Radio Man on the USS California that December morning in 1941. For the 60th anniversary a reunion of survivors was held in nearby Fredericksburg, TX. How glorious it was for us to see these survivors recognized as heroes decades later; history buffs poured in from around the country! Escorting Art were his oldest son (Steve, Audrey’s brother), his oldest grandchild (Aaron, my son) and of course me.
The weather was brisk and cool, with occasional light showers. I caught a nasty cold at the close of the weekend ceremonies. Then we drove over to San Antonio, about an hour away, to see and experience some history.
Early in the afternoon I spent most of my dwindling energy touring the Alamo with Aaron. So, that evening, I didn’t really get a chance to fully appreciate San Antonio, or the River Walk. I did find a pharmacy that sold throat lozenges though. We all dined at a restaurant on “The Walk.”
Well, several years later I got another chance to “do the River Walk” — this time in good health and in good weather. Here is my one word evaluation: Overrated. The slightly longer evaluation: The water is dirty. The crowds are monotonously thick, white, and giggly. The few exceptions are dominated by military personnel due to all the bases located in and near San Antonio. It’s all dedicated to consumerism, with an evidently endless stream of pubs, shops and restaurants.
I grabbed a walking map and made it a goal to speedily perambulate the River Walk’s entirety, along all the twists through an amazing tourist trap … and finish in time to see the play.
It was a gloriously warm and sunny spring day. The Texas humidity wore me down a bit, but I wore comfortably light khaki pants and a weather-appropriate golf shirt. In my haste I had neglected to bring a cap or hat; this is a precaution I usually take to protect my bald scalp from the sun. No worry, I thought; I’ll make quick work of the famed “Walk.”
And so I did. I marched double-time up and down, through side-walk cafés and restaurants. Past pubs, high end restaurants, low brow restaurants and plenty of trinket shops. The River Walk’s serpentine path takes you underneath many bridges that carry downtown San Antonio automobile traffic overhead.
The under-structure of those bridges serve as a perfect protected place for many thousands of pigeons to nest, perch, mate and generally be a messy, noisy, disgusting nuisance.
It never occurred to me that the glare produced by the sheen on my uncovered and bald pate served as a great target. A pigeon poo target.
With an audible splat that tickled my scalp, I knew immediately what had happened. I had been crowned! Just ahead was an Irish-themed pub. I ducked in, went immediately to the men’s restroom and cleaned the mess off my dome as best I could.
The successful target practice cost me precious minutes. Triple-time speed marching the rest of “The Walk”, I made it back to my rental car and zoomed back up McAllister Freeway (US-281) to Trinity University campus.
Arriving at the lobby and box office outside Trinity’s Laurie Auditorium right at 6PM I was able to get my name at the top of the standby list for a ticket. I had an hour to wait. I decided to stay in the lobby, strolling casually around looking at the many fine pictures showing local history and displaying the talent of local artists. Gradually the lobby filled with dozens, then hundreds, waiting for the auditorium doors to open … or their name to be called. I kept walking around and around the lobby– doing several 360s, if you will – always keeping my face to the pictures on the wall, and my back to the swelling crowd.
Shortly after 7PM my name was called. I strolled through what remained of the throng, purchased my ticket, and found a fine single seat. It was about two-thirds of the way back, one or two seats in from the left side aisle.
Almost immediately I thought that I recognized the nearly bald, well-groomed, slightly stocky man seated directly in front of me. No, it couldn’t be him. He’s a bit shorter than I thought.
The play production was far, far better than I had expected. Like many musicals, the plot is silly, but – if they’ve survived this long – the music, singing and dancing are phenomenal.
As intermission approached I resolved to stay seated so that I could get a good look at the gentlemen in front of me as he arose and left his seat for a few minutes of leg stretching. Until then he seemed to be enjoying himself, just like a normal human being, although reservedly so.
Immediately after the final Act One number, the lights came on. People slowly got up to aimlessly mill about. Is it him?
Yes. I could not believe it. Karl Rove was sitting right in front of me! In the spring of 2006, as the chief political advisor to President George W. Bush, Mr. Rove was certainly one of the most powerful political figures in the world.
I went out to the lobby for a possible closer look. There he was(!), chatting casually with a small group of folks (Friends? Admirers? Protectors from riff-raff like me?). It was certainly Mr. Rove.
I did not muster the gumption to introduce myself. But, rather, I stood a few feet away and slowly turned myself in place, round and round, multiple 360s, whistling softly and further admiring the pictures and architecture of this fine building…sneaking a good peek once per revolution. He probably thought I was a stalker.
The rest of the play went as the first act. Mr Rove directly in front of me. Each of us enjoying the production immensely, joining in a standing ovation for the cast at the play’s conclusion.
I couldn’t wait to get to my hotel room. I had to clean off that slightly “icky” feeling you get from carrying a layer of dried sweat all over your skin for several hours. Plus I wanted to give the top of my head a more thorough scrubbing. It seemed like a very long time for the crowd to thin out enough for me to leave, and also for the parking lot to clear out.
The first thing I did after the door to my hotel room closed was take off my shirt. As I put my hands on the back of my collar I felt something that was not at all like the lovely fabric of my golf shirt. What I felt was a mixture of crusty and gooey. And thick.
Holy Crap! Most of the pigeon poo had splashed off my head and run down onto my shirt! That must have been one very well-fed pigeon!
I thought of all of those 360s I had slowly turned, my back toward the nice people visiting Trinity University, … and I was showing them a big fat blob of pigeon poo!
And that is a Trinity-360 that will probably never be duplicated.
Here’s to commitment. And here’s a commitment I recommend: if you ever stroll outdoors where there are overhead structures … wear a hat!
Joe Girard © 2015