Monday, September 26, 2016

The Importance Of Being Earnest--It All Unravels Right Here In The Lowcountry

The Importance of Being Ernest is a play written by Oscar Wilde in 1895. A trivial comedy written for serious people, its zany story line is a handbag packed with social escapists, secret personas, closet engagements, and lover’s entanglements with a mythical suitor. The whole whacky affair is now unfolding at the James F. Dean Theatre in Summerville with a bit of a twist--it all unravels right here in the Lowcountry--Charleston and Summerville to be specific.

The play opens in Charleston with Algernon Moncrieff (Erik Brower) receiving his best friend (Jacob Sunding) whom he knows as Ernest with last name Worthing. Ernest has come from Summerville to propose to Algernon's cousin, Gwendolen Fairfax (Minna Schubert), daughter of the formidable Lady Bracknell (Susie Hallatt). Algernon, however, refuses his consent to the engagement until Ernest explains why his cigarette case bears the inscription referring to him as Uncle Jack.

Ernest is forced to admit to living a double life. In Summerville, he portrays a respectable lifestyle for the benefit of his young ward, Cecily Cardew (Megan Fife-Malasky), and goes by the name of John also nicknamed Jack, at the same time pretending to be concerned about a brother living in Charleston named Ernest who indulges in wicked ways. On his visits to Charleston, John assumes the identity of the made-up philandering Ernest. Algernon confesses a similar deception. He pretends to have an invalid friend named Bunbury in the country, whom he can visit whenever he wishes to avoid unwelcome social obligations.

John refuses to tell Algernon the location of his country estate, but after proposing to Gwendolen as Ernest and unsuccessfully acquiring consent from Lady Bracknell after revealing he was adopted by an old man who discovered him as a baby in a handbag at a train station, Algernon overhears him giving his country address to Gwendolen. Next, Algernon makes a surprise visit to John's Summerville estate pretending to be his brother, Ernest Worthing and meets Cecily. Long fascinated by Uncle Jack's until now never before seen black sheep brother, she can't help but to fall in love with Algernon, who is pretending to be Ernest. Pretty wild stuff so far, but the best is yet to come.

Gwendolen soon arrives to see her fiancé, so named Ernest, meets Cecily, and bordering on a potential catfight, the genteel blue gloves come off as the two of them spar over their one and only Ernest. Exquisitely portrayed by Megan and Minna, the encounter generates one of the more exceptional and endearing acting moments of the play.

As usual, Chrissy Eliason and Company crafted a brilliant, and I emphasize brilliant, set for Earnest. The predominantly white theme of the proscenium evoked a sense of purity and respectability, but as with Earnest, the obvious is the ambiguous. From the perspective of the audience, the props and costumes stood out like a hologram against the stage's white backdrop and subtle pastel lighting.

Director Joseph Demerly did an excellent job at casting the character of the actor with the character of the script. Without a doubt, if I were to look at a photograph of the cast in full dress, I would have been able to match the body to the name. Likewise, the chosen actors did an excellent job bringing their character to life.

Susie Hallatt as Lady Bracknell is snobbish, domineering, and as presumptuous as her brown patterned dress, Minna Schubert as Gwendolen graced the stage with an air of southern sophistication and pretentiousness, and Megan Fife-Malasky as Cecily was naive and unspoiled as a pink rose. Jacob Sunding as John a.k.a. Ernest was spot on with his character's gentleman-like southern swag with an accent to match and Erik Brower was as witty and confrontational as his character Algernon, who is given to making pronouncements that either make no sense at all or touch on something profound.

Robert Venne (Butler Merriman) and Jason Pallay (Butler Lane) serve up some goodies and Deb Abbey as the rigid Miss Prism carries some of her own baggage and has romantic feelings for Reverend Canon Chausable played by David Hallatt.

