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Terra Firma: Trinity University Press blog

All Hail to Trinity!

by Eddie Kolbinskie on

Late-night cramming sessions! Naps in between classes! Shortages on cash! For Trinity University students, school starts up again in less than two weeks. For some of us, it may be just another ordinary school year. But many others are dreading it because it will be our final year here. The next ten months will be filled with trips to Career Services to try to figure out what we want to do with our lives, an overwhelming pile of transcripts, resumes, and essays that we’ll try to compile into grad school applications, or an immeasurable amount of hours spent prepping for the MCAT, LSAT, GMAT, or GRE. Whether it’s the agony of having to abandon the small sense of freedom that we have left or the stress this final year inevitably brings upon us, it’s certain that leaving Trinity won’t be easy.

Unlike many of my fellow classmates, I’m actually looking forward to it. Although there are many bittersweet feelings that walking through this beautiful, green campus for the last time will bring, it’s important to realize that there are greater things ahead as we prepare to leave the great people and memories behind.

As I reflected on my final year at Trinity, I tried to think of what I would miss most about this school. I came to the conclusion that there’s way too much to love about this place (except for Mabee, of course) to select one thing. Instead, here’s a list of the top five things I love (and will miss) about Trinity University.

1) The traditions. Every university has its rituals that differentiate it from the pack, but many of the traditions we have at Trinity really make it special. Murchison Tower, which stands at 166 feet, is one San Antonio’s tallest and most recognizable monuments, and the tradition of climbing to the top on the night before the first day of classes has become something everyone looks forward to. Another favorite (or least favorite) is the birthday fountain dunk, in which our friends kidnap us from our rooms at midnight on our birthdays and dunk us into Miller Fountain. Also, who can forget about petting the beloved Trinity cats (Trinicats) that are always roaming through campus?

2) The convenience. While many students at LPUs couldn’t imagine going to a liberal arts school of our size, I think that is the reason everyone at Trinity really loves it here. There are only around 2,500 of us on campus, and it’s easy to run into someone we know and have a quick chat. Because we’re a small student population, the size of the actual campus is great, too! The walk to class is easy, and sometimes we even have time to grab a snack in between. There’s no need for buses and shuttles to take us to class, since most of our classroom buildings are only one (large) staircase away.

3) The professors. The professors truly do give their students the attention and assistance they need. In my three years at Trinity, not only have I had all my questions fully answered by my professors during their office hours, but I’ve also had the chance to work with them outside the classroom and develop great relationships. I’ve bonded with some professors so much that I’ve even taken certain classs just to be able to have them a second, third, or fourth time, and I know I speak for many others who have done the same.

4) The student involvement. I don’t know a single student here who isn’t involved with something on campus. Whether it’s Greek organizations, academic organizations, intramurals, work-study jobs, or volunteer groups, there is something that everyone can get involved with. I’ve had the pleasure to meet some of my best friends through these organizations, and I know my experience at Trinity would not have been the same without them. It’s refreshing to see how much students enjoy staying involved and keeping busy.

5) The sense of community. The thing that sealed the deal for me and many others is the sense of community students feel when they’re walking through campus. The previous four qualities shape this sense of community and define what it means to be a Trinity student. It’s an indescribable feeling that I can’t sum up in words. This final quality speaks for itself.

Now, let the year begin!

RIP Robin Williams

by Eddie Kolbinskie on

If you’re like me and browse social media feeds waiting for something interesting to start trending, then you, too, probably found out about the unfortunate death of Robin Williams through an online news source as it went viral.

Robin Williams was the type of actor who was so talented and recognized that he was easy to take for granted. He left us with timeless classics like Good Morning, Vietnam, Mrs. Doubtfire, and one of my personal favorites, Dead Poets Society. It wasn't until I read what happened and rewatched one of his films that I realized what we'd lost and, more importantly, what a tremendous person we had in Robin Williams.

