Saturday, August 13, 2011


We depart in the afternoon for an overnight stay in Galveston. the outer bands of the tropical storm slow our travel somewhat as we encounter a driving rain. The shower is fierce but brief and as we near the city the rain ends. Although, when the rains come, they are hard, they are too short and scattered to provide relief for this drought stricken region. In Houston, underground aquifers have dried up causing the ground to shift and streets to crack and sink. In a final bit of irony, the shifting ground causes water mains to break. Streams flow down the streets into the sewer drains from the broken mains. As many as 500 breaks per day are reported.

As we cross the causeway that connects the island to the mainland, off in the distance the glass pyramids of the Moody Gardens come into view. The homes here are built high on stilts as protection from the fickle waters of the gulf and the floods that accompany the tropical storms.

I have come to Galveston for the architecture.  In this I will not be disappointed, even as I discover that the historic areas are much more spread out than I had expected.  Although hurricanes and storms have taken their toll over the years there are wooden frame houses, which, through surviving, prove not to be as fragile as they appear. We pass cemeteries with imposing monuments and burial plots raised above ground level to protect them from flooding. There are the massive stone houses of the wealthy and the impressive facades of the office and professional buildings in the Strand district. Iron balcony railings are reminiscent of New Orleans and I remind myself the Louisiana is a scant few miles away. Numerous markers provide detailed information on the history of the structures.

Due to the storm, the skies along the shoreline are gray and the surf high and rough. We have dinner in a building in the Strand district whose interior appears to have been re purposed several times over the years. Along one wall are cast iron columns with Beaux Arts style capitals. A brick wall, whose original use can only be guessed at, stands in the center of the space. Outside, a group of children play a makeshift game of hopscotch on a giant chessboard set in a plaza. Upon departing the restaurant we learn from the historical marker outside that the building had a mansard roof that had been lost in a storm which, at one time,  made It 7 stories tall.

My host tells me that , from what he can see, the gay nightlife on the island is a ghost of it's former self. It is 10 pm on a Friday night, however the few gay bars are nearly empty. Just for the bragging rights that I was once there, I suggest a drink at "Lafitte's" the oldest and best known gay bat on the island. It is, to put it kindly, a dive. An enormous drag queen approaches us. Between the noise and her thick southern accent it is difficult to understand what she is saying to us. I do manage to make out her query, "What's your favorite show tune?" A stereotypical gay  question if I ever heard one. ...I hate questions like this. After, trying, unsuccessfully , to evade the question I finally answer "I don't know, probably something by Stephen Sondheim" Her reply was so rambling, bizarre and nonsensical that I cannot even recall what is was. I do recall that is made me question both her sanity or sobriety. We quickly finished our drinks and depart into the hot Texas night.

The next morning the sky is bright and clear. All traces of the storm were gone. It had been a weak and fast moving system that broke apart upon nearing land. The morning and early afternoon are spent touring the island, occasionally stopping the car so I can hop out and snap a picture of particularly interesting buildings, My host rests on a bench under the shade of a balcony talking to a woman from Peru while I stroll the few blocks of the Strand taking pictures and doing some quick shopping. I purchase a Texas chili spice, t shirts and refrigerator magnets to add to our already overwhelming collection. Also token gifts for my staff and a family gift of Texas dip mix for my much loved cousin and her partner and child.

We head back to Houston stopping at NASA for t shirts for my partner and I and a toy for our cat to add to her already overwhelming collection. My host has been ill so when we return he goes to bed to get some much needed rest. His partner and I order Chinese food and call it an early night as we have plans to visit the Rothko Chapel and the Menil collection the next day.

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