Thursday, July 28, 2016

Mornings

I am a morning person in that I like to drink coffee with my cats, be still and quiet. My partner is a morning person such that when I go to make coffee he's washing the shower curtain, all the towels and washrags, cleaning the kitchen and has the day's list of projects lined up.

Carmela appreciates our quiet times

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

I Know a Published Author!

I have met a couple of published authors in my life. However, recently a friend I hadn't seen or heard from in years showed up in a Tweet from Book People, a fabulous local independent bookstore. They were going to be hosting a book signing for him and his debut novel, The Mirror Thief. Martin Seay, friend of mine, had become a published author. That was new. And... WOW.

Martin Seay - Author
From The Elliot Bay Book Company

Of course, I went. I was there early. I brought friends. I listened to the question/answer session shared with Kirk Lynn, another author. Martin looked tired, but what do you expect from somebody in the middle of a fabulous national book signing tour?! There were other people there that I knew, from the same time that I knew Martin. It was like a mini-reunion of people who used to work together. (We worked together in a bookstore, no less.) Afterward, I wanted to hang around and chat with him, but he looked so busy and so tired that I really just wanted to give him a hug. He even had a handler, if I'm not mistaken. (A guide would be a better word, perhaps? An agent? An escort? Somebody from the bookstore or the publishing house to make sure he was where he needed to be when he needed to be there?) (I want a handler.)

Now, I am reading the book. It took a while to get around to it, mostly because it's not small and it's not particularly light reading from the looks of it and I wanted to be sure that I was in the right mindset. Plus, I discovered that it's on Audible, recorded by the wonderful Edoardo Ballerini . Since I have a 30-mile commute to and from work five days a week, I enjoy listening to audiobooks. (This narrator is truly gifted. And the accents he can do! He has an Italian/American inflection when he's not in character, but he IS the character when they are speaking.) Now, I wonder why exactly I waited. I take that back; it's got a lot going on and the prose is incredible. I do have to be able to pay attention. But, I LOVE it. I mean, first it was awesome when a friend of mine had a book published. I had read some of his writing before and I knew he had talent. But, when I know somebody who actually produced THIS?! Incredible.

He described it as literary fiction, with mystery added to give it more popular appeal. I'm still in the beginning, but I know from the blurbs and discussion that there are three distinct parts: 16th century Venice, 1958 California and a close-to-modern-day Las Vegas. It involves a mirror (duh) and a book. I LOVE books that have an obsession with a specific book (as in that particular physical object, not just any version or publication) as part of the story. I love it. Have I ever read another story with that aspect? I have no idea! But, I love it!

The most truly amazing thing, though, was to read the first pages – and then hear them when I restarted the book as an audiobook – and hear Martin. I think that's why it's so amazing for me to know somebody first and then for them to be published. It would seem on the surface that if I recognize the author in the prose then it means I'm not able to suspend disbelief properly, which could almost seem like a criticism of the writing. But, it's not that. It's intriguing. From page one, the story hits the ground running, even if the only character in the scene is unable to convince himself to get off the bed. It moves. It pulled me in. But, at the same time I just kept thinking, "That's so Martin!" This is what it's like to have friends who become fiction writers. I had no idea.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

My Weekend in a Gutter

This week, like so many times before, I am housesitting/dogsitting/catsitting for my younger brother and his family. I am not Guinea pig sitting because, alas, Manu has passed on to the next realm. But, I do have three dogs and a cat in my charge, which, as it turns out, is no small responsibility. It would be fine if my life were only about feeding, letting dogs outside to poop and subsequently picking up poop and emptying litter boxes. My brother and his family have a swimming pool decked out in limestone and they have a home cinema. Totally worth it.

But, as I said, other things happen. The little bastards want to run away. Why? I mean, my sister-in-law is the best pet mother ever to walk on the planet. These animals want for nothing. Even so, the last time I was in charge of them, I noticed at one point that it was quiet. I like quiet, so it took me a while to get suspicious. When I noticed it, though, the quiet was SO eerie that I knew something was amiss. It would seem that the side gate to the back yard sticks before it completely closes and two of the dogs took advantage of my ignorance and were wandering the neighborhoods, making new friends and spreading the word of ‘spaying an neutering your pets’. Sadie knows what life is like on the outside, so she didn’t leave the yard. (She’s always been my favorite. She smiles when she sees me. If you’ve ever had a dog literally smile at you, you’ll understand where I’m coming from.) I had walked the streets calling their names and I was in my car driving around the neighborhood when I got a call from my sister-in-law that somebody had called her because they found her number on the back of the dog tags. *sigh*  At least I was able to go pick them up. The man who called had not been able to put them in his vehicle, but he did a remarkable job keeping them corralled until I got to where he was – in the next neighborhood over!

