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Inspirational Reads


March 25, 2010

I had never been to Charleston, SC before this past weekend, but everyone who goes there raves about their experience. So, I was looking forward to seeing the city, mostly because it was before the summer, with the high humidity and the sticky heat. Though it wasn't going to be hot and humid, the weather was still going to be warm, sunny, and generally pleasant.

With that in mind, we got up Saturday morning and began the five-hour drive down to the city, a ride which was highlighted by a stop in Lumberton, NC to pee. Did you know that Lumberton, NC smells like shit? Neither did we. And that was before we went to the bathroom.

The second highlight of the trip was finding a Sonic in Manning, SC (which I referred to as "Peyton's Place", because I'm fucking clever). With the juicy deliciousness of a Super Sonic and tater tots in our bellies, we set out again on the road with Charleston in our sights.

Perhaps the most enjoyable part of the drive, however, were the groan-worthy road signs for this theme-park-ish place called "South of the Border", which is literally just south of the North Carolina border. The entire way down I-95, the route is littered with large, black billboards featuring this characture of a Mexican guy named "Pedro" and bad, bad, terrible puns. The place looked as corny and as bad as the billboards promised. Silently, I vowed to ruin a weekend in my children's future by taking them to Pedro's South of the Border.

Anyway, we get to the hotel, get checked in, take brief power naps, and then get dressed and ready to go. We have a rehearsal at four and the wedding is at six. So, we drive down into downtown Charleston where my wife's parents are staying. There, the kids change, I watch five minutes of basketball, and then we're heading down to the lobby and the bar area, where my wife's family is congregating before heading over to the church.

Now, my wife's family is very huggy. Time to greet one another? Hugs! Time to say good-bye? Hugs! You just ripped a big fart and a look of complete bliss is covering your features? HUGS!

With that in mind, as we're standing down in the lobby, I see my wife's aunt come wandering toward the bar area. I look and say to myself, "Oh, my wife's aunt got her hair done. How nice. Well, might as well get this over with." And, as she approaches, I throw my arm around her to give her a hug.

About halfway through the embrace, I suddenly realize, Oh fuck, this isn't my wife's aunt. Instead, I hugged my wife's aunt's sister, who was very confused and who shunned me for the rest of the weekend. I guess I shouldn't have grabbed some ass while in the hug.

Thankfully--blissfully--it was time to walk over to the church. "It's only a couple of blocks away!" I hear. This will become a theme. Apparently, in Charleston, "blocks" means "time zones", and the walk seems even longer when you have dress shoes on that don't really fit all that well.

So, after wandering to almost the Georgia border, we finally find the church, which is a lovely old complex--probably as old as, or as close to as old as, the city itself--where we have the rehearsal. The problem is, my son and I aren't in the rehearsal, and he's bored and, well, frankly, so was I. So we went for a walk and eventually found our way into an old graveyard. It was magnificent, looking at all those old graves, but I worry that Charleston might have a vampire problem, based on the number of broken graves I found.

Finally, it was time for the wedding, which was short and lovely...kinda like my wife. Hi-yo! Anyway, after pictures, it was time to--guess what!--walk to the reception. "It's just over a block and down three!" someone said. And so, away we went.

And went.

And went.

And went some more.

It seemed to take forever, but there we were, in the Exchange building, where there were seats and food and drinks. Except, the alcohol was beer and wine. That's cool and all, and the bar was an open bar, but I needed something to drink and with my inability to drink beer, that wasn't an option. Also, since my taste in wine tends toward the "alcoholic kool-aid" side of the spectrum, that was kind of out, too.

But, man, did I drink a lot of free Sprite.

The food was excellent. I went back twice for Shrimp 'n Grits alone, and the roast beef was melt-in-your-mouth tender and delicious. Yes, please, I'll have another. And, as the food line finally began dying down, the dancing revved up.

And the scene was stolen by my five-year-old son. He took to the dance floor like no one I've seen before...and the sad thing was, he danced really well. I guess that's what happens when you're completely uninhibited. He would dance, and then he would come and eat some pretzels and color, and then he would dance some more.

And, Gwen...he came up to me and said, "I want someone to show me how to do the Electric Slide." I think you owe him five bucks.

