Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Book and the Cook

I am in Myrtle Beach, on a slow connection, so I hope this post is successful.

Today I said a reluctant farewell to the city of The Book and The Cook.  I don't know how well off Savannah would be without the book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, which is called "The Book" there locally.  As for The Cook, she is (of course), Paula Deen, who is practically a one person industry all by herself.  Not that I envy her; she has had a hard life and deserves all of her success.

But I digress.

Since I can't write a long post, I will summarize what I liked about Savannah.

1.  Abercorn Street, south of downtown, with its broad boulevard lined with blooming azaleeas and hawthornes, and its canopy of live oaks dripping with Spanish Moss. (and yes, I know enough to stay far away from Spanish Moss.  As a former resident of Arkansas, I know a lot about chiggers.)

2.  Bonaventure Cemetery.  Words could not do justice to the beauty of this place.  So I will, again, wait until I can upload pictures.

3.  The Byrd Cookie Company.  Paula Deen tested, AM approved.  There were samples of all the flavors, and each flavor was better than the flavor before.

3.  The Savannah Peanut Company.  Not really Savannah peanuts, they come from Virginia, but one could make a lunch of the samples.  (yes, I bought some, too.)  Not as good as River Street Sweets but the price was right.

4.  River Street Sweets.  Praline heaven! (I didn't buy the pralines, but I wish I could have bottled the fragrance.)

More on Savannah....and Myrtle Beach....when I have a good connection again.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Rainy Evening in Georgia (with Hail)

Today, after a 37 year wait, I finally set foot in Savannah.

In 1974 we took a trip from New York City to Tampa, Florida, on I-95 and passed through Savannah.  I remember seeing all the palm trees (they are probably really palmettos) and wanting to see the city.  I've passed through it 3 times since on the auto train, but was never able to stop.

Two years ago we had a visit planned and had to cancel it due to car trouble.

This time-we made it!

We took one of those trolley tours of downtown Savannah.  Had about 2 hours of good walking after and then it started getting really dark.  Spouse pointed out the blue green color of the sky.  It's been a long time since we've seen something like that.  He told us we'd better get back to where our car was parked (in the lot of the Savannah visitors center).  Not two minutes after we got to the center the heavens opened.  Had torrential rains (still is pouring) with lightening and nickel sized hail.  I'm sure we had a little damage to the car but not worried about it right now.

So there is still a lot to see.  And, eventually I will write about it complete with photos.

Charleston it is not and I was not expecting it to be.  There is more crime, and a bit of "edginess" to it but, as a fan of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil....well it did not disappoint, not at all.

You would not believe the scenery.  Boulevards with dividers full of blooming azaleas and hawthorn trees with live oaks dripping with spanish moss arching over the roads.  The squares...all 22 of them....beckoned with fountains, with flowering trees and bushes, with statues.

Forsyth Park was everything we'd thought it would be, and more.  Beautiful fountain.  Part of the fountain area was roped off for a wedding.   Families frolicked in the heat.  It was humid but not overly so.

We haven't made it yet to Bonaventure Cemetary and don't know if we will.  

One place we did make it to was the Byrd Cookie Company.  That deserves its own blog entry.

Tomorrow it is supposed to rain in the morning and then taper off.  Tomorrow it's only supposed to get to 59 degrees!  Moreland, Georgia made it into the news with their hail.  It wasn't as bad here and we will hope it remains that way.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Quick Highlights of Charleston

Charleston.....such a wonderful place.  I will have a lot of really nice memories.  I hope to write more in depth later, but for now...

1.  The downtown neighborhoods. We made the right decision (a little pricey, but right) to stay in a bed and breakfast.  We got free parking and a location in walking distance to almost everything downtown.  It was so "cool" to make believe we belonged there.  We got a nice piazza to spend some reading time on, too.

One nice thing Charleston does is put the neighborhood name right on the street signs.  So you know you are in Ansonborough (the neighborhood we lived in), the French Quarter (yes, Charleston has a French Quarter), or whatever.

The B&B operator gave us good restaurant advice, and let me hook into her internet when my wireless decided not to function.  Thank you, Fantasia B&B, you were the peak of hospitality.

