Friday, July 9, 2010

Welcome to the Boomtown

Over the Fourth of July holiday we traveled against the tide (pun, intended) to the Gulf Coast. When I first booked the tickets back in April, I was looking forward to introducing my baby to more of my family and to one of my favorite places on Earth: Pensacola.

As you might have heard, an environmental catastrophe of epic proportions the likes of which the world has never seen and government regulation-willing we'll never see again has bespoiled (and continues to defile) my heart's land.

Paths for workers on the beach, pedestrians on the left, ATVs on the right

We chose to continue with our plans because the baby would only get bigger, relatives were traveling from near and far to meet him, and because we figured everyone in that part of the country needed something else to look at besides the oil in their water and on their beaches.
I can't adequately express what the area, particularly my grandparents' house in Gulf Breeze on Pensacola Bay, means to me. As a place, it holds layers upon layers of memories, from the days we kids (my brother, my sister, and I) traveled to stay there and to eat fried mullet--freshly caught by Pop and freshly fried by Grammy--for breakfast to the day eight years ago when friends and relatives also traveled from far and wide to celebrate our wedding to the day five years ago when we spread my mother's ashes in the water in front of the place that was also her favorite and filled with her own memories of eating her father's freshly caught mullet and celebrating her little sister's wedding to the day last week when I tried to explain all this to my newborn son.

I didn't adequately explain my feelings for this place to him nor will I do it here.

Instead, I took pictures. I took pictures of the beach where we got married; it's now part of the "oil impact area." Hurricane Ivan wiped out of the road to that beach in 2004. It took years for the road to be rebuilt. This was our first return visit.I took pictures of the workers cleaning the beach,putting oil-soiled sand into plastic bags produced with petrochemicals, ensuring that BP will still make a profit as it desecrates my mother's grave.I took pictures of the tour bus now used to transport workers to clean the beach.Back in Gulf Breeze, I took pictures of the booms out in front of the house. (My grandparents' house, now occupied by my aunt and uncle, is the only house I know with two fronts: the waterfront and then the "out front" where the front door is. Confuses the heck out of visitors but those of us who grew up there know exactly which front anyone means at any time.)

I took pictures of the "beach towels"--provided by the city, not BP--vainly trying to protect the sand. In the end, I decided I'd just rather show you pictures of why I consider this area one of the most beautiful in the world.


  1. This situation is on my mind constantly. The other day a picture of an oiled bird prompted my first real breakdown about it. I put my head in my hands and cried. If it happened to my home, I would be homicidal with rage.

    I've never seen this part of Florida, just Miami and the Keys. It looks very beautiful.

  2. Ah, Vertie, it's sickening. I truly don't believe the gulf will be alive again for many generations. All for the almighty dollar. Those signs make me cry and get furious all at once. I'm so sorry for your homeland.

  3. The oil disaster is a terrible wound on the earth and it's always in the back of my mind, too, Vertie - although I've never been there.

    News stories about something so huge made me feel numb and helpless rather than weepy; reading about its effect on you made me cry.


  4. I had tears in my eyes by the time I got to your wedding. I love Pensicola too. It was my stopover when I lived a brief time in Orlando. I'm so sorry for your broken memories. I was living in Alaska when the Exxon Valdez happened...but there was an END to that. This is just too horrible to imagine. Thank you for posting pictures, more folks need to come forth...somethings got to change.

  5. Beautiful story, even with the heartbreaking moments, including the long-term one. I'm sure Jack understood what you were trying to explain.

  6. So sad. What we are doing to this world is unforgivable. I hope the beaches will heal themselves in time and Jack will see it as you once did.

  7. Vertie, my heart aches for you and yours having to see a beloved part of your world so decimated. I echo Jenny's hope that it will recover so Jack can appreciate its beauty too.