Life In Crystal Beach
Episode 1: Life in Crystal Beach


I’m not really sure how I found Crystal Beach.  I guess it’s like finding someone you’re attracted to, it just sort of happens.  One day you bump into a person and you think to yourself, “Hey, I’d like to get to know them.” Or you grow up being around someone for a long time and one day you wake up and realize that you’re sort of attracted to that person.  I started coming to Crystal Beach when I was 15 years old.  Surfing was still popular among a few young people and I happened to have a friend who was a surfer.  In other words, he had long hair, smoked weed and didn’t have a job.  We lived in Houston, Texas, at the time so the closest place to surf was Galveston.  But Galveston was a big town and sort of expensive so we had to find a cheaper place to hang out. It turns out that right across the ship channel was a small peninsula called Bolivar Peninsula and on the peninsula was a small community called Crystal Beach.  It was cheap and a popular place for teenagers to hang out, so that’s where we went to surf.  Well, we weren’t really surfing––ripple-riding, really.  You know, there aren’t any real waves on the gulf coast.  But there were plenty of good-looking girls in bikinis so that’s where we went when we went to the beach; surf, sand, bikinis and the Beach Boys! I guess those memories are part of what brought me back.

Getting to Crystal Beach isn’t easy.  It’s sort of like going to Bumfuck Egypt! You don’t just “happen” by this village. You have to make an effort to get here. You either have to go through Galveston and catch a ferry for a twenty-minute ride across the ship channel or drive all the way to a little town called Winnie and then travel another forty miles through the countryside to get here.
Crystal Beach really isn’t a town.  That’s because it’s not incorporated or something like that. I don’t really understand the reason, but, anyway, it’s not a town so I guess you’d call it a village or maybe a township or maybe just a community. Today there are probably 3,000 houses here but most of them are rentals.  I would guess that there are probably not more than 250 full-time residents.  I can’t say that for sure, I mean, I haven’t done a survey or taken a census or anything like that.  It’s just a guess.

Crystal Beach has become a popular tourist destination in the summer because it’s legal to drive, build fires and drink alcohol on the beach.  And while our beaches aren’t as plush as the beaches in Florida and far South Texas, they are nice and, when it comes down to it, you know, sand is sand and surf is surf.  The busy season is from Spring Break through Labor Day. During that time, the beaches are packed.  We get a shitload of families that come down to enjoy the sunshine and the warm gulf waters. That means business is great for about four-and-a-half months. In the winter things change dramatically.  Actually, things start gearing down right after Labor Day when all the kiddies go back to school and summer vacation is over. I like it best in the fall and winter because it’s quiet and everybody’s laid back. Not that they’re ever not laid back during the summer, but in the winter we revert to beach time. That means if you want something in a hurry, you’re in the wrong place!

Since there aren’t a lot of people who live here, there aren’t a lot of businesses.  We have one major store called the Big Store. It’s a combination grocery store, hardware store, clothing store and bank.  Everything is located in one ginormous building. We call it our indoor mall. There are two lumberyards, 8 restaurant/bars, three gas stations, two liquor stores and a few other shops in the community.  Landscaping, the politically correct way of saying yard work, is the biggest business in Crystal Beach. Another popular business is the RV park business. Sometimes I think we should be called Bolivar RV Peninsula. Everywhere you look there are RVs.  That’s mainly because rental homes are expensive and there isn’t any affordable housing for people who want to work here, especially in minimum wage-type jobs.

The weather here is mild, well, I guess that depends on where you’re from. Actually, the summers are hot as hell and the humidity is high but if you can find a little shade, the cool breeze over the gulf makes the heat bearable. Winters are always pleasant. We do get an occasional day where the temperature drops below 40° and the wind can blow like a son-of-bitch but most of the time our winters are not bad. Since the weather is more or less consistent year-round you don’t need to have a lot of clothes. You know, a couple of pair of shorts, three for four t-shirts and, of course, some underwear will just about do it.  I do have a jacket for the colder days; and, of course, a bathing suit and flip-flops and maybe a pair of sandals for special occasions. Other than that, life here is pretty simple. Just the way I like it.

For the most part, I grew up in a big city.  You know, traffic, a lot of noise, everybody in a hurry and shit like that.  Some people like that sort of environment.  Personally, I think it sucks! After I graduated from college and spent a very short stint in the Army I moved to the beach.  I decided it was time for me to “find” myself.  If you’re going to try to find yourself what better place is there to look then at the beach? That was four years ago.  I’m still looking.  About the only thing I’ve discovered is that I like living at the beach!

I’m not sure why I’ve stayed.  I guess it’s because it’s easier to stay then to leave. After all, no matter where you go, there you are. So here is as good a place as any. And, there’s very little stress here––not that I’m stressed out a lot, or ever, you know, but if I were, this would be a good place to de-stress. I mean, you’re pretty much isolated on the goddamn peninsula with only two ways off so you can’t get in a hurry to do anything or go anywhere.  Relaxation is not an option, it’s a city ordinance. But don’t get me wrong, Crystal Beach is a busy little community in its own sort of way.  I mean, like in any small village there’s plenty of gossip and shit going on to make life interesting.  That’s probably because of the kind of people that live here.  By that I mean that there are wealthy retirees on one end of the economic scale and on the other end, some lost-and-not-quite-found individuals who just sort of hang out. But mostly there are a lot of people who work pretty hard to make a living and have a knack for enjoying what little they have. People like me. But that kind of a people-mix can make for some amusing situations.

So, here I am, and happy to be here.  I’m not sure how long I’ll stay.  Probably not more than another year or two, but that’s what I thought when I got here so you never know. I just know that I could do worse. Someone once said, “ The worst day at the beach is still better than a good day somewhere else.” My name is Lee Abelwick and this is my dig, my turf, my place in the sun––Crystal Beach.