Not this time, though. Not this weekend. I planned to not even use the side gates. That would keep me out of trouble.

The first morning I woke up in the house I went outside to drink my coffee. Summer has officially set in, here in Central Texas, and the humidity hasn’t quite left. So, it could have been more pleasant, but I don’t complain. The dogs weren’t terribly interested, though, and after a while I gave up and went back inside. I went shopping a little bit, then back home to let the dogs out before I went to meet Barry with one of his clients for brunch. It was a nice brunch – about 30 minutes before dinner was beginning because Barry is an artist living in Artist Standard Time – and afterwards I came back home to let the dogs out again and feed them dinner. When I went to feed the cat, though, I noticed that the morning’s food was still in the bowl, mounded just as it had come out of the scoop. Mister, the cat, had not touched his food, which is VERY much not like Mister, the cat.

I looked around to see if I could find him. I hadn’t gone into very many rooms in the house, so there weren’t a lot of placed he could have gotten into. Cats have ways, though; this I know from experience. If he was not feeling well, then it would be best to give him time alone.

I tried to relax. It was Sunday and I could get into the pool, or the Jacuzzi or write. I could not focus on any of these things, though. In the back of my mind, I was not comfortable with Mister’s absence. I have cats. (Lord! Do I have cats.) With my cats I’m used to them disappearing for hours at a time and wandering back as if nothing had happened. But, I wasn’t used to it from Mister. Wandering around outside is a lot more physical effort that I am used to him being willing to put forth. My brother later confirmed that even when he gets outside, he chills in the flower beds in the front of the house. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Around 8 in the evening I was wondering whether I should alert my brother and his wife. They might be able to call their neighbors, or suggest something else. It turns out my brother texted me to see how everybody was doing, so I mentioned that Mister, the cat, was missing in action, that I hadn’t seen him since earlier that afternoon, or morning, and he hadn’t eaten his dinner. This last part, naturally, caused him to sit up and take notice. (If you get the idea that Mister is overweight, you’re correct. He’s down to 20 lbs, last time I heard.) He told me Mister’s favorite hiding places, most of which were in rooms that I had not entered since I'd first arrived. I looked around the house and the back yard. I looked up and down the street and in the front yard. My sister-in-law chimed in and began suggesting some other places: "Under Daughter’s bed, in Daughter’s closet, in movie room, behind Daughter’s headboard, behind sofa upstairs, on dining room chairs, under Daughter’s bed, in closet under staircase, in pantry at the back in a box, did you look on the dining room chairs?" I asked if Mister tended to meow when he was trapped somewhere, and my brother said that he did not, and that this had caused problems on more than one occasion. I gave up the idea of ruling out rooms that I had not entered; my sister-in-law's father might have come by and anything could have happened. So, I looked in all of the rooms, all of the closets, under all of the beds and I thought, "Is this a home or a Manor House?!" I mean, who has this many rooms in their house?!

I moved the search to the outside and by now it was dark, so I used my mobile phone as a flashlight, looking (again) through the bushes and in the flower beds. I was wondering how it must look to have a stranger to the neighborhood on his knees, looking through the bushes with a flashlight and I couldn’t stop thinking about Betty White’s character in Bringing Down the House when she was talking about Mexicans in the neighborhood. “Oh, please. If those people are on this block and not holding a leaf blower...” I was relatively certain that I was going to be arrested. It also crossed my mind that it’s a good thing that I use sunscreen. My sister-in-law had mentioned hearing a cat in heat across the street, so after looking through the bushes for the 3rd time I crossed the street... to do what? I wasn’t quite certain. But, across I went and the light from my mobile phone/flashlight fell across the storm drain and I saw a black tail.