2.  The historic B&B (see above) we stayed at.  Will try to post some pictures when my computer cooperates.

3. Two great restaurants, Hymans Seafood and Jestine's Kitchen.

4.  All the historic churches, parks, the Pineapple Fountain and the Charleston City Market.

5.  Magnolia Plantation.

6.  Fort Sumter, where the Civil War began.  In fact, the Confederacy began in downtown Charleston, but Charleston paid the price...more on that later, again if I have the time to write about it.

7. She-Crab Soup, Salmon and Grits (I don't do shrimp), and the other wonderful low country food we ate.

8.  KKBE.  Another Charleston institution that deserves a blog entry.

9.  Watching the Charleston "Rickshaws" (bicycle cabs.)

10.  Calhoun Mansion's garden area, free of charge.

11.  Earthling Day Spa.  Pricey, and didn't do as much for my back as I had hoped, but the masseuse was excellent, and the spa was spotlessly clean.

What did I miss out on?

1.  The horse drawn wagon tours.  Decided we'd be better off walking....and walking....and walking.  Maybe next time. (Note, one thing the tourist guides don't mention is that the streets smell like....well, the liquid the horses leave behind.)

2.  The Citadel.  Looking forward to the Friday precision drill but they went on spring break at end of classes Friday.

3.  Several downtown mansions, mainly because we ran out of time. 

4. Middleton Place (another plantation), Charles Town landing, and Drayton Hall.

Thank you, Charleston.  I have enough material for a years worth of blogs, if I can remember even half of what I experienced.

And now, on to Savannah.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Charleston is Awesome....Except For This

Is it my imagination, or are the timeshare sellers getting more desperate?

The Florida landscape is full of information stands that...well, they have informational brochures, but once they get you over to their booth, you are suddenly being offered free tickets to various attractions "if only" you listen to a short presentation.

I didn't expect it in Charleston.

And I didn't expect one of these high pressure salesmen working in, of all places, a restaurant gift shop. He wasn't selling timeshares but some kind of travel website membership.  The premise was still the same, get free tickets in return for listening to a presentation.

We ran from that as fast as we could.  And oh by the way, restaurant (I won't name the guilty party but I should) you may be interested in knowing I would have bought more of your "stuff" because the price was right, but I didn't want that guy pestering me again.  So I didn't.

Before we caught on to these bogus visitors stands we had one of these hucksters literally pull us in from us walking past them on Meeting Street, a main street in downtown Charleston.

I wonder how many tourists get sucked into this.  Since we knew this scam from Florida, we sniffed it out quickly. But I bet not everyone does-obviously, or they wouldn't be there.  And, quite honestly, I didn't expect something like that.

So if you visit Charleston, beware!  (I know there are people who can withstand the sales pitches and take advantage of the tickets, but I don't feel like going through the aggrevation.)

(end of lecture.  And also end of my stay in Charleston.  Have so much to write about. and so little time....)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Charleston City Market

Forgive me if these blog entries seem a little disjointed.  Between my back and trying to learn to use a Mac (with its frustrating disappearing cursor every time something autosaves) this is quite the experience.

We've made (in the last 24 hours) 3 trips to the nearby  Charleston city market.  By now I am almost a pro at walking down the unbelievably narrow sidewalks.

I wish I had some pictures to show you, but you will have to use your imagination.

Imagine several very long covered buildings.  At the front of each, older black women weave sweetgrass baskets.  Inside, more older black women weaving baskets, plus what the owner of the B&B calls "trash to treasure".  It is a definite step up from a flea market, and....well, they sell everything from trinkets to genuine art.

One thing we purchased (in addition to a small sweetgrass basket-how could we not?) was a painted brick.  A Charleston tradition is something called "hurricane painting".  Every time a hurricane sweeps through and damages the city, the hurricane artists gather debris and paint on it, creating works of art.

This particular artist was painting on historic bricks, and the designs were wonderful. When I can, I will (if I have the time!) take a picture of this brick.   I think the brick came from Hurricane Hugo damage but I honestly do not remember.

