Friday, November 24, 2006

Tales of The Road-Weary Hitchhiker...

An item in the paper today (GMLc) quoted Georgetown as bragging "Pluff mud keeps Condos away."

That triggered memories of my Marine Corps days up at Camp Lejeune, N.C. and my frequent hitchhiking trips to Charleston. Naturally I passed back and forth through Georgetown. The paper mill was my favorite surprise for my temporary fellow travelers.

I knew just about when we would get our first whiff of that municipal treasure and I would remain stoney-faced in the back seat as the family (usually from New York) looked from one to the other and frowned. Children usually put up a hand to pinch their nose closed and exclaimed "Phew, who did that?!"

The paper mill was a more pronounced aroma than pluff mud but not as sulphury. A proper greeting though to my Lowcountry.

Another time I left Lejune in my brand new wash-and-wear-no-ironing civilian suit (this was the late 50s and this was a brand new fashion item) and somewhere along the way I was standing by the road with my small bag and my thumb in the air as a car (with New York tags) slowed and stopped a few feet beyond me. I grabbed my bag and trotted to the door as the passenger window was rolled down.

A strern-faced matron looked me in the eye and asked "Is that a Haspell wash-and-wear suit you're wearing? "Why, yes, yes it is," I stammered, reaching for the back door handle. The car lurched off as I heard her say to her husband, the driver, "See, I told you it was."

My ultimate, all time, hitchhiking story was when I was assigned as a photograher to a tank battalion in Vieques, Puerto Rico and I returned from a weekend liberty in San Juan to find the tanks, ships and everyone had suddenly packed everything up and had steamed off toward Cuba.

There was a small permanent staff stationed on the island of Vieques and there I found my "straggler" travel orders: "take first available transportation to continental US." Naturally I spent a week poolside relaxing in the sun before I was able to find a plane to take me to Guantanamo Bay and then another hop to Cherry Point, NC.

It was April and I had a great tan.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Look Out Sullivan's Island ...

A great musical evening last night rocking with The Lee Boys, a Sacred Steel group of brothers and nephews from Miami, Florida, on a House of Blues tour around the country.

They were playing the unique church-based sounds made popular by Robert Randolph at a favorite Charleston venue that just soared to the top of my charts...The Pour House has posted signs saying NO SMOKING.

Wow. No more wheezing and having to strip and throw all my clothes in the dryer because I smelled like an ashtray after an evening there.

As I told Alex, the owner, I loved the bands, his staff and the cold beer but the extremely smoke-filled room was a physical discomfort. He smiled and answered "now you have no complaints."

Alex further explained that they were finishing a huge deck out back and smokers were encouraged to "step outside to smoke." It was chilly last night and the open door created a draft but I have no complaints. Nor coughs.

The fresh air deck is just about the size of the indoor space - with a stage placed in the far corner - and will be used he said for "early shows" before the 11pm noise ordinance kicks in.

Last night The Lee Boys started a few minutes before 11 and played till about 1:30 so the addition of a smoke-free early show sounds great. Our "Winter" weather should be able to handle concerts in the great outdoors on Maybank Highway, across from the Terrace Theater..

Give yourself a treat and check out the sounds at and plan to be there when they come back to Charleston. They'll be smoking... in a good way.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Looking Ahead..and Back

So each Sunday, I flip open the paper to the Arts and Travel section to see if one of my book reviews has been selected to run. Usually not, but then I only submit about 10-12 a year. I know they will eventually run so I am patient. I have been doing reviews for several years now.

Every Sunday though, I use my scissors to clip out the half-page New York Times crossword puzzle.

And, I cut out the small "last week's puzzle answers."

I don't do this because I am cheap (The Times charges you to call their 800# to get answers when you're stumped) but I like the idea of having ALL of the answers if I ever need to get started again.... only in an emergency of course. I staple the answer sheet to the previous week's puzzle and then place the two in my "crossword" file.

Hmmm. Looking through the file this morning, I see that I missed 2 puzzles in 2001 and 3 in 1998. What was I thinking?

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Behind the scenes...

Taj Mahal had not been to Charleston for a few years so I looked forward to seeing him again this week at the Charleston Music Hall on John Street.

What a great venue! It's an entirely different atmosphere from The Music Farm or The Plex and just needs to be used more often.

As I recall, my first experience in the Music Hall was watching SERENADE, the annual Christmas show directed by the talented Brad Moranz, starring him and his wife Jenny. Really fun shows.

Since then I have seen Taj and Keb' Mo', Little Feat, Ricky Skaggs, John Hiatt and others.

Each performance reminds me what a perfect jewel box this place is and I'm surprised it's "dark" so often. However, for November, it looks pretty booked up. Terrific!

Another venue way up north in the Windy City, offers Chicago Blues with a familiar look. As I approached the club, the huge painting of a blues player on the side of the building reminded me of John Carroll Doyle's art at his studio on Broad Street.

Looking closer, there was a credit to the artist and the website confirmed you could buy his works there in the two clubs, or in the blues store or back here in Charleston. A Sister City musicial connection.

As the slogan at Cumberland's says "Support Live Music."