“For the love of cake,” I thought to myself. This cannot be where he has been this whole time. I crouched down and he began to meow like nobody’s business. It was a deep meow and it was unmistakably Mister’s. He moved around and I could see his head. The storm drain is a very steep drop-off from the street into a cement box under the sidewalk, and the sidewalk hangs over the box. So, I had to look at an angle and could only see Mister when he was at the back of the box. He stood with his paws on the side of the box, but he couldn’t get out. I called my brother to give them an update and told him I was going to try to get him out.

It was incredibly awkward, though. I couldn’t see unless I held the phone/flashlight and I couldn’t reach if I was holding it. I lay down on my belly on the street and reached my arm inside the drain. I could grab tiny bits of Mister’s scruff, but he’s a big boy and I’d need more than a tiny piece of his scruff in order to pull him up and over the edge of the drain. Plus, the opening is only about a foot high. Reaching and grabbing I think I finally got on his nerves and he moved out of the way to where I couldn’t see or hear him. As I lie prone on the street with my arm in the storm drain I thought, “If this doesn’t get me arrested, I’m not sure what will.”

I called my brother back and asked him if he knew any of his neighbors well enough to call them. I needed help. People had been walking up and down the street earlier, but there were no pedestrians now. (Can you blame them?) He said that he didn’t know anybody well enough to call at that hour (After 10PM by that point.) I asked about calling 311 and he was hesitant. I could hear him talking to my sister-in-law laying down the law that we were not going to call the fire department. I looked at the manhole cover over the storm drain and it was bolted down and the whole thing looked rusted and very, very heavy.

I tried coaxing with a doggie treat, I tried reaching down. I tried calling and sweet-talking. It seemed that there was a tunnel that I couldn’t see; I could see the back and both sides but not directly under me, because of the angle. I mean, of course there’s a tunnel – for the water to go through. The problem was, I could still hear Mister every once in a while and he sounded weak. When I had seen him earlier he had been panting. It is summer in Central Texas and he had been stuck in a drain under the sidewalk most of the afternoon. It was dark and it was still warm. Imagine in the heat of the day. No, on second thought I don’t want to imagine.

My brother agreed that I could call 311 and at least see what they had to say. The nice lady I spoke to was very understanding of my concern, that Mister had been in the storm drain all afternoon and he was too tired and too heavy to be able to get out by himself. She immediately put in a service request and told me to call back with the reference number if I hadn’t heard from the Animal Control in 30 minutes. I was wondering if 30 minutes would be quick enough.

Apparently, while I was on the phone with 311, my brother had changed his mind about calling the neighbor, because he texted that Neighbor Dave was going to call a friend at the fire department. Dave emerged from the house next to my brother’s and walked over to me. We discussed the possibilities and he was of the mind that Mister could jump out. Then he heard him and quickly changed his mind and redoubled his sense of urgency. I told him that I had called 311, but he ran back to his house saying that there was no need, that he was going to call his friend at the fire department. He eventually came back out stating that his friend was on vacation, but he was going to run over to the fire department to ask for help. He was very sure that help was on its way and away he drove, like a hero appearing out of nowhere and then flying off for back-up. I communicated back and forth with my brother and sister-in-law. My brother told me that he had given Dave my number and sure enough, I got a text that he couldn’t find anybody at the Jollyville fire department but that he was heading over to another station.

Meanwhile, I got a call from the animal control. I got a lot of “I see” and “Okay…” She seemed convinced that Mister would eventually get out by himself. I assured her that this was not going to happen. She asked if I’d reached in, if I’d called and all of the things that I had done. The she suggested that I put a branch in so that Mister could climb out. I felt like she wasn’t really listening to me, though she did sympathize with me. I asked if she could remove the manhole cover and she said that Animal Control did not remove manhole covers. (The nice lady at 311 indicated that they most likely would. I guess I've learned something here.)

So, wait again. I looked again at the manhole cover and I remembered that I have a ratchet set in my car and that I am, after all, clever. As it happened, I couldn’t find my tools, but my brother is a man and he has tools. So, I went inside, found a can of salmon (there was no tuna) and went to the garage and grabbed a pliers and screw driver, leaving the salmon on the counter in case I needed it. I hadn’t been arrested so far and I was beginning to feel immune. Outside, back at the storm drain, I looked at the nut on the manhole cover and tried to see if I could turn it with the pliers. (Not likely, I thought, but worth a try.) The damn thing wasn’t even screwed in! It was just the head sitting on top to give the illusion of being secured. So, I angled the screw driver into the small hole revealed and made short work of lifting the (very heavy) cover off.

