March 14, 2008
Originally published July 20, 2003
The drive from where I live to Charleston is about an hour and a half, and it's pretty where Highway 17 curves through the salt marshes and tidal creeks. Lowcountry Georgia and South Carolina is beautiful, and I love the fecund smell of salt, marsh grass and mud.
When you cross the bridges, you almost always see a small boat with somebody on board casting for shrimp, dipping crab nets or fishing. Sea food is "WE FOOD!" around here. The water is our garden. GAWD! I love it.
I found Charleston just fine, but I couldn't find the goddam hotel, so I made a fool of myself asking tourists who were just as confused as I was about where the hell this place was. I finally stumbled upon it, walked in the front door and heard a voice.
"Good morning to YOU, Rob Smith." It was Ken.
The most amazing thing occurred. After 25 years, we picked up a conversation just where we left off. It was as if no time had passed, as if "as I was saying..." had been hanging in the air all that time. We just picked up the thread and went from there.
Damn! That was fun!
We went to his room and drank a bottle of really good wine, talked for a while, then prowled the streets of the Historic District of Downtown Charleston. That city reminds me a lot of Savannah, with the Greco-Roman architecture and the cobblestone streets. It is a very pretty place. If you've never been there, I recommend that you go.
It ALSO HAS TO BE the pretty female, red-toenail foot capitol of the world. Just DAMN! I never saw so many pretty red toenails in my life. It was better than Key West. Ken said, after I put him on RED TOENAIL alert about 50 times, "At least you are honest about your fetish."
I said, "What fetish? Is there something WRONG with liking pretty red toenails?"
We went down around the Old Slave Market and ate an excellent lunch of fried shrimp and whatever-the-fuck-came-with-it, drank some locally-brewed beer and staggered back to the hotel for a dip in the pool. Ken made reservations at "The Hominy Grill" for dinner that evening. He said I would like it because they served "genuine Southern food" there.
I am always suspicious about a place that claims to serve "genuine" Southern food. My mama cooks "genuine" Southern food. I've seen very few restaurants that did.
We got out of the pool just before a frog-strangler rainstorm descended, and it flooded the streets so badly that we almost didn't make it to the restaurant. Ken, using the driving skills he learned as a young man in Boston, hogged the road, dared anybody to ram his rent-a-car and got us there via the back roads, right on time. I NEVER want to drive in Boston.
Get this: I had a meal of catfish and okra with fried green tomatoes. Ken had shrimp and grits. KISS MY ASS, BABY! That was "genuine" Southern food. It was damn good, too.
We drove out to The Battery after that and watched a tremendous lighting storm over Fort Sumter. Yeah. I stood right where the first cannon shots of the Civil War were fired and watched Bejus hurling thunderbolts from the sky. I cussed myself for never going there before.
We went back to the hotel and listened to a pretty good guitar player in the lounge while we imbibed a couple of nightcaps. I told Ken, "That guy is a better guitar player than I am."
Ken said, "But YOU were a better ENTERTAINER."
We made it back to the room, talked for a while and then slept. We took a morning dip in the pool. Then I drove home. Ken is probably on a plane back to Maryland right now.
I am delighted that I made this trip.
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