I’ve really been slacking off on the foreign language front lately. And since that’s my best chance to be able to retire (well, not retire as such but switch from a “punching the time clock” career to a “do it on my own time” career, which is probably the closest I’ll ever get to retiring), I need to step it up.

To that end, I’m listening to less foreign language music and have just started working on the podcasts at Radio Ambulante. Radio Ambulante is a project of NPR telling human-interest stories from Spanish-speaking areas. And they cover a lot of territory. Some of the accents are way more challenging than others, but it’s good practice.

I also blew a couple of bucks on a 3-month Rosetta Stone subscription for Castilian Spanish. I figure that’ll give me more to work with than I get from speaking at work and doing Duolingo.

I’m still doing Duolingo. I’m laddering Spanish and Mandarin. They don’t have Mandarin for Spanish speakers, so I’m doing Spanish for Mandarin speakers.

And I’m still working (slowly!) on reading in my target languages. In Spanish, I’m working on the translation of Prince Caspian by CS Lewis, and Ciudad de las Bestias by Isabel Allende. In German and Italian, I’m still in the translation of the first Harry Potter book and in Chinese, I’m about a third of the way through Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

And, as always, I’m paying myself. 1¢ per Duolingo lingot, 2¢ per minute of Rosetta Stone, Radio Ambulante, and audiobooks, 1.5¢ per minute of music, 15¢ per page* of foreign language book (because that takes the most concentration of all). At an estimated $400 per credit hour for tuition and fees, I think I have my first four credit hours of my modern languages degree paid off, and it only took two and a half years to get there.

Crap. I’ve got to work harder, don’t I?

*Per paragraph for Chinese.

Gratuitous Amazon Link time. Why not? City of the Beasts, in English and Ciudad de las Bestias in Spanish.

And my life’s not very wild at all unless you count taking the subway in foreign cities. I guess that could get kind of wild, but so far it’s just been transportation.

However, while my life isn’t wild, I’ve been close to some whose lives are very wild. This guy, for example:

He looks pretty wild to me!

I saw this fella on April 20 at Walker Ranch Park. I took two pictures, this one and one zoomed farther out, and then I began to worry a little because he was just sitting on the ground. I asked him (really, literally, in actual human speech) why he was sitting on the ground, and he flew off. That was a huge relief to me.

And he’s not alone. In addition to my nearly daily encounters with deer in the parks around here, I’ve recently seen an armadillo at Walker Ranch Park, a rabbit and what I’m pretty sure is a red-tailed hawk at Hardberger Park, and just today what I’m also pretty sure is a crested caracara in Shavano Park (that’s a nearby suburb).

I have pictures of most of them, except the caracara, because I was driving when I saw him. That’s also why I’m not entirely sure that’s what I saw. Whatever it was, it was hanging around with a bunch of vultures that were eating something that looked like a dead squirrel, and caracaras do eat carrion, so that seems like a good indication to me. My first impression was that it looked kind of like a Pokémon, too, and the caracara does kinda/sorta look like a Staraptor, in a way.

I was really thrilled to see the rabbit, too, because I grew up in a neighborhood that had rabbits every-damn-where and I haven’t seen a single rabbit in my entire time in Texas. The last time I saw a rabbit was during a visit to my old apartment complex in Chicago in what would have been 2008/2010 at the latest.

I’m not entirely sure why I’m seeing more wildlife lately. Maybe there’s some construction or other development that’s flushing them out (if so, why am I mostly seeing them in parks?) Maybe they’ve been there all along and I’m just noticing it more?

But, perhaps, the most important question of all, is my old eBird account still active?

Back in, oh, 1990, I guess, Thomas’s roommate had a Sega Genesis system.

Wait. No. It goes back farther than that.

I was in high school in the early 1980s and I’ve always been something of a science fiction/fantasy geek (and I really love books and series the blur the line between the two, like Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series). Long about, oh, my sophomore year of high school, I found the science fiction geek corner of my high school’s social structure. I was the only girl in the group.

