Artemis and a Galveston Update Tuesday, Oct 21 2008 

Cat Head

20 October 2008

It’s been a while since I posted any links to stories about the aftermath of Hurricane Ike.  I feel rather like I’ve fallen down on this job—self-appointed as it may be.  Much of the news from the island is still harsh.   The trash and debris piles are still growing.   The Strand is being described as a “ghost town.”  And saddest of all, the hunt for over 200 missing persons continues.  Funny how the major media have all rather left that story behind, isn’t it?

In fact, that’s a soapbox I’m dancing on right now.  They can send reporters to the island and to Houston to stand in the wind and rain, and tell how bad it might get.  They can cover the evacuation stories, and interview (and then broadcast those interviews!) islanders who are confused and distraught, or who are stubborn and represent their neighbours rather poorly, making Texans “look” stupid.  And then, they can fly helicopters over the horribly damaged areas and talk about how much the recovery efforts will cost.   But, a week later . . . almost nothing.   If it hadn’t been for Frank Billingsley who apparently lives on the island and works for a Houston news channel, there would have been almost no information.  And, now, even after the island is open . . . almost nothing.  I really have to dig around on the internet to find articles, mostly from Houston and Galveston-based sources, dealing with the recovery efforts. 

I talked to my little brother the other day (who, by the way, seems to have found the lucky lady he wants to spend the rest of his life with, and she’s sporting a ring!  Yay! Congratulations William and Melanie!), and he was surprised that we would be going to Galveston this December.  “Isn’t the island wiped out?” he said.  So, I gave him the history lesson of the Great Storm of 1900 and the raising of the island five feet, and the building of the seventeen-foot seawall.  I told him how the downtown area buildings survived that storm, and this one, as far as the wind was concerned, but that this time, it was the water that did so much damage.  I explained the geography of the island and the way the storm surge worked.  He knew it had been bad, but “not as bad as other recent hurricanes.”  So, we talked about how Ike had been classified a Cat 2, but one more mile an hour in the wind would have made it a Cat 3, and the storm surge had been more like a Cat 4.

We talked about the pictures he’d seen—Bolivar, Crystal Beach, etc.,  and the actual path of the storm.  And, although he’s seen the pictures of concrete slabs where once stood homes like that of Terrill’s family, he had no idea there were still so many “missing” people.  It really made me think, and realize just how little accurate news has been readily available to the general public.   Even online, I found forum after forum of folks asking if certain buildings and places were okay—-because there’s no news coverage telling them!

Do we as a society just not care about anything but the fact of a disaster happening?   Are we not as interested in the people as we are in the weather?  I refuse to believe that.  I believe instead, that this is yet another case of the major media being driven by sensationalism and horror, and not placing a high enough level of importance on actually reporting “news.”  As the people of the area are trying desperately to dig out of the muck and get their lives back, they’re a little too busy to write or tell their own stories.  This is the time when it would be really nice to have some good national coverage on these efforts.  And, perhaps, if the media would report loudly that there are still body searches in progress . . . maybe, just maybe, the concept of “evacuation weariness” wouldn’t be such a problem in the future.   My mind comes back to the phrase used by those ordering the evacuation to describe what awaited those who chose to stay . . . “certain death.”

So, after quite a bit of research, here’s a few bits of actual “news” about what’s going on in Galveston, a month after Ike.

I’ve just come across this article that speaks of the complete loss of our beloved Rudy and Paco’s Restaurant.  The article claims that the damage was so extensive that the building had to be demolished.  But, it also tells us they are rebuilding and hope to be back up and running in a matter of months.  We will just have to look forward to our next meal there in December of 2009!

http://media.www.utdmercury.com/media/storage/paper691/news/2008/10/06/LifeArts/South.Texans.Still.Reeling.From.Ike.Aftermath-3470720.shtml

Here’s another article indicating the Strand area was still without power last week, and likely will be for another two or three weeks.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/27178823/

But, there’s good news, too.  The Elissa and Bishop’s Palace will be reopening this coming Saturday, 25 October.  The Galvez Hotel has in fact, reopened to the public as of last Wednesday—just as promised. 

http://www.marketwire.com/press-release/Hotel-Galvez-A-Wyndham-Historic-Hotel-NYSE-WYN-908270.html

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/27225670/

This one is specifically regarding the Mitchell properties:

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ike/galveston/fyi/6062261.html

And this one, with a very upbeat, tourist-attracting tone:

http://www.emailwire.com/release/16519-Galveston-Island-continues-to-recover-after-Hurricane-Ike-.html

Meanwhile, plans continue for our group, athough a bit smaller this year, to descend upon Galveston Island on the first weekend in December.  We’ll be staying at the Hotel Galvez, with a few of us peppered through other hotels on the island and just over the causeway.  Many of our group will attend the Galveston Historical Foundation’s Dickens Ball on Saturday night, since our own beloved Gingerbread Ball has been cancelled for this year.  We’re in the process of planning a game night, determining our dining options, and re-assessing how to pack for the much smaller guest rooms at the Galvez.  But, we will go to Dickens on the Strand, and we will support the recovery efforts of Galveston Island.  We will buy our tickets to get in the gate, we will purchase t-shirts, and ale, and glogg.   We will look beautiful and have our pictures taken, and do what we can to make the event successful. 

