That’s me on the left, with my lovely wife, Flor. I retired in January 2022 after the better part of a lifetime in higher ed. These days I write. For more dirt, see “About me.”
Flor and I moved to Galveston, Texas at the outset of the pandemic in March 2020. Galveston sits on a narrow barrier island on what David McComb called the edge of time, a precarious perch between the Gulf of Mexico and the mainland. It was made less precarious by an extraordinary feat of engineering and determination – some say hubris – after the 1900 hurricane that killed over 6,000. Galveston is rich in history, culture, and architecture, but in the late nineteenth century, it was just plain rich. When the storm hit, it was the second-wealthiest city per capita in the U.S. We’re two blocks from impossibly ornate 20-room Victorian-style mansions that survived the storm. Our house is a different animal.
We live in an elevated cottage built seven years after the storm, when the city was still in the midst of that engineering miracle and residents had to make their way from place to place on wooden walkways raised on stilts. Enormous dredging ships, running in a 200-foot-wide canal dug across the city, were pumping fill from the Gulf to raise the entire city several feet above sea level. Every structure that survived the storm had to be raised on hand jacks. If homeowners couldn’t afford to raise their house, they’d fill in the lower floor. It’s an extraordinary story that’s told best in Patricia Bellis Bixel’s and Elizabeth Hayes Turner’s Galveston and the 1900 Storm, published in 2000 by The University of Texas Press.
Our house sits less than a block from the original path of that massive canal, long-since filled. Flor and I live two blocks south of the University of Texas Medical Branch, two blocks west of the East End Historical District, six blocks north of the Gulf of Mexico – when the wind is right, we hear the waves from our front porch – and 11 blocks west of The Strand, Galveston’s historic downtown.