The Importance of Being Earnest is Oscar Wilde’s social version of Bud Abbott's and Lou Costello's "Who's on first, what's on second, and I don't know is on third." You need to pay close attention to the dialogue throughout or you may miss a key piece of revelation that will later leave you scratching your head and trying to catch up. It is profoundly interesting, entertainingly trivial, and seriously humorous.

Now showing September 23rd to October 2nd.

Purchase your ticket for The Importance of Being Earnest.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Boone Hall Plantation And The Taste Of Charleston 2016--The Old, The New, And A Ghost Story Too

Lining both sides of the earthen driveway, the procession of evenly spaced ancient oaks stretched for a distance of three quarters of a mile. Their broad branches extended skyward like outstretched welcoming arms intertwining into a embracing green canopy high above where light beams from the sun cut through the open areas of the tree's thick leaf clusters. A charming and unforgettable southern reception for visitors entering the resplendent Boone Hall Plantation. NBC Daytime television called it "a must see stop on any trip to Charleston, S.C."

There is no official documentation pointing to when the famous trees were planted. Boone Hall's web page states the son of Major John Boone planted the live oak trees in 1743. Other research seems to indicate that the Horlbeck’s planted the avenue a hundred years later in 1843. There is only one sure way to settle the controversy. It would involve cutting down one of the trees to count its rings, but such an action would constitute desecrating a symbol of long standing southern heritage and spoiling an idyllic narrative.

Boone Hall’s beginnings go way back in American antiquity. Theophilus Patey was granted 470 acres on Wampacheeoone Creek (Boone Hall Creek) in 1681, who at some point in time gave 400 acres of the land to his daughter, Elizabeth Patey, and John Boone as a wedding gift. It is not known when John Boone built a house on the property, but at his death, he left third of his estate to his wife and the rest to his children, Thomas, Theophilus, Susanna, Sarah, and Mary.

Thomas, at some point in time before 1749, took over Boone Hall. He is credited with planting the two evenly spaced rows of live oaks in 1743 according to the narrative of Boone Hall. If true, the Avenue of Oaks is at least 273 years old. In 1749, at his death, he willed the plantation to his son, John Boone. He left the plantation to his nephew, whose name was also John, and in turn, in 1792, John the nephew left it to his wife Sarah Gibbes Boone and his children, Thomas, Susan, and Maria.

The working plantation left the Boone family when Sarah Gibbes Boone sold it to Thomas A. Vardell for $12,000 in 1811. By then, it had expanded to 1,452 acres and included buildings on the property. It changed hands a couple more times before Henry and John Horlbeck took possession of the plantation, which now included a brickyard. The other component of the controversy, the Horlbeck family is credited with planting the Avenue of Oaks in 1843, according to the opposing research. The brickyard was producing 4,000,000 bricks per year and at some point during their ownership, pecan trees were planted on the property. By the late 1800s Boone Hall was one of the leading producers of pecans in the United States.

In 1935, Thomas Archibald Stone and his wife, Alexandra, purchased Boone Hall Plantation from John S. Horlbeck consisting of 4,039.5 acres. The Stone's demolished the 1790 wooden house. It was a two-story frame house with a one-story front porch. In its place, they built the much grander Colonial Revival-style house that stands there today and presently owned by the McRae family. Along with the house there are nine of the original slave cabins which date back to 1790-1810, a smokehouse dating from 1750, and a Cotton Gin house dating around 1853.

Boone Hall is one of America's oldest working, living plantations producing strawberries, tomatoes, and pumpkins, as well as many other fruits and vegetables. It also is host to some of Charleston's most popular festivals held throughout the year: Lowcountry Oyster Festival, Lowcountry Strawberry Festival, Scottish Games and Highland Gathering, and of course, the Taste of Charleston, which this year takes place on Sunday, Sept.25, 2016.

The Taste of Charleston is a 3-day event showcasing taste-tempting delights served by 40 of the Lowcountry’s favorite casual and fine dining restaurants. Highlights of the Main Event include a specialty and imported beer tasting tent, live music, the legendary "Waiters’ Race" and the "Kid's Kitchen Sideshow." Food and drink tickets are sold separately.

