Two cents’ worth on CVS

sach in black and white
A presentation to Boerne’s Historic Landmark Commission created a firestorm earlier this month. A friend suggested re-naming the group Historic Landmine Commission.

Following the presentation, a rumor spread fast: National pharmacy chain CVS is coming to the corner of Main Street and River Road.

The reality is many hoops of local government stand in CVS’s way. The Commission’s “discussion item” was miles away from a groundbreaking.

When I first heard of CVS going where a hole-in-the-wall barbecue joint stood for decades, the idea was anathema to me. I like my barbecue orders taken with a pencil and cut-up copy paper. Riverside Market was a brief stop in Mayberry.

Besides, where else could you buy nightcrawlers for the fish and white bread for the ducks of Cibolo Creek?

The Shell gas station / Riverside Market combination was not what tourism professionals would recommend for a gateway welcome center. But it was Boerne.

And it was also sold in 2012 by the Boerne family who had owned it for years. A San Antonio convenience store operator and then real estate investors have owned it since.

Boerne’s Main Street has long been filled with utility. People needed a livery stable and then automobile repair shops. They needed groceries, medicines, gas and places to stay and eat. All these sprang up at one time or another up and down Main Street from Riverside Market.

Directly across Main Street from Riverside, Sach’s Garage operated as the self-proclaimed “oldest garage in town.” City leaders recently referenced a black and white photo of the garage when the CVS developer asked what building type would fit Boerne’s historic district.

The developer presented renderings of a CVS Pharmacy styled like a 1940s garage to the Historic Landmark Commission two weeks ago. The drawings actually don’t look that bad. They look like an upscale CVS you’d see in Estes Park, CO, or Seaside, FL.

The outcry against CVS seems ubiquitous, but I haven’t heard what people want instead. The hole-in-the-wall is gone. Something else will be built. What should it be?

Public art sculptures? A museum? A gigantic Guadalupe bass with a six foot tall, wide-open mouth for tourists to take selfies in?

How about a restaurant with a deck overlooking Cibolo Creek? Several of those already exist within a stone’s throw of the site. A city park? There’s one across the street. A frozen yogurt shop? There’s one next door. A coffee shop and bakery? Try two doors down.

What about a boutique organic grocery or an outdoor gear outfitter?

Unfortunately, most of these ideas are not financially sustainable at this point. Like other businesses currently along Main, outside sources of income would be required for them to survive. For long-term prosperity, we need more economic viability, not less.

Other questions to ponder: How do we get dry goods and groceries to growing populations on the north and east sides of Boerne? Would it help traffic congestion to the south if we did? Would a series of smaller stores minimize the need for big boxes?

As for Main Street and River Road, an old-fashioned drugstore complete with diner-style grill and soda fountain milkshakes sounds good to me. If CVS will change its exterior to fit our historic district, maybe the pharmacy would retrofit its interior, too.

Kevin Thompson writes frequently for The Boerne Star. Follow him at www.kwt.info.

 

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Bucket List Includes Rock & Roll Show

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I admit I don’t have much of a bucket list, besides keeping the floors mopped until the kid spills decrease.

And while I was born in Music City the week Elvis died, I don’t consume a lot of new music. My older sons laugh at how few artists are in my repertoire.

And I definitely don’t think of myself as a rocker, unless it’s on the front porch.

Still, I consider one band iconic. While the group is labeled a rock band, its work cuts across genres and decades. With its latest release, the four-man act has had a Billboard chart-topping album in each of the last four decades.

My wife was a fan long before I. So, she wasn’t a tough sell when I asked her to rendezvous with…drumroll, please…U2. “I was going With or Without You,” she said.

U2’s sweeping anthems have captured generations of music lovers. The songs land the band on Super Bowl halftime shows and outsized music festivals. Think “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “Where the Streets Have No Name.”

