Sunday, March 29, 2015

NASCAR, the Irish and John Mellencamp...

Crossing the street from Lowe's, I saw that Home Depot has fashioned a shopping cart to resemble a racing car.

Both stores have championship drivers in the NASCAR Sprint series, but so far, I have NOT seen a Jimmy Johnson racing cart.

This lap goes to HD.

These stores tend to open across from each other which makes it easy for a comparison shopper like myself to browse both, looking for the best deal.

Online of course is the way many shop these days - me included - but I like roaming around in a true brick and mortar store.

Often I walk out with items I didn't even know were Must Have things.

My fluorescent tube lights in my shop now have been replaced with strips of LEDs.

They are brighter, use less electricity and the label says they last 22 years.  Yikes.

Walking around downtown after attending an event at the Circular Church on Meeting Street, I headed over to the Mills House with a few friends for a drink and a snack.

Oh, did I mention it was March 17, St. Paddy's Day?

The colorfully-lighted Hibernian Hall was a vivid reminder with its brilliant green lights.

(Wonder if they've switched over to LEDs?)

That was a pleasant visual surprise and, as we sat on the Mills House patio, we were serenaded by the deep full male voices next door, singing familiar Irish diddies.

They sure knew a lot of therm!

We chose not to sing along but waved a thank you later as the men streamed past us to join their patient wives who had sat out the male songfest.

And, speaking of singing. this was the third time I had seen John Mellencamp perform.

He's still got it! Oh yeah.

He explained to the crowd at the PAC (North Charleston Performing Arts Center) that we would hear old songs and new songs.

Songs we knew all the lyrics to so sing along.

And there would be some old songs that  he had re-arranged so they would be familiar ...yet new.

An acoustic Jack & Diane for example.

I followed all of that and he did as promised, backed by a tight band that always knew what was coming next.

He brought back his opener - Carlene Carter - to sing along with him.

This was a salute to the Royalty of Country music, the Carter Family.

Her mom is June Carter Cash, her step-daddy was Johnny Cash and her grandmother the legendary Maybelle Carter.

Mellencamp stepped back to give her the spotlight.

Nice guitar backing!

Then he joined her for several duets.

The sound and lights were terrific.

That's a trademark of all of his shows I've seen.

He travels with very talented people and it's very obvious and delightful.

I remember the accordion player and the lady with the violin from previous performances.

Again, the lighting was superb all evening.

My calendar is filling up with shows the next several months, leading into Spoleto.

Charleston is fortunate to see bigger and bigger names passing through and stopping for our enjoyment.

I'm doing my part to help keep this trend going.

I support live music by buying a seat for the shows.

I also try to contribute to this growth with my event-oriented blogging.

The recent sell out at the PAC for Santana speaks volumes to the talented performers as they plan their tour dates.

"Hey, let's take a look at Charleston, S.C."

(Click on the photos for more details.)

This was my first Mellencamp evening using my digital camera with a 20x zoom lens. There was a lot of dancing as we stood from our seats over and over.

I have the bruises to show from it.

Be sure to check out his newest (2014) studio album "Plain Spoken."

He's Dylan-esque some critics opined.

I'll see Bob Dylan Friday April 17 at the PAC.

Support live music.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

"First, remove the Cork...."

Yes, it's a new restaurant in the Park Circle "Old Town" area.

Had its quiet, friends-only, soft opening last Thursday.

When I drove by that night, I did see people inside and out front but the old sign was still up.

You might remember CORK BISTRO was there.

Well, it isn't CORK anymore.

The new owner said the
temporary sign will be up for as long as it takes North
Charleston to work its way through all of its signage ordinances, rules and regulations.

I liked what I saw at Happy Hour while sitting at the bar and chatting with K.K., the friendly lady behind the bar."Or, you can call me Two K," she said.

My water came in a small Mason Jar. Nice.

My buddy's Double 'Rita came in a VERY large Mason Jar.

