Commentary: Last month marked one year of my living in Galveston, and what an eventful year it has been. I’ve met lots of new friends and discovered there really is a thing called “Island time.”
Moving away from Montrose after almost 30 years in the eclectic neighborhood wasn’t totally my choice. The apartment I lived in was sold as what is happening more and more in the area, and I was evicted so the new owners could renovate.
My friend had a retail space in downtown Galveston, a block off the Strand that she offered if I was interested in relocating. Having loved the Island forever, I seized the opportunity but not without a little trepidation. The space is prone to flooding and took on four feet of water as recently as Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
My anxiety was calmed when I received a few signals from above. The apartment is on Rosenberg Street (I was born and raised in Rosenberg, Texas.) The apartment sits at the intersection of Mechanic Street (my father was a mechanic his entire life and could tell you the most intimate details of a DeSoto, Plymouth and Pontiac.) But the clincher game the first time I took my dog Hope for a walk. Two blocks away sits Pier 23. My mother’s favorite number was 23. She was born March 23, 1923 and always had her bible open to Psalm 23 (“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want….”)
Ghosts, Bikers, and Floods — never a dull moment
In the past year I witnessed the Island dedicate its first Pride Crosswalk. The city has three dedicated gay bars and a host of others that are as gay-friendly as can be. Robert’s Lafitte is my new home bar and I spent countless hours in their patio pool.
CNN set up a crew outside my door as Tropical Storm Imelda came ashore. The storm left a water line a foot high outside my building but only a little trickled inside since the building has been made water resistant. Galveston’s friendliness and perseverance were evident when a neighbor (Sharky’s Tavern) answered a plea for help and allowed me to borrow a shop vac. And all of the downtown bars were open for business later that evening.
I hosted my annual Christmas party for about 50 friends on Christmas Eve, my family’s annual gathering. It was awesome having everyone over and many enjoyed a stroll down the Strand.
My brother and his wife stayed overnight at the Tremont House allowing us to enjoy a Christmas morning breakfast together.
For a small town, Galveston knows how to put on a parade — or should I say “parades.” The annual Christmas Parade was very enjoyable and reminded me of a Hallmark Channel movie. Everyone was happy and in the spirit of the season.
But the yuletide parade was just a sample of what was to come. At least 25 parades navigated the streets of the Island city over the Mardi Gras season. Many of the parades passed right outside my door.
Then there are the beads. Tons and tons of beads are tossed from the floats and I can report I got my fair share of them to put on my very own Mardi Gras tree.
Galveston is called one of the most haunted cities in the country, and while I have yet to experience any supernatural activity myself, others around me may have. A friend who was staying with me for a while swears she saw a spirit one night at about 3 a.m. as she was coming home from her bartending gig. As she passed by an ally, she saw a figure about halfway down the block. It was a male figure, suspended in midair wearing what she described as a Confederate soldier’s uniform. She says she didn’t know she could run so fast.
My dog, an eight- or nine-year-old Black Labrador has never had emotional issues or separation anxiety until we moved to the Island. One day I came home from work and the apartment looked like a crime scene. The shades in the windows were shredded, the bicycles were knocked over, and it appeared she was trying desperately to get out, as if something was after her. It scared me so much that I called the police.
Galveston’s finest investigated and think that some kids were antagonizing her from outside, causing her to react in such a violent manner. I’m still not so sure, especially after I saw a dog-like figure in the reflection on the window of one of the pictures I took and read about Jean Lafitte’s “phantom dogs” that protect his homestead, which is a short distance away.
October ushered in the annual Lone Star Rally. An estimated 500,000 leather-clad motorcycle enthusiasts were all stationed outside my door. My headache only recently subsided.
As if storm flooding, Civil War ghosts, and phantom dogs are not scary enough, a pandemic came along in March saying, “Hold my beer.”
All in all, I have adjusted well to life on the Island. There are so many good people here and there is such a sense of community as a whole and especially in the LGBTQ community. Living in Galveston, like anywhere else, one learns to acclimate and take the bad with the good.