Bay's Travel Blog

I don't travel much, but blogging is trippy.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Day 5 -- Two Sarahs



Friday, August 19th

Although I woke up several times between 5:00 and 7:00, I managed to get lots of sleep anyway and awoke for good at 7:30. Wesley was still too full from dinner at Po' Pigs the night before to even contemplate breakfast, so we made coffee and that was it.

When the kids woke up around 8:30, I made toast for them. Oooo! The work! The effort! The enormous mess I made!!!! OK, I'm kidding. It was a typical Bay-size breakfast. And they complained. Wesley spoiled them with his humongous breakfasts with 18 different items on the menu.

I would be mad at him, but to be honest, he did all the laundry all week long and he always cleaned up after his huge breakfasts. So it wasn't as if I weren't relaxing on my vacation, even if he *did* keep making huge breakfasts.

I was determined to go to the beach on this day. The weather was actually fairly pleasant, and we leapt into our swimsuits and headed to the shore around 9:30 in the morning, where the tide was fairly high and the water was cooler than it had been a couple of days before. Very refreshing! My favorite part was that there was hardly anyone on the beach when I got there. In point of fact, Wesley got there before me, and he was ecstatic that I -- for once -- didn't delay so long that I missed him. He stayed with me.

The ocean was calm, and soon more people were joining us on the beach. August is getting more crowded on Edisto. Bummer.

I'm not sure how long we stayed, because I wasn't looking at a watch, but after a while we went back to the house. And oh, I had another outdoor, enclosed, hot-and-cold shower. Y'all. Seriously. I love these things. They're just so perfect, and you have a far lower chance of getting caught naked when they're enclosed like that.

I've totally neglected to talk about the lot across the dirt road from our rental house. Last year, this whole block was a sedate little berm of palmettos and cassinas and well-kept, natural vegetation. It was almost like a little park. We couldn't see the houses on Jungle Road because of the trees.

The first day we arrived, it was like that. On Tuesday, little pink surveyors' flags appeared. On Wednesday, heavy machinery showed up. By Friday, the palmettos were biting the dust and being chewed up by giant wood-chippers. I cannot tell you how much I hate it. Hello, development. Goodbye, civilization.

By Friday morning, we could clearly see the houses on Jungle Road. I have no idea what they're going to build in that little lot, but I'm betting it's just another rental house or three. Bummer. I'm going to have to start staying on some other undeveloped island at this rate.

Anyway, we all took outdoor showers, and got dressed for lunch.

Last year, we happened to get lunch on Friday at the Edisto Beach Grille and Cafe. This restaurant is right next to the Piggly Wiggly and looks like the worst greasy-spoon dive ever. As usual, the appearance is deceiving, and it's actually a perfect restaurant for us. Anyway, because we were there on a Friday, we discovered that they have a seafood special on Fridays... which includes hushpuppies. And *these* are the real thing. The real, *real* real thing. Go back fifty years -- go back seventy years -- go back a hundred years, and the hushpuppies you would have gotten then are the hushpuppies that you can get at the Edisto Beach Grille and Cafe on Fridays. So with this knowledge, I knew I had to go on Friday this year, and we had planned our entire itinerary around this lunch.

The seafood is a fried fish. I have no idea what the fish is, and usually I eschew fried fish, but... again, this is the real thing. This is fried fish like I haven't had since I was 8 years old and my parents took me to a shack in the Georgia woods where they served nothing but fried fish and frogs legs. I ordered the special, and the rest of my clearly insane, unbalanced, tasteless family got ordinary food off the menu. Grilled cheese or shrimp burgers or something. Who knows? Who cares? My meal was quite clearly the best one there.

While we were eating, Miss Sarah came out to ask us how the food was. Miss Sarah is the real thing, too. She's about 80 years old and has the most serious Gullah accent left on the island. In public, that is. I'm sure there are plenty of people left who carry on the accent and the customs. But Miss Sarah is the only one you'll see in public during tourist season. I think they are clinging to their way of life, and frankly, that is just fine with me. The Gullah, after all, are the only people who know how to make hushpuppies the right way.

(And if we lose that tradition, then all is lost and we might as well give up on our quest for civilization and start all over again, and all the enclosed, hot-and-cold outdoor showers will not make up for the loss of proper hushpuppies.)

Since Miss Sarah asked, I told her exactly how the food was, and most especially how much I love the hushpuppies. I nearly cried while I told her about how we came to Edisto when I was a little girl, when there was nothing here, and there was a whole different marina and a completely different restaurant there, where my Mama was so enraptured with the hushpuppies, and that when I came back as an adult, all I really wanted was *those* hushpuppies that Mama had loved so much, and how the only place I could find them was here, at the Edisto Beach Grille and Cafe, and on Fridays at that, and that was why I ordered the special and why I was so, so, so completely happy.

Miss Sarah -- Well, she didn't cry, but she was obviously moved by my ranting and raving. She said, "Honey, you come heah. Yes, suh. Yes'm. Miss Sarah gwine tek you somewheh, yes, she is."

I went with Miss Sarah, who took me to the kitchen and introduced me to Mr. Charlie, the cook. Mr. Charlie was clearly very busy. The kitchen was TINY. And every available space seemed to be full of deep-fat fryers. Miss Sarah said, "Mist' Chahlie, heah someone you needs to meet!" And the next thing I knew, I was telling Mr. Charlie the same story I had told Miss Sarah.

Mr. Charlie was too busy to chat, but he expressed gratitude and asked me where I was from. I told him, and then I thanked him again for the stunningly fabulous hushpuppies and said goodbye.

I'll never forget him, or that tiny kitchen, or Miss Sarah. Please, God, don't let the world forget them, either. I have no idea why "progress" always wants to change such things. They are as they should be. Don't teach them proper English, don't hook them up to the Internet, don't tell them that deep-frying is unhealthy. Leave them alone. We're lost without them.

After a while, we could linger no longer. We had watched as many locals come in as we could. There were no other "tourists" around that I could tell, and even the tour guide from the ACE Basin boat tour was there eating lunch. We paid the tab and tipped the waitress -- a shocking $40 again, and I would've paid so much more. OK, the tip was more than 25%. Still, it was an invaluable lunch, and I do so hope Miss Sarah is still there the next time we go.

Dang, I'm crying just thinking about it. Listen -- if you're reading this trip report and thinking, "I need to go there," don't. Just don't. I so don't want Edisto to change, and I'm so afraid that my saying how wonderful it is will change it. Take my word for it. Believe me when I say Miss Sarah was the real thing. Trust me when I say the hushpuppies are sublime. But don't, for heaven's sake, *don't* go there to get them. They'll change if they have to make them by the thousands for tourists.

After lunch, we went to the Edisto Bookstore again, because I wanted to buy some pictures of the Mystery Tree that I had seen there, but the kids drove me to distraction, so we left without buying anything. I went to the antique store next door, which was not closed this time. Unfortunately, it is an antique store, not a junk store, so the prices went with antiques, not junk. That was a disappointment, but I should've expected it. There are hardly any junk stores or junk store prices left any more. I left very quickly, after admonishing my children about 89 times not to touch anything.

Back at the Pink Flamingo, I sat on the porch and listened to the radio for a while. The heat was not so bad this day, and by then, I had learned how to deal with it, anyway. The secret this year was ice water. Get a cup of ice water and a couple of rags. Dip the rags in the ice water and wrap the rag around your neck. Keep the ceiling fan going on high speed. You can deal with the heat and humidity this way. I certainly did, and I am not built to deal with extreme weather.

After a while, I took a short nap and woke up at 2:00. Or so. My notes for this afternoon are exceedingly sketchy and incomplete, and no one is awake to help fill me in on what we did that day. I apparently took another outdoor shower, just for the heck of it. I have no idea what the kids did to pass the time, but by now, it's likely that we were all playing Crazy 8's like mad. I threatened to teach them how to play Hearts, but we're more of a Crazy 8's kind of family. It's not a very serious game. You don't have to strategize a lot. And it depends a lot on luck, so you can get really mad when you lose and throw the cards, and no one's feelings are hurt. OK.... I'm the only one who throws the cards. It's a tradition. I've been throwing cards since I was, oh, 9 or 10 or so.

Around 4:30, I ventured out to the bookstore again, this time by myself. I checked online briefly and bought the photos of the Mystery Tree. (If I find those photos, I'll scan and post, of course, so you can see them, too.) The Mystery Tree is a modern Edisto tradition. I don't know when it started, but *someone* waded out into the marsh and decorated a dead tree one year. The next year, the decorations were changed. Every year, the Mystery Tree is redecorated. It's cool. One year there was a rocking chair hung high in its branches. The story goes that no one knows who decorates the Mystery Tree. I contend that no one could possibly keep a secret that good to herself. It's just that those who know aren't telling, and that's exactly the way it should be.

I also bought a book called "Tales of Edisto." Turns out my mother bought the same book years ago; my sister Martha has a hardbound copy of it at her house. It was first published in the 1950's, but has apparently been edited or revised or something since then. I never started reading the book until the trip home.

The notes for the rest of the day are pretty sketchy. We went to the Ruby Seahorse for dinner again. Hey, man, if it ain't broke....

We stopped at the Piggly Wiggly for something. Then we drove down Palmetto Boulevard, picking out houses we want to own. Woodrow has *excellent* taste in houses. I've taught him well!!!! Mama would be so proud.

On the way around the golf course, a song came on the radio -- again, we were listening to 104.9, The Wave -- and within the first line, I turned up the volume and told Wesley, "This has *got* to be Sarah Bettens' new single." When the chorus came along and this wonderful voice sang, "Things can't get much better/ You might have to stay/ To make sure I never/ Forget about today," I *knew* I was right. And I was. At the end of this lovely song, the DJ confirmed my suspicions. Please keep in mind that I had only heard one Sarah Bettens song *once* before hearing this one. She's really, really, *really* good. Check her out!!!!!

Back at the Pink Flamingo, I hung out on the porch, drank White Russians, and iced my ankle. My ankles, you see, had not recovered from the profound swelling that they'd indulged in when I went to Wisconsin, and they had, in fact, gotten fluffier while I was on Edisto. Still no idea why. The left ankle (like my legally blind eye) was the worst. Ice made the swelling go down *and* it made it feel better.

