Southern Way

Southern Way

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

21 Plus 35 Can Never Equal More than 39, Right?

By the time you have your 35th college reunion, the Alumni Association figures that you should be successful enough to fall into the category of "Potential Donor".  I am sure that was the thinking when it was announced that our class's private reunion would be hosted at the President's home on campus. And, when I learned the soiree would be in the lovely garden rather than in the house, I assumed that even after 35 years they thought it best to keep us out of the house lest we break anything of value and to keep them from having to put away the fine silver. But I digress.

If you not familiar with the College of Charleston, the focal point of the campus is the lovely Cistern, a walled in area under ancient live oaks in front of Randolph Hall. This is the setting for graduation. And the breathtaking southern beauty of this local has ranked CofC on the list of The Top Ten Most Beautiful Commencement locations. It is just as gorgeous for the Charleston Affair, the Alumni Reunion for all classes hosted under the oaks the Saturday night prior to graduation.

Since 1900 this event has taken place. And as the college has grown, so has the celebration. Now, crystal chandeliers magically hang from the oak trees, Randolph Hall is bathed in colorful lights and the lawn under the oaks is graced with linen covered tables where alums and their guests can enjoy the food and beverages being served from the many white tents set about housing food stations and bars. A band plays on the large elevated stage that has been put up in preparation for commencement.

When I first arrived Saturday night I walked into the Cistern to see this incredible sight. I had seen pictures of the event in the past, but seeing it live and in color was a something I found amazing. Walking around, it was hard to take it all in. This is the 13th oldest college in the country and this area has sat basically unchanged in all that time - how special is that? But, my classmates were down the street at the elegant President's house where we were being feted our own private event. There would be time for the big party later.

As I walked down Glebe street I saw folks filtering into the President's gates. None of them looked familiar. In fact looking at them, it dawned on me that several classes must have been assigned to this venue. We were the class of 1981, this looked like these folks may be the classes of 1971 or maybe 1966 (for their 45th and 50th reunions respectfully). Scary thought - in only 10 years we would be celebrating our 45th and look like them. But, they were pretty spry for their ages.

A good friend of mine was greeting everyone as we entered the garden. It was only then that I realized, no, this was just our class. These were not the classes of 1971 or 1966 - these were my classmates. These folks that I had pegged as in their mid to late 60's were my peers. Dear God, we were all old. Let's see we were 21 years old when we graduated, and 35 years later, um that is that "New" math that never adds up correctly. Hell, instead of the young friends I remembered and looked forward to catching up with, this was going to be a group of grandparents. 

In my mind I was still that young girl who came to Charleston in 1977. Granted I had a better hair style, much better taste in clothes, was a bit smaller, a bit grayer and more wrinkled than I was then. I just didn't see myself as being that "old".  Maybe I was in denial, if so, I would keep my head in the sand.  If you are as good as you feel, I was doing pretty well. At least I could keep the charade going in my head, if I just didn't choke on the sand.

Monday, May 2, 2016

A Strumpet on a Trolley

One great advantage of living where I do is rarely having to drive (with the exception of to and from work - which is a delightful 6 minute commute against traffic). This is especially convenient when I am meeting friends for dinner or drinks. Since upper King Street with its many excellent bars and restaurants is just a few blocks away, a simple stroll will deliver me most places I need to go.

If the destination is a bit further on the peninsula, Uber is a life saver. Between the traffic downtown, parking nightmares, and my absolute refusal to enjoy adult beverages and then get behind the wheel of my car, a $4-$5 fee for a friendly driver in a clean car to pick me up just minutes after I place a request and safely deliver me home is a bargain. Often this fee is equal to what I would have paid in parking fees.

Lately I discovered another option to get around downtown - the city offers a free trolley service. There are 4 loops that run continuously covering different areas of the city from 7 in the morning to around 8 in the evening. Since I live only 6 blocks from the Visitors Center, the central location of all the routes, I can easily catch a trolley that will deliver me within blocks of anywhere I need to go. The trick is figuring out the schedule and timing.

For my reunion this weekend, while the College is a walkable distance, trucking down there on a warm evening dressed for a gala in heels was not an appealing thought. So I figured out which trolley would deliver me closest to campus. The King Street line stops at the corner of George, just one block from campus. I figured the time I needed to leave and made my plan. While looking at the chart, I realized that the closest stop to me was not at the Visitor's Center but just a block and a half away. Knowing I would be making my way in heels, this was even better.

