Sunday, September 27, 2009

TUNNEL VISION - More Midlands Mystery

Don't let our insurance company see this. Here we are again going the wrong way on the wrong side of the road around a dangerous mountain curve...and NO ONE is in the car ( as usual ). You can bet your blinking blogs that we were plenty scared...and who wouldn't be !

We're a bit enchanted with the Midlands, actually Columbia, SC, the state capital and bedrock of the all knowing, all seeing, all blogging cognizanti. Naturally, one would be a bit taken aback to run into a mountain road tunnel right in Columbia. If you run into this " tunnel " things will go hard for you. It would be like those old Road Runner cartoons where characters would slam into a wall on which had been painted a road only to crash and peel off the surface. That's just what this is: a tunnel painted on a brick wall.

This is a wonderful piece of outdoor art painted on a wall at a Columbia parking lot by the artist Blue Sky in 1975 which is called " Tunnel Vision ". If you look closely it seems as if textured paper has been through an ink jet printer and there's just a bit of " banding " on the print. That is the texture of the bricks coming through. The only three dimensional prop is the guard rail. Everything else is painted. In person this is a stunning image which suddenly confronts drivers along a relatively drab section of Taylor Street.

There are some unkind critics who suggest that " Tunnel Vision " is not just artwork, but a theme for our Legislature. We pass off all political footballs to folks such as Ms. Manning at LaurinLine. We feel that driving into painted tunnels is a safer sport.

To get the true perspective of this display see the photo posted below:

The Duke of Berle

In the Pantheon of abandoned commercial spaces, the former site of the Berle Manufacturing company rates high on the stunning index. There is more parking here than in all of the metered spaces in the City of Charleston. One could, some have had sports car racing events here.

This place may be found just past Signal Point Road on the right hand side of Folly Road heading toward the beach.

The structures on his property are disused except for the space on the south end of the complex. It's been a very popular French restaurant and a smoky bar for boozers who live near the edge of the edge of America. It is some sort of chicken wing place now. Otherwise, the abject vacancy of the place is breathtaking. The Olympics could be held within this buildings and with no blocking of internet access.

How often we've passed this place and duly noted the scope of its oddness, but paid no attention to what might be found BEHIND the buildings. We figured that little more than empty liquor bottles, spent safety socks, needles and such might be there for the taking. Little did we know. Using a tip from an unnamed source, we eased around to the back of the building and saw what you see in the photos above.

These murals are clearly signed outdoor artwork and not criminal graffiti which we neither abide nor promote. The artist seems to go by the name of "Sheep head," a breed of fish to our book. We doubt that he's exhibited in any of the upscale northeastern galleries yet. Maybe these paintings are designed to drive off trespassers by sheer dint of fear. Whatever the commission, we were quite taken with this stuff.

Now if this quality of artwork could be painted on the front in what might be a more commercially instructive message, the parking spots might begin filling up. This fellow may not be king of the outdoor artists, but he is certainly the Duke of Berle.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Last Look at Randy's Hobby Shop

[ FOR BETTER RESOLUTION, CLICK ON IMAGE ] An item in the Charleston CITY PAPER by T. Ballard Lesemann sent us over to Mt. Pleasant, SC, to have a last look at yet another local treasure which is on it way out: Randy's Hobby Shop.

With the exception of some public nuisances, it's almost always sad to see a local business close. When it's a business which speaks to our early life adventures it will be missed all the more. Randy's has closed its doors. They specialized in delighting the spirits the very young, the very old and every group in between. Some hobbies are simple diversions, but others are educational, even inspiring.

In 1968, Randy Dicks of Dayton, Ohio, bought the rights for custom blending of model airplane fuel. Sooner or later most boys were lucky enough to get one of those model airplanes which had an actual internal combustion motor which was flown and controlled with a set of strings. They'd fly in a circle like the astronaut's pod on those giant centrifuges. You could make the plane climb and dive simply by the way you held the strings.

Dicks moved to South Carolina in 1974 and opened his hobby business. Over the last 29 years, the models and even some of the hobbies went through great changes, but the one constant was the fascination and delight which they bring. Mr. Dicks must have loved hobbies and those who followed them. What could be more rewarding than seeing a little boy's eyes grow large a saucers on walking into a place like Randy's. Old boys, too, were dazzled by the massive inventory at Randy's.

