In reporting this story, nothing was harder to me personally than seeing the utter devastation of Bolivar. When Dan Kramer and I drove off the ferry, we knew it would be bad immediately. Just over the landing, there's a huge impromptu junkyard, where ruined cars, water heaters, refrigerators and other large appliances are stacked in hillocks, awaiting transport to god knows where via garbage barges.
And it gets worse from there. The farther east you go, the more complete the destruction. Crystal Beach looks like it was shelled by the U.S.S. Missouri. Caplen looks like it was hit by several two-ton bunker-buster bombs. And Gilchrist simply does not exist.
As we drove through Crystal Beach, I remembered several recent family vacations there. In 2007, we attended the first annual Stingaree Music Fest and stayed in a deluxe front row beach house near Rollover Pass that seems almost certain to have been utterly eradicated.
Later that summer, my wife, two kids and I spent an idyllic week in a beach house in the heart of Crystal Beach. This one had a prime view of the infamous party-hearty Zoo Beach.
We spent many hours there, shelling and frolicking in the (mostly) dead calm waters. The cable in our beach house didn't work, but that didn't bother us. We went to the Crystal Beach Volunteer Fire Department's annual garage sale and bought about ten VHS tapes for a quarter each. (And became fans of the cheesy 1980s neglected sci-fi/fantasy classic Krull.) We ate at several local restaurants and, most memorably, bought some shrimp off the local docks and paired them with some home-made pesto a friend had prepared from three types of basil grown in his back yard in Austin.
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It's ominous looking back on it now, but as we left, the Upper Texas Coast was sideswiped by some marginal hurricane, the name of which escapes me now. The day before it made landfall on the Louisiana border, the surf picked up drastically, from non-existent waves that allowed the mosquitoes to feast on you even on the second sandbar to six foot swells that thrilled my son to bits. (We had been watching a lot of 300 then, and we would holler "SPARTAAAA" when we were beset by these Gulf monsters.)
The next day, the skies were swirling dramatically, and the wind was whipping through the palms. We all could see that Crystal Beach would be in serious trouble should a more powerful storm set its sights more directly on Bolivar.
And now one had, and almost all of it was gone. I was thinking of these things, as well as of what I had seen in Galveson, when my iPod randomly spat this Varnaline song out at me. The refrain: "All good times, all good times, washed away on blackbird fields" would have made me cry had I not been so stunned by what I was seeing.
- John Nova Lomax