I mostly stayed around the fringes, reading some of the historical notes about the city and such and talking with family members. My wife's cousin, the one who got married? His new wife is an old family friend. Her father is the president of the University of Louisiana-Monroe. And, he's also, possibly, one of the nicest men I've ever met. Friendly, gregarious, tall and with a solid handshake, I took an instant liking to him. I liked him so much, I didn't even hit him with the "Why are you trying to ruin the NCAA tournament?"

He's on the board that is looking into expanding the tournament next season from 65 teams to 96. I have a bad feeling that, had I asked him about it, he would have convinced me that it's a really, really good thing. He seemed eloquently persuasive like that.

Finally, we were calling it a night. Tank had danced himself out and my feet hurt so badly I wanted to cry like there was a snake in my kitchen or something. So...we walked back to the hotel. Except...we didn't know where we were going, so we kind of went for a little ways and then turned and walked longer and longer and longer and, finally, we found Meeting street (one of the main thoroughfares) and worked our way back to the hotel from there. Fortunately, we didn't meet any sketchy characters (nor vampires), and we sat in the hotel bar for a while and had a generally nice time until the kids complained that they were "tired" and that "their feet hurt" and they wanted "to go to bed." So, we got in the car, drove back to our hotel, and crashed.

We were up again before the sun and made our way downtown again for brunch. Goddamn, I love grits. We then decided to wander the streets a little bit and explore the city and eventually we'd eat lunch, say our good-byes and drive home.

Now, this is where I truly saw Charleston, and the residential part of the city is as-advertised. The gardens probably weren't at their peak yet, but what I saw was certainly beautiful. I'm sure it's even more lovely with the leaves on the trees and such, but the buildings and the architecture and the gates and ironwork were magnificent. We walked down to the Battery, which overlooked part of the harbor and you could see Fort Sumter in the distance. We saw some dolphins, we saw big, replica cannon and statues of naked Greek soldiers (I don't know either).

And we saw rain. Falling on our heads as we made our way back to the market area for lunch. And we saw more rain. And, eventually, we saw a downpour as we were just a little bit away from our lunching destination, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Having just tortured myself watched Forrest Gump a couple of weeks ago, this was kind of cool. I knew it was one of those over-priced chains established with the sole purpose of luring in tourists to part them with their money, but it was a place that was easily found and could seat a large group (I think there were fourteen of us). So, there you have it.

I opted for the shrimp 'n grits again, because it was affordable. It wasn't nearly as good as that offered at the reception the night before, but it was still acceptable (though the ham had been heat-lamped to a stringy, rubbery, inedible mass). We ate, walked back to the hotel, got in the car and took one last turn down by the water and the enormous cruise ship that was in port because it was afflicted with norovirus, and then we came home. Fortunately, Bubba Gump and brunch sated us enough that we didn't need to stop to eat on the way home and we all came in, fell into bed, and slept.

Except for one of us, who battled fever and the desire to puke and a lot of rumblies in his tummy. But that's a story for another day. That day being yesterday.


Jeney Peney said...

Ever since you started talking about shrimp and grits I've been seeing it EVERYWHERE.

Bobby Flay even had a Throw Down with it last night.

...that sounded dirty.

Adam L. said...

I married into a "hugging" family as well, although I don't think I hugged anyone I didn't know (except at my wedding, when they approached me). Not yet, anyway...

carissajaded said...

HAHA my favorite part is when you hugged the wrong aunt. Every time our family gets together I find myself just hugging old people, having no clue whether they are actually part of my family or not.

Nej said...

My family are not huggers, but my in-laws, and most of my friends are. I don't mind it at all...turns out, I can be a hugger too. :-)

red said...

I think you are obsessed with shrimp and grits.

Bev said...

I'm a hugger too. If I met you, I'd probably hug you, but I promise not to grab some ass. My husband hates it when I do that to men I've just met.

Sounds like a great trip & a great city. I'd love to visit it someday for the vampires alone!

Oh, and my son and yours would get along swimmingly. D's also a dancin' fool at weddings! His classic move is to run towards the stage and sliiiiiide on his knees while air-guitaring, kind of like genuflecting to the band. He has ruined more dress shoes that way....

Soda and Candy said...

Charleston is very pretty, and they also have a kickass aquarium.

Also, mmm shrimp. You can keep the grits ; )

Elliott said...