After Wesley went to bed, the kids and I played Crazy 8's a little. It was fun, but I worried that we got too loud and were going to wake up Wesley. We didn't. I went to bed around 11:15, and my dreams were filled with hushpuppies and flying cards.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Odds & ends


I interrupt my own trip report again to catch up on a few things. Why? I don't know. I just need to take a break from the solid "I was in South Carolina and it rocked" thang. Also, I really miss Spanish moss right now. Wait a second, I know Emily brought some home. Emily, go get me some Spanish moss!!!!!

[She's trotting off to get me some even as I type. What a good girl!]

OK, back to the odds & ends. I washed my car. Why can I not find a window cleaner that works perfectly? The best glass cleaner in the world is vinegar and water, I know that. But it smells like vinegar, and I'm reluctant to make my beloved new Prius smell like vinegar.

[Taking a moment to fondle the Spanish moss glob that Emily brought... mmmmm, it feels like the Low Country....]

If you would like to see the scrapbook room that I would like to own -- and I mean *really*, I'm not just saying this because I'm in awe of someone's gobs of money or all the stuff they have, I *really* like *this* room -- check out Sophia's new scraproom album on her blog. I would only do two things differently. I would add an Ott Lite and paint one wall periwinkle blue. Other than that, this room is *perfect*. I want it badly. I am really, really jealous of Sophia, and I don't even know her well enough to smack her as she deserves.

The photo above is my single favorite photo of me taken in the last, oh, 20 years or so. It's so me, with all my flaws in evidence, wrapped up in a white dress, a nice scarf, and absolutely fabulous beaded shoes. It comes from Retreat. I shouldn't be surprised that someone caught me with all my bad habits on display! (Wine, cigarettes, and laughing too loud at something someone said.) When I kick the bucket, this is the picture they should put with my obituary!!! I also love the graininess of the pic, which is a result of the film being scanned by the heavy-duty x-ray machines in the airport. I love grainy pics. I don't know why. But as Erikia Ghumm would tell you, flawed photos are more perfect for transfer techniques than perfect photos.

I need to remember to tell y'all that someone on the ACE Basin boat tour talked about jellyfish at the end of our ride. I have never encountered a jellyfish at Edisto, but I am terrified of them. I mean, I am really, unreasonably scared of jellyfish. The tour guide said the jellyfish were "in season," and she said that the exceptionally warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean were causing more of them to come closer to the beach this year. Someone asked what to do about a jellyfish sting, and she said, "Ammonia." That made me remember the "Friends" episode when Monica was stung and Joey peed on her leg. ROFL!!!!!! Absolutely terrible mental image, isn't it? Then the tour guide went on the explain that meat tenderizer or tobacco would suffice if you were stung by a jellyfish. I filed that info away in my computer-like brain.

Wait a second -- I don't have a computer-like brain; that's my sister Amy who has the computer-like brain. I promptly forgot what the tour guide said, but I knew it was the same advice that was printed in the little handbook at the rental house.

Yes, I actually read the little handbook. It's what led me to try the Ruby Seahorse and Po' Pigs. I love handbooks.

I miss The Wave 104.5 from Hilton Head. No radio station at home is as good as that one was. And I still haven't heard Sarah Bettens on the radio here. Stupid radio stations!!!! I want my Wave! They had funny self-promo spots, like the one that said, "Every year they come, they see, they party. This is to the summer interns of Hilton Head!" Or the one that said, "We'd like to welcome all our out-of-town guests. 85% of Hilton Head's permanent residents started out just like you!" I don't want to go to Hilton Head. I just want to listen to their radio station!!!!!

I'm terribly worried about New Orleans. I really can't write too much about it. My mother met my father in New Orleans during WWII. I haven't been there since 1990, myself. I close my eyes and see all those double-shotgun-camelback houses on the edge of the Garden District, and I just want to cry. Please let New Orleans come through Katrina intact. Or please just let the historic places come through all right.

And if I had any more odds *or* ends to post, I can't think of them right now. I hope you're all having a fabulous Monday!!!!

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Day 4, Pt. 2 -- ... Enter heaven.


...
At this point, I knew that Wesley and the kids had probably been on the flight deck and come down from it. I walked through the hangar deck, swiveling my head in search of my family. They weren't there. So after another stop at the ladies' room, I went up to the flight deck.

There I had an epiphany of sorts. I don't know. Maybe it was the heat. It occurred to me that Daddy must have run all over a deck like this when he was young and hadn't even met Mama yet, and that then later he was all over a deck like this when he had met Mama and knew he was going to marry her someday. I missed him so much. It's been thirty years, and I know so very little about him. I cried. I couldn't believe I almost missed seeing this sight because I was sitting on a bench in the shade at least three stories below feeling sorry for myself.

Anyway, the family was not up there on the flight deck, so I made my way back to the hangar deck, stopped by the lovely, cool Medal of Honor Museum for a dash of AC, and then started walking around looking at the airplanes. Fighter planes. Whatever. I don't know exactly what kind of plane Daddy flew, but I have pictures, so I was looking at cockpits and wing structure. Based on my totally limited, uneducated eye, I think he flew a Hellcat. I'm not sure. Someday, I really must write to the Navy and ask for Daddy's records so I can find out exactly what the heck he did in WWII.

I was headed back toward the ladies' room when I finally found my family -- or my family found me. All I really noticed was a streak of green and red with blonde hair barreling at me at about 89 mph. That was Emily. She loved the modern fighter jets. She has no sense of history or tradition.

The kids had done the flight simulator, even though it cost nearly $5 more to get in the thing. I was terribly surprised that Wesley paid for it. ROFL!!!! I guess being on vacation changes a guy, if only for a few days. Wesley and Woodrow headed for the snack bar to get something to drink. Emily and I went to the ladies' room -- AGAIN -- and then we went to the Medal of Honor Museum to cool off while the boys drank. We spent a good bit of time in there, and I read lots of stuff in there. One guy, Stephen L. Bennett, was a real American hero in Vietnam. I nearly cried just reading his story, and then they went and named a ship after him. Y'dang skippy.

We went downstairs, took a picture in front of the Yorktown, and made our way across that long sidewalk/pier thingie back to the welcome center. On the way back, I looked over the side of the pier and asked, "What are those things on the mud?" Scattered thick and icky were tons of dark little crabs, sitting, walking, and sludging across the low-tide mud. Ewwwwwww. I'm glad we had a sidewalk. The mud itself looked bad enough. Add in those crabs and ... ewwwwwwwww.

Back at the entrance, Wesley bought the photos that were taken before I fell apart. The green screen allowed them to digitally insert a majestic Yorktown background behind us. I think the packet cost $10 -- not a big expense, and maybe I can use sandpaper to erase my extra chin.

I went into the big gift shop with the kids because I knew it was air conditioned in there. We shopped. I went to the ladies' room again. I bought a postcard or two; Wesley bought a shot glass, and Woodrow bought a shot glass. I don't remember if Emily bought anything. I sent Wesley to retrieve the car from the parking lot, and when he drove to my location and I stood up, I realized that I was really not finished with being sick.

The plan had been to go to the Yorktown and then go to the historic district for lunch and a tour of the Edmonston-Alston House. For years, maybe decades, maybe my whole life, or perhaps even some other life I lived in Charleston if there's such a thing as reincarnation -- for *ages* I've wanted to tour the houses that are open to tourists in the historic district of Charleston. I love them all. I want them all. I adore all the history that's piled up in their foundations and walls, and I want to see it all.

The kids, however, have never been as keen as I to tour these places. I remember the first year we went as a family and all the complaining about walking in the historic district. I was ecstatic with all that walking. It's so much more satisfying than driving by in a car or carriage.

Anyway, that was the plan. And we did drive downtown. But I simply could not get out of the car. I sort of suggested to Wesley that he just drive me up to a restaurant, drop me off, and then go park, but Wesley's brain doesn't work that way. It never has. My father was always dropping my mother off at the door and then going off somewhere to park, but Wesley's never done that. We always park and walk together. At one point, we even drove into a parking garage, but I said, "I'm sorry, but I cannot walk from here." It cost us $1 to get out of the damn garage. Out-freaking-rageous. I'm still mad about that dollar. We didn't even pull into a parking slot, for crying out loud!

We drove back to Edisto and stopped at Main's Market for a very late lunch. (It's about an hour from Charleston to Edisto.) We usually eat at least three meals at Main's Market when we go to Edisto, but this was the only time we stopped there this year. They were out of everything we ordered. So we had to get alternates. And then they were out of banana pudding. That's just... insane. The food was good, but we didn't go back to Main's.

We took our food home to the Pink Flamingo, where I took Advil with my lunch and laid down with a cool washcloth for a few hours. It rained some more, and finally cooled the horribly hot day. I would have thought the previous day's rain would have helped, but no -- it takes daily rain to keep it cool enough, I guess.

When I awoke, I felt much, much better. We dashed to the beach for an early evening walk in the surf's edge, but there was a wedding at the beach access that we usually went to. So we went down to a different one, and the view was so picturesque and the light was so pink and perfect that I took a few photos. (See "this post" for the photo of me and Wesley that Emily took.)

A quick dash back to the house to rinse our salty feet, and we were soon off to ... Po' Pigs Bo-B-Q. Oh, yeah, baby. It was 9 miles back toward the bridge and worth every single foot of the drive. I could crawl there on my hands and knees for another meal at Po' Pigs. It was *heaven*, nothing but heaven. I knew the moment we walked inside that I had at last found the perfect restaurant. You could order from the menu, or you could prove sanity by getting the buffet.

The food was really, deeply, profoundly Southern. I already wrote about it so I won't transcribe the menu, but my favorites were the barbecue, the fried chicken, the baked beans and kitchen-cut green beans, the potato salad and the real, strong, freshly brewed iced tea that melted my ice and made me go back for me. But of course, the best thing on the buffet were the hushpuppies. I could cry. I sent Emily back for more, and she got a little bowl and brought me five of the darling things. And I still wanted more.

