Afloat in the Petro Bayou Channel

Advertised as a 90 minute tour of the Port of Houston and the Ship Channel. What we signed up for, what we thought we were getting. Made a reservation in June before leaving to Tijuana. Wanted to do it for some time. Ever since.

A few months before tried to sneak into the Port with two friends visiting from Berkeley making a documentary. Bad idea. Tried to make friends with the security guard lady. Ham it up. Make her feel like we were long lost friends. Usta work there he said, usta. Put on his version of a Southern accent to try to sound more down home. Didn't work. Guard lady told us we could sign up for a tour, make a reservation and then we could come back.

I did. With two friends then, last Saturday.

Almost miss the tour boat. Have to run to make it. Actually the gangplank's drawn up and the crewman lowers it for us. Always the last ones. Damn. On board. Wood paneled walls, leather sofas pegged to the walls, freestanding ashtray tables harken back to days when the good ol' boys took rides out into the middle of the Gulf, pleasure trips on weekends. Fake plants, air-conditioning, bow to stern carpeting. Full of people, mainly gray haired baby boomer aged couples. Some in matching tropical print tops. Others sunburned. One woman catches my eye, tall, firm, with enhanced breasts popping out unnaturally. As soon as I see her, swear she's trans. Later second guess myself. Maybe not. One Asian family with two young daughters. Diversity. And us, more diversity. We head outside to the bow of the boat.

The air is soupy. You don't walk, you negotiate through the mess that is our air. The speakers blare out facts as the eye scans. The largest port in the country in foreign tonnage. Tankers tower up on all sides, Monrovia, Taijin, Hong Kong, Egersund, Kristiansand, Panama City. The patterns of repainting the hulls make a pastel patchwork, scratched lines make random etchings in the colors. Amazed. The concrete docks crumble into the port. We've seen better days, the picture says. But the speaker blares on, the center of production, the powerhouse of the economy. One quarter of the refining capacity of the U.S. is here, more than 20 refineries and chemical plants. Towers topped with fire and black smoke. Burn off. Public Grain Elevator #2. Grain towers, conveyor belts ship more in a few minutes than human hands in months. Round domes that guard natural gas. Ancient brick warehouses with Spanish tile. An egret. Committed to environmental efforts, to being a good corporate leader, to change. Plastic bags, the shore so full of trash in places as if there were no sand down there, no mud bottom, just plastic, just refuse. Gypsum shed, an architectural marvel with huge gaps in the warehouse, straight from Mexico all that stone. Huge bridges, architectural feats, God-knows how many feet high, had to build it after boats kept hitting the old one. Won prizes. Citgo refinery smells like rotten eggs and rotting carcasses. A mess of mainly Maya and Olmec oil. Pemex. What we get.

The boat turns around after 45 minutes at the old battleground, the exact place where Santa Ana capitulated to Sam Houston, freeing Texas from the Mexican yoke. Why didn’t he just swim away? A little boy asks. Cuz the water is too dirty from the Pemex refinery, the Mom says. Complimentary sodas for everyone on-board. Please recycle in the blue bins. Progress. Environmental progress. Historical daydreams sipping on a lemonade, the grass is cut well near the historical marker. Daughters of the Texas Revolution pay to keep it clean.

Again to reflect on the surgically enhanced woman in front of me. Blond hair pulled back, hip light green sunglasses cover a huge swath of her face. Her tiny top exposes the place where her breasts meet the sides of her body, her tanned skin is luminescent, her entire body shows not a bit of fat, hard vertical lines, striations where muscle meets bone, stilletto pumps. Entranced. A marvel.

Head back inside. Overwhelms me. Sweating I collapse on the cool leather, comfortable, safe. Later my dad tells me he has been on that very boat, on day trips for Chamber of Commerce types to the Gulf. Seasick on the tossing Gulf waves. Home.

PS Have to say for awadwa. Saw a sign. Caution with the Single Screw. Ha ha ha. I said: Must be an old seaman joke. (Puntastic)

3 comentarios:

Bill dijo...


Sylvíssima dijo...

my favorite houstonian narrator is back and didnt lose his english!!


awadhwa dijo...

LOVE it. (the pun is the icing)