There is a famous story associated with the long history of Boone Hall. It is called "The Thirteenth Step." Its telling raises the specter of another controversy. This one having to do with the house. Not the present house because the story takes place in the 1700's and the present house was built in 1935. The only other house mentioned in known historical records of the plantation is the house that was demolished to make way for the present house. This is where the controversy arises. This house was only a two-story house with a one-story front porch. Looking at the photo taken of the house, it only has a short flight of stairs leading onto the porch. In the story, there is a reference to a thirteenth step, the premise on which the story is based. The thirteenth step of what?

Boone Hall.PNG
Photo by Leonard Hayes 1899
Ammie Jenkins is the main character of this story that takes place in the 1700's. It is not stated whether Ammie was born on the plantation. It only states she grew up on the plantation. During those years, she formed a friendship with an Indian boy named Concha, and the two of them spent time together doing the things friends do. She grew to be a beautiful young lady. On her 18th birthday, Concha surprised her with a stunning revelation. He told her he loved her and wanted to be with her. Ammie did not share the same feelings and brushed him off. Concha was broken hearted.

Due to her beauty, she caught the eye of other suitors and in short time, fell in love with one them. In time, the admirer proposed to her and she accepted. Concha heard of the proposal and disappeared. On the night before her wedding, she was standing in her upstairs bedroom before an open window when an arrow struck her in the chest from the outside.

Despite being fatally wounded and with every bit of strength she could muster, she managed to make her way downstairs to the front door where her fiancĂ© was waiting for her. She collapsed into his arms and died, right there on the porch's 13th step. There was no doubt in people’s minds as to who was responsible for firing the arrow that ended young Ammie’s life and the reason. Concha was never seen or found.

As the story became legend, it related how the blood stain left on the 13th step could not be removed, no matter how much scrubbing was attempted to remove it. As time passed, the blood stain on the 13th step was eventually removed, but people since have claimed to have seen it clear as the day it was made, only to disappear upon looking a second time. A ghostly figure, likely Ammie, is said to have been seen sitting on the step staring down to where the blood stain was left, only to fade into nothing whenever someone got to close.

Even though known records don't state it, by this story, one would have to conclude another house existed on Boone Hall before the two-story house was built. A house constructed with at least thirteen steps leading onto the porch and the front entrance. Either John Boone or his son, Thomas, would have been the likely builders and no doubt styled in the grand tradition of plantation homes of its time.

Sadly, that original house has faded away with the passing of time, but the unforgettable Avenue of Oaks remains along with other historical features, which makes Boone Hall a must-see. And, what would a respectable southern plantation be without a good ghost story? It would be like Charleston without carriage rides.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

A Charleston Architectural Relic Of Great Importance Rises Above Its Surrounding Landscape

While driving along Washington Street between Laurens and Pritchard, your attention is promptly drawn to an eye-catching brick formation hauntingly rising above the concrete landscape of the Union Pier Terminal. I have from time to time on outings along this section of the Charleston waterfront seen the curious structure. In those previous encounters, I have with a passing interest pondered about its existence and fostered a temptation to photograph it, but since it was not my primary focus at that moment, its reality would drift from my speculations and consciousness. This day, it would be more than just a fleeting fancy.

I was in Charleston for the afternoon visiting the Coast Guard tallship, Eagle. The 295-foot training vessel was in port for the weekend and moored at the Union Pier Terminal. I came in on Calhoun Street and parked my truck along the heavily bush-covered security fence of the Union Pier Terminal on Laurens Street and walked through the Concord Street gate to the pier and awaiting ship. After touring and photographing the magnificent ship and on my way to leave the pier, an unanticipated opportunity with a bizarre twist presented itself.

