Thursday, December 28, 2006


First Class Cuts ( Barber Shop ) offers walk in haircuts, however, braiding is by appointment only. Haircuts might be considered as only maintenance, but braiding seems an art form or at least a talented form of knitting, something rendered with deliberation. You don't just pop in for a quick braid.

It meets all of the specifications for a Disappearing Buildings of Character ( DBC ).
We've got the bars on every window. We've got some very snappy painted copy on the exterior. To the left of the door we can see just the top of a very fast disappearing urban icon: the pay telephone. A very fine old standing seam tin roof seems to be holding its own against time and the elements. At the rear we have a tubular frame to which has been lashed sheets of canvas to form a makeshift carport. It has become cover for an outdoor sofa which was fashioned from an automobile seat. Such an amenity is still relatively common in the rural outlands, but it is yet another funky treat on the way out.

To shoo away the sundry jokers who might want waste the time of the busy barbers, the classic NO LOITERING ( On This Property ) sign is affixed just over the point at which that offense is most likely to occur. This is a standard repellent to jokers who tend to raft up in front of such places thus blocking the welcome mat. Such jokers are likely to shot it out with one another on Saturday night, but they're no match for an angry beautician during her business day.

What goes above and beyond the minimum requirements of a DBC is the haunting artwork on the east wall of the place. It appears that hands are being extended from on high to tend the scalps of a varied set of customers. Diversity seems invited. We're not certain whether the hand which appears to come from within the air conditioner is spooky by design or that the AC simply got shoved into the existing artwork.

First Class Cuts is located on the south side of Spring at a point where drivers do not feel encouraged to linger, but keep both eyes out for street folks who tend to wander into the roadway. At around 4:30PM in the winter you are staring straight into a punishing western sun so few passers by get a good look at this little gem.

First Class Cuts sounds like a good name for a butcher shop and some two blocks west once stood Carl Harley Meats which for many years offered truly first class cuts. Mr. Harley's place is long gone with only the faint weathered lettering remaining on his wall. The renovation of the peninsula is now moving like a rolling thunder. The windows in this little tonsorial parlor have begun to rattle. We're trying to keep up.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum

A magnificent Greek Revival building at 68 Spring Street in Charleston, SC, which was formerly a Methodist Church has become The Karpeles Library Manuscript Museum. The building is said to have been built in 1791, but it has gone through many different appellations from that time forward. It was used as a hospital for the Confederate forces during the Civil War and was a target of the Union Army because it was the key to the city's water supply.

The library and manuscript museum was founded by David Karpeles as a nonprofit educational project in 1983. Mr. Karpeles took the position that today's children lack the drive and ambition, the hope and faith which had characterized most previous generations in the United States. He finds today's youth in a state of emptiness and ignorant of our political and cultural history. He appears to believe that children have too many material assets and too little content of character. He seems not so much intent upon driving out evil forces, but on giving young people a sense of where they have come from so that they might in time figure out where they might go.

Mr. Karpeles laments the broad range of ignorance in the young. He is neither alone nor wrong in this observation. Beyond the inability of many high school students to read, write or speak the language properly, they have no sense of history. Perhaps it's the domination of television in their lives or substandard schools or indifferent parents which are to blame, but Mr. Karpeles seems more geared to enrichment than analysis.

While priceless documents from literature, religion, art and government are the main staple of their mission, they seek to expose the communities in which they reside to music, art works and creative example. Their programs rotate during the year to offer a variety of exposure to worthwhile interests. There are Karpeles Manuscript Museums in 8 other cities in the U.S.

Because both Coming and Spring Streets, the intersection of which is the location of Charleston's Karpeles Museum, are busy thoroughfares, most who pass this way get no sense of what is in 68 Spring Street. It is a treat for seasoned adults as well as under enriched children. It is worth a visit. Locally they can be reached at (843) 853-4651. Their hours of Operation are Tuesday--Saturday 11:00 am - 4:00 PM. Karpeles is currently featuring an exhibit of maps of the United States. Now, that's something with we can easily identify.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Humble Pie a la Mode

Humble Pie a la Mode, originally uploaded by PALMETT0.

Traveling south on Rutledge Avenue approaching the intersection at Cannon Street, one sees at some distance a painted advertisement at the second floor level which is a real eye catcher. At first it appears to be an illustration of a nurse presenting a steaming tray of ...something. Without the ad copy a distracted driver could imagine many titillating captions.