My Jameson on-the-rocks came in a medium size Jar and, when I asked what the really small jars were for, she poured me a tequila shot.

The salt was already on the rim so I tossed back the Mexican treat, sucked on the lime slice and pronounced it "Good. That was great," ...well, as soon as I got my voice back.

 I made the mistake of referring to this new place (twice) as the newest Yo Burrito and was gently corrected.

The Yo Bo Cantina Fresca is also in Windermere and Athens, Georgia.

But, this one is in my backyard and I'll aim for Happy Hour again.

The Giant Margarita was only $6.00. Wow.

The nice lady behind the bar said during happy hour, all the tacos are $2.50.*

I ordered two grilled fish Diablo Tacos with cabbage and munched on some delicious chips and salsa.

Later I found out that SIX - yes 6 - different salsas are hand-made in-house each day.

They proudly proclaim "slow food, quickly" and say no additives, no microwave and no nonsense.

My dining partner - he with the giant 'Rita - had a chicken taco and one with beef, along with a nice side of Guacamole.

The place is health-conscious, serving Vegan, Vegetarian and Gluten-free. Uh oh, they don't have  Borracho beans available yet.

Saw there was Dos Equis Amber and Pacifico on tap and, overall I had a pleasant experience in a place on one of my favorite streets.

Even without a real sign yet.

(Click on the photos for more detail. All were taken with my phone-cam.)

* The bartender said she misspoke about the tacos being $2.50. They are in Windermere and WILL be here too, but not yet. She charged us $2.50 each though.


I went back yesterday - during Happy Hour - with my camera this time and was having another nice meal while sitting at the bar. I had a whiskey while my buddy got his $6 double "Rita.

He put down his Mason Jar, suddenly started laughing, and pointed to the backbar.

Huh? Nothing new there since last time.

He said "Take a closer look at the four 'religious' candles,"  he said with a grin.

I had glanced at them the last time but now I realized who the pictures depicted.

The one on the far right could have been saying something about "Picture this..Sicily, 1939."

Oh, good Lord Maud, it's THE GOLDEN GIRLS!!

You have to stop by this place.


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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Azaleas? What azaleas??

 Members of my 21st Century Photography Group held a "preview" walking tour Saturday of the famed  FLOWERTOWN in Summerville March 27-29..

A light cloud cover felt good as the dozen or so photographers gathered at Azalea Park to "beat the crowd" next weekend.

The walk leader, longtime Summerville native Charles Giet, as always, was very informative as we ambled along in search of the elusive flowering azaleas.

We saw lots of evidence on pine trees of the yellow dust pods that burst forth and trigger allergy sneezes but saw very few red, pink and white flowers.

By the time we finished lunch at Montreux, and walked back to the parking area, the yellow "sneezing powder" had settled on all of our cars and any other flat surface.

But, we are not a group of negative people.

(Get that, a film reference in this digital age.)

Charles steered us around marshy patches along the route up Sumter and back down South Laurel streets.

Member Andy Reilly moved in close to capture shots of one particularity flowering bush in the aptly-named Azalea Park.

Leader Charles explained that our 2nd annual flower preview walk was a victim of the festival dates being moved around a week earlier to accommodate the Bridge Run.

Last year the blossoms were fantastic.

So, instead, we zoomed in on historic homes, framing them with bushes and moss-draped limbs.

The group shot was taken at a Bed & Breakfast situated on Sumter Street, behind a home dating back to 1812.

Charles was particularly proud as he pointed out the home where he and his 5 sibling were raised.

I asked if it were historic and he answered it certainly was to his family.

He chatted with several homeowners as we passed. They were tending to yards that would be on display to 200,000 attending the 43rd annual Flowertown festival.

After we snapped several churches, we turned up South Laurel Street.

I spotted a home where laundry had been done and was hung out for the solar dryer.

The camellias were plentiful so we did shoot some flower pictures.

My eye now was tuned for unusual pictures.