For on the horizon and within walking distance, there stood the infamous brick oddity of prior fleeting contemplation. I excitedly navigated the numerous cement barriers that blocked my approach. From the backside, it was a three story, singular wall heavily supported by a maze of steel girders. On its frontside, its true character was revealed. I raised my camera to take my first picture, when suddenly I heard someone shout, "Sir. Sir. You cannot take a picture." I turned around and walking towards me was a husky gentleman dressed in a guards uniform. I responded in disbelief, "What? Are you serious?" He repeated, "Sir, you cannot take a picture," and added, "You are not even supposed to be in here. This is a secure area." Again, I expressed my disappointment in that revelation and asked, "Is this some kind of protected city icon?" He informed me of the possibility of being arrested. I explained to him where I came from and it seemed to appease him. He proceeded to direct me to a sign that was posted at the front guard gate warning no photographs were permitted of the facility.

I returned to the Concord Street gate and exited. Not to be deterred from getting a picture, I did warily sneak a photograph of the brick structure while standing on Washington Street, all-the-while worrying whether I would be swarmed by a bunch of policeman mistaking me for a possible infiltrator scoping out a secure facility.

The brick oddity is actually the remnants of a building facade belonging to the one-time Bennett Rice Mill. It is considered to be one of the finest examples of 19th century American industrial architecture. In its 171 years, it has changed ownership several times and survived an equal amount of natural catastrophes, but the most dire threat hanging over its continued existence is the wrecking ball.

The Bennett Rice Mill was built in 1844 by Governor Thomas Bennett, who was one of the wealthiest of the Lowcountry plantation owners and a gentleman architect. The Classic Revival building, with Palladian windows and brick columns with stone caps and lintels, was impressive. It had 11 foot ceilings, hand-dressed wood timbers, cased wooden columns and arches and cast iron interior columns. Interior wrought iron railings were used around the different platforms. The smallest of six Charleston mills, it was located in an industrial area that was served by rail, ships and a mill pond. The schooners brought in the rice, which was then loaded onto tramways and brought over to the steam-powered mill.

Around 1940
The Civil War changed the Southern economy and rice production declined, but the mill continued to operate into the early 1900's. In 1924, it was converted into a peanut plant under the ownership of the Planters Peanut and Chocolate Company and later used as a storage facility by its next owners, Seaboard Air Line Railroad Company. A tornado blew off its roof in 1938, so the new owners decided to demolish it, but concerned citizens of Charleston protested. In 1952, the city of Charleston declared it unsafe and the wrecking ball reared its ugly head. Some heavy hitters became involved in the protests, such as the American Institute of Architects in New York. The mill, rated as one of twenty-six nationally important buildings in Charleston, survived, but not unscathed. One of its wing buildings was demolished. In 1958, the State Ports Authority took ownership with plans of restoring the structure, but that same year the City ordered its destruction again. Preservationists stepped in and won their argument with the City to have it designated an architectural relic of great importance. Then, in 1960, Hurricane Donna struck a near fatal blow. The storm spawned a tornado and the building crumpled in the intense winds leaving only the brick facade we see today. The steel girders were added for reinforcement and in 1987, it weathered the fury of Hurricane Hugo.

The Bennett Rice Mill facade's future still remains uncertain. The SPA is committed to its restoration, but legal challenges have prevented the port from completing its phase one plans. After all this architectural relic of great importance has endured, it would be a crying shame if while the powers that be argue over legalities a hurricane or an earthquake should take down this surviving time portal to Charleston's glorious past.

Next time you are driving down Washington Street near the Union Pier Terminal, look towards the waterfront. The Bennett Rice Mill facade rises above the surrounding landscape like a solitary island in the open ocean. In a way, it reminds me of the famous Arch of Triumph in Paris, France. If you dare, stop and take a picture because now you see it.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

A Charleston Bed And Breakfast Where You Can Smell The History--Govenor's House Inn

In this part of Charleston, you can smell the history as distinctly as the city's Confederate Jasmine. Its distinguished aroma trickles down through the dense overhead canopy of green leaves that dangle from the entangled branches of the areas antiquated oaks and permeates the wood, brick, and iron of the elegant estates and charming residences lining the old streets. Its odor is as overpowering as the yellowish liquid sometimes left on the concrete surfaces by the numerous horse drawn carriages that frequently pass by. This part of Charleston is the highly traveled and visited neighborhoods of the downtown quarter slightly south of Broad Street.