Advances in radio controlled devices boosted the hobby and the business. Regional championships are held in every part of the country. One has only to drive out to James Island County Park to see men well into

Friday, September 25, 2009

Supply and Da Man at Edisto

We are on Edisto Beach, SC, in front a place which promotes its Ugly Fish Gift shop. The green roof and blue trim are new, but the gas pumps it covers are not. Behind this bright greeting is the old solid concrete block building from which Whaley's Store has been supplying islanders for many years.

In the days before the supermarket or convenience store came to the north end of the island, all things came from Whaley's. If you didn't bring it with you then you went to Whaley's. If your ran out if it you went to Whaley's. They carried everything from soup to nuts, from beer to ice, light fishing tackle to chicken necks and crabbing sinkers. If one had not been prudent enough to full the gas tank long before reaching the beach, it was fuel at Whaley's price or he could sell you some nice flip-flops for the long walk up Hwy. 174. Whaley even had some sort of weather station rigged up at the store which provided customers with more of a curiosity than forecast.

Pricing and policy were not set by remote home office. Marion Whaley was the man who made all rules, regulations and revenue. It was all well and good to stew over the higher prices at Whaley's, but there it was, take it or leave it. It came down to the simple economic principle on Edisto, " Supply and Da Man ". Da Man being Marion Whaley.

Folks tend to fall into partying ways once settled in at the beach. When more, beer, ice or tonic water was needed, Whaley's was the safest, the only choice when it came down to driving any distance under those impairments.

There was, of course, unrelieved grumbling about the high prices at Whaley's, but we all went there and we all got what we wanted ultimately admitting that we could well have brought what we needed. Whaley's was part of what beach life should be. A stay at the beach was, after all, a getaway. You weren't spending the weekend at a shopping mall. Implicit in any sane person's getaway is the removal from stores of convenience as well as from the general crush of urban life, traffic and people.

Those were the days when an old AM radio might sit on the kitchen counter and pick up mostly the sharp pops of static from distant lightning. The few TV's around were small black and white models with little aluminum flags flying from their rabbit ears. We had yellow anti-bug bulbs at the street side of the house to save people from tumbling down the steps. Folks sat in the dark on screened porches, rocked in chairs to the sound of the surf, fast melting ice clinking in raised glasses with the only light coming from cigarettes. You could see faces only when the smoker drew hard on their cigarette.

One of Edisto's primary virtues is the fact that it's just a little too far for uninvited guests to simply happen by. Brazen were those who would drive a minimum of 45 minutes from Charleston over largely rural roads and claim to have just been in the neighborhood upon darkening your doorway. So, in those rare sober moments of beach weekends at Edisto, folks generally agreed that Whaley's prices were small prices to pay for the peace and relative solitude we so enjoyed in the old days.

Besides, we often went down on the chance that we might see Mr. Whaley himself and extract some bit of wisdom, some opinion or some advice on fishing, weather or sports. Whaley was decidedly charming in a salty sort of way. There have been Whaleys on Edisto Beach almost as long as the sand has been there, but they are far less vulnerable to erosion.

Fortunately, Edisto Beach still has a Whaley Store, still has indigenous Whaley families and is still a full 45 minutes drive from uninvited guests.

The Mustang You DO NOT Want to Meet

We've presented this Windveil Blue 2005 Mustang GT at places, from angles, in situations which we think are enjoyable and inviting. We'd like to think we're the kind of car folks might like to meet someday.'s one Mustang GT you DO NOT want to meet or even see in your rearview. Chances are you won't see him before he sees you.

The car belongs to the City of Charleston ( SC ) Police Department's Traffic Division. It is certainly the largest and probably the most prestigious municipal police force in South Carolina. CPD has its very own unique radio code system, examples: auto accident = Signal 40, traffic stop = Signal 19, DUI = Signal 45 and they do not use a " 10 " prefix which every other department in the US does. They have gone to an " On Glass " antenna for their two-way radio system which means no unsightly holes in that nice Mustang sheet metal. In fact, their GT might even be able to outrun the radio.

They patrol a municipality with very challenging and diverse traffic problems where some streets date back to pre-Revolutionary war days, many of which are one way. They deal with a community which has a military college, a medical university, a hell raising party college, a lot of crazy ( Signal 67 ) locals, an abundance of confused tourists all of whom have cars, lots and lots of cars who can't get there from here, but take to the road anyway.

