After a Fashion

Stephen goes to Galveston only to be pwned by a bicycle

GALVESTON, OH, GALVESTON, AKA REVENGE OF THE BICYCLES For months I'd been excited about a Memorial Day weekend with Cliff Redd and his partner, Rick Johnson, and Michael Barnes and his partner, Kip Keller. Michael and Kip picked me up Friday afternoon, and we were in Galveston by evening. We beat Cliff and Rick there but had no way to get in, so we stood on the porch to await their arrival. Meanwhile, the neighbors across the street called Cliff to inform him that there was a group of strangers on his porch. Concerned, Cliff asked the neighbor to go see who we were. So the neighbor, Troy, came and introduced himself to us, and we told him we were friends of Cliff's from Austin and were expecting him any moment. Troy called Cliff to verify this, and upon finding out that everything was copacetic, he amused and entertained us until Cliff and Rick arrived. We had a late dinner and went to the Third Coast to see a drag show. Now, it seems like the clock has stopped in the world of Galveston drag. These were the kinds of queens who felt "ready" once they were so painted and groomed as to look like complete caricatures of women, as opposed to looking like real women. Afterward we repaired to the rooftop to smoke and carry on. Troy and his partner, Tim, met us there, and we proceeded to make spectacles of ourselves among the strangers in the crowd. The next few days were filled with dining, sightseeing, and (for me) sleeping a lot. Troy and Tim figured into our plans, as did their landlord, Angie. We hung out on Angie's hidden but spacious patio, soaking up the native culture and all becoming fast friends. It was all very Tales of the City, with Angie being Mrs. Madrigal. Most days, after lunch, we'd stroll the city and look at the damage from Hurricane Ike. Everywhere were markers showing how high the water had been; piles of debris still littered the streets, though not as severely as they had in the months before. It was a hard thing to see, and it's hard to describe what the grand old houses looked like when they were completely shuttered – like ghosts, they were so desolate and lonely, with the shutters blocking out the damage that lay inside. But on the other hand, so many of the businesses are open again, though the streets were fairly empty, and the tourists were few and far between. It's still a city of great spirit and perseverance, and you should consider spending some quality time there very soon (www.galveston.com). I returned from Galveston covered with scrapes, bruises, and what appears to be a broken nose. No, I did not get involved in a physical altercation or any drama like that. It was the revenge of the bicycles. After squawking about bicycles for so long, the bicycles seemed to have a hidden agenda that reared its ugly head on Sunday night. Of course, it didn't help that we'd had a couple of glasses of wine, the streets were dark and deserted, and we decided to ride bikes down to the beach ... and I hadn't been on a bike since I was a teenager. "Just like riding a bike," they say when you get back to doing something you haven't done in a long time. Having been fairly proficient at bike riding (a thousand years ago), it seemed like it would be a breeze to do it again. But, no. It was not fun. First, we walked our bikes to the gas station to fill our tires. OK, great. I hopped on my bike, realizing immediately that the seat was too high for my feet to touch the pedals. I staggered a bit and then completely fell over, scraping my knee badly on the concrete. But I was not about to let a bicycle get the best of me. After my friends stopped laughing, I hopped up to try again. I actually had control of the bike for a few minutes ... and then careened into a gas pump that sent me face-first into the concrete again, this time injuring both my shoulders and my nose – which by this time looked like someone turned on a fire hydrant of blood and it was gushing down my face. Undaunted, I wiped the blood on my shirt, got back on the bike again, and once more teetered to one side and fell, scraping my elbow and my ankle very badly. Enough with this nonsense. It was not my forte.

Some of Galveston's Ball High Hurricane Storytellers (l-r): Jovanna Torres, Jennifer Willcut, Maria Betancourt, Melnikia Smith, and Natalie Martin
Some of Galveston's Ball High Hurricane Storytellers (l-r): Jovanna Torres, Jennifer Willcut, Maria Betancourt, Melnikia Smith, and Natalie Martin (Photo by Jana Birchum)

IKE DOC My editor, Kate Messer, happened to be on the island last weekend, as well. She, however, managed to stay on her bike, as she and ace photographer Jana Birchum went to Galveston's Grand 1894 Opera House for the world premiere of the new Ike: A Documentary, shot entirely by the kids from Galveston's Ball High School. The documentary will be showing here in Austin at the KLRU studios on June 12. Look for Kate's feature in next week's issue on the high school film crew and details about the Austin screening, as well as some Galveston recovery info over the next few weeks.


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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Austin style, Galveston, bicycle, Cliff Redd, Michael Barnes, beach, Hurricane Ike, Ike: A Documentary, Ball High, Grand 1894 Opera House

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