The kids and I got desserts, too -- I had the pineapple-upside-down cake; Woodrow had chocolate cake that made him roll his eyes and moan, and Emily was the smartest person in our crowd and got nanner puddin'. (That's "banana pudding" for any Yankees who may need a translation.) She was so sweet. She shared with me. That nanner puddin' was the second best nanner puddin' I've ever had. (The best, of course, is mine.)

Wesley ate so much that he literally hurt himself. I don't know what he had that was so good, but he went back for seconds and didn't have room for dessert, and it *still* hurt.

And besides the fabulous food, I really liked the *people* at Po' Pigs. They all looked like my parents and my parents' friends. They all sounded Southern. They looked really comfortable in there, and it reminded me of what a small-town restaurant is like without theming or hoopla or waiters in red-and-white striped uniforms with buttons all over their vests.

The whole meal was $40, give or take a few dollars for the tip, and we went back to the house in the dark. (In fact, it was so late that I think Po' Pigs was actually closed when we left.) I spent far less time on the porch this night, drinking just one White Russian before going to bed. For the day to have started out so badly, it certainly ended fabulously. I called Amy and told her about my day, and then I conked out, ready for another good day. We were now more than halfway through with our vacation, and I was determined to find myself in the ocean a lot for the rest of the trip.

Day 4, Pt. 1 -- Exit frying pan....



Thursday, August 18th

The rain that started the evening before felt overlooked and underappreciated, so during the night it turned up the volume and added a light and music show. Emily and Woodrow came downstairs around 3:00 and asked me to sleep upstairs with them. I have absolutely no idea how my snoring upstairs is any different than snoring downstairs, but I dutifully trudged up with my pillow and slept on the lone unoccupied bed. The lightning over the marsh was gorgeous, although I only saw five or six blasts before I was again sound asleep.

I am obviously a shoo-in for mother of the year, n'est-ce pas?

Wesley awoke at 6:00 and started preparing his ginormous breakfast from hell. I awoke at 6:45 and thought about biting everyone's head off. Yeah, early to rise, my rump. That was just inhumanly early. Still, we wanted to go to Patriot's Point, and we had been warned that the submarine wasn't air conditioned so we should get there first thing in the morning before it turned into a cast-iron oven.

Once again, my husband's idea of breakfast would have fed several small third world villages for a week -- bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs with shredded cheese, toast, jelly, coffee, milk, juice, and peaches. Oh, it was very good, it really was, but I have no idea how anyone really cooks all that food so early in the day, much less cleans it up after he's finished. I try to avoid anything that even *smells* like so much work. Unless it's Thanksgiving. I can understand cooking that much on Thanksgiving, but... I dunno. He's a crazy man, but he's a keeper.

We woke the kids around 7:00 and were out of the house by 8:20. Although it had rained so thoroughly the night before, it was already scorchingly hot when we got into the car and headed for Charleston.

As I approached the big city for the first time this trip, I realized I didn't bring my cell phone with me, so I couldn't even call my sister and tell her about the boat tour the day before. No matter -- it was too early in Las Vegas to give her a call, anyway. We drove the hour to Charleston and crossed the new bridge. Last year that bridge was still under construction, and it gave me vertigo just to look at it from across the harbor. They finished it sometime in the last year, and it gave me the heebie jeebies, anyway. While driving across the thing, I opened my eyes just enough to notice that there were people *jogging* on the bridge. Jogging! With absolutely no regard for their health or safety, that far up across the water!!!! Are they nuts or what????

Ahem. OK, I'm a weenie.

Patriot's Point is a ... museum of ships. There's some confusion as to whether the name is Patriots Point, Patriot's Point, or Patriots' Point. Their own literature and signage used all three spellings, so even they do not know what the proper name is. I'm going with the singular possessive because it was the spelling most often used, but it makes me very grumpy to do so. It's very clear to me that the name should be the plural possessive.

Anyway, they have an historic aircraft carrier from WWII, the Yorktown, and a WWII submarine, and a WWII-to-Vietnam destroyer, and a Coast Guard cutter. They might have other stuff. I'm really not sure, because I didn't see it all. We were all very excited to be going, because we've been looking across the harbor at the hulking size of the Yorktown for years without touring it. And there are two testosterone-poisoned guys in my family who grunted and scratched every time they thought about stomping around on it.

*I* was excited because my father was a Naval aviator who served on a WWII aircraft carrier, and it would be a chance in a lifetime to see the sort of equipment he worked with long before I was born.

Emily was excited because... well, Em's always excited.

We parked without difficulty in a near-empty parking lot, and while Wesley got our tickets, I ran to the ladies' room. This was the first indication that I wasn't going to have a good morning. I didn't know it at the time, though, so I thought nothing of it. I'm a chick. I always go to the ladies' room whether I need to or not. I figure I *will* need to eventually, so I might as well go whenever there's one handy. I'm trying to get ahead of the game. Also, there's still that unresolved childhood trauma about the Queen not stopping parades and the notches in my puckering string and all that. (See "Day 1" for complete history.)

There was a huge crowd of people touring together, and they had nametags on, but unlike the Brazilian tour groups you see in WDW, there was no leader with a yellow flag hollering in a foreign language. It turned out that the large group was a Vietnam veterans' group who were apparently having a reunion somewhere nearby. They were accompanied by wives, grown children, and grandchildren, and those were the happiest guys I've ever seen in Charleston. They were so excited to be there.

Our first stop was to have our picture taken in front of a green screen. We were informed that the photos would be "on the board" when we came back. Then we walked across a long.... pier or sidewalk or something toward the Yorktown, which loomed huge in the distance.

Most of these early-morning tourists went directly to the aircraft carrier. We went past it and went all the way to the Laffey, a destroyer, because we figured we would tour backwards and work our way back toward the exit, saving the Yorktown for last.

We toured the Laffey extensively, and before I had been on that ship for five minutes, sweat was dripping down my torso, running down my legs, and soaking my most comfortable, most broken-in walking shoes. I realized very quickly that there was something wrong with me, and that I needed that ladies' room to be bigger, closer, and more air conditioned.

But I really didn't want to say anything, and I didn't want to stop touring. I did not want to be the damper on anyone's day. We talked to a few of the veterans who had also rushed to the Laffey. They had been stationed on a destroyer just exactly like this one when they served in Vietnam, and to see that little ship through their excited eyes was truly an experience I'll never forget. They talked about all the little things, and how they used to slide down the ladders, and how the ship *smelled* the same, "a combination of engine grease and paint and salt!"

We finally left the Laffey, and I told Wesley I really didn't think I could tour the Coast Guard cutter. The kids wanted to see the submarine, anyway. We were reading informational plaques left and right, and I walked across the gangway to the sub. One look into its dark stairs and I knew I couldn't go in there. I turned around and stood back while other tourists climbed down the ladder. I pointed to a shady place under the stairs that led to the Yorktown and told Wesley I would be over there. He and Woodrow went into the sub. Emily, sensing that there was something drastically wrong with me, stayed with me.

I slowly made my way to that shady spot under the stairs, where water dripped off the ship and onto the benches. This was something of a comfort zone, put together by someone who realized some tourists just aren't up to climbing two flights of stairs to tour a WWII aircraft carrier. There were vending machines. Emily checked the price, and I started digging through my purse to find the funds necessary for something cold to drink, which I hoped (in vain) would help me somewhat.

But oh, I had forgotten to get any cash from Wesley, and I had left most of my pocket change back at the rental house on Edisto. I emptied my coin purse. I went through everything in my wallet. I scrabbled around in the pockets and bottom of my purse in search of the right amount of money to get a drink, and finally came up with enough -- with some help from Emily. She brought me lemonade (bless her), and I pressed the cold bottle against my neck in an effort to cool myself.

Wesley and Woodrow joined us about twenty minutes later. I know Wesley could not figure out what was wrong with me or why I was being such a killjoy about it, but I just could not climb those two stairs and walk around an aircraft carrier. He and the kids went upstairs and I waited.

They came down forty minutes later to see if I would join them. I did not. They went back up, commenting that their next stop was the flight deck.

Bear in mind that I didn't have anything to read and was just people-watching and wishing I could go back to the house and die or something similarly soothing. I'll be honest. I cried a lot and felt really stupid and very sorry for myself. I drank my lukewarm lemonade (having warmed it up on my nice, toasty neck) and felt like a heel.

Finally, a trio of tourists came down to my shady spot to smoke, and they told me two really important things. First of all, the Medal of Honor Museum on board the ship was thoroughly air-conditioned, and although there were no chairs or benches there, I could sit there on the floor as long as I wanted. Secondly, there was a ladies' room up there.

All I had to do was to make it up two flights of stairs.

I gave myself a silent lecture, stood up, and walked up those stairs before I could psych myself out. And then I went to the ladies' room, where I spent a good bit of time splashing water all over myself, every part of me that I could reach, and then stood directly in front of the fan. Then I went to the Medal of Honor Museum and sat on the floor for a few minutes. ...

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Day 3, Pt. 2 -- On the Ashepoo, Combahee, & the Edis-to


Wed., Aug. 17, continued....

After my lunch, Wesley called the boat tour guys to confirm that we were going. Then I made him call them back to see if there was a cover on the boat and to ask how crowded it was going to be. Fifteen people. A full boat. Dang it.

He and Woodrow commenced playing chess. I think this was the afternoon that we found a deck of cards, but we didn't start playing yet. Furthermore, at *some* point on this day, Wesley called the rental agent and confessed to creaming the screen door upstairs. They assured him that they would still send back whatever part of the damage deposit that wasn't used repairing the dead door. Wesley nearly cried. OK, I'm exaggerating. That's my job. I'm a writer. We lie a lot and call it "exaggeration" or "poetry." Snort.

I went outside again, but it was just miserably hot out there, so I went to bed instead and took a nap, which must not have been *too* lengthy, because I don't mention it in my trip notes. At 4:00, I got up and we all got dressed for our 5:00 ACE Basin boat tour. "ACE" stands for the rivers that converge around Edisto, the Ashepoo, the Combahee, and the Edisto. And to be perfectly honest, we didn't go on all of them. We would have had to go all the way around the island to do that, and as I've mentioned before, Edisto is the largest barrier island. I think that would be a six-hour tour.

At the Edisto Watersports and Tackle locale, we checked in and waited to climb aboard the boat. Our tour guide was the lady who was the lecturer at the Serpentarium in '04, and she recognized Emily immediately. It took us all a while to figure out why she remembered Emily.

