Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Building Galveston

Every time I go to Galveston, I get a little bit depressed by its latent capacity for redevelopment, capacity which remains unrealized decade after decade. 
One of an uncountable number of beautiful old buildings boarded up. 
It contains a row of carved faces near the top, but they all look very sad. 
When I ask people why this languishing perpetuates, I've consistently gotten the standard pat answer over the past twenty years: "Galveston is controlled by a small number of wealthy families, and they don't want to see increased development because that would dilute their power and they'd lose their ability to control it."  I have no way of knowing how much truth there is to this, but that's the urban legend that tends to serve as an explanation.  Maybe someday, someone will investigate this and publish a proper analysis (hint, hint). 

Whatever the real story is, not even billionaire BOI George Mitchell can seem to truly breach it despite his phenomenal contributions over the years.  He's often credited with the famous quote "Any fool can make money in Houston, but it takes a genius to do it in Galveston", but he himself actually attributes that gem of a summation to one of his brothers

Anyway, it's a shame that Galveston doesn't achieve its potential.  It's a shame in the larger social context but it's also a bummer specifically for the several hundred thousand of us who live at this node, the center point between Houston and Galveston. 
Our subdivision's developer didn't pull our name out of thin air.  Sometimes I joke that our personal center of everything is in the exact middle of nowhere, but we literally are at the center of gravity of these two cities.  This is the sign at eastbound FM 518 and IH-45.  Our freeway exit (League City Parkway) is about six thousand feet south of here, which quite literally puts us in the middle.
We Clear Lakers can go either north or south for some of our extra-territorial social recreation, but in the logistical sense, it's one hell of a lot easier to head south.  There are many non-working days where I just wish I could zip out for an hour or two without an epic traffic battle.  Unless there's a holiday or special event in Galveston, it's often easy to just fly down the road and be there quickly without wasting time and energy.  If instead I go to Houston, I'm usually exhausted by the freeway fight before I even get there. 

So I did this - I went to Galveston late Sunday afternoon after getting into a mood of ,"I just want to go for a simple walk and see some stuff"

Following our recent underwhelming ArtWalk experience, I started off around Postoffice Street, which was quite literally deserted.  I was the only patron in almost all of the stores and galleries I entered.  Not unexpectedly, most of them closed up shop by 5 p.m. on a beautiful weekend afternoon (another Galveston bonus: summertime temperatures are much cooler than in Houston).  No sense staying open if there's no one around. 

I then ambled a few blocks north to The Strand, which is where the action was - but why, I'm not entirely sure, because much of what's there seems to consist of trinket shops and places that sell ice cream and unhealthy sugary drinks. 

And of course the trinket shops are full of cheap Made-in-China clothing which is suitably oversized for fitting folks who tend to overindulge in unhealthy sugary drinks. 

Nevertheless, I found some fun in one of my favorite facets of Galveston - the historical architecture - and so I thought I'd close this contemplative with some of that.  It might not be a good idea for a day laborer to set a single toe onto the public right of way in League City, but if you're a prosperous-looking middle-aged white woman carrying a gallery shopping bag, you can spend hours jay-walking like a disoriented stoner all though the City of Galveston and the only thing anyone will do in response to this is smile and nod.  I call this photo series below "Galveston buildings all taken from approximately the same street angle using a Lumia 928 cell phone", a title intended as a nerdy nod to "More songs about buildings and food".  I'm not even going to tell you what all of these buildings are, because sometimes it's better to simply shut up and look at the art without a lot of verbal details cluttering up the experience. 

Happy rambling, with or without an epic freeway battle.


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