Every year we had one day when we had open lunch and the science fiction geeks would go to Friar Tuck’s arcade. Maybe it was my junior year, since Friar Tuck’s opened in 1982, but whatever. The point is that all of the science fiction geeks except for one went to Friar Tuck’s. They never invited me to come along. Not that I would have had the faintest idea what to do, but I would have figured something out. Probably. Instead, I went to the Fannie Mae candy shop with my female friends. It was a good time, but the Friar Tuck’s thing sort of put the idea in my head that I wasn’t good enough to game.

There was an Aladdin’s Castle at the mall where my friends and I hung out, but, again, girls. So I never crossed the threshold of the store, even though I really, really wanted to

In 1988, I started dating Thomas. He was a gamer and hung around at gaming places (maybe Friar Tuck’s? Not sure). I was still kind of bitter but also had internalized the idea that I didn’t deserve to learn to game and so I kept quiet about it.

*Now* it’s 1990 and his roommate’s Sega Genesis system. They were only roommates for a semester (Thomas got a single room halfway through the year), but I had enough exposure to it that my bitterness finally broke through and I asked Thomas, point-blank, to teach me how to game so that I could finally figure out whether I could do it or not.

Oh, God. I’m starting to cry. This is so stupid. Such a tiny little thing, but it’s a tiny little thing with deep, deep roots, and it hurts to dig those roots out.

In 1994, Thomas and I met Frank. Frank is also a gamer. And they’d sit around and talk about Doom or Wolfenstein 3D or whatever and I’d sit and twiddle my thumbs despite the fact that I’d talked to Thomas about this. This just dug the “you don’t deserve this” message in deeper.

Sometime in the late 1990s or early 2000s, they opened a Dave and Busters here in San Antonio. They allowed smoking in the game room and I have asthma but I didn’t want to be a wet blanket so I’d go along and wheeze while I watched everyone else play because, all together now, I didn’t deserve to learn.

Thomas offered to “teach” me on one of these outings. His version of “teach” was sink-or-swim. He wanted me to take the other controller of whatever he was doing and compete against him. Did I mention that I couldn’t breathe? When I refused, he said, “I thought you wanted me to teach you.” I didn’t know how to tell him that I was more imagining sitting on the sofa together with the controller of his PS2 while he showed me what all of those X’s and triangles, and blue diamonds and green clovers do and less competing against him when I couldn’t fucking breathe.

This is when I figured out that Thomas was never going to follow through on his ten-year-old promise and stopped going to Dave and Busters at all. It just rubbed in my lack of skill and made me feel lonely.

When Thomas and I split up in 2008 I was seeing two mental health professionals. I’d started seeing a psychiatrist in 2002 when I had my cancer and I kept going through my mom’s death in 2006 and the end of my marriage. I also started seeing a counselor on top of that. When I was at the counselor’s I suggested that maybe Thomas was so contrary because he was afraid I’d be good at it. Because several times I started working on something that I thought we were doing together (like learning Chinese) and when the rubber hit the road, he backed out because I progressed faster than he did.

He did teach me to play Tetris and Larn, which is something, and he gave me the opportunity to use the WII Fit (and left it here when he left), but so many people I know play, like, Zelda and things that use consoles and they’re still just a mystery to me, no thanks to Thomas.

In 2014, we had our pharmacy Christmas party at Dave and Busters. We ate a nice dinner and then Alex convinced me to try one of the racing games. I can’t remember if we did it once or twice, but Alex went to Dave and Busters fairly often with his paternal grandmother, so I figured he’d get use out of the cards we got with dinner even if he wouldn’t use them that night. So once someone else left, we followed suit.

