Show two is a special one indeed, as I'll be doing my first public podcast for an audience with first time guest Wes Lee at The Shed Blues & BBQ Joint in Ocean Springs (6-9pm). The topic of the night will be blues music as Wes Lee (like myself) is very much a fan of blues music and the history behind its birth and evolution. Afterwards, he and I will perform a side-by-side set of classic tunes and original material. We would love to see you all out for what is sure to be an interesting event! See music page for details.
On to the blog. See below for full screen gallery of pics.
My bags were already packed and accommodations made. With not much else to do, I decided to sit in zazen for a time. Then, knowing a great deal of sitting was ahead of me, I began my morning ritual of stretching my unused muscles. A shower brought me fully too, and I put some hot water on to make a lite grey tea. As it steeped, I came to the conclusion that I might as well prepare a good breakfast. While drinking my beverage, I casually fixed a turkey, egg, and cheese burrito, warming the wrap in the skillet first before cooking my eggs and sliced meat. I topped it with sour cream and a little salsa for good measure. Next, I sliced bananas and unthawed some blueberries for their natural sugars which I believe to be essential for a healthy startup in the a.m.
Fast forward to my departure. I am boarding the plane and scanning the rows for my assigned seat. I find it between two other men. The older of the two sitting in the aisle seat moves away for me to take my place. The other man by the window, who appears to be in his mid-thirties, beams a greeting and asks how I am.
“Just fine,” I say and notice the book bag under his feet. “I have that same book bag. Same color and everything.” He made comment on his affection for it. I too was a fan of the style. Then I noticed his feet as I looked over the bag. “I have those same sandals,” I said, and lifted my own feet to prove it.
“Well look at that,” he said smiling. “But, now if you were to be wearing the same…”
“Underwear,” I said over him.
“That’s exactly what I was gonna say. We’d have a problem then.” We laughed and struck up a conversation. I told him I was headed to Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia, with the intent of photographing and writing my first time experiences. David West, on the other hand, was heading to the Dominican Republic as Director of Operations for Global Effect, a non-profit organization that provides aid to people and places in need. He told me of his travels to places like Haiti and his experiences in these struggling third world countries.
“You would have thought the earthquakes had hit yesterday,” he said. “You’d be able to write a number of bluesy tunes down there.” Mr. West also told me about his active involvement with his church and, from there, we discussed various topics revolving around religion, spirituality, and how millennials interpret them. Being a very short flight to Atlanta airport, we continued to converse for the entire duration. Admiring his perseverance to help others, I told him I would write about our time together.
My flight into Charleston was an equally quick one. From my vantage point just below the clouds, I expected to see some traces of the damage received from last week’s passing hurricane, but, eyeing the landscape through my lens, the worst seemed to be over. Pictured here are areas where water seemed to be at its greatest concentration, at least in the area I surveyed.
We returned Aldie to his home in West Ashley where Kayla and her boyfriend Aaron reside. Despite all my travels for the day, it was still only just after noon, and there was plenty to see in the area of Charleston, which was a short 20 minute drive away. We made our way to downtown Charleston, stopping first at the Battery, a defense artillery post on the south end of the peninsula, now converted to a park and promenade to accompany the historic remnants of war. We then walked up the eastern side overlooking the Atlantic, with Mt. Pleasant, Daniel and Sullivan Island in the distance.
Having seen a good number of sites, we made our way inland down Vendue Range where we stumbled into Belgian Gelato. A sucker for ice cream treats (see my last Colorado blog with Glacier Ice Cream), I had to see what was in store here. Taken away was a coffee flavored gelato. Very good, as reported by Kayla, and the girls working the front where chipper as could be. Do people still use that word? Chipper? Anyway, they were really nice.
Still roaming somewhat aimlessly, we came to a cross roads at East Bay Street, where Southend Brewery and Smokehouse towered over the other businesses nearby. This large multi-storied building, equipped with a glass elevator, has an atrium that reaches up all three floors and houses large cooper and stainless steel brewing tanks used to craft a variety of beers. An exhibition kitchen runs the length of the restaurant, extending into a large wood burning oven. The restaurant offers causal fine dining, live entertainment, event space and, of course, plenty of drink selections. According to their website, the building which has been around since the late 80’s has been featured in many local ghost tours for its haunted history. Fine by me, as long as there aren’t any ghosts peeing in my food.
