Monday, March 31, 2014

The Muppets Most Wanted - A Movie Review

At Christmas in 1979, I was a junior in college and a dear friend of mine gave me a 45 (remember those?) of a song that I just loved from a movie. We were at his Fraternity Christmas party where everyone was exchanging gifts. He was not my date. But the fact that he knew I was so fond of the song and remembered me I will never forget. The song - The Rainbow Connection. The movie - The Muppet Movie. To this day I think about Sam every time I think about that tune.

Fast forward 35 years and I found myself standing in line to buy a ticket for the 4th Muppet movie, Muppets Most Wanted. The lines were long (not for this movie but for several other films that had just been released). I was chatting with the gentleman in front me. He asked me which movie I was there to see and I told him, thinking to myself that he must think I mad at my age (with no small children in sight) standing in line to see a movie mainly cast with puppets. I did not want to tell him but I seen much worse.

He immediately smiled and said, "Oh, I remember the first one they made in the 70's. I'll never forget Kermit sitting there strumming his banjo singing that song. You know that is not an easy song to play on the banjo. I have tried." "Oh, I love that song. And that was a great movie." 

We stood there silent for a moment or two. Then it came to me. I looked at him, "Rainbow Connection!" "That's it, that's the song! Like I said that was a great movie." OK, so I now I had bonded with a total unknown adult male stranger in a ticket line about a child's Muppet movie 35 years ago. My life has come to that.

Back to the movie. It is worth going. The story is cute, funny, and well written. The cast in addition to the Muppets is loaded with Star Power. Look for Hugh Bonneville, Celine Dione, Tony Bennett, Sean Combs, Lady Gaga, Tina Fey, Zack Galifianakis, Josh Grobin, Selma Hyak, Usher, Ricky Gervais and the list goes on. I had forgotten how much I missed Animal and his drum solos, and other characters with their idiosyncratic personalities. I did not see the 1984 nor the 2011 Muppet Movies, but this one is worth your time.

And, if you read this and say, "Whatever!", then move along. You would not appreciate the witty writing, the embedded puns, and running jokes.  Every once in a while it is good to stop, take a breath, sit down and watch a frog who one time stole my heart strumming a guitar singing, "Someday we'll find it, the Rainbow connection, the lovers, the dreamers, and me." 

The Rainbow Connection the Academy Award nominated song from the original Muppet Movie in 1979.

A Circuitous Route

I've always said we have to be careful in the south. If you say something unkind about someone, you best be prepared to either stand by it and perhaps even defend it to their face because chances are they will hear about it. Let's just say the skeletons in our closets like to dance. Perhaps that is why southern women are so good at putting any unpleasantness behind us and just going on like it never happened (unless the occasion calls for revenge - then it's a whole 'nuther story.)

A friend of mine from our hometown called to say she had read my book and how much she enjoyed it. She went on to say that she wasn't even aware I had written Sterling Silver and Dollar Stores ( the paperback version). Seems her sister-in-law read about the book on Face Book, bought it, and read it. 

She recommended it to her mother (who lived in another state). After the mother read it, she called my friend (her niece-in-law) and highly recommended that she read the book. All the while having no idea there was a connection between me and my friend. To make things more interesting, one chapter in the book referred to my friend's family.

There lies the three degrees of separation I have always said is the only thing between any of us down here. The oddity was, in this case,  not one of them was my kin.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Faint Cries of Reality

Having my soul saved and prepared for the rapture does not help my current situation. Most (not all-before I get angry posts and find myself unfriended) of my friends have reached that pinnacle of life -retirement. I, on the other hand, have not. And for lack of any other impressive eloquent word, that sucks. Not for them, but for me.

Now these lovely folks are not that much older than I am. They just had the good sense when they started working (the same time I did) to choose a profession and an employer and stay there. I, on the other hand, list on my resume two law firms, a college, a placement service, and the federal government. And although the math is correct - thirty plus years - my failure to start with the federal or state government, ride my time for thirty years, and take the golden parachute leaves me here.

Where is "here"? Here is on the unemployment sabbatical I "took" last October when the House and the Senate failed to put on their big boy pants and not take the nuclear option (the sequester) as the committee that proposed it as the worse case scenario assumed they would never be as lazy and idiotic to do. 