We also got some local food, packaged for tourists, but that she-crab soup is so good, we wanted a mix so we could make it at home.  And, the bag is quite decorative too.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


I have finally managed (using a loaner Mac computer, which I am trying to learn how to use) to sign onto my blog.  I apologize for the lack of pictures but I won't have any until I can use my computer again.


What a sight for spring-starved eyes.  While it is busy snowing back home (with temperature highs in the 20's scheduled for tomorrow) I am in a paradise of palmettos, flowering peach, sago palm, azaleas, poppies, yellow jessamine and who knows what else.

Only one problem-my back.

I would highly suggest that you never take a 850 mile road trip 45 minutes after you throw your back out.  But it was spring or bust, and I think I have bust.

Today, still in a lot of pain, I made an appointment with a massage person here in downtown Charleston.  It was a great 1 hour massage but I don't think it did a whole lot of good.  Spouse has been very good about it, and I am sitting here with an ice pack on that very sore back.

About the B&B:  It is called the Fantasia B&B on George St., in the historic Ansonborough district of downtown Savannah.  The house was built in 1813, which, by Charleston standards, means the house is quite recent.  The house has a piazza, which....well, here in Charleston, although the entrance to houses is in the front, the porches are built on the side.  These porches are called piazzas.  I haven't sat on our piazza yet because my back and the furniture here isn't getting along.

But the B&B owner is absolutely wonderful.

This morning she gave us a couple of walking tour maps, and we did a lot of walking (yes it hurts my back but those horse drawn carriages right now, I think, would be even worse).  We went up and down so many streets I can't think of them all.  Houses built in the 1740's, houses where George Washington slept, the church that both George Washington and Robert E. Lee worshipped at.  And the site of where South Carolina seceeded.

Tomorrow or Friday, we plan to see Ft. Sumter, speaking of the War of Northern Aggres....I mean, the Civil War.

In many of the historic houses, the passerby can catch glimpses of picture postcard gardens.  A tantalizing peak at paradise....for some reason it reminds me of Brooklyn.

A local Harris-Teeter store (we have a full kitchen) has supplied a number of meals.  And, another sight for sore New York eyes, they sell wine.  And not just $2.98 WalMart wine.  There is some pretty fine wine in that store.  Plus cigars, and other things you would not find in your average New York grocery.

Tonight we are going to have store-made shecrab soup.  And speaking of which, my next post will discuss the Charleston City Market.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The South Shall Rise Again (Probably Part 1 of Several)

Decided to visit the Wal-Mart in Mt. Airy.   There are some regional food specialties we love, and needed to get some supplies for my back problem.

In the parking lot....well, you know the "People of Wal-Mart" website?  I wish I had my camera handy when a pickup roared through the lot, complete with a full sized Confederate Stars and Bars mounted in the bed.

Then there was the lady, quite obese, who sported what looked like a tattoo of the Virgin Mary on her upper arm.  I didn't want to obviously stare so I gave up trying to figure her tattoo out.

The Wal-Mart cashier didn't blink an eye when we brought our cart to the register.  Our haul included:

A box of Mint Crunch Moon Pies.  (new flavor, and out of this world.)

Two jars of Dukes Mayonnaise.  (Best.  Mayonnaise.  Ever.)  OK, that isn't from North Carolina but don't know if they sell it further north than Mt. Airy.

A six pack of .5 liter Diet Cheerwine. (Cheerwine is not wine.  It is a cherry flavored, caffinated soda, a North Carolina product.)

A bottle of Biltmore Estate wine, from Asheville, NC. (noting that in New York, wine can only be sold in liquor stores unless they are wine coolers, or under 5% alcohol, you do not find wine in Wal-Mart.)

Two bottles of a California wine, costing $2.97 each (!!!!!) and a couple of bottles of some other North Caorlina wine.  One a scuppernong wine, the other a muscadine.  Both are southern type grapes that you do not find in our dreary, cold climate.  (some of this wine will be gifts).

And, last but not least, a six pack of North Carolina beer.

