Dr. Lesch was one of our earliest and most popular guests. We could not cover it all in one hour so he rejoined us for some additional discussions of what he has been working on lately. This includes local elections, hostage negotiations and upcoming publications.
Justin Hill: Hello, and bienvenido, San Antonio. Welcome to The Alamo Hour, discussing the people, places and passion that make our city. My name is Justin Hill, a local attorney, a proud San Antonian, and keeper of chickens and bees. On The Alamo Hour, you'll get to hear from the people that makes San Antonio great, and unique, and the best kept secret in Texas. We're glad that you're here.
Justin: All right, welcome to The Alamo Hour. Today's guest is our first repeat guest. You may remember he had a giggle fit last time, and said that he met Bashar al-Assad on a dating website. Dr. David Lesch from Trinity University. Thank you for being here.
Dr. David Lesch: I can't talk about that. [laughs]
Justin: Before this, I said I was going to ask him things, because lately in our friendship, he has become very self-important in telling us things he can and cannot discuss in public settings.
David: I can't talk about that either.
Justin: Yes, I know.
David: I'm going to be a great guest, I can't talk about anything. Why the hell you got me on here? [crosstalk]
Justin: Most of this could just me being like, "Hey, tell me about," insert a thing or a person, and then having you turn red as you laugh and say you can't talk about it.
Justin: Like our previous conversation about your telephone, I could ask you about that, and you also would have to say, "I can't talk about that." [crosstalk]
David: Well, they're listening on the telephone right now. [crosstalk]
Justin: I think they are.
David: Probably are. Whoever they are. [crosstalk]
Justin: Probably going to advertise-- [crosstalk] I don't know.
David: Here, I am talking about it, so you already got me to--
Justin: On most of my episodes, I normally go through like a top 10 list and what are you into and what do you like. I generally know that about you, but what have you been up to during the shutdown?
David: Writing my next book.
Justin: Yes, what's the title? [laughs] It's not ambitious at all. What was it?
David: It's the history of the Middle East from the Prophet Muhammad to the present.
Justin: 78,000 pages long.
David: I'm through five pages, man. At this rate, in the 23rd century, I will be done.
Justin: I asked you how you broke down what to include and what not to include, and you use the word triage. [crosstalk]
David: It's a historical triage. Absolutely, I've done that before. You just can't go over every little thing, or else it would be 78,000 pages. This will be about 350-400 pages. Oxford University Press will be putting it out.
Justin: It'll be $250.
David: Only for you. Only the hard back copy. [crosstalk]
Justin: You had one book that was approachable and at normal price. [crosstalk]
David: That's only if I don't autograph it. If I autograph it, it's down to $2 or $3.
Justin: I paid $7.80 for your Syria book on Amazon. Does that make you feel bad?
David: [crosstalk] Oh, used? The thing is, you got it used. [crosstalk] It was only out for like a month. It's like, "Okay, who read it and sent it back?" or, "Who didn't read it and just sent it back?"
Justin: What a jerk friend, "I'll buy your book." [crosstalk]
David: Yes, exactly. I was like, "Geez, maybe I can make some money off of this," [laughs] because it's like $15.
Justin: Is that the only book you're working on now?
David: I think one at a time is enough, thank you very much.
Justin: No, I think you said you were working on more than one.
David: Sometimes I am, but this time no. This is focusing on that. I've got a lot of writing done since I'm at home more often than not, not traveling as much, obviously. I'm halfway through. It should be published in 2022. I'll finish the manuscript first draft by the summer. It is for the interest of general public. I'm trying to write it at that level, which is why there's a historical triage, which is why I'm not going into the details of this, and the other thing that would bore people and put them to sleep like my other books, [laughs] this actually will be interesting.
Justin: Between your upcoming book and Tom Friedman's From Beirut to Jerusalem, which one do you think will be better?
David: Oh, god. Are you kidding me? [crosstalk] No. I like Tom, he's a good guy.
Justin: He wrote one really good book.
David: It's a good book, and I read it, and it's not bad. It's based on a first person experiences.
Justin: That was my first book to read about the Middle East, and it got me interested.
David: This is why you're so tendentious and skewed and prejudice and-- [crosstalk]
Justin: This was in the freshman year of college.
David: Yes. That's the only book, in fact, you read in college, I heard.
Justin: No. I read quite a few in college.
David: Law books, but nothing else [laughs] .
Justin: No. In law school, I read law books. What kind of jerk would say something [crosstalk]
David: That's the thing, I have not read a novel since college.
David: No. Nothing, because I read for fun books about World War I, or the Civil War, or some other country, just because I like to accumulate knowledge and learn about these other things. Actually, I've read some historical novels that I have assigned for my class, just so they have something other than read and dry academic material, like [crosstalk] books.
Justin: You've been writing a book. You keep quite the social calendar that I have learned to know. Where have you been your haunts? It used to be J-Prime, but you have a new haunt.
David: I'm not quite the social calendar. [crosstalk]
Justin: Oh, god, I went to one of them. I thought it was going to be me, you, and Tim, cutting up and having a good time. Instead, it's you holding court with 14 people.
David: [unintelligible 00:04:37] we had the whole restaurant, we were socially distanced. [crosstalk]
Justin: It's just not than fun. You can't get your butt going with a group of 14.
David: No, because I can't rely on you and Tim's actually showing up.
Justin: When we say we're going to be there. [crosstalk]
David: No. You are so unreliable.
Justin: Hold on.
David: You are so unreliable.
Justin: Tim, maybe.
David: Yes, but he was driving. [crosstalk]
Justin: If I say I'm going to be there, I'm there.
David: I invite all these other people in case you guys don't come, but you guys actually came. [crosstalk]
Justin: I mean, I just usually tell you no.