They, however,  found it much more important to keep their jobs, their pensions, and their financial security than those hundred's of thousands in federal and state jobs as well as in the private sector. Yes they love to tout that they have cut government waste by ridding it off unnecessary employees, who are ineffective, take too much personal time and never work a full week. Don't get that job description confused with that of a US Congressman or a Senator, mind you. But I digress.

Reality calls me and I am not sure if I am not listening which is irresponsible or it is not calling which is frightening. Retirement for me at this time is not a choice. Financial concerns require that I maintain some form of income for years to come. 

Oh, there are other options. Winning the lottery is always a plan. But I fear waiting for that to happen is perhaps taking too many chances. The odds are not in my favor. Having an uncle pass away and leave me a fortune would  be nice. My mother is the only person I know of that this actually happened to. She had five uncles and two left her sizable amounts of money in their wills. Neither of which she was expecting. 

I, on the other hand, only have one uncle thanks to my dear beloved two old maid aunts. He is a dear and I hope he is around for a long while. Besides he has three children and seven grandchildren.

So I sit here realizing that I must join the ranks of the employed. Actually let me rephrase that - I hope to rejoin the ranks of the employed. I only hope those friends of mine who never had to work, got to stay home and their only two concerns were whether to have Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio at lunch and whose day it was for carpool, appreciate their good life. 

But I sincerely doubt it. It is like love. One doesn't know what they have unless they experience the other side. And I have dipped my toes in the life of retirement. I do not want to stay on the beach but rather jump in the pool. My mother never told me about all this. But as I have often said, my mother never told me about Ultra Brite either.

Nymphomaniac Vol. I - a Movie Review

The constant sex scenes did nothing for me and the full nudity didn't bother me, after all what would one expect when the title of the film is Nymphomaniac Vol. I? We had read the reviews and heard an interview on NPR about the movie. It was described as different and sometimes humorous. And we often go see edgy indie films. Oft times the title is the teaser and the story more sublime, interesting, even heart warming.

I kept waiting for the story to take off, for the humor all the reviews talked about. I have patience with films. Sometimes it takes a while for it all to come together before the audience is captured with an "Oh Wow" moment and then follows along. This never happened. And we stayed until the end, which in retrospect was a mistake. 

The main character Joe (played by Charlotte Gainsbourg) is a young lady who defines her identify by sexual escapades, as in sometimes ten or more a week. And has no desire to make a commitment. There are loose ends all over the story, flying in the wind.  Stellan Skarsgard plays Seligman, the Englishman who has found her beaten, bruised, and bloody in an ally and brought her to his flat. 

As she unravels her story, Seligman a fisherman starts relating it to fly fishing, with each part of her story being another fly he has tied for another purpose. But even this seems to go no where and ventures off to Edgar Allen Poe to be able to justify another of her stories.

There were two bright spots in the film. Not "bright" as in shining, but more as entertaining and well done. I'll give no spoiler alert because if you go see this film you are on your own. The first few minutes of the film are silent but the sound of rain as a symphony as it falls on roofs, tiles, and tins. Then you are blasted out of the silence by rock music. 

The other interesting part involves a scene where the main character, Joe, find herself with a married lover she thought she had ended her relationship with who has shown up, bags in hand saying he has left his wife for her. Meanwhile Joe is waiting for her evening's date. In walks the former lover's psychotic wife and three young sons who have followed him there. The wife makes a big deal about seeing Joe and showing her sons the whoring bed, where "it all began". She tells them, something to the affect of - remember this boys when you are in therapy. Meanwhile as the wife is being irrational and insisting they all sit down for tea, Joe's date shows up. Needless to say he is clueless. If only the story was as exciting.

The movie bounces from the future showing a battered Joe with her face bruised, bloody, with a black eye back to her past and back again. And, at least in Volume I, you never learn what happened to put her in that state. I guess I'll never know because I can assure you I will not being wasting my time or money to see Volume II. Rarely, do I say this about a film.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Hallelujah!

My soul has been saved - right there by the dairy case in Wal-mart. I guess that is as good a place as any. And it wasn't as if I thought I was in need of divine salvation. However this older gray haired church lady with her hat, purse, and coordinating shoes saw things differently.

As I opened the door to refrigerated case to get a carton of milk I noticed her behind me. I asked if I was in her way or if I could get something for her. She didn't say anything until I turned around. I found a small sheet of paper in my face with notes written in a very shaky handwriting separated by lines and noted with colored numbers.

