Thursday, October 17, 2013

"Don't go to Corpus, go the other way!" "Where are we gonna go, Alaska?" "Anywhere but Corpus!"*

   This is Part Two of my trip to Corpus Christi with my friends Brandon, Katie, and Alex. Read Part One here.  
   We booked our hotel rooms in Corpus Christi a couple of weeks out. I think we all felt like we’d gotten a pretty decent deal. When we had finally passed the miles and miles of oil refineries and entered what seemed to be a booming metropolitan area, we breathed a collective sigh of relief. And as we crossed the bridge from Downtown Corpus Christi to an area known (we would learn later when we spent and hour trying to order a pizza) as Portland, we thought it looked pretty spectacular.

   There was a large battle ship, the USS Lexington, an aircraft carrier built during World War II that we could see from the bridge. Brandon and I are both WWII nerds, so we geeked out over the possibilities for later that day or the next. We saw sunlight sparkling off the Gulf of Mexico, sand and people, and loads of buildings on what looked to be a pedestrian pier. We felt pretty excellent about being in Corpus Christi. Pretty fucking proud of ourselves.

   And then we got to the hotel.
Here is a drawing of our hotel.

   The Days Inn Hotel in Corpus Christi is owned by a middle-aged Indian couple who seem both incredibly kind and incredibly confused at all times. Not to swing racist here, but in a not-so-good way, the lobby of the hotel smelled like Indian food. And don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Indian food. Just maybe not outside of a home or restaurant. I think in a lobby you maybe want to smell flowers or at least PineSol. Not a distant memory of Palak Paneer.

   I asked if I could fill up my water bottle, but the lady owner said they didn’t have “drinking water.” And there didn’t appear to be a vending machine. So, fine, I would subsist on cocktails until we left the old CC. No big deal.

   Alex and I were bunking together but our room wasn’t ready, so we changed in Brandon and Katie’s room, which smelled of unchanged air conditioning filters, and headed to the beach.

   After a mere two blocks past unoccupied apartment complexes and deserted parking lots, we came upon what Corpus Christians (that can’t be right, can it? Corpus Christiados?) call a beach. Alex and Brandon ran for the waves. Katie and I stood on the sand for a minute.

   “This can’t be all of it, right?” I gestured to the approximately 15-foot strip of shell- and rock-covered beach. “Is this the tiniest beach in the world?”

   “Maybe it’s just high tide? Really, really high tide?” Katie was trying to be positive. It was Brandon’s first time to the ocean and she was bound and determined to make the most of the experience, if only for his sake.

   I tried to take on her attitude and agreed that yes, perhaps, it was the highest of high tides and the beach was secretly 60 feet wider during its off hours.

   But we swam for a few hours in the bathtub warm, gray and green, high-waved water. It was my first time in the Gulf waters and it was just as pleasant as the Southern Atlantic: but slightly more fun due to the pleasant waves.

   I was initially nervous, having heard that the Gulf Coast is a hangout for jellyfish, but we saw nothing but oilrigs in the sea, and I have a feeling nothing much is able to survive in the water around Corpus Christi. The four other humans we saw on the beach may have known more about it.

   On our walk back to the hotel after a couple of hours of swimming we found a syringe on the sidewalk near the parking lot. It seemed pretty funny, since my buddy Mike had joked about me collecting pretty syringes from the beach for him when I told him about the trip. We stepped around it, changed, and headed for the nearest restaurant.

   After about a mile in the scorching heat, we found the “nearest restaurant.” It was maybe also the only restaurant. It was called “Fajitaville” and it was sort of like how you might feel if you’d walked for 20 miles and found a Chuck E. Cheese: it would do, but only if you had no other options or there were a gun to your head. We were hungry from heat and swimming and walking, so we ate dinner around 3 pm. And we drank cocktails. And we figured we could probably do better, so we walked further on down the boardwalk.

   Along the boardwalk near a Radisson a middle-aged man in a revealing red Speedo walked up to us confidently. He had a paunch and an inordinate amount of body confidence and faced us squarely from the sidewalk in all his sub-par body glory.

   “I’ll race any one of you for a thousand dollars!” He grinned and put his hands on his hips, sort of managing to thrust his gut and junk at us in one gesture.
   I was tempted for a second. I could really use a thousand dollars, if you want to know. But I stayed strong.

“Thanks, I’m pretty sure we’d lose,” I said. And we kept walking.

I figured: this is America, and anyone can stay at the Radisson if they can afford it. But I'd rather not win $1000 and not get stabbed in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. In Corpus Christi. What an unromantic way to die.

   When we reached the U.S.S. Lexington, we thought maybe we were probably pretty close to the exciting part of town. We took a couple photos of the ship and the naval planes and planned to take a tour the next day, since it was already closed. Then we walked 10 feet past the aircraft carrier and found the only other restaurant in Portland: Pier 99. Oh sigh out loud. Okay, so it wasn’t the only restaurant, but most of the other restaurants (all 4) were closed (at 5:30 on Friday) so it may as well have been the only restaurant. But it had a bathroom, so it wasn’t all that bad.

   The nice waitress gave me a Band-Aid for my walking-in-cute-but-impractical-shoes blister and brought us a round of margaritas. She told us some hip, happening spots in downtown Corpus Christi to check out: Pinky’s and Cassidy’s stand out in my mind. We thanked her and said we might check them out the next day. We listened to a strained local band play covers of Neil Young and Tom Petty. We grimaced as grackles got so freaking close to us you’d have thought they were someone’s trained pets. And the margaritas were pretty foul. And yet, I managed to drink mine. But she refunded the remaining three, which remained on the table nearly full.  My friends have more taste and self-control than I do. Especially when I’m nervously trying to out-drink an uncomfortable situation.

   So we decided to go back to the hotel and just drink there. We paid up and headed back to Days Inn.

   More to follow!
*The quote is from Selena (Gregory Nava, 1997). She was a beautiful angel from Corpus Christi (and her life story brought J. Lo to fame, so she's doubly awesome). Thank you, dear Mary Killian, for cluing me in to this perfect quote! 

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