The various bed and breakfasts located throughout the Lower Peninsula of Charleston offer the discerning traveler an opportunity to bath their imaginations in the soul of Charleston's enchanting history. One place you may want to consider to do that is the Govenor's House Inn. It dates back to the colonial years of the 1700's when the Holy city was called Charles Towne and has a connection to a well-known Charleston family.

While staying at the Govenor's House Inn, some of the history you will smell is the fragrance of oranges. Built in 1760 by James Laurens, the traditional Georgian double house occupies a parcel of land that was at one time called the Orange Garden--a public garden used for concerts and other events in the late 1600's and early to mid-1700's that also contained an orange grove.

Looking at the house from Broad Street, you will notice it is extremely symmetrical, which was a typical attribute of that style. Inside, there is a center stairway with large rooms on both sides, another characteristic of that design. During an extensive renovation in 1885 by then owner, Captain Wagener, a Victorian spiral staircase was added. Original interior features include heart of pine floors, fireplaces, triple-hung windows, and solid slate fireplaces located in the formal living and dining rooms. A portrait of Edward Rutledge hangs in the foyer.

Rutledge leased the home from James Laurens in 1776, the same year he signed the Declaration of Independence at the age of 27, and eventually purchased it in 1788. A copy of the Declaration of Independence hangs in the foyer with his portrait. He was married to Henrietta, a Charlestonian woman from the prominent Middleton’s.

The Govenor's House Inn is formidable in its length and breadth. On the first and second floor exterior, a spacious veranda porch runs the full length of the house on one side and wraps around to the back. A great space to catch a refreshing breeze, read a book, drink a glass of wine or just watch the comings and goings of eclectic Broad Street with the periodic horse drawn carriage passing by. Your own piece of relaxation on your visit to Charleston.

There are seven suites in the main house; two are on the terrace level, two suites in the Kitchen House, and all are elegantly appointed. Six have their own attached private porches and two have exterior entrances. There is no elevator service to the third floor where two suites are located. It offers breakfast and afternoon tea, wine and cheese. It is one of the only properties in downtown Charleston to offer complimentary onsite parking. Depending on the time of year, prices range from $236 to $360 winter and $408 to $508 summer. Check out the full list of amenities, special packages, and things to do.

The John Rutledge House Inn is across the street from the Govenor's House Inn. If you are looking for a pet friendly accommodation, it could be a consideration.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Charleston's Hottest Cocktail Chillingly Lives Up To The Hype--Served At The Market Pavilion Hotel

Teased by the salty scent of the bay and stroked by its balmy breezes, it is indisputably a cornerstone of the ever popular French Quarter. Built on land formerly below sea level, the 19th century European grand hotel style building rises to a height of four stories on the district's busiest crossroads, the Old City Market and East Bay Street. Many of the Revolutionary War-era bottles and historic artwork that adorn its public areas and guest rooms were pulled from the seabed of the very same waters that once held it in its pluff mud embrace.

Additionally, more than 300 pieces of original art, including oil paintings of former U.S. leaders, such as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, are displayed throughout. Gas lanterns, mahogany foyers, crown moldings, French-style chaises, marble baths, and chandeliers hung from high ceilings recall the charm of early Charleston. While teeming with this impressive collection of historical artifacts, contemporary works have been gracefully intermingled for a successful marriage of what Charleston was once upon a time and what it is today, the number one destination in the world. This is the Market Pavilion Hotel.