Also noting here that Wal-Mart is a native Southern chain, originating in Arkansas.

Yes, the South will rise again, no doubt financed by Northerners who come to the South to escape winter.

Monday, March 21, 2011

If Spring is God's Postcard, He has Played a Joke on the North

If you live in a cold, snowy climate (like upstate NY) you know the feeling just about March.....total winter burnout.  Hence, we were scheduled to leave the Binghamton area today for the sunny south.

But Binghamton wasn't going to let us go easily.

We got up about 5am.  Dressed, made coffee, packed what wasn't already in the car.  I was putting gloves in my coat pockets when.....

My back.  Huge spasm.  OUCHHHHHH

I spent the next 45 minutes trying to get to the point where I could leave the house and get to the car.  Wondering if I should even try to travel.  Trying to remember when my chiropractor opened on Mondays.  But it wasn't near as bad as the back meltdown of a year and a half ago that lead to 4 months of physical therapy, various chiropractic visits and an MRI.  So I decided to try it, I was so desperate to experience spring.

Not so fast.  It was sleeting outside.  It was crunchy and I was wearing sneakers. My wonderful spouse had put ice melt down and held my hand as I hobbled to the car.  The next 60 miles or so of driving was sleet, some freezing drizzle, snow.  As we got into Pennsylvania snow coated all the trees.  The sleet crunched under the tires.  It was still dark and a bit scary.  Would we make it to Scranton?

We stopped at Dobbs in Great Bend for their wonderful blueberry pancakes.  Spouse had an omelet.

Then, south.  From Lenox to Scranton it was totally snow and sleet.  Had to slow down to 40.  Turns out the delay due to my bath was to our disadvantage.

Finally, south of Scranton, the slushy mix was changing over to rain.  By the time we got to Hazleton, it was rain and....

Fog.  Deep fog.  And slush.

For the next 40 miles, fog.  Finally we started exiting the mountains and the fog stopped.

And then my son called.

He told me "you are lucky you left."  He left work about 7am and ended up driving home in freezing rain.  He said he barely made it home.

So our drive to Mt. Airy and my back cost us a lot of time, but we did get here.  No Andy Griffith tourism this time (we were too late - those stores close at 5) but there was the local Wal-Mart....which was another story.

Oh, about the title of this blog entry.  The "spring is God's postcard" was on a billboard next to a Pentecostal church in southern Virginia.

As for Binghamton, that same deity gave us spring this past week....and then yanked it away.

Yanked it 546 miles away, to be exact.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Hairy Woodpecker or Downy Woodpecker?

Today, enjoying our 64 degree weather (last day of that for a while) spouse had just gotten out of his car when he heard a tapping sound.  Looking up at an electric pole near our driveway, he observed a small black and white bird pecking away where a small piece of the pole was trying to come off.

Looking at a wonderful website the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has, we have concluded he was watching either a Downy Woodpecker or a Hairy Woodpecker.

But which one was it?

Apparently telling a downy apart from a hairy is one of the first challenges a new birder faces.  They look very much alike, so much so that Cornell provides a visual comparison of the two.

For the Hairy Woodpecker, Cornell instructs us: "Note the well-developed "comma-shaped" black mark extending from the shoulder onto the breast. This feature is often less obvious in Downy's and is sometimes a useful distinguishing mark."

And, I guess we should have "Look for black on the outer tail feathers."

What spouse had observed the most was the drum. So sure enough, this website had audio files of the call and drum of each, and this clinched it.  No doubt in spouse's mind, it was a downy woodpecker.

Is this the beginning of a new hobby for our old age? 

Thank you for the research material, Cornell!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Irish Mystery of the Snow Bugs

Today, we got up to 60 degrees - with sun.  Only 11 days after our 21 inches of snow, most of it has melted.  Must have been the luck of the Irish.

After work, spouse and I took a 25 minutes walk, then we came home to finish up dinner.  Reaching for a coffee cup in the car, I was brought up short by an old memory of the years we lived here when there was still lots of snow on the ground at this time of year, and sometimes even into April.

A snow bug was on the coffee cup.