I could see the tunnel that Mister had gone down. I couldn’t see Mister, but I knew he hadn’t gone far. I went back inside, opened the can of salmon and brought it outside with me. By this time Dave was returning saying that his buddies from the Fire Department were right behind him. I was moving the cover back over the hole when I saw Mister pop out of the tunnel. Whatever, I thought. Let them do what they want. I moved the cover back off the hole and dropped a piece of salmon down. Mister came right up to it and began eating. I laid down on the sidewalk and reached in, but I couldn’t reach him. I told him that he needed to work with me, but he wasn’t being reasonable at this point. He was focused on eating.

The fire truck pulled up, shining their white light on me as I sat on the sidewalk with a can of salmon, next to a manhole cover that I may or may not have been legally allowed to move. They took no notice of that, but began discussing the situation, basically starting with the thought that Mister would get himself out. (Clearly, nobody understands this cat’s girth.) Dave was 100% on my side about it and one of the firemen went to get a glove and coat. Dave did say that this was a particularly gentle cat, but I can understand their concern. Mister, though, had concerns of his own about a gloved hand that he did not recognize coming at him and he ducked back down the tunnel. (I had put a few more chunks of salmon down to get him to come out again.) Dave is a good guy. He said that he could probably reach him, and he took the can and dumped almost all of it in the hole. I said, “You blew my wad,” but none of them paid any attention. (I mean, there was only one can in the pantry. What if we needed more?!) Dave lay on his belly and reached in while the firemen held onto him. He came up with Mister in his hand and I took the cat into my arms. We were all afraid he would jump back down the hole to eat more salmon, so I said a quick thank you and hustled Mister into the house, leaving my mobile phone and everything on the ground across the street, but not before Dave caught the moment on video – me with a black line on my face and my mad-scientist hair. After I got Mister situated Dave came in with my phone, the salmon can and he had brought the watering can that I had used to try to give Mister something to drink while I waited, which had only resulted in him running back down the tunnel, as it turns out.

Before I could tell my brother and sister-in-law the good news Dave had sent them the video. I felt (feel) horrible, like I'm the worst petsitter in the world. They both took pains to tell me that it wasn't my fault, that Mister is sneaky. The thing is, one of my cats also likes to sneak out, so I thought I was being very watchful. Oh, these animals! We discussed it a little bit more and then called it a night. It was after midnight by then. I had been prepared to take Mister to an overnight vet clinic and front the cost, just to have him checked out and pumped with fluids, but he was actually not as distressed as I would have thought. He did drink a ton (a day later he’s still drinking a quite a bit), but he had that Big Lebowski expression on his face. “The Dude abides. Where ya been? Meow.”

"Wassup?"

This is, of course, the dogs' water bowl.

Best of Friends


And, that's how I spent my Sunday evening in a gutter.


Sunday, June 26, 2016

June 26th, 2015

Today we celebrate the one year anniversary of the United States Supreme Court decision declaring that state laws banning marriage between same-sex couples were unconstitutional. I almost couldn't sleep the night before, and the first thing I saw when I woke up that morning was their decision. Throughout the day I watched as friends got married – after being together for years. States resisted, Texas among them. The Texas Attorney General, Ken Paxton, issues an opinion and a notice to all of the county clerks in Texas telling them that they did not have to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples if it went against their religion. In Kentucky, one county clerk chose to go to jail rather than issue licenses, catching the world's attention, which I suspect is what she had in mind. But, in the end, the states and counties comply.

This changed everything, even though it didn't particularly change much for me personally. I am still not married. The only thing that it changed is that I could legally be married, but I'm not. Whereas before, it simply wasn't an option.

But, Adelaide's Lament aside, it makes me think about things like Torch Song Trilogy in which Arnold says in a soliloquy that if the Equal Rights Amendment passed, he and his kind (drag queens) were done with. As far as I know there are still drag shows, but there is something different. Perhaps it was already different when the decision came down. A few years back President Obama revoked the 'Don't Ask / Don't Tell' rule, which was all that President Clinton was able to accomplish toward allowing gays in the military. (I truly believe that he wanted more, but this sort of change takes time.) What I remember about Obama's move was how devoid it was of fanfare. A friend of mine at a family party mentioned it and I didn't believe her at first. But, it was true. It just seemed so anticlimactic after all that people had gone through. Just a change, and on we go with our business. My cousin informed me that quite a bit of rules and regulations had to be rewritten, but so be it.

