Friday, August 31, 2007


Barely 24 hours after posting our photos of the Speed Hump we returned to the scene of the sign, but it was gone. Gone, gone, gone...really gone.

We stopped dead, got out, looked everywhere, but no sign of the sign did we see. The nice tall green solid steel channel post to which the large yellow sign had been bolted was still there and naked as a jaywalker in San Francisco. There had been no attempt to twist, relocate or otherwise cause the post to present the warning sign to oncoming vehicles. This was no corrective measure, no vigilantee righting of public wrong, but a cold and calculated blow against the empire.

Bring out your UV light tonight, but you won't find any funny fluids. Call in Crime Scene, but they'll find no latent prints here. You can forget all about DNA because Zombies don't have any. The only clue to this crime is tucked away in our glove box right next to the expired proof of insurance card. The whole mystery is explained in the note we found at the scene bearing the following lyrics:

Well no one told me about her,
The way she lied
Well no one told me about her,
Oh how that Speed Hump sign did hide,
But it's too late to say you're sorry
How would I know, why should I care
Please don't bother tryin' to find her,
She's not there !

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Stupid is as Stupid Does

The City of Charleston's peninsula is its most historic section, the site of its oldest buildings and its most challenged and challenging thoroughfares. It is geological pranks rather than neglect by the City which more often challenges the surfaces of our paved roadways.

The keyword is "city" for that's what we are, an urban complex of commercial and residential structures the access to which is not always an easy task. We are a very old city, but a fully functioning one and not a museum or theme park. People live and work here and need to connect their lives. Between us and our appointed rounds are slow moving horse drawn carriages which often ignore stop signs and the cars blocked behind them. Ditto for tour busses. We have much needed infrastructure repairs in progress all over town and we have a lot of tourists who are as stuck as the locals by these annoyances.

The new challenge is neither geological nor deferred maintenance, but part of the process of "suburbanization" of Charleston. The city has many new residents who are either unaware of what urban life is about or are simply hard core suburbanites. If they could erect cute little wooden signs reading " 13 MPH " such as found at Kiawah Island, they'd feel more at home.

The favorite scheme of the not-ready-for-peninsula-Charleston set is the speed hump. We used to call them "speed bumps," but they prefer the term "hump," a verb more accurately describing their effect upon orderly transit in our city. This is suburbanization in action. It is a staple of the Nanny Statists, but mostly it's the self-centered who are humping the rest of us. They are usually the squeaky wheel which the City must oil. It's a dunce of a plan which creates additional contempt for traffic control devices. The fool who wants one in front of his house gets what he deserves: frequent squealing of tires from cars slamming on breaks due to poor warning and, of course, the absurdity of the hump being there in the first place.

Check out this useful warning sign in front on the west side of Logan Street just slightly south of Broad. It appears that the same level of intelligence which demanded the installation of the hump also designed the placement of the warning sign. As Mr. Gump says, "Stupid is as stupid does."

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Little Tara

The American Civil War is the seminal event in Southern history. It created, defined and fertilized the history of the South as we now know or believe it today. The academic factual study of that war is the work of many scholars. What lives in our Southern hearts is the unequal blend of fact and legend. The way the nation looks at this period is the work of one movie: "GONE WITH THE WIND".

The 1939 release of "GWTW" was met by a review in "The New Yorker" magazine with, "Margaret Mitchell's bomb of a book has been made into a bomb of a film ." It did not, of course, bomb, but became the most popular movie of all time. It has endured every bump in the rocky road of race relations in the South from that moment forward. It uses expressions and honors emotions which are no longer allowed in popular entertainment. And it is popular throughout the length and breadth of the United States. We can't get enough of it.

Central to the movie is the character of Scarlet O'Hara and central to her character is Tara, the family plantation. She draws her strength from the red earth of Tara as we are told by Ashley Wilkes. Her father holds that land is the only thing which endures and that Tara must never fall from the family's grasp. It is to Tara that Scarlet returns to rebuild her life. Tara is all that separates her from the landless hordes. Tara is not about the oppression of Reconstruction nor the villainy of Carpetbaggers nor does it come to celebrate the grace and beauty of the old South nor does it excuse slavery. Tara is about land, the holding and working of one's land, the sense land having something akin to a soul. It suggests that land may define a person's point and purpose in living. To that end it is one of the film's few concepts which still has a place in American life.

On the sign which proclaims the grounds with to be " Little Tara " there are the unmistakable trappings of Johnny Reb, but the implied message is more like "this is our property." If asked in we would not expect to find a suburban mansion or the garish appointments of faux plantation decor, but a house of normal proportions, a home to landed folks who may themselves draw strength and purpose from their piece of Johns Island earth.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Which Came First ?

