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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Galveston, oh, Galveston

I'm in Galveston as I write this; however,  I left my fun little point and shoot camera back in Houston. Thus, what I'll do right now while I can, is post a few pictures from a trip from last year. The beach and the Gulf of Mexico doesn't change much here and while not the Caribbean, both are not without their charms.

I've taken a few pictures with my cellphone and I do want to share something of the architecture of the town itself. The city's taken its hits over the past century and change and Hurricane Ike did a number on Galveston and surrounding areas far more than people realize. As with Richard in Belize, Ike may not have been a monster hurricane on the order of a Carla or a Katrina, but owing to population density alone, the result was devastating. The medical center here was for all intents and purposes wiped out. About a third (some say more) of the business sector was washed away or blown out and with this comes the cost of people leaving whose homes were blown off stilt or foundation.

When I came down for a visit a couple of months after Ike, we came down Broadway and while a number of businesses and houses were draped in blue tarp or had scaffolding out where you could see repair work being done, the first shock came from looking down the side streets off Broadway; some structures weren't even recognizable as houses, merely timber and painted lumber to be hauled away. The second shock came more subtly but nonetheless hit hard like a punch in the gut.

We were walking around a subdivision on West Beach, if memory serves and my sister pointed to some stilts in the water not too far from the beach. I thought at first that these were the remnants of a pier. But no, these were what was left of houses along the coast. It took me awhile to adjust to this. If that was so, then basically a whole neighborhood had been wiped out. On a little more reflection, it dawned on me as well that the beach that we were standing on was the new, redefined coastline and that the vegetation line had been erased.

We straggled around this subdivision a little longer and it became eerily visible that many of the houses were abandoned. As we drove down along toward the seawall, we saw buildings with windows blown out and one building with a whole side facing the water just gone. At least, there was still a building there; in most cases, you could only surmise that there had been structures from the remnants of piers of ravaged to splinters and holding together through sheer luck.

Some buildings were relatively intact, particularly those built to withstand hurricane force winds and establishments like the hotel Galvez and some of the more venerable businesses that had survived worse. Not to dwell on this sort of thing, but it hurts to go back to a place you grew up with and see it hurting so badly. Galveston's in much, much better shape now, thankfully, but it's still going to take some time for her to get back to where she was.

For anyone who hasn't visited this wonderful place, my description won't do justice; however, that's why tomorrow I'll head out and try to get some shots of some of the more remarkable places around. In the meantime, here are some beach scenes. These are images that are definitely meant to be looked at deeply; so please click on them and look at up close. A lot of people look at me like I'm an idiot (mea culpa?) and wonder what I think is so special about this flat, often duneless stretch of terrain surrounded by brown water. Well, take a look.

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