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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Out of the ashes, Charleston

Oh Charleston, I'm waiting, waiting with you to see what is left after the passion and rawness of this horrific tragedy wears off.
I, for one, believe that nothing short of a catastrophic martyrdom like this could have turned the tide of racism. There is and always will be hate. But — Charleston proved to the entire world that hate is outnumbered here. About 25 K to 1 if the bridge calculations were right.
Now those beautiful souls are being laid to rest. And there's a nervous twitter about the city. What will become of us? I don't think there is a soul in Charleston that wants to throw the sheets back over the ghost of its past. Let's continue to pursue peace and love and equality.
Wounds heal better in open air. The boils have festered deep in our soil for over 150  years. Slavery and the Civil War.
I love the South, I am not ashamed of it one bit. I am ashamed of those few, through greed and in darkness, slipped ships stealthily into our harbors and brought the curse of inhumanity. I am ashamed of the men in fine suits on the foggy docks of our ports that traded money for lives of African men women and children. No soul should ever be owned.
Good people, thinking they couldn't make a difference looked the other way when the planks were lowered into our port as one by one, families filed off to be sold at the market. If the inertia to do the right thing had been there when those ships pulled in as it was on the Ravenel Bridge this past Sunday, the port would have been closed and history would have changed forever.
Ok, so let's start with the Confederate flag? It always made me uneasy, a “Go away flag” standoffish and prideful.  I liken it to neighborhood summer clubs where little clicks would get together and exclude some. Secret passwords, or secrets required to enter.
Holding on to tokens.  I know the arguments, “I have family that established this town or I have ancestors who died in the Civil War.”
I had to come to grips with that myself. But, not a single prideful story of that war or  was passed down on either my husband's or my side of the family. Because at some point and time we have to realize that the battles we fight aren't always the right ones. Many family members came back to their towns and cities and never spoke another word about the war. My husband didn't even know, nor did his own father, that their relative signed the succession until 5 years ago. There are no family pics passed down with confederate flags or medals or glorified tales.
When putting out my small paperback collection of stories a few years ago. I fiddled around with several names for the book. I wanted something regional that people could relate to but didn‘t want to use an ad-nauseum pronoun for the south. I chose Piddlin in Dixie. I researched it, geographically Dixie was used to describe areas below the Mason -Dixon line.  There are other derivatives for the word that may offend. So, although the books are out there, I will be changing the title for future publications of stories to Piddlin in Plough Mud.
I hold my breath and pray as our beloved city mourns the death’s of 9 of it’s own. God speed your souls to a welcome father who will greet, “Well done my good and faithful son’s and daughters.”