So at the appointed time I left my apartment, actually 10 minutes early to make sure neither crossing busy Meeting street nor my clock and the trolley driver's clock not being synced did not cause me to miss my ride. As I approached the stop, I realized perhaps my plan was going to be even more interesting than I first thought. While the trolley was designed to move tourist throughout the city, locals (like me) use it to hop on and off while moving through the town. Even though this stop was beside one of the newer Upper King hotels, the patrons waiting at the stop, well let's just say they were not dressed for a semi formal gala attire. Of course this stop also serviced the city bus service that many of the city's lower income people use.

So I found myself waiting with 9 or 10 other folks, all very polite. There was a couple, extremely inebriated, oblivious to everyone else around them, a young man holding an armful the traditional roses made from palmetto strips that the tourist buy on the street, a mother with two very young children, a very dapper dressed older man who insisted on giving me his seat, and me, the only caucasian among them dressed in a summer cocktail dress wearing heels carrying a small purse.

As I sat there taking it all in, I could only imagine what thoughts were going through their heads. Naturally my luck would have it that no guests from the hotel joined me so a photograph of me sitting there could have been a Norman Rockwell painting - you know Americana always showing someone out of place.

Finally a city bus came and half the people waiting got on. In a minute or two (right on time) the trolley drove up. When I boarded, I was not surprised to see most of the passengers were obvious tourists dressed in shorts and t-shirts, many with cameras around their necks holding maps of the city. There were more than a few odd looks as I took my seat. If I were not a 56 year old middle aged woman, perhaps I may have been taken for a working lady of the evening. And, I imagine when they saw me sitting at the bus stop amidst that motley crew, dressed as I was, that thought probably crossed their minds.

I got off the trolley at my stop and my thoughts turned to thinking about the reunion I was about to join and all the angst one has walking into such an event.  Suddenly the slight idea that I may have even been taken as a strumpet, all be it an aged one, gave me a certain confidence as I walked into the Cistern. Hey, at 56 attending one's 35th college reunion, I'll gather courage from any source.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Ribbons Attached

According to the dictionary:


Reunion: a social event for a group of people who have not seen each other for a long time

College reunion: a notorious event known for reuniting middle aged people who are anxious to relive their college school years.

So here I was 35 years later gathered together with a group of people, most of whom, I had little in common with, well only 4 years of a shared experience at a very good liberal arts college. With all of us older, and most of us heavier, grayer, tired, and wrinkled, it was hard to recognize some folks. 

When we arrived for brunch we were given our name tag with a red ribbon attached that read "Alumni" (which was questionable given "Alumni" refers to plural graduates, "Alumnus" refers to a single make graduate, and "Aluma" is a single female graduate - but I digress.) Then we were asked to move down the table to get additional ribbons to indicate the sorority/ fraternity we were members of, as well as a ribbon for ODK or Phi Beta Kapa - should we have been a member of one of those honor societies.  

As I looked at my name tag with the two ribbons on it, I wondered if there were ribbons for all the extra curricula activities such as yearbook, band, choir, student council - all those things I hardly had time for. The two ribbons were enough for me, I could not imagine walking around with a name tag bedecked 5 or 6 colored ribbons, that made one look like a retired military officer who had spent his life earning different colored ribbons in all the foreign conflicts he had been involved in.

I managed to get myself cornered several times by classmates who were more than willing to offer, unsolicited, a litany of their children's grand accomplishments - much akin to one of those long letters that accompany their Christmas cards no doubt. After the 2nd such episode I stopped asking about anyone's children. Not that I wanted to be rude, just one more episode hearing about Jr's exploits as a member of Mensa, an Eagle Scout, a top basketball player, and the Winner of the Kiwanis essay contest three years in a row would cause me to commit hari kari in front of God and every body.

There was the homely lady who talked to me like we were long lost friends and expounded in details about great exploits and episodes we (supposedly) did together, none of which were even vaguely familiar to me. Pleasantly surprising was the acquaintance I ran into and had a very nice (well balanced) conversation with. One lady, who was a friend of friend, kept telling me the same story about her daughter until I finally just turned and (rudely) left in mid sentence. Even knowing my dear Aunt Kat was somewhere having a hissy fit at my unlady like actions, better I impolitely leave than rudely say something - which was my only other option. 

Don't think  I didn't enjoy it, I did. I saw many faces I had not seen in a while and caught up with some I have seen more recently. Friends introduced me to classmates whose path I never crossed while in school. This was just the brunch, the big deal was that night. As we sat eating breakfast and sipping mimosas, champagne, and/or wine my mind went back 39 years went I first set foot on campus. What magical times we had. 

