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Hurricane Ike: November 2008 Archives

Ode to the Cow

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So this post is a bit late, but that is in no way a reflection of its importance.  While we were evacuees in evacuation site #2 (casa del Mondo parent's in Victoria) we visited the local Home Depot in preparation for our return to the Island. 

We purchased many things: 

generator (the Mondos)
first aid kits
gas cans
gas
bug spray
gloves
work boots
trash bags
batteries
a cow.

Yes, a cow. 

Yes, you can buy a cow at Home Depot in Victoria.  However, if you DO decide to purchase a cow at the Victoria Home Depot, be prepared to defend its honor to the cashier who will likely insist it is, in fact, a sheep.  Rest assured, it is a cow. A "calm down cow" as we have come to know and love.  Some people use biofeedback, some people count to ten.  We pet the cow.  And it works.

As Christopher Walken might say, we've got a fever...  And the only prescription is more cow... 

calm down cow.jpg 
Host:      Gerald Sullivan
Location: Sugar Bean Coffee and Cream - Private Meeting Room (11 Evia Main, Galveston, TX)
When:     Tuesday, December 2, 6:00PM
Phone:     409.744.5555

Galveston Island is in a recovery and rebuilding mode and we would like for you to participate in that effort!

Please join us for an evening with Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas to discuss your ideas for the future of Galveston Island.  What are our greatest challenges and opportunities, what should be the short-term and long-term goals for the island, how will your family thrive as we rebuild our home?  These and other topics will be discussed and please come prepared to offer your ideas and input as we seize this opportunity to rebuild Galveston Island!  

If you would like to submit topics for discussion, e-mail them to ksullivan@sullivaninterests.com.  Also, feel free to forward this invitation to other friends who have a vested interest in Galveston Island!

Click here for more information.
 
 
I heard my new theme song this week on my trip to Texas City to visit my Galveston hair stylist.  I hadn't heard this song in a long time, but I found myself belting it out as I drove 45.  Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It."  Ok, you can stop laughing at me now.

Perhaps I'm moving into the "Anger" part of the Stages of Grief (see last Saturday's post for that explanation), but I'm tired of the Island being thrown under the proverbial bus.  I seriously thought Paul Burka's pathetic attempt at gothic mourning would send me out my office window (see this month's Texas Monthly for that piece of optimism).  And his is just one in quite a few recent attempts at justifying letting the Island lay down to die.  So what to do with all of this pent-up rage?  What do all of us do?  Whether it is from the insurance game, the Great Permit Wait of '08, the utter lack of people skills by our leaders?  The list goes on and on.

We desperately need a figurehead right now - a spokesperson really.  (I'll steer clear of overall management and leadership capacity at this point).  We need communication, some serious PR that communicates a unified vision, backed up by a concrete, enforceable plan.  Hell, we needed that before the Storm, but now it is more serious than ever.  We Islanders need that too.  We need a leader who presents a vision that will bring together an Island that is truly a place to live, work, raise a family while promoting the tourism industry that represents the variety of attractions this Island has to offer like ecotourism, historic tourism, fishing, the beaches, etc.  Admittedly this is no small feat as one must not only deal with the political minefield that is Galveston interest groups but must present a cohesive plan that values and preserves our state's precious history, environmental landscape, as well as creates a diversified workforce with multiple economic engines.  Oh, and we need some regulations and actual capacity to ensure quality planning and code enforcement (hello Broadway).

A few folks have come out of the gate here lately.  I don't know Gerald Sullivan and am only familiar with what the Daily News has written.  But, I do know this.  If he is going to lead this recovery committee, he's going to have to step up and speak to the Island as well as bring together the best and the brightest the Island has to offer, and again, represents the Island.  For example, if this Island truly cares about middle class flight (anyone out there know who qualifies as middle class on this Island?), you better put some of us on that committee and include an achievable plan as part of recovery.  And I'm just saying here - whether it is fair or not, he's going to have to build trust with some of my fellow Islanders.  The brouhaha (love that word) that is his family's interest on the Island and the East End Flat's drama befitting only an episode of "All My Children" is his burden to bear.  It may not be right.  It may not be fair.  It is what it is.  And nobody knows this better than Islanders.

One last thing.  I'd like to give a shout-out to my boy, U.S. Representative Chet Edwards (D) from Waco for truly leading an effort to support the Island post-Ike.  Check out the Daily News today for a story on this.  That's the kind of leadership we need.  Thanks for taking the bull by the horns Chet.
 