Today's young gay adults will have it easier than we did when I graduated high school. But, there is a price to everything. That's not to say that one Supreme Court decision can eradicate bullying. That still goes on. We are still human beings and that kind of behavior will always be a part of us, just like love and lust and the rest of the human palate. Even the bullying, though, isn't enough to maintain the counter culture status that we had when I was learning about myself. At the job I had when I graduated high school, I was far too afraid (with reason) to be out. NOBODY was actually "out". (I wonder how many millennials know why we use the word 'out'.) It was more or less a don't ask / don't tell situation. Later, when I began working at the bookstore – on my first day, even – two guys asked me, "You are gay, right?" I was a little shaken, but it was kind of nice. They meant no harm. They may as well have been asking me if I was Hispanic. They just wanted to get to know me.

What if the ugly duckling had washed the dirt off his downy feathers and gone back to being a regular duck? What we went through is so much a part of who we are.* The struggle built (or broke) character. It's cliche to say that today's youth don't appreciate what they have. Some cliches are true. If asked, I would say that no, I wouldn't want anybody to have to grow up in the hostile atmosphere I did. I suppose that what I am saying is that at this point, I wouldn't change it for myself. I've finally gotten to where I kinda like me and my sense of humor. And, the way I grew up – that same hostile environment – is very much a part of who I am.

The air of mystery that was my twenties has pretty much been blown away by the winds of change. So, boys in high school can have boyfriends. (I do not know if this is actually happening, but if it isn't, it isn't far away.) The oblique looks, the waiting, the wondering, the excitement... *poof*. Gone. That's the price for being mainstream. Frankly, though, computers, the internet and mobile devices had washed a lot of that away already, but that is another gripe session for another time.

So, on we go with our lives. There was, indeed, quite a bit of fanfare on this day a year ago. That has died down. The divorce rate among same-sex couples seems to be the same as with opposite-sex couples. This is according to a couple of online sources, including an article by The Wall Street Journal. We're fighting over whether a bakery can refuse service to same-sex weddings, but I, for one, would never give my money to a business or person like that anyway. I go to work and pay bills. I have left the intrigue of dating and night clubs behind. I feel a little bit mainstream, a feeling that a part of me is resisting tooth and nail. So, I write and paint and let that part of me express himself. And, I wonder how it's going to be for a generation of people who never knew what a closet was.

Until we meet again I remain,

Yours truly,

Earnie



* I will grant you that I, for one, could have focused on other things as well – a college education, for instance. There are gays who have college education and who are very successful in the business world. My older brother is one of them, though he works for a nonprofit, so I don't know if you would technically call that the business world. I was a little too focused on figuring out who I was to bother to actually make something of myself, until recently.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Galveston Weekend 2016 - Final Day

The nearly full moon reminds me that it is time to return home. We slept a little late this morning. Nameless is glazing tiles because that's how he relaxes. I am writing and drinking coffee. I didn't get around to walking on the sand at night, with the waves coming at me. I'm not a huge beach fan, but there is something very relaxing about walking in the seawater with sand beneath your feet, and watching the waves' endless approach. I did watch the waves, and I did smell salt air. And, Galveston is still here. I can come back.

Driving around, you can see some of the more influential families. Moody, Gresham, Kempner are a few. I kept seeing the name Galvez, which stands out a little bit. It seems very Spanish in a place that seems to have less Spanish influence than other places I've visited. (My home town of San Antonio, for instance.) At some point I read about the way the city got its name, for Bernardo de Gálvez y Madrid, Count of Gálvez. Galveztown – Galveston. I'm rather dense that way, sometimes. Things just have to be spelled out for me.