Heading up further north, we stopped in at Charleston Tabaco and Wine. The outside caught my attention and after talking with David West about the quality of cigars in the Dominican Republic, I decided to take a quick look around. I’ve never tried a cigar before, but, like coffee, I’ve always enjoyed the aromas and imagery associated with them (the being wealthy part, not the lung cancer part). The selection appeared top notch and the double joined rooms made for plenty of cozy spaces to sit around with friends, talk, and enjoy a quality stogie.
After the market, we proceeded down King Street, renowned for its blocks of beautiful French homes. I imagine this is the kind of place where doctors and lawyers move to acquire house notes that take decades to pay off. We walked the entire length of the street, returning back to the Battery Park’s west side, wrapping around to the edge of the water and making our way back to the car. Having spent a good amount of time walking, we decided now was the perfect time to introduce me to some of Charleston’s finer culinary experiences. Charleston is well known for its food and Kayla’s first suggestion was a spot called Edmund’s Oast, a brew pub whose history dates back to the mid 1700’s when Englishmen Edmund Egan moved to the Charleston area.
We sat down outside at a long wooden table with a staffed, carved in bar not far from us. A few patrons were gathered around, drinking and conversing in the early evening hours. Our menu was a simple, folded one page sheet bound to a wooden plank with fanciful writing fonts. I must admit, many of the menu items were foreign to me, but I trusted in Kayla and Aaron’s past experiences to guide me in my decision making. From the menu, three dishes were picked to try. The first, Pickled Shrimp with Root Baking Company Rye Bread, was my favorite. This entailed pickled shrimp, red and yellow onions, and celery loaded with fresh dill and parsley over bread sliced into eighths and a honey mustard spread. I don’t have much experience with pickled anything, so I wasn’t sure how I would take to the appetizer, but after one bite I was sold. The crunch from the pickled toppings worked very well with the soft, delicious rye bread, and the herbs used to top it all tasted like they were home grown and prepared right before coming out to the table. The vinegar, oils, and mustard spread worked together perfectly and made me a new fan of pickled foods. I could see why it was a favorite among patrons.
Then things got a little weirder as Kayla suggested I try the Beef Tartar. This was a new word to me. Tartar, simply put, is raw beef or, dare I say it, horsemeat. The dish is typically served with onions, capers, egg yolk and seasonings such as pepper or Worcesteriche sauce. Like the pickled shrimp, this tartar was served with rye bread as well. Having never tasted beef tartar before, I was skeptical, but not cautious in any sense. When the plate came out, I looked it over briefly and then took a hardy bite of the cold, raw meat. The texture was a little…brainy…It didn’t take long for me to decide that I wouldn’t be perusing it much in my course, but I took another bite or two for good measure.
“Whether you come here for a full course or to have crackers and beer, I want your experience with us to be the best it can be,” he stated. A philosophy I greatly appreciated and admired. He whisked the plate back inside and, to my surprise, came back with not just a spiced up dish, but an entirely fresh plate with all my recommended additions. The gesture impressed me and I felt the dish was much improved after being tweaked.
The next morning I awoke before my hosts and looked around for some kill time. I found a DVD collection and, for the next two hours, made my first sit through of “Gangs of New York”. A little later, once the house began to stir, we went down to the Charleston Coffee Exchange for two pick me ups, one for Kayla and the other for Aaron. I eyed the selections but passed for the day, making sure to come back on my departing day for a Banana Nut Bread muffin.
- Lavinia Fisher and her husband John Fisher, publicly executed after being accused of highway robbery. Both held claim to their innocence.
- Denmark Vesey Accused of planning a slave revolt, executed in 1822.
- Jacque Alexander Tardy held from 1825-27 for attempt to steal a pilot boat, also responsible for innocent John Gibson being tried and hanged for his 1817 piracy.
- Civil War prisoners of war
- High Sea Pirates
Inside the jail were various paintings, drawings, sculptures, and artworks, from weird to serene, hung on the walls and inner recesses of old cells. Outside, in the rear grounds, food trucks, craft beers, and merchandise were being sold. Two separate stages were set to hold revolving acts of rock bands on one and dance performers on the other. Inside, a dedicated room ran comedy showcases throughout the day. I tried two craft beers while hanging around outdoors, including a Hi-Wire Pumpkin Spice and their Oktoberfest, just as a dance performance came on with that creepy song from Insidious, “Tiptoe Through The Tulips” (complete with little girls wearing sheep masks) which then turned into Rob Zombie’s “Dragula”.