I did step back often to show the members doing artful work with their cameras.

With a newspaper photographer's background, I often look for the human interest angle,  rather than me pausing and stooping down to take close-ups of flowers.

The colorful clothes on the line had caught my eye.

My zoom lenses kept me from trespassing in someone's back yard.

Saw this sad, rain-smeared notice of a lost cat.

Of course, that same rain would have made it uncomfortable for the missing tabby so I wished it - and the anxious owners - well.

I remember a cartoon of a cat's picture, posted on a telephone pole, with the caption "Not missing. Just think my pet is an awesome looking cat."

Hope this misplaced kitty tale has a happy ending.

Even before we left the parking lot at Azalea Park, we photographers had a cute photo opp.

Two Dads and their small children, were enjoying a soap bubble time together. 

There was just enough breeze to blow the bubbles past us.

Obviously this parent moment deserved having some pictures made.

One of the bubble-makers was set on "automatic" and fired off a bevy of bubbles each time the trigger was pulled.

Giggles were heard by all of them.

And, a few of us.

(Click on the photos for more details.)

It was a pleasant walk and fun conversations at lunch afterwards.

Some of us had trouble linking our Smartphones to the restaurant's Wi-Fi even after we were given the "secret" code.

My attention was on an excellent bowl of shrimp & grits.

If you want to keep track of the Photo Group's meetings and planned outings, just go to

Bring along your camera or even just your phone-that-also-takes-pictures.

We're a friendly bunch of photographers ...and wannabes.

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Friday, March 20, 2015

Flying high over Las Vegas....

 The posters and exhibits in movie theaters are getting pretty wild.

They tout upcoming films and are pretty elaborate.

(Yes, sometimes, I do have my camera with me when I go to a movie theater.)

Just for moments like this.

This example is when I joined the actor Kevin James, starring in Mall Cop 2, opening April 17.

He had already grabbed the skid of the helicopter landing gear when I came through the lobby and decided to join him.

Some Photoshop touches and then there were the two of us, high above the Vegas Eiffel tower and Caesar's Palace, soaring over the famed Strip.

Not my first time inserting myself where I didn't belong and being part of an upcoming movie exhibit.

When the famed couch was stacked with all of the Simpson family, in a theater lobby setting, I found me a comfy spot.

I sat and joined Homer and Marge and their charming kids, Bart, Lisa and Maggie.

"Don't have a cow," I mouthed at the usher who came to ask me to leave the couch - and the colorful cartoon family - alone.

Maybe if I had blue hair, stacked high, there would not have been a problem.

Actually this was early in the evening, on my way to see "Kingsman: The Secret Service."

I had seen it once before, liked the fast-paced James Bond-ish antics and convinced my buddy to come see it. I enjoyed it a second time.

After the movie, we headed for The Mill to listen to a one-man Blues band.

North Charleston had decided to let the individual shops, stores and bar owners elect whether or not to allow smoking.

The Madra Rua tried one side for smoking and the other for non-smokers for a while.

But, gave that up when customers decided they wanted smokers to step outside with their second hand smoke.

Almost next door, The Mill allowed smoking and I usually tried to sit where there was some ventilation when I went there to listen to a band.

This night Lou Shields, a vagabond Bluesman from Chicago,  had returned to the bar with his collection of handmade guitars, a shitar and a banjo.

He explained the "shitar" was not even remotely related to a real instrument from India - the Sitar - but was merely a poorly-made guitar that looked crappy but sounded good.

He made his own percussion sounds with a series of former skateboards.

They had bells and bottle caps attached and he pounded them rhythmically with his tennis-shoe covered feet.

With four guitars of varying sounds, a banjo he felt he played badly, and harmonicas, he did indeed put out a LOT of music.

Oh, and - briefly - a kazoo.

There was a small, but enthusiastic, crowd on a rainy Thursday night in the smoky room.

