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.


Sunday, June 5, 2016

Book Pre-Review

I have a book to review, but I'm going to take my time on that. In the meantime, I thought I'd mention that I have begun reading another book – one that is fairly well known. The narrator (one of them) is described as 'unreliable', a term I have only recently come into contact with, though the concept has been around for a while. (Think Fight Club, though it's much, much older than that.) It seems that by telling me that the narrator is unreliable, they have taken away most of the element of surprise, but I don't imagine that the people who publish books would really do that on the back cover. So, I have to think there's still more to come.

I will say, though, that as far as unreliability goes, this narrator fits the bill so far. She's a mess, spiralling out of control and I have no idea why her roommate puts up with her, or how much longer she's going to. I'm only a couple of chapters in, after all. She has spent the last two years sinking into a level of alcoholism that would generally take somebody many more years, or decades, to accomplish.

The author describes this perfectly. I don't even know the author's name; that's what a good job she's done. I am convinced that I'm reading the notes of a real person. (Clearly, they were dictated as she could not possibly put pen to paper or work a word processor.) As I read about poor life choices and struggling to remember what happened earlier this afternoon to cause the bump on her head and the bruises across her body I begin to think about my own life. I mean, I am truly wondering when I'm going to get my act together. I long, just a little, to call a local AA branch to talk to somebody about my problem. A problem which I do not have, by the way. I hardly drink. When filling out paperwork at a new doctor's office I struggle with the question of how often I drink. There is nothing between 'one drink a week' and 'never'. I fall into that gap, somewhere.

People this easily impressionable are perfect readers, as far as I can tell. I become a part of the story to a depth that is probably not entirely healthy. Also, it means that I have to read something apologetically happy every once in a while. The last time I had a true bout of depression (a few years ago) I had been reading a book of short stories by David Foster Wallace. That man can get to you. (He got to himself, it would seem.) After going through that, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was called for, or, something along those lines. When I don't have one of those firmly in my grasp I reach for Calvin & Hobbs. I'm writing a novel right now, and the story is not always pleasant. I doubt that I come out of that experience unscathed.

But, it's been a while. So, I am happily (or enjoying myself, anyway) reading a book that has had rave reviews and a few people whose negative opinion about it has only strengthened my desire to read it. I'll try to write about this novel as well, once I'm finished. In the meantime, I'm going to continue reading, I'll begin the other review I mentioned and I'm going to have a lie down to try to get my life together.

-- Earnie


Thursday, May 5, 2016

Monday, May 2, 2016

Drivel Series - One

The world is a little bit different when seen from the other side of a 2-day headache. If you simply have a headache, then you can remember what it was like when the sound of a child laughing brought joy to your heart. Even a child crying offered hope for the world in the form of a new generation. But, after the first day has passed, the memory of what life was like (before the pain behind one’s eyes crushed one’s will to be out of bed) slowly fades away, leaving one to wonder if that was ever reality to begin with – much like the over-analogized dream that one wakes from, struggling to grasp the threads of it in order to remember the details later, when one is awake – but unable to quite retain it all amidst the persistent daybreak of consciousness that flushes out the shadows of the dreamworld and floods the day with light.

Damn metaphors. Where’s my Advil?!