President George W. Bush hosted the presidents of six Latin American nations including Mexico and Colombia here in 1992. For several days San Antonio was going to be featured on the network news. It was going to be the most publicity the city had gotten since 1984 when a local baboon’s heart was transplanted into little Baby Fae. I was a freelancer reporter for the Current at this time, and being true to the spirit of the Current I concentrated on those opposed to the Drug War — the protestors. I connected with a group of free-spirited college students from San Marcos who set up camp on Broadway. They were armed with homemade signs, bongos, guitars, and a little reefer. The president’s motorcade did pass by a couple of times. The protestors chanted, waved their signs, and inhaled. But they had no impact on the Drug Summit and U.S. policy on the prohibition of recreational narcotics.
If you’ll pardon the pun — there was no “high” point of the Drug Summit, but the low point had to be the closing press conference. President Bush was clearly frustrated with the press corps., but it was local TV reporter Brian Karem who bluntly forced the unwelcome point to the President that the whole summit was a “joke.” I knew Karem back then and he could be a difficult person to work with but he could get a story where others failed. That day he managed to talk his way into a press conference where he wasn’t supposed to be and then bulldog the President to take his question: “I spent some time with narcotics agents over the last few days who made busts who tell us that they’re tired. They don’t believe the war on drugs can be won. They consider this summit a joke, and they consider the President’s cooperating in this summit to be a joke as well.”
As Karem asked the question it was clear that President Bush was furious and he didn’t really give an answer. Hours later Karem was fired. But what about the question? Here we are almost 20 years later and the War on Drugs continues. Narcotics are still cheap and easy to get. Families are still being wrecked by the effects of drug addition. And now the hunt for the billions of dollars in drug profits is turning Mexico into a lawless land with beheadings and running gun battles in the streets. Karem got fired but they couldn’t fire reality. And we are dealing with the consequences. — David Martin Davies
The celebration that erupted right after the Spurs won the 1999 NBA Championship is something I will never forget. The traffic on I-37 near the Alamodome came to a standstill. People were exiting their cars and high-fiving other drivers and passengers on the highway. There were pedestrians filling the sidewalks downtown and traffic jams forming all over downtown. All of this happened without any riots, cars being burned or turned over, or arrests because of serious crimes. I think that this early day “flash mob” revealed the true character of San Antonio and its citizens. The cause of this event might be thought of as superficial, but the outcome, with its lack of violence and crimes, is not. — Alex Martinez
At some point the Current transformed into a good alternative weekly. I don’t remember when that happened. The Current sucked. The editors and writers had no idea what was going on in town. It was written by self-hating outsiders who didn’t like that they were stuck in San Antonio writing for the Current rather than being in Austin and writing for the Chronicle, or in Boston, or in New York. At some point it changed. I remember maybe 6 or 7 years ago realizing that the Current didn’t suck anymore. I told my friends, “Hey, I read something in the Current that didn’t suck!” They were amazed, because they had all given up in it years before. Anyhow, it was terrible — now it isn’t. It isn’t the Chronicle, the Dallas Observer, or the Village Voice. But then San Antonio isn’t Austin, Dallas, or New York. The Current now provides well-written, well-reasoned investigative journalism that fills a void in our town. The QueQue is fantastic. The Current has gotten over itself as Coach Pop might say if he gave a shit about it. — Herman Grossbeck
My sister and I roomed together on Brooklyn Street in one of the old two-storied buildings that are now all gone. I remember seeing a judge (don’t remember his name) go twice a week to rendezvous with his paramour in the house next door. We ate gooseliver sandwiches for a quarter and limeades for a dime at a nearby drugstore for dinner and usually ten-cent hotdogs and nickel cokes for lunch at a hole-in-the-wall stand next to the Walgreens drugstore on Houston and Alamo. We developed great figures with this diet and the walking we did from St. Mary’s to Alamo along Houston Street to window shop and put clothes in the “will-call.” — June Gebert
The hot summer weather has become difficult to tolerate, but the city has a charm that I would find it hard to duplicate anywhere else. This city has gone from a podunk town to one that is vibrant and constantly expanding. Initially, it seems that San Antonio was mostly woods with sporadic neighborhoods. Now, the city has grown tremendously north, south, east and west. We are well over 1 million in population and have managed to maintain ourselves and flourish despite numerous threats to our survival as a major Texas city, such as the closing of Kelly Air Force Base and the conversion of Brooks Air Force Base to a city base, which was a huge blow to our economy. — Chris Rothe