Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Tribute And Heartfelt Thanks To Friends And Neighbors Of The Number One Destination-Especially Those of Summerville And White Gables

I write about things to see and do in Charleston. This is more of a blanket statement because my literary ramblings include much more. Over the years, I have become involved with some of the many local businesses of Summerville and Charleston--more so recently. The very businesses that make our beloved Southern communities of the Lowcountry along the East Coast one of the most cherished destinations with so many people from around the world. But when I use the designation local businesses, I refer to the smiling faces of the hard working individuals behind the brick and glass, wood and paint structures.

Seven years ago I moved, one of those life-changing events that require adjustment and dealing with a new set of circumstances, and came to the Lowcountry from the North Coast of Ohio. I chose the historic town of Summerville because of its Charleston connection and the beautiful residential community along Central Ave called White Gables. I must also at this time insert a simple observation of my own; You can't go wrong living in a place called Summerville.

I proceeded to immerse myself into the history of my new surroundings, loved what I read and saw, and then because of my love for writing, decided to set up a blog to share what I learned with family, friends, and anyone else who was interested in my laptop excursions.

But life can change as quickly as the tide rolls in and out of Breach Inlet--a channel separating Isle of Palms from Sullivan's Island. It was a beautiful Charleston morning. Plans were set in place. The afternoon was to be spent processing pictures and video from Art and Soul's Fezziwig Party held during Summerville's popular, monthly event called Third Thursday. Then, these words rang out like the bells of St. Michaels Church in Charleston, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." I was involved in a horrendous car accident--one of those unanticipated life-changing events, abruptly reminding me things can change in a fragment of a second.

This article is not about the colorful tapestry of Rainbow Row. It is not about the splendor of the Battery. It is not about sunny walks along Charleston Bay and restful sea breezes of White Point Gardens. It is not about the sandy beaches, celebrated bridges, Southern cozy hotels, unmatched cuisine or the living history that permeates every alley, cobbled street, and iron gate throughout the Peninsula and beyond.

This article is a tribute to the people I rub shoulders with everyday as I go about the business of blogging. It is about my children, family, friends and neighbors, associates and acquaintances, who have come to me in my hour of need.

Thoughtful and caring people like my dear friends Bill and Aura Lee Summers, the Mallett's of Coastal Coffee Roasters, Charles and Pam Ward of Art and Soul, Keri Whitaker, Glen and Kathy Wilken, Byron Hager, and my many wonderful neighbors of the White Gables community who have personally assisted my family and I with well wishes, transportation, and meals. And it is still on going. I am also truly thankful to my many Facebook friends who have expressed their concern through prayers and comments. I look forward to resuming my literary quest to share my take on the Charleston experience and getting to know more of the people who put the charm and hospitality in our Holy City.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Beautiful College Of Charleston Hosted BarcampCHS And After Party At the Mynt

This was my first detailed walk around the campus of the beautiful College of Charleston. The historic aspects of the city of Charleston and its charm flow onto the campus naturally like a wave to a beach and never misses a beat. It is an elegant blend of the old with the new. I was on the campus for the annual Barcamp.

The College of Charleston was founded in 1770. It is the oldest educational institution south of Virginia, and the 13th oldest in the United States. Three of its founders were signers of the Declaration of Independence and another three were framers of the U.S. Constitution. It offers learning experiences in business, science, teaching, the humanities, languages and the arts.

When you enter the stone archways of Porter's Lodge from George Street you are treated with the grand spectacle of the College's oldest building, the Randolph Hall. It is a humbling experience when you exit the archway and the grand hall comes into view. Stately live oak trees, draped with Spanish moss, shade the brick walkways of Randolf Hall and throughout the main campus. You can see the history. You can feel the history. Its at every corner you turn, it is in every alley you walk, and every iron gate you pass through.

The college has an interesting tradition that sets it apart from other learning institutions. Students, upon completing their undergraduate degrees at the College of Charleston do not wear robes or caps for the spring commencement ceremony. Instead, women students wear white dresses and men wear white dinner jackets each spring at graduation.

BarcampCHS is all about participation. It is all about opportunity. An opportunity for local area techies, developers, designers, and entrepreneurs to share ideas. When I arrived in Charleston, the streets around the campus were crowded. Since I was not familiar with the campus, I had to solicit some directions from various students. Thank goodness for students with smart phones. I immediately began to take pictures. I registered at the Physicians Auditorium and received a bag of swag containing a t-shirt, stickers from sponsors, writing tablets, and ear jacks for plug-ins. I hit the jackpot. I got two t-shirts.

Then, there was the opportunity for attendees to pitch their ideas and we all voted on what sessions we would be interested in attending. A schedule was posted of the winning sessions with the building, room number, and time. Pizza, snacks, and an assortment of refreshments were available to grab as you went from building to building, room to room. The pizza tasted like cheese and sauce on cardboard, but what the heck, it was free. Coastal Coffee Roasters of Summerville, one of the sponsors of the event, provided the coffee, hands down the best in the Lowcountry.

In between sessions, I walked around the campus and took more pictures. There was a robot shooting baskets in front of the Honors College building. An old, black clock nearby caught my attention. It is living relic of the college's glorious history. I walked to the entrance on George Street, admired the huge iron gate used to secure the grounds. A horse carriage loaded with tourists sauntered past. The live oaks along the walkways were huge and their canopy of leaves only allowed the suns rays to penetrate in select places. The final session I attended demonstrated how to get free stuff on the Internet. College students are very creative when it comes to finding ways to earn extra money, especially those in the computer sciences.