In 2016, I woke up and saw one of my Facebook friends had posted a picture of a bird that looked to be made from Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and pipe cleaners*. I was kind of nonplussed but kept reading and for some reason that I’ll never fully comprehend, I decided to download Pokemon Go and give it a shot. And I’m pretty good at it, if I do say so myself. Not amazing — I’m not dedicated enough for that — but better than a lot of people I know. And several times in the last couple of weeks, when I made a new Pokemon Go friend (I’m up to 54!) they said, “Oh! You’re Olivia!” which is always a nice feeling.

I’m dabbling a bit in Jurassic World Alive and intent to give Wizards Unite a chance (particularly since I have a friend who really wants to play it and this will give me a chance to maybe see her once in a while). And one of my online friends said that I don’t necessarily need to use a console to game and that there are a lot of good games for the PC. So maybe I’ll try one or two of them.

Maybe this bitterness over gaming will pass someday after all.

Wow. What do I do for my Gratuitous Amazon Link? Something about gaming? Science Fiction? I mention Diane Duane’s Young Wizards books. Have I linked to So You Want to Be a Wizard yet? If not, well, there it is.

I’ve been to the zoo a couple of times recently. On March 23, Alex and I had made tentative plans to go together then his allergies acted up badly and he went back to bed. I’d had my heart set on going to the zoo, so I went by myself and did the Pokemon Go Community Day while I was there.

I got a couple of pictures of the elephant enclosure. I’ve posted about the controversy about the elephant enclosure before (links to follow later, maybe), but they didn’t turn out very well. I guess that’s an excuse to go back to the zoo. I can always use an excuse to to back to the zoo.

Elephant enclosure, San Antonio Zoo, 2019
Actually this picture turned out halfway decent. I may have to bring a tall friend to get the view from above that fence in the foreground next time, but this will give you some kind of idea of the scale. And Lucky has two roommates now. I don’t know if they like each other, but they tolerate each other, which may be all one can hope for.

In August, I think it was, I joined the zoo for the first time in years and since Alex is now an adult, he got his own membership. This past Saturday was Bring a Friend Free day at the zoo, so Alex and I each brought a friend. Alex’s friend had to leave early, but Alex, my friend, and I ended up spending four hours at the zoo. Our zoo isn’t that big. I didn’t know it was possible to spend four hours there.

Speaking of Pokemon Go, one of my friends has me playing the game that I refer to as Jurassic Park Go. The name is actually Jurassic World Alive, but that’s a real mouthful. I have thoughts about JWA and it may require a whole post just for that. I know that any game that involves chance (like a random number generator) the odds favor the “house,” but JWA seems like such a blatant cash grab that I’m far less likely to spend actual money on the game than I am with Pokemon Go (I limit myself to an average of $1 a month for Pokemon Go).

I have a tendency to treat this blog like I used to treat essay questions in school. I want the writing to hang together well, so I agonize over how to frame things so much that I end up not writing enough (or in this case, anything).

So, since it’s been more than two months, I’m just going to write. I was telling my friend Irene the other day that my brain hasn’t been in a good place to write fiction lately because I can only write fiction when I’m happy. Well, I was hit by a plot bunny today. One of my online acquaintances said that he has a very career-oriented female friend who wants a similarly career-oriented guy, but that most of the career-oriented guys she knows are jerks. I thought about the traditional Hallmark movie where the woman goes home and meets a guy who runs a coffee shop in a small town and she discovers that there are more important things than careers in the big city. Blech.

But what if she met another big-city man who has some kind of amazing talent but lacks that killer instinct that the career-oriented men she knows have and which turns her off? Like he’s an artist or a writer or a musician or an inventor or something. And she could use her contacts to help him make it? I ended up with musician because that would work well in a movie.

So he’s a barista who works at the Starbucks on her way to work in the morning. She always gives her name as Beth because (a) she doesn’t want them misspelling her real name and (b) she doesn’t actually want to give her real name. He recognizes her when she comes in and remembers her preferences and this is actually a big turnoff for her because he’s so . . . nice.

