Sunday, October 21, 2007

A Day in Charleston

The family had been attacked with an early assault of strep throat and everyone feels wiped out. I feel pretty crappy and hope like hell that the bogeyman post above makes some sort of sense. If its doesn't the following is an approved for families rerun of the Lexington Parrothead. I'm going to crash and will be back to my friends tomorrow. See y'all!

Way back in the spring of 2001 part of the adoption process for Miss Wiggles involved Dragonwife, Darth Spoilboy and myself traveling down to Charleston, South Carolina to visit the US immigration office to fill out some paperwork and jump through a few hoops for good old Uncle Sammy. This Lowcountry boy fell in love with “The Holy City” many years ago before the advent of gross consumerism which is ubiquitously symbolized in your local Wal-Mart. Many of my posts sing the glories of growing up in such a small town as Georgetown, South Carolina away from the even then rat race madness of the evil big city. But Georgetown in the late 60’s and 70’s fell short when it came to the purchase of major items such as appliances, cars, or even things likes formal suits for important events. On such occasions a trip, sometimes bordering on an epic journey, had to be organized to one of the many businesses located in Charleston that could handle our needs. Many times as I was growing up my family would travel to Charleston to conduct whatever important business was needed but after that we would always make time to see some of the history of that beautiful city. So when the adoption process for Miss Wiggles got to the point that we had to make a personal visit to the closest immigration office I was a small kid again looking forward to another epic journey to a city I love.

The three of us entered the immigration office about thirty minutes after it opened and saw that the waiting area was already standing room only. The gathering of humanity already there came from all corners of the earth. I talked with a couple of engineers from Germany, a doctor from India, a family from Kenya, and many others all looking to come to this country to better themselves. Spoilboy was about six at the time and while navigating the red tape was a pain seeing him exposed to the many other children also there with their parents was a good learning experience for him. The US immigration office in Charleston back in 2001 was a testament in bureaucratic red tape. The main mission of our visit was to fill out paperwork concerning the adoption of an orphan Chinese infant and to have our fingerprints filed with immigration. I thumbed through the various files as Dragonwife filled them out, she is an attorney, I found out that the mighty US government seemed to need assurance that we were not about to bring anyone dangerous into the country. Given what was unknowingly hanging over our heads a few months down the road in September I hope I won’t be considered too harsh when I write that overall in my humble opinion that orphaned Chinese baby girls should have been the least of their concerns. If the ridiculous paperwork wasn’t enough our encounter in the immigration office turned comedic when none of the staff at work that day could not figure out how to operate the high-tech device used to take a photo copy like picture of our finger prints. While Dragonwife was busy with some finally paperwork I overheard a couple of the staff about to recommend that we come back again next week when the person who definitely knew how to operate the device would be back at work. Volcanic vapors began seeping from the Dragonwife’s ears as the staff began hinting at such a course of action. Luckily a senior staff person came from the inner offices to take charge and was able to get us along with several others needing fingerprints taken processed and out the door.

It was early afternoon but after the normal lunch time when we stumbled out of Uncle Sam’s then only den of torture and began making our way up Meeting street looking for some small café that Dragonwife had read about in her Martha Stewart magazine. I’m not big on Martha but I have to give the devil her due because that little place, whose name I have long forgotten, served up a fantastic lunch that did much to settle our nerves after spending the entire morning tangling with our benevolent government. I had a She-crab soup and grouper sandwich that even now I consider one of the best meals I have ever had in my life. Throw in a bright sunny day, a light breeze, and a very comfortable temperature sitting outside on the patio of the café close enough to the harbor to have a small view of the water and I experienced something as close to heaven as I may ever see. The one and only problem was a Yankee waiter that got snotty when I asked for sweet tea as my beverage. When I asked for sweet tea that waiter’s lip drew back into something that would later be described as a Cheney-like sneer that even now gives me the creeps. He rudely remarked, in a Boston accent, that they did not serve sweet tea and that there was sweetener on my table which I could use, he then quickly turned away going off to check on other patrons. Dragonwife's stern look prevented me from getting up and re-opening the old national wounds by pounding his New England head into the fine Southern cement making up the patio. All I could do was enjoy my food and surroundings and lament the slow encroachment of Northern practices of serving unsweetened tea in what can be called the heart of the South. Honestly, I have engaged in many debates with what I will call neo-Confederates over the circumstances and the outcome of the Civil War or what they still call The War of Northern Aggression but the insidious practice of unsweetened tea so disturbed my Southern sensibilities that for once I wished the South had won the Civil War.