On this August day, I was not at the Market Pavilion Hotel to experience its luxury accommodations. I was not there to dine at its prestigious Grill 225, famed for its steaks that are "hand-selected and wet-aged 42-50 days to ensure tender texture and unsurpassed flavor." I was not there to experience its rooftop oasis called the Pavilion Bar, complete with views of historic Charleston, a cascading pool, signature cocktails, eclectic cuisine offerings, and the city's most spectacular sunsets. I was there to revel in its "dramatic, sexy and delicious" Nitrotini--Charleston's only cocktail infused with liquid nitrogen. It is Charleston's coldest cocktail at 320 degrees below zero.

There are 33 different Nitrotinis on the menu. Jessica, the expert on duty, specially trained in the art, science and safety of the Nitrotini, helped me narrow the long list down to a couple selections by pointing out what were her personal favorites. It came down to a choice between the Champagne Nitrotini and the Pomegranate Nitrotini.

The Champagne Nitrotini is a blend of Louis Perdrier Champagne, Pomegranate schnapps and Cointreau orange liqueur, garnished with an orange slice at $18 and the Pomegranate Nitrotini is a blend of Pomegranate flavored vodka and schnapps with a splash of Pomegranate juice at $17. I tend to favor vodka as a personal choice in liquors and am fond of anything containing pomegranate. So, I went with the Pomegranate Nitrotini. Jessica artfully prepared the ingredients and carefully topped it off with the colorless, odorless, tasteless and inert liquid nitrogen cooling the concoction to a frosty -320 degrees Fahrenheit.

Immediately, the ghostly cloud of condensed water vapor reacting with the warmer air of the bar area steadily ascended above the glass and flooded over its edges onto the bar top as she set it in front of me with early jazz music playing in the background. The temptation, to immediately raise the drink to my lips, was almost irresistible, but that would have resulted in a stiff upper lip in the form of a horrific frost bite followed by the zenith of brain freezes. A warning tag on the glass instructed to simply wait 1-2 minutes for the cloud and invisible liquid nitrogen to evaporate entirely, and then enjoy responsibly, and I did just that.

Dramatic--it was absorbingly entertaining to watch the cool wisps of water vapor spill out into the air and across the bar top. Sexy--there was an alluring and titillating feel to the 'affair', pun intended. Delicious--I would say, absolutely. It is a cocktail that irrefutably lives up to the hype. In the final analysis, the Nitrotini is "Charleston's hottest cocktail minus 320 degrees" and is quite refreshing.

The Market Pavilion Hotel front bar at the East Bay Street entrance is the only place it is served (not available at the Pavilion bar on the rooftop). The spacious atmosphere of the bar area with busy East Bay Street and the majestic United States Custom House for a backdrop adds to the experience.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

"A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum"--Rome Like You Never Seen it Before

Friends, Romans, and Summervillians, lend me your ears. Director JC Conway and crew are up to some funny business at the James F. Dean Theatre in Summerville with Stephen Sondheim's uproariously rumpus, sumptuously pompous, and abnormally anomalous musical A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum. Shall they be buried or shall they be praised?

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum is a book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbartis turned into a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. It is a historically wacky story set in a Roman neighborhood of three homes. The house of Senex is in the center. He lives there with wife Domina, son Hero, and several slaves, including head slave Hysterium and the musicals main character Pseudolus. One of the neighboring houses is owned by Marcus Lycus. He is a buyer and seller of beautiful women. The third home belongs to the aged Erronius. He is abroad searching for his long-lost children, who were stolen in infancy by pirates.

Pseudolus is fortuitously presented with an opportunity. His young, boneheaded master, Hero, confides to him he has fallen in love with the golden haired beauty that lives next door in the house of Lychus, who happens to be a virgin courtesan by the name of Philia that has a problem with the numbers three and five. Pseudolus promises to help him win Philia's love in exchange for his own freedom, and the romp takes off. Pseudolus' road to freedom becomes fraught with doubt, temptation, deception, chastisement, and a surprising twist in the end.

