I wanted to talk more about what I observed in San Antonio in May, what I have read about the situation with the federal promise grants, and what I have heard from the chefs featured in the episode–David Arciniega and Shane Reed–about what’s happened since I visited.
San Antonio’s Eastside neighborhood was the first area in the country chosen for President Barack Obama’s Promise Zone Initiative, which makes federal grant funds available to cities and nonprofits for neighborhood revitalization. I met with two chefs on the Eastside: lifelong resident David Arciniega of Amaya’s Cocina, and newcomer Shane Reed of Dignowity Meats. The two talk about some of the struggles of running a successful small business in the changing neighborhood, and the hopes they have to bring good food to the community.
After you watch the episode, read more about the Promise Zone program and see how David and Shane are doing here.
“A Tale of Two Austins”
Interstate 35 cuts right through the heart of Austin. On one side, the west side, Austin’s neighborhoods are booming with activity. There’s the state Capitol building, the financial district, and the University of Texas at Austin–and they’re driving business to places like Rainey Street. But on the other side, the east side, what was once a majority-minority area is now undergoing its own revitalization, albeit more slowly.
I met with food truck chefs on both sides of the highway to see how their changing neighborhoods influence the food options on the block. Fun fact about this episode: we had a shorter stop in Austin after our train was delayed due to the Texas flooding in May, so I shot this entire episode handheld to save time. Come along with me on this wild ride to Rosewood Avenue on the east and Rainey Street on the west as I search for the next “Great American Cooking Story.”
*Special Note: After the episode was filmed in May 2015, Raymond Tatum shut down the Three Little Pigs on Rosewood Avenue and moved northwest to Burnet Road. Three Little Pigs held its grand reopening in late November 2015.*
I got in a stranger’s car last week. Sorry, Mom and Dad.
It gets worse when I tell you that I had a few thousand dollars of camera equipment on my back and in my hand. And that I had met her just 5 minutes earlier.
I was filming in Atlanta on the sidewalk outside of Harold’s Chicken and Ice Bar. The next thing I know, a woman is by my side warning me about the neighborhood we were in.
“I wouldn’t carry that equipment out in the open if I were you,” she said. “What are you filming?”
I told her that I was filming a documentary series on the role of restaurants in revitalizing neighborhoods. She immediately suggested that I capture footage of the King Center (in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.) two blocks away. And the next thing I knew, she was getting into her car waving me in.
“I’ll take you there,” she said. “It’s safer for you this way.” Continue reading “Oh, The Strangers You’ll Meet”
As we left the station in El Paso, Texas, the clouds greyed. The collective phones on the train buzzed with an emergency flash flood alert. The train chugged forward into the empty desert, thundering skies filling the void. The passenger cars shook from the forceful electricity in the air. Soon enough, long fingers of lightning jumped down, striking the earth in the distance. I retreated to my cabin for a tumultuous sleep.
Our train is small; an Amtrak engine pulls our two sleeping cars and one lounge car across the country. I was not quite sure how we would hold up in the flood that washed out Texas, but other than arrival delays, our trip has not been affected. We stopped in Austin and then San Antonio, where the ground was wet but not flooded. I only knew of the impact of the flood because of my family, who was reaching out to make sure I was okay, and because of a woman I met in Austin, who said the city had imposed a curfew on Sunday to try to keep people off of the roads. With very little internet connectivity on the train, I’ve not kept up with the news.
My awareness of the storm’s damage changed when we got to Houston. The devastation permeated the landscape. It seemed like every other house was a foot under water. Our train flew by communities where some houses were raised by cinder blocks, and others missing roof shingles or even entire walls. The clusters of houses along the tracks belonged to Houston’s poor, and it was hard to tell whether their ruin was caused by the storm, or merely exacerbated by it. No one was outside to clean up the chaos. I wondered if some had fled. In sitting down to write, I managed enough of an internet connection to Google “Texas flood,” and the first news article to pop up estimated that 30 Houstonians were missing. Continue reading “The Ark That Millennials Built”