Solutions. Not soapboxes.

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I just read an article from Texas Monthly about Galveston and Ike's aftermath.  The last line says that in the end, the sea will always win in Galveston.  That pisses me off.  The author of the piece is BOI and grew up here.  However, of course, he now lives elsewhere in Texas.  At the same time he relies on his sense of heartfelt abominations hiding behind his hysterical views of a place he used to call home.  In his case, maybe the ocean did win.  Maybe it rose up from its depth dwelling soul and captured his courage.  But I tell you this, Galveston needs not his kind.

Don't get me wrong.  His article triumphed in telling the story of the storm and the pitfalls of destruction along with the Island's leaders' abilities to overcome.  And he even tells of his own family's tie with the epitome of Galveston's existence - the 1900 Storm.  But one can tell he's lost his G-Town swagger.

Instead he attempts every reason why people should not inhabit the Island.  The same reasons he cites for not resurrecting Galveston are the very things that make the folks who chose and still choose to do so brave souls.  In all of his words about the Island's history and how it shapes the Island's psyche, he fails to realize that those of us committed to the Island do so to preserve and protect this very history.  Without the courage, grit, and passion of 1900 Storm survivors, the author would not only have lacked his childhood but this very romanticized drama of a magazine article.

We need solutions, not soapboxes.  However brave we may be, the author snatches up the heroism by his final line.  Almost an ultimatum against residents.  The sea does not win.  It has not won.  The sea may have taken things from our Island over the years, but it has not and will never take our one and only weapon against it.  Choice.

I would love to post a link to the article, but Texas Monthly's website won't let you read the whole thing.  So, if you're somewhere selling mags, pick one up and tell me how you feel about his words.
 
(Thanks to Lesley Sommer and the HDGP Board for continuing to be the advocate for businesses and residents of downtown Galveston! Please visit www.downtownGalveston.org for more information!)

City to Clean Downtown Streets -  The mud should be gone by Dec. 1

HDGP met Tuesday with the City Manager to discuss the cleaning of downtown.  While the major debris piles are being removed, the mud and small debris continue to carpet the streets.  Following discussion with the department heads present it was agreed that the "fine cleaning" needed to happen prior to Dickens on The Strand and the Lone Star Rally, and a completion date of December 1st was set.
 
They City has asked that all businesses and building owners honor the November 15 deadline for debris cleanout.  After that point the City requests that debris no longer be placed in the Right of Way.
 
Do you have any suggestions/ideas/concerns you'd like HDGP to address?  How would you like to see Galveston's downtown progress over the next days, weeks, months, etc?
  

Today, I Know This Much

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Frankly, I avoided dealing too much with my feelings after the Storm.  I just don't operate that way - I'm the "get the job done and deal with it later" girl.  And this storm.  It's just so much.  Too much.  Where does one start, really?

I know that it is deeply painful to go to work each day.  I am thankful for my job for many reasons, but the pain comes from geography.  I work in Houston where for many people if not the city's general heartbeat, all is back to normal.  So the drive into H-town and back is the epitome of cognitive dissonance.  My heart is here and my brain must be there.

We all know this pain - our absence from national, state headlines even daily conversations in Houston.  All the more jarring and wounding is the occasional mini story in the Houston Chronicle as though Ike was a blockbuster movie hailed by critics only to fail utterly at the box office (also within 2 weeks of Ike's blow, Chronicle blogs asking whether "we" should rebuild Galveston).

Phone calls from off the Island, with exceptions, well, what can I say?  Often these calls are exhausting and honestly sometimes they can be painful.  We all know those calls: "So is everything back to normal there?"  Some days I handle that question better than others.

I know I'm not alone.  Lately, I've talked to several folks who express the same tired frustration laced with latent anger at having to try to explain what it is like here and how this storm affected our community - our family whether by blood or choice.  With no news coverage and Life being what she is, Islanders are carrying the paradoxical burden to inform everyone.  And this burden is a paradox because if we tell folks the truth, it can translate into whining or begging the question of re-building to those who do not live here.  But if we don't tell the world, the help, hell the patience and empathy, won't be there either.  While I personally may not need that - my friends do and our Island does too.