I don't know what they are, and I don't have a camera on my cell phone to show you.  But did it ever bring back memories of when my son was young.

Back when we had long winters, starting sometime in February, and certainly in March, I would go out with my young son and there, on the surface of the snow, would be elongated greyish bugs. (maybe beetles, I am no expert.)  Lots of them, crawling around on the snow.  We loved to watch them.

I haven't seen them in years. But then again we've rarely had snow into the middle of March in the last few years.  (Weather, don't get any ideas.)

I tried to google what I saw and didn't have much luck.  So,  if you know what these insects are, let me know.  I found this on a blog, but I don't think this is what our snow bugs (or beetles) are.

Some cities dye their rivers or fountains green for St. Patrick's Day. Binghamton?  Well, we have snow bugs.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Guideposts-A Shout Out For Great Customer Service

Good customer service is so hard to come by nowadays, that good customer service deserves a cyber-shoutout.

There is a magazine called Guideposts.  As they say on their website "We’ll bring you true stories of hope, faith, personal growth and positive thinking, plus inspiring quotes, daily devotionals and prayers for every need. A little inspiration…it can change your day, even your life."

My mother in law had subscribed to Guideposts magazine for many years.  She is a deeply religious woman and I'm sure this magazine brought her a lot of inspiration and comfort.   I would occasionally get her issues after she had accumulated a stack.  But in a recent visit to my mother in law, she told me "I haven't seen an issue in quite a while".  She gave me the remaining issues she had, which were a couple of years old.

From what I could tell, the subscription expired in 2009.  Puzzled, I contacted Guideposts.  I explained that she had fallen, was confined to her house due to her injuries and the terrible winter they were having where she lives, and if they could check into this.  I found it hard to believe she would have let the magazine lapse.

Indeed, the subscription had expired back in 2009.  But what happened next absolutely delighted me.  They told me they had given her a free one year subscription.  And sure enough, when I visited her last week, she had her first issue of the "reinstated" subscription.

Thank you, Guideposts, for this gesture to a long time customer.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Binghamton Clothing Fire Aftermath

Back in December, I told you that someone I know, in the communications field, was going to give me various "old time Binghamton" photos. They were in the "public domain" and I could publish them on my blog.  I now have these.  I haven't had a chance to go through a lot of these but I wanted to post one of these, as an experiment, since I recently blogged about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and the similar fire in Binghamton.  (and if these are photos that I do not have a right to publish, I guess I am going to find out about it.)

This is a photo of a gathering (before the?) funeral for the fire victims.

I suppose I should be out there taking pictures of the aftermath of our 18 inches of snow but....it is so much nicer inside, thinking of history.

If I have the time (and right now I do not) I will try to get some of the other pictures posted at a future date.

Notes:  the Security Mutual building (built 1904, still standing) is visible in the upper right of the photo.  The "bump" is a building now occupied by Boscovs Department Store, also still standing.  The building right behind where the streetcars are parked, recently renovated in the past couple of years, now houses RiverRead Books, our local independent bookseller.

The actual fire location "probably" was just to the left, outside the range of this photo.

And, don't you wonder how people dressed the way they did (given this was July) without getting heatstroke?

Robin Igloos

I hope the robins I blogged about yesterday built themselves some snug igloos yesterday afternoon and picked up a space heater or two at Kovarik Hardware, because we have ourselves a state of emergency and the roads are closed due to snow. They won't be flying anywhere for a bit.

The funny thing is I was just messaging back and forth with a local Facebook friend, a FB friend in New Jersey, and my Farming Through the Revolution Facebook friend in Tunisia (things are calm there) about our weather, while emailing someone in Fayetteville, NY (a suburb of Syracuse).  Our wonderful electronic age does lead to some interesting situations, which I am reporting to you on using a "web log" (blog).

So I'm home for this morning.  I haven't gone out yet.  My poor spouse actually made it to work but he had quite the adventure.  I'm sure he's not thinking about robins right now.

And gee, I was going to blog about someone I indirectly know who won the lottery, but this is more fun.