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Screw That Eggplant

I asked Don, “Does it seem like the world is leaning this week or is it just me?” I just feel like I’ve battled rip tides all week, a short week at that because of  Memorial Day.
I went outside to look for solace in the garden. Ok, so it's not a garden.  It's a 4 x 7 plot, a tribute to my daddy, who was a good farmer. I am still raw sometimes and wanted a place that I could water with tears and laugh at memories.
It works out well, weed pulling and crying go hand in hand. The pinnacle of my garden is the single eggplant that I snuck in amidst the Alcea and Phlox for fear of the HOA police, who will write you up for a dandelion. The sun is dipping in the west and I am feeling better about the day’s end. I ran my hand over the rosemary bush to release it's aroma and inhaled, doing the same with the basil and sage. Then I saw it, the curled up leaves on the eggplant. I can't kill this eggplant, my tribute to my daddy, the master gardener!  I ran to cut the sprinkler on.
As the water dripped onto it's first purple blossoms I was reminded of how I could call my daddy for anything and he would have the answer. This eggplant was a reminder of one of my distress calls to daddy while living in NC. We had two long rows of brilliant green squash plants, bright with blooms and then — the flowers just dropped off, no veggies in sight. I called Daddy.
"Do you see bees around them? Daddy asked.
"Nope, not one. There's a tobacco field nearby and I think they just sprayed chemicals." I answered.
"Ok then. they need pollinating. " he said matter of factly.
I started searching for a pen, thinking he was going to tell me to go to a hardware store and buy a box of bees or some magic farmer potion. But, uh uh.
"Nae —you've got to screw em." he said.
"Well, (insert audible gasp) how do we do that daddy?" I asked.
"You take a Q-Tip, you go out and find the female & male squash." he instructed.
WTH, I didn't know squash had genders. He explained how to determine.
"Now you put the Q-Tip in the male and then put it into the female." I shake my head, blushing 300 miles away.
Okay so I hang up and go into the garden with my Q-Tips. Within 5 minutes my ADD is directing me to do something else as I have grown weary of checking which is male and which is female and screw them all. I am positive that I now have gender bender squash. A week later I peeked under the massive plants to find lots of tiny squash growing, I couldn't wait to call daddy. I could hear him grinning on the phone.
So, back to my memory garden, I tell this single eggplant that it MUST live. I left the sprinkler on the eggplant while I was called once again to another fascination. I intended to come back in a spell —  The spell lasted all night.
When I opened the door the next morning in my gown. I wailed. "No!!!!!!!!!!"  The yard was a puddle. I was sick to my stomach. The sprinkler sound on the wet concrete will remain forever. I walked to the driveway and picked up the swollen Moultrie Newspaper and looked down the road. Two blocks of my neighborhood have been watered. Don pulled his truck out of driveway and water rolled out of the back of his truck. It was the final straw for the week, I broke down crying.
I called Charleston Water department. Sally was sympathetic. “Mrs.Brabham I can give you an estimate of how much water you used if you go outside and lift the plate and take a reading.” she said.
 “Ok , but I will have to call you back I am in my gown and I don't need to draw any more attention from my neighbors this morning.” I explained.
I changed and went out the door, my slippers are saturated and sloshing as I cross the yard. I can't lift the water works plate. I call Sally back to tell her I couldn't lift it, she made some nice suggestions and I resign myself to the error.
I now consider this a true Heirloom squash. Possible rare and worth a lot of frigging money, errr... however much the water bill determines. But, somehow, I can't help but think that somewhere over that moon and beyond the galaxy, my Daddy is laughing, “Screw that eggplant, Nae”  

Screw That Squash

Screw That Squash

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Watch your feet on Charleston beaches this weekend!

It doesn't happen often but a good southeastern wind from the Gulf Coast can wash these mesmerizing psychedelic Physaliidae onto Charleston shores. And some of the these Blue Bottles or Portuguese Man O’ War did just that on Sullivan’s Island recently.

The Portuguese Man O’ War is likened to a jelly fish, but is actually a completely different species. Unlike jelly fish which are single multicultural organism’s, the Man O’ War is a colony of specialized minute individuals called Zooids. That would make it a cluster muster.

You really can’t avoid them while they are in the water because they don’t swim. They are propelled by tide and wind and can’t help bobbing into you if you are in it’s path. Their tentacles will wrap around you leaving red welts and shocking nerve pain.

I worked on a shrimp boat in the gulf shores in the 70's. We would shrimp all night competitively but when morning broke and the shrimp were bedded on ice, we’d tie off with the other trawlers, share breakfast and unwind. Often a cool swim in the ocean followed.
All mornings weren't so peaceful though. Like the one that a girl jumped starboard right into a bed of Man O’ War’s! I will never forget the look of fright on her face as they wrapped around her. Someone threw a ring or line out and pulled her in. She was covered in bleeding red welts. Once on-board she began shaking really bad and her blood pressure dropped. She was going into shock. The coast guard was called in and she was flown to emergency at Biloxi Hospital. She pulled through but had neurological problems for a while.
So, if you see this beached blue pod on shore this weekend, resist the urge to examine it too closely. I never understood why people like to poke dead stuff with sticks but they do. If you get a squirt of this venom on you, it may require a trip to the ER. This translucent blue beauty is dangerous and sometimes fatal. It’s venom can be potent for hours and sometimes days.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Take Me To Church, Jim Avett, Finnegan Bell & Marci Shore