While there is much good for us to remember about Williams’s life, there is also much that we should take away from a tragedy like this. Out of respect for his family, I won’t acknowledge what is believed to be the cause of his death. I will say, however, that his passing was stunning to many who were unaware of his struggles with depression. We hear about it all the time. We hear about the hotlines, counselors, and therapies that are supposed to prevent this type of thing. But it isn't until we see it happen to someone we care about that we start to realize how important it is to discuss.

Depression is serious. Admitting to having a mental illness takes strength and courage. Regardless of how tough it is, it is critical to talk about it with someone—a friend, family member, therapist, or even a stranger. Being the outlet for someone means so much more than we realize. As we mourn the loss of a beloved actor, let us remember to be kind to everyone we meet, because anyone, even the funniest person on the planet, could be struggling with something more substantial than we realize.

When someone dies, it’s important to reflect on that person’s life, not his death. Williams's death certainly serves as a lesson for us all, and I, personally, have received some of the greatest lessons from his films. Growing up with divorced parents, I always loved Mrs. Doubtfire because it provided a comedic outlook on a tough issue families deal with. Attending an all-boys' school and having the pleasure of being taught by some of the most inspirational people, I always admired Dead Poets Society, especially Williams’s character, Mr. Keating, for his advice to stray from conformity, appreciate literature and poetry, and be our own selves.

Mr. Keating’s message that the themes we find in poetry—like beauty, romance, and love—are "what we stay alive for" is one of the reasons I've come to love reading so much and why I love working at the press. From Williams's comedic roles in lighthearted films like Aladdin and Flubber to more serious roles in dramas like The Fisher King and Good Will Hunting, there is such a range of messages that it’s hard not to find one we love and relate to.

I want to end this post by remembering the inspirational person Robin Williams was to millions and by quoting one of his most memorable lines: "Carpe diem. Seize the day. Make your lives extraordinary."

Rest in peace, Robin Williams. You will be missed.

Viva la France!

by Eddie Kolbinskie on

Now that it’s been more than a week since we grilled burgers and enjoyed fireworks for the Fourth of July, it’s time to celebrate a different red, white, and blue. Bastille Day, also known as French National Day, is this Monday! While I don’t have any direct French descendants, how could I pass up an excuse to practice my elementary French and indulge in gougères and macarons? 

Just as Americans celebrate the Fourth to commemorate the declaration of our independence from the United Kingdom, and Mexicans celebrate 16 de Septiembre to honor independence from Spain, France’s Bastille Day is observed to celebrate the beginning of the French Revolution, a period in which the French broke free from monarchical rule within their own country. 

Bastille Day traditions in the states are usually more low-key than those that honor our independence. However, if you’re lucky enough to celebrate in France during the holiday, you’re in for an amazing weekend. Parades and festivities are held nationwide and more closely resemble the ones we have here in the U.S. If you’re like me and don’t have the time to travel to Houston or Dallas where huge French festivals are being held on Monday night, then you make up your own celebration! 

Eat at a quaint French bistro. Sport a snazzy beret. Break out those leftover sparklers. Or crank up Phoenix to channel your inner-Francophile. Viva la France, San Antonio!


Summer Reading!

by Eddie Kolbinskie on

Things have been hectic in San Antonio. We've been preoccupied with the madness surrounding the Spurs’ fifth NBA championship and the World Cup, the release of blockbuster films like The Fault in Our Stars and Maleficent, and the lake, river, and beach (OH MY). As temperatures rise, here are some great titles to check out when you're ready to take a break from the heat.

Two of our favorites are from Rebecca Solnit, author of our forthcoming The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness. The first, Men Explain Things to Meaddresses the cultural phenomenon in which men believe that what they have to say always takes priority over women's opinions. It's a serious topic, but Solnit manages to get the point across while putting readers at ease. The second, Solnit's collection of memoir-heavy essays, The Faraway Nearby, is a must-read for anyone who enjoys storytelling.

The Woman Who Lost Her Soul, a novel from Bob Shacochis, author of Domesticity: A Gastronomic Interpretation of Love, shows that war is essentially never ending. The Good Lord Bird by James McBride, which won the 2013 National Book Award, tells the story of a boy who meets abolitionist John Brown in a tavern and recounts his historic raid on Harpers Ferry.