At first I thought she was showing me her shopping list and asking for help. I was wrong. She pointed her crooked finger to line number 4. "You are familiar with Pastor Pascal aren't you?" "No, I don't think I am." "Well you need to listen to this. This is where he talks about God and the Pope and the Rapture." She could tell I was a little lost.

Then she pulled a CD from the hand written list. Only then did I notice that the handwritten list was actually a piece of paper that had been cut and taped together with scotch tape to make a sleeve for the CD. "It's all here. And there is so much more. Pastor Pascal tells you all you need to know for the second reckoning. You know our Lord Jesus is coming back." I thought carefully before I said anything lest I find myself into a deeper soul saving salvation review.

"I'll take these home," referring to the CD and the pamphlet, The Rapture, a Second Look,"and read them tonight." Then I removed the CD from the handwritten sleeve and handed the sleeve back to her. "Here, you keep this and you can use it with another CD and give it to someone else." "But, you won't know what is on the CD." (Knowing I was damned to Hell any way so a little white lie to please a God fearing church lady would certainly be forgiven I continued.) "I'll listen to whole thing, not just pieces of it." She smiled. "Oh, the Lord bless you. Glory be to God.

As I left the store I started thinking, is this the Rapture Redux, given our near miss in October 2011 according to Harold Camping and Warren Jaffs' failed prediction  of December of 2013 (but we all knew he is crazy as a goat). And we should not forget Grigori Rasputin who told us it would all end in August of 2013. But then he also was the private mystic adviser to the Romanovs and we know what happened to them. So why should I question Pastor Pascal being any more (or less) nefarious. 


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Book on Marriages

I am a good ways through my second book. The topic is three weddings or three brides or two mothers or three marriages and one divorce (so far) or two trumpet players, obviously all these elements are included, I'm just not sure what the title will be. Up until my mother's death I had to hear about my mother's wedding (you'll have to read about it in the book). Then there was my wedding which I survived - the repressed memories came back after years of therapy. And, of course you suffered through four months planning our daughter's wedding.

As is usually the case with my life, all three events are fraught with dysfunctional characters, southern graces, disgraces the family cannot hide, adult beverages, and enough revisionist history to make one question what event actually took place. When I look at our bridal pictures, there are both my mother and my daughter dressed in elegant gowns that fit their trim figures. They look like fashion plates. Then there is me, in some frumpy dress that no one would be caught dead in these days (or even back then - what was I thinking?). 

But the fodder makes for good reading. And, everyone can have a good laugh at my expense. Or, I will write it, get it out of my system and put it out there for the pundits to tell me that I did not go into enough detail about my feelings that special day of my life. Long story short - I was thrilled we all survived without anyone getting killed or causing undo bodily harm to another. Or, how I failed to express the emotions of a mother working closely with her daughter planning the wedding - please. We got through it, she got married, and we are still speaking. That is an admirable goal.

All I can say is, if these are issues then the pundits need to have their own large southern wedding or better yet plan their daughter's. Then they will be qualified to come back critique my mullings on my own experiences.


Friday, March 21, 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel - a Movie Review

For fans of Wes Anderson, his newest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel has finally arrived. If you are not familiar with Mr. Anderson, you may know his witty (often brilliant off balance) films such as The Royal Tenenbaums, Rushmore, The Squid and the Whale, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, and, of course, Moonrise Kingdom. He has a regular crew of actors that he uses somewhere in the cast, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Ralph Fiennes, Adrien Brody, and Edward Norton to name a few. 

This particular film is not only well written, cast, and acted, it is witty in the dry British way. I found myself chuckling when I fear most folks did not get the jokes. Not that I am smarter than they, perhaps the film was more on my lower level. The dialogue alone is simply genius.

The story line is around Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) the concierge at The Grand Budapest Hotel is her glory day, his Lobby Boy (Tony Revolori), a priceless piece of art, a battle royale over a family fortune, a war or two, and a writer getting the story.  

Mr. Anderson always produces colorful films (both in interest and spectrum) but this one is more so than usual. Scenes take on the hue of the mood. Everything in the prison is grey, white or tan, the hotel in its later years is in the 60's colors of orange, brown, and avocado. In it's glory days pink and purple were the color of the grand hotel, much like the fancy pastries served. 

