Get Behind Me, Satan

Arriving at my favorite garden store some twenty minutes before they opened, I had no choice but to proceed to the nearest Bojangles for a biscuit and some coffee

Had to

Duty bound

What else would I do early on a Saturday morning?

If you’re not familiar with Bojangles, then, well, you’re obviously not from this part of the world

In the Bo Zone

Bojangles Chicken & Biscuits

Based out of of Charlotte, North Carolina

A Southeastern Staple

It’s Bo Time ™️

Highly recognizable branding

Yellows

Reds

Their biscuits are handmade every day

Magazines have published odes to them

Cajun Filet Biscuits have comforted many a hungover patron with buttermilk and flour and fat and thinly fried chicken breast dipped in hot sauce

Their coffee’s pretty great, too

On the morning in question, I had time to kill, so I went inside to place my order

The lady behind the counter precioused herself to me prior to my turn at the register

As the customer ahead of me finished his order she said, “Well, that’s $13.14. That’s fun to say, idn’t it? Thirteen, fourteen”

I thought so

The patron ahead of me didn’t respond

He smiled wanly

“It’ll be ready in a jif, dahlin,” she said to him

I smiled as I stepped up to the register

“May I please have a sausage and egg biscuit and a large coffee?”

“Oh, I love your manners! And, of course you can, dahlin,” she said

Smiling still, she said, “Well that will be Six dollars and Sixty Six…oh..no..no…no..no…no…no.”

Her countenance changed

Furrowed brown

Worried concern

“Dahlin, I am NOT making change with Satan’s number. I am sanctified. Can you order something else?”

She was not joking

Her eyes were wild with fear

Wild

Knowingly, I replied, “Well, get behind me, Satan. Let’s start over then”

“Now we’re talking, dahlin” she replied. “Now we’re talking!”

She all but high fived me

Too blessed to add to her stress

Should always stick with the Cajun filet and not be led astray by the serpent

Because, much like my new friend at Bojangles, I am not making change with the devil’s number

Digging It

 

In honor and memory of my neighbor Don Jones, who loved to work in his own plot of land

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Green is a color, especially in early spring

In a most tricked out 1970’s color scheme – harvest golds, burnt oranges, avocado greens – a cross stitched saying hung in my maternal grandparents’ hallway leading to the bedrooms

My mother had cross stitched the saying, had framed it, and had presented it to my grandparents, who, at the time, were pretty great gardeners.

Who plants the seed beneath the sod and waits to see believes in God. Anon.

Faith in its truest form

Nathan, whose last name I know not, helped them weekly. He was a wizard in the garden

Really, I never knew Nathan’s last name. Still don’t. He worked for my grandparents, my great aunt and uncle, and some of their friends

Nathan knew how to turn a spade

Green thumbs on both hands

On both sides of my family, I come from a long line of amateur tillers of soil who love to get their hands dirty, who love to see the flowers blossom, who love to see the bulbs produce, who love to plant

I think my European antecedents were all peasants, vassals, serfs, no matter what the family histories may say

I love to work in the dirt

For me, it is a matter of faith to plant, till, sow, hoe, harvest

God put Adam and Eve in a Garden

Jesus is the Vine; we are branches

My Great Grandmother Gladys Jones, who lived in Bishopville, South Carolina, had a garden with roses, daffodils, flox, Queen Anne’s lace, azaleas, spirea, tea olives, a beautiful bed of pink oxalis in front of her porch. Old timey plants

She knew her stuff

On a visit to our house in Beaufort, she turned to my father, her grandson, whom she adored and said, “George, I see you have a wisteria. Hmmmm”

The wisteria came out

My great aunt and uncle Kemp and Rachel Kempson had a beautiful garden with foxgloves.  Aunt Rachel kept egg shells in water to provide calcium to certain plants

My great aunt and uncle Bob and Laura Thomas trained smilax to grow in what were essentially hanging baskets on the side of their piazza in Ridgeway, South Carolina

My maternal grandfather grew amazing tomatoes every year

Bumper crops year after year

He had the touch

My maternal grandmother nourished a flowering quince whose original progenitor was from her grandparents’ home in Virginia

My father is still nourishing a portion of that quince today

She also tended well her myriad camellias

If anyone knows where I can find an Irene Coker variegated red and white bloomer, let me know

I like to think I have inherited the green thumb

Nothing makes me happier than working in our garden

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You should have seen it last week

It’s small

It’s urban

It’s become a Charleston style garden after some 15 years of work

T. Hunter McEaddy designed it for us

Landscape Architect that he is

I grew up watching my parents plant and tend, mow and rake, water and fertilize

Same with all of their neighbors

I swear Beaufort was filled with gardeners, and with helpers in those gardens

African American men who knew how to do

Jack Haynes

Sam Cole

And, again, men whom we addressed only by their first names: Arthur, Julius, Willie

Not appropriate, but it was the time in which I was reared

Jack Haynes helped my parents from time to time and other families around Beaufort

He was a bird

One Saturday as Jack Haynes was helping my father with some yard project, my father broached the subject of another family Mr. Haynes helped on weekends

“Jack,” he called, “you think Miz So-and-So is a little crazy?”

