When you grow up in San Antonio you know something about the Alamo. You know how to get to it and you know that when you take out-of-town visitors downtown to see it they’re going to say, “It’s smaller than I expected.”
I last laid eyes on that hallowed limestone structure in 2008 and haven’t experienced a conscious thought about it since. It therefore struck me as odd this morning when I awoke from a dream in which the Alamo was a featured player.
I don’t know why I was in San Antonio in the dream in the first place or why I was heading downtown on a bus. I could tell from the upholstered seats on the bus that it was more the Greyhound-bus variety than the city-bus variety, but I’m not sure that matters in terms of what happened next.
There are many ways to get to the Alamo—General Santa Anna knew an effective one—but when you grow up on the north side of San Antonio you take San Pedro down to where it veers to the right and becomes Main Street, then go down to Houston and turn left. You’ll pass the Majestic Theater, which is where my dad and I saw Dracula Has Risen From the Grave, and in a few blocks make a right at Alamo Plaza, and then there on your left is the Alamo.
It was this route that the bus on which I was riding in my dream proceeded toward the Alamo. So far, so good. But somewhere on Houston Street, between the turn from Main and the turn onto Alamo, I beheld out of my window a flat-bed truck, strapped onto the bed of which was the front of the Alamo!
Standing alone as if it were one of those fake facades such as are used on the sets of Western movies was the familiar, curvy-topped face of the Alamo itself. The truck moved slowly, likely to prevent the Alamo’s face from toppling over onto the pavement because of a gust of wind or a pothole.
As strikingly peculiar as this situation was, it paled before that which I observed next.
When my bus made the right from Houston Street, I looked to the left expecting to see the Alamo—less its facade, of course, its facade having just passed me on the bed of a flat-bed truck—but rather than a limestone chapel minus its front, what I saw was a rudimentary shell of plywood and two-by-fours. The whole thing had been but a sham! The Alamo was just a box!
The bus on which I rode proceeded southward on Alamo Street, and it developed that the mystery of the Alamo was only the beginning. Every building on every side of me was a bare plywood shell! It was as if I were on a tour of a movie studio, viewing not the parts of buildings seen on film but rather the behind-the-scenes parts. Everything was plywood!
This is when I woke up.