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Escape to Galvatraz

Syndicated Columnist
Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Galveston, 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. 

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. 

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 p.m.. 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 shrimp. 

Unfortunately, Galveston enforces a strict popcorn shrimp curfew beginning at 10 p.m. 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 p.m.. 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.

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. 

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.

To top it off, my daughter’s team won National Grand Champions. 

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. 


Graves is an award-winning humor columnist from East Texas. His columns have been featured in Texas Escapes magazine, The Shreveport Times, The Longview News Journal, and The Kilgore News Herald. Contact Graves at susanjase@sbcglobal. net.

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