Debuting with Pseudolus (Joseph Demerly) and incrementally incorporating the full cast, the opening number of the play, "Comedy Night", blew the roof of the house. It was a momentous start. From there, Demerly's high octane energy gloriously propelled the musical romp all the way to its "Finale". A multifaceted talent, Demerly is no stranger to "Forum" having done it on three other occasions playing different characters.

Alan Rosenfeld (Senex), Corey Geddings (Hysterium), and Jamie Young (Marcus Lycus) put in noteworthy performances. The three of them teamed up with Demerly in one of the plays more delightful and humorous songs as they fantasized the fringe benefits of "Everybody Ought to Have a Maid". In addition, larger-than-life Geddings, sporting a blonde wig and masquerading as a much bigger Philia, drew a special hurrah from the audience for his scene-stealing rendition of "Lovely" (elegantly sang earlier in the play by Anna-Noelle Kassing) and Jamie Young's snaky, slimy, lecherous procurer of courtesans character was nicely portrayed with a splash of comedic paranoia.

The rest of the supporting cast included Lisa Grooms as the battle-ax wife of Senex, Domina, and Christian Mahon as the lovesick Hero. Anna-Noelle Kassing as the young, beautiful, and dumb virgin courtesan-in-training, Philia, provided some crisp vocals. Daniel Rich's voluminous volcanic voice erupted throughout the theater as the pompous and braggart soldier, Miles Gloriosus, and Barry Gordon as the befuddled old man who is the Roman equivalent of Mr. Magoo taking it around one more time.

Kudos to Robert Venne, Tabatha Doetsch, and Alan Garner as the Proteans. whose load also included portraying slaves, citizens, soldiers, and eunuchs. Likewise to Sarah Morrison, whose accompanying piano music was flawless.

It is Rome like you never seen it before and makes you wonder how they ever conquered the then civilized world. The set is eye-popping, functional to the action, and a brightly painted stage on which a thousand dramas can be played. The costumes designed by Nicole Harrison were historically convincing and colorful. And, like any decent Roman farse, there is a bevy of beautiful dancing girls and plenty of sight gags, puns, and laughs.

Returning to the earlier question: Shall they be buried or shall they be praised? I have put in my twenty mina worth. What say you? Check it out for yourself and put in your 500 mina worth.

Now showing from August 5th to 21st. Purchase your tickets.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Dolphin Discovery Sunset Cruise With Barrier Island Eco Tours--A Relaxing Cruise To A Timeless Charleston Wonder

There were storms in the area, but from my experience, the sun always shines on the Isle of Palms. As I crossed the Daniel Island bridge, I could see the rain falling out over Charleston, but looking to the direction of the IOP my belief was confirmed--blue skies filled the horizon. I was traveling to the Isle of Palms Marina where I would board Barrier Island Eco Tours 49 passenger pontoon boat called the Caretta for a two and a half hour Dolphin Discovery Sunset Cruise to Capers Island. It was scheduled to leave dock at 6:00 pm.

Upon my arrival, I checked in at Eco Tour's booth, received my parking pass and picked up a couple of snacks to take on the cruise. Since it was 5:30 pm, I had an half hour to kill. While I awaited the signal to board, I sat on the red stained, wooden deck of the market and soaked in the late-afternoon marina atmosphere and humid, salty air of this popular backwater gathering place overlooking Morgan Creek. From the size of the gathering and awaiting crowd, it was going to be a full cruise.

As we boarded the Caretta, Captain Mike warmly greeted me and every person that crossed the gang plank. I took an outside seat along the rails for optimum picture taking and was joined by two other cruisers. The declining sun was still quit hot. As the boat gently rocked in the creek's ebbing current, the tour's naturalist, Sarah, welcomed everyone aboard. She delivered some opening words and ended the introductions with, "So, let's get the air conditioning going." With that said, Captain Mike fired up the engines and we eased away from the docks. The slight back water breeze and forward motion of the boat offered a welcomed cooling reprieve.

As we slowly motored in the no-wake zone, everyone on board one-by-one shared their places of origin with Germany the farthest. Sarah talked about the meaning of a tidal creek and how the level of Charleston's estuaries rise and lower on an average of six feet and added, "It does that twice in a twenty-four hour period."