At first glance of the trailer, one may think this to be a mad cap caper, but there is more to the story - a lot more. It is a 100 minutes well spent. Wes Anderson is nothing short of brilliant in his delivery of this film. I may have to see it at least once more for I am sure there is much I missed. The film is rich in characters, in humor, in the story, and the beauty of the scenes themselves.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Thought Counts But it Doesn't Pay the Bills

Our garden club meeting yesterday ended my tenure as president. This is a position we pass around with about as much enthusiasm as a young southern girl has about the prospect of meeting her new beau's Yankee mother for the first time. At the end of the meeting, one member, a very proper southern lady turned to me and said, "You did a grand job this year. You are so organized." I thanked her and commented that it wasn't a hard job. Then she continued, "What will it be next  - you have your photography and you have written a book?"

That got me thinking. My Daddy had a saying a "Jack of all trades, but a master of none." And, even better than that, the reality is I am still unemployed. So it doesn't matter what hobbies I attempt, I will starve with creativity. The streets of Paris are filled with such examples. 

So it all goes back to my standard answer when someone comments on some talent I have (after I have thanked them profusely) - "Well that and .75 will buy you a cup of coffee at Hardees." ie It may be pretty, intriguing, and entertaining, but it still doesn't pay the bills.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Bagged

Feeling as if I may live, I ventured to Wal-mart for a few supplies. As always I had my shopping bags with me knowing full well that alone would confound, irritate, and confuse the cashier.

While I was standing in the check out lane, I noticed that the family ahead of me also had their own shopping bags. In fact they had a buggy full of different colored bags. Then I realized instead of putting the bags in their buggy, they were putting the bags full of groceries on the belt.

This thoroughly threw the cashier for a loop. Surprisingly, she politely took every item out of each bag, and scanned it. As she did this the customer was taking the items and placing them back in the bag - the same bag the cashier was still taking items out of to scan. At times, the cashier was having to stop and look at the register receipt to see what had been scanned. The customer was clueless and her husband and children just stood by and watched. 

Naturally it did not take long before chaos ensued and the cashier was not sure what had been scanned and what had not. Being way too polite, she continued to try to work with the customer.

Meanwhile, I turned to the lady behind me and said, "Well, that's a new one." She looked and smiled, "Oh, no, that's the new thing. My daughter always uses her own bags." 

Suddenly, I thought - Oh My God - no wonder the cashiers hate it when I show up with my bags, I was not doing it correctly. I was just giving them my empty bags to use, not presenting the bagged groceries for them to scan. Often the cashiers were clueless when I simply presented my own bags, usually the bags I had purchased from that same store for that purpose.

But then I thought, they have enough issues scanning items as they come off the belt one by one, why would taking them out of a bag be easier? At that point the lady behind me finished her thought, "Well that makes no sense."

As we watched the train wreck, finally a supervisor came up and politely started helping the customer take all the items out of the bags, put them on the belt, and then after they were scanned, place them back in the bags. The customer was confused. The cashier was relieved. Finally the transaction was finished.

When my bags and items got to the cashier, I commented, "Hopefully my little transaction here will be less confusing." The cashier smiled and said, "Well, we have all kinds." "I guess you do." "Oh, you have no idea."

Monday, March 17, 2014

St. Patricks Day 35 years ago

Thirty five years ago today I got in a car with five guys (all of whom I knew) and headed due west. We left Charleston our destination being Lafayette, Louisiana (875 miles away). The friends I was with were members of the Kappa Sigma fraternity and had been invited the infamous "Green Party" being hosted by the Kappa Sig chapter of SW Louisiana State University. 

This was an annual event the fraternity had on St. Patrick's Day and they invited their brothers from across the country to join them. Never being ones to decline an invitation, and it being our spring break, we accepted and were off. I was very surprised when I told my father about my plans and he gave it his blessing since he knew the guys I was with.

Looking back on it, this is one of those life experiences you realize you were lucky to live to tell about. You know you are on a wild ride when your first stop is Savannah, home of one of the largest St. Patrick Day celebrations. One of the guys was from there, so we made a pit stop.  Then, we drove straight through - stopping only to eat and change drivers. Often the places we stopped were so sketchy the guys would not even let me out of the car, knowing full well they would have to face the wrath of my father should something happen to me in the bowels of southern Alabama and Mississippi. 