U2’s current tour is called eXPERIENCE & iNNOCENCE. At the concert, we didn’t hear all the classics. We did experience the heart and soul of U2’s vision and its mastery of technology and artistry.

While U2 scales every rhythm and melody to entertain at the highest levels, its lyrics are what draw me in, particularly the Biblical allusions. Lead singer Paul David Hewson (a.k.a. “Bono”) pens them.

“See the bird with a leaf in her mouth, after the flood all the colors came out” (from Beautiful Day)

“You broke the bonds, and you loosened chains, carried the cross of my shame” (from I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For)

Historical references reflect how much attention these guys pay to the world around them. They are always on a mission and are deeply affected by human suffering.

“Sometimes, I wake at four in the morning when all the darkness is swarming, and it covers me in fear…Sometimes, I’m full of anger and grieving, so far away from believing that any song will reappear” (from The Little Things That Give You Away)

Bono’s honesty keeps U2 rolling, real and relevant. He connects grief and terror from his youth with events of today. The death of his mother and the 1972 shootings in Northern Ireland impacted his young innocence.

And now, through experience, Bono entreats Americans to restore the American soul. There’s even a song by that name.

On the new album, he writes, “The slaves are lookin’ for someone to lead them, the master’s lookin’ for someone to need him, the promised land is there for those who need it most, and Lincoln’s ghost said, ‘Get out of your own way.’”

“Free yourself to be yourself,” he encourages in the song, Lights of Home.

“I want to be useful,” Bono said recently in an interview with Rolling Stone. “That is our family prayer… It is not the most grandiose prayer. It is just, ‘we are available for work.’ That is U2’s prayer. We want to be useful, but we want to change the world. And we want to have fun at the same time.”

While making good music, Bono and company appear to be keeping the faith, just not to themselves.

 

Kevin Thompson can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.

Boerne has welcomed progress before

Land developers often use blank slates for their exploits. They build ground-up on large swaths of vacant property. Think Orlando, Florida, or The Woodlands north of Houston.

Boerne’s different. We have what some fast-developing areas don’t. In a word, we have history. History gives a deeper character that can make growth meaningful, inviting and attractive. Some places must build history around growth. Boerne can shape growth around its history.

Some local businesses are building on Boerne’s past. Cibolo Creek Brewing is bringing Main Street to life like Max Beseler’s “Metropolitan Saloon” did starting in 1891. The saloon occupied the building where The Daily Grind now brews coffee.

Long-time Boerne resident Tommy Mathews is doing something similar in the former Bergmann Lumber building. Tusculum Brewing is “coming soon.”

Down Blanco Road, local florist Urban Flowers occupies a 1951 wood frame structure that builders Robert Thornton and Travis Roberson preserved in their recent commercial revitalization of the Schwarz homestead.

These business leaders don’t see progress as a threat to quality of life. Neither did many of their predecessors.

In Historic Images of Boerne, Garland Perry republished a San Antonio Daily Express article from March 1878 describing the arrival of the San Antonio & Aransas Pass Railroad in Boerne.

According to the story, six hundred San Antonians “of almost every imaginable race, color, sex and previous condition of servitude” boarded seven passenger coaches destined for the “mountains” of Boerne.

Riders enjoyed Lone Star beer during the two-hour trip that whistled to a stop at the end of Theissen Street just passed “Cibolo falls,” a series of water chutes downstream from present-day Cibolo Nature Center.

The Boerne brass band played as guests disembarked. Dr. W.G. Kingsbury un-reluctantly welcomed guests to “our little hamlet of Boerne.”

Kingsbury was was once tasked by the governor of Texas to recruit settlers to the state. He had offices in St. Louis, Missouri, and London, England.

According to Kingsbury, it was “so great a luxury to inhale [the] mountain air” that even if guests didn’t eat, they “would go home tonight declaring it the grandest holiday.”