The after party was at the Mynt, a fairly new bar/nightclub on Calhoun Street. The Mynt's interior is dominated by the richness of wood and a ceiling accented with colorful lighting and symmetrical shapes. The seating is spacious and the bar area covers a good portion of one wall decorated with ceiling high shelving framed in squares with soft blue lighting. It features appetizers with sandwiches and wraps. The party was on their outside patio. If you were a sponsored attendee you received a free Holy City glass and unlimited Holy City beer. I was not, so no freebies for me. Still, the atmosphere was great, the nighttime weather on the patio pleasant, and it was fun. If you are in town, check out the Mynt for some late night entertainment and refreshment.

Monday, November 5, 2012

An Entertaining Night Of Picture Taking In Historic Summerville-Celebrating New Friends

It was Friday. The sun had slipped beyond the horizon hours ago. A quick glance to my watch revealed it to be about the hour of 10 o'clock. The task of illumination was now the responsibility of the assorted street lights and sidewalk lamps. The live oaks on Hutchinson Square were tipping their branches ever so slightly to the gentle nighttime breeze. A gesture denoting mutual respect, perhaps. Under the gnarled branches of the old tree's protective canopy, in among their ghostly shadows, smiling scarecrows waved at the few passing cars.

Most of the businesses were locked and silent, except for the usual late night gathering spots. I was out this late hour taking pictures of the marquis and signs of the various establishments in and around the historic, old Square, the quiet sentinels that never sleep.

Accent on Wine was one of those nighttime spots still serving up the aromatic drink and loquacious fun to the few gathered around its tables and bar. I entered its doors to take some discreetly chosen photos of its interior. I was standing in front of the bar readying my camera to take a picture of the glass etching mounted among the shelves when I heard someone ask me if I would like to be in the photo, a considerate offer from a pretty young woman sitting on the right side of the bar. She had shoulder length, blond hair and was dressed very smartly. A young gentleman was with her. She was drinking wine, he a beer.

The question was the opening sentence to an enjoyable interchange. I introduced myself, told her I was a blogger. She asked the usual question, "What do you blog about?" I handed her my card and gave a quick summary. She informed me of her being new to the Summerville area and asked where in town she could find the best places to eat. She made it very clear, "I am not interested in chain restaurants. I want to experience something different."

I rattled off some of my favorite Summerville dining establishments such as Sweetwater Cafe, Perfectly Frank's, Matt's Burgers, Oscars, and a few others. At this point, I couldn't leave out mentioning the best place to get coffee, Coastal Coffee Roasters. Lizzy  said she was looking for a good coffee place. But I couldn't leave it simply with coffee because CCR is much more. It has become one of my favorite places for experiencing hometown talent and entertainment with its Thursday mike night and Acoustic Series. Craft beers, wine, and if you are hungry, there are plenty of delicacies offered to satisfy your craving.

Charleston soon entered the conversation, rooftop bars to be exact. It was then I learned they were new to Summerville, but not new to Charleston. The two of them previously lived on John's Island. Justin recently changed work locations and Summerville was the compromise between his drive to Orangeburg and hers to Trident Tech. I asked if she had ever been to the new restaurant on King Street called Stars, since rooftop bars was the topic. Stars Restaurant has a rooftop bar with a 360 degree view of Charleston.

I then said, "By the way, most people simply know me as Vacation Rick." It was then they revealed their names to me, Lizzy and Justin. Sports became the subject. They were a house divided. Lizzy was a Gamecock fan and Justin was a Tigers fan. I on the other hand was neither, since I was an Ohio transplant and a follower of professional football more so than college. Now, all hell broke loose and we ran the gamut of subjects from snow to cream of wheat.

Then, the conversation took a southern turn, transitioning from cream of wheat to grits, two very sticky substances. Justin asked me if I had ever been to the World Grits Festival in St. George. "No, haven't had the pleasure," I said. Lizzy casually captured the topic to describe in detail the rolling-in-the-grits contest and I have to say, it sounds like a funny event. They both agreed, "The best place to get grits is at the Hominy Grill in Charleston. But when you do go, take someone with you who is experienced at eating grits because you will need to know how much salt and sugar to add or you will ruin your whole experience." I must keep that in mind.

"This is what Accent on Wine is all about," I inserted. "A place to relax, sip on a glass of wine, and make new acquaintances." We shook hands and parted ways, for now. I left and resumed taking pictures along S. Main. Lizzy reminded me of someone I had seen before and it finally occurred to me who that was. It was the actress Ali Larter. I hope to see Lizzy and Justin again, maybe at the next Third Thursday on November 15th, a once a month Summerville event the two of them have not yet participated in. I hope to see you there also. I hear there is going to be a party over at Art and Soul starting 8:00 pm. Mr. Fezziwig is the host, and he knows how to have a good time.

Molly Durnin will perform at Coastal Coffee Roasters Friday, November 9th at 7-9 pm. Molly is from New York. She is an indie musician. Singer/songwriter with a rhythmic guitar groove and tuneful melodic sense that draws from the heart of Americana, folk and blues traditions.

For more information on what's happening in Summerville go to Summerville DREAM, a member of South Carolina Main Street and the National Main Street programs.