“Crazy?” he asked, “Crazy as shit!”

We have never forgotten that in my family

Crazy as shit

She was. But she was smart enough to hire Jack Haynes to help out in her yard

I like to think I paid attention to the Jack Haynes of the world

Additionally, I love reading books about plants and gardening

Latin names really help in learning about a plant and how to care for it

Those names are in gardening books, too

Books such as

The Gardens at Hatfield by the Dowager Marchioness of Salisbury

Penelope Hobhouse on Gardening by Penelope Hobhouse

Obvs

Gardens of Historic Charleston by James R. Cothran

The Charleston Gardener by Louisa Pringle Cameron

No amount of reading substitutes for doing, though

I can gauge the seasons by what I’m doing in the garden

Those of us who are diggers in the dirt are always looking at least two months ahead

Did I put the aluminum sulfate around the hydrangeas soon enough?

Did I add the Hollytone to the Meyer Lemon in time for there to be fruit?

Did I order the paper white bulbs?

Did I order the caladium bulbs?

Did I put the basil in enough sun?

Did I take out too much of the aspidistra?

Did I trim the all the suckers off the limbs of the crepe myrtles?

Did I dig out the lemon balm after it got too leggy?

I don’t want to over plant

A well-known gardener was once quoted as saying she had a fine garden, then she filled it with plants

Accordingly, I only make two annual pilgrimages to Hyam’s Garden Center on James Island

It is my Mecca

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Delphiniums don’t last; nothing does

 

One trip to Hyam’s in mid-October

One trip to Hyam’s in mid-April

For the annuals

The pops of color

I will over plant a pot

Crowd it out

With flowers and greens and seasonal herbs

In October, it’s for pansies, violas, sweet alyssum, stock, foxgloves, delphiniums, snapdragons, parsley, rosemary, potting soil

In April, it’s for periwinkles, pintas, gomphrena, purple shield, million bells, basil, mint, oregano, cilantro, coleus, potting soil

The rotation changes

But not much

I plant 100 caladium bulbs in late April

All the same color of green and white

White Christmas

Every year

I hate change

I live in Charleston

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High bright shade

 

I plant 40 or so daffodil bulbs in October

I am tending a Pink Perfection camellia that came from a cutting from my grandmother’s house in Camden, South Carolina

It’s taken about seven years to be almost two feet tall

I planted another camellia last year

That kind green bud

There are accidental problems in any garden

And in any life

Lambs ears burn up in our heat

Lavender plants, too

Even plants with full sun directions can use a little shade in our subtropical tending to tropical Zone 8

But, there are wonderful surprises in any garden

And in any life

For example, that Wandering Jew taken from a cutting from my in-laws has really taken over in that back corner

Its purple haired beauty spilled from the confines of its clay container and made a run for it, sprouting and colonizing all over

It will take over

We have had two trees taken out of our yard due to two named storms

More sunlight than ever

The grass actually grows

It’s a lot brighter

The yews we planted love it

Yew would, too

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I am the grass

 

I may move my plumbago to give it more sun

The morning glory I run along our back fence every year adores the additional light

So, what’s your story, morning glory? I’m writing this one

Around Mother’s Day, our fence and arch are covered in Confederate jasmine that perfumes the whole yard

The most heady of smells

Around Hallowe’en, the two tea olives by the front porch perfume the whole yard

The most ephemeral of smells

 

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Latch strings on the outside

 

 

I love to weed

I love to be covered in dirt

I love to sweat through the dirt

I love to cut back

I love to trim

I love to prune

I love to spread pine straw

It hides a myriad of sins

I love stand with the hose and water, air pods in place, music going

That cold beer at the end of a full day of yard work tastes so damned good

As the seasons change, it will be time to get to work in the yard

This year, I’m letting two planters become incubators for monkey grass with which I will eventually line a bed

I think I will cut back the hyndrangeas as they are getting kind of leggy

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Aluminum sulfate works

 

 

But what to put in those planters by the gate?

