On New Year’s Eve we drove down to see the remains of Galveston, devastated last September by Hurricane Ike. Charlie’s mom suggested the visit, as Katie needed a ride to meet some old friends for lunch (Chili’s and their blessed never-ending salsa bowl). We drove forty-five minutes through Houston, down the coast and across the bridge into the city. Mounds of debris littering the roadside as we passed: broken doors, shattered glass, and torn shingles, piled like a barrow next to crippled buildings and empty lots where gulf-side resorts once stood. Not having visited the city before, the absence of houses shocked us less than the damage to standing structure. McDonald signs stripped of its marquee, now reads ‘over 1 served.’ Gas stations, boarded up and fenced with police tape like a crime scene. Battered shops, abandoned and broken, empty of all merchandise and the occasional window. Near the ocean, construction equipment dig deep into the sand and ocean, clearing away debris and toxic waste, rebuilding the beach. Skeletons of what was once beach-front resorts and restaurants wave and falter in the ocean breeze; tattered signs glide like kites on cobwebs of string and rope tangled among the broken beams and aluminum rooftops. We passed a tottering pier, where a lone hotel still stood. Pieces of concrete appeared cut from the sides, as if bitten by some ancient sea monster.
Nevertheless several shops and restaurants appeared repaired and refurnished; sea side eateries and bars adorned with faded – but upright – plaster casts of shrimp and crabs welcomed full crowds dining outside in the breeze. The Denny’s looked practically new. We chose a Chili’s near the beach to stop and eat; the freshly painted façade suggested renovation. The redundantly named “Cancun Ranch: Mexican Bar and Grill and Bar” behind appeared abandoned. Like the arrival of spring after a long winter, the town was coming alive again.
Later that evening, we drove home and barely welcomed the New Year without falling asleep. The boys, intent on staying awake, alternated jumping into the hot tube and the freezing swimming pool, a Texas-style polar plunge. The face on Ryan as he emerged – quickly like sparks in a griddle – woke us all from our New Year’s stupor. *sigh* It’s another year, full of adventure, intrigue, and foolishness. Anything less and I would not be able to handle it all.