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Terra Firma: Trinity University Press blog

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.



Only five days left until Father's Day !?!? Think books!

by Burgin Streetman on

That's right. If you're like me, you've whiled away the first days of summer having fuzzy thoughts about your dad/husband/brother-with-three-kids rather than moving into action for a holiday that looms a mere five days away. What do you get daddy dearest before it's too late and you have to scramble to the store for an insert-name-of-favorite-sports-team-here T-shirt or a random grill gadget he most definitely doesn't need? If your dad is like my dad, he might be interested in more uncommon pursuits, like world history or the fine art of birding. If that's the case, Trinity University Press is here to the rescue. 

Maximilian and Carlota: Europe's Last Empire in Mexico is the perfect choice for a father interested in learning more about one of the most spectacular personal tragedies and political failures of the nineteenth century. Or perhaps A Gathering of Birds, an anthology of ornithological essays from some of history's most important naturalists, edited by forgotten midcentury naturalist Donald Culross Peattie, would appeal. If fiction is your dad's thing, try Outside, six stories by acclaimed author Barry Lopez in an illustrated gift edition. For fathers who enjoy tossing the ball around or at least watching on TV, consider Baseball in the Lone Star State, which chronicles the history of the Texas League. Maybe your pop has made the switch to an reader, in which case check out our classic WPA Guides to America series, available for forty-nine states on more than thirty e-book platforms. 

Rest assured, there's a book for every breed of father, no matter the holiday.

Flourishing Optimism for Memorial Day

by Eddie Kolbinskie on

This Memorial Day weekend, most of us will spend time remembering loved ones or simply relaxing with friends and family. As I reflected on the holiday, I noticed a copy of Kenneth I. Helphand’s Defiant Gardens: Making Gardens in Wartime near my desk. After reading a few chapters, I was reminded of why it’s such a wonderful day of reverence for those who have served in the Armed Forces.

In the book, Helphand explores the idea of "defiant gardens"--basically wartime gardens created to help alleviate the severities soldiers faced. The book details the harsh living conditions soldiers endured during some of the most brutal events in history and shows how these gardens were a source of hope and a representation of the beauty that exists in the world.

On Memorial Day many people will reflect on cherished memories with family members and friends they've lost. We at TU Press want to remind those who have suffered the loss of a loved one through military service to stay hopeful. Through all of the darkness in this world, there is a lot of beauty that surrounds us. Just as these defiant gardens signify soldiers' optimism in extreme conditions, this day should represent joyful memories as well solemn ones, an acknowledgment of both the sacrifices and the light.


by Burgin Streetman on

Beautifully illustrated with engravings by legendary artist Barry Moser, Outside is a collection of six short stories that showcase Barry Lopez’s superb talent as a fiction writer. The first story, "Desert Notes", is a classic. 

I know you are tired. I am tired too. Will you walk along the edge of the desert with me? I would like to show you what lies before us. 

All my life I have wanted to trick blood from a rock. I have dreamed about raising the devil and cutting him in half. I have thought too about never being afraid of anything at all. This is where you come to do those things. 

I know what they tell you about the desert but you mustn’t believe them. This is no deathbed. Dig down, the earth is moist. Boulders have turned to dust here, the dust feels like graphite. You can hear a man breathe at a distance of twenty yards. You can see out there to the edge where the desert stops and the mountains begin. You think it is perhaps ten miles. It is more than a hundred. Just before the sun sets all the colors will change. Green will turn to blue, red to gold. 

I’ve been told there is very little time left, that we must get all these things about time and place straight. If we don’t, we will only have passed on and have changed nothing. That is why we are here I think, to change things. It is why I came to the desert. 

Here things are sharp, elemental. There’s no one to look over your shoulder to find out what you’re doing with your hands, or to ask if you have considered the number of people dying daily of malnutrition. If you’ve been listening you must suspect that a knife will be very useful out here--not to use, just to look at.  

There is something else here, too, even more important: explanations will occur to you, seeming to clarify; but they can be a kind of trick. You will think you have hold of the idea when you only have hold of its clothing. 

Feel how still it is. You can become impatient here, willing to accept any explanation in order to move on. This appears to be nothing at all, but it is a wall between you and what you are after. Be sure you are not tricked into thinking there is nothing to fear. Moving on is not important. You must wait. You must take things down to the core. You must be careful with everything, even with what I tell you.

Read more.

Give Big for the Big Give

by Burgin Streetman on

Today San Antonians are uniting for twenty-four hours of generosity in the Big Give S. A.

With 467 nonprofits to choose from, there’s a cause for every passion! This is your chance to give back to the nonprofit organizations that make San Antonio a great place to live, work, and play. Your gift has the ability to grow by offering your favorite organizations the chance to win prize incentives. Support the causes that matter the most to you and show the country that San Antonians are united for a better tomorrow. 

The Big Give S.A. is part of a national day of giving called Give Local America. Some of our favorites? The San Antonio Public Library Foundation, the San Antonio Museum of Art, Trinity University, and the Witte Museum. And that's just the very tip of the iceberg. The list is long and full of possibilities. Give today, and give big!