Our first stop, after leaving the no-wake zone, was a nearby tributary where Sarah employed the assistance of the younger cruisers in pulling up some of Eco Tours' crab traps marked by floating buoys. Each of them enthusiastically took hold of the attached rope and dragged the trap on board. The first trap came up empty, except for two spade fish. It seemed the crabs discovered a way of escape through a damaged section of the cage to freedom. However, the second trap offered up the desired prize. She pointed out the various names people identify the captured crab by, but in South Carolina, it is known as the blue crab--a Charleston delicacy. After a few facts about It habits and identifying its sex, we headed to the open waters of a area called the Shark Hole--a deep hole, approximately 90 feet, scoured out by the constant current flowing in and out of the Atlantic channel between Dewees Island and the IOP.

Sarah asked what wildlife we hoped to see on our way to Capers Island, and of course dolphin, the bottlenose variety, was on top of the list. After all, this was a dolphin discovery cruise. She related some particulars about the dolphin. For example, South Carolina estuaries are the only place you can view the feeding frenzy called strand-feeding. One other interesting tidbit I learned from her informative narrative was that the dolphin is a highly protected marine species in South Carolina. You are not permitted to feed, catch, or hold a dolphin in captivity. Not even the South Carolina Aquarium display dolphins in their numerous exhibits. "In the wild, they are neither afraid of you or interested in you," she stated.

"Other wildlife you may see on our way to Capers is the loggerhead turtle, the opportunistic brown pelican--known for diving face first into the water to scoop up its dinner or patiently waiting for the dolphin to stir up some lunch, and a variety of other birds," Sarah informed. We scanned the sparkling waters for something to break the surface of the water. The boats expert dolphin-spotter named Hobbs, a mixed breed dog, alerted the group, but the sighting was brief. It was now time to leave the Shark Hole and head to Capers. With a thrust of the engines and spray of salty water in my face, we headed to the south-end of the island.

It was low tide. The sand that is usually covered by water was now exposed making the beach more expansive. The subtle rays of the declining sun washing over the island's sandy beachhead gave the terrain a soft glow. Not too far in the distance, the grayed timber of Boneyard Beach rose out of the sand like bleached skeletons left over from the age of the dinosaurs. The dead trees are a testimony to the Atlantic Ocean's relentless erosive power. I walked under their barren branches and photographed their fallen monarchs. The walk back to the Caretta was even more inspiring. Posing on the horizon, brushed over with the orange tint of the skylines changing evening palette, the darkened silhouette of the Caretta awaited our presence for a relaxing ride back to the Morgan Creek docks to the music and panorama of the living IOP estuary.

Unless you own a boat or know someone who does, some of Charleston's more secluded natural wonders are out of reach. Barrier Island Eco Tours Dolphin Discovery Sunset Cruise to Capers offers you the opportunity to see one of them firsthand. The cruise aboard their Caretta is a relaxing evening jaunt to one of Charleston's most beguiling and picturesque barrier Islands. While you are enjoying the scenery, the naturalist on board shares with you their knowledge of what you are observing giving you a greater appreciation for the wildlife and the estuaries that make Charleston the number one destination in the world. Our naturalist for the evening delivered an informative presentation laced with a good balance of humor and included the younger ones in the activities. Somewhat disappointing, we did not see much in the way of dolphin activity. Possibly, it was the low tide, but that is the nature of things when it comes to wildlife in their natural habitats. It is a matter of timing. Capers Island did not disappoint. The low tide and setting sun enhanced the timeless beauty of the island's Boneyard Beach.

Offered Sunday-Friday from 6:00-8:30pm, Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Offered Sunday, Wednesday and Friday year round. Times vary with sunset.

$36 for adults, $26 for children 12 and under, 2 and under are free
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Barrier Island Eco-Tours 50 41st Avenue
Isle of Palms, SC