Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Summer Heat

There are several signs of summer down here. Not the coming of summer, but that it has arrived. The first sure sign is there's no sense ironing your linen slacks or khaki pants, once you walk out the door the steam will take any wrinkles (or creases) out for you. You start hearing comments about how hot the days are - like this is something new. (What porch have they been under for the past several centuries?) Socks are only worn by men at weddings or funerals (and only then when some whining woman who doesn't know any better is involved.)

Old trucks can be seen on the side of the road with home made signs stating local watermelons and cantelopes are available for reasonable prices. Johns Island tomatoes can be found as far inland as Columbia, but they are best fresh from the field purchased at George and Pinks. And, the sweet corn, that sweet light yellow wonder that, as a child, my mother miraculously called a vegetable, is finally in season. 

The Fourth of July is right around the corner because you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a Fireworks stand and you start seeing local sweet peaches at roadside stands and in local markets. It is the time of sun screen, sun burns, Solarcaine, bug spray, tide tables, the lake, the beach, coolers, and lots of ice. It is Beaufort Stew, peach cobbler, tomato sandwiches, homemade ice cream, corn on the cob, and  boiled peanuts. It is warm mornings, hot days, tropical thunderstorms in the afternoon, and those magical summer nights with fireflies when so many memories are made. Life is good and slow. We have learned to weather the heat in our own way. And, I wouldn't want it any other way.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Dollar Stores

My mother has a fascination for Dollar Stores that I have mentioned before. However, I do not think I truly understood the depth of her affliction until we were at the beach and she started rattling off "Dollar Store" stories. Including, the afternoon she and her best friend were so bored they launched an expedition to visit every Dollar Store in the county before supper. (Of course, this was also the generation that thought cramming as many people as possible into a phone booth was entertaining.)

I was driving her, her college roommate (from 58 years ago), and her daughter to John's Island to tour some sights of the Low Country. We had the general conversation in the car: how lovely the live oaks trees were with the Spanish Moss, how all the Yankee traffic had changed the area, the beautiful plantation houses (of course each time we passed one, Mama had to remind us that she and her (now departed) sister had had the pleasure of touring them years ago - something few privileged souls get to do.)

On our way back to the beach, my mother commented, "You know, I haven't seen a Dollar Store any where down here." I was just getting ready to politely say that was a good thing, when her roommate commented, "I have been looking for one also, and I haven't seen one. You'd think there would be one down here." I held my tongue. With all the encroaching blight in the area, the last thing I wanted to see was a Dollar Store. Then my mother and her roommate launched into this long discussion about all the Dollar Stores close to their homes and how they shopped there. 

Then the conversation digressed into a deep comparison of the different types of Dollar Stores. Who knew? (Who cared?). And, oh, they have their differences. What really concerned me was how educated my mother was in the world of Dollar Stores. And, it must be a generational fascination, because her roommate shared the same excitement. Her daughter and I just quietly listened in amusement as the two waxed on about locations, stock, and prices. (I learned that some Dollar Stores charged more than a dollar - these did not score well.) Consumer Reports is missing out on two limited area two experts here. 

About that time we passed a Dollar Store on the highway. My mother's roommate's daughter commented, "Well, the continuity of civilization is now guaranteed. We can all sleep well tonight.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bad Beach Water

When we used to come to the beach when I was a little girl, I can remember the drinking water was God awful. To me it was the definition of nasty.Since then most beaches have put in sophisticated water systems and the water no longer has that horrible taste.

The first morning we were down here, I noticed my mother was making her coffee with water she had brought from home in a gallon milk jug. Not drinking coffee, I dismissed that as her personal preference. A day later, she dispatched my brother and nephew to the fire station with large containers to bring back water. Once again, I just went about my business.

Then last night, we were preparing Beaufort Stew for supper. (For those of you who don't know - Beaufort Stew aka Frogmore Stew aka Low Country Boil is Shrimp, Fresh Corn, Kielbasa sausage, and potatoes all cooked together with onions and Old Bay. Then when the Nector of the Gods is ready it is drained in a sink and everyone fills their plate and sits down for a sumptuous meal.) Anyway, my sister-in-law had been tasked with preparing dinner. I was in the kitchen offering assistance.