That’s the best part of being a digger of the dirt

Creativity

Following in the steps of the Old Master

Having a little faith

 

 

A La Mode

Fashions fade; style is eternal. Yves Saint Laurent

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Frock me running

 

On August 19, 2019, I received a text message from a young lady who works at a certain store in Charlotte, North Carolina

“You and MP better be coming to the Fashion Show!”

My reply, “What fashion show?”

“You got an invite via email”

“Must be in my junk/spam”

“It was sent to your regular email Check it and lemme know”

So, I checked spam/clutter/junk and found the Paperless Post Invitation

You’re invited to the Capitol Fall/Winter Presentation

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Noon

Capitol

4010 Sharon Road

Charlotte

Got it

Quick calls to MP

A few texts later

I reply

WHY NOT? ALL IN

What does one wear?

I know

Clothes from said store

Day trip to Charlotte to support our pals who run the place, work there, make it happen

Again, I really don’t know why they like us

Still trying to figure that one out some 32 years of friendship later

So, it was off for a day trip to a fashion show in Charlotte among the fashionable, with a couple Lowcountry kids sprinkled in just for fun

I have never attended a fashion show

Ever

Well, may be there was that one at Andover back in ’89

We’re always up to help a pal and show up hoping we won’t embarrass

As I texted our hostess’s husband, “I don’t want to look like country come to town”

His reply, “Never. I invented country come to town”

I think we were suitably attired among all the beautiful people

Got some compliments anyway

So, after another drop off at school, we were in the car to the Queen’s City

On arrival, we killed some time

Got something to drink

Then, sent a text to our hostess

“You want us?”

“Come over! Champagne and wafers!”

She meant she was serving bubbly wine and cheese biscuits, the kind with the pecan on them, made by Sarah Wrenn her own self

Arriving at the store, the doyenne herself was out front greeting

Peels of laughter and delight as we walk up,  “Oh, well, look who’s here! Heeeeyyy. Thank y’all for coming. Oh, I can’t thank y’all enough! Get some champagne! Oh, by the way, fashion shows last like eight minutes. Sorry to disappoint.”

“It’s o.k.; we have to get back for a volleyball game at 7:30”

“Don’t worry. You’ll TOTALLY make that”

So, there we were, champagne in hand at 11:15 on a Tuesday morning

“Laura, I’m feeling like a total dilettante”

“Stop it”

So in went on in to Capitol

We walked in and it was kind of like being Norm Peterson when he used to walk into that bar known as Cheers. It’s always like that there for us

“NORM!”

“HAM!”

“MP!”

Everyone knows us and is glad to see us

Or they feign it really well

Decades of friendship pay dividends

Upon being greeted by our pal Wizzie Irvin, she showed us our section and told us where to sit on the removable benches

“Is this for a soccer game later?” I asked

“No,” replieed the Wizz.  “That’s where you sit. Y’all sit right here. Put your stuff down on these two seats.  Best view.  Hamlin, you better take notes”

Don’t worry, Wizz

 

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No, the lady on the left is not smoking, vaping, or juuling

 

Before the big event, we worked the room

Spoke to some of the folks

Introductions

Sipping on the bubbly

Refilling the glasses

Drinking water, too, after the long drive

Mainly wanting to hang with our pals who are hosting

“Where the hell is your husband?” I inquired of the hostess

“He’ll breeze in like two seconds before this starts”

Ran into an old college pal, “I thought I might see y’all here. Do you ever work? You write all the time and travel all the time”

“That social media can be deceiving. Was at my office for six hours last Saturday. Do I work? All the damned time”

Hugs and kisses all around

Back outside for more water where a Beaufort family’s in-law’s in-law is running late, shoes in hand

Introductions made all around

Oh, the South

“Y’all, this is not the Charlotte I grew up in! But, now, I just go with it!” said the in-law’s in-law

We are politely corralled into our seats by ladies with iPads and sweet smiles

Best seat mates on either side of us

One is a lovely lady from Charlotte who used to work at the store who it was really great to meet in real life

On the other side of MP was an attorney who lives in Charlotte who was wearing a turban

Really

A turban

So chic

So Nick Cannon

Her best friend from law school used to work with me and now works with my wife

Oh, the South

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Three lawyers at a fashion show on a Tuesday….NBD

 

 

“Please put your phones on airplane mode”

People already had their phones out

So many grabs to be had

“You’re gonna love this playlist, Hamlin” said Scott Newkirk, the impresario of this opera

Then it all began

There were Twenty Two Looks

I took notes on most of them

I circled a coat that MP liked

It sold in five minutes after the show

Our favorite model told us she could not look at us or she was going to laugh

I do that to people

They see me and laugh

Our eldest daughter would have rocked Look 9, which was a mini dress by Cecilie Bahnsen, whoever that is

