Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Fried Green Tomatoes, Crab Cakes and Low Country Ghosts

Fried green tomatoes, crab cakes, collard greens, ghosts and thunder storms, a Low country Spring time vacation in Charleston, SC scores big. 
Meeting Street

Jestine’s Kitchen,  down-home fried green tomatoes, Hyman’s, hush-puppies and stuffed grouper, Sticky Fingers, simmering peach cobbler, The Swamp Fox, pure elegant dining to Palmetto Charleston beer,  chocolate-covered pecansSavannah Bee Sourwood honey, and Super-duper Extra triple-Strength cat nip for my feline souvenir, it’s a wonder I don’t waddle down the street.  
Southwest Oakland to Charleston, I land on a Monday afternoon on a connecting flight out of Houston. A simple, convenient transport by the Charleston Airport Shuttle not only is inexpensive it provides a scenic tour and comfortable chatter between my new-found travel mates. Price range $12.50/one-way shared ride; $30/one-way single passenger. A best travel tip. 
Not so fresh from the airport, I arrive at the Jasmine House Inn. Rated #10 of 49 Bed and Breakfast Inns in Charleston, it ranks high on my top five list.
Jasmine House Inn Courtyard

Nestled behind the main house, my room is in the carriage house. Carriage house number two. With a lace canopy bed, loveseat and rose-floral wallpaper, I step back into a slower time; a Southern Charm. The second-story room provides a door that opens to the veranda. In my pajamas, I savor my light breakfast – hot-biscuits, fresh fruit, cereal, orange juice and hot coffee – the menu varies daily. Just below in the courtyard, guests dine at the patio tables. A Cardinal perches on the veranda rail in wait of morning crumbs.
Vibrant colors dot the greenery, the humidity level is just under the sweat radar and the night-blooming jasmine perfumes the air. Twelve bites and counting the mosquitoes dine on the bare skin so insect repellant is a must in your side pocket.
Charleston is an awesome City. Deep in history, pride and personality. I feel guilty having Yankee-blood. I'm humbled as I step onto Fort Sumter and reel in the realities.
Tuesday, I’m off and running to my morning tour. The Magnolia Plantation. 24 people on a shuttle, I meet Jan and Dave from BeniciaCA – a mere 45 minute drive from my home – and I recall something about the six degrees of separation.
Magnolia Plantation

Relaxed, we arrive at the gorgeous plantation. With Allen, a ten-year veteran tour guide, we wander the gardens, explore the swamp and are escorted through the magnificent home. A peace wraps around your soul and for a moment you understand the tranquility that surpasses a top Billboard tune.
Much like visiting the home of Jack London, a writer feels the power of nature, and I want for the creative energy that sings in the birds, that whistles in the oaks and that powers the smallest alligator across the marsh to ignite my senses. I’m soaked in the unlimited possibilities of serenity in harmony.
A slower pace than California the early-afternoon settles in for Low country quiet time. Guests of the Jasmine House Inn sip on wine, sweet tea, lemonade and cheese, crackers, fresh fruit and pasta.
Nancy, Care and Me

An added perk, I meet two online writer friends. Care, a new friend from Massachusetts, and NancyBookfoolery and Babble, a longtime online friend.
For over ten years a voice in print but never a real-talk-time word between us, Nancy and I have a layered-friendship built on years of conversations, accomplishments, family triumphs and heartaches. For us, it isn't a social topping of "How are you?" and "What do you do?" Instead, it is an instant embrace and a step into gentle banter and a knowing rhythm.   
Girl’s Night Out, we brave the graveyard for our Ghost Tour. Thunder rumbles in the not-so-far distance as we listen to the Charleston tales of those that lie beneath our feet or not. We snap multiple photos of gravestone rows in hope of capturing an *orb* on print. No ghosts visit my lens but for Nancy, I’m open to what I saw on her shot and we’ll leave it at that.
Intrigued, I note the inscriptions on several headstones that beckon me. I revisit graveyards over the next few days and find some reach out with curled finger and say, “Me. Come visit with me.”
I snap a picture and answer, “I will.”
During my Walking tour with Ed Grimball – hi Benicia Jan and Dave again - we visit the Circular Church cemetery and over Ed’s shoulder yet another grave speaks out to me. I headstone wander later in the day until I find this spot again. General Mordecai Gist.
What’s with these restless souls?
General Mordecai Gist born February 22, 1742 – August 2, 1792 is a third cousin to President George Washington. An officer in the American Revolution, I’m humbled that he chose to sit with me for awhile. A warrior for independence, I’m not surprised his two sons were named States and Independent.
An Internet search quickly adds a photo to the name. Spirited. What do you know? Just proves you can’t keep a good man down; not even in death. 
My new haunts
I pull up another photo from my haunting. I’m face-to-face with the Reverend Reuben Post and his wife Harriott and daughter Frances. Post was not only the U.S. Senate Chaplain he was the pastor of Charleston’s Circular Church. In 1858, the Reverend died from an outbreak of yellow fever but his humor lives on. The three grave markers are chess pieces: the king, queen and the rook. Not exactly scriptural but he guaranteed a top spot on the tourist route for eternity. I think I would have liked the Reverend.  
In a City where ghosts are welcome as sweet tea in the afternoon a nudge or awareness is commonplace. I encounter my first ghost in my room. Either a playful or warped spirit, I awaken to the snap of my window blind. The yellow shade careens taunt to the top window edge. I fly to the window to see what's the matter and I'm trapped between The Night Before Christmas and The Nightmare Before Christmas.
I can see why a ghost would linger
 I tiptoe back to my canopy bed, curl under the cover and decide it is a playful ghost and wish it good night.
As I wait to cross Meeting St. two men idle in front of me. A wisp of a breeze picks up Old Spice cologne and I’m bathed in the scent. One whiff and I know. I’m not alone on the sidewalk. My dad alive in spirit is on vacation with me. Together, we cross the street: the two strangers, me and my personal ghost. I bid hello to the two men as I walk by and say, “I love Old Spice.” 
Every body stand up and crow