The tour guide's specialty was biology, so the tour focused on ecology and conservation of the great salt marsh that comprises most of Edisto and which I love so much. We traveled down Big Bay Creek (tee hee, there are so many things named after me around there) and out into the ocean before moving up to the South Edisto River. The boat moved slowly on Big Bay Creek, so we were hot when we hit the ocean, whereupon the water, the wind, and the currents came together with the increased speed of the boat and created.... salt spray. It was actually very refreshing at that point, being about 5:00 in the afternoon on a very darned hot day. The tour guide commented, "It's gonna be a wet one."

Then she started telling us how important the salt marsh is, and how it is as large and important an ecosystem as the rain forests in South America, and how lucky we are that Edisto is largely undeveloped. She pointed out brown herons, back from the brink of extinction, and although we didn't see any alligators, they're back, too. We wandered up meandering marsh creeks and gazed at the tall salt marsh grass, which is the only grass in the world that wicks salt out of the water and crystallizes it on their crowns.

Let's take a moment for the bleeding heart liberals to sigh happily and hug a tree. I'll be right back.... OK! Done. I hugged my Prius while I was at it.

Most of the people in the boat, and indeed, probably most tourists in general, wanted to see dolphins, so every time the tour guide spied one, she would slow down. I am not that nutty about dolphins. Yes, they're cute and cuddly. But if you've seen one pod of dolphins, you've seen them all, and I would have been much happier to spend more time in those tiny creeks if it meant I could have seen a turtle in its natural habitat. I'm a complete sucker for turtles. And Edisto Island boasts diamond-back terrapins, about which I will write on the last day of this trip report. I would have *loved* to have seen one of those on this boat tour. But I didn't. Nope. I saw bunches of dolphins. Yawn.

The tour guide drove us past Middleton Plantation and Peter's Point, neither of which are visible from the roads. They're manor houses that are about 180 years old, dating back to the days when Edisto Island was one of the wealthiest spots in America thanks to Sea Island cotton and slavery. Peter's Point is falling apart, but it remains in the original family. Which is nearly impossible to conceive, considering that the War Between the States brought Sea Island cotton production to crashing halt. I hope the family gets its stuff in order and restores that place before it crumbles to pieces. If they cannot agree on who should pay for it, they should sell it to some wealthy history buff, dang it.

On the way back to the marina, the tour guide said that someone had requested seeing alligators, and since we didn't see any, she brought one. And she pulled a baby alligator out of a cooler. Now, dang it, if I knew they took requests, I would've mentioned... TURTLES!!!!!

I feel gypped.

Wesley was fixin' t'git ready to whomp some guy who was in the boat with us, who took every pause by the tour guide as an excuse to babble on and on about something. We knew not what. He just talked and talked and talked.

For myself, I was fixin' t'git ready to smack this woman who sat behind me taking picture after picture after picture with her digital camera, so it beeped nonstop. She actually had to replace the memory card halfway through the tour, and she begged the guide to stop the boat lest she miss anything. During the portions when we were supposed to be listening to the marsh? "Beep beep beep beep beep whirrrrrrr click beep-beep beep beep beep beep beep click click beep-beep beep beep beep whirrrrrrrrrrr beepbeepbeepBEEP!" If I weren't staying in a house ON the marsh, I would think that salt marshes sound remarkably like digital cameras.

Woodrow and Emily were in hog heaven for the entire trip, wiggling back and forth between seats in order to see as much as possible. For them, this boat tour was invaluable. They had a blast.

On the way back down the South Edisto River, the only other kid in our boat talked about seeing sea turtles hatch near his rental house on the beach the night before. Loggerhead turtles are now endangered, and there are many, many laws concerning what one can and cannot do in order to encourage the loggerheads to reproduce as fruitfully as possible. You can't leave your porch lights on if you're staying on the beach; you cannot touch loggerhead nests nor impede their progress if you see one on the sand. And when the baby turtles hatch, you have to alert the proper authorities, who come out and form human chains to ensure the babies are not touched on their march to the sea.

Of course, I had to tell the boy about the turtles that hatched under my Edisto Island beach house when I was 7, and the tragedy of the fact that in 1973, no one cared about the babies. They were being run over by cars and picked off by seagulls, so we all grabbed dishpans and started scooping up baby turtles, running to the surf, and releasing them directly into the ocean. My father never told me that they probably got eaten by big fish and pelicans even after we went to all that trouble.

But the thing is -- you never forget baby loggerheads, if you're lucky enough to see them hatch. Never. Even if you're not allowed to try to help them survive any more, you will always remember these credit-card sized babies scrabbling across the sand with only one purpose in mind: Survival.

No wonder I'm nuts about turtles, huh?

Before we left the river and re-entered the ocean, the tour guide warned us to protect our cameras. And that's when the Great Soaking occurred. We were all sodden after a minute on the open sea. This time it started off refreshing and moved straight into sticky and uncomfortable in the hot, setting sun. The trip up Big Bay Creek (tee hee again) seemed much shorter, and we were very soon back at the marina -- where I took the picture you see above.

Just as I put my camera away, we all heard a huge, rumbling crash of thunder. What the...? Thunder? Why? I looked all around the sky and saw no rainclouds. There was a slight haze on the north side of the marsh, but that was all. But man, it caused me to start praying for rain. Rain. Raaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiinnnnnnn. Rain would have been such a lovely way to cool off the evening!

We piled into the Prius and drove back to the house as quickly as possible, all of us complaining about how salty and sticky we were. At the house, we soaked up the air conditioning and took showers and changed to better clothing for dinner.

And then we headed off to the Ruby Seahorse for dinner as storm clouds finally moved in over the island.

Even though the restaurant had only a screened porch, it was perfectly situated to screen out most of the mist from the rain that finally did start just seconds after we arrived. The gorgeous teenaged waitresses were gone, and there were no other diners present when we seated ourselves at the most centrally located table. The guy at the half-door actually waited on us, because, he said, "There's no one else here."

As the evening turned comfortably cool, Emily had a grilled cheese with bacon; Woodrow indulged in a huge hamburger & fries; I had a burger and fries and *real* iced tea; and Wesley got himself the pimento cheese hamburger, which was a big mess and must have been very yummy, indeed. The food was *sublime*. No, it was not gourmet; no, the surroundings were not swanky; no, it didn't cost a fortune, and *man*, it was FABULOUS.

We read the antique tin advertisements on the wall (try explaining the old Coppertone ads to modern kids. Go 'head. Try, I dare ya) and enjoyed the classic rock radio station and the three powerful ceiling fans which stirred the night air around us. Truly satisfied in all the most important ways, we paid the bill ($33, including tip) and made our way back to the Pink Flamingo in the soft, cool rain.

Wesley and I lit the mosquito lamp and reposed on the screened porch for a while as the rain continued to fall. I was drinking White Russians by now, having slowly gathered the supplies necessary. I never had a White Russian before Club Scrap Retreat, so I drank toasts to Paula before I got too sleepy to toast anyone. In bed before 11:00, I slept soundly and dreamt of sea turtles in salt marshes -- which opened their big, beaky mouths and beeped at me like digital cameras.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Day 3 - Hot, hot, hot, ... HOT. (Pt. 1)




Wednesday, August 17th

OK, let's get something straight: It was much hotter this year than in previous years. Three of the seven days we were there boasted heat warnings from the weatherman on the radio. It was the kind of hot that makes you want to just crawl into the refrigerator naked. It was that kind of hot. And on this day, I was really getting irritated by it.

During the night, Wesley's blood sugar dropped. He didn't get dramatic this year. (I'm remembering the Edisto trip during which I found him trying to find the bathroom... in the chest-of-drawers in Woodrow's room...) I just got up, gave him orange juice, and went back to bed. I would never have known there was something going on if I hadn't gotten up and noticed that Wesley's toes were wiggling.

So ... I got up just before 8:00, and noticed that Wesley's toes were wiggling again. I gave him some more orange juice and started a pot of coffee. By the time he came around, the coffee was ready, and we had cream cheese danish for breakfast.

I discovered another major difference between me and Wesley on this trip. (How can I be finding new stuff after more than 18 years? I don't know. Maybe I'm just not very observant.) For me, "vacation" means someone else does all the housework and cooking. For Wesley, it means humongous breakfasts. I don't cook breakfast. I just don't. It's too early to be making a mess like that. I like easy breakfasts. Bagels. Danish. Muffins. Toast is preferable. So every night, we had to compromise on what the next day's breakfast would be, and I picked "danish" for this day and bought them at the Piggly Wiggly the night before.

After breakfast, I repaired to the porch for some serious radio listening. With me, I took the pictures from Club Scrap Retreat, over which I pored. I pointed out all my new friends and acquaintances to the kids and Wesley. I looked at those pictures a *lot*. I wanted very badly to go back to Wisconsin, which is considerably cooler and less humid than a South Carolina barrier island in August.

Wesley fixed the radio antennae (by taping it to the wall), and the kids hopped on their bikes and rode away. I was feeling less than spiffy, maybe due to the bland crabcakes of the night before, and just kind of wanted to lie around like a lazy lout. I watched the marsh. It didn't do anything. It was too hot to move. The kids came home fighting, and Wesley suggested the beach. Emily didn't feel like going, so the boys headed off around 11:00.

The moment they were gone, I called Amy and told her the house's phone number. I feel like a heel, but I had forgotten for a whole day and a half that the house *had* a phone. All I could think up until that time was, "My cell phone doesn't have a signal." Amy and I talked a bit, and then Emily and I headed out to go shopping.

As we walked into the Edisto Bookstore, my slight unwellness caught up with me. I asked the clerk where the nearest public restroom was, and she directed me a half-mile back toward the beach. Gee, thanks. Em and I went back to the car (which was already about 98 degrees after sitting in the sun for twenty seconds) and drove to the nearest public restroom. Which was in a shop. Which Emily shopped in while I hung out in the ladies' room, kind of hoping that I had food poisoning so I could sue the Sunset Grille and change the name of it.

I'm sorta mean when I don't feel well, ain't I?

Emily noted that the prices at this store were outrageously out of synch with the rest of the world, and I swear I hugged her. We left after buying a pack of gum and went back to the bookstore.