The Brilliant Belgian Baron van Noten does not advertise

The show was a big advertisement for his creations

Dresses

Coats

Turtlenecks

Eccentricity on display

Like the men’s tie-dye trench coat that if it were worn by any normal man, his backside would be kicked

There were men’s clothes from Tabor, the brother store of Capitol

The Gryffindors at Hogwarts crafted one of the men’s looks in their Common Room one night

Everyone wants to be a Gryffindor

I saw a sweater I purchased featured in that one

I’m so not on trend that I’m on trend

At Look 15, The Breeders’ heavily breathed “Cannonball” blared through the speakers

I know that was just a head nod to me

After the show I said as much

“Oh, yeh, we did that just for you,” said our hostess facetiously

“Actually, I did think of you when I added that one song to the list. We’ve talked about the Pixies in Charleston one time,” said the impersario

Oooh

Burn

Snag

Looks continued with

sequin bedecked draped columns

maxi skirts

horse prints

Roksanda open backs

Irene Neuwirth’s jewels everywhere

Everywhere

One of the looks could have used more cow bell

Then at the end, glamour

Looks 20 through 21

Giambatitista Valli Haute Couture

Wow

The playlist had turned to arias for the last three looks

As well it should have

Each dress was its own designed descant

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The Prima Donna

 

As the last glimpse of gray Italian tulle turned the corner, those assembled began a polite golf clap

As the models went around for one last showing, the clapping increased

Then, everyone was up from their benches as though the coach said, “Clear the bench”

Less than 18 minutes start to finish

The staff and the owners hustled the benches outside

Influencers began to take pictures of the haute couture assembled before the garden wall

So many head shots

So many posts

So many hashtags

So many stories

So many pretty women

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^^^^  all her vision….that one there in the simple white shirt

 

We talked to some folks and milled around

“Are you Hamlin? I’m Susan. We met you at the 20th anniversary party.”

“Of course!” I said, “Wow that was during the fireworks”

“Kind of late, eh?”

“Your family’s place; it’s lovely”

“If you ever wanna go out and shoot, call me”

“If you’re ever in Charleston, call us”

Conversations like that

A lovely lady stopped me and said, “Hamlin, I’m Sarah. I listened to Laura’s podcasts with you. I could listen to the two of you all day.  You should have your own podcast. I’m serious.”

“Aren’t you nice,” I replied

“I’m not kidding. Your episodes with her are the best ones. So natural. So funny.”

MP smiled and said “That’s no act, either. That’s how they are all the time in their conversations.”

“Well, you should do your own. I’d totally listen.”

Her lips to God’s ears

By then, I was kind of starving

Our hostess made the rounds

And, we made it round to the corner with the cheese biscuits

Right there

The kind my mother and mother-in-law make

These have a lot of cayenne

That’s the key

And they were tucked away by some Golden Goose shoes

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Silver and gold

 

As I stood stuffing my mouth, I watched a lot of ladies preening and prancing and putting on clothes

A lot of peacocks

#charlottesgotalot

A lot of peacocks

Confirmed by a Charlottean who used that hash tag

Her husband is one of MP’s cousins

Really

Introduced a Hamlin by marriage to my bride

Love to meet a fellow Hamlin

Even if it is by marriage

Her ex-husband might be one of my cousins

Really

We visited with some other folks for a while, including a lady who lives in Charleston

Her husband, too, is one of MP’s cousins

Really

“This is hilarious. We should do something together soon back home. I can just see you in that tie dyed coat at the club, Hamlin”

Hi-lar-ee-us

Finally, our hostess made her way over, and we visited for a bit

A lovely Charlotte lady informed our hostess of the following:

“Laura, these are my new best friends. I’m serious. How long are y’all here? I want y’all to come over for a drink!”

“We are leaving shortly”

“Well, dang,” says the new best friend

I replied, “MP is the one you want in this deal”

Laura agreed

Duh

I mentioned our departure

“Y’all don’t go. Stay. Really. Have some more champagne. Stay. Really”

“We can’t”

“Really. Don’t leave me. Grab a water”

“But you’re leaving later, too. What time you flying out?”

“Six”

“Well, see, you have to leave shortly anyway”

“I live two seconds from here. Don’t go”

She meant it

We hung out a little bit longer

“By the way, uh, where did your husband go? I didn’t even get to talk to him,”

“Oh, he got out of here super fast. Probably right back to the office. Y’all can’t go”

Crestfallen visage with soft smile

So, we hung out a little bit longer

Then we pulled the plug

“I love y’all so much,” said our hostess. “It means the world that y’all came. Really. The world.”