“But such is not our intention,” Kingsbury relieved the audience. “Old men, young men, saints, sinners, Democrats and Republicans” had joined up to organize a barbecue dinner for the guests. The arrival of the rail line had the Boerne-ites in a “state of excitement never witnessed.”

Boerne understood the benefits the iron horse would bring. Travel times to San Antonio would be cut significantly. Greater quantities of goods could be delivered and stored to meet demand. Twice-daily mail and newspaper service would deliver new knowledge.

Kingsbury compared the train’s arrival to the biblical return of the prodigal son:

Let mirth and joy abound.

We once were lost, but now are found.

Our hills are iron bound.

“Go kill the fatted calf,” he urged.

The Daily Express reporter summed up the day’s festivities this way: “Nobody seemed to want to come home…The town was in a frolic, and is liable to keep it up for a day or two longer…If you want to have a jolly time, go to Boerne.”

It doesn’t sound like “Boerne Texas Gone Forever” was charcoaled to the rear of any horse-drawn wagon on the grounds that day.

 

Kevin Thompson writes frequently for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Follow him at http://www.kwt.info.

7 Ways to Improve Education

You’ve heard of the dog days of summer. Well, welcome to the dog days of school.

Standardized tests are almost done, but the standardized calendar is not. Daylight lingers longer, but attention spans do not. It’s a good time to review what works well and what wears us out.

Boerne ISD has its online parent satisfaction survey open through Friday. Superintendent Tommy Price is also assembling committees to set a new strategic direction for BISD. As the conversations unfold, here are seven ideas for improvement:

  1. Group elementary students by their birth quarter. In his book “Outliers,” Malcolm Gladwell highlights the significant difference between success rates of people born just after an age cutoff and those born months later.

Teaching to the lowest common denominator is a common temptation in education. Grouping students of like ages, down to the month or quarter of their birth, will challenge high performers and help those who need extra attention.

  1. Teach more values. In a politically correct, pluralistic society, we’re better at teaching skills than values. I want my kids to have both.

If kids get values (honesty, hard work, discipline, service over self, respect for authority, etc.), they will acquire skills, even if it’s after they leave home. Knowledge and information aren’t limiting factors in our interconnected world. Character and wisdom are.

  1. Help kids develop a fierce mastery of technology. Boerne resident Kelly Newcom, author of http://www.BraveParenting.net, says smartphone pitfalls (pornography, bullying, addictive behavior) have dramatically increased incidences of suicide, self-harm and depression among kids nationwide.

Schools should carefully monitor and/or restrict device use on campuses and buses. Reducing dependence on smartphones will help kids master offline communication skills and sharpen the original supercomputer: the human brain.

  1. Transition to school uniforms. As decorum slides in our image-obsessed society, a move in the other direction would serve students well.

Uniforms work in third world countries and inner city charter schools. They work in pricey private and parochial schools. They will work in BISD. Let students express their independence and creativity in their work products, not in their attire.

  1. Close the gap between elementary and secondary start times. Elementary students shouldn’t have to go to school in the dark for half the year and then go to bed in the light the other half.

Various issues affect scheduling: bus routes, parental work schedules, morning and evening activities, student performance studies, etc. Still, start times closer to 8:00 am are ideal for all ages.

  1. Shorten middle school block periods. Hour and a half classes are too long, especially for boys. Teachers try to break up the monotony, and block schedules help with moving teachers between campuses, but we need a better way to organize the day.

7. Let the adults be adults. In our “customer is always right” world, the chief / tribesman line can get blurry.

Today, university students sit on regent boards and high schoolers help select principals. A mix of perspectives is beneficial, so long as the wisdom and expectations of the aged prevail.

***

Basic parenting is faltering in some circles. Educators are being asked to pick up the slack. They need our support and encouragement. They also need our input. The dog days of school are a great time to offer it.

 

Kevin Thompson writes frequently for The Boerne Star. Follow him at http://www.kwt.info.

