Second exit to the right and straight on til morning

Posted: September 13, 2006 in Uncategorized

Note: There is a surprising lack of Texas accents in Texas.

For the most part, having a rental car in Houston has felt like an exercise in excess. Apart from the drive from the airport, I haven’t had to drive more than 1.43 miles for anything, even to get to the office. If my room were on the other side of the hotel, I could probably tell who was working late. Given the warm weather and to not feel absurd getting my car out of the garage to go a block and a half to the CompUSA, I’ve been walking everywhere other than to the office, but more often than not I’m alone on the sidewalk. Nobody walks. It’s like LA with big belt buckles.

Last night around ten, after struggling with the flakey hotel internet and getting my fill of reading and Battlefield 1942, I wandered the hotel in frustration, feeling the need to do something, ANYTHING. The hotel bar was jam packed with raucus businessmen in blue oxfords, and really held no appeal. Downtown Houston didn’t interest me either, and most of it was likely closed down by then anyway. In a fit of restless exploration, I decided to drive to Galveston and go to the beach for my first sight of the Gulf of Mexico.

Driving for me, especially to a new place, is invigorating. The mix of new sights, good music, and simply being in motion somehow relaxes me. And if there’s one thing I have to give to Houston, it’s that they have some quality radio stations. The forty miles to Galveston island ticked by easily while I listened to Allman Brothers, Led Zepplin, Tool, and Chili Peppers. Among the car dealerships and malls lining the freeway were fantastic business names like Slick Willy’s, Joe’s Crab Shack, and simply “Steak and Ale”. Eventually I hit the bridge crossing over to the island, but I could smell it before I could see it. A good part of the reason I wanted to see the gulf was the fierce romanticism attached to it, the kind of obsessive nostalgia that Jimmy Buffett has based his career on. The smell of Galveston Bay alone made me immediately aware of the tangible presence the gulf has. It was by no means unpleasant, if anything it was like chlorinated salt water. Turning off the A/C, I powered down my window to get a faceful of it.

Driving down the main drag of Galveston, the presence of southeastern tradition was immediate. While Houston is all standard suburban sprawl, here people were serious about their porches and use of columns. The impression of age and importance around the houses was obvious. Also along the road was possibly the most architectually feature-packed church I’ve ever seen in my life; arches, corinthian columns, flying buttresses, and even a Taj Mahal-like dome decorated less than a city block.

Eventually hitting the end of the road, I found the closest place I could to the beach to park, got out and walked straight to the water. Taking off my shoes and socks, I waded in up to my shins, letting the impossibly warm water break around my legs. Backlit by the lights of the city, I watched as an endless procession of fish leaped up the coast, at times no more than fifteen yards from the water’s edge and getting as much as four feet out of the water, like they were desperately trying to evolve into birds. I just stood there for a while, looking out towards the horizon I couldn’t see, watching the fish dance off to the west, then turned around and drove back to the hotel barefoot, letting the fine sand on my feet dry and coat the floor of the car as Houston radio played the entire Night Moves album by Bob Seeger, Willie Nelson, and Patsy Cline.

  1. somechick says:

    I love your traveling posts 🙂
    Did you take lots of pictures?

  2. Anonymous says:

    I love your traveling posts 🙂
    Did you take lots of pictures?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Great post. Another corner of the country explored. Hope the business part of the trip was productive.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Great post. Another corner of the country explored. Hope the business part of the trip was productive.

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