Grits are a gift from heaven. Especially if you can find a sweet southern grandmother to make them for you. I may just need to suck it up and start making my own once we move back north.

Ireland said...

my family went to myrtle beach last summer and we stopped at "South of the Border"

that place is like the poster-boy for tourist traps.

but man, is it awesome!

Eric said...

Road trips are the best kind to take in a car, and puns on highway signs are the purest form of humor.

Sounds like an eventful weekend.

Gwen said...

I've been to Charleston twice. The first time I was in Charleston I sat on the beach in the rain and watched a hurricane roll in. The second time I went on a similar walking tour through the Battery, in the rain. I want to go back sometime when it isn't raining. Rain or no rain, the history and architecture and aesthetic of Charleston is amazing.

Tell Tank his fiver will be in the mail before the end of next week.

words...words...words... said...

My family drove to Florida from NJ twice while I was little, and I still remember those damn South Of The Border signs. The memory came screaming back when I saw the Wall Drug signs littering I-90 in South Dakota.

Also, I don't care how nice he is. You should have punched that university president in the cock. Not only should they not expand to 96, they should get rid of that 65th team. It's the stupidest thing I've ever seen, and also aesthetically offensive.

Pearl said...

Nice trip!

Have never been to SC myself, but may have to go just to see the Pedro's signs.

I do love a good pun.


Amber Tidd Murphy said...

My family hugs, too. While in mid-hug, they do a "pat, pat, pat" on the shoulder -- always three pats.

I have never been to Charleston, but this post made me want to do the Charleston or eat a Charleston Chew... with a Jew on the loo... in a town that smells like poo.

SkylersDad said...

I have never traveled much back east, and when I did it was as a tech support person and my company wanted me to work... assholes.

I do like walking around and getting the feel of a new place. There is only so much you can take in as you ride in a cab going by at Mach 3.

MJenks said...

@ Jeney: I would recommend that, if you get the chance, try it. Well, if you like sea food, that is. Or grits. Kind of important on both accounts there.

@ Adam: Well, I can tell you from personal experience that it's disturbingly awkward, but makes for a good story around the dinner table later.

@ carissajaded: See, this is why I'm not a hugger. Hugging random people that may or may not be a part of the family? Not cool.

Plus, hugging is an excellent way for cooties to be transmitted. That's a fact.

@ Nej: I thought that, too, that I could be a hugger. That train of thought gets derailed quickly when you hug the wrong aunt.

@ red: Redheads a shrimp 'n grits: two great things to obsess over.

@ Bev: I've never seen him dance like that before. He was a maniac, maniac on the floor-or.

And, if you don't grab my ass, I'll be put off. I might even cry a little.

I'm tearing up right now. *sniffle*

@ S&C: I actually like grits a lot, too. And, I've heard great things about the aquarium, but we didn't go.

@ Elliot: Or a comely and buxom redheaded lass. Even better if she played the saxophone in high school. *wink*wink*nudge*nudge*

@ Ireland: I had the feeling that it would be an awesome tourist trap. I mean, I never sausage a place and all. Plus, I'm guessing it's a badge of honor. "Hey, I went to South of the Border and didn't die! High fives!"

@ Eric: I miss my road-tripping days. A lot. *sigh*

It wasn't bad eventful, though, which is always good.

@ Gwen: Our walking around on Saturday was great, but as we were headed to two very specific places, we didn't get to see much. Even the walk on Sunday morning was fine, before the rain drenched us.

@ words^3: If he had been even slightly obnoxious, I would have. However, he was a nice guy and now I'm related to of. I guess. So, you know, it's never a good thing to nutshot someone shortly after meeting them, especially on the night of their wedding.

Plus, I've heard about Wall Drug. Never seen the signs, though. Or the place.

@ Pearl: Or terrible ones, I hope. For the bad rap it gets, South Carolina isn't nearly as bad as I envisioned. But then, most of my exploration of the state has been by interstate, so...*shrugs*

@ Amber: Well, I can't help you out with the Jew, but I do know a town that smells like poo on the way to Charleston. And, there's a loo there, too. And maybe even a yew or two.


@ Skydad: Doesn't that totally suck? When your place of employment asks you to do something in return for their monies. Ugh.

True. It's the walking in a downpour and/or walking in dress shoes that I don't like.