Nameless has a friend, Chin, who invited us to lunch since we were going to be in his neck of the woods. Vorakit Chinookoswong's home and studio are nearby, so we jump in the car and drive out to meet him and his brother and sister. The house is on a stunningly beautiful place, right next to the water with grass that is greener than green. They suffered, like many others in the area, from Hurricane Ike. His brother showed me where the water had come up to half the height of his kiln (brand new!). I remember when it was going on. I didn't have a phone number; I just had an email. The email I sent was answered weeks later when Chin managed to get to a place that had a computer. All of our technology was of no use; nobody had heard from him. So we waited. Where a house had been is now a field of bright green grass that Chin's brother grumbles that he has to mow. It truly is a beautiful place, even if it is exceptionally vulnerable.

I've written about Chin before here, but below are a few pictures of some of the work that we have.




Chin told me I could take some pictures. I am very fond of seeing artists' workspaces. Here are a few.

A Potter's Wheel with a View of the Gulf

Chin, when are you going to glaze those spiky things?!

Work in Progress

Brushes

I found the Top Secret Instructions!!!
But, I can't read them.

More seafood for lunch. We had a wonderful visit with Chin.

Good friends

DOH!

Much better

As the afternoon progressed it became time to take our leave and let Chin get back to producing his beautiful art. A few pictures of his place before we leave.

Older work used as a road block

A snail that complements the round accents

The world is a better place with these two men in it


Back at the house we take a quick siesta. It's time to pack and leave. I think about what we've seen.

The Bishop's Palace

Guarding The Bishop's Palace

These stairs are much creepier than this picture indicates

Ubiquitous "Hurricane Ike Water Level" marker

Historic Home

Pleasure Pier


We clean the house (Nameless actually did most of the cleaning; I loaded the car.) We are ready to take our leave of this vacation. We both agree that a few days is best; it's time to be home. We did what I came to do. It's time to be home.

Sunset on our Galveston Vacation


P.S. I'll mention again that Chin has a website: http://www.vchingallery.com/index.html. If you visit, tell him Earnie sent you.


Sunday, June 19, 2016

Galveston Weekend 2016 - Day 2

Day Two

The gibbous moon has followed us on our adventure and tomorrow it will be a full moon. Our trip ends today, so this is somehow fitting. Many people want to squeeze as much into each trip as they can, but I feel more comfortable with savoring a few things. If I do too much, I lose track of what I've done. I came to Galveston with two goals. Many years ago I was here with Nameless for an art festival and we got lost at night. We drove past the Sacred Heart church and Bishop's Palace, and ever since that evening I have longed to return to visit these incredible buildings. Also, I am at the coast, so grilled shrimp is required. Every time I mentioned this to anybody, they let me know that I'd be more likely to find fried, but where there's a will there's a way.

Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Galveston. A blindingly white building on 14th and Broadway, I was trying to read the historical marker, but it was so very hot outside and so very bright that I gave up. It has a classic cruciform layout with St. Joan of Arc on the left (the nerve!) and St. Térèse of Lisieux on the right. In the middle was Christ, with Mary and Joseph to each side. The support beams and sanctuary are brilliant white carved plaster and the pews are good, solid wood. (I know, I should know the type of wood, but I don't. But, they do look old...) There is a definite French influence going on here. The original building - destroyed in the 1900 hurricane, was French Romanesque and the current building gives a nod to this as well. Nicholas Clayton designed the original building and he designed the dome in the reconstructed building after the 1900 storm. He is the same architect who designed the Bishop's Palace across the street, which was originally built for the Gresham family.

Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Galveston, TX

The Bishop's Palace. This was not built for a bishop, but for one of the most influential families in Galveston, the Gresham's. The exterior is overwhelmingly ornate and I couldn't manage to capture it on camera - not in a way that did it justice, anyway. Nameless pointed out that the "basement" was really just the first floor, but we are in the coastal region. I don't imagine that having part of the house under the ground would be a very good idea. And, the servants have to have a basement to be in, so there you are. It is complete with creepy back stairwell that the children and servants could use to avoid coming into contact with the adults and their guests.

The walls are wood, the fireplaces are marble, where the walls meet the ceilings there are decorative motifs or stamped linoleum. The dining room ceiling has a fresco that Mrs. Gresham painted. Off of the dining room there is a conservatory of zinc. The grand staircase in the entrance is enough to see, even if that's all you saw. The wood, the carving, the pulpit at the landing. Everything is designed to impress. Hand-carved wood adorns every space in the house. They have it very sparsely furnished because they wanted to have only the original furniture. A couple of the items, chandeliers and that sort of thing, were not original to the house. But, electricity was not original to the house, so some exceptions have to be made. They were among the first to have electricity, just like they were among the first to have gas fixtures before that.