Really

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Progressives

We dress like students, we dress like housewives,

Or in a suit and a tie

I changed my hairstyle, so many times now,

I don’t know what I look like!

“Life During Wartime”

The Talking Heads

Lyrics by David Byrne, Chris Frantz, Jerry Harrison, and Tina Weymouth

1979

 

 

Now we are six……plus 41

 

They’re called progressives nowadays

But, let’s not delude via euphemism

They’re still bifocals

Bifocals

Thanks, Ben Franklin

Bifocals

Biflippingfocals

The glasses of the old

No more optical lines of demarcation visible in the lens though

And, now, I have to wear them

Presbyopia

From the Greek

Presbus meaning old man or elder

Ops meaning of or related to the eye

Eyestrain

Headaches

Refractive misfiring

Aging eyes

Tired eyes

Slowing eyes

In the last few months, I have tromboned newspapers, iPhones, grocery lists, deposition transcripts, pleadings, orders, pleasure books

“I think you need progressives,” said my bride

Like other folks of a certain age, I would place glasses atop my head to read fine print and press my nose into the paper

For decades, I’ve worn glasses to correct myopia

Insert joke here

Contacts came later

First diagnosed by our family’s ophthalmologist while I was in Law School

I probably muddled through for years prior

In fact, I know I did

One of those students who always sat on the back row but should have sat on the front

I leaned over test papers, exams, notes

One teacher in high school recommended an eye exam

So, I went over a break

The eye doctor made me read Snellen’s chart from the elephantine E all the way down to the puny PEZOLCFTD, which I memorized as I sat in the waiting room

Passed with flying colors

But, I didn’t

I cheated

The only time I ever cheated on an exam

Vanity, thy name is teenager

Vanity, thy name is forty something year old

Since donning my first pair of glasses in 1995, I’ve been through several pairs as prescriptions gradually strengthen to compensate for weakening eyes

I’m partial to tortoise shell or acrylic frames

I try to buy the hippest, youngest frames I can get in a futile attempt to keep looking as young as possible

In our youth obsessed, narcissistic age, why wouldn’t I?

Stuck in a hipness that exists only in my own mind

Warby Parker

Robert Marc

Garrett Leight

I try to avoid that Milanese Monopoly Luxottica

Optical Oligarchs

One of my favorite makers recently sold out to another company

The local vision store on King Street that’s been a staple forever, Jackson Davenport, always does me right

Their knowledgeable folks scour high and low for good frames

They ain’t cheap

One of their folks is heading to Paris as I write to go to the largest trade show in Europe

Luckily, they had a few old school frames from my favorite designer

Half price

“Their quality has gone straight to hell,” one of the owners told me

“Yeh, well, apparently, so has my vision,” I replied

“Stop it. We have practically the same prescription. It’s just aging, which certainly beats the alternative”

She had a point

But, bifocals

Really

Putting on the progressives, I didn’t see waves or blurry lines

In my head, I saw, pun intended, weakening optic nerves, cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, blindness, darkness

And, then, ultimately, the grave

“A place where nobody knows” as Mr. Byrne and crew sang

I’ll continue to fight the aging process just as his guerilla warrior fought in a dystopian America

I’ll fight with my progressives, youthful raiment, sunscreen, dressing like students, or in a suit in a tie

Truly Middle Aged

Middle Aged AF, as the kids would say

 

Too Old to be Young; Too Young to be Old

We have been married for twenty (20) years

We’re pretty proud of that

Twenty years of ups, downs, highs, lows, sicknesses, healths, richers, poorers

Forsaking all others

Some twenty years ago we were in the thick of weddings almost every Saturday between Lent and football season

Getting married in the fall in the South is almost sacrilege due to our other religion’s dominance, college football

As we have aged, the invitations for weddings have slowed

Recently, we received a lovely invitation to a young couple’s nuptials

Engraved

From Arzberger’s in Charlotte

Which we adore

Our favorite stationer as expressed many times

The wedding will be at First (Scots) Presbyterian Church here in Charleston

Same church where we were hitched

The replaced and rehung bells rang for our wedding for the first time since the Big Gun Shoot

The reception to follow will be at an expected venue here in Charleston

What is unexpected is that we were invited

The bride’s parents came to our wedding

It seems an honor to be included

But, dadgum, things have changed in twenty years

Wedding websites

Registry links

Hash tags for the event, e.g., #smithbecomesjones

Via the links we have purchased an appropriate gift to be delivered to the home of the bride’s parents

A gift of something chosen by the bride and groom

For the table

On the website, the retailer asks a question or two

“Would you like to include your home address for a thank you note?”