Pool players came in carrying their own sticks in black canvas bags. I did not challenge anyone to a game.

He had performed at the Mill back in November.

Lou was  entertaining and played many of his own songs, available on CDs that he had for sale, along with t-shirts and some of his original art.

So, I started with some pizza slices at Andolini's, saw a fun movie, "hung out" over Vegas with a famous Mall cop and heard some unique sounds of the Blues.

Lou mentioned he had hit the road - literally - and was now living in his van as he traveled around, playing his songs and entertaining people in different venues.

I especially liked the sounds of his odd-looking Shitar.

(Click on the photo for more details).

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

"...and Scene!"

Two weekends ago, a Writers Workshop asked authors to bring in a scene from a play he or she was working on.

In a theater setting in Mt. Pleasant, actors read the words and brought the characters to life.

The cultural project had a director for each scene who helped the actors interpret the author's intent.

Then they all sat down to discuss what had just happened. Wow.

I liked being surrounded by talented people with a purpose.

My fly-on-the-wall observance of this magic was a special treat.

In addition to peer feedback, Susan Sloate, a best-selling novelist, screenwriter and playwright, analyzed each presentation and gave a constructive professional critique.

 Susan is a former member of the Mt. Pleasant Culture, Arts & Pride Commission (CAP) and is the chairman of a sub-committee that was formed to create the workshop.

Susan dissected each scene presented with comments on subject, structure, characterization, etc.

The authors were encouraged to consider the input and re-write the scene for another presentation the following weekend.

I was fortunate to see both versions. Literally a before and after.

Susan does not pull any punches.

She treats the authors kindly - and with respect - but points out flaws as well as pluses.

She has been in their shoes and has a firm grasp of what will work and what needs more work on stage.

 Each author was in different stages of development so she first had the scene explained.

This helped the actors greatly when they knew more about the motivation of the character.

Also, when in the play does the action occurs: first or second act?

What has led up to this point and  - often - Susan would ask how it ends.

She told the writers if, in her opinion, the scene being performed fully developed the necessary conflict for drama.

Or,  she pointed out ways the protagonist could be more clearly identified.

The actors had many questions for the writers and exchanged freely in the talks afterwards.

There was a slight bit of confusion when a writer included director instructions, mixed in with dialogue.

The suggestion was to keep them separate - perhaps on one side of the page - with the actor's lines on the other.

The first Saturday's action was held on the second floor of the Park & Recreation's  Darby Building at 302 Pitt Street.

Actors rehearsed on the first floor and came upstairs after the previous scene had been performed and critiqued.

The following week, with re-written scripts, the scenes were performed off Long Point Road at the R.L Jones Center on Egypt Road.

The November Workshop last year, was the initial write, act, perform, rewrite experiment and was completed all in one day.  There was a rewrite session between presentations.

That was found to be really tiring.

The enthusiasm was very high by the writers, actors and directors during the past two weekends.

These are dedicated people who have a wealth of stage and writing background.

There was give and take as ideas and alternatives were discussed and fleshed out.

Plot twists were straightened out and clarified.

Laughter erupted in the middle of a scene about a murder investigation where the victim's body had been dumped into a huge lobster tank.

Variety was the name of the game as scenes from 7 or 8 different plays were presented and examined.

Some were historical, and some comedic

A moving, probing vignette of three siblings sitting in the living room with their dying mother in a hospital bed, placed among the couch and chairs.

Not a spoiler alert but none felt that "Mom liked you best."

Overall, the plan is to do this again and perhaps set up a tight group of writers, polishing their work and perhaps culminating in an actual production for the public.

Meanwhile, as the creative juices flowed,  appetites were handled by a version of traditional Craft Services.

Well, in this case, bagels, cream cheese, doughnuts, bottled water and buckets of hot coffee.

I did munch half a bagel.

Hey! No broccoli or spinach salad was at hand.

(Click on the photos for more detail.)