I was brought back to reality when one of the ladies at my table commented to her classmate sitting next to her, "I was very disappointed that they did not recognize our organizations in college. Why, I should have had a ribbon for band and choir". She paused, "and French Club," she added.

The lady next to her agreed, "I was thinking the same thing. What about those of us in student council? We should have a ribbon for each activity what we participated in." This lady was one of those who sermonized me for a long while about all the awards her children had won. 

One more glass of wine and I was going to tell her that my daughter started a small tech company that Google bought before she could take it public, my DH was the winner of a Pulitzer prize, and I managed to win the lottery and had invested well. Then I would give her a chance to take all that in before I added that I was on George Clooney's Christmas card list and spent each August at Balmoral. 

Go big or go home, the Hell with colored ribbons.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Trolley Tables and Time Clocks

Trying to expand my social life down here.OK, trying to establish a social life down here, I was thrilled to be invited by a friend to a Historic Charleston Foundation Event held last evening. As is my policy (and angst) I did not want to be late so I arranged to leave work so I could run home, take care of the pups, change clothes, and make it to the Church (literally) on time.

In doing some research I found that the downtown trolley that runs every 10-15 minutes leaves from a stop just 7-8 blocks from my place. I could catch it and it would take me within 2 blocks of where I needed to go on Church Street. Best of all it was free. Looking at the schedule I figured out which one I would need to catch to make it on time.

Sitting in my office I was engrossed with one thing and another when my co-worker said, "Shouldn't you be leaving, I thought you wanted to leave early?"

I looked at the clock and it was 20 'til. Geez, I thought, how did the time slip by? Now I only had 30 minutes to get home, take care of the pups, change clothes and make it to the Visitor's Center on time where I could catch the trolley. I gathered my things and left.

When I got home, the pups were none too happy to learn that there leisurely 25 minute walk was going to be a quick 5 minute trip down the sidewalk and back. Also, the afternoon had turned rather warm so I needed to dress in something cool since I would be outside some of the time. Somehow, not in a very calm fashion, I managed to get everything done and get out of the house in time to make it to the Visitors Center before the Trolley came. Given the warmth of the afternoon, I was glistening by the time I got there. (Down here, ladies do not sweat, we "glisten".)

While standing at the trolley stop, I was studying the large map and time chart posted to see, first, if I had all my information correct, and second, to see where else the trolley went that would be helpful to me. A couple of (obvious) tourist walked up, looked at the chart, and asked me, "The green line is the one that goes  downtown, right?" I replied it was. Then the gentleman looked at the chart and said, "So the next trolley will leave at 4:20."

I looked at him, smiled and said, "Don't you mean 5:20 since it is 5;15 now?"

He looked at his watch, "No, it is 4:15."

I looked at my watch, and so it was. I was an hour early. How was that? Thinking back on it, I must have read the clock wrong at work and left at 20 minutes until 4 instead of 20 minutes until 5 as I thought. Now I was at the trolley stop an hour early. What was plan B going to be? Obviously head home for a while and start over. I looked at the chart once more. It was then that I saw a trolley stop for the same line, only a block and a half from my place. Great -not only did I have the wrong time, I was at the wrong place!

So back to my place I went, 7 more blocks in the heat of the late afternoon. By the time I arrived home, I was quite "damp", my hair was a mess, and I was totally frustrated with myself. I sat in front of the AC unit trying to cool off. In 30 minutes or so, I left to walk the short block and a half to the closest trolley stop.

Sitting at the stop I checked Google maps on my phone to find that (once again in their  knowledge of all things) Google was aware that I was at the stop and gave me 3 options to proceed - on foot, by trolley, or by car. When I selected by trolley, the time for the next trolley came on the screen telling me I only had 4 minutes to wait. As I sat there confirming the best stop for me to get off, a bus came and stopped. Several people got on and the bus left.

The trolley was running late. I checked Google maps again and it showed the next trolley would be arriving in 12 minutes  - what happened to the one that was only several minutes away just moments ago? Could that "bus" that just stopped possibility been the trolley? I didn't think so. Every trolley I had ever seen on the route  "looked like" a trolley. Checking the time charts I now saw I was going to be cutting it very close with my arrival time by taking this later departure.  Super, I had initially arrived an hour early, now I was running 15 minutes late.  That is talent - on loan from God!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Posh Portals to Decrepit Doors, To Each their Own

As some of you may know I decided back in January to photograph doors in Charleston and post a different one everyday. Personally my interest was the old, neglected, eclectic doors that had so much character. However, I found that there were many more comments about the pristine more formal doors that populate the covers of magazines showcasing the southern charm of the Holy City. 