Of course we would

Plus, the bride and groom should have it

They sent us an inviation

As we clicked and entered card numbers, I asked my bride, “Is it so tacky to do it this way?”

Her reply, “Everyone else does”

I don’t think that makes it any less tacky

Three clicks later

Gift ordered

Note included via registry that the item has been purchased

Wants 12; Purchased 2

Confirmation email

Seems so impersonal

No need for our enclosure card

There are stores in Charleston and Beaufort that still have our cards on file for gift giving

Guess we should ask for those back to use for, well, upcoming graduation gifts

That’s the season of life in which we find ourselves mainly

No need to strike through the name and add a handwritten note on the back for the bride and groom

Guess the bride can send us an email

A pithy text sometime in the next year should be fine, too

Something like this

TYVM 😘

((HUGS))

My reply would be something like this

🤢

OMG

I’m using emoji’s

Make it stop

We’re just too old

The world moved on to less formality

I did not

At wedding receptions, I still go get drinks for ladies

I still never make a plate, either

My parents told me that

A Charleston lady agreed with me one time when I told her that I don’t make plates at receptions or parties

“Dahlin, nice people never do”

Everyone does these days

But, being our age, wedding receptions are always interesting

We’re too young to hang out with the parents of the bride and groom and their friends

We’re too old to hang out with the bride and groom and their friends

We hope to find another couple our age with whom we are comparable, can sneak out early, go to supper, even in our black tie and fancy frocks

The last wedding we attended was a couple years back, and we did just that

Early in

Early out

Supper with friends

Everyone in the restaurant staring at us, but, since it’s Charleston, it’s not uncommon to see folks dressed for supper out on the town

The days of shutting down the reception and then going out are long gone

Long

Long

Long

Long gone

Those days were epic

Back when that email thing was just catching on in offices around the country

Back when that man from Arkansas was President

Back when people still smoked

Back twenty years ago

I love weddings

I love to be invited to weddings

I will have a wonderful time at this upcoming wedding

Even as my wife and I stand alone at the reception looking for other folks our age

Just like all the other sixth graders

Hurrication 2019

That little low pressure off the coast of Africa turned into a Cat 5 storm that decimated the Bahamas

Dorian

Not a picture of which I’m fond

Then, it set its sights on us here in the Lowcountry

A week ago, we watched where Dorian would be headed

We refreshed Mike’s Weather Page, Shea Gibson’s forecast, and Facebook feeds where amateur weather enthusiasts indulge their inner Al Roker

I sent a message to some Charlotte pals that they might see us

Hope that they would not

I checked to see if the Southpark Marriott had availability

As we gathered with friends over Labor Day weekend to watch football, have a cold end-of summer beverage, and lament the re-start of the school year, His Excellency Henry McMaster, Governor of the Great State of South Carolina, came on the news to announce that mandatory evacuations of all coastal counties would begin at noon on Labor Day

Well, durn

He really does sound like Foghorn Leghorn

There goes the weekend

Immediately, I made that hotel reservation in Charlotte

I sent another text to our myriad Charlotte pals

Immediate response from one of them, “Good! You’re coming for supper. :)”

Some down the street neighbors were over at the time

We all had to scatter as there were hotel rooms to book, calls to make to family, limbs to remove, furniture to bring inside

From Sunday at 6 p.m., all of us were on heightened alert

The next day, being Labor Day, made for a less than relaxing end of summer

Lanes reversed starting at noon

Franking out

See, e.g., Franking Out, supra

My parents called

Mary Perrin’s parents called

“Yes, ma’am, to Charlotte, if we go anywhere”

Had it just been me to consider, I would have stayed home

But, with two teenagers and a dog, if the power goes out and there’s nothing to do and no one is home, then, it makes for a long slog

Monday dawned hot and bright

We went to the store

A lot

We ran errands

We went to King Street

We ate lunch

We made supper reservations with pals

We talked to friends

We waited

We watched forecasts

We exercised

We went to the office and set out-of-office reminders and did a little work

I was the only one there

We went to supper, pre-storm, at a local Italian joint, which was proud to tell everyone it was STILL open in spite of the mandatory evacuation

“We have a limited amount of Parmesan”

Damn, if this storm isn’t taking an early toll

Tuesday was an even longer day

We turned over the portable basketball goal

We secured as best we could

Dorian was still a powerful Cat 3 and not moving very fast

We moved cars to higher ground

The updated forecast was for 10.3 foot tide with 10-15 inches of rain. That would have caused Hugo style flooding, the worst

A pal who works for CNN sent me a message advising he was heading our way. Not cool. The only thing worse would have been for Jim Cantore to be coming this way, too

All day there were updates and comments

We made the decision to leave on Wednesday morning

Early

Our children were spending the night out, going out with friends, getting together with pals to combat boredom

We helped move generators

We checked in on each other

The one good thing that these storms and evacuations produce is the innate sense of community kicks into high gear

Charleston goes back to being a community instead of a commodity

“Y’all stayin?”