The painting quasi qualifies as a mural. It's rendered upon the clapboard siding of Charleston structure which dates to the 1890's. It promotes a restaurant which was established around 1996, a time when few commercial ventures would risk both that unsettled neighborhood or the remote location. It's far from the successful restaurant district which is considerably south of this point. Successful Charleston restaurants have either a well established reputation for superior food and service or they have a gimmick. The Hominy Grill didn't fit comfortably in either category, but this attractive painting seems to have been a solid drawing card.

The interior is fairly plain with a predominating tongue-in-groove wall surface. It reminds one of a classic beach house which was a pleasant break from the overwrought decor of many competitors. If anything, it was at pains to wax humble and folksy. What, after all, could approach the table with greater humility than hominy also knows as grits to visitors less familiar with local expressions. Where one might plot the Hominy Grill on the epicurean index or grant a bang-for-the-buck rating is a task we leave to others. We find restaurant reviews far more difficult to digest than the dishes they critique.

We can't deny that courage and good timing seem to have begun a very successful enterprise. The HG has played the folksy-chic theme like a cello. At a time when many new and fashionable eateries have become consumed by their own passion plays of absurd culinary inventions, the HG increasingly puts more sophisticated diners at plates of red rice, collards, cornbread and, of course, hominy.

Monday, December 25, 2006


Merry Christmas from Folly Beach. We've got our sand tires on because of the unseasonably warm weather leading up to Christmas Day. No snow. Not even sweater weather. We even confess to running the AC at times during the day.

We've come to Folly Beach because it's one of the last areas in Lowcountry, South Carolina where individuality still reigns. The Christmas lights on the Palmetto trunks and the lighted Manger scene may seem incongruous to this beach setting, but we were drawn to this celebrant's yard for that very reason. It reminds us that not everyone lives in those classic snow covered Christmas card scenes.

Not everyone keeps Christmas in the same way, but we are grateful that we are free each to keep the spirit of Christmas in our own way. However you choose to keep this day, may it be a safe and joyful one.

Friday, December 22, 2006

People Get Ready, There's a Train Commin'


People get ready, there's a train comin'
You don't need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin'
You don't need no ticket you just thank the lord

Those words of Curtis Mayfield sung by the Impressions came to mind when we pulled into the station at Yemassee Junction. We came for this mural, but we took in a little more. The trains still run right past this point on a daily basis. The tracks aren't fifty feet from this building which was previously used as a receiving station for Marine recruits to Paris Island. Fresh off the train, they'd assemble in this small building and some not very shy or retiring Marine Sergeant would greet the boys in a way which must have made them wonder why they ever got off that train.

For some Marine recruits this would have been a one way ticket to wars from which far too few ever returned. For some veterans who survived, this spot may well have become a fond memory, that first step into the Corps and that long campaign to hell and back. It even found a place in Marine chants during basic training:
Beautiful Beaufort by the sea,
Twenty-six miles from Yemassee.

The train has been used as a metaphor in countless ways. When they say that the train has left the station, they mean that you have missed the boat. In its current incarnation this building serves The Holy Temple Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, INC., of the Apostolic Faith. That church has chosen to leave the wonderful mural of the locomotive visible is probably not by accident. Mayfield used the train metaphor to make a strong statement of faith and to challenge the faithful. A junction or crossroads is often used to mark the point at which one either turned away from or embraced the faith.

Trains became missions quite literally beginning around 1890 when organized churches began to lament the sin and sorrow of the American west. The folks in the East apparently felt safely saved, but sent brave missionaries on their errand into the wilderness of the Godless, sinful, suffering west. "Chapel Cars", as they were called, were attached to the regular trains and dispatched to not only press the faith, but to comfort the great human misery found along the way.

This train don't carry no gamblers
No whores nor midnight ramblers
This train don't pull no jokers
No cigarette smokers
This train is bound for glory,
Don't ride nothing but the holy.
This train is bound for glory, this train.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Steak Night at the Country Club

In our posting on the Poinsett Club in Greenville a year ago, we asked the rhetorical question, "Are you clubbable?". Again we ask the question, but on the other side of the state this time.