The first step in preparing the stew is to bring a large, as in several gallons worth, pot of seasoned water, to a boil. She had the pot on the stove waiting for it to come to a boil. About that time,from my mother comes this distressful call, "I know you are not using beach water for the stew." "I am. What else am I supposed to use," Denise commented. "Oh, God. You can't use that, it's salty and will ruin the stew." I had to intervene. "Mama, the water is not salty." "Well, it's bad, we just can't drink it." "Well, I've been drinking it every night before I went to bed."

There was an audible gasp from my mother and a smothered laugh from my sister-in-law (who was protected from my mother by the kitchen wall.) "You don't," my mother said. "I do. And, it hasn't killed me yet. And, besides, we're not drinking the stew, we're just cooking in it." "Well, there is no telling what would happen if we cooked with it. There is plenty of water from the fire station to use". To keep peace in the house, we dumped out the pot and started out again.

The fire station has a "special" faucet that for years has been available to anyone on the island who wants "good" water. My brother and I are convinced that it is just a faucet hooked up to the town water system. But, to my mother (and many others) it is the only water safe to consume on the island. But, whatever, if I wake up dead tomorrow, the first assumption should be bad beach water.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

You know? Uh, No.

These are the phrases of the day:

  •  . . . and so forth and so on
  •  . . . and what have you
  •  . . . you know
To be honest, I don't. My mother has this new habit of never competing her sentences, which is mildly annoying. Not only do the tales get taller, but they are never finished. So I have developed a habit (which annoys her) of responding with, "No, I don't know", or "What do you have?" After some sputtering on her part, she will give me this "How dare you question me?" look. But I hold pat. After some more sputtering on her part, there is a standoff, and she wins with the "I'm your mother and I said so" card.

I'll never know the rest of the story.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I Can't Fight it Much Longer

My mother and I had a day and a half to ourselves at the beach before everyone else got there. It was a joy to spend time with her, but I had forgotten some of her habits, more I fear I may exhibit as I get older - God forbid.

First she was disappointed with the beach house she had rented. It was on the front row, it sat back from the dunes, separated by, of all things, a volleyball court. When I arrived I found Mama on the front porch thoroughly annoyed. "Honestly, I don't remember that being there when I rented the house," she said pointing to the volleyball court. "That's no big deal," I said trying to console her. "The house is built high enough that it doesn't matter to me." "Well it matters to me." 

Another example was our discussion of her Aunt Mary Martha, whom I personally thought had been dead and buried for some time. "I need to check on Mary Martha and see how she is doing. Really, I'm embarrassed to say, I'm not sure if she is alive or dead." "Mama, wasn't she Granddaddy's oldest brother's wife?" "Yes." "Well, given Granddaddy would have turned 106 last month, odds are she's not with us any more."

Then there was the discussion about a beach house that no longer exists (as we passed the location it formally occupied.) "I think that was where Mrs. Hurlehey's house was. Do you remember her?" "Yes, she was the lady who had that beautiful yard you used to show me as a young child." "Well, her children moved her down here permanently, because they were scared for her safety. You know she would drive back and forth by herself." "Really." "I wonder if she is still alive?" "Mama, she was in her ninety's when you would take her to see her yard when I was ten, I kinda doubt it."

Saturday, June 18, 2011

I deserve it and no one . . .

"I'm gonna have a nervous breakdown. I deserve it and no one is going to deprive me of it."

I can remember one of my relatives muttering this when I was young. (I think it was some great aunt.) At the time, I recall looking at the state she was in and feeling quite sure she deserved her "nervous breakdown", whatever that was. The conviction in her voice was so dire, I could not imagine anyone wanting her not to have it. My mother would just tell me when I inquired that these were things we just didn't discuss.

But often, at family reunions, I would be lurking around the cake table, and would hear her make her announcement once again. When I raised my eyebrows in concern, some other relative would look my way and nonchalantly say, "Pay her no never mind," as if she were touched in the head. 

