Outdoorsy, SA-style 

People often ask me why I moved from New York City to San Antonio

People often ask me why I moved from New York City to San Antonio. I tell them it was a lifestyle choice. It’s a lazy lifestyle, where people work less and make less money but also pay less for everything, like houses and diapers. It’s a lifestyle that’s very friendly to raising kids and notoriously unfriendly to hooking up, which is why the city’s native sons and daughters seem to move away and come back years later to start families and lead lives of pleasant laziness. It is a culture devoted to eating and drinking and driving and drinking and eating. The “basics of life,” as the song goes.

Somehow — and this may seem counterintuitive given San Antonio’s firm entrenchment on various “America’s Fattest (laziest?) Cities” lists — one of the things that appealed about moving here was the chance to be a little more active. In NYC, doing anything remotely “outdoorsy” is an ordeal. I remember going up to the Catskills for a Sunday-afternoon hike with some friends. We drove about five hours total, for a hike that lasted 90 minutes. But of course, a love of hiking, biking, and swimming is not why one chooses to live in NYC — the words “cultural and culinary mecca” spring to mind (though you can’t beat the running in Central Park).

So I have come to embrace the active and lazy components of the SA lifestyle. I run and cycle in my neighborhood. I hike in nearby Friedrich Wilderness and Eisenhower parks. I ride horses in Boerne. I play badminton in my backyard and shoot hoops in my driveway. I swim in my pool (well, OK, “swim” might be a strong word for floating in an inflatable armchair with an iced tea and a magazine). And when the worst heat of summer kicks in, I go tubing.

What else to do? The scorching sun doesn’t daunt the diehards I see running hatless and shirtless at high noon on the access roads of 1604 (melanoma be damned!), but at this time of year dragging my garbage can to the curb twice a week qualifies as exercise. I abandon languid suburban sports like badminton — best played with a racquet in one hand, a cocktail in the other — because the parched earth can’t seem to hold up the net. No shade on our driveway basketball court means “around the world” can wait until around Thanksgiving. And even the most slothful of weekend day trips have been put off indefinitely, like plans to take our 3-year-old daughter to a catfish-stocked lake, where they bait the hooks and take the fish off the line for you and a catch is virtually guaranteed. (Something akin to those big-game ranches where you sit in an air-conditioned tree house and shoot giraffes, I think.)

But tubing? Now that I can handle. It’s the ultimate low-impact “water sport,” tailor-made for lazy people. No pesky oars, though sometimes getting to where you want to be — i.e., next to the person towing the beer tube — requires some mad one-handed paddling. The first time I floated on the Comal, back in 1991, I was enchanted: the Charybdis-like roar of the chute, the icy water, relatively free of debris. When I tried to explain the concept to my friends back in NYC, they just didn’t get it. I did a little research and found I could tube in my very own backyard (on the Delaware River) and even in winter (snow tubing — it’s not just for kids!). But nothing quite compared to the Comal.

So imagine my dismay when I took a couple of visitors from NYC — attractive women in their 20s — tubing on a Sunday morning in late June. Right away, I noted a different vibe on the river. It was early but already crowded. Drunks were falling out of trees like monkeys, and it wasn’t long before boneheads brandishing Aquazookas had their weapons trained on my fair houseguests. “I like you better when you’re wet,” explained one water-gun-wielding yahoo before he commenced firing. Maybe it was always this way, just not on the weekday mornings when I’d usually tubed. Still, this was a Sunday at 10 a.m. — shouldn’t people be in church seeking salvation instead of harassing innocent tourists?

This weekend I have another houseguest, and she wants to take her 3-year-old on the Comal. Since my last foray, I’ve been reading up on the conflict between tubers and New Braunfels residents: the banning of beer bongs, Jell-O shots, and loud music in an effort to curtail Girls Gone Wild-type behavior on the river. I hate to side with The Man, but, dang, shielding my daughter from Super Soakers and bare-breasted coeds is not my idea of a lazy day in paradise. Looking for a way out, I went to the Rockin’ R Outfitters’ website and read this stern warning: “River trips are not for pregnant women!!” Since I happen to be six months pregnant, that could be my excuse. But you have to wonder who’s got a better chance on the river — a reluctantly sober and reasonably fit pregnant woman, or some boozehound who’s just inhaled a tray of hash brownies.

Whatever. The “chill” of autumn is fast upon us, and the tubing controversy will soon be laid to rest till next Memorial Day. And ’round my house we have more pressing issues on our minds — like the ’shoe pit we’ll be building in the backyard. l

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