Making contentment less elusive

Last summer, our family took a boat ride on Lake LBJ. Our seven-year-old son surveyed the lake houses lining the shore. He noticed some of them had swimming pools.

“Hey, Dad,” he said. “Why do those houses need a pool when they have the lake?”

Perceptive question. My reply had something to do with the desire to swim in a more controlled environment. He seemed to get it. Sort of.

Finding contentment is a great challenge of our day. Global and social media combine to constantly show us what we’re missing.

Wanting what others have is not a modern dilemma. Thousands of years ago, Moses etched a commandment on a stone tablet: “Don’t set your heart on anything that is your neighbor’s.” (Exodus 20:17 from The Message)

The temptation to covet is not just reserved for things. Experiences and opportunities are also at play.

There has been talk at our house lately about Disney World. We’ve had a few friends visit the Magic Kingdom.

“Is Disney World in Texas?” one brother asked.

“No, it’s in Boston,” his seven-year-old sister informed him.

The farther, the better, as far as I’m concerned!

Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard did not set out to build a $200 million a year company when he started his outdoor clothing and gear company in the early 1970s. He simply wanted to create higher quality rock climbing apparel and equipment than what was available at the time.

The billionaire still speaks of a simplicity paradox. He encourages people to have fewer possessions of better quality that last longer. It’s not a scarcity mindset, he makes clear. It’s making space for more true living.

“The more you know, the less you need,” said Chouinard on National Public Radio’s “How I Built This.”

An avid fly fisherman, Chouinard recently decided to forego the thousands of fly shapes, colors and patterns that exist today.

“I’ve limited myself to one type of fly for the past year, and I’ve caught more fish than I’ve ever caught in my life. You can replace the hundreds of thousands of fly options with knowledge and technique.”

“The hardest thing in the world is to simplify your life because everything pulls you to be more and more complex. If we decide to go to a more simple life, it’s not going to be an impoverished life. It’s going to be really rich.”

My nine-year-old got his new baseball uniform last month. Like his brothers before him, he inscribed Philippians 4:13 on his hat: “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

While many young believers reference this verse in terms of hitting home runs and scoring last second shots, the Apostle Paul was actually talking about being content in all situations, particularly hard ones.

Contentment is about perspective, as demonstrated in the following quote:

“I asked God for all things that I might enjoy life. He gave me life that I might enjoy all things.”

Finally, a Greek proverb summarizes why just a little bit more is often not enough:

“Nothing will content a man who is not content with little.”

 
Follow Kevin Thompson at http://www.kwt.info.

Holy Week and the Final Four

This Holy Week, an underdog Jesuit Catholic Loyola University arrives in San Antonio for college basketball’s Final Four.

Even the Ramblers’ 98-year-old team chaplain, Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, didn’t pick them to advance this far. Oh, she of little faith.

During Holy Week, Christians ponder the remarkable events that led to Jesus’ resurrection, and the clash of faith and doubt it tips off.

Shortly before Jesus’ “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem on the back of a virgin colt, he told a story of a widow who cried out to a judge for justice. The judge finally granted it because of the woman’s persistent faith. Jesus finished the story with a question:

“When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

Regardless of your religious perspective, you have more faith than you think.

Every car you pass on a two-lane highway is a testament to your faith in your fellow drivers.

You believe you will be paid after a week or two of work.

You trust your bank will return the money you deposit at exactly the time you request it.

You are confident the grocery will take that money in exchange for food to cook.

And, if you don’t feel like cooking, you have faith the chef or burger flipper will, more or less, prepare your meal as your grandma would, without any extraneous “ingredients.”

When people break faith, we all pay a price. In our litigious culture, people turn to courts to resolve conflicts they could often avoid by following through on their commitments. As a result, lawyers paper contracts to protect clients from the prospect of broken faith.

This process comes at a cost. A friend calls it a “sin index,” referring to the increased prices we pay because people don’t always act in good faith.