Whatever the condition or location, photographing the 1000's a doors of Charleston has been an interesting undertaking. Naturally, I feel more comfortable with a camera any where south of Calhoun Street because tourists wandering around with a camera taking pictures of anything down there are a dime a dozen. No one thinks a thing about someone standing outside their home and taking pictures of their front door.

On the other hand, walking down the street in a more sordid neighborhood carrying a camera does not bode well for the photographer. As I quickly snap pictures, being careful not to tarry, I can see curtains part and faces peek out. Often I have passed by doors I desperately wanted to shoot, but thought more of it when I noticed neighbors passing on the street. 

Only once have I had to explain my presence to a policeman. A concerned (or rather paranoid) citizen called 911 to report a suspicious person with a camera photographing houses on their street. After I explained myself to the officer, he laughed and said he totally understood. We discussed the different doors on the street and which ones we found particularly attractive. He also suggested some other streets that had doors he thought I might find interesting. 

Perhaps it will disappoint some who think I get out every morning, find a door, photograph it, then post it. Anyone who uses a camera knows that rarely is the best shot the first one, so there are multiple shots of each facade. Many that show so much promise on the street just do not photograph well and therefore do not "make the cut." Also, after I had gotten so far into this project and posted several weeks worth of shots, I was having problems keeping up with which doors I had posted and which ones I had not. That required a simple system that any idiot would have set up from the get go. 

Until I get shot or arrested I hope to continue this project. It would take years to run out of doors.

An example of what I had in mind when I started the project:

An example of what I think more folks are interested in:

From the old, neglected, and decrepit examples I come across on the side streets on the northern part of the peninsula to the stayed immaculate portals of the well heeled south of Broad, and various examples in between, there are plenty to please everyone. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

I Really Think You Will Like This

I have a habit of putting things off - delaying them - moving them to the bottom of the list. Taking out the recycling is one. However an overflowing box of bottles, cans, and boxes will keep me in line. I will delay refilling a prescription until the last minute. And, the paperwork to renew my passport still sits on my desk, where it has patiently waited since December. The issue there - I need a new photo. The fact that I am in a CVS or Walgreens probably once a week and could easily get one made on any given trip does not hasten the process.

Getting my hair cut falls into this category. I will wait until it is ragged, over grown, and out of shape before I will get my act together and get it cut. Today was that day. After all, I have some fairly important social engagements next week, not that I am really concerned about what my hair looks like, but I would rather give the impression that I have a mirror in my apartment.

Naturally, the young lady who cuts my hair could not see me at the last minute. Not her fault - but rather my poor planning and procrastination. So I found another salon that could fit me in. I walked in to find that "Keith" was going to cut my hair. As I sat down in the chair he started asking questions about my hair cut - what style I had and what I wanted today. I told him that I did not want any more layers than I already had and my main desire was to get about an inch and a half cut off the back. He asked me if I meant "cut up". I told him, no,  I just wanted it cut straight off the bottom of the back and then the rest trimmed. 

He started combing and parting and cutting. He was cutting and snipping. I commented that I really just wanted the weight off the back so just an inch or so off the bottom would do that. He continued to cut. I added that I wanted to make sure it would be long enough to use a small curling iron if I needed to.

He suddenly stopped. "But you have curly hair?"

"I know, but there are times that my hair has a mind of its own and I need to tame it."


There are Oh wow!'s, Oh no's!, and Oh shit's! I did not like Keith's - Oh.

Then he said, "So this is not what you had in mind?" as he handed me a mirror and turned my chair so I could see the back. 

What I saw (or didn't) was that the hair left on the back of my head had been tapered very short half way up where short layers started. 

He could tell I was not happy. He started combing the sides which he had only trimmed so far. "Well, we can always just leave these long," he said as he pulled the hair on the sides of my face down.

Without thinking I blurted out, "No, we can't. Women with haircuts like that - very short in the back and long in the front, look ridiculous. And, no, I do not want the sides cut as short as the back."

"Well maybe I can trim them so they will taper up to the back." I quickly explained to him that I did not care for that "hair do" at all. So he worked quietly trying to salvage what he could.

When he finished, he said (in a fairly nervous voice), "I really think you will like it. The cut accents your eyes and the features in your face." (This reminded me of the line a guy uses to describe the not so good looking blind date he has set his best friend up with, 'She does a great job with her makeup'.)

As he turned my chair I feared my hair style would either resemble a Kate Gosling look or the remnants of a John Deere mower gown amok. Yep, my nightmare scenario - I am going to see long lost friends I have not seen (in many cases) in 30 something years and they are going to think I aspire to emulate a pitiful reality star with a bad haircut. 