“Y’all goin?”

“Wanna go get a drink?”

“Does the Pope wear a funny hat?”

The Blind Tiger, in existence since 1893, becomes re-populated with local types, even kids from off like me.

We went there on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. with some other local folks. As we were leaving around 6:00, more of we people began to show up, ages 21 to 81. Really. Some wonderful older folks were coming to the watering hole to commiserate over the latest updates

“Oh, I nevah leave unless it’s a Cat Fo”

“We nevah flood”

“Hell yes I’m leaving. I ain’t sittin round the hewse with my wife and chirren all week”

Cold beer

Warm smiles

Lot of ice

Lots of love

From there to the house of friends in the ‘hood

A farewell drink or two or three

“Oh, we aren’t going anywhere”

“I took a page from your playbook and am roasting a chicken”

Always a good plan to roast a chicken, storm or no storm

As we returned home that night, we confirmed that we have the nicest friends

We just do

Friends here, there, and everywhere

We won the friendship lottery

We planned to leave on Wednesday morning after a spend the night for one child and cross country practice for another

We packed the car

The dog food

The dog bed

In 1999, when we evacuated for Floyd, we took silver and artwork with us

This trip, we took bourbon and vodka with us

With age comes wisdom

On Wednesday morning, we went through the first couple of outer bands with dumping rain. Tide was low, but winds were already whipping

Fifth year in a row with named storms hitting us

2015 Joachim

2016 Matthew

2017 Irma

2018 Florence

2019 Dorian

It never gets any easier. See, e.g., Tenuous, supra

We left for the Queen’s City around 9:30 and pulled into the Shake Shack at the Park Road Shopping Center at 1:00 p.m.

Dogs allowed outside

Shack Burgers, Fries

Heaven

Wish we had a Shake Shack in Charleston

Text to our hostess for supper

“When you want us?”

“6?”

“Perf. Comin at ya”

To the hotel we went, where they could not have been nicer about waiving the 48 hour cancellation policy and the pet deposit

It’s always good to be in the Old North State where this lady greets us in every elevator:

We took our pooch for a long walk, then, it was off to Capitol

If you’re ever in Charlotte, go by

You don’t have to buy a thing, but it’s so pretty and the ladies who work there are lovely

It does help when the owners are pals

It really does

It also helps when the same owners happen to be at their house preparing our evening repast. It was they who stated we would be coming for supper days before the storm

It also helps when you can just stare at the garden wall in a moment of quiet contemplation

As I chatted with one of the lovely ladies who works there, I heard, “Is that Hamlin O’Kelley’s voice I hear?”

Guilty as charged, Ma’am

I have to apologize to our Capitol pals, as, usually, I am more of a conversationalist

I kept refreshing my phone’s weather app to check the radar

High tide at 1:30 p.m.

All was well

So was the mother of a super famous b-baller who was in there trying on a mauve Grecian goddess get up

She rocked it

After a couple of hours at Capitol, a few purchases, an alteration appointment, and a great time, it was time to leave that high touch experience and go to….Southpark

Nordstrom

Neiman’s

Anthropologize

LuLu Lemon’s

Yes, I call it LuLu Lemon’s

I might add “the” in front of it from time to time

All the usual mall rats

As we walked through that dying shopping medium, our eldest looked at me and said, “It’s hard to go from that immersive experience to …well…this…” as she swept her arm left to right in a gesture reminiscent of Loretta Young entering a room

We looked at everything

We walked a billion steps

We bought nothing

Recon only

We said we would be back the next day

We drove to Whole Foods for some snacks

From there, it was back to the room for another walk of the dog

After refreshing, it was time to head to supper where our host and hostess and their daughter welcomed us as only they can do

Thirty plus years of friendship really does help

I highly recommend it

There are always

Laughs galore

Shared side glances

Amazing foodstuffs

Beautiful tables

Hyperbolic conversations for effect

Snippets

Bon mots

Side jabs

Golden nuggets such as

“I told one of my friends that I was going to Capitol. She said, ‘All they have there are statement pieces’. I told my friend, ‘What do you know? You only wear shorts and t-shirts.’ Really, I said that to her.”

