Galveston, Oh Galveston

After our week’s visit to New Mexico we flew via Denver to Austin where we spent a few days with my good friends Sandy and Kees so that Grahame could enjoy the full-on Texas experience.  On the first evening we dined at the Catfish Parlour and, despite (or perhaps because) of the fact that it was Halloween and all the staff were in costume it was not too crowded. Staggering out afterwards we acknowledged that authentic Texan dining would have to be somewhat rationed and Kees and I reverted to our well-rehearsed hit and run raids on the excellent salad bars at Jason’s deli.

We took G to San Antonio for a visit to the San Juan Mission and the Alamo (where the souvenir shop is a bigger than the historic building itself) so that he could try to understand the unique role of the Lone Star State in the history of the Union. Well, anyway, the names: Bowie, Travis, Crockett were familiar even if the real skinning knife that had belonged to James Bowie was half the size of the replica for sale in the shop.

In a spirit of International fraternity Sandy and Kees also took us for a drive out to Marble Falls to see  Stonehenge II, built by Al Shepperd in 1989. It turned out to have been moved since they last visited around 25 years ago and we drove down several back roads in the search until G noticed an Easter Island statue in a field of rather nonchalant cattle. Of course! What else would you expect? And there was the circle of ancient megaliths, lovingly re-created in concrete, chicken wire and plaster with rather less mathematical precision than had been employed by our stone-age ancestors on this side of the Pond.

We had arranged to fly home from Houston and so on this visit I got my long-promised visit to Galveston. The old colonial style architecture and maritime history of the town did not disappoint and nor did the old fashioned luxury of the celebrated Hotel Galvez, especially with the privilege of a guided tour given by Mr Bobby. He is an absolutely delightful eighty-year-old black gentleman, who spins out the town’s history: presidents, film stars and gangsters; glamour, segregation and prohibition all brought vividly to life by his deep Southern vowels. Bobby Hilton (no relation) was let out of school to work as a bus boy in the Galvez at the age of fourteen but the management insisted that he complete his education and he went on to travel the country in his various careers. He served as an army medic, engineer and businessman, finally returning to the Galvez and his current post on the reception twenty years ago. Some of his children and grandchildren still live on the Island.

But any echo of that old song “Galveston, Oh Gal-Ves-Ton” ringing though my ears was severely curtailed by the deep throbbing “potato-potato-potato” of Harley Davidson engines as the town was filled for the weekend with bikers of every description. Fortunately the Sons of Anarchy, a latter day version of the Hell’s Angels were not too much in evidence and most of the guys who clearly lavished vast quantities of greenbacks on their super-shiny show-off machines (to say nothing of their girlfriends’ breast enlargements) were probably lawyers or surgeons during the rest of the week. I did have an awkward moment, though,  when I was waylaid by a woman from the “Chariots of Light” a Christian Bikers’ movement. This complete stranger fixed me with a stern stare and said “If you died today, do you know where you’d be going?”* Only in America.

Actually, there was another awkward moment. I managed to get a quick snap of the butt-cheek model with her naked wares peeking out over the top of a pair of leather chaps while she was being photographed promoting who-knows-what but I’m afraid it was out of focus. The gentlemen in our party were not best pleased with me.

From Galveston there was just time for a stop off at the Space Centre on our way to “Daddy” Bush Airport, Houston. It has been a bit “Disneyfied” since Kees worked there as one of the original computer nerds at the time of the moon landings (think rooms full of flashing lights and banks of reel to reel tapes all going clickerty-clack). But once you pay the hefty entrance fee and get past all the shops and restaurants, the original Mission Control and the immense Saturn Five rocket can still bring a lump to the throat of anyone old enough to remember their days of glory.

(* Yes, I do know where I’m going and it’s no place you would understand, Lady.)


Categories: North America

1 Comment

  • Sandy says:

    You covered it all very well and we are glad you enjoyed your trip here because we certainly enjoyed having you with us.

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