That's when I discovered that they had an Internet cafe. I bought a used copy of "The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe" for the kids and then used the computer for 15 minutes, which cost $1.50. The computer, not the book. I forget how much the book was. That entire 15 minutes flew by while I read one letter from Tricia and replied, and then checked my blog, which was when I *first* encountered the entire concept of "comment spam." I still hate comment spam. It took me 13 minutes to try to figure out how to sign in to Blogger from a strange computer. I couldn't remember my password. Heck, I couldn't even remember my user name at first. I finally deleted the comment spam, and that's when my time was up. Sigh.

I paid and headed for the antique store next door only to discover that it was closed for lunch. So Emily and I went back to the car, which was now approximately 183 degrees. I couldn't breathe for a few minutes; I was drowning in the humidity. But in general, I was having as good a time as could be expected, given my health and the heat. Emily was *marvelous* company for the outing. She has good taste in music and doesn't mind when I turn up the radio to sing along with something good.

Back at the Pink Flamingo, the boys were back from the beach, and furthermore, they had already eaten leftovers for lunch. (Biscuits and maters.... are these boys Southern or what?) I was a bit miffed, but I decided not to throw a hissy fit. Emily and I headed out to find lunch, and although I think I initially said I would take her to the Piggly Wiggly for something, I stopped instead at the Ruby Seahorse.

The Ruby Seahorse... ahhhhh, the Ruby Seahorse. This is another Edisto eatery at which I'd never dined. It's a hamburger shack. I'm sure you've seen them if you don't have one in your town. Open seasonally, with a take-out window, and the best burgers in town. It never fails. The worst looking "restaurant" is going to be the best one you find, and the Ruby Seahorse was no exception.

I knew it was going to be good when I walked into the screened porch and found only five local teenagers at lunch there, and a pair of construction workers off to one side. And oooooo, I was right. I got the barbecue sandwich platter to go for me, and Emily got grilled cheese and fries. The wait was about 12 minutes, and I watched the teenagers going through the age-old non-mating rituals. There were two gorgeous teenaged girls working at the Seahorse, and the table held four boys and one girl. One of those good-lookin' teens was gonna be disappointed at the end of summer, but none of them were thinking of that on this day. The construction guys were too busy eating to chat or notice anything.

Pretty Girl at Table: Get me some more fries.

Handsome Boy: Get 'em yourself.

Handsome Boy #2: Hey, Waitress!

Waitress: Yeah, what'd'y'all want now?

Pretty Girl: More fries?

Waitress: Mm'kay, just a minute...

Handsome Boy #2: C'n I have 'nother Coke, please?

Waitress: Oh, lord. Yeah. Hold on.

Handsome Boy #1: Git me one while yer at it!

Waitress: Y'all are more trouble.

Handsome Boy #1: But you love us anyway.

Pretty Girl: No, she loves the tips. Boy, leave her a bigger tip!

Handsome Boy #3 (reading sports page): I'm not in here.

Handsome Boy #4: Are you done with that yet?

Pretty Girl: Move the paper 'fore the fries land on it!

Waitress #2: Lord! Look at this mess!

Handsome Boy #2: I'll clean it up for ya, don't worry.

All Three Girls: You're so sweeeeeeeeet.

Other Three Boys: [groaning and gnashing teeth]

Dinner and a show -- does it get any better? $11.40, tip and all.

When I got my food and paid, I left a tip in the tip jar (which was a milk bottle on top of the half door to the kitchen, and I have no idea how it stayed there when those pretty waitresses hipped it open and slammed it closed with their heels), and then skipped out to the car -- which I had left *on* with the air conditioner running, because I had learned my lesson, thank you very much, and it wasn't 189 degrees inside that time.

And at home, my food smelled so good that Wesley came over to the table and sat there looking like a puppy dog until I shared with him. It *was* good. I ate almost two-thirds of the sandwich before I had to quit. The fries were even better. The slaw was... bland. Emily ate her entire sandwich and let Woodrow have her leftover fries.

I guess we just found a new favorite nearby restaurant, huh?

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Day 2 - Bliss, bikes, & beaches

Tuesday, August 16th

Having gone to bed so unnaturally early, I was awake before 8:00 in the morning. This was actually going to be the recurrent theme of the vacation for me. I was early to bed, early to rise for the duration of the week. Anyone who knows me knows that this is nothing short of freakish behavior, but it seemed to work for vacation.

When I arose, I found Wesley already in the gleaming kitchen, making coffee, biscuits, and gravy. The kids got up slowly -- Emily more slowly than the rest of us -- and we all ate a huge breakfast of Wesley's fabulous cooking. I cannot make biscuits & gravy. It's a handicap in a Southerner, I know, but at least I was smart enough to marry someone who is so talented.

After breakfast, I hung out a bit on the screened porch, drinking coffee and finishing Monday's report. Wesley went to the rental agent's office to finish the paperwork on the house and to pay the rental fees for the linens. When he came back, we decided to rent a couple of bikes for the week, so I called Edisto Essentials and made arrangements. (There are two bike rental businesses on Edisto; one charges for delivery, and Edisto Essentials boasts both lower rental prices and free delivery.) Wesley called the boat tour place, Edisto Watersports & Tackle to arrange our ACE Basin boat tour. The person with whom he spoke advised us that they don't send the boat out unless six people have signed up, and we were the first four for the Wednesday evening tour, so we should call back on Wednesday to ensure there would really be a tour that night.

Then some confusion occurred. Wesley and Woodrow got dressed for the beach, and Emily and I elected to stay at the house to wait for the bike delivery, then go to the Edisto Essentials office to pay for the bikes. I told Wesley that we would join them at the beach after we had done our chores.

However, our chores took longer than expected. The bikes weren't delivered for quite some time, and then I didn't find the Edisto Essentials office just immediately. I walked into a shop by accident, and just looking at the pretty things kept me preoccupied for too long. Then the Edisto Essentials office turned out to also be a shop with pretty things, all of which needed my attention. You understand. Of course. Right?

After that, I turned the Prius away from the beach because there had been a pick-up truck with produce on the roadside Monday when we came in, and I wanted peaches and tomatoes. The truck was not there on this late Tuesday morning, so I kept driving in hopes of finding another roadside stand. I drove nearly to the bridge, which is at least 11 miles from the beach. Turning around and heading back toward the beach, I spied a sign next to Main's Market, touting "George & Pink Fresh Produce."

Last year when I took the Pink Van Tour (Island Tours & T'ings), the tour guide (a lovely Southern lady whose name I've completely forgotten) mentioned that George and Pink were wonderful people with wonderful fresh produce. So I turned down that dirt lane, and oh! Oh, my! What a picture that road makes in my mind! If it hadn't been for a fear of swarms of mosquitos, I would have stopped the car and taken a photograph. The road was entirely surrounded by ancient live oaks, their heavy branches dripping with Spanish moss. Ferns and dense, low brush made the ground dark green, and sun dappled through the live oak leaves and highlighted low palmettos just off the road. It was gorgeous, and just thinking of it brings a tear to my eye. (The left eye, because that one *always* tears up more readily than the right eye. I don't know why, but I'm legally blind in that eye, anyhoo.)

Pink herself was manning the produce shop that morning, which was a low, dark, tiny shack with screen windows and door, with a fan blowing a cool, shady breeze throughout. The dirt floor was packed down hard and held up wooden bins of fruits and vegetables. Squashes, cucumbers, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, and peaches abounded, and a cooler held more exotic fare from someplace off the island. I chose peaches and tomatoes while chatting with Pink, and Emily chose a cantaloupe. Em loves cataloupe. I do, too. Woodrow and Wesley won't touch the stuff. So my purchases totalled the mindboggling price of something like $4. Insane. I would've paid a hundred dollars for 'em.

Headed back toward the beach, I suddenly realized we had left our towels at the house, so I went there in as big a rush as I dared. We had found two really good radio stations during all that driving around -- one classic rock station that played Heart and Aerosmith and Queen in rapid succession, but I was in search of something a little more mellow for most of our stay. A Hilton Head station named The Wave 104.5 was just the ticket. Wesley and I are staunch "adult alternative" listeners. We want to hear it all, from rock to folk to pop and almost everything in between, except rap. (I like some rap, but Wesley can't stand it.) The Wave became my constant companion on Edisto, and now that I'm home, I miss it.

As I pulled up to the Pink Flamingo, Wesley and Woodrow were just walking around the corner. Bummer! I had messed up our timing so much that they had walked back to the house -- braving the mosquito breeding ground.

Oh, a note about the road names. We were on Jungle Shore Road, with easy access to the beach if you walked a block down either Cheehaw or Dawhoo streets. We made jokes about those street names for the entire week. Woohoo and Hoohah streets! Yeehaw and Yahoo streets! Hoohoo and Woowoowoo streets! Whatever you can make up, it fits there. Try it! You'll see!

In any case, the boys were home from the beach, and we were past noon now. I thought about going to the beach. But ... I don't even *like* the ocean. It's no fun without Wesley. I thought about crying petulently, but put that aside. Emily hopped on a rental bike and rode off into the sunset. The child is fearless. OK, she's 17. She's still a child, and she's still fearless. Woodrow was more conservative and was home within minutes.

When both kids were home, we gathered up and went to the Sea Cow for lunch. The Sea Cow has indoor and outdoor seating. I was so hot that I would have liked to sit inside, but it was full, so we got a table outdoors on the screened porch. Waiting for our order, we all got too hot except Wesley, who is apparently impervious to heat. Emily went searching through the few shops that are close to the Sea Cow. This was the first time I've ever seen those shops open. I guess the tourist season goes later now. The *world* is getting so crowded that more and more people come to Edisto, even when most children are in school. I guess.

Woodrow and I went to a little bookstore/coffee shop that is adjacent to the Sea Cow. The air conditioning felt like heaven. Then we went back to the restaurant's screened porch and ate. I had a chicken salad, heavy on the curry, with fruit and a plain bagel. It was just OK. I'm not that wild about the Sea Cow.