Only two more weeks to (ha ha) spring.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Some Very Ticked Off First Robins of Spring

Two of my Facebook friends reported seeing their first robins of spring today.  I didn't have that opportunity, being enroute from a trip downstate - just in time for it to start snowing.  Right now we have about 2 inches on the ground.

Yesterday, when I left on my (shortened, due to the weather) trip, it was 48 here.

We got back in time to see part of our lawn uncovered for the first time since December-for a few minutes.

It's supposed to go down to 19 tonight with wind gusts up to 22 mph.

Is that any way to greet the first robins of spring?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Happy Birthday to a "Lost Friend"

Somewhere out there is a friend from my childhood I've had no contact with since right around the time we started high school.  Today would be her birthday.

Although we spent a lot of time together as children, we grew apart in what is now called the pre teen years.  We spent a lot of time playing Barbie and Ken.  I had a Barbie, she had a Ken.  Oh, if only I had that Barbie now, it probably is worth a bunch of money.  It must have been purchased in the first couple of years after Barbies came out.  It had blonde hair in an early 60's a la Mad Men hairstyle, and a small wardrobe including a red pencil skirt and a (my pride and joy) wedding gown.  Its arms and legs would not bend (I so wished they would be able to) and its feet were shaped to only accept high heeled shoes. 

Her Ken had brown hair, plastic.  Its arms and legs didn't bend either.  We would take our dolls on "dates".  My Barbie was her Ken's fiancee.

We did other things too, not just playing with Barbies.  I loved being in her apartment, with the plastic covered furniture.  Everything was so clean.  There was a reason for that.

Her mother had a heart condition and was ill.  She needed to be on oxygen.  Yet, she was very kind to me and after my mother died, I would sometimes go down to her apartment (we lived in the same apartment building) and she would feed me breakfast. Then, my friend and I would walk to junior high together.

When we had our junior high graduation, we went to a beauty parlor early in the morning and had our hair done together.  The graduation was at the Loews Paradise in the Bronx, one of the most beautiful movie theatres of all time.  Of course, at that time we never realized what a treasure we had in our own back yards (so to speak - we had no back yards in our apartment building.)  (My high school graduation was there, too.)

Why did we grow apart?  It's complicated but....in the City there were very few options if you lived in a school district that had terrible schools.  Our local high school (now closed, in its original form, broken up into several smaller schools inside the building) was Evander Childs.  At one time it was considered an excellent school.  By the mid 60's, one did not aspire to go there (later it became even worse, which is why it was finally closed.  Consider this:  both the junior high and high school I went to were closed down because they were so terrible.)  I escaped that urban blight of a high school by passing an exam and being accepted to a high school called the Bronx High School of Science. 

My friend?  She didn't, and went to Evander Childs.

At any rate, I have not seen her in about 40 years.

Whereever you are, friend of my childhood, I hope you've had a good life.  I've looked for you on Facebook without success.  So I hope you are alive and well.  Happy birthday.  Maybe one day we'll find each other, and maybe we'll find we have something to connect us once again.  I hope so.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Wendell Berry, Harper Lee and Thoughts on Aging

Wendell Berry....a voice from my past, now to be honored by the President.

It's been many years since I've read one of his books. Right now, I am pretty bummed at the prospect of aging and watching people I love or have been in my life one way or another age.  I'm going through a mini-crisis, such as it is, as I approach the ripe old age of 60.

Wendell Berry passed that milestone a while ago.  (Another person to be honored, Harper Lee, passed it even longer ago than that.whose sister I knew just lost her sister this past week to Alzheimers.  I watch Alzheimer's (or something like it) rob a neighbor of his life, his wit, his memory.

Aging...you become so fragile.  It can be so very depressing knowing that I am watching what could be my fate.

But on the other hand....

What a wonderful thing, to have your lifes work influence so many people, to have your writings influence so many people.....and to live to see it.

I can only aspire to a fraction of what these two writers have accomplished....Wendell Berry with over 40 books....and Harper Lee-with just one.

Please someone....tell me that aging has an upside.  Because right now I can't see one, and that roll of toilet paper is unrolling faster....and faster....and faster.