City Lights

by Julia Hayden

It's axiomatic that if you actually live in a place that is storied, or famous, or a destination for out-of-town visitors, you can actually get kind of snobbish about those places that draw the tourists. Even stranger - you might actually spend years living in a city and never setting food in the places that people specifically come to visit. Well, you know - real life, having to earn a living, mow the lawn and walk the dog. All of those necessary activities will interfere with touristic appreciation of the high points of your particular metropolis. And . . . ugh . . . that's just for the tourists, Mac - WE actually live here! This possibly explains why my father and his parents lived down the street from a historic and fairly famous Southern California mission for decades . . . and never once set foot in the place.

I've actually gone both ways, in previous locations: when we lived in Athens - that is, Athens, Greece, courtesy of the USAF - we were heading downtown to the Akropolis and the old Plaka, the original village clustered around the bottom of the hill that it sat on - all the time. Loved living there, loved the classical ruins, shopping along the narrow streets and in the tiny stores in the old part of town. And by old part of town, in Athens that meant late medieval to the 19th century. But after a year spent in Seoul, ROK - again, courtesy of the USAF - all my Korean friends laughed at me, for I had never gone to any of the tourist spots in Seoul. I had traveled by them, or seen them from the street, or gone through the subway stop nearest them on my way to a job. But actually stop and visit . . . er, no. Places to go, studios to record an English sound-track in . . .

In San Antonio, I think we've pretty much struck the happy medium . . . I mean, we've gone downtown to Alamo Plaza fairly frequently - and not just because we have friends visiting from out of town who want to see the Riverwalk, or La Villita, or the Alamo itself. No - there are other reasons; either for research purposes, for political events, or just to take our neighbors' grandson to La Villita for trick-or-treat, and to the Riverwalk for the Halloween boat parade last weekend.

It reminded me again, of what a terribly pleasant place the Riverwalk is - and how very, very nice our fellow-citizens can be. We waited for the Halloween boat parade with a couple from Illinois, who were absolutely ecstatic about the mild weather - and how very pleasant the Riverwalk is, especially those reaches which are not yet wall to wall restaurants - but beautifully landscaped riverbank parks. Early evening is when the Riverwalk is at it's best. Twilight comes a little earlier, among the tall trees and down below street-level. The strings of lights twinkle on, among the leaves and reflect off the water, birds take shelter here and there, and people are heading in to dinner. There are days and times when I would not mind living in a place that overlooks the Riverwalk, of having that view for myself, every evening.

So if that makes me as much of a tourist as that nice couple from Illinois . . . I can deal with it.


Julia Hayden, who writes professionally as Celia Hayes, spent twenty years as a military broadcaster in the Air Force before retiring. She contributes to a variety of online magazines and websites, and is also on the board of the Independent Authors Guild, a non-profit association of writers published by small or regional boutique publishers. She is the author of four novels set on the 19th century American frontier. Julia currently lives in San Antonio with her daughter and an assortment of dogs and cats, Her literary website is at