So, in some areas we have faith. In others, we lack it. Jesus’ closest followers experienced this tension, even Simon whom Jesus called a rock (i.e., “Peter”).

After Judas took a bag of silver coins to betray Jesus, Peter took to anonymity to deny him.

“I’m telling you, I don’t know the man!” he told a servant girl in the temple courtyard.

Only hours before Peter had asserted to Jesus, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I will never disown you!”

But then the sword-wielding disciple went silent and a rooster crowed in his place, just as Jesus had predicted.

The resurrected Christ eventually reinstated Peter, and Jesus ultimately followed through on his promise to build his church on that rock.

In Peter, many of us find a piece of ourselves. Moments of conviction combined with episodes of disillusion.

Like the father of the demon-possessed boy in the gospel of Mark, chapter 9, we go to God with our need, but we also ask timidly as the father did, “If you can…”

“‘If you can?’” Jesus scoffs with his own disbelief in faith’s frailty. His is a loving pity.

“Everything is possible for him who believes,” he continues.

At the end, the sick boy’s father captures the paradox in every believer’s heart: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Perhaps that is Sister Jean’s Holy Week prayer for Loyola’s ballers. Go Ramblers!

 

Kevin Thompson writes regularly for The Boerne Star. Read more at http://www.kwt.info.

 

Boerne Needs More Gym Space

As young kids, my sister and I received handbook-sized daily diaries from our mother. The books had straps and small locks on them to keep one’s sibling from prying. Never mind that the locks and keys were identical on both.

I didn’t write much in mine. Years later I flipped through it and noticed only a handful of entries.

One entry, however, recalled a time when some high schoolers invited me to play in their pickup basketball game at the local YMCA. They must have needed a player. I was a frail seventh grader framed only by a love of the game.

According to Diary, I drained a three-point shot to win the game. Over the years that followed I played hundreds of spontaneous games at that YMCA.

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of pickup basketball in Boerne.

Basketball is a remarkable sport. It requires minimal equipment once goals are in place. It’s good exercise. It’s a team game that’s both physical and fluid.

And we have one of the world’s finest prototypes in our own backyard to mimic. Blue bloods will cringe at this, but there’s not much difference between the San Antonio Spurs and the San Antonio Symphony.

Here’s the problem: Boerne doesn’t have enough gym space. Court infrastructure has fallen behind population growth. Even when using school and church gyms, the Boerne YMCA still sends some youth teams to play in Helotes.

The matter was exacerbated last year when the Boerne YMCA moved locations. Its previous location at least had some hardwood flooring and four basketball goals.

The YMCA is still a $5 million donation away from constructing a gymnasium at its new location on Adler Road.

The City of Boerne Parks & Recreation Master Plan was released last year. It quotes data provided by Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI).

According to ESRI, more city residents participated in basketball in 2016 than any other field sport, 39 per cent more than the second most popular sport, football. Presumably, these residents are shooting a lot of hoops on their driveways given the dearth of gym space mentioned above.

The parks and rec master plan also states that for a city Boerne’s size, the National Recreation and Parks Association recommends three full-size basketball courts.

The city claims it offers two courts, but one of those is a set of stand alone goals in the City Park parking lot which is often filled with cars.

The only full-length basketball court provided by the city is in Northrup Park. It is a covered pavilion with only two goals. It was built in 2000 but feels much older.

The parks master plan includes a concept to construct a full-court basketball pavilion at the Northside Community Park. The court is part of an unfunded $8 – $10 million build out of softball fields, soccer fields, a dog park and a volleyball court.

I propose this near-term solution: A “bubble” tent similar to what college and professional sports teams use to cover their practice fields. There’s adequate land space either at the YMCA or the Northside Park property. Other expenses such as flooring and hoops don’t seem exorbitant.

Pickup basketball is an exercise-invoking, community-building activity for kids and adults. We need to figure out how to hoop it up more.

 
Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star. He can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.

 


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