She told me to meet her at the new Chinese buffet, the one by Weiners. To the best of my knowledge, there has never been a Weiners in San Marcos - well at least not as long as I’ve been coming and going. But I knew what she was doing. I knew the game we were playing, the game of ‘let me show you how long I’ve been in San Marcos’.
The rules of the game are simple. Always refer to any building, business, park, or even personal residence by the name it had the year you arrived, or were born, in San Marcos. If played well, it will solidify your relationship with your San Martian contemporaries and provide you with ample opportunities to feel smug and more settled than more recent immigrants.
Like many college towns, San Marcos residents can be roughly divided into three groups: those who have always been here, those who are passing through, and the ones who came and never left. This last group, the ones who came, generally for school, may or may not have ever graduated, but they never got around to moving to Austin. These are the people who mostly play the game. They tend to take more pride in the town than even the people whose families have been swimming at Rio Vista since the Alamo was besieged. But like so many adoptees, they harbor a deep need to belong and to reinforce their relationship with momma San Marcos. And so they play.
The most commonly changing businesses are bars and restaurants. These places also tend to loan their personalities to people who identify them with a particular time in life. As such, people who came to Southwest Texas in times of yore, still refer to the large music venue on the square as Deveraux, with little regard to an ever changing marquee that has claimed so many names. Others, who came later to Texas State, may fondly remember eating a burger in the same place, only it was called Gordo’s.
Extra points are awarded for using particularly colloquial names from specific times. Let me give you an example. The little HEB was an AppleTree from the late eighties until the mid nineties. It is a smallish store, located very close to campus and has always been heavily patronized by students and younger folk. It is traditionally a place that could be hard to visit without running into a friend and feeling obliged to chat. A quick trip for a frozen pizza and ice cream could take an hour for a social type. And so it became known as ‘the Appletrap’. Using this term now will either befuddle or amuse whoever you’re with. Even as I write this, my wife leans over my shoulder and smugly says, “Oh, are you talking about the Safeway?” Well played, spouse, well played.
While the San Marcos River is generally simply called ‘the river’ by young and not so young alike, various banks and parks along the river have multiple names. Across from Rio Vista Dam, is an area many refer to as ‘the girl scout camp’. Deep behind tangles of grape vines and poison ivy is an old, rectangular swimming pool that has filled to the rim with dirt. If there was ever a girl scout camp here, it was really long time ago. Most people forgo this part of the park, never thinking about what it might be called. At the other end is a fantastic swimming hole where Spring Lake cascades into the top of the river. This is a very popular spot for many generations. As such, it has quite a few names. The area is called Peppers, ‘the headwaters’, ‘the top’, The Salt Grass, or even ‘the forbidden’ zone depending on who you ask and when they arrived.
So she wants to meet near the Weiners, eh? Not wanting to be beaten by my slightly senior San Martian, and remembering that the new Chinese buffet is on the highway near where the Blanco and San Marcos Rivers converge, I decide to break the rules a little, to pad my San Marcos resume. I responded in my best 1800‘s Comanche dialect, “Oh, you mean the one near Paa Tosaybita (Blanco River)?