November 21st, 2016

abstract butterfly

galveston of memory

Saturday we hit the road at 9:30 a.m. for Galveston. I had a Kix cereal with skim milk. My wife stopped by Starbucks for three vaniilla mini-scones, and gave me one. She did the driving--she prefers the control of being the driver to being a passenger. We rolled south  onto Highway 75, the Central Expressway, and then, just sought of downtown Dallas, headed south on I-45 towards Houston. We made three pit stops, but otherwise made very good time. We did not have lunch, but instead bought some little bars. I had a Nutri-Grain blueberry cereal bar and a ThinkThin high protein peanut butter bar.

When I was a child, I overate from a batch of peanut butter cookie dough. I seem to recall squeezing batter profusely from a cookie baster. I felt very ill afterwards. For years, while I could eat raw peanut butter, peanut butter desserts such as cookies or pie gave me a strong aversion reaction.  But that seems to have passed, if the anecodotal evidence of a peanut butter Thinkthin is evidence.

When we were perhaps 50 miles from Houston, I pulled up Google Maps via Google Voice. I was glad I did, because a massive road contruction detour on I-45 sent us over to the Hardy Turnpike. There the traffic diminished a good bit. We breezed through Houston, re-connected with I-45, and then headed south to Galveston.  We arrived in Galveston on Galveston Island between 3:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., crossing the series of bridges over the Gulf of Mexico.

Once we got to Galveston, we headed towards its downtown pier area,  This proved to be a madhouse, because two massive Carnival cruise ships were boarding, resulting in downtown being a zoo of holidaymakers shopping in the shops. We soon headed to the seawall side of the island. We drove up the coast to LaFitte's Cove. This 40 acre nature preserve was created to settle an enivironmental suit to preserve some local wetlands from developers.  It is tucked next to a midde-high-end housing development, where lots of houses have canal access to the Gulf.

When we first arrived, the little shallow wetlands pond area had Nutria, Green-Winged Teal, Blue-Winged Teal, Western Sandpiper, an Eastern Phoebe and a White Ibis. Overhead we saw four Ospreys. In the patches of bush in the open spaces we saw abundant Yellow-Rumped Warblers, and some Northern Mockingbirds. We never saw the owl we heard. Our trip ended, a bit unromantically, with 105 European Starlings.

Then we headed out to Galveston State Park. We drove into the hiking areas near the wide, flat reedy wetlands. There we watched Northern Harriers fly roughly 20 feet above-ground in their methodical way, singing Eastern Meadowlarks and a little aerial formation quartet of Brown Pelicans.

We checked into the Four Points on Seawall. When I saw the building, I was skeptical that its angle permitted any "ocean view" rooms,though I had paid a bit extra, a bit uncharacteristically, for ocean view. But it turned out we had a great ocean view, as we were on the very end, the Gulf-facing end, of the building. From our window we could see the bright neon of the ferris wheel and other entertainments at the Pleasure Pier.

We got together with my Uncle Ron and Aunt Rose and my cousin Bret and his wife Kirsten for dinner. We ate at Mario's by the Seawall. where the portions were substantial and my salmon with rosemary potatoes was good quite. We all had a good visit.

On Sunday, I got up early and walked an hour by the seawall. The seawall was rebuilt in 1910 after the horrendous loss of life from the hurricane of 1900.  I was impressed by the memorial posted to Carmelo "Charles" Bertolino, who rescued 500 swimmers from drowning during a long career as a lifesaver. Later I read of Mary Stewart, who single-handedly at one time saved five swimmers who had ventured too far out in iffy waters near the Pleasure Pier. Among the bird life I saw Brown Pelicans, Willets, and abundant Common Grackles, among the Ring-Billed and Franklin Gulls. I took a picture of the menu sign at the Snack Shack , an unprepossing beach food place across the street from the Seawall, where a beef sandwich was 4 dollars and 50 cents but a turkey leg was 9 dollars.

We went to the tourist shop Murdoch's, where I got a Hawaiian shirt. My wife took the car downtown to the Strand to shop. I met up with my brother and my nephew at the bar of the old Hotel Galvez.  My brother loves to drive, and often, as here, will make longish trips into one-day adventures. We made plans with my brother to join his family at a restaurant on Thanksgiving Day.

At noon, we gathered at Gaido's Seafood for a memorial service as to my Uncle Ivan and Aunt Virginia. My cousin Bret, one of those fellows who is a modest,  affable force for good, served as a kind of emcee. My cousin Morgan, a university professor, and my cousin Bill, who is in television production, spoke eloquently about their parents, and other relatives also gave good eulogies. I did not have a eulogy to deliver, but I enjoyed seeing everyone. I saw some of the family photos I sent after a scanning session had been blown up and placed out on display.  I think I got to chat with everyone but my first cousin once removed Allison. Next time I must make a greater effort to say hello to her, and must be a better conversationalist with the folks to whom I did say hi. I am anything but a social butterfly, but I am not a shrinking violet, either. I liked the part in which my cousins Allison and Lauren, likable, strong women in their 30s, sang with lovely voices one of those "good morning" songs that my aunt and uncle sang to them when they visited their grandparents as small children.

My late Uncle Ivan and Aunt Virginia met in Galveston, when he was a dashing Air Force lieutenant trained in navigation, and she was working in Houston. There was talk of an offer of fried chicken being the icebreaker. Ultimately, my uncle left the military, used his engineering degree in the oil industry, and then put himself through law school at night. He finished up a good career at Kerr-McGee, as well as being a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserves. Then he served at Oklahoma City University. He and my Aunt Virginia were very kind to me when I was a child, though I do recall that Aunt Virginia's kindness was tempered with a bit of stern correction. They retired to Georgetown, north of Austin, and I enjoyed detouring on the way home from Austin business trips to say hello.

My wife and I had skipped breakfast. At lunch, Gaido's, Galveston's old but good tourist seafood place, served me ten grilled shrimp and griled asparagus, as well as a cup of gumbo with shrimp. We hit the road back at 3something, and got home at 9 p.m., stopping at a Subway to get me a turkey sandwich and chips. We went to bed reasonably early, a weekend of family and driving well-completed.