Finally, we recommend The Keillor Readera compilation of Garrison Keillor's work, including some of his best-loved essays and monologues and never-before-published poems.

Happy reading!

These Spurs Were Made for Walking

by Char Miller on

The San Antonio Spurs taught me my place.

Not by what they did on the basketball court, impressive though their slick shooting, quick passes, and tight D have been over the years, but by my vocal reaction to watching their championship runs. I yell and groan and take players to task. That’s perfectly acceptable at the games, whether they have been played in the intimate, sight-line-challenged HemisFair Arena or the cavernous Alamodome, or now in the AT&T Center.

Apparently it’s much less so at home, when everyone in the family is jammed on the couch, watching television in close quarters. Every so often I’d get tossed out, like Bob Bass, Cotton Fitzsimmons, Larry Brown, or Pop ejected from a game. So I’d go for a walk, which is when my lessons began.

I learned the first one quickly enough: if I wanted to monitor the ebb and flow in a pre-smart-phone era, I had better not stroll through my leafy neighborhood of Olmos Park. The houses are too big, too separated from one another, too well sealed (to keep the air conditioning inside). I could tell by the flickering lights that folks were watching Los Spurs, but I couldn’t decipher the game’s progress because nary a sound or word escaped outside in this buttoned-down enclave.

Across McCullough Avenue and the railroad tracks to the west, updates were much easier to come by. Working my way through Olmos Park Terrace, Northmoor, and adjacent neighborhoods, weaving along Mandalay, Lovera, Thorain, and Mariposa, running up and down Howard or Belknap Place, the homes are smaller, windows up, and televisions loud. So were the inhabitants; like the light pooling on the front lawn, their voices spilled through the screens, slipped past chain-link, and filtered through oak and crape myrtle, becoming an audible record of the game’s momentum. The cheers, boos, and silence served as my play-by-play.

Occasionally I’d pass others walking through the noise and dimming sky. Had they, too, been shown the door? I stumbled on an answer during the 2005 NBA finals. The Spurs had squared off against the Detroit Pistons, as tight and tense a series as there had been in a decade (the Spurs won in seven). Asked to do something more useful than bemoaning our fate, I headed to the local H-E-B to buy groceries. The store was unnervingly empty, as the streets had been; at game time in San Antonio, you hunker down.

Inside the too-bright store, a small television, set within an endcap devoted to Spurs paraphernalia, had the game on, and as I loaded the cart I made certain to pass it coming and going. By the time I reached the only available checkout line, so had the handful of others who had been cruising the aisles. While the cashier rang up my purchases, I felt compelled to admit that I had been exiled so my family could watch in peace. Several folks behind me started to laugh. “We were, too!” they said.

My people.

I found them again at the celebratory river parade on June 18, following the Spurs’ utter dismantling of the Miami Heat, its fifth championship since 1999. After each triumph, the newly crowned NBA champs have piled on to an armada of barges and chugged along the Riverwalk, bathing in their fans’ thrilled adulation. At moments like these the Spurs remind us of the river’s central function, I wrote in Deep in the Heart of San Antonio, as our “communal artery and civic stage.” The place where we come together and act out, releasing the pent-up anxiety stored during the long regular season and compressed during the playoffs, finally to explode in unfettered joy when the first boat swings around the bend.

This year the electricity sparked while I was standing with a sweat-stained throng jammed on the Convent Street bridge. As his craft plowed toward us, Tony Parker sensed our energy and raised his arms in a V. We screamed. I don’t know what I was yelling, but I loved that I could.

Char Miller, a Spurs fan since 1981 when he and his family moved to San Antonio, teaches at Pomona College (where current Spurs coach Gregg Popovich once coached). He is the author of Deep in the Heart of San Antonio: Land and Life in South Texas and On the Edge: Water, Immigration, and Politics in the Southwest, and editor of On the Border: An Environmental History of San Antonio, all with Trinity University Press.

Photo credit: Spurs Facebook page.