Well, on the "bright" side this solves the issue about what I will wear. No one will even notice what I have on, no doubt all comments will be made about my hair style, lack there of, or worse - the silent looks of those thinking, "Does she realize her hair looks like that of a pitiful reality star with a bad haircut?"

Thank God there will be an open bar. 

One other thing, this certainly delays my passport photo for another several months. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

I'm Back

I'm back . . . The rumors of my death were premature. I am alive and well. Real life has just side tracked my world. In the past three weeks I have, well, I'll spare you details. Actually there are no details, For the first time since I started this Blog many years ago, this is the longest I have gone with posting some comment, story, or opinion. My world for the past 3 weeks have been hum drum with nothing I felt was "blog worthy" as several of my friends say.

But what better topic to bring me back to the page than my college reunion. Yes, my 35th college reunion is in a week or two. For years I avoided these events like the plague - why did I want to see most of these people? I didn't really have anything to say to them. I did not want to get cornered by some classmate that I never cared for who wanted to be my new best friend. The idea of having to chit chat with the girls who set their goals for a  MRS degree by marrying a MD. With their tennis tan, sculpted body (that makes me feel like the Pillsbury Dough Boy), tales of the stress of where to "lunch", and wardrobe out of Voque that puts me in Later Amish style. 

So each year I have come to Charleston and had lunch or dinner with a few of my good friends I had kept up with who were in town for the big do. It worked for me. 

But this year is different, since it our 35th, the College has invited our class to have our reunion in the President's House. Given while we were in school, most of us never darkened the door of the Georgian Mansion on campus. And, if we were invited for some official function, I can assure you they would have put away the fine silver and moved any prized breakable to a safe spot. Just saying.

Also living in Charleston makes it different because I am here. It is not a matter of making plans to spend the weekend here or figure out when I would be coming down. I am balancing a few dinners, a sorority get together, a champagne brunch, then the big gala Saturday night. 

For my sorority get together, I have had to find the names of long lost sisters who said they would be coming on Facebook to see if I recognize them - some I do, some I don't. It is comforting to know that we are all 35 years older and there were only so many well to do available Drs around. In fact as I looked at old pictures of us at porch parties, Greek Day, and just together it dawned on me - this is going to be a group of grandmothers getting together. Is that scary or what? Reality is frightening.

I have all my answers ready: where I have been all these years, how I got where I am, why I live in such a dodgy neighborhood. I contemplated just creating a life, a story much more interesting than what I have. But, I have more pressing matters - what the Hell am I going to wear? 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Where Did I Park my Car?

Having worked the same place for the past 6 years - teleworking from home, I always knew where my car was parked. I could reliably find it in my driveway in the same spot. I did not even have to think about where it was. My only issue was remembering where I left it in airports, large malls, and occasionally at the grocery store. 

Suddenly I never know where my car is. Because I have street parking where, I park in a different place every time I come home. To make it more sporting, I live on a corner. It is not unusual for me to come out of my front door, turn to the left, knowing my car is just across the street, only realize, that no, that was yesterday at lunch. Last evening I parked it around the corner. 

It is the same at work, I am in a fairly large parking lot with unassigned parking. Where you park is based on when you arrive. Often when I return from lunch I join the other cars that are double parked at the end of one of the rows due to a full lot. I come to the parking lot and often find myself on the back right side, only to realize that I had parked up front. Worse yet, I had walked past my car as I entered the lot.

When we bought my car there was a small "discussion" over color. I wanted a dark gray, but my DH insisted on a light blue. I find the blue offensive, but at that time, he wore me down, and I gave in. Now everyday I find myself driving a car that reminds me of the color rinse they used to put on an old lady's hair when she went to the "Beauty Parlor". To make matters worse it is the most popular color of the model car I drive. Something else, I never fail to point out to my DH.

Naturally out of the hundred or so cars in the parking lot at work, there is a car, make, model, and color exactly like mine -surprisingly only one. I have attempted to get in this car several times. Once the only thing that stopped me was a jacket on the back seat I did not recognize. I am often frustrated when my key fob will not open the car's door, only to realize, once again, it is the wrong car. 

One afternoon I was walking to the parking lot with a nice Captain who is often in and out of the President's office. As we approached the lot he went to his car - the other light blue one. I laughed, "So you are the one who drive's the car that is a twin to mine? I cannot tell you how many times I have tried to get into your car."

He just laughed, "Probably no more than I have tried to get into yours." 

We exchanged pleasantries and he got in his car. As I went in search of mine I wondered to myself if that God awful color was his first choice or was a gray one not available.