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Angela & Rick Martinez
Owners and operators,
Slab Cinema

The camera pans up a pair of tight-as-Saran-Wrap denim Wranglers careening over pearl snaps stretched to a taut tension across John Travolta’s brawny torso. Women crumble into a communal squeezebox of coos, oohs and ahs. This was my introduction to Slab Cinema: the ombré descension of dusk punctuated by a pockmarked limestone wall, that evening’s canvas for Urban Cowboy.

Urban Cowboy is my wife’s all-time favorite movie and its screening in Hemisfair Park in 2010 served as one of our first dates. This is the kind of earnest sentimentality that has kept Angela and Rick Martinez carting around the wires and wares of a bygone pastime for 12 years.

Originally the proprietors of San Antonio’s only VHS rental establishment, Planet of the Tapes, the Martinezes moonlight in the portable-drive-in “business,” doing it, simply, for the love of the medium. “Some of our best childhood memories involve going to the drive-in with our families. Slab Cinema provides us with a chance to make memories with our own children, while giving us an outlet to help build community and give others the opportunity to make memories with their families.”

That quote is not their corporate mission statement. It’s not posted all over a pristinely produced website as the feel-good cliff note to a profit-driven endeavor. It’s directly from the duo and sums up their interpretation of the outdoor movie experience, their passion and their purpose.

The pair has screened hundreds of films all over the city, from the cobblestoned banks of the San Antonio River to the historic Mission Drive-In. They have faced hit-and-runs, violent weather and stolen equipment to provide us a glimpse into the magic they felt growing up and offer us to experience it with our children, and to maybe feel a little like kids ourselves.

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Steve McHugh
Chef and owner,
Cured

At 40, chef Steve McHugh is no whippersnapper, and he’s totally at peace with that. After working for Dickie Brennan and Ralph Brennan and chef Chris Brown at Metro Bistro, and after more than a decade under John Besh (the Wisconsin native opened Lüke San Antonio), McHugh opened his dream eatery at the Pearl in 2013. At two, Cured still shines as one of the city’s best restaurants, and it’s by design as McHugh and wife/partner-in-crime Sylvia handle all aspects of the restaurant. From employing team members they would enjoy working with to calling the “salt guy” that supplies the building’s water softener, McHugh does it all in stride while visiting with tables and expediting dishes from the line. Though he always had an entrepreneurial spirit, McHugh gleaned a lot of his chef persona from his time with Besh.

“When I started working with John, it was the first time I worked with a chef that gave as much attention to the front [of the house] as to the back,” McHugh explained over breakfast tacos at Pete’s Tako House. “He used to force me to get out and talk to the guests ‘Go see how they liked your food, go explain your special.’”

His Midwestern charm helps, but the traveling for food and wine festivals (despite bouts of motion sickness), media training and process skillset (“I got really good at packing boxes” he says of Besh’s frequent cooking trips), is what’s helping Cured and San Antonio — a city he chose to call home after beating non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and being told to keep his stress level down — stand out.

He leans on his staff, including Robert Rodriguez, Forrest Hyde, Wacey Jamison, Mark Gunnoe and William Rivera, to make service great.

His advice for young cooks — build your resume, work for somebody. “They hate when I’m on that line because I’m scrutinizing everything, I’m tough,” McHugh said.

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William McManus
Chief,
San Antonio Police Department

Since officially coming back as chief of the San Antonio Police Department in October, William McManus has been busy. He’s dealing with how the department will handle putting more body cameras on the street, an inquiry from the FBI and the small matter of managing over 2,000 sworn officers.  

But his top priority so far has been revamping the way his department — and perhaps San Antonio itself — approaches homelessness. For years, homeless people have received ticket after ticket for offenses such as camping and panhandling. And while McManus said his officers will enforce the laws on the books, he realized after some time away from the force that the homeless couldn’t simply be arrested away.

“They’re going to go somewhere. They just spring up somewhere else. And watching it from outside the department, it gives you a different perspective on it,” McManus said.

A key component of McManus’ plan is to develop multidisciplinary teams with other agencies such as Haven for Hope and the city’s Department of Human Services to bring resources directly to people on the street.

The idea is that hopefully at least one of the options — whether it’s mental health treatment, job placement or just a hot meal — will be what a certain person needs.

“There are homeless people who are not chemically dependent, who are not mentally ill, and just for whatever reason they’re on the street. It’s where they want to to be,” he said. “As long as they’re not breaking the law, they have a right to be there. Part of it is managing the expectations of those that expect to see the homeless people just shoved aside, and understanding that if they’re not breaking the law, and they want to be on the street, they can be on the street.”

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Patty Mills
Point guard,
San Antonio Spurs

Now in his fifth season with the Spurs, backup point guard Patty Mills has fully settled into his comfort zone in South Texas. He drinks local java from Indy Coffee Co., enjoys dining at the Pearl and has rocked out at SXSW. He also dreads allergy season, just like the rest of us.

“I think coming not just from Portland, but from the other side of the world, I got to really experience and open up to the culture of Texas, and that’s something that I’ve really enjoyed,” said Mills after a recent practice. “San Antonio is now the place that I’ve spent the most time in America away from Australia, away from home, and I think it’s a credit to the community, to the people of San Antonio, that have welcomed me with open arms, just as well as they have with everyone else on this team.”

Mills describes the environment in San Anto as humbling and admits that when recruiting his former Portland teammate LaMarcus Aldridge, it really wasn’t a tough sell.

“Coming from Dallas and going to school in Austin, he was very familiar with the place already, so it wasn’t like there was much new to tell him other than it is a family environment,” Mills said.

After working through a shoulder injury last season, Mills has regained the form that catapulted him to international fame. Along with maestro Manu Ginobili, he has paced the Spurs’ pass-happy second unit, overwhelming opponents with superior depth, particularly at home.

“There’s always a certain level of comfort playing at home,” Mills said. “It’s a number of things. Home crowd. Home support. To the simple things as being able to be in your own home, in your own environment, where you get to sleep in your own bed. There’s something about that that makes coming back home really special. We try to protect our home and protect our arena. It’s a special place.”

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Naomi Shihab Nye
Poet and author

Along-beloved member of the San Antonio arts and culture landscape, celebrated author Naomi Shihab Nye writes just about everything. From essays to poems, from novels to short stories, from kid’s books to songs, the self-described “wandering poet” possesses a boundless gift for the written word. Nye said she’s been “writing constantly, even submitting work to magazines, since [she] was seven years old.” Perhaps that’s why she’s been so active in arts education around the city, particularly creative writing.

Nye, who finds championing the arts as a way of “seeing each other as humans and defeating the belief in enemies and others,” wasn’t born in San Antonio but moved here by chance when she was 17. After a childhood spent in Missouri, Nye moved to Jerusalem with her American mother and Palestinian-immigrant father. After much turmoil, the family relocated to San Antonio. Nye mused “[her] family just had a good feeling about [San Antonio], and that good feeling has stuck with [her].”

“I’ve loved this city ever since, and I feel lucky that my parents picked a place that’s been so nourishing and engaging and delightful,” Nye remarked.

On her teenage experience in Jerusalem, Nye said it was “there [she] started to see that you could use writing as activism, rather than just description or lyricism.”

When we spoke, the cause of visiting artists and writers in schools was fresh on Nye’s mind. She believes strongly that it is in the city’s best interest if all our public school districts, San Antonio Independent School District in particular, move to rekindle school visits by working artists and writers. Her own past experience with such programs, she noted, was transformative for visitors, students and the community.

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