We eased over to CPD headquarters ( 75 in radio code ) and got up with the traffic officer who pilots this black and white GT. He's big guy, a very nice fellow who kindly obliged us by parking along side and activated his blue lights which are the new LED type by the way. He asked how we liked the performance of our car and we replied that for some reason it never seemed to run over the speed limit in the City of Charleston jurisdiction, but ran a bit faster outside the city limits. We'd certainly enjoy seeing Unit #525 anytime socially, but ...not on business, please!

Thursday, September 24, 2009


One of our great pleasures is in discovering inventive, unusual or outrageous murals. Such murals are almost always painted on unattractive, unadorned expanses of masonry surfaces which were duller than dishwater and far less clean. They bring colorful relief the grayed out commercial sectors along our path.

This delightful patchwork of bricks in the great wall pictured above was in no need of such relief especially with the deep green carpet of grass before it. We initially thought this a great miscarriage upon the clay, an adventure in visual flatulence if you will. The garish colors fairly belch out from the bricks. Art this ain't, but we began to get the point.

The next to the last character on the wall is, of course, the logo for the University of Georgia and we are in Athens. Every college campus hungers for some force of wrong which they may right by protest. We're well versed in most of the causes celebres, but were unaware that music was being withheld from rightful ears by church, state or dreaded bourgeois parents. We turned on the FM radio and there wasn't much censored. We logged on to the internet and cubic yards of free music came forth.

After much thought and some research we came to understand that both the University and the town of Athens are very strong on the teaching, performing and appreciation of music. "MUSIC 4 EVERY 1" seems more a pledge to expand the opportunities in music to a wider variety of people than has been customary.

Democratisation or Democratization of information seems to be one of the celebrated changes in our social order brought on by the internet. Less often is knowledge the property of the literary, technical or social elite. The imperative statement on the wall seems to ask the same of music's custodians. No longer, they hope, must one swear a blood oath to The Juilliard School or be a descendent of Hector Berlioz or find the hidden key to open the doors to music. Whether one aims to become a virtuoso or simply fiddle around with music, they will have that chance. Certainly talent has not been the sole determinant of success in modern music, so why not give everyone a shot ?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Willkommen zum Mustang-Rollen


Rural roads wind the rolling hills of north Georgia providing a nice blend of cultivated fields, country homes and a scattering of charming tiny towns. On this first day of April under a brilliant blue sky we thus made our way toward Helen, Georgia. We undertook this bit of investigative touring having seen an ad in the SC lowcountry's " ISLAND LIFE" which showed a sketch of the place. Obviously, we need little if any provocation for hitting the bricks.

Good weather, open roads and the budding florets of Spring made the day. Changing gears with the gentle twists, turns and easy inclines came as smoothly as the fluid sweep of an old fly fisherman.

Suddenly we are met by a phalanx of bumper to handlebar car and bike traffic. Around that last turn, Helen presents as " Little Bavaria ", an entire town made in the image of a German village. It is a set piece which seems to have required unanimous consent of every owner of every patch of land to cooperate in the making of this fantasy. We imagined their Board of Architectural Review handing down stern decisions, " Sorry, not German enough. We want a little more gingerbread on those gables ".

This happened to be that one weekend during which everyone came to Helen. We had the feeling that everyone in the world was on Helen's e-mail list except Windveil. Babies in strollers, elders on walkers, fraternity boys crawling, everyone was there in a three generation array. You can't get some of the worst brats to eat bratwurst so there is a Wendy's for the unwilling.. Pommes-Frites mit dem?

The Hantzel and Gretel Candy Kitchen and Chocolate Factory caught our eye. There could have been a thousand or more people in Minideutschland at that moment so we took a pass on the H&G, but we managed to scatter some bread crumbs as we left in order that we might find our way back once the crowd cleared. That's as much GPS as we care to have.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Racing Canonballs !

Always competitive, we were challenged to race a ball fired from that brass cannon at the Citadel. It's the only college in the world with a drag strip designed for cars vs. cannons. The cadets had some gunpowder left over from their New Year's Eve celebration so they wanted to rumble. We had blown all of our fireworks so we decided to lay down a Windveil Blue streak for the Long Gray Line.

Well, actually the GT is parked on the driveway to the parade grounds at the Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina. This is just follow up to our most recent posting of the F-4 C Phantom jet fighter. That picture showed none of the surrounding buildings at the Citadel. We are in front of the Padgett - Thomas barracks and the official seal of the State of South Carolina hangs just above the arch.