I personally, urge anyone with the slightest inclination to attend—-please do so.  Please support Galveston Island as it climbs out of the mud, and debris and loss, and works toward recovery from the awful storm that was Hurricane Ike.

Dickens on the Strand, Galveston, Texas is always held the first weekend in December.  Always.

~MB

Postscript:  The cute cat head, is of course, my Artemis, as she was deciding whether or not to jump onto the bed at bedtime.

Dilated Thursday, Sep 25 2008 

Dilated

25 September 2008

After meeting Kyle and a couple of his co-workers for lunch at Mi Tierra Latin Fusion Restaurant in downtown Arlington, TX (perfectly yummy, as always!) Kyle and I went together to his afternoon eye appointment.  I took this alien-looking photo of his left eye, while we were waiting for the doctor.

Not a great photo, I know—I was rushed, and for some reason I couldn’t hold still enough to get a good image.  And, of course, with his pupils dilated so drastically, Kyle was also having trouble not blinking for me.  But, the end result of the whole process, is that Kyle came through all the screening and testing with flying colours.  He is scheduled for LASIK surgery tomorrow!!!  He is so excited he can hardly stand it!  Saturday morning, he will wake up and be able to see the alarm clock!  The glasses we just bought him in June will become little more than a paperweight!  I just asked him if he’s nervous and he said ‘no.’

That makes one of us! 😉  I’ll feel better when it’s all over.

Galveston News:

We knew, of course, when Hurricane Ike first turned in toward the Gulf of Mexico, that our December plans could be impacted.  We watched with interest, then concern, and finally with fear, as the storm worsened and the projected storm path became clearly focused on Galveston.  We checked on our friends, offered beds and anxiously watched news reports as the storm surge  hit, and then as the wind and rain battered the coast.  And then, as the storm passed over Texas and headed northeast, we searched for news of damage.  Every day, even nearly two weeks later, we google words—Ike, hurricane, Galveston, historic, Strand, Tremont, damage, recovery, etc.—in various combinations, hoping for a news article, a photo, a blog entry, an interview—something—containing “new” news about our beloved Galveston and the recovery efforts going on there.

Here, on The Daily KRuMB, we’ve tried to keep our own readership up to date on our findings, by copying text, including links, and sharing tidbits of news we’ve uncovered.  Just recently, I personally reported two important bits of information that many of our friends were specifically anxious to know.  1.  That I’d been given the official word that the Dickens on the Strand Festival was indeed going to happen this year, and 2.  That the Mitchell properties, including the Tremont House Hotel, were planning to reopen on the 15th of October.

Unfortunately, as some of you now know, the second of those reports has now been proven false.  From what I understand, Ginger received word from the catering department, that the hotel would remain closed until after the new year begins.  Since this information differed from what I’d reported, she sent a query directly to her best contact within the Tremont Hotel management.  This is the response she got:

Hi Ginger, I hope all is well! It is true the Tremont is closed as the hotel sat under water for days. We have started demo to the ballroom and the hotel will follow in the morning. We lost almost everything on the first floor from the front of the house to the back of the house. We do plan on reopening by the first weekend of Mardi Gras. I can look at changing your sleeping rooms to the hotel Galvez when I return to work on Friday. This is a disappointment to all of us; as the Tremont is rich in the history of Galveston. I will contact you soon with our progress.

Marcus Hennigan
Guest services Manager
The Tremont & Harbor House Hotel Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

After further investigation, I found this, from from BOI Galvestonian Christine Hopkins’ blog:

This has been a very emotional time for those of us who love Galveston. While the media tends to focus on the devastation – there is also much progress being made daily.

I have this update to share… Apparently, our Oct. 15 reopening date for our hotels was too optimistic. Currently, the Hotel Galvez  has electricity, water and elevator service and a full restoration is underway. The hotel plans to welcome guests in early November. The Tremont House sustained relatively minor damage from Hurricane Ike but the restoration process is expected to continue until early 2009. Lastly, Harbor House also sustained relatively minor damage but the hotel will not be available to the public until early 2009. The hotel is currently housing those assisting in the island’s restoration efforts.

Since, Christine works for the Mitchell Historic Properties folks, and was my original source of the information about the October 15th date, I was glad to see her updated report.  Glad, and of course, very, very sad.

Much discussion will now need to take place among the group of us who have made Galveston Island our Victorian home away from home the first weekend in December for so many years.  I am currently trying to verify that the Dickens on the Strand event will indeed be happening, as I previously reported.  It does not require much imagination to think that if the Mitchell properties folks underestimated their recovery time, others, including the Historical Foundation itself, may have done the same.

One, poignant article, describes the personal, heart-wrenching devastation that many returned “home” to find:

http://galvestondailynews.com/story.lasso?ewcd=87706a0e04b5856c

On a positive note, it seems that some Galveston public schools will be re-opening on the 6th of October.  Life, for some, at least, will begin to return to something resembling normal.

~MB