Galveston, Texas

prawn

Galveston, oh Galveston is on an island in the Gulf of Mexico, but is not as romantic as that sounds; it’s flat and surrounded by oil rigs and chemical plants in decline, some of which recently blew up.

It features many rugged and quirky individuals with names like Skip Devlin (an actual example).

There is a lot of civic art here, with which I have a morbid preoccupation. Aside from a couple of abstract pieces, most of it is commercially motivated, like the big cement King Neptune by the beach and the giant skull with bleeding eye-sockets (which seems to be part of a defunct horror-themed mini-golf course), but there seems to be no known explanation for the six-metre-long white stucco trumpet in the middle of town.

The beach by our hotel is dotted with shut-down tourist attractions, like restaurants in the shape of volcanoes with waterfalls inside and out, all decrepit and run-down, and whole ramshackle themed piers with “For Sale” signs on them.

The houses are those classic Southern tall wooden things on stilts, some of the bars just have a hand-painted sign saying “Drinks” (almost with the “n” backwards) and a brick holding the door open. The cement is crumbling, the paint’s peeling, the wood is rotting. Apart from a kempt tourist precinct, everything has a decadent, off-season feeling.

The day we got here a thick hot fog came down; you could only see about fifty metres, giving the whole town a middlebrow-scary, Stephen King vibe.

I actually saw a guy in bib-and-brace, no shirt, backwards cap, weaving around with a kid in a stroller, chuggin’ liquor outa a clay jug with a handle at five in the afternoon.

We’re playing a right purty ole theater called the Grand Opera House. It’s on a street right where all the bars are, so my destiny is sealed for the week.

One of the white theater crew casually used the word “nigger” in a conversation with me, right in front of his black colleagues. I just looked away, feeling like a loser for not jumping on it.

Today is Thanksgiving, and it’s all ice-sculptures and inflatables on parade. It’s starting to get to me even though it doesn’t mean anything to me, like when you’re not home for Christmas. As far as I can make out, what is being commemorated here is the day a well-traveled Native American pointed out – in English – to the Pilgrims that, seeing as how they were starving to death and all their chickens were gone, they should consider eating the big fat turkeys that were running around everywhere.

At which the Pilgrims slapped their foreheads and said “Thank God!”.

turkey

I met a brilliant young Chilean neurological scientist, who explained to me how Creutzfeldt-Jakob (“Mad Cow”) disease is transmitted by misfolded proteins. The proteins that make up tissue are normally folded a certain neat way, but, like a slinky with a twisted coil, if a fold goes wrong the whole molecule is cactus, and worse, the misfolding slowly propagates through the tissue until the whole brain is liverwurst.

It turns out that Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s may develop the same way, and it’s even possible that they could be transmitted the same way, although the free-marketeers haven’t yet sunk as low as to use retirement homes as a source of food filler.

There is something profoundly terrifying about this mode of propagation – I will henceforth live in fear of misfolded proteins.

julia

I will also remember Galveston for the fact that John Howard’s reign as Prime Minister ended while we were there. This event was celebrated early in the morning – before the airport bus out of there – at the Pink Dolphin, Galveston’s premier gay bar, which happened to be open and amenable to our smashing of a specially prepared Howard piƱata.

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