There were copious quantities of alcohol consumed along the way. Finally we arrived at our destination - it was hard to miss - a fraternity house with a couch on the roof. There were kegs of beer, bottles of rum, a zydeco band, hundreds of new friends, and this was the year before Animal House was released.

After two days of debauchery and fun, it was time to turn east and head home. That was a long drive home fueled by tales of the weekend.

Then twenty five later my youngest daughter, in a fit if anger, commented, "What do you know? You've never done anything?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Why Did I Want To Grow up Anyway?

I have always said no one told me I had a choice when it came to growing up. If I ever questioned it, one day last week was one of those days. We visited Playa Dominical, basically a surfer beach. Or, as one of my fellow travelers said, "Surfer camp".

When we drove in it was like entering a peaceful shady commune. In the distance we could see the beach, in front of us, under the shade of the palms were lines of tables decorated with colorful necklaces, bracelets, masks, dresses, t-shirts, and lines of hanging sarongs in bright colors blowing in the wind.






Across the  shady lane that ran parallel to the sea beside the vendors was a line of comfortably shabby rooming houses, hotels, hovels, tents, bars, stores, and restaurants. Barefooted well tanned young folks moved about. Some coming back from the beach with their boards, others on their way to the beach. Small groups would be stopped in animated conversation. 









And as they made their way to the beach to catch the next wave without a care in the world, I turned to join my friends knowing the next morning I would be leaving at 6 am for a drive to the airport where I would fly back to reality. Personally, I prefer their reality. Why did I ever want to grow up anyway?

Well, I guess it all works out in the end. There were no "chunky" young girls among the surfers. They more resembled those destined for the swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated - way out of my league. I never stood a chance joining that crew.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Jungle Life

When we started planning our trip to Costa Rica back in October we decided we wanted a house. There were seven of us and we made a list. We wanted a house large enough to sleep all of us comfortably. We needed a pool. And, we wanted to be on the beach. After looking at (I am pretty sure) a 100 or more villas, two of the group sent around several  villas that met our requirements. We weeded out the ones that looked run down, were too small, were too expensive, etc. And, then we found our dream house.

This home had seven bedrooms overlooking the ocean. The pool was to die for. There was an elevator from the main house down to the pool level. It was in pristine condition. Best of all it came with a chef. It was in our price range and it was available when we wanted to go. Done and done.

A week or so later, I got an email from one of my fellow travelers saying the "reasonable" price we were looking at for our dream house was the off season rate. We would be in Costa Rica during "The Season". The rate we were now looking at was about twice what we first thought it would be. That was not even worth discussing. Back to the drawing board.

As it turned out by this time we could not find a suitable house on the beach so we located this incredible house that looked like something from Architectural Digest that was in the jungle but "only minutes" from the beach. The pictures made the house look stunning. And all the write-ups talked about the house opening up to the jungle and how you would see monkeys, birds, and other exotic animals just off the balcony. Well, my attitude was "while in Rome . . .". After all one reason for visiting Costa Rica was to see the animals. And, we had rented a car, so going to the beach would not be an issue.

The house had a maid who came daily to clean and wash your clothes if you needed them washed, and a yard man. I suggested, as a consolation prize, we hire a chef. We found out that was not an expensive proposition. So we added a chef to our list of features.

When we arrived, the house did not disappoint us. It was beautiful, everything the pictures online showed Every room opened to the jungle. And when I say opened, I mean in most cases the walls folded out to an open balcony into the lush flora that surrounded the house. There were no screens (and no bugs). The infinity pool actually came into the corner of the den.

From the first day, we could hear birds and monkeys and other unidentified beasts chirping, chattering and squawking constantly. We could see trees sway and limbs rustle. We saw birds and black squirrels. But no monkeys or sloths. Finally on Tuesday morning, a Toucan arrived. One would have thought it was the second coming the way we were acting. (In the mean time we were seeing all sorts of wild life on our daily adventures away from the villa.)

The next morning I came upstairs around 6:30 to find a Coca Cola Light and learned that I had just missed a large group of small monkeys that had entertained my friends for a while and a howler monkey who had also made an appearance. After some discussion, we decided that the animals must come out in the mornings around 5 am. 