This is Harold's Country Club situated on Hwy 17-A near Yemassee, SC. We were drawn by the mini mural promoting his bait and tackle offerings, but there's more to Harold's. He has a rib eye steak night ( Saturday), but members must order the meat in advance. You have a choice of cuts and some sidings, but Harold isn't getting stuck with unpaid steaks. On Thursdays, he has a pot luck dinner which varies as to the offerings, but is reported to be consistently good, very good they say.

There won't be any bubbly little college gals prancing to your table informing you of their name and declaring that they will be your server this evening. It seems that there a call to fall in at the food line and any who dilly dally may miss the boat. The gravy boat, that is.

Like other clubs, you must have both a shirt and shoes to enter. We could not find a lady on the road to attempt a topless entrance, but we wonder if that rule might not be waived on such special occasions. Whoops, there is a Mrs. Harold so we can forget that prank. You may not bring alcohol into the Country Club, you must purchase it within. Harold doesn't post any warnings about leaving with paid booze.

Harold's offers much of what we see less of these days in terms of old fashioned snacks and candies. He's a little short on the Beluga, but you'll always find a Penrose sausage, pickled eggs and, our favorite, jelly roll for desert.

While you have to pass muster with Harold to belong to the club, the general public may call at Harold's pumps to purchase gasoline. Only the clinically optimistic motorist would take the posted price to actually be twenty-two cents, but somehow it's easier when the first 2 is very tiny. It's the first cousin to the $xx.95 pricing game. Harold seems not unaware of prudent marketing psychology.

As long as honest, colorful, sincere folks like Harold maintain these delightful venues of character and individuality, we'll find the money to buy the gas to visit them.

Up The Creek in Hampton County

We're right on the county line just inside of Hampton County, SC. As is generally the case, we were heading somewhere else when we arrived here. We are always interested in large outdoor murals which we usually find painted on the blank side of commercial structures. Some are works of art, some are ghastly, but most are on the higher end of in between. Seldom do even the worst of them detract from the buildings on which they are painted. The dramatic improvement is clearly demonstrated below.

Our incursion into the jurisdiction of Hampton County was purely accidental and a bit chilling as it might have been to have drifted into East Berlin with West Berlin tags back in the 60's. Few if any manufacturers, retailers or corporate entities make this mistake. They stay away in droves. Hampton County has earned a reputation for predatory civil litigation and plaintiff biased juries at a level of corruption exceeded by only two other counties in the United States. What was done literally to civil rights protesters in Alabama in the 60's is being done figuratively to corporate defendants today in Hampton County: they are getting hosed.

The American Tort Reform Association in 2004 named Hampton County as the 3rd worst "hellhole" for civil litigation in the US. Hampton County draws few if any tourists, but plaintiff lawyers flock to the area. As people go to Maine for their lobsters, ambulance chasing lawyers come to Hampton for their juries as if they were a special home grown crop. They are. They tend to deliver unjust verdicts and obscenely high awards against corporate plaintiffs. You don't have to be rich corporation to pay here. If you own as much as the shirt on your back, someone else will be wearing it after the trial.

Poor educational systems, low income and audacious corruption contributes to the problem. Until 2005, a plaintiff's attorney could pick any of the 46 counties in which to bring a law suit as long as that corporation had some business connection with any county in the state. When lawyers shopped for juries, they came to Hampton. Not very long ago, a mistrial was declared in a suit brought in Hampton against Ford Motor Company because it was discovered that FIVE of the jurors had been previous clients of the plaintiff's attorney.

We're no corporation, but we didn't want to get our tires sued from under us for snooping around. We came just 36 inches into Hampton County to get the shot of this delightful mural. It has no posted title, but we think it should be called "Up The Creek in Hampton County". The folks in that boat have paddles, but in Hampton County the defendants do not.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Special Delivery to Pinopolis

Here in the remains of the day we've pulled up at the U.S. Post Office at Pinopolis, SC., 29469 as far as the postal system is concerned. Beyond its zip code it doesn't count for much in Washington. There are, however, special interests in Washington and elsewhere which have designs on the life and land in these parts.

The few actual villages we have left in South Carolina lie at the termination of dead end roads. Since progress does not pass through them it passes them by. The little towns which lie in the way of progress usually perish in its wake. Progress can be like a predator on the prowl. Many little hamlets crouch like rabbits waiting for the wolf to move on, hoping it neither sees nor smells them. It is powerful vested interests rather than actual progress which is disturbing the peace of this community and what they smell is a fast buck.