I'm glad I was invited to sit in and take notes - and pictures.
Thanks, Susan and the C.A.P Commission.

And Dunkin' Donuts.

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Sunday, March 15, 2015

"Book 'em, Danno!"

It originated online as Web Log.

Not sure exactly when but one day it became known as a Blog.

So, 8 years ago, I became a Blogger.

I hear comments like "Yeah, you write a blog that nobody reads."

And others not quite as nice. But I write the blog for me. 

I recapture fine memories and events and write about them. I get to enjoy that moment again. And, yes, I share them online, along with a lot of other talented local bloggers.

Have met some really nice blog people here in my hometown..

Dan Conover is the fellow who encouraged me, explained how to do it and got me active back in March 2006. 

He and I had worked at the Post & Courier newspaper. He was a true journalist while I was having fun with InfoLine, the paper's
early foray into providing 24-hour access to information. As close as your phone.

At the daily afternoon editorial meetings, I would suggest the paper could invite readers to call the InfoLine number for updates on stories and what had happened since that morning.


"And for breaking news stories that we are conceding to the 5:00 television news." No reply except frowns around the table.

An editor explained we could not tip our hand on stories being worked on for the next day's paper. (I mumbled to myself, it'll be on television and radio this afternoon and this evening.)

I was about to retire so I stopped beating my head against the "way we always have done it" mindset.

Meanwhile, Dan gathered together a batch of bloggers and created an umbrella place in the paper so readers could see how to find and read our blogs.

He and Good Morning Lowcountry started running excerpts and links to blogs.

I covered Spoleto one year as one of several bloggers who attended events, took pictures, wrote copy and had them posted online even before the paper hit front porches the next morning.

It was good being retired  and seeing awareness of our efforts growing.

Naturally, we in the blogging community got together socially.

Facebook and other social media were starting to sprout but
we liked to temper our computer time with some face-to-face contact.

We met in bars and restaurants and had laptops handy when Wi-Fi was available.

We brought our families to blogger picnics. A Blognic.

One lady, in particular, is an ongoing inspiration to me.

Heather Solos was raising three children while blogging helpful household hints.

She published her efforts in a slick book called Home Ec 101 .

Heather continues today online with the household props as well as recipes, nutrition guidance and lots, lots more.

As a bachelor, I have often sought her suggestions on keeping thing clean and healthy. I even tried my hand at brewing my own beer with help from fellow bloggers.

I decided to drink the craft beers instead of trying to make them. LOL.

Other bloggers showed an interest in weather forecasting (Hey Jared Smith)  and daily walks with her camera - Joan Perry, take a bow.

Yes, lots of fond memories of dining and partying with bloggers and their spouses.

Many venues around town were pleased to have 20-25 people, who wrote things for the internet, come into their establishment.

Some set out a buffet or poured nice wines.

We gathered information about the place and made sure to write about them afterward.

Many bloggers have hundreds, even thousands, of followers.  Joan Perry's blog is awash with 20-30 comments  almost every day. As she tells her readers "Send me comments, they make me strong."

I write about my memories and things I have been lucky enough to experience.

I was a staff photographer for the daily metro San Diego Union-Tribune and often recall a time when so and so did this and that.

Sometimes celebrities. More often "real people" leading normal lives.

I delve back into my Marine Corps days often. It was quite an education for this South Carolina teenager!

I blogged about the time my kid brother kept me company on a fast round trip up to Camp Lejeune, N.C.and back, when I was home and our dad suffered an accident.

The trip turned into an all night/next day procedure so I had to "hide" him in the barracks overnight. We found clothes for him to fit in.

He recalls going through the chow line afraid that the name "Boyd" on a shirt twice in a row would be noticed.

In the back of my mind - and perhaps for most bloggers - was the fear that one day, the internet would "eat" all their postings.

Yikes! It's true. Computers fail and work is lost. Nothing remains. Zero.

Remember, it's not REAL, it's all created with 0s and 1s.