Part of me winces at the decadence, but a larger part of me very much appreciates the people whose talents were used to create the house. The wood paneling and parquet floors are exceptional and the carved wood everywhere is the work of experts.

Grand Staircase seen from the Entrance 
In the Kitchen

Grand Staircase seen from above






After those two buildings we drove around the historic district before returning to the house for a siesta. Later in the evening we ventured out to visit The Strand, which seems to be similar to Austin's 6th street, but with a larger variety and less actual liquor. Most places served things made of wine or beer, so that one can walk around with their drinks in hand. Neither of us was very hungry, but we did stumble across an ice cream parlor that served taffy, candy, ice cream, sodas, malts, coffee and if I had been the tiniest bit hungry we would have stayed in there longer. (For one thing it was blessedly cool. June at the coast is hot and muggy!)

It was very interesting to see the buildings that seemed to have withstood Hurricane Ike, those that did not and those that have sprung up since. The Pleasure Pier that I mentioned before (calling it a boardwalk) was where a resort used to be - a hotel that I had seen when I was in Galveston before. Hovering over the water, it did not stand a chance with that sort of storm, and the pier was rebuilt to house Bubba Gump's Shrimp Company and a carnival of rides. I wasn't going to pay to enter, but we did walk around the entrance while waiting for dinner across the street at Fish Tales, where there was a 45 minute wait, and where I DID manage to find grilled shrimp, thankyouverymuch.

Glowing building we happened to park next to

Buildings on the Strand, they seem to have withstood the storms 
This building seems not to have withstood the storm, right across the street from the Glowing building



While at The Strand we noticed that they had blocked it off. This didn't surprise us, as they do this with Bourbon street in NOLA and 6th St. in Austin. One of the shopkeepers, though, had no idea that they had done that and was rather surprised. (And not a little concerned about her own car parked inside the cordoned-off area.) As it turns out, Sunday is June 19th, also known as Juneteenth, and there was a parade planned. We saw bands on trailers pulled by trucks, a slew of Corvettes, marching bands and dancers and then we saw a very dark sky come over faster than I've ever seen a storm collect. It quite literally rained on their parade. We sat on the sidewalk under one of the deep overhangs in front of the buildings while it rained. We saw a glowing building, catching the light from a sun that we could not see, along with a double rainbow. If your parade has to be rained out, a double rainbow is a nice consolation.

Rain on The Strand

Double Rainbow and a Glowing Building

Where the rainbow ends


After The Strand, as I mentioned earlier, we went to Fish Tales. We had planned to go to Gaido's, but this one looked just as good and quite a bit less snobbish (and quite a bit less expensive.) I finally got my grilled shrimp in a light sauce on a bed of rice pilaf and grilled veggies. Nameless had fried coconut shrimp. All of if was exquisite, even if the portions were smaller than I had anticipated.

Grilled Shrimp

Coconut Shrimp


Then, in the same vein of not doing too much, we decided to retire after dinner. Frankly, I was still hungry, but I had ice cream from the previous evening and potato chips at the house. I had books to read, so I was set. I overheard Nameless say to a friend on the phone that this has been a very relaxing vacation. That makes me feel good. He doesn't relax often, and his anxiety goes up when he spends money so, Friday's trip to buy gems did nothing to put him at ease. And, I agree. It has been a relaxing vacation.


Saturday, June 18, 2016

Galveston Weekend - 2016 - Day 1

At some point in my life I looked around and thought about the fact that I have never visited New Orleans LA or Galveston TX, or any other places that are near my home. I’ve been to Costa Rica, several parts of Mexico, Los Angeles, Chicago and NYC. But, things that are three hours from my home my entire adult life have escaped me. So, a couple of years ago I decided to right this wrong. There was a trip to NOLA two years ago, and now I am on a weekend trip to Galveston. This trip, though, is not without digressions. There was an International Gem & Jewelry show in Houston that was the catalyst for the whole thing.