Then she hears him singing/playing his guitar/playing his glass harmonica or whatever and she tries to get him to accept her help to make a career of it. Romance blossoms then he finds out that she’s looking for a career-oriented guy and thinks that she’s playing Pygmalion and that she doesn’t know him or even really want to get to know him. So they break up and they’re both constantly almost picking up the phone to call him when something exciting happens.

But they need time to heal and his career takes off and she develops a little bit more non-career life (maybe a family obligation like she has to take in a niece or something?) And when they bump into each other a year or two later the sparks are still there and they have more balance in their own lives and they reunite.

The End.

Maybe I won’t end up writing more than this little sketch of an idea but, look! Fiction! I’m pretty happy I was even able to do this much.

Now, for a Gratuitous Amazon Link. And this one really is gratuitous. I sorted my Goodreads list alphabetically and picked the first one: Embassy Row Book 1: All Fall Down, by Ally Carter. Which reminds me. I need to get the next book in that series. . . .

I haven’t, though. I mean, I haven’t been writing new posts. I’ve been adding Gratuitous Amazon Links to old posts. I’m done with July 2015 and am starting on August. Dear God, I’ve got a lot of work to go.

I’m also considering adding a Google ad to the page. I may chicken out on this, though. And since I have maybe one fan, there’s no real point to adding a Patreon, is there?

First, let’s get the money thing out of the way. Today we shall have an Amazon Link for the album for the Despicable Me soundtrack.

6:00 Now it’s brighter again. I don’t even know anymore. Pharell is dancing up the bridge with someone who, at first, looks like a Mountie but who turns out to be a famous choreographer named Fatima Robinson.*

I’m really glad that Pharrell and Robinson were dancing around actually on the bridge like this, because unless someone makes a replica somewhere someday I’ll never be able to see it up close like this again.

We continue walking around on the bridge until 6:16.

At 6:16 we go somewhere new and it looks really familiar, like someplace they’ve filmed a movie, maybe? Or someplace that I’ve pictured the action of a book taking?

Wait. We’re still by the 6th Street Bridge. I couldn’t even begin to tell you where we are in relation to the bridge; it’s too dark and the area has changed too much. Maybe by 6:20 we’ll have some clue.

Our dancer passes something that looks like maybe a small apartment building. It’s well lit and might still be there, but I’ve still got nothing.

Eventually I’m able to identify a mural that the dancers pass as being under the 6th Street Bridge, so that solves that much. Then at 6:34, the dancers dance across some train tracks. Those tracks are still there in October of 2017, putting the dancers on Mission Street. The 6:32 dancers pass a building that’s still there at 6:35.

The 6:36 dancer goes up Willow Street E. This is such a relief. At Anderson Street, we make a left and go down a block or so. Then we turn around and come back down Anderson to Willow and back to Mission. Then we make a left onto something that Google says is 6th Street. I. Don’t know. And then we come out on Anderson again. We make a right and go back under the bridge and it sure looks to me like we end at Anderson and Jesse.

6:56 It’s dark. Really dark. The dancers are being followed by a car with its headlights on, presumably so that we can see them with the backlight. There’s a plant of some sort behind a fence over there on our right and a building on our left. We emerge into the light and make a right-hand turn. Still no clue where we are. It’s kind of postapocalyptic looking. Oh, look. Civilization. There’s a street and traffic signals and an illuminated sign of some sort. As the dancers move around, there’s a building with blue words on the side. We go back into the dark alley and the 6 pm hour ends with our dancers backlit like before.

*Who choreographed the video for his song “Come Get it Bae.”

So today I was going to add a Gratuitous Amazon Link to an old post on the map on TripAdvisor, which reminded me that I hadn’t updated the map in a while. So I logged into my TripAdvisor account and found that everything was gone. My username had somehow changed in the process, too.

So I lost a good half hour trying to figure out what had happened. I finally found all of the work I’d done and am working on updating my map, but I still don’t know what happened to my name.