After our marvelous lunch we walked about The Holy City taking in the sites close to the café for a little unorganized sightseeing, for Dragonwife this was quite an accomplishment in going with the flow. Dragonwife is almost genetically incapable of just “hanging loose” everything, including vacations, have to be planned down to the minute like a major military operation, think D-Day. In normal circumstances she would have had us on one of the many tour buses that shuttle the hordes of tourists around the city at predetermined sites with strict times frames on how long you can stay. Only the uncertainty of the immigration office prevent us from being turned into tourist cattle seeing all the normal sites, many are good historical sites but just as many are old fashion tourist traps. I have always been one to explore on my own and as we walked past an ancient graveyard beside an equally ancient looking chapel I felt the old impulse “…to boldly go…”.

Walking past the small wrought iron fence surrounding the graveyard I was already fascinated by reading some of the words on the tombstones of those who were buried there. Many had testaments about how the person died and due to the years engraved on the tombstones I could tell most were from the colonial era about ten to twenty years before The Declaration of Independence. Basic math clearly shown that life was short and things we ignore due to the advancement of medical science could have easily killed you. Needless to say there were a very high number of infants buried there along with many children who never made it past the age of six. Looking at my son I said a small prayer of thanks that he was healthy and relatively well fed given that his favorite food was the chicken nuggets the burger clown passes off on the spoiled American children of tired parents. Wanting to make sure everything was okay I looked around and saw that even Dragonwife had become engrossed in the history literally carved in stone around us. Spoilboy had wandered over to an oak tree to watch a par of squirrels scampering around doing squirrelly things but upon smelling the leftover French Fries from the bag he was carrying around from the café they became extremely interested in him and began what seems was a conversation with each other on how they could get part of his goods.
Farther down inside the cemetery I had noticed several curious looking graves. A huge one piece slab of marble was resting on a rectangular platform which extended about two feet above the ground. I know next to nothing about cemeteries so I have no idea why these graves were raised up off the ground. On these types of graves all the personal information about the person was carved on the horizontal slab. As I continued to walk around I noticed one of the slabs had been cracked in the middle and as I tried to read the weathered stone I noticed enough of it was broken that I could almost see inside the cavity that I guess existed between the marble slab and the ground. I began to wonder if this was some type of “cheap” sepulcher and despite how gross it may seem my curiosity had me trying to see inside the darken space. I almost began to believe I could see something and called Dragonwife over to show her. As we read the information about the man under the broken slab, directly across from us we began hearing a rustling in the tall grass and we both looked up in time to see an rather large rat take a huge leap out of the grass hit the toe of my left sneaker leap up gain to disappear amongst the other graves. I caught a good glimpse of the airborne rodent right before it hit the toe of my sneaker and I will swear to my dying days that the damn thing was smiling at Dragonwife and myself. As it scampered off, and I know everyone will think I’m absolutely bonkers for this, but the first word that came into my head was “cool”. Dragonwife, who had been standing right next to me, was gone. I looked back down the main path toward the street, at least seventy-five yards away, and I saw that she had already made it to the street and had somehow grabbed Spoilboy in the space of a few seconds. I had never seen her move so fast in my life.

Much to my chagrin the incident with super-rodent had completely ruined the rare mellow mood of Dragonwife and all she wanted to do was after that was find the car and make our way back toward home. But I had fun yanking her chain along the way about my marvelous new idea about how to keep her motivated in her exercises. And all we had to do was make a quick stop at a pet store.


Colonel Colonel said...

Next time a New Englander gets uppity ask him about our little taste treat called "New England Boiled Dinner" -put corned beef, potatos, cabbage, onions and carrots into a big pot and boil it for hours and hours until everything inside is the same gray color and soggy consistency and every last shred of flavor has been removed.

Serve with ketchup.

Anonymous said...

I hope you all feel better soon!

Beach Bum said...

Colonel: I sure well, I hate opening anicent wounds but sweet tea is a southern tradition that needs to be defended.

Preposterous Ponderings: Doing better now but still feel washed out. Need a beach trip.

Anonymous said...

Interesting stuff....
thanks for sharing...

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