10-12-09_03 – O Galveston, Thou Shithole Goest Whither?


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My former town Houston is defined by a energetic scrawl of superfreeways intended to move you like a concrete tesseract from one subsection of town to another with Nazi efficiency. The reality is a commute that you could accomplish on foot in twenty minutes magically expands to three hours because you’re stuck behind a car-fire.

Cutting the massive city in separate but equally repulsive halves is Interstate 45. It’s been under construction since the dawn of time. Northward, I45 commands drivers to get the fuck out of town to Dallas (which is a terrible idea, by the way) or, please get the fuck out south-ways directly to Galveston.

I don’t use the interstate route to Galveston. I work my way out of town on 288 or FM-523, slowly, though small townlets, oil refineries and industrial parks, letting the city fall off me like unbuckled armor. The strip-malls, McMasions and office buildings thin out, giving way to jittery retirement houses, grim strip-clubs and drydocks in Freeport and Surfside well to the south of Galveston proper. From there, County Road 257 hugs the water for twenty-five or thirty miles, leading me towards Galveston’s seawall. The narrow two-lane blacktop is lined erratically with collapsed fishing shacks, towel-fluttered vacation condos and tough, stubborn po-boy bars. During the last big storm, large chunks of 257 were washed into the ocean. The road has been diverted to the beach itself.

Galveston, Texas is a dump. I’m sorry. If you used to date Galveston or are close friends with it, please forgive my bluntness. Wait – did I say dump? I meant to say shithole. Again, I’m so sorry.

It is my understanding that Galveston used to be a mob playground in the way-back-when. This endorsement should be measured carefully in the context of goons that view consensual sex optional and murder mandatory. That’s what the TV says, anyway. Parts of Galveston still retain a huff of that gangster wildness but for the most part it’s a small, desperate rack of streets attempting to give a nod to it’s hokey past steam-powered past and yet appeal to the IMAX-addled tourist of today. There’s really no part of the city that anyone would call nice or even interesting and yet I love going there. It has survived hurricanes and fires, it has survived developers and criminals. It is made of of repeating, packed layers of intent and failure, expansion and enropy. It stands.

There’s nothing there and nothing to do. Sure, there are t-shirt shops, ride-films and even a giant glass pyramid full of butterflies and fat suburban goats in flip-flops. But is there anything to do? Is there anything you should see? No. Absolutely not. Galveston feels like the end of the line, an unfinished and abandoned paragraph. Sometimes I need to have the world well behind me, in my blind spot and nothing in front of me but a dirty brown ocean that does not invite or deny.

Note:  some of these pictures are not from Galveston but her ugly cousin, Bolivar Peninsula.

Text and images © Andrew Auten – All Rights Reserved.