It’s weird. I’ve been to Brackenridge a bunch of times. I’ve been to the Botanical Garden a bunch of times. I’ve been to the University of the Incarnate Word a bunch of times. I’ve been to the HEB Central Market a bunch of times. I’ve been to the Quarry Market a bunch of times. I’ve driven on Hildebrand, and on US 281, on Basse and on Jones Maltsberger.

These things pretty much define the outside boundaries of Olmos Basin Park, and yet until this month, I’d never actually been there. And that’s really a shame, because it’s a lovely park. At least, what I’ve seen of it after a cursory walk on the Olmos Basin Greenway is.

US 281 Viaduct, 2019
The viaduct carrying US 281 past/through Olmos Basin Park. You can see a bit of Olmos Creek there but I walked up really close to take this picture so that not too much litter and/or mud would be in the picture.

One of the most important features of Olmos Basin Park is Olmos Dam. As San Antonio is sitting on top of limestone, we have a big flash flooding problem. I’ve considered doing a photo spread on the dry creekbeds of San Antonio. Because boy, there are a lot of them unless it’s raining then all bets are off.

There was a major flood in 1921 that killed 51 people and caused $5 million in damage (not adjusted for inflation!). As a result, the city dammed up Olmos Creek to prevent that from happening again.

I didn’t walk through the park far enough to get to the dam this time. I wonder what it would take.

Oh, as an aside, I finally realized whose name Robert H.H. Hugman, father of the River Walk reminds me of. Henry Hobson Richardson creator of the “Richardsonian Romanesque” architecture style. Further, the first time I saw the Daniel J. Sullivan Carriage House at the Botanic Garden (which was designed by Albert Giles) it kind of reminded me of Richardson’s work. And as it turns out, the Botanic Garden agrees with me. From their website: this superb example of the round-arched Richardsonian Romanesque style.

Today’s Gratuitous Amazon Link. Let’s see. I looked to see if by some miracle someone had written a book on Olmos Basin, but all I found were pictures of people golfing. So I guess back to just “parks” today. Big Creek: A Closer Look at a National Park, by Dinata Misovec.

First, for a Gratuitous Amazon Link, how about Pharrell Williams cologne? I don’t know what it smells like and for $40 I think I’ll probably try to track down a tester bottle. Pharrell Williams Girl by Pharrell Williams for Unisex 3.3 oz EDP Spray

5:00 Still in the parking lot. Looks like we’ll be here for a while.

5:08 This is Steve Carrell’s appearance in the video. We and a bunch of other people (whom I bet we’ll be seeing in the rest of the hour) are on one of the school buses. Carrell lip-syncs or possibly sings Happy to them and they all act annoyed at first and eventually get into it. When we move onto the next dancer, Carrell and the young kid sitting in the fourth seat back on our left-hand side are both gone. Is that kid Carrell’s son John?

While Carrell was dancing, the bus started moving, but it turned out that it was only going in circles around the parking lot. At 5:14, we leave the parking lot. It looks like we make a left onto College and then a right onto what was Alameda but has now become Spring. I’m pretty sure we make a right onto Sotello then another right onto what’s probably North Main.

At some point we pass a corner and the buildings that are in the video and on Google Street View aren’t at all the same, so from here on in, I’m mostly just guessing.

Oh. My. God.

I was right. We take North Main all the way back to College and then turn back into the parking lot where we started. I guess I knew where we were after all. Huh.

5:24 Our next dancer is the bus driver, which made me smile. We follow her out of the bus and right back out of the parking lot. We make a right onto College (What college is College named for? Has anyone else noticed how strange the word “college” looks if you type it often enough?). We cross Main and then make a right onto Main.

5:28 The next celebrity is Jamie Foxx who is dancing with his two daughters. Let’s see if I can figure out where we are. That looks like a light rail line behind them there. I wonder if we’re just farther up Spring Street or something. We are getting farther and farther from that light rail line and we definitely look closer to downtown now. Maybe it’s the Red Line? That goes downtown, I know.