Three of those posted bills on the board are pleas for help in resisting a new plan to bring heavy barge traffic through the Tailrace Canal via the Pinopolis Dam. While these handbills represent popular sentiment in this area, they don't stand up to the promise of jobs and prosperity being dangled by supporters of the project and their political allies. Orangeburg County in general and the town of Santee in particular are pushing the barge project. It is so often at the local political level where the quality of community life and the integrity of our natural resources get sold down the river as elected officials are recruited by one means or another to do the bidding of developers. At least developers build things for the money they make off the land, but CaroLinks barge plan would simply consume.



Friday, December 15, 2006

Barging into the Tail Race Canal

The building in the photo was once the storied Dock Restaurant known for its catfish stew and other delights. It's now owned by a restaurant chain, but the view's still the same as you look out over the Tailrace Canal. With the exception of modern buildings and watercraft, it probably looks much as it did when it operated as the Santee Canal back in 1800. That canal enabled the transportation of cargo by barge from areas above Columbia, SC, down to the Port of Charleston.

Around 1939 a dam was begun at Pinopolis, SC, which would both solve the flooding which plagued land owners and the spells of low water which shut down cargo traffic in the canal. After completion of the dam, all vessels would then pass through the gigantic locks at Pinopolis which would drop a vessel 75 feet on its way down stream. Every such opening displaces roughly 6 million gallons of water.

With the advent of jet skis, faster and louder watercraft and the wildly overpowered, metalflake, beamy, low freeboard, designer fiberglass bass boats, a trip up the Tailrace Canal no longer evokes romantic images of the early 1800's. The Tailrace also draws passive interests such as kayaking groups and SCUBA exploration of several old shipwreck sites. There are still some recreational fishing folk who simply cast from small jon boats as sane men once did.

To this mix there now comes the proposal to begin large scale barge traffic from the Port of Charleston up through the Tailrace and Lakes Moultrie and Marion all the way to Orangeburg depositing cargo at what is imagined to be an "Inland Port". As oxymoronic as that expression sounds, even more at odds with lucidity is the idea of using this waterway in place of I-26 and the railroad to move cargo containers from the Wando Terminal to a point near the intersection of I-26 and I-95.

CaroLinks is the name of the outfit which proposes to barge into the Tailrace. Their initial plan called for a staging area at Shipyard Creek on the Peninsula to which cargo would be barged from Wando-Welch to be loaded aboard railcars. They never acquired that site so all of that which would have gone by rail would now be barged up the waterway adding greatly to what would already be heavy traffic. Another unacquired asset is the approval and good will of the many different people and businesses which would be greatly affected by such an undertaking.

Recreational boaters, residential and commerical property owners, and especially the County Manger of Berkeley County are stunned and scared of this plan which has come as a great surprise to most. The point was made that this is not the mile wide Mississippi, but in fact an often narrow body of water unlikely to absorb such barge traffic without serious consequences. Even a spokesman of the Monks at Mepkin Abbey spoke openly to express their concerns for the interruption of peace in their sector and of the effects on other "stake holders" along the way. Erosion of the banks and entanglement with other vessels come to mind as problematic.

We are reminded of Captain Willard's long and insanely eventful trip up that convoluted river in the film, APOCALYPSE NOW, in pursuit of Colonel Walter Kurtz. When at long last he finds his objective, Kurtz asks, "do you find my methods unsound, Captain? ". Willard replies, "I don't see any method Sir" We are at some pains ourselves to fully appreciate a sound method in this plan.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Of Mustang and Military Mannequins

[ FOR BETTER RESOLUTION, CLICK ON IMAGE ] Back in October of 2005 we ran up on this display at the intersection of Highways 178 and 15 at Rosinville, SC. As nearly as can be determined, this is some sort of shrine using female mannequins decked out in uniforms of our nations armed services. The (US) Army, Navy, Air Force are represented within, yet there is no plaque or sign explaining this dedication.

Of course, any display honoring the US military needs little explanation and is unlikely to be questioned these days. In the photo below we have a different display on this same site:

Of Mustang and Manger

[ FOR BETTER RESOLUTION, CLICK ON IMAGE ] This is December 2006 at Rosinville, SC, the same site at which the Mustang and Military Mannequins was photographed. That was a military shrine, quite popular these days. It could have been interpreted as celebrating the birth of this nation.