So starting the next morning I would get up at 4:45 and be on the balcony ready (with my camera) to view the wildlife. But it was not to be. Eventually throughout the days we saw sloths and colorful birds and continued to hear the monkeys but they stayed out of site at the villa.

Meanwhile, we located our dream house and decided to visit it just to see if the house really was as nice as we thought. We drove down a steep winding cobblestone lane toward the beach. After some guessing, we finally located it. Well, all we could see was the roof due to the slope of the hillside. We got out and walked around.

Finally one of our crew noticed the door was open and went in "just to" explain that if the current tenants saw folks walking around, we were harmless and just considering the house for next year. The ladies were having breakfast and immediately invited us all in. 

The house was even better than we thought. The view of the Pacific ocean and the beach far below was almost unreal. The entire living area we were standing in was open with no windows and only a 4 foot wall surrounding the room. The chef came out of the kitchen and introduced himself.

One of the ladies commented, "You notice the kitchen is closed off  with french doors." We had not. "That is to keep the monkeys out." She went on to tell us that there is wild life around daily - lovely birds, monkeys, etc. In fact, she showed us the pool and pool house located on the level far below the living quarters. "One morning we were down at the pool and looked up and there were monkeys sitting on the edge of the den eating the bananas we had left on the table and throwing the peels at us down at the pool."

Needless to say, it did not take us long to decide that we could save our pennies to rent that  house or take a chance with the rains and visit out of season. 

Naturally Sunday morning at "our" house, as we waited for our driver to pick us up at 6 am for our trip to the airport, the monkeys came out to play. We watched for a while as they swung from tree to tree chasing each other. The night before we had been entertained by a sloth who decided he needed to change trees just off our balcony, which takes a while in sloth time. 

The house was really nice with several water features in it which were attractive until you stepped in one by mistake. But, as for the monkeys, I guess they just have a sense of humor. We knew they were there all along. 

The Dining Room:

The den: 



With the walls closed:
The pool:

The stairs:


The decks:










Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Purloined Fruit

First - I am back from vacation and my blog hiatus. The issue, I am sure you have noticed, with the photographs had something to do with the way my Blog interacts (or in this case does not) with Picasa and Google+. It is being worked on. That said, . . .

Now, I just spent 8 days in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, some 3343 miles away. You would think the first post on my Blog would be of the beautiful country and friendly people I saw. Those are to come. No, it is of a industrious raccoon. Yes, of all the exotic wild life, the monkeys, the Toucans, the sloths, they have the same raccoons we do. 

We were on the beach at Manual Antonia National Park when I spotted a raccoon.  I can honestly say I have never seen a raccoon on a beach. This was one was moving at a deliberate pace, as if he had people to see, things to do, and places to go. 



Curious, we stood there and watched. He headed straight for a beach towel of two girls who were swimming. First he looked in one of their purse's but must have not seen anything interesting. He moved onto another bag.



This one proved to be more fruitful.


By the time he emerged from the bag with his loot, the girls had seen the little thief and run from the water. Now, all of us, being from the south, assumed they would be yelling "Go away", "Stop". But, oh no. It was more of "Look at the cute animal and he is in our bag". Then one of them reached down to pet it.


It was very clear to us at that point that not only was she stupid, she obviously had never seen the scene from one of my favorite movies, ELF, when Will Farrell comes across the raccoon on his way to New York and decides the Raccoon needs a hug.



Luckily she did not lose her hand. However, she did lose her lunch. The raccoon grabbed it and proceeded up the beach to enjoy the fruits of his labor.





 (I give credit to the picture of the idiot trying to pet the raccoon to Kim, one of our traveling crew. I was in shock and missed that shot!)

Monday, March 10, 2014

South of the Border SC

As you drive out of Dillon it is impossible to miss Pedro and South of the Border. If you are driving anywhere on I-95 you must be blind to have missed any of the 100's of South of the Border signs advertising the "must see" place on the interstate. I have lived in South Carolina all my life and last week was my inaugural trip to see Pedro. And, no offense, but I had not missed anything by waiting.

As I motored up Hwy 301 I first came upon the Budget Motel with its peach and aqua decor and HBO offerings. In the distance I could see the infamous black signs of SOTB. 




