Our neighbor Steve’s giant iguana liked to climb the power pole. The city would send out a bucket truck to rescue it, and we’d all gather to watch. It was a big drama: Would the iguana be electrocuted this time, or would it savage the rescue worker’s arm? Then one day the cops arrested Steve right in his jewelry shop. We all figured he was going down on some hard charges, but it turned out they just ticketed him for “iguana on the loose.”
Two houses south of us was the University of Texas Marine Science Institute maintenance shed, where I got an early lesson on the evils of capitalism from my dad’s friend Bill. “Who do you think is really making the money off your labor?” he asked me. The shed was just off the beach, and I could smell all the smells of childhood: sawdust, paint, spilled oil, salt air. “It’s the Girl Scout Cookie corporation, Rachel,” he said. “You’re separated from the means of production.”
Just down the beach was the Horace Caldwell Pier, where the surfers would park their pickup trucks. Up the street, I could cut through a backyard to get to my best friend’s house. Her dad, a long-haired former Coast Guard sailor who walked with a cane, would make us homemade tortilla chips with cinnamon and sugar. He had been a writer himself, until he tore up all his stories and threw them into the sea.
What I mean to say is that in Port A, off the mainland and away from the city, we were allowed to be ourselves. I’ll always be grateful for that.
Rachel Pearson’s first book, No Apparent Distress: A Doctor’s Coming-of-Age on the Front Lines of American Medicine, will be published by W. W. Norton on May 9.