In lettering upon the roof of the shrine there is a different celebration of birth in this one.

Forty years ago in many other parts of the nation during an unpopular war, displays of support for the US military were also unpopular and likely to be criticized if not vandalized when left unattended. Manger scenes, on the other hand, enjoyed traditional popularity and were ubiquitous around the nation. Even in trendy college towns which bought into the counter culture fashions of the moment, you'd find manger scenes in many stores and most public areas. It just wasn't questioned by serious people and those who questioned the public display of the Manger were not taken seriously.

Today even ardent opponents of the current war are very careful, if not always sincere, in making open public displays of support for "our men and women in uniform" as it's usually phrased in the same breath with which they condemn that war. Support of the Manger scenes, however, has come under increasing fire. Municipalities unwilling to face legal action from opponents of such displays are far more reluctant to allow them.

So, in many other parts of the country the military displays wax and the Manger wanes. Here in Rosinville there seems no political or cultural struggle, no wringing of hands and no controversy. Where Highways 178 and 15 intersect so do respect for the military and traditional Christian icons. For one's own personal safety, it would be wise to mess with neither in these parts

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

"They Shall be Apportioned for Foxes"


This is McClellanville, SC, a sentimental place in the Lowcountry heart. Anyone who gives a tinker's dam (not damn) about the survival of coastal life as we have known it cares about McClellanville. It is "organic" not in the cute fashionable sense of the word, but as a literal organ in the body of the Lowcountry. McClellanville is no appendix, no disposable body part, but as essential as the liver or lungs. It is part heart and part mind of the Lowcountry.

We are parked before a brace of shrimp trawlers which are still living, breathing members of what is still a genuine fishing village. They are the means by which many make their living and not the tourist trap props which such vessels will surely become in our more exploited corridors. This could become a marina village, a gated community which is with certainty more than a glint in some developer's eye at this moment. The lust for this land may well be affecting more than the developer's eye.

Development of our coast is a progressive disease which is migrating north from Mt. Pleasant, a diseased and now dead limb of the Lowcountry, a total wreckage of coastal ambiance. Any dullard who does not yet know how to prostitute a delightful vibrant village into petty cash may come to Mt. Pleasant and learn from the remaining buzzards who are pimping the last vestige of virtue out of this patch of fallen grace.

Believe in the Domino Theory. It is the way development goes metastatic from a few small tumors in these little communities. Just a several miles south of here, Awendaw has just opened its doors wide to developers and begun the end of life as they knew it. With a rag tag municipal government and a gaggle of gullible citizens who are soon to be taxed off of their land, developers had little trouble there. Now, McClellanville is within reach of predatory development.

The Charleston paper says that we can expect 400 new homes in McClellanville. Will some of them land where we are parked? This will improve life like dropping an anvil into a sinking Jon boat. It should not happen. We should learn the names and numbers behind this farce.

In these frustrating moments when we attempt to digest the ransacking of our native coast, we feel that if there is Divine justice in this world, then these developers and those who take it under the table to aid and abet them should be apportioned for foxes and sent into the infernal regions. In the near future when you tell someone to go to hell around here they won't have to move in inch to comply.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Yule Tied ? Guidelines for Seasonal Displays

We'll have to admit that on rare occasions we've had to substitute an exact replica or Pygmy Mustang GT where the full sized model might not go smoothly. 17 floors above Fifth Avenue last week is one example.

In today's photo does Santa or the Mustang look more real? The car does look like it just came from Santa's bag of tricks and Santa looks quite lifelike. The GT's no bigger than Mr. Kringle's brogans. The most realistic feature of Santa is the mooring lines attached to him fore and aft. Let's face it, today Santa needs guidelines as does any "Holiday" display.

Most of the Santa's in our experience, many portrayed in recent films and certainly the one who appeared in the favorite TV special," A Christmas Story ", have been ...well, gassed. This one seems that way literally and figuratively. The rubefacient which gives Santa that warm glow comes not from arctic winds or external applications. There's a reason that kids aren't allowed to smoke in Santa's presence. To prevent our department store Santas from misspeaking sentimental notions to our kids, we must keep him out of the bars and focus him on the barcodes.

Keeping Santa securely in check using today's best guidelines will assure that he does not topple over upon the kiddies, lose his trousers or step on any toes. Let's keep the Yule Tied Up !