As a child I spent many hours in the back seat of my parents' Oldsmobile reading the puns and jokes of the South of the Border signs as we motored up Hwy 301 to see my Grandparents who lived in Bennettsville and my father's family who lived in Wagram, NC. If nothing else, they are entertaining for the younger set and educational for those just learning to read.


So now I guess I can check that off my list.


Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Palmer Motel, Dillon SC

My journey next took me into Dillon SC (population 6,669) which sits just south of the South Carolina / North Carolina state line. I first came to the Palmer Motel which is still in operation and welcomes children, families, and pets.




This establishment is made up of small buildings containing two or three rooms each. 


Out front by the drive was one of the traditional coach lights one often finds by the old motels.





Friday, March 7, 2014

Abandoned, Trashed, and Left in the Dust

My next discovery was probably the most haunting of the day. I almost missed this one as I drove by, but I turned around and went back. Fenced off and almost hidden by vines and weeds were the remnants of a motel that had been abandoned. I could not find a name or reference anywhere. The sign with the motel's name had been taken down. 


The colors were all pinks and peaches.


It was a fairly large property with all the rooms on one floor facing the courtyard in a u-shape. In the center was a swimming pool built around a tiered fountain. Of course the pool was green with algae. on closer inspection the fountain was covered with these lovely tiles.


Naturally, the first thing that came to my mind was how beautiful this must have been in its day. The office had been trashed with the glass broken. But the brick work and design shows that this was not just your run of the mill roadside mom and pop place.



The wood work in the trashed lobby was quite lovely. And now the whole property sits like a ghost town.



Thursday, March 6, 2014

Continuing up Hwy 301 into Latta, SC

Continuing along my journey I came upon what I found to be the most impressive inn sign so far. The Imperial Motel's sign stood tall as a testament to the old lady's grand days. The motel (or what was the motel) was laid out in a semi circle and was landscaped in lush palmettos and palms which are still there. There is still some type of business being operated on the premises but it is not a hotel as best I could tell. But, thank goodness they left the sign standing. 



And, also on each drive were traditional lamps marking the drives with caution signs.


And then moving on into Latta, SC (population 1,357) I found the Patrick Henry Motor Lodge. This lodge is still operating, serving guests daily.



Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Hwy 301 in Olanta, SC

In Olanta, SC (population 567) I did not find a motel, but I did find an abandoned filling station that I am sure serviced many a snow bird an their way to or from the warmer weather of Florida.


With an old water pump on the side.


And just down the road I found this sign which I could barely make out to read "Ann's Kitchen". It was in front of a vacant lot so I assume Ann's was long gone. Funny how the businesses go, then the buildings, and last to follow are the signs.




Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Featherbed Motel Turbeville, SC

Continuing on my journey up Highway 301, I came upon the Featherbed Inn in Turbeville, SC. Now if you are not familiar with Turbeville (population 820), its most notable business may be its downtown local eatery the "Chat 'n Chew". I digress.

The Featherbed Motel looked to be a well to do place in her day. 



Sadly, her day had past. What was left were remnants of days long gone. But just looking at the building it made we want to go back in a time machine, drive up in a 1960's Oldsmobile, check into room #4, put on my swim suit and relax by the pool. What more could a traveler want after a long day on the road.




The comfortable iron benches where visitors could relax under the shade of the awning still sit in front of many of the rooms.



Looking down the corridor, you can see the line of room doors.

And the pool, I am sure was most relaxing in its day. Although these days it is losing the battle to algae and weeds.


Such a sad site to see, a shadow of her former self, abandoned to the elements.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Highway 301 Bamberg, SC

We were in Bamberg SC last week to drop off a chain saw and stopped to have breakfast at a local diner. As we drove out of town I noticed the motels, or rather what was left of some of the old motels and motor lodges on Highway 301. 

Bamberg is one of the little towns that dot Highway 301 that in its hey day was the North South corridor for the snow birds going back and forth to Florida. And, down here we were more than happy to trade our southern hospitality for their Yankee dollars. Most people know that the difference between a "Motel" and a "Hotel" is that a "Motel" is one for motorist along a route. It is a place that people drive their cars up to the  their room door to park. Most are one story, a few are two stories tall. A Motor Lodge is the same genre.

Once Interstate 95 came through (which basically parallels Hwy 301) it killed the hospitality economy along the old road, and took down many towns with it. Only those towns lucky enough to be close to an exit on the new highway benefited from its largess. And, then only the newer businesses, mainly chains, profited there. So the motels and motor lodges from Maryland through Florida, all along the old 301 route were left to die a slow death.