Personally, our home sustained minimal damage (well, we actually have to make the Windstorm guy get on the roof to make that determination), our community - our friends, neighbors, and all the people who make our town what she is - are not necessarily in the same boat.  And let's face it, I may be a bit sensitive, but how "normal" can it be when downtown looks like a ghost town and you salivate at the thought that maybe just maybe the dry cleaners may open?  Desperation for the corner coffee shop isn't just caffeine addiction, it's the need to see normalcy in the familiar faces we once saw daily.  Or the many still displaced because their home is fine but it's been a 2 month soap opera trying to get electricity or worse - those who are still missing and those who are scattered across the region and beyond because there is no home to come home to?

And here's what I know that makes things a bit more interesting and comforting.  To quote that great New Orleans Times-Picayune article published 2 months after Katrina that has circulated among us Islanders - "We Are All Nuts."  Ok, that's not an official diagnosis.  But seriously the best thing that happened for me, once the adrenaline wore off (OMG do I miss adrenaline) and my body shut down, was realizing I was grieving.  I don't know about anyone else for sure, but I'm a private griever.  Never more than ever did I wish we had large closets in my house (frankly in an 1870 cottage we are grateful to have any closets) - those are my safe places in times of great heaving grief.  It's too private and too painful.

Kubler & Ross's Stages of Grief (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance) came back from distant memory.  That's the easiest way to explain it, and it gave me great comfort.  We are all grieving - none of us are at the same stage of this process nor do we express these feelings the same way.  We have had a great loss and not just property.  At least I can call it something.  

And this morning I know one more thing.  I continue to be deeply moved by this Island and by my fellow Islanders - my friends, neighbors, acquaintances and even those whom I've yet to meet.  And while thousands of words have been written already on what Isaac H. Kempner named the "Galveston Spirit" during the aftermath of the 1900 Storm, it is not just the raw grip we have on this place or visceral passion we have for our home.

It is the best of who we are as people I have been so privileged to witness and be a part of.  It is true caring for neighbors and the dignity of each of us - it is what community used to mean in the days before commutes, subdivisions, mass technology - the days Galveston still offers with front porches and neighbors gathered there as the truest picture.  It is such times as today that we are afforded a glimpse into folks' true natures.  I don't know about everyone else, but with rare exception, what I had thought I would find was not there.  Something greater had taken its place.  Sure, for a few, Ike did not bring out our better natures.  But more days than not, my chest bursts with pride for the place we chose to call home and the people who make up our community.  I am honored to call many of these people friends - and this word does not ring loudly enough.

One last thought, a recommendation really.  I think it would be helpful that we consider striking the following question from our Island lexicon or at least give it a rest:

How much water did you get?

Let's just replace it with the usual hug and "How are you doing today?"  That's what will get us to tomorrow.
 

We had the chance to visit Gary and Mike at Big House Antiques, 2212 Mechanic, yesterday and are pleased to report they have made phenomenal headway on restoring their showroom.  Although they are not "officially open", the doors are open when they're there working and they'll surely welcome any walk-in customers.

Our good friends Scott and Holly at Antique Warehouse, 423 Rosenberg (aka 25th Street) have also been back in business since cleaning out the sludge and damage from the roughly 8' of water they had inside.  Need any antique long leaf pine flooring?  Bead board? Architectural salvage?  This is the place, and these guys invented service with a smile.  "Best Galveston Antique Store" is right, as they were awarded this year by the Galveston Daily News.

Nautical Antiques is, of course, available by appointment (409) 761-0392, but the gaping hole in the roof keeps us from being able to open up the doors for regular hours just yet.  You can find us at the Winnie Trade Days the weekend of November 7-9th with Antique Warehouse if you care to venture out!

 

It's not really "love", but the Galveston Planning Department, that we want to help lift us (and by "us" I mean our house) up, but it is where we belong, common sense - and Ike's foul waters that seeped into what little insulation we HAD, our electrical box, and 2 complete sets of home appliances - would suggest.  

Michael and I are not alone in our quest.  After canvassing the neighborhood last week, we were thrilled to have been met with such support and positive feedback from homeowners we visited and talked with along the way and from those that called us after reading the notes we left about elevating our historic homes.

Our city council representative has been extremely communicative with us and I am confident that our Planning Department and Historic Preservation Officer will agree that, if we want any history left to preserve, elevating these homes and ensuring they'll be here for 125 more years is imperative.

We'll be posting information as we gather and confirm it, but please feel free to give us a buzz if you'd like to join the cause!

 

 
 

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