High fives on that one

“I think there are like 5,000 students at her school”

“[So and So] says it’s the most soulless place on earth.”

“Lizzo? You like Lizzo? Oh, yeh, that makes since, you love Posty.”

“It was $94 worth of salmon. I had to check the balance in our account before I bought it”

“Do you give everyone from Charleston that accent, Hamlin?”

“You know I don’t let anyone help in the kitchen”

“I think these are a little frost bitten, but I think you’ll love them”

“Red or white?”

“How about a little brown?”

“I like the way you think”

“You know, we entertain the same way”

Duh

Literally, there is only one person I bro-hug, and he happened to be our host that night

On such evenings, usually I’m the one to keep the wine flowing, but not on a school night with potential Cat 3 about to strike the Lowcountry

More water, please

Hydration is important

Water served in a silver goblet remains one of the highlights of human existence

Putting said goblet against wrists and forehead also remains one of those highlights

We reluctantly said our goodbyes and bid each other adieu

“Send me that list of places to eat”

“Gimme thirty”

“Love y’all”

“Love y’all”

“See you shortly”

“Can’t wait”

Thank you

Literally

Thank you

Then, it’s a 5:30 a.m. wake up call from the dog

Walk down to Co-Cola office with said canine

No one is up that early in that part of Charlotte

Not even the paper delivery man

At least it was cool

No humidity

Back to the hotel and a couple more hours of sleep

So louche

Then, I drove to the Starbucks at the Taj-Mah-Teeter on Colony Road

So many wonderful conversations overheard

“Y’all know the [So-and-so’s]? They have a house at Deb-ah-doo and it’s probably going to be destroyed!”

“Ya’ll know the [So-and-so’s]; we hope their Kiawah house is o.k.”

“We just LOVE Charleston”

“[So-and-so] just came home from [The College of] Charleston”

“Well, if he’s at [The College of] Charleston, then he’s gonna come back at Christmas wearing Redwing cowboy boots, kahki’s, Johnnie O’s”

“We just LOVE Charleston”

“Y’all, Charleston is great”

“We just LOVE Charleston”

Yeh, so do we

While we got ready, I checked the radar all morning, especially right before we went to breakfast

We drove over to The Little Spoon on Selwyn for breakfast

Pretty good in spite of its hipness

Highly recommend

The two men behind our table were discussing their respective houses at “the Beach”. As though there were only one beach. One had a house at Kiawah. One at DeBordieu.

Duh

Little Spoon satisfied everyone, especially with that big bowl of coffee

When I was growing up, no one would have named anything “little spoon” due to a specific connotation.

I’m not talking demitasse, either

From there, it was over to Tabor, Capitol’s brother store

Another old-home-week-immersive experience

A few purchases for Dad, an hour of great conversation with the folks who work there

Another customer called “Ham”

What are the chances?

More laughter

Purchase of a couple of books at SoCo Art Gallery next door

My children are trying to get us to be a little bit more hip

One accoutrement at a time

We hated to leave those folks, too

Driving through Charlotte’s nicest neighborhoods, we noticed a lot of white paint over brick, large copper lanterns, big leaded windows

Did Sir Edwin Lutyens’ Ghost design all of these renovations?

I think this architecture has had its moment

But, may be not

Then, it’s back to Southpark, and over to the Container Store

“I think we definitely need that,” I say pointing to something

In response I get a wide eyed look of shock

“We got to get out of here, Dad. This place is dangerous for us,” said the youngest child

From there, we took our eldest to meet a friend so that they could be found at fine stores everywhere all over Charlotte

Meanwhile, texting with friends, updates on social media, checking the radar

“Think the storm’s going to come in with the wind out the good side to keep the water out of the harbor”

“Less rain than forecast”

“Starting to blow”

“Gonna be bad between 11 and 2”

“Trees snapping”

“There goes that crappy water oak”

The worst trees ever

Back to South Blvd. area that is up and coming

Coming Soon: West Elm! Sephora!

There goes the neighborhood

Wherever Warby Parker establishes a beachhead, other stores will follow and the funk will depart

We decide on lunch at Superica, Tex-Mex goodness

It being the South, we run into a lovely lady whom we know and her children who have evacuated from the coast, too

One of the best

She has cousins in Beaufort

Hugs all around

“LOVE this so much, seeing y’all”

“They let anyone in this place, even kids from Beaufort, SC”

“Such a treat”

Pretty tasty Tex Mex indeed

Especially that salsa

And that cold unit

We go back for one more round at the mall where purchases are finalized

“O.k., I’