Beyond the Market, I discover priceless treasures. Braided horses and roosters.   
Blues and Barbecue Sunset Cruise

The Blues and Barbecue sunset cruise highlights the week. I love the harmonica player and Shrimp City SlimFiery Ron’s Home Team barbecue buffet and the serene sunset over the shoreline. Blues to perfection. Scrumptious macaroni and cheese. A ten for my favorite tour.
Ghosts of the four-legged variety

        Friday, I’m off to Poogan’s Porch for lunch for the best crab cakes, hot honey-buttered biscuits and Poogan’s Punch. No canine ghosts tickle my backbone. Not a wisp of a wagging tale against my leg. No matter. I have my own circle of newfound ghosts.
Yes, I'm really in Charleston

I wander the streets and walk every Southern calorie off and then some. It is a great way to end my stay in Charleston


Thursday, May 26, 2011

American Idol Thanks!

Season ten is now over. Congratulations Scotty and yes, Lauren, too.
Many thanks to everyone who joined in the weekly observations on the shrills, squeals and high notes. I appreciate all your wonderful comments and interaction.
Dial Idol is quiet. And of course, right on with the prediction. My own method of checking the most comments on iTunes, a pale comparison, but it marked the Scotty power trend. Surprisingly, Haley was a strong iTune contender.
Lauren...you never faltered. Your charisma captured everyone's heart and your duet with Carrie, a pure gem.
Ah Casey. You were made for Jack Black. Oh so right. James, Jacob, Paul...thanks for all the moments.
Without my friends, I'd be watching alone and wondering if I think I heard what I did or not. East Coast, Midwest and the South, I enjoyed sharing our gentle banter and thoughts. You made each week special and fun.
Here's to a wonderful tenth season, celebrate the summer and let's do it all again for Season 11.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

American Idol Yawner

American Idol Top Three proves to be a yawner.

I admit that I’m bored with American Idol. What promised to be the greatest range of talent, fizzled last night. Even after a beer to boost my excitement, the performers failed to light the stage on fire. Not even a kindle of polyester or spark from too much hairspray.

Of course, the annual judge manipulation played out last week with the torching of Haley followed by the standing O. James Durbin fell to the wicked judges’ curse of premature crowning of the title. He also had a double-whacking with the backlash of Haley voters rising to the manipulation. The judges cost James the final opportunity.

Casey, sadly, was the collateral damage of the southern tornadoes.

So that leaves us with three viable contestants: Scotty, Lauren and Haley.

A Kenny Roger song was the perfect choice for Scotty and he sang it well. However, owever, it lacked the intensity and conviction that Kenny bought to the stage. Time. Scotty just needs time to mature.

Frankly, I loved the Lauren from the audition clip. Relaxed, natural and fun. Come back, girl. We miss the down-to-earth southern flavor.

Haley is still a mystery. Her song choices baffle me and although talented perhaps not the next American Idol. Out of fairness I did give her a vote because her final song was cut out in the early stanza as once again American Idol overshot it’s time slot. Sorry Haley.

Here we are crossing into the final stretch and the momentum is gone. The personality and full-package contestants are gone. Suppose we’re so used to frugality that we forget to reach for the full menu.

My exit vote for tonight is pointless.

With the Haley tribe on the warpath, I say its hanky time. Sorry. Lauren.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

American Idol Top Five

Fired-up, prepared for battle, the top five American Idol contestants ignited the stage. Many pitch issues and shrill notes across the board but that comes when you step out of your comfort zone. Good job.

I'm not sure what they had for breakfast but they were energized with every man and woman for themselves. Jacob, James, Lauren, Scotty and Haley - the transformation into warriors is like the fierce playoffs to the Super Bowl.
The inner self is out and exposed. There's no going back to the safe-zone.
I might as well toss the five names into a hat and let them drop to the floor. I haven't a clue who will go home but here's my take:
James - You got a double-whammy of the judge curse. Jennifer and Randy. Like don't hex the man with a projected winner. Seasoned Idolers know how that works out. Exactly how it works out. James, pray quickly. You're still top on my list but you know, the curse...love, love, love the gentle soul.
Jacob - A crotch-touch. I saw it. Yes, I did! You manned up tonight and let it go with complete abandonment. This was the new face of Jacob. He's in it to win it.
Lauren - Little Carrie clone who exposed cleavage. I tell you, this is war. Work it, girl. Not thrilled with the second song but you opened your voice to a different range. Nice.
Scotty - I remember the meek Scotty looking for a group back in Hollywood. You've come a long way. Still, there's a cold wall. Perhaps of control. Perhaps of innocence. Maybe not enough life experience but the ice melted when you engaged with your grandmother. Embrace that feeling.
Haley - Getting in a rut. Love your talent. Excellent suggestion by Sheryl to let your voice stand alone and simmer.
Now to go vote. The big question is for who? This is an Idol first. They're all fantastic.
Okay, I decided. Say what? My call cannot go through. That's a positive sign. Finger-blister time. Oh no, my second choice went through right away. Not good. Oh no, it went through again.
Tradition as it is, my exit vote for tonight is Haley. And yours...