Having been out west and been on Route 66 several times, it dawned on me that 301 was much like 66, just without a song. There was the romance of the road, the history of the route. There were the memories so many folks had of traveling up and down that through way. Unfortunately, no one had taken the notion to come up with a catchy tune memorializing the wonder days of that time.

 Highway 301 runs right smack dab down the middle of our home town.I can remember as a little girl all the motels dotting the route with the local restaurants like "Berry's on the Hill" and "Jack Nolands" that serviced the motoring crowd. Orangeburg fell just right as a stopping point for travelers from the New York area on their way to Florida. And, we had our regulars who stopped in several times a year as they made their pilgrimage north or south.  

Now all those establishments are gone. The few motel buildings still standing have been morphed into different types of businesses, shelters, and used car dealerships. One, the Slumberland Motel, still stands as a shadow of its former self. The pool is still in the center court  and all the rooms still face the parking lot. But the colors are now red brick, not the bright cheery colors of the glory days.

It also got me thinking, how much was left? How many of these old motels along Hwy 301 from the glory days were still standing? So I took it upon myself to see just what remains. 

I started in Bamberg and found that the one motel that was still operating did not have a name, but used the old signage. 




With the Vacancy Sign that I truly wondered if it worked?





This hardly provided an inviting place after a long day on the road.

But then I found a sign from the glory days, the days of hospitality and motoring. It was all that was left of an establishment that once served so many.


This is only Bamberg, Hwy 301 runs from Dillion to Allendale in SC, let's see what else is left.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

I Hate Apple

My bags are packed. I have already checked in for my flight. They let you check in 24 hours in advance. I find that cruel and unusual punishment when you are in a location with gray skies and weather in the low 50s and your destination is Central America. And, you know there will be colorful drinks with little umbrellas in them waiting for you by a pool in the warm sunshine. But, I digress.

I hate Apple. If I have not mentioned that before, note it now. I have an iPad which I love - the only Apple product exception. Apple wants total control. They know better. When asked about focus groups in designing his products, Steve Jobs commented that he didn't need them because people did not know what they wanted. He would show them. (Something to that effect (affect?).) Their products do not have replaceable batteries, you must send your device back to the mother ship for repairs. To download almost anything onto iPods, iPads, iPhones, etc once again you are required to dock into the mother ship through iTunes.

And that is where my most recent experience of total frustration arose. I have spent the past 3 years working in IT. This has included installing soft ware and hardware, training others to use the programs, and testing programs. I would hope I know my way around a computer. I had 1800 songs on my iPad. When I downloaded the newest ios (iTunes operating system)  it crashed my iPad. Now short of throwing the device against the wall - which I cannot afford to since it cost so much - and screaming expletives about Steve Jobs - which will do no good since he has passed away and  I personally hope he drowned in the river Styx, I was forced to wipe my iPad and reload the entire iTunes program, once again on my PC (and no, I do not use a MAC). 

When that was finally done and I rebooted my iPad, everything was there with the exception of my music. No problem, I can reload that from the directory on my PC. So I go into iTunes and reload my music. When done it shows 118 tunes. I pull up the directory on my PC. And, all I see are the 118 tunes. No problem because I was smart enough to have a duplicate directory of my music stored else where, not that I was paranoid about a conspiracy. And, sure enough in another directory I find the folder. I open it and there are all the sub folders with the different artists names on them. I open several the sub folders, and songs files are contained in each of the sub folders.

I go back into iTunes, change the path for the music and down load it again. Still only 118 tunes. What the ____! I go back into the back up directory. The sub folders are all there. I open several of the sub folders. There are no song files listed. I quickly go through almost all of the folders - no song files. Then I go through all my directories searching for other folders and sub folders that may contain the song  files. There are none.

Some how in down loading the new ios, rebooting my Ipad, and attempting to reload my music all but 118 of my songs were deleted from every where. And, the 118 are a random selection. It is not like Jobs (and yes it is his fault) chose one or two artists, or one or two genre, or even started with some letter in the alphabet. I just have 118 random songs that, obviously, Apple thinks I want on my iPad.

Did I mention I hate Apple and Steve Jobs?