Back at the house, I crashed and took a two-hour nap. When I woke up, we went to the beach around 5:00, and... it was perfect. The ocean was slightly cooler than bath water, so I cooled off a bit and then dried off in the shade of a beach house where we had set up chairs. I watched a little family get professional portraits taken on the beach. They were all dressed in white shorts and shirts. I'm sure the photos will be gorgeous from that glorious afternoon light -- but I bet that stuff is expensive.

At one point, I looked at Woodrow playing in the surf and realized his back was covered with red welts. Oh, my gosh, it looked like he'd been whipped. It was horrifying. Closer inspection revealed that they were mosquito bites. I asked him if he had been shirtless when he walked home at noon, and he said no. So more probing revealed that he had been lying on the hammock on the second-story porch at the Pink Flamingo -- shirtless. That upper-level porch is not screened in. OW. I'm surprised he didn't complain more!

When the flies started biting my ankles, we packed it in and headed back to the house, where I finally had my first outdoor, enclosed, hot-and-cold shower of the trip. I had planned for this event by bringing down my shampoo and clothes before we left for the beach. I waited while the others performed peremptory rinses, and then I took a real shower. Civilization. That's all I can say. It is the definition of civilization to bathe in the outdoors.

Then, of course, you either have to dress or wrap yourself in a huge towel and run like mad for the stairs before some nosy neighbor spies your streaking.

We dressed for dinner and went to the Sunset Grille for dinner. (Now you're all singing "Sunset Grill," aren't you?) We've never visited this restaurant before, because it's at the south corner of this slightly triangular island, and we generally avoid that end because it's so... common and ordinary and almost over-developed. They have a golf course down there and three-story condos for rent. Blech. The marina is there now, too. Lots of noisy people. That's why we avoid that part of the island.

The Sunset Grille is part of the marina, and it's upstairs. And when we got there, it was crowded and noisy. Well, there's a bar. And there are a lot of people being loud. Although the joint was supposed to be the sister restaurant of the Old Post Office (which was a genuine gourmet restaurant a few years ago until their chef and owner decamped), I found the menu to be completely ordinary. Woodrow got a hamburger that smelled good. Emily and Wesley got grilled tuna steaks that looked very good. I was stupid and got the crabcakes. For some reason, I can never remember that I do not like Low Country crabcakes. I picked at my tasteless globs of crabmeat and goodness-knows-what, while everyone else made noises as if what they were eating was yummy. Hmph.

The whole meal was $85 and totally not worth it. I won't be returning.

Oh, I forgot to say earlier that the Gallery Cafe, which we've loved for many scrumptious, gourmet meals before, had closed before we came to Edisto this year. I miss it. That night, with those horrible crabcakes, I *really* missed it.

Back at the house, the kids resumed their chess play. Wesley and I tuned the house radio to The Wave and stuck one speaker out on the porch. We lit the mosquito lamp and sat out there in the humid night with the ceiling fan to keep us cool, sipping cocktails and talking about ... nothing much.

Until the Great Excitement. Wesley went inside for something, and I was just sitting on the porch, contemplating the creaking, whirring, mysterious dark marsh, when a crash and curse sounded on the porch upstairs, scaring me so much that I jumped up yelling, "Wesley? Wesley??? Where... where ARE you?!"

Woodrow had locked himself out of his room by accident. His room had two doors -- one to the porch and one to the hallway. He had locked the porch's sliding door on purpose, and had accidentally locked the doorknob to the hall before closing it. (They're those cheap doorknobs that you push in and turn a little in order to lock the knob in place. *Really* easy to accidentally lock those. I've done it myself.)

Wesley had decided to check to see if Woodrow's porch door were really locked, so he started to go out of the porch door from the unoccupied bedroom, but discovered that there was a screen door there. He walked right through it. Oops.

There goes our damage deposit.

I went to bed around midnight, hopeful that the next day would find me eating something truly fabulous, swimming in the ocean, playing in the surf, finding pretty shells, watching the marsh, listening to really good music, and just generally playing. And for the most part, that's exactly what I was going to experience....

I should've known

Although I'm in the midst of my vacation report, I have to stop and post about Sarah Bettens, about whose work I've already posted. This is your reminder -- the CD "Scream" is now available, but, man, it's hard to find. I went to Knoxville today and traversed four stores before I found a single copy at Borders. I simply could not wait another second for this CD. My son complained after each stop, "Can we go home now?" No, honey, Mama's not leaving this city until she has that blankety-blank album.

I heard "Stay" twice on the radio during my vacation. I still haven't heard "Stay" or "Follow Me" in East Tennessee, although I'm calling all the appropriate stations and requesting the music of Sarah Bettens. This stuff is ... incredible. It's a writer's dream. All the lyrics say so much. This is why I listen to music. Lyrics are, after all, the most acceptable form of poetry in our cool, modern world.

But to get back to the point -- I should've known. The second time I heard "Stay," I told Wesley, "She's like a cross between Emily Saliers and Amy Ray." Emily and Amy comprise the Indigo Girls, a... a band like no other. I cannot categorize them. We used to call 'em indie folk back at the end of the 80's when they hit the pop scene with "Closer to Fine." I actually worked with Emily at camp when I was in college, and I was so excited by their success, I once shouted in a grocery store when the song came on the sound system. I haven't talked to Emily since I was pregnant with Woodrow. So it's been a long time, and I remain a great admirer of their music -- especially Emily's. *Her* lyrics are stunning; her grasp of music is sublime. Amy Ray, whom I've met only twice, has a rougher, more rock-sensible, gravelly voice.

So here's Sarah Bettens who commands my attention with such stalwart, self-aware, heartbreaking lyrics and beautiful little melodies, and I immediately thought of Emily and Amy.
She has Emily's lyrical sense and Amy's slightly rougher vocals.

I finally got the CD and came home (after a stop at Starbuck's for a Venti Mocha Frappucino, thanks to my sister for the new addiction), and once comfortable, I opened up the liner notes.

And there, in a photograph in the center fold, is a picture of Sarah Bettens with Emily Saliers.

I should have known.

Emily plays acoustic guitar on the song "Sister." Check it out, y'all. I'm not kidding. I still love "Stay" and "Follow Me" the most, but many of these ditties are ripping my heart out. I've been weeping a little all night long. And really, isn't that what makes a really good CD?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

South Carolina at last! Day 1 -- Traveling Day

Monday, August 15th
After wrestling with suitcases and trying to pack all our stuff into the Prius -- not to mention the fact that I couldn't sleep the night before and was operating on 1.5 hours of sleep, we finally hit the road ... later than expected. Just before we left, the mail arrived, and with it came my precious photos ordered from Club Scrap Retreat. I moaned and gnashed my teeth, and Wesley took the packets from me -- sight unseen -- and stuffed them into our suitcase before I ever laid eyes on them.

Our first stop was Steak'n'Shake for breakfast. Wesley ate so much that I feared for his health. The kids were very boisterous at this 9:00 meal in a near-empty Steak'n'Shake, and the waitress even asked why they weren't in school. Homeschooling rocks!!!!

We were on the road again by 10:00 or so, and Wesley was already fretting because the rental agent's office would close at 5:00. So I whipped out the cell phone and called 'em. They said if we arrived after 5:00, they would leave our packet, keys, and linens in a special, hidden place. OK, it wasn't all that hidden. I'm still not telling you where it was supposed to be. What if you're a thief? I don't want to be responsible for all the rental houses on Edisto Island to be burglarized because I'm a blogger.

The drive itself was largely uneventful. It's always gorgeous on the way to North Carolina and through that state. Lots of mountains. I love mountains. Have I mentioned that? I do. Mountains are far, far preferable to beaches in my estimable opinion. South Carolina itself is... very, very plain. No mountains. And honestly, that interstate just goes on and on with hardly any interesting sights. But they do have nice wildflowers growing in some of the medians.

We stopped at the South Carolina Welcome Center after we crossed the northern state line. That was probably around noon or so. I have a philosophy about road trips that is, unfortunately, directly opposite Wesley's. Wesley wants to try to drive 18 hours straight without ever stopping. In fact, I think he would be happy if he could drive 18 days straight without stopping.

I, however, used to go to Georgia once a month with my mother. Every time I said I needed to go to the bathroom, she would tell me, "You never see the Queen stop a parade," or "Draw another notch in your puckering string." I bet if Mama had lived longer, she and Wesley would have eventually started competing about who could drive the farthest without stopping. Anyway, because of my upbringing and the scars on my urinary tract from all those notches, I want to stop *often* during any given road trip. It's just humane. I'm just sayin'. Is all.

Anyway, we stopped at the Welcome Center, and it was very welcoming and pretty. We walked around a bit, and we even went inside and chatted. Somehow we had hit the road without a road map, so we picked up a map of South Carolina and a few brochures on the Low Country and whatnot. The kids tried peach cider. I adore peaches. (I'm originally from Georgia, after all, and I know that peaches are soft and sweet, not hard and sour like the ones in Tennessee.) But peach cider is nasty. Gross. If you want a peach, eat a peach. Don't drink it. This isn't rocket surgery, for cryin' out loud.

After a nice stop, we were on the road again. The drive was long and boring, as previously noted, and I kept trying to sleep. This was difficult, because with children -- and all their thousands of belongings that they'd brought on the trip -- I couldn't recline my seat. I kept falling off the pillow. Falling off the pillow really messes with one's ability to sleep. I have no idea how anyone sleeps sitting up on an airplane.

Before too very long -- perhaps around 2:30 -- we stopped at some place an hour or so from Charleston, where there was a Subway in a convenience store. Emily stepped in gum on the way to the door, and it went all over the place. She was flummoxed by the physics of hot gum, and I tried to explain to her that in the Deep South, this is what happens when people throw their gum on the pavement in summer. She was totally freaked out -- and totally enmeshed in stringy, stretchy, melted, sticky gum. I was a little freaked out, because I had forgotten how far gum can stretch in such heat.

I haven't eaten in a Subway since March, 2002, when my sister Amy took me to a Quizno's and said, "You've gotta try these sandwiches." Wesley and I split a "cheese steak sandwich." I'll let the quotation marks do all the talking for me. Emily got a sandwich, Woodrow got something, we all ate. It was very hot in the booths next to the sunny window. We scrunched together in the shade, and finally moved to a booth closer to the middle of the joint. There, Wesley and I got out the South Carolina road map and tried to figure out how to get to Edisto.

