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An allegory for the sandbox

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  • An allegory for the sandbox

    San Antonio, Texas is a dump in many ways, but its beautiful heart is the area around the Alamo defined by the Paseo del Rio, the Riverwalk: a strand of shops, restaurants, hotels, gardens, and paths that line either side of the San Antonio River as it winds through downtown. Boats full of happy tourists listening to the pleasant drone of guides telling well-worn stories cruise up and down the river here. There is an amphitheater on the river with the stage on one bank and the stands on the other and joyful Tejano music everywhere.

    Back in 1921 though, all of this was just a river, and it had just flooded, killing 50 people and destroying millions of dollars of property. The public was demanding that the river be covered in concrete. Turn the riverbed into a sewer. Devise channels to straighten the river. Get it out of downtown.

    A small group of women had a vision for the Paseo del Rio and believed that not only would converting the river from a liability into an asset be more practical, it would be more profitable. Other than public opinion, they faced one main obstacle to implementing their plan: In the 1920's, in San Antonio, women were not allowed to speak in City Hall. And so it seemed their idea would die because they were unable to formally present their ideas to the City Council.

    But in a stroke of genius, they realized that there was no law prohibiting puppets from speaking in City Hall. Emily Edwards wrote "The Goose That Laid The Golden Egg" (an allegory inside an allegory, lucky reader!), the puppet show that presented the Riverwalk to the City Council. In 1929, construction began, and today that puppet show's triumph is as clear as the voices and flickering lamp lights that drift across the Paseo del Rio in the evenings, from one restaurant to the next.

    Why am I telling you this?

    Because I was on one of those boats with a friend in 1995, listening to a tour guide tell this same sappy story when it occurred to us: what politician in his right mind would get into an argument with a puppet? It's like getting into a fight with a little girl.

    So gentle sandbox reader, the moral of the story is this: don't get into a fight with a puppet, just enjoy the show. :D



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