Only a block or two north of Blue Bicycle was the Belmont, a long bar tucked away from most passing by tourists that provides a safe haven for sophisticated drinkers looking for skillfully crafted cocktails. The mood is hushed with dim lighting and old black and white films play on a wall at the far end of the bar. The wall behind the counter is stocked with a wide range of alcoholic beverages to choose from and the lone bartender causally takes on the orders of a small group sitting nearby. For myself, I order one Bird’s of a Feather which contained rum, Fernet, Campari, and pineapple. The menus description: “Bitter, sweet, and fucking delicious”. Taking an initial taste, the drink very much has a spicy kick to it, but with a few squeezes of a lime, the drink’s sweeter subtleties come to the surface and mellow out, making for an excellent beverage to sip on. Next, I sampled the Paper Tiger, gin, yellow Chartreuse, Becherovka, and a squeeze of lemon. Considerably smoother than my BoaF and a good change of pace. I enjoyed both drinks and it was fun to watch the bartender go through the motions to create the concoctions with pizazz.
To close out our night, we visited Three Matadors in West Ashley, for a traditional Mexican style dinner of beef burrito bowls, quesadillas, chips and queso dip. It was a jam packed day and my solo trip to Savannah would prove to be just as eventful.
I arrived in Savannah just after eleven o’clock, coming in from the north eastern corner of the Georgia-South Carolina boarder. I found parking in no time at the Savannah Civic Center (50 cents an hour!). I stopped into the first shop I saw, The Coffee Roasters, to find some water and a bathroom, but was impressed by the shop’s atmosphere. Students were all about, working on laptops, jotting notes, or killing time with friends. I looked through the glass panels that held all the delicious looking bagels, muffins, and desserts. Menus hanging over head described different sandwiches and coffee flavors. When I discovered the shop was out of the bacon, egg, and cheese croissants I wanted, I opted to move along to find another spot, but I enjoyed the people and the style present in Coffee Roasters and plan on stopping in again in the future.
I made my way to the south end of Forsyth Park to visit the Sentient Bean, a coffee and food shop that serves up vegetarian dishes to patrons, located right next store to Brighter Day Natural Foods. In the Sentient Bean, I had a hard time choosing from a number of fantastic sounding dishes. In the end, I went with the Greek Tacos: Hummus, feta, spinach, tomato, Kalamata olives, and tzatziki on warm tortillas. As an appetizer, I ordered up a yogurt parfait loaded with blueberries and granola. I loved both, but would really encourage trying their Chai Lemongrass Soup. With a long list of tasty ingredients (fresh ginger, turmeric, jalapenos, carrots, garlic, onions, scallions, kale, tomatoes, lemongrass stock, rice vinegar, tofu, lime, and more) it sounds too good to not experience.
I made my way back through the park and started to drift towards the west side of town, making my way up to River Street, which is a major tourist attraction. Before getting there, I made a mid-way stop to investigate the Savannah College of Art and Design with a quick walk through the school’s art museum.
On River Street is where I found the highest concentration of pedestrians in one area. Off to my left was Savannah River which was currently carrying a large freighter towards the opening of the Atlantic. I stopped in at two different sweet shops. The first, River Street Sweets, boasted a colorful display of candies, fudges, pralines, and more. A few minutes more up the street and I found The Savannah Praline, where I picked up a double scoop of homemade chocolate chip cookie dough and cookies and crème ice cream. I would have plenty of time to walk it off before I picked my next restaurant for dinner.
Along the street, I heard a three different guitarist picking away the cool fall day. At another point, I found a street merchant selling a crafted reed to a tourist woman. There was no shortage of things to see and do on this small strip.
I was only around four o’clock at this point. I had covered a large section of Savannah in only three or four hours of walking. It was too early to head back home but I wasn’t quite ready to eat yet either. I decided now would be the ideal time to make a trip out to Thunderbolt, Georgia, a few minutes east of Savannah, to see the legendary Bonaventure Cemetery, famed for its depiction in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Though there was a great deal to see, I didn’t find much of a desire in photographing the area. The scope of these burial grounds is best understood by walking through them on foot. When it comes to taking pictures, there are just too many oak trees to see very far in any direction. I put my camera away and resorted to walking among the tombs in the last hour before closing, just as a breeze began to pick up and hinted at a pleasant, fair weathered evening.
I drove back into Savannah from the west side. I would be eating at the Pirates House near River Street at the recommendation of a family member. This former inn for seafarers now containing 15 separate dining rooms, has been around since 1753 and believed by some to be the oldest standing building in the state of Georgia. I took my seat at a corner table and looked over the menu, settling quickly on the Pecan Crusted Trout served with a honey creol sauce, mashed sweet potatoes (I opted for regular garlic potatoes) and mixed vegetables. Cornbread is served on the side to all diners. I love a good fish with a well prepared crust and this trout proved its reputation as one of the top restaurant picks.