Every time we have gone to Edisto, we have taken a different route. If we find the perfect route, I'm sure we will not tell a soul. We *really* don't want Edisto to become the next Hilton Head or [shudder] Tybee Island. As long as Edisto is difficult to find and uncharming to the masses, we're happy.

A truck driver happily told us how to get to Edisto. He was right -- but man, he could've been more forthcoming about the forks in the road. We almost got lost at one point! There was one place where, according to the map, we should've turned right. We didn't turn right, and we found ourselves on a very narrow, very winding, very unpopulated road that nearly scared me to pieces. However, we still found our way to the road that leads directly to Edisto Beach, and -- after passing the Mystery Tree, which was this year covered in water toys -- at 5:15 we pulled up in front of the rental agent's office, where, indeed, our keys, packet, and linens were waiting for us.

Edisto Island is not tiny. It is, in fact, the largest barrier island on the coast of South Carolina. However, it is not developed like most of the coastal areas of the Eastern seaboard, and a large part of it is reserved for a state park. So there aren't many roads. We knew exactly where our house was, and we drove directly to it.

Pink Flamingo was the name of this year's rental house, and "pink" doesn't begin to describe the color. Some might call it "candy pink." (I once had a formal dress that the designer listed as "candy pink." It is an unmistakeable shade.) This color is nothing short of PANK. It is undeniably pink pink pink. It is deeper and more profound than Pepto Bismol pink. This pink would drive my friend Tricia Morris (co-owner of Club Scrap) to distraction. It kind of bothered me, and I *like* pink.

We cased the joint and unlocked the front door, turned down the air conditioner, and started unloading the car. Then I fell asleep on the couch while Wesley unpacked and initially set up our bedroom upstairs. The kids also chose bedrooms upstairs. Then they all came down, woke me up, and asked me what was for dinner.

It was getting late-ish by now, and the family desperately wanted to go to the beach, even though the sun was going to set any minute now and I knew the restaurants on the island wouldn't be open late. I offered to take them to the beach and go to the Piggly Wiggly by myself for staples. They joyously jumped into swimsuits, and we marched down the stilt-stairs to the car, which was parked in the shade of the house.

At the bottom of the stairs, Wesley's knees became very wobbly as his blood sugar dropped suddenly. I had a Coke handy, and I just popped it open and handed it to him. We sat in the car for a few minutes while he came back to himself, and then we went to the beach.

Although I had intended to just drop off the family for a frolic in the waves while I got groceries, with Wesley's blood sugar incident, I didn't want to leave them alone, so I stuck with them -- and I'm so glad I did. I got some *great* pictures, the best of which is posted above, Woodrow's arms thrown high in celebration at being on Edisto Island. I felt that joy, too. There is something about this place, so deeply rooted in my childhood, so profoundly loved in my adulthood, that I always feel free, happy, and rich here. The crushed-shell sand, the soft, warm surf, the seagulls and sandpipers and salt air -- I don't like the generic "beach," but I love Edisto Island.

I'm not sure how long I let them play in the water, but they all got wet except me. I sat on a bench high above the high tide mark and watched until the sun was so low that night was creeping in. I gathered them up, all of them, and left them at the Pink Flamingo so I could go to the Piggly Wiggly for the night's dinner.

Let's take just a second to talk about the Piggly Wiggly. This grocery store didn't exist when I came to Edisto as a child. And I never lived in a town with a Piggly Wiggly. Never. However, the name is so inherently Southern and so fabulously pronounced with a Southern accent, that I feel I could have always shopped at Piggly Wigglies throughout my life. And I am familiar with this store, having spent two vacations here before. I know where the chips are. I know how to get a cart outside and bring it inside for a shopping expedition. I know that although the vast majority of the customers on any given summer day are going to be tourists, the cashiers and bagboys are going to treat all of us as if we were family to them.

I love this Piggly Wiggly.

While there, I got milk, buttermilk, flour, bacon, sausage, a couple of boxes of Rice Krispy Treat varieties, frozen pizzas, and an Off! Mosquito Lamp. If you think citronella candles work, you are mistaken. And if you think that having a screened-in porch on a marsh-view house would keep out the kinds of mosquitos that live on Edisto Island, you are *sadly* mistaken. I got an Off Mosquito Lamp, even though it cost $5 more than it cost me at home. And the pizzas were to be dinner. Sad, I know, but my family likes pizza. I got them one covered with meat and tomato sauce, and I got one frozen California Pizza Kitchen White Pizza. I'm not sure what was on it, but it had white cheeses and spinach. That one was for me. I don't like traditional pizza.

When I got back to the Pink Flamingo, Wesley's blood sugar had dropped again, and he was skipping around being silly, which the kids loved. I gave him another Coke and started the pizzas, then lit the mosquito lamp and sat on the porch. It was very hot this first night, and a harbinger of heat to come. I was still very happy. I borrowed notebook paper from Emily and started my trip report, and I moved mine and Wesley's things from an upstairs bedroom to a downstairs bedroom. It wasn't the master bedroom, but it was nice to be a little bit away from the kids for the duration of our vacation.

Wesley joined me on the porch after dinner, and we talked and listened to the cicadas singing in the marsh before retiring long before 11:00. We were tired. Happy. At peace and at rest. And for a few days, we were at home on Edisto Island. The week stretched before us like a long, cool drink of water, and I slept like a baby.

Pink Flamingo


Our rental house during our stay on Edisto -- The setting sun behind the house rather subdues the shade of PANK in this photo, doesn't it? Still, it was a nice house!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Hello -- are you reading?

OK, what happened to the Internet while I was in South Carolina? When did spam become the norm for blogs? This is disgusting and upsetting. I don't write my blog so my readers can get spammed in the comments sections. I'm deleting comments that are clearly nothing more than spam, and I'm afraid -- very, very much afraid -- I'll have to re-set the blog so that comments can't be left by strangers who aren't participating in the community. What a pointless exercise in blogging.

I apologize profusely to my regular readers and friends. The only other recourse I can imagine is to simply stop blogging -- and I'm not that irritated yet.

But... I'm close.

Sand, sun, surf, & stings


We're home. It's well after midnight and heading toward Tuesday morning, and we left much later than we intended, but we're finally home and have almost unloaded the car. I have to write a newsletter, and I'll get the animals before another day passes, but for now, I'm combing through my pictures and trying to remember how miserably hot it was (at least that's what I keep telling myself) and how much prettier mountains are than beaches (again, this is serviceable self-delusion).

I finally, finally got a picture of me and Wesley looking like we actually like each other. Wesley dislikes "posed" pictures, and none of my brilliant and reasonable arguments can sway his opinion. He always looks rather irritated if not downright frightening in pictures. (What happened to the cheery soul I married 18+ years ago?)

So this sort of half-grimace, half-smile is about as good as I'll ever get out of him as long as a camera is in sight. Thank heaven Emily was wielding the thing when the light was pretty and the surf was cooperating!

I will write a *complete* trip report as soon as I recover from the trip -- one of my patented, long-winded, overblown, tediously detailed, wordy behemoths. It could take a few weeks to complete, but I took copious notes whilst vacating. I have lots to say. I would have done the same for Retreat in Wisconsin (still very much on my mind), but... secrets must be kept. Sigh.

Mostly, though, our trip can be summed up in my subject heading. I'm not a beachy person, but I am a low-country-lovin', dyed-in-the-wool Southerner. And I had a blissful week on Edisto Island and in Charleston. I just can't wait to write it all out and share all the photos!!!

Friday, August 19, 2005

Here!!! Sorta...

Well, the 21st century has nearly caught up with little ole Edisto, because the bookstore now has an "Internet cafe." WOO HOO!!!!!! I'm stealing a few minutes just to stop by and say hi. HI!!!!

This place rocks, as usual. I sleep late, I stay up 'til midnight, I swim when I want to and shop when I feel like it.

The best part? THE FOOD!!!!! We finally went to a place called Po' Pigs Bo-B-Q. I think it's supposed to be pronounced "bob-ecue," but I pronounce it with a long o -- "bow-becue." And man!!!!! It is a real, old-fashioned, Southern buffet, with barbecue and fried chicken and baked beans and cucumber salad and the best hushpuppies and nanner puddin' I've had in *years*. We're going back for lunch on Saturday.

Gotta go -- Hope everyone is well -- just had to say hey and I'm alive and I'm not the least sunburnt...

And this year, as last year, the *best* thing about Edisto are the enclosed, hot-and-cold, outdoor showers. Civilization, at last!!!!!!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Fixin' t' git ready


Vacation. Edisto. Bliss. Anticipation.

Packing. Ugh.

Last night Woodrow asked me why we go on vacation every year, as if this were such a foreign concept that he needed to understand why we do this. I goggled at him with my mouth hanging open, trying to come up with an answer that would satisfy his logical brain. I'll discuss it with him at more length later today, because all I could come up with at that time was, "Because we need a break."

Is that a reasonable answer? Is it competely explanatory? I don't think so. Woodrow doesn't remember when we didn't take a vacation every year. I do. I grew up in a family that didn't take a trip each summer. When I was very little, Daddy took us to Edisto Island twice that I can recall. Other than that, trips were taken to see his mother in upper East Tennessee, or to Mississippi/Louisiana to see my mother's siblings. I suppose the Mississippi trips were pretty darned vacation-like, but they weren't like other people's vacations.

Other people went to Myrtle Beach. Other people went to Disney World. Some of our more exotic, wealthy friends went to Europe. We didn't. My friends would come to school with tales of travels and souvenirs from the Grand Canyon, and I would say, "Yeah, well... I went to camp."

When Wesley and I were first married -- well, I got pregnant with Emily immediately, and she was born 9 months, 11 days after the wedding, and she had a heart defect. We took a trip to Orlando in the summer of '89 and left her with my mother for almost a week. I didn't like that. Then life got busy. Mama's cancer came back. I got pregnant again. Time flew, and going on vacation seemed impossibly expensive and difficult to organize.

In the summer of '96, we took the kids to Walt Disney World, and the veil was lifted from our eyes. Oh, we paid for that trip on credit, which was foolish. Having learned that lesson, we didn't take any trip in '97. Then in '98, we saved our pennies and went back to Disney, and that's when we realized, "OK, this is more than just recreation. This is necessary."