But first, one of my cats, Raku, developed shpilkes in her genecktekazoiks. So, she got to come along with us so that we can giver her the antibiotics and pain medication. Her operation is scheduled for this Wednesday. She’s a beautiful creature, and like most extraordinarily beautiful creatures she is high maintenance. She has already cost me more than my other two cats combined and one of them has 10 years on her.



We dropped Raku off at a friend’s house in Houston and proceeded to the International Gem & Jewelry show. There were a lot of vendors of gems and beads, but we only saw one person who was selling cabochons. Many quality artisans seem to have abandoned this once-incredible event leaving perfume vendors and other questionably related types, and there were a lot of empty spaces. It’s unfortunate, but that is the way things go. An event will build up and reach its apex, and then slowly deteriorate until it is reborn somewhere else. So, was it worth it to pay to park and then walk through blazing heat to get into the convention center? I suppose it depends on your perspective. Nameless wasn’t terribly inspired by much of what he saw, but he did get some very nice things. A wonderful man named Wu was selling pearls and Nameless bought some - Tahitian South Sea pearls, not freshwater pearls. Wu was probably the most pleasant person we saw. We don’t generally encounter a lot of terribly friendly people, but as long as they know their gems and display a certain amount of passion about it, I’m happy. There were two or three people who felt passion about what they were selling, about gems and the lapidary art of cutting and presenting them.

What does a gem and stone show look like?









Some of what Nameless came home with. He had a couple of smaller turquoise and Australian boulder opals that would have been difficult to photograph on the fly.

Tahitian South Sea Pearls with Jasper in the background and Labradorite beads

Labradorite, and two Jaspers

We left the show with our purchases and went to Genesis Art Glass Studio where we had left Raku in the care of Nameless' friend. He has a cat named Richella, who was named after a dear friend of ours who passed away quite a few years ago now. Raku is also named after her, but I chose the name of Richella's art, rather than using her given name. Richella was with us when I first visited this Gem & Jewelry show here in Houston. I wonder if she was with us this time. I didn't see any dragon flies. Maybe she sat this one out. Maybe she's waiting for us to find where the real stone dealers are playing these days. I think about that as we get on the road to Galveston. That sounds like a good quest - to find the stone dealers. She certainly had a passion for gems and stones. She reminds me of Barbra Streisand in What's Up, Doc?

Howard: What? Oh no, no you see I'm a musicologist. I was just testing this specimen for inherent tonal qualities. I have this theory about early man's musical relationship to igneous rock formations. But I guess you're not really interested in igneous rock formations.
Judy: Not as much as I am in the sedimentary or metamorphic rock categories. I mean, I can take your igneous rocks or leave 'em. I relate primarily to micas, quartz, feldspar. You can keep your Pyroxenes, magnetites and coarse grained plutonics as far as I'm concerned.
Howard: I forgot why I came in here.
Judy: Headache.

Onward we drove at speeds varying from 5 MPH to 70 MPH, depending on the highway at any given moment. Quite a few people heading to Galveston this weekend in mid-June. We got to the house/bungalow, turned the AC on and promptly left for the grocery store to pick up some provisions while the place cooled down. A friend owns a house here that she lets to her friends for a small fee and it works out wonderfully from what I can tell. We got Raku situated and decided that we were starving out of our minds.

Seawall Drive is rather a bright, shiny place. Lot’s of lights, restaurants and that sort of thing. There’s even a boardwalk of sorts that’s just ablaze with lights, and what looks like a Ferris wheel, but doesn’t seem to actually turn. I think we’ll explore that this evening. We’ll also go back to Gaido’s, because I wasn’t in the mood to enjoy an expensive meal. I was tired. We ended up at a Mexican restaurant and I had a fruity alcoholic drink and grilled fish tacos that were divine. We may have had Baskin Robbins for dessert.

That more or less ended day one. We were tired. Very tired. We put sheets on the beds; Nameless was watching a show on television, wishing he could change the station. I’m no help in that arena, but I do believe that the batteries were dead on the remote control. I have no intention of regressing to my childhood and being the television station changer, and I wouldn’t know how on today’s TV’s anyway. So, I read for a bit and tried to sleep. Sleep is not always easy when I’m not in my own bed and when I don’t have cats around me. Raku was in her crate, having decided that her litter box is, indeed, a box and therefore a place to sleep. Whatever, it’s vacation.