And, of course, even if I find the place, this area looks like it’s under construction and this was filmed five years ago, so who knows whether I’d even recognize it if I could find it.

Eventually Foxx and his daughters leave the train tracks that they’re standing on and we see that part of the tracks have been paved over with asphalt. We see them walk up to a wall with a sign on it, but God only knows what the sign says. I sure don’t.

There’s an institutional-looking building in the background. A prison? A hospital?

At 5:35 or so, we spin around and we’re looking at the back of the bus parking lot. Which means that, yes, the institutional-looking building there is, in fact, a prison. It’s the Men’s Central Jail. The train tracks where we start out are evidently North Alhambra Street and the place where the tracks go under the asphalt is the corner of Alhambra and College. If you could see my face right now, I’m looking really skeptical about whether that’s actually Alhambra or if Google Street View has gone haring off in some random direction, like it did back there on Wilshire.

However, when I drop my little person onto North Alhambra on Google Maps, that is, in fact, where I end up. So I guess it is a street. Who knew?

So Foxx and his daughters walk part way up College, and the next dancer continues walking the same direction. The sign on the wall, by the way? Says “California Drop Forge.”

I thought we’d be staying by the Drop Forge for a while, but the 5:36 dancer takes us the rest of the way up College and across Main then makes a right onto Main.

5:40 We are joining Miranda Cosgrove . . . somewhere in Los Angeles. Let’s find out where.

Wait. We aren’t anywhere new. It’s just a different angle. Again. Of course, this is kind of both how and why they make so many movies in California. Change the angle a little and it looks like you’re in a whole new place. Cosgrove goes back up Main to College and makes a right. The song ends while Cosgrove is crossing Spring St.

5:44 We’re under the ghost bridge again (refer back to 8:04 am for that explanation). Let’s see if we end up on the bridge, under the bridge, or near the bridge. What bridge is “Under the Bridge” written about anyhow? Turns out Kiedis won’t say. It’s downtown, though.

I’m pretty confused about where we are, especially in relation to where we were back at the 8:00 hour, but I found the building that this guy is dancing in front of and now I’m afraid to move. I opened a new window and am looking at the shapes of the buildings that used to be there on the map and around at how things are now in Google Street View and I’m as certain as I can be (which isn’t very) that we’re on the other side of the bridge, but on the same side of the river as we were in.

What do you remember of your high school algebra? If the map were a two-dimensional graph with the northeasternmost part in Quadrant I, then in the 8:00 am hour we were in Quadrant II and now we’re in Quadrant III. I think.

We start out at Mesquite and some street that doesn’t seem to have a name. This street may also be Mesquite. I’m not entirely sure. We follow this unnamed street west. We cross Santa Fe and keep going. We pass where Imperial stops at the bridge and keep going. At Mateo Street, cross the bridge and start going back down the street that I’m certain is Mesquite.

The 5:48 dancer’s top is really cute and Alex said that he actually wouldn’t be embarrassed to be seen in public with me wearing it. Granted, it’s probably five years out of date by now, but that sort of thing’s never been a huge concern for me. I’m still wearing some of the same clothes I had back when my mom was alive and she died in 2006. Heck, I just realized that my favorite winter top is older than Alex, so it’s at least 20.

We pass the Stover Seed Company. They seem to still be in business, even if the building is now gone.

I guess we’ll never get back to Santa Fe Street because the 5:52 dancer is going back up Mesquite towards Mateo and then makes a u-turn onto the bridge.

Now, when I read the article, they said that the times given are always pretty close to the time that they filmed. The example given was a 15-minute difference. I guess that the 5:56 dancer must have been closer to 6:11, because it’s quite a bit darker than it was when the 5:52 dancer finished. I know the night falls quickly in the desert, but this is ridiculous.

We continue going up the bridge until 6:00.