A soul needs respite from the wearying world. For me, it's really cool to have someone else make the beds and wash the dishes for a whole week. Wesley just loves to get away from his job. Emily and Woodrow like to see something new and different.

Every year, we plan a vacation, determine how much it's going to cost, and save the money to pay for it before we leave. Edisto is far, far less expensive than Disney, but these are our two favorite vacation spots. Sometimes I'd like to travel more in a year -- I'd like to take the whole family out to Las Vegas to visit Amy and see Red Rock Canyon together, or maybe... maybe a nice little trip to Ireland would be fun. But I always, always want to go to Disney or Edisto, too.

Disney is the thrilling trip. Oh, Disney's attention to detail, and all the millions of things to do -- one is never bored there. I always cry over the fireworks. I love the food. But we exhaust ourselves in Orlando, running from favorite things to new things and back again.

Edisto is the laid-back trip. It's Wesley's favorite. He loves the ocean. We sleep in late, we wander around aimlessly, we eat barefoot in open-air shacks and watch sunsets over the marsh.
You know, this year was supposed to be a Disney year, but a couple of financial setbacks nibbled at our vacation funds. The day I cancelled our Disney plans and booked the house on Edisto was a weird day. I remember how much I loved Edisto last year, how warm and gentle the ocean felt, and the bliss of the outdoor shower -- and it's really hard to think, "This is a downgrade from our original plans."

On the other hand, I had not one, single, perfectly sublime meal last year on Edisto. So this year I'm on a mission: I must have at least one fabulous dinner in a swanky place. It's necessary. It isn't vacation unless I'm raving about the meal we had that other people can't have because they weren't there with us.

Now, back to the point of today's post: We're packing. I took Cosmo and Hector to the vet yesterday for boarding. I miss them terribly. The house is quiet, although Lilo (Em's cockatiel) and Orlando (Woodrow's budgie) are still trying to fill the rooms with their tweets and chirps.

I hope we don't forget anything. Has anyone seen my camera?

Things to remember:
- Put newspaper on hold
- Take postcard addresses
- Find a book to read
- Cut some bangs
- Bug repellant...

Friday, August 12, 2005

Weekend plans

I'm packing this weekend, thank you very much, and I thought I would indulge in some prayer, a few goat sacrifices, a couple of healing crystal arrangements, and maybe a seance if I can fit it in. There's a jealous little twit out in the Atlantic named Irene, and I didn't invite her to share our rental house off of South Carolina. Although the Weather Channel says Irene is miffed and is going to stomp off on her own and go north without making landfall, I don't believe it. I know what that chick is like. I just know she's going to show up on the island in a hat with feathers and a little overnight bag. And then we'll have to endure those longwinded stories of hers. You know, the ones that just go on and on and don't make any sense but leave the listener feeling completely exhausted? That's Irene. Stormy little twit.

My sunburn has faded to a barely noticeable tan. I may be exceedingly fairskinned, but I don't burn easily.

Far more noticeable than my tan is my post-Retreat depression. I so miss Wisconsin. I so miss the fun people. I cannot believe how many of my friends live in other states. It's been like this for years -- I don't have many friends here. All my best friends live in New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Colorado, Florida, California, Texas, Michigan, Illinois.... any place but here. Thank heaven for the gals who crop at the Maple Grove Inn every month -- without them, I would be a hermit 10 months of the year.

Oh, before I forget -- my newest musical obsession is Sarah Bettens. I'd never heard of the band she was in before this solo effort (k's Choice), but while I was in Wisconsin, I heard one of her songs. I was in a lovely old Appleton restaurant with Tricia, Pat, Tim, and Robin. We were having a bit of a drink when this song came on the sound system. I was very quiet during that outing, anyway, so after one chorus, I dived through my purse to write down the lyrics for a later search. I did have the presence of mind to ask those there if they knew who that was. No one had ever heard the song before, but Tricia agreed with me that it was, indeed, lovely. We asked the bartender if she knew -- was it a CD on the sound system? Or something else? The bartender didn't know.

I finally searched the lyrics on Google (I tried iPod.com at Tim's urging, but man, I don't own an iPod, so I don't understand the website and never found a search-by-lyric feature), and came up with this girl, Sarah Bettens, who seems extraordinarily well-traveled and experienced. I wish I had heard of k's Choice before, if their music was anything like Bettens' solo effort. The song we heard was "Follow Me," and it was truly a very insistent piece of music. According to Amazon.com, the CD "Scream" doesn't come out until the 23rd. ARGH. And furthermore, Amazon doesn't even have the little snippets of songs to listen to as they usually do. But there's a piece on Bettens' website.

Frankly, I like "Follow Me" better, but that may be because I'm on a stupid dial-up and it takes forever to hear a single piece of music.

I called a couple of radio stations today to ask if they had the advance CD or a single, but I'm the only person around who's heard of her. Check her out as soon as you can. The music is absolutely undeniably melodic, and the lyrics are just poetry. In the way that I simply must hear more, she reminds me of Rachael Yamagata and Anna Nalick. She really shouldn't be ignored.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Ouch.



OK. I've been blogging for months now, and this is the first time I'm going to talk about being a writer for a scrapbooking magazine. I wanted my blog to be about me, not my career. Besides, I get articles published in nearly every regular issue of Memory Makers these days -- well, to be honest, I don't have any deadlines for the regular issues of 2006, so my current spate of articles will run out in December.

(Not to worry -- I'm working on something else that isn't a regular issue, so it isn't as if I'll disappear from the planet on New Year's Eve.)

But if I posted every time one of my articles appeared on newsstands, it would be obnoxious and braggy. There's a term for that in scrapbooking circles, "shameless self-promoting." People who indulge in that practice are snarked about as being SSP's. And even I am not turned on by the scrappers who cross-post on all the major message boards about their latest publication. It's tiresome and narcissistic. After a while, you just want to tell an SSP, "Hush. You've worn out your welcome."

Now, the reason I mention all this is because I do have to surf the scrapbooking message boards in order to remain well-informed and edified about the desires of scrapbookers. Keeping an eye on online galleries helps me to figure out what's hot in terms of design, and the message boards are fabulous sources for research.

And for weeks at a time, I can read the posts and manage to keep a fairly optimistic attitude about the state of the craft and the inherent kindness of human beings.

But every once in a while, I come across things that so hurt my soul, I have to get away from the computer and pretend I don't even know what a scrapbook is. Sometimes it's truly offensive, truly criminal behavior like plagiarism and "scraplifting for profit."

(If you're not a scrapbooker, "scraplifting" is the practice of directly copying a layout. Generally, this is a good thing, because the artists who are published in the magazines want the readers to be able to copy the techniques for their own scrapbooks. But when one artist steals from another in order to be paid for the work, it's criminal. And don't get me started on plagiarism. It's rampant, inexcusable, and unforgiveable. And I don't know an honest writer who doesn't feel the same way.)

Then there are the posts that just hurt. People are very quick to criticize -- very, very quick to complain. I try to avoid threads with obviously hurtful subject headings. If a subject heading implies that the magazine for which I write is not the poster's favorite, I'll skip it. If a thread starts out with, "[XYZ Company's] product stinks," then I move right along.

But this method is fallible, and I still run into things that hurt.

I've only been online for a day and a half after my stunningly fabulous, soul-enriching trip to Club Scrap Retreat, and already I've read something that hurts.

It was a thread about the size of layouts in the newest issue of Memory Makers.

(Another aside for non-scrapping readers: The industry standard is 12x12". I don't know why. No one knows why. But that's what it is, and 12x12" papers and products outsell 8.5x11" -- by a lot. The fabulous artists who know that a rectangle is more logical and correct for design & composition desperately want the community standard to change, but it won't, and it upsets them when their preferred layout size isn't represented in the magazine to their wishes. I understand their point. I empathize with their plight. But all the cage rattling won't change the industry standard overnight, and it is in a magazine's best interests to serve the needs of the majority of their readers, not the relatively few accomplished artists who like a non-standard size layout.)

Several posts into that ostensibly inoffensive, mild thread about the percentage of 8.5x11" layouts, one poster wrote, "Well, I didn't like much of anything about this issue, anyway."

Ouch.

I have an PhotoJournaling column in this issue -- page 52, the September 2005 issue, byline pictured above. I mean, OK, boys and girls, I have a dog in this race. Furthermore, I think every single piece of artwork that accompanies it is stunning and amazing. The artists are Kathy Fesmire (whom I knew in high school when she was Kathy Ketron, and I still say our hometown should have thrown her a parade when she won the Masters contest at the end of 2003), Vanessa Hudson (whom I do not know, but it's a great layout), and Jane Swanson.

You know, I just had the great joy of finally meeting Jane at Club Scrap Headquarters last Saturday. I've long admired her work, and I've always been doubly glad that she's a Club Scrap aficiando like me. She is a gorgeous, tall, quietly dramatic girl with big, beautiful brown eyes. And she's really nice. And her layout is fabulous and it's going to mean something in her scrapbook long after our generation is gone and our descendants are reading our layouts for the first time. I mean -- there's a reason the magazine assigned this topic.

I cannot imagine looking at these layouts and thinking, "Nothing new here, yawn." I just can't. Everyone says not to read this stuff on the boards, and I do try, but when it's snuck into a thread like that, how can I avoid it?

It's times like this that I'm glad I'll be on vacation and away from the computer next week. If anyone wants to slam Club Scrap, or protest the topics of my assignments, or malign the artistic integrity of the magazine for which I'm privileged to write, next week is a really good time to do it. I won't be around to read it, and I won't get my feelings hurt. Go to town. Get it all out of your system. Purging is good for the soul. Rant about quality control. Rave about how much you dislike ACME Widgets embellishments. We're in the dog days of August, and I'm sure the heat will exacerbate those posts which purport to be judgmental, disparaging, nit-picky, and unsympathetic.

And I swear I won't read a word of it. May termites infest my Club Scrap stash if I do. This is amnesty for snarkiness -- so shall it be written, so shall it be done. Just not this week -- that's next week. August 15th to the 22nd. Got that? OK. Thank you.

I'm going to go watch hummingbirds now and try to revive my creative spirit.