Monday, April 24, 2017

Spring Get-Away: Corpus Christi, TX

I've just come back from a week's holiday in Corpus Christi, Texas, a place I've wanted to see for many years after taking a workshop from poet Denise Brennan Watson. In the workshop, Denise often referred to her childhood in Corpus Christi and how it influenced her found poetry and food writing, as well as her love of cooking and Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor's Vibration Cooking: or, Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl (which in many ways inspired my own WIP Ghazal). When I read The Undertow of Hunger, Denise's first full poetry collection, I was completely hooked. I just had to go to Corpus Christi one day.

Now that I've been there, I realize there was a lot I didn't know: mainly that the wind blows every single day and night, as in every single second of every day and night; the seagulls are small and cute but even noisier than the howling wind; the seawater is warm but posted signs warning of currents and jellyfish kept me from doing much more than wading; and the town itself can be rather empty. For an entire week my husband and I rattled around the quite lovely downtown all on our own, wondering where the other people were. I'm still wondering. However, it was nice to never have trouble finding a parking spot, the store owners and restaurant servers were polite and glad to see us, and the only panhandler we encountered asked for a dollar and then changed his mind, saying he "didn't really want it."

Despite the blustery weather, heavy thunderstorms, and getting my thumb smashed in our hotel room door when the wind whistled through the hall one particularly wild afternoon, we saw some impressive sights. Our room was right on the beach, and we could see the USS Lexington, now a museum, from our balcony. I loved how it was lit up at night recalling its nickname the "Blue Ghost", creating a ghostly and haunting image indeed. Going on board in the morning was even more intriguing. A trip that I thought would take half an hour at most turned into a four-hour exploration of decks, captain's and crew quarters, galleys, sick bay, chapel, engine room, bridge, and all thoroughly re-constructed to depict how life would have been on board during WWII. I was fascinated and frequently moved by the well-presented exhibits, and took the elevator only once at the end of the tour. After climbing and descending dozens of ladders placed throughout the ship I was grateful for the chance to simply push a button and ascend into daylight again. Well worth the visit and I do highly recommend going there if you're in the area one day (and feeling fit).

Another great place next to our hotel was this beach store that carried every kind of towel, flipper, swimsuit, T-shirt, and souvenir any tourist could possibly want. We bought a wind chime (what else??).

The Art Center was yet another good venue, complete with a restaurant where we had morning tea and cake while a local Irish band fiddled away:

Foggy, mysterious, yet pleasantly warm:

This (scary) (in the wind) bridge connected our hotel to downtown. I think we crossed it 500 times, but my husband claims it was only 499:

More views from our room. A beach of our own!

I wasn't able to sketch in the wind, but I did take some photos specifically for a future series of "Urban Sketching-style" drawings:

On our last day we visited the Aquarium. Although we were indoors, I couldn't sketch there either because it was apparently Kindergarten Day: hundreds of tiny tots in matching T-shirts to identify themselves as five-year-olds (just so there was no confusion with the few adults in attendance). I don't know which was louder: the wind, the gulls, or the children, but coming home to Albuquerque I'm still in awe of the silence.

Final shot of the docks. I think this would make a good painting, too:

Between wind gusts we went to some excellent restaurants (the Vietnamese one being my favorite. Breakfast with a city view upstairs at the Omni Hotel was also spectacular.), saw several movies, including "King Kong, Skull Island" (perfect escapism) and "Gold" which we soon recognized as having been filmed in Albuquerque! Other highlights were finding a bead store where I bought new beads for new jewelry projects, and going to Barnes and Noble where I purchased a book I'm still reading: Elizabeth Kostova's The Swan Thieves. I love it, and will forever pair it in my mind with a beautiful old city I'm glad I got the chance to see. Thank you, Corpus Christi, for an unforgettable time!