The Citadel is a four year military college which still fields a full corps of cadets. Their graduates have fought in every war in which our nation has been engaged including the Civil War or as it's called down here, " The War Between the States ". In that war they fought on the side of the Confederacy, a legacy which had been celebrated ever since Lee surrendered to Grant...until the wet blanket of political correctness put an end to the singing of " Dixie " at their football games. " Dixie " is still played at a few limited events including some of the parade days. It ain't dead yet.

The Corps just as all other military colleges in the country had been all male until that policy was legally challenged some years back. During that controversy, a supporter of tradition printed up a batch of bumper stickers in blue which read: :"SAVE THE MALES" . It was wildly successful, but the Citadel's defense against the admission of females was not. That, as they say, is history and the corps soldiers on.

It is a beautiful campus and home to a proud corps of cadets. We are grateful to them for not being present since explaining this blog and our reasons for taking these pictures to anyone takes a long time and makes us look both suspicious and ....kind of crazy. We'd have been run out of the gates at bayonet point, but in viewing the account of our visit, we hope that they will know that our hat's off to them for the job they do, for the sacrifices they make for their country.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Navy Hymn

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Rockville Regatta: Lull Before the Storm

What is not sky, land or Windveil Blue Mustang is the historic Sea Island Yacht Club located on the bank of the Bohickett Creek at Wadmalaw Island, SC. In a few days, Saturday, August 5, these quiet empty spaces will be invaded by sailors, their boats, trailers and equipment. There will also be wall-to-wall spectators, drunk and wild and very loud. There will be hundreds of little bimbettes trying to fill out or perhaps fall out of their abbreviated bathing suits. Every parent cringes in hopes that it will not be their daughter who lifts her top and twirls them for the camera. They live in dread of seeing a TV commercial in the wee hours for, " BABES OF THE ROCKVILLE REGATTA : GIRLS GONE WILD VOL. 50 "

Thus will begin the annual Rockville Regatta. A regatta is a race between sailboats in this case. Every summer there is a series of regattas held at each of the local yacht clubs in the Charleston area and as far north as Wrightsville Beach, NC, and as far south as Savannah. Rockville has hosted a regatta for well over one hundred years. There is some sort of legend that it began as a rivalry between two friends or family members, but such legends are usually created by a two or more drunks who tell some sober person, but later forget that they made it up in the first place.

Different class boats will race at the regatta. The Y-Flyer, Sunfish, E and C Scow series boats, Lasers and many others including the indigenous Sea Island One Design ( SIOD ). The SIOD is a sailboat somewhat boxy in design, but is a sentimental favorite. These are not computer designed esoteric hulls such as Ted Turner might skipper in a stupor, but more home grown in its lines and a great deal less expensive to make. Competition to take home the silver is certainly the objective, but tradition will fill their sails as much as the wind.

The Rockville Regatta is the last race of the series each year. You can be assured that by Sunday evening when all, but a few residual young drunks will have been swept up, the good citizens of tiny, secluded Rockville will feel human once again as life returns to what it seems in the photograph.

Saturday, September 05, 2009


We have made our way across Ireland from Shannon to Sleahead on the Dingle Peninsula. We are seven days into the Emerald Isle. Here at Sleahead, these dramatic geological formations behind the GT had inspired David Lean to make the film, " RYAN'S DAUGHTER ". On the beach below this point, Irish partisans in the film had caused a merchant vessel to wreck on the treacherous rocks after which they gathered arms and ammunition from that wreckage for their cause.

The " struggle " is never far beneath any historical account or late night pub tirade in Ireland. It is as ever-present and abiding as the rocky coast itself. Rugged is the very history of Ireland itself. Never ending are feelings engendered in conflict and passed down ahead of all other traditions, save the Cross. Fatalistic are these people in their curious blend of resistance to their enemy and their grudging surrender to an inequitable fate. They have dug such holes that we dare not look down upon them lest we tumble in after them. The fall is easier than one might imagine. We come to this and not as strangers.

We are in fact four old boys, sons of the South, making our way through this oddly beautiful land. Today in our wandering through the town of Killarney we saw all of the usual tourist traps, the grizzled old boys just a few steps behind the next pint, a juggling fool looking for coins and a tiny boy playing a discordant tune on an accordion, but with neither hope nor container for money. Sometimes we want to spit on the able young deadbeats who shake us down for fun money, but often those who take our hearts in honest ways give us no way to save them. This is an Irish norm.