David: It was a good time. [crosstalk] You just kept moving around away from people [laughs] .
Justin: Oh, god. I felt like they weren't being safe. [crosstalk]
David: Only half of us got COVID, only half of us. I think that's a successful social outing.
Justin: I appreciate you're already making COVID jokes.
David: It's terrible, I know.
Justin: Okay. Where have you been going? What's the name of that spot?
Justin: No, the other one.
David: No? The other one, Frida's.
Justin: Okay, that's right.
Dr. Davis: Frida's. A Mexican restaurant bar, it's in Stone Oak as well. A good friend, Fernando Davila, opened it up.
Justin: I thought it was Davil.
David: One or the other.
Justin: I don't think there's an A at the end.
David: Okay. I guess he's not such a good friend because I don't remember his last name.
David: Fernando is a great guy, incredible musician. [crosstalk]
Justin: We're recording this at 2:00 PM, sober. I just want to be clear about this. [crosstalk]
David: Well, not quite, not for me. Justin Hila [laughs] who is a very good friend of mine is interviewing me right now.
Justin: Anywhere else you've been going? Any other spots, new spots out?
David: I went to Perry's, took my son out for his birthday on January 22nd because he likes that. Just about every places I go, they're doing a good job in socially distancing. Now, with this new variant out, I'm going to be I think a little bit more careful [crosstalk] .
Justin: Which variants are you the most scared of? South Africa, South America, or Britain?
David: Can I get back to you on that? [crosstalk] I haven't studied the South African one.
Justin: I think I'm a little scared of the South America. [crosstalk]
David: South America, just because--
Justin: I think. Did you read about what happened in Manaus? Is that how you say it?
Justin: In Brazil.
David: What happened?
Justin: Is that how you say it? Manaus? Manauss?
David: I don't know what you're talking about.
Justin: There was a city in Brazil that had been completely wiped out by-- [crosstalk]
David: It is Brazil, it's Bolasario, or wherever the hell his name. He's worse than Trump in terms of that. [crosstalk]
David: Yes, whatever, who is not taking it seriously, and so forth.
Justin: I know, but they had an outbreak. [crosstalk]
David: Not taking it seriously, and cutting down the Amazon rainforest. That's two strikes against them
Justin: I'm trying to give you some information about international affairs, and you just won't accept that I know something you don't know.
David: You don't even know the name of the town.
David: Manaus, what? Is that a city? [laughs]
Justin: All I think about is Muppets, Manaus, Manaus. All right, you've been writing a book. Same haunts, you really haven't branched out, unfortunately. Nothing to add there.
David: It's places I know, places I trust that I can go, that they take-- [crosstalk]
Justin: Did you just go to Pakistan?
David: No, but I may.
Justin: You were planning on it not long ago. Have you done any international travel as part of your job?
Justin: I guess you can't do diplomacy and stuff like that by Zoom. [crosstalk]
David: Or via Zoom, right. [laughs] I can't talk about that either. Well, we're really getting far, aren't we?
David: No, you can't do that stuff. At first, I didn't miss it because I was doing so much, and it was like, "Oh, man. I can just sit back and enjoy," but now I miss it. I want to get on a plane and go to Europe. I want to get on a plane and go to Middle East. Hopefully, this thing develops as it has been developing, and I'll go to Islamabad in Pakistan soon. I know you've been there. [crosstalk]
Justin: You might be the only person that's sitting around right now, pining for the days to go to Islamabad.
David: I'm not pining for Islamabad. I'm pining to get on a plane and go internationally. This is all that's offered me, well okay, fine.
Justin: All right.
David: I'm signing up for it.
Justin: All I thought of was-- [crosstalk]
David: I heard Islamabad is a beautiful city.
Justin: Sure, there are parts of it.
David: I won't be going around-- My contact there said that Pakistan takes the COVID-19 situation about seriously as Texas. I said, "Okay [laughs] I guess I'm going to get it there when I go there." As he said, look, the Pakistanis, they're taking certain precautions, but life goes on. They've been through these wars. They've been through Al Qaeda being in the midst Osama Bin Laden being there, and all the stuff with India. This is nothing. He said, "What are you Texans worried about?" I said, "Well, there is the Alamo." [laughs] Come on.
Justin: [crosstalk] This is self-inflicted wounds. I wanted to talk to you about a few other things because last time we ran out of time. You sent me an article. It's funny, you like to send me articles like, "Talk to me about this thing that makes me sound awesome." We might talk about that.
David: Why would I send you something that makes me sound like an idiot?
Justin: Well, I mean, I want to talk to you about some things that had not come to [crosstalk] fruition yet, but that you have been--
David: I still need to convince you I'm awesome. You're not entirely convinced. I keep trying.
Justin: Well, because I know you.
David: Even making up these articles and stories.
Justin: Let's talk about Austin Tice. I found that to be an interesting story. There's an article that you partly wrote about that situation over there. Why are you looking at me like that? This is public information. This is an interesting story.
David: It's a heart rendering story.
Justin: There's a Texas connection to this, right?
David: Yes. He and his family are from Houston. Austin was a contract photojournalist at the time with the Washington Post. In August 2012, he went into Syria, and he was taken captive. I've been working with his parents closely since that time to do whatever I can to help with my contacts in Syria. For those of you listening don't know, I'm a specialist on Syria, and I've been to Syria quite a bit. As Justin referred to in the beginning, I got to know the president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, not over eharmony, but through-- [crosstalk]
Justin: That's what you said.
David: It is what I said, yes. Just through contacts and so forth. Whatever I can do to help in terms of advice and whatever. I just feel for them so much. We have every indication that Austin is still alive. There have been a million different reports on who is holding him. We're just trying to do our best to work with various groups, including the Syrian government, to try to find him and bring him home.