Texas, affectionately known as "Galvatraz" by some of its residents
and visitors, really gets a bad rap. Maybe it's because this coastal
resort city on the Gulf of Mexico features sand and water that often
resemble the aftermath of a 24-hour stomach virus, only less inviting.
Despite these unfair characterizations, my experiences with Galveston
have mostly been positive. When I was a child, Galveston Island
was my first experience with the ocean-and the unforgettable sensation
of beach sand lodged in my shorts.
One of my fondest childhood memories is of my dad taking me "crabbing"
on one of the many jetties stretching out from the Galveston coastline.
The intricate and genteel process of crabbing involves luring the
prized blue crabs with a raw chicken neck tied to the end of a thin
rope, and then scooping them up with a long dip net. (Obviously,
the blue crab isn't known for its elusiveness-or its taste in chicken
Since I now have three daughters, it goes without saying that my
most recent trip to Galveston Island didn't involve something as
personally fulfilling as enticing bottom-dwelling crustaceans with
uncooked poultry. Instead, I had traveled hundreds of miles to an
interesting city so that I could sit inside a cavernous building
all day watching a performance by my eldest and most expensive daughter-this
time in a high school drill and dance team competition.
After a punishing four-hour drive, we knew we were approaching our
destination when we began to detect the invigorating fragrance of
the ocean breeze mingled with refined petroleum.
By the time we had crossed the George and Cynthia Mitchell Memorial
Causeway onto the island, it was nearly 10:00 PM. About that time,
my youngest and quietest daughter, who rarely offers her opinion
on any subject other than her plans for world domination via YouTube,
looked up from her iPad and declared that she was hungry for popcorn
Unfortunately, Galveston enforces a strict popcorn shrimp curfew
beginning at 10:00 PM on weeknights. After being turned away from
three, yes three, seafood establishments just as they were enthusiastically
locking their front doors, we finally found a Joe's Crab Shack that
was open until 11:00 PM. We hoped they wouldn't defile our seafood
platters for coming in so late, and we were pleasantly surprised
by the server's hospitality. Trying for a healthy option, I ordered
two skewers of grilled shrimp on a bed of rice pilaf, which was
about as flavorful as a serving of moist paper products. Luckily,
one of the joys of having children is that they rarely clean their
plates, so I was able to negate my bland, low-calorie fare with
some mangled shards of popcorn shrimp and a hearty portion of tepid
Once we had shut down Joe's, we made it to our hotel just in time
to crash for the night-or at least try. Our beachfront room was
decorated in a garish Tang orange. Virtually all of the room's furnishings,
right down to the retro mini-fridge, were like set-pieces from a
Wes Anderson film. Even the hallway carpet, with its pattern of
yellow circles on an orange background, looked like an accident
scene involving a tanker truck full of SpaghettiOs.
The next morning, we headed to the convention center to spend the
entire buttock-crippling day watching about 600 dance routines,
a few of them actually involving my daughter and her teammates.
One consolation was that a lot of the dance music was from the 1980's-when
musicians still knew the value of a good synthesizer solo. I even
got a chance to go out on the floor to help set up curtains for
a couple of the team's dances-while secretly hoping they'd call
me up to fill in on a few split leaps.
To top it off, my daughter's team was named National Grand Champions.
(I'm pretty sure the expert curtain installation had something to
do with it.)
I'm really looking forward to my next visit to Galveston island.
Maybe next time, I'll even take my daughters crabbing, but only
if I can convince one of them to tie on the chicken necks.