“Corpus Christi Bay”

Lately I’ve been reading a lot of Junot Diaz, whose writing strongly reflects his sense of place. He was born in the Dominican Republic but eventually immigrated to New Jersey. To me, there’s nothing like a short story or novel with a unique setting. In fact, I rarely read books set in New York City because that’s where I live, and it’s too familiar. I want to escape and learn about a new world. Yeah, that’s a pretty silly disqualifier, but it’s just a strange inherent preference of mine.

Anyway, I’m reading his current short story in the New Yorker’s summer fiction issue (not available online yet, sadly), and somehow, strangely, it reminded me of one of my favorite songs about where I grew up — “Corpus Christi Bay” by Robert Earl Keen. I think both Diaz’s work, and Keen’s song, reflect how important a setting is to making a story a story, and a song a story, as well.

(The song is about roughnecks, or the blue-collar men/women who work in the oil business.)

I worked the rigs from three ’til midnight
On the Corpus Christi Bay
I’d get off and drink ’til daylight
Sleep the mornin’ away
I had a plan to take my wages
Leave the rigs behind for good
But that life it is contagious
And it gets down in your blood

I lived in Corpus with my brother
We were always on the run
We were bad for one another
But we were good at having fun
We got stoned along the seawall
We got drunk and rolled a car
We knew the girls at every dancehall
Had a tab at every bar

If I could live my life all over
It wouldn’t matter anyway
‘Cause I never could stay sober
On the Corpus Christi Bay

My brother had a wife and family
You know he gave ’em a good home
But his wife thought we were crazy
And one day we found her gone
We threw here clothes into the car trunk
Her photographs her rosary
We went to the pier and got drunk
And threw it all into the sea


Now my brother lives in Houston
He married for the second time
He got a job with the union
And it’s keeping him in line
He came to Corpus just this weekend
It was good to see him here
He said he finally gave up drinkin’
Then he ordered me a beer

2 thoughts on ““Corpus Christi Bay”

  1. Ronnie Ann says:

    I have been raving to friends about Wildwood, the Junot Diaz story in the June 11/18 New Yorker. So cool to read your post. And I totally get why it reminds you of Keen’s song. The smell and feel of the place wafts up from the words. Nice.

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