The older I get, I am reminded of that aggrieved relative and her one denied wish. Of course, looking back on it, unlike the old lady of my memory, she most likely was just a stressed out mother with teenage daughters pushing her to the brink not some doddering bat whose elevator didn't make it to the top floor anymore. Funny how life will change your perspective. Now, back to that nervous breakdown . . .

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Little Reflection

I am still trying to work out some of the "kinks" in my website. In doing so, I have been visiting some other photography sites. There are two things I have learned, (1) web site design, no matter what anyone says, should be done by a professional, and (2) I am way out of my league. After looking at the phenomenal work of these other "artists", I have no business what-so-ever marketing my work. Either I am fooling myself or trying to market to fools.

Their work is perfect - true works of art. I might as well pull out that box of 32 Crayola crayons and crawl back on the porch. (No I am not even in the 64 color league). Talk about a buzz kill. These photographers have crisp pictures of rare birds in flight, captured the bright colors of the monks in Tibet, sunrises over the Great Wall of China, the glow of lava flows in Hawaii, and the wilder beasts migrating on the plains of Africa. They have traveled the world, invested in tens of thousands of dollars of equipment, and mastered Photoshop.  

But, upon reflection, (no pun intended) I don't have to be a birder, or a world traveler to exotic places (although I yearn to be), have no desire to spend money on equipment that is so heavy I have to have support to use it and special cases to carry it in, or rely on Photoshop. When you have captured the evening light on the Ashley river:

the morning dew on a rose bud:

or sunrise on a Florida beach:

maybe you don't need to stay on the porch after all.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Yes, They're Mine

You have to start somewhere right? (If and) when I get well known, I'll have great tales to tell about getting started selling my photos. And, if I never sell my photos, by then I may just have enough fodder to write a book. Saturday morning, I'm at the Market adding some missing labels to a few photographs, hanging a business card holder and the like. A nice lady comes over and and says, "So you're the one making all the noise." "Yes, that's me. And, I'm not being too good at it either," I said holding up my hammer."I think I best stick to photography."

"You took all these? They're yours?" she asked pointing to the wall of photos behind me. "Yes, these are mine." "They're pretty. We're gonna have a busy day today." She said moving on. "It's Saturday. We're always busy on Saturday." With that she walked off before I could introduce myself. No doubt she would identify me to the other merchants as that 'snoddy photographer who doesn't visit.' Great.

I look around. There is a fan blowing on the large booth across from me that is set up like a living room with everything from a ceramic giraffe to indoor water fountain (that is running) to a myriad of dustables (gee gaws of various designs) - all with small white tags tied to each item. The gentle breeze is causing each tag to flutter making the whole scene look like an eye catching yard sale in some Victorian living room. 

To my right is a booth that specializes in ladies hats - as in Sunday go to meeting hats. There are hats of every size, shape, color, and description, all used and most never to be worn again. As I stood there this very old matronly lady was directing Bert, the manager of the Market, to pull different hats down off the wall for her to try on. Across from the aisle from the hat store is a homemade candle booth with quilted pot holders and such. 

After much deliberation, the lady decided to purchase an orange straw hat and a white hat that looks like something between that a jester and the Queen Mother would wear. The lady swears she had the red version of this hat at home. Who knew? 

When he finished assisting the lady and she left, the proud owner of the two hats, I handed Bert an updated inventory sheet and we discussed the gallery and some possible future changes. He then commented, "Now this is not coming from me, but this lady was in this week and I think she would have bought this picture," (he pointed to one of the two largest I had displayed) "but she didn't care for this." And, he pointed to my watermark (my signature) in the corner. "Well, I can print another copy and reframe it. In fact any of these can be redone in a larger or smaller size,  with a different color mat, whatever." "How long would it take, two weeks?" "Or less." "Really?" "Bert, this is all my work. I own it, I can redo it as I please." "Well, that's good to know."