By and by we ran into " Mustang Sally's " seen in the second photo. There is a fair representation of an early GT in the sign, but the more recognizable ensign is the "Stars and Bars", that not genuine flag of the Confederacy, the victim of every redneck misappropriation from Klan rallies to stock car racing. We would ignore this, but for the fact that it is clear that this version of the Flag is all they know of our "struggle". In sadder study it becomes clear that they feel a kinship perhaps in rebellion, but mostly to the " Lost Cause ". In many foreign countries, young people use the Confederate Flag as an in-your-face revolt against cultural norms, that is, they hate their parents and use this to make the point. In Ireland, however, it's more the kinship to that " Lost Cause " which makes the link.

Few tablets read as truly as the Irishman's face. During a minor cattle stampede yesterday, we spoke to the cattleman as one of our numbers holds cattle back home. When the cattleman found out that we were not English, but citizens of the southern US, his smile was broad and welcoming. He took time out to talk of his cattle, ask after ours, and tell us all about his trips to the US. Some of the men we meet know a bit of Charleston, the seat of Rebellion, and when we tell them that the Mayor of our town is The Honorable Joseph Patrick Riley, Jr., they smile with a pride there is no mistaking.

This evening, our last in the current digs, we had a large table for the evening meal. For the first time in our visit a lady was playing an upright piano, mostly well known show tunes from a printed music book. After a few pops, you know what our boys so often wish to hear which we may not hear back home. It's that very song, that forbidden one. Your humble correspondent took up the dare and went over to the lady who had never asked for requests. When the request was made, she turned with blazing eyes and asked, "'re rebels, are you now ? " to which the only honest answer was " Yes, Ma'am, that we are !"

When you're more than a few sheets to the wind and ever so far from home and a dear old gal plays " DIXIE " on the piano slowly and develops the tune progressively, it's no shame to shed a few tears in land which loves the " Lost Cause " as much if not more the we.


There's a well worn adage to the effect that a man will drive endlessly when lost before stopping to ask directions. That is a form of surrender to which no self respecting male driver willingly submits this side of a life and death event. It's OK of he's looking for a hospital to deliver someone else in need of medical attention. It's humiliating if he's just looking for some point of interest on a weekend lark. It just isn't done.

Bound for Ridgeway, SC, we found ourselves breaking new ground on S.C. Hwy. 34 out of Kershaw County. By and by there seemed no evidence that Ridgeway was in our future. As the miles slipped by it became obvious that we were on the wrong end of Hwy 34. Even the most inconsequential hamlets sooner or later show up on a road sign. The big boys: Charleston, Columbia, Greenville, get a hundred miles advance notice, but you're lucky to get a three mile warning of the tiny towns. No sign of the Ridgeway sign.

Suddenly we saw a sign which immediately brought to our mind's ear a rousing song by Bruce Springsteen: " Coming into Darlington County....". Bam! There we were in Darlington. We figured that we'd salvage our time and fuel by finding the famous Darlington Speedway. It was one of the very first and came at a time when those who were making big names at Darlington had already made big names with the Treasury Department. Many a good driver's skills were honed on the back roads running bootleg booze and evading Federal Agents or " Revenuers ". These weren't boys who'd been sent to expensive racing schools on weekends to be instructed in piloting Porsches. These were kids lived to drive and drove to life in the most literal and dangerous way.

In our youth we admired these daring rebels with criminal records and complete disregard for safety. It was everything a boy of that time wanted: fast driving, dangerous thrills and a complete disregard for authority. That was the heart of what became NASCAR which has today become a sophisticated corporate entity. Once the race cars were sponsored by manufacturers of spark plugs, motor oil and tires. Today it's software vendors, soft drink makers and laundry detergents. Can a Summer's Eve car be far behind ? Oh, how the mighty have fallen !

When we rolled up to the speedway a very nice security agent offered to let us walk into the stands to photograph the track from a restricted point. We were apparently not the first to wonder whether we might drive on to the track and are certainly not the last to have our request politely declined.

Upon leaving we noticed a series of large photos of the Hall of Fame drivers. How young these fellows seemed today. One in particular radiated both youth and optimism and had won in his day the largest group of devoted fans. We had to stop and pay homage to one of the all time greats: Good King Richard. He no longer pushes the throttle of #43, but promotes headache powders. But, like Clark Gable, no matter what he will always be the king. Long live the King.