Monday, August 18, 2008

Shark Steak Don't Need No Gravy

Back in the days before the shark became an icon of film horror, it was food. Certainly no one ever underestimated the predator, but plenty of other creatures in the water would sting, cut, gnaw or eat one. The ideas was to eat them before they ate you. He who caught then sold or ate them was ahead of the game in the far leaner periods of Charleston's history.

Long before fishing became a sport in our local and off shore waters, it was a means of making a living even one of survival. Throughout our history continuing into the 1950s, the streets of Charleston would ring out with the cries of vendors hawking their fish, shrimp and crabs. They called out, " shrimp man " or " shrimp raw " or otherwise broadcast their catches of that day. They pushed weathered wooden carts through which melting ice dripped to the street. At one corner of the cart would be a davit which suspended a scale and beneath that was the weighing pan. This was their only Point of Sale device. The fish you bought from these fellows was a bit this side of Sashimi grade. Charleston had not yet mounted that high epicurean horse which it rides today.

One of the well known promotional jingles held that:
"Shark steak don't need no gravy,
Put 'em in the pot,
They make they own.."

Fashion often shifts the trends in our preferred foods, but in some neighborhoods old tastes endure. In the photo C&J Pantry on Spruill Avenue still keeps the faith. Consider CJ's as one of the last outposts.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Dragging Anchor

The top photo was taken in May of 2006, the lower one was taken today. This is the old Anchor night club at 2700 Spruill Avenue in North Charleston,SC. We had high hopes that the club would be renovated into something which would provide a safe and enjoyable place for folks to drink and dance.

We were particularly fond of their classic sign. It has become fashionable to renovate industrial and commercial buildings for restaurants and art galleries,but to keep the original signs and exterior decoration. This could have worked well at the old Anchor. We thought that this was to be a success when it was
briefly turned into a nightclub with a decidedly Latin accent. We had hoped that the place would not be made too fancy nor overly gentrified. Those fears were clearly unfounded.

Unfortunately, the building has been drawn into anonymity with a coat of extra dull gray paint, the sign has been destroyed and someone has cordoned off what was the grand entrance with chain link fencing. We thought, well, maybe it's to be the new Navy brig and we'd at least get to see some terrorists paraded through the salleyport.

That, too, was not to be. We now have yet another scrap metal yard in the Charleston Neck area of our peninsula. Presumably, they buy scrap metal rather than selling it to the general public. You probably won't see any terrorists passing through here, but you might see some of your missing copper guttering being dragged in this direction.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

The Mustang is in the Corn, but why is the Corn in the Mustang ?

As we emerge from a stand of corn we are given to wonder what in the world is corn doing in our fuel tank? It make more sense for the car to be in the corn field. By the way we used 5th gear for economy to get to the corn field and traveled within the posted speed limit for...most of the trip during which we thought the greenest of thoughts.

If you build it, they will come. We refer not to the movie line, but the construction of a farce as big as the Ritz and far more costly. It is a lie wrapped in false science and propelled by the "ethanol lobby." This is actually the "corn lobby" with a few extra bandits along for the ride.

Producing a gallon of ethanol costs 57 cents more than making a gallon of gasoline yet it has less than 2/3 the energy (BTU) value of gasoline. You're losing in both directions. Your mileage goes down, but your costs go up. Production of ethanol when blended in gasoline is an energy loss and it requires fossil fuels not solar power or windmills to produce. The ethanol used in the US to dilute our gasoline is produced by corn, the most heavily subsidized crop in the US. On top of that the ethanol producers, not individual farmers but corporate agri-businesses and blenders get a 51 cents-per-gallon tax credit which costs you an additional two billion Yankee dollars a year.

Ethanol from sugar cane contains a far greater BTU value than the relatively low energy from corn. The climate in the major agricultural acreage which now supports corn or wheat is not favorable toward sugar cane. The boys from Brazil have done a masterful job of producing ethanol from sugar cane and would sell us plenty, but....

The Ethanol Import Tariff of 1980 imposed a duty of 54 cents for EVERY gallon imported into the United States. Recent attempts to lower or remove this import penalty have been heavily opposed by lobbyists for the corn and ethanol producers. This was another put up job on behalf of the early ethanol speculators following the oil embargo which we also ignored in the early 1970s. Measures this absurd required bipartisan support.

Ethanol is more volatile than gasoline so it presents the need for more complex and expensive seasonal blending yet another excuse to bend you over at the pump. It also contributes a bit more to smog in major metro areas like LA, but not so much as you'd notice or care for that matter.

So, what the heck IS corn doing in our tank. Far from a fuel supplement, corn ethanol is siphoning away gasoline from our tanks and money from our pockets. We are not unlike chronic alcoholics who have matriculated to the level where we truly NEED Old Everclear 190 proof grain to stave off the DTs, but have been required by our government to purchase 80 proof Old Mr. Boston from Tiffany's and have it delivered by FedEx Priority Overnight.

Friday, August 01, 2008

On the set of 'ARMY WIVES"

We've been checking out the growth in Charleston's "Neck Area," that track of land laying between the Ashley and Cooper Rivers to its west and east at the peninsula's narrowest portion. It's bordered at the south by Mt. Pleasant Street, the old city line and the beginning of Spruill Avenue which is the new city line between Charleston and North Charleston, SC.

This is a former industrial area which is being transformed into lighter industries and general businesses. There are only two streets which run up the "Neck": King Street Extension and Meeting Street Road. We're on upper Meeting across from the Pepsi Cola plant in the 1500 to 1600 block stretch. We saw this new construction underway several weeks ago, but were taken by the rather small size and somewhat ticky tacky appearance. Once completed it was never open. We know that condos are poison in today's economy, but could a business fold before opening its doors? We pulled into the place yesterday for some answers.

Little did we realize that we'd stumbled on to the set of the Lifetime Network television series "Army Wives" being shot on location in Charleston. The series which we've read about, but never seen takes place in fictitious Fort Marshall. This spot is a cafe where some of the more colorful action is shot. From the road it appears to be a brick structure, but upon closer inspection it is simply plywood with an embossed design to make it resemble brick. We were drawn to a small poster attached to a telephone pole. It looked pretty real, but the telephone number gave it away. Anytime you see the exchange 555 , it's for TV or movies. That's probably so drunks won't dial the number late at night hoping to find one of the less formal Army wives who frequent the place in the series.

While it's a fake building the location is genuine being almost equidistant between two of the best known strip joints in the region. So, if the dialogue and action are as seedy as some critics claim, they're coming by it honestly.