Well I can't think of a better way to usher in daylight savings time than winding down with a glass of vino in a graveyard while waiting on the band to kick off in the church on a gorgeous 70 degree Sunday evening. What???? Vino, graveyard, church, concert?
Yep,  STAC House Shows and Awendaw Green put on a marvelous sold out performance at The Society of St. Thomas & St. Denis Parish in Cainhoy off of Hwy 41. The show featured Jim Avett (father of the Avett brothers) with Finnegan Bell accompanying and Marci Shore on fiddle.
Odd venue?  Not really, why let history crumble away in forgotten forest. The church and grounds could stand to benefit from the union.
The crowd filed into the church pews as Finnegan Bell strummed their first notes. Finnegan Bell's duo, Shane Williams and Warren Bazemore have played all over the country since they began writing and playing together at USC, but their roots are nourished here in the low country. They play over 100 shows a year sharing the stage with good company such as Nickel Creek, Leigh Nash, Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors, Jars of Clay, David Mead, Griffin House, Danielle Howle, as well as members of Hootie and the Blowfish and Allison Krauss and Union Station.
They strummed and harmonized with beautiful tracks from their new record as well as a moving melodious rendition of "Hallelujah."  I watched the sun's last rays blur orange on thick leaded glass window panes marveling that I sat in the same pews where Carolina lineage sat hundreds of years ago. Ironically Finnegan Bell was singing a track off of their CD titled Carolina line.
After their set was done, we took a break for a few and wandered the grounds again. The huge red doors of the church were latched wide open to allow laser lighting from a production trailer outside to beam the stage.
Jim Avett was carousing the grounds as well. Easygoing and approachable, if you make eye contact with him, he is going to talk to you. Jim asked me where I came from in NC and I told him he wouldn't know the little place, Walnut Cove. He took me by the hand and marched me up to the pulpit where Marci Shore, the fiddler was rosining up her bow. "Marci here is from King, NC" he said. King is  just a country mile from Walnut Cove. We talked about our little necks of the woods for a few and vowed to catch up with each other again.
Jim Avett is a humorous avid story teller as well as humble musician. Noticeably the venue majority was more the younger crowd than the young at heart crowd, Jim bridged the divide easily with humor, song and encouragement. He held the attention of 120 youthful parishioners’ for the full set. There were some tunes that didn't strike a chord of familiarity with many, Jim described these as being on the "B" side of the record, not quite as popular, but still meaningful. There were others that had everyone singing along, Merele Haggard, Randy Travis, Don McLean. Jim artfully filled in  messages of love, faith and strength between the tunes.
Jim refers to himself as left behind. "Left behind, music moved on, America moved on and I pretty much stayed right where I was.  But that's ok you see. I don't mind being where I am. I had my day, you'll have yours and the one's following you will have theirs too.  And if the only thing I'm known for is siring the Avett Brothers, I'm ok with that too." he tells us.
But, tonight Jim Avett wasn't the Avett brother's father. Jim Avett has a song to play and a story to tell. The word that comes to my mind is re-purposed. I believe this graveyard and grounds with over 300 years of history that include founding SC, fires, revolution, births, baptismal and death lies in wait of ruin without a caring community. It is the perfect venue for re-purposing and showing that longevity has value. Tonight — this night, the church had a song again.
I look forward to many more productions like this. Thank you, The Church of the Holy Cross on Sullivan's Island for the use of the church and grounds, Awendaw Green, STAC House Shows, The Society of St. Thomas & St. Denis Church, Jim Avett, Finnegan Bell and Marci Shore for an eventful evening.