What am  missing here? There is a reason my name and copyright is on my work. Yes, they're mine - but I want to make them some one else's - for a price. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Viral Gossip

Meanwhile back at the Market (where my photos are being offered for sale). I called my mother to let her know I had leased space and had some of my work displayed there for sale (less - God forbid someone else tell her first.) "I think that is just a great idea. Where are they?" "My photos?" "Yes, in what part of the market?" "Oh, right up front when you first come in the door." "That's a wonderful location." "All the paintings and such are displayed up over the booths." "Up over the booths? I hope not too high up." I just can't win!

"Well, I just think it is great that you might finally make some money out of this hobby. You know you have spent a lot of money on it." "Not really, Mama. Once you've bought the camera, the main investment is your time." "Well, whatever." (Her way of saying, 'I'm right, and I know it, whether you agree with me or not. case closed.)

"I've got bridge this afternoon, otherwise I would stop by and see what it looks like." That was the method in my madness of calling her - telling her automatically spread the word to her four bridge clubs and from there it would go viral. I could not ask for better free advertisement among people with time on their hands, money in their pockets, lots of curiosity, and a propensity to spread their opinion on any subject whether you cared about it or not. The way I figured it, by Saturday, after her fourth bridge club, her demographic in the county would be covered, then by Sunday lunch it would spread down one generation.

An encounter in the grocery store later that week, proved my point. A friend of mine commented over the fresh sweet corn, "Mama tells me you are into photography now . . . and have won all these national awards." Of course, then my mother has been known to exaggerate a bit. In full disclosure, I felt I best confess and at least try to curb whatever nonsense she was saying. "Well, I do enjoy photography, and do have some pieces for sale at the Market, but as for 'National Awards' a cnntravel.com photo of the day is the closest I have come and I don't think that qualifies.

Next time I best stick to Twitter.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Bundle of Puppy Joy

My Daddy used to say,"When you're up to your ass in alligators, it's hard to remember the goal was to drain the swap." 

We have always had pets (more than most sane folks) - dogs, cats, tropical fish, chinchillas, tortoises, etc. I get asked often, "How did your husband get started with this? (as in the menagerie)?" My answer is very simple - He never grew up. 

We have aged (gracefully?) along with our last two dogs. And, we had established a very calm, copacetic lifestyle. When I brought Ellie into the equation, the boat was gently rocked, but we handled it. She quickly blended in and life went on. Then came Abby (yes, she finally has a name) and not only are the seas extremely rough, I'm not sure, but the boat may be taking on water.

After the first night or two, Ellie slept through the night. At five months, she is about full grown (at a nice compact size.) She either plays quietly in my office while I work or romps in the back yard with the big dogs. Trust me, our life has not been the same since she came, but we all settled in fairlly quickly.

Then came Abby, bless her heart,  a six week old puppy thrown into our zoo, so wobbly she has been known to fall on her nose as she exits her crate in the morning. And, we are on a two hour "potty" schedule with her. (Much worse than either of my girls.) And, I say "we" - I did not have anything to do with this bundle of puppy joy, but am on the care and maintenance staff. And, she is high maintenance. Ellie's arrival was nothing compared to this. We had to puppy-proof the house. Everything remotely "chew-able" had to be removed to safe location. There are rags and rolls of paper towels located strategically to quickly clean up any little "accidents" that may occur. Luckily, at her current size, the gates are still effective.

Her crate and Ellie's are side by side. Unlike, Ellie, who has an automatic programmed feeder, Abby is fed in her crate. One morning, I put Abby's food in her bowl in the kitchen and was carrying it to her crate. She was jumping around in anticipation. She stood there at the door of her crate, and watched as I placed the bowl inside. I backed off. My fears we realized when she hopped in Ellie's crate and could not figure out how to get to her food.  Oh, dear God, bless her heart, another one for the short bus. 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Abby and Ellie

The New Airedale puppy - Abby (at 6 weeks)

Big sister Ellie (at 5 months)

And, sorry, trying to get the four dogs together for a picture would be total chaos. If the gods prevail, peace is in the house, and a camera is handy I'll post the photo.