I am waking up back in Charleston. It’s still early and my only concrete plans are to make sure I board my flight on time at 6:30. I started some laundry and then went back down to the Charleston Coffee Exchange to pick up one of the Bananas Nut Muffins I had seen a few days ago. I came back to the townhouse and enjoyed it while finishing up on the last of the newest Kurt Cobain HBO documentary “Montage of Heck”. I finish my muffin, the documentary, and my laundry and then take Audie out for a game of fetch at the enclosed tennis courts nearby. After eleven, I drive down Sullivan Island, not knowing at all what I’ll do or what there is to see. I locate two points of interest. One is a place called Fort Moultrie on the southwestern point of the island and, the other, a restaurant I’ve found with good reviews online called “Poe’s Tavern”. Now, I’m thinking “poe” as in southern slang for “poor”. I’m envisioning simple, but delicious, homemade food made from scratch. It isn’t until I’m going down Sullivan Island's main strip, Middle Street, that I discover this is in fact a restaurant dedicated to Edgar Allen Poe.
I walked back up Middle Street to return to my car, noticing all the other little businesses along the way. Now that I had a connection with the nearby Fort Moultrie, I was all the more ready to see it. I made it there in five minutes, as the island is relatively small, began reading historic posts, and taking pictures. Most notable was the display of cannon arsenal that went from World War II back down to the fort’s inception around the end of the 1700’s. One of the more interesting stories was the disappearance of the Mobile, Alabama built H.L. Hunley, a small civil war submarine that proved a testimony to the advantages and the dangers of underwater warfare. Upon further investigation, I discovered the submarines unfortunate history of, not one, but three separate occasions of a sinking. The first occurred on a test run in August of 1863, in which five crew members perished. Then, she sank again not a month later killing all eight of her crew. Both times the Hunley was raised from the sea and returned to service. Over a year later it was the first combat submarine to sink a warship, but it, along with all its crew, were lost to the sea. This time, it appeared to be for good. Three decades later, in 1995, the Hunley was rediscovered and raised in 2000 for transfer to the Warren Lasch Conservation Center to be studied and displayed. After some time of observation, it is now believed that the submarine was potentially as close as twenty feet to its target, the Housatonic, when the torpedo that sunk the warship exploded. The finding of the Hunley is regarded by many as one of the greatest US Naval finds of the century.
I resolved to abandon my muddy sandals and took off in a full sprint, holding my camera securely, down the beach. After a minute or two, I came to my angle and got some shots of a local fishing along the water’s edge. I back tracked running towards my original entry point, but, once I had made the return, felt I should do the same in the other direction. The corner to the beach was a quarter mile away it seemed, and if I overtook it, who knew what kind of view I could be treated to. I left my shoes again and continued sprinting, this time, closer to the water itself. I ran for another minute or two and saw the corner was much wider than I expected. I continued on for a while before I eventually gave in on the attempt. The distance appeared too great and I still didn’t know the time. To go further would mean a longer time there and back.
Once I had my sandals back on, with their caked filth now baked on from the direct sun, I started back down the grassy path. This time I took another route that appeared drier. No such luck. My feet sank so deep that my footwear gave a distinct sucking noise every time I took a step to free them from the Earth’s muddy grip. Little did I know that the whole time small amounts of mud where getting flung up from behind me, covering my shorts, shirt, and camera bag. Bloody hell.
I met Kayla at her work on Daniel Island. She gave me a tour of her building and introduced me to her lovely, all girl team of over a dozen young women. Then we made a quick drive around the island before taking for the airport. Charleston’s airport is a small one and I managed to get through and relax with my book propped up on my duffle bag, awaiting my departure from all the great places I had seen over the last couple days. Flying over the same rural areas I had seen on my way in, I thought back to a drifter that had stopped me in the streets of Savannah, not far from Forsyth Park. I had my camera around my neck and was on the lookout for anything worth shooting. “Can I make suggestion,” he had said. I told him he could. “Take a picture of something you love,” he advised, “because the memories you’ll have will last you forever.” My seat was by the window and Charleston was fading in the distance. I gave it a long look but kept my camera in its case down by my feet. No need to capture this moment. I had plenty more to choose from already and I liked the idea of this scene being my own. The last look at yet another city that was no longer a stranger to me.
This concludes my travelogue of Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia. Please like, share, or comment if you enjoyed what you read or saw. I really appreciate those of you who keep coming back to see my travels and support my passions. Thanks!!
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