Baby, It's Muggy Outside: An Ode to the Gulf Coast and Its Weather in the Dead of Winter
Toward the end of last summer, I was standing in the Atlantic waters off New Jersey. I was cold. The temperature outside was hovering in the upper 70s and the water was colder than that. The coastline of New Jersey, with its long, raised boardwalks and bell-ringing ice cream vendors, was pleasant and I enjoyed bobbing up and down in the chilly water, but it wasn't home. In the movie Scrooged, Bill Murray's Scrooge character, Frank Cross, in the final climactic scene, kisses a scantily clad dancer under a tuft of mistletoe. Afterward, he says it was good but not great. "There's only been one great," he mused, describing his long lost first love.
Photo by George Balke Me + Galveston Bay + the '80s.
For a kid like me who grew up in the silty waters of Galveston Bay, the cool breezes of the Jersey Shore and the waters of the Atlantic were good, not great. There is still only one great and it's the Gulf of Mexico.
For years, I've tried to explain the pull of the briny, murky waters off the coast of Texas, never mind the heat and humidity of Houston, to little avail. But during the last week of sub-freezing overnight temperatures in Houston, something so foreign to us it hasn't happened to this degree (pun intended) in three years, I began to pine away for that dusky bathwater down Interstate 45.
Growing up, I spent many summer days swimming in the sun in Galveston and along the Texas coast. But, more significant, my father and I, up well before dawn, would trek to those same waters to fish for redfish, trout, flounder and all manner of Gulf fish I now eat far more often than I catch. Sometimes, particularly during flounder season, we would be a bit cold sitting there at Seawolf Park with the other diehards, but we never had to shovel snow or cut holes in the ice. We never had to deal with a "polar vortex" or wear layers of clothes to make certain we didn't die from hypothermia.
That's the thing about our brand of heat. You can live with it. Sure, it's uncomfortable. No one likes to begin sweating the moment he opens a door to the outside. But unless you're stuck out in the middle of nowhere without water, it's not going to kill you. Not like the cold. Not like the snow. Not even like the desert.