We weren't aware that there was a chicken or egg question hanging over the fateful mischief in the Garden of Eden. Here at the New Webster United Methodist Church (established 1883) on Wadmalaw Island, SC, that question, however, has been answered. Since apples are not grown on the island, we suspect no commercial farming influence in this message. It looks like the Lord's fruit is off the hook and his failed peeps were the problem.

Spreading the word is often Job 1 for the church regardless of denomination. In a sense churches compete not so much with one another, but against sin or the dark side or low living or any number of secular evils. Whatever their target, the Sunday sermon must seem insufficient ammunition against the week's wickedness.

Large, affluent congregations extend their righteous reach with television ads, mass mailings and grand programs which gather the flock in style and on message. Lacking this array of artillery, the small country churches look for more bang for their buck. The illuminated plastic panel roadside sign has become a weapon of choice. It's hard to say when these first began to sprout at the rural roadsides, but they've been used to promote every thing from convenience stores to church revivals, from massage parlors to Maypole dances, from political candidates to specials on toilet paper at the IGA.

They are called "all track panel signs". You can get a nice 8 x 3 foot job designed to withstand up to 120 mph winds made of non-yellowing and impact resistant GE Lexan® sign face with an all aluminum cabinet with welded, reinforced mitered corners, internally illuminated, double-sided 3’ x 8’ cabinet topped off with Graffiti resistant DuPont paint for the case. That's about nineteen hundred bucks.

We are certain that such signage is unacceptable along the high tone commercial avenues of the City of Charleston, but we think that the City might want to try out some of that DuPont Graffiti resistant paint. This brings up another timeless question: Which came first, the vandal (a/k/a "street artist during the Spoleto season) or the spray paint can ?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Gobel's TV Reapir and the Disposable Society

Knowing Charleston fully is knowing Charleston Obscura. Not many drivers notice Gobel's TV Repair at 1011 St. Andrews Boulevard as they cling to life by a tenuous grip upon their steering wheels. Today's drivers appear to be extracts of the bovine, canine and feline lineage in body and mind though all are related via the subphylum of the uninsured motorist. They keep us on our toes and deny us the leisurely drives which once allowed a greater appreciation of shops and homes along that boulevard. We know that Gobel's goes largely unnoticed. We knew of it years ago and returned for this visit.

One of Charleston's few remaining clerics possessed of humility, brevity and insight recently asked how a place such as Gobel's could survive in an era when people routinely toss their sets to the sidewalk on their way out to buy another new one. Bypassing Gobel's was his metaphor for our wasteful and disposable society. It may well be cost effective to have Gobel repair that TV, but it's more the unwillingness to get an estimate, to take the time to find out if a repair is worthwhile. It's easier to toss the TV and to give it a fair hearing.

That metaphor went further and into the territory of disposable people. It suggests that we are too lazy, too busy or too indifferent to bother to repair and maintain our links to other people, to family and friends. We tend also to get what we can from people, to exploit them, then abandon the mine once the assay turns poor.

Someone's always screaming about filling the landfills with our discarded goods which bring both bulk and contamination such as from circuit boards in TVs and computers. It is high sanctimony and very stylish to wax indignant over our growing landfills. Is there someone from the Sierra Club or a rock star or some political hack who will help us in the matter of a landfill for discarded people?

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Silver Slipper slips

Here we are at the Silver Arcade, formerly the Silver Slipper, a name which better suits the image upon the sign. The slipper contains, but appears to be spilling either off color pearls (unlikely) or gold coins (more to the point) which are pouring from the toe. They are composed of a mass of small yellow light bulbs. It must look nicer at night when the rust, displaced parking bulkheads, litter and lost traffic cones are not visible. It is unlikely that the owners took the new name from a lovely spot in Leicester, England.

In June 1996, the S.C. Department of Revenue conducted an inspection of the Silver Slipper (now Silver Arcade) then a year later, based upon findings of violations of law, petitioned the S.C. Administrative Court for fines and other restrictions against the business owner, Ace-Hi, which SCDOR claimed clearly permitted licenses to be used in contravention of the statute.

"Slipper" suggests one thing to us, but "Arcade" suggests quite another. Some years back in perhaps happier days The Silver Slipper leased 20 "Class III" video gaming machines from Pedroland, Inc., located at Highway 301 & I-95, Dillon, South Carolina. The inspection states that a "payout counter" was located in a common area off which were located 4 rooms each containing 5 video gaming machines. The Administrative Court directed the SCDOR to revoke 5 of the licenses in addition to other measures.

The Video Game Machines Act was enacted in 1993 to regulate the video game machines industry and to prevent large-scale casino type gambling operations in the State of South Carolina.

Big time organized gambling has an unpleasant odor which does not blend well with the cultivated corn fields just across the road from the Arcade. Based upon the overall appearance of the place, it would appear that at least in this spot, gambling is under control for the moment.