People are advised to back up what they have on a computer.

So I thought I would print out my nine years of blogs.

Or maybe make a PDF of each page.

Then I found a site called Blogs2Print. Yep. That's exactly what they do.

So now I have three thick bound volumes containing words and color pictures of almost a decade of my blogging efforts. Worked out to cost an average of about $107* per book.

Relatively cheap for peace of mind.

(Click on the images for more detail.)

* Volume I (2006 - 2008) has 189 pages - including a 9-page index by topics - and cost $71.00
Volume II (2009 - 2011) grew to 323 pages - including an unnecessary 10 pages of an index - and cost $111.00. The thickest, Volume III (2013-2015), was the maximum 450 pages - no index - and cost $141.00

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Carlos SAN-TAN-A.....

Carolos Santana and his HUGE salsa band made its first-ever appearance last night in Charleston.

Fans? Oh yeah.

The PAC (Performing Art Center) was jam-packed tight for a 3 hour and 8 minute pulsating performance.

It was an older crowd but most of us stood most of the evening.

How could you not, as favorite after favorite by the 10 Grammy Award winner, led us all on an almost non-stop romp down memory lane.

A funny moment upon entering: "Are you here for Santana?" Well, duh, yeah!

Then I thought, why are you asking?

"A lot of Harlem Globetrotters fans have shown up and we direct them to the Coliseum next door."
The PAC does has a large stage, but...

The show started at almost 8 pm and ended, after an extended encore, just after 11:00.

The intermission was only about 10 minutes!

Yeah, I know, bands always say it'll be a short break.

Bathroom and beverage stops were hurried as fans rushed back to their seats in the darkened room.

Carlos brought out his wife Cindy Blackman Santana for several drum runs, showing her amazing prowess. An accomplished musician, Carlos added she also had stolen his heart.

The regular drummer was flanked by two excellent percussionists.

And, instead of the "standard" back-up singers, this show featured two highly talented young men who sprang to the front of the stage, leading us in song.

They kept time with handfuls of marichas, tambourines, Jingle sticks and those long wooden things with notches that are scraped in time to the music.

What is Santana without heavy, throbbing drums?

As mentioned, two percussionists got to do solos and kept a steady beat the entire show.

And trumpet and trombone added the "brass section."

 The interchange among the Mexican-Americans, Puerto Ricans and other Latins was beautiful.

The languages and the music flowed smoothly. This is a tight group, used to having fun while working together as a unit.

At one point, a guitar-on-a-stand was brought out and Carlos played it while his main guitar hung from his shoulder.

Wish I could say he played BOTH at the same time but that didn't happen. (4-handed?)

I was trying to capture some facial expressions by the star wearing a trademark black hat and have some excellent views showing he is REALLY into his music.

Soulful and extremely talented.

He shared some of his deep feelings in a mini-homily that emphasized how each of us is an instrument of change.

Thinking, he said, leads to action.

Then, it was back to blistering music. and a rotation allowing each band member to dazzle us with a solo. Terrific!

Did I mention percussion? 

Tonight we saw, heard and felt it in all of its manifestations. 

The Conga (Tumbadora in Cuba) is a tall, narrow, single-headed South American drum.

My hands were sore just from watching the frantic pace of slapping them by a pro.

I found that the round, barrel-shaped ones are usually Cuban. 

I have patted a few bongos in the past, but those Afro-Cuban small open bottom drums never elicited the sounds heard here.

But, all good things have to come to an end. 

When he flubbed a name he was trying to remember, Carlos joked "the grass was really good backstage!"

We laughed, he finished his story and the music eventually brought us to the close of the show.

We stood, we applauded, and we sang along as extorted by the "back-up" singers.

We swayed to the rhythms of a Latin beat and kept time with hands clapping.

I hope Carlos comes to Charleston again so others can enjoy what this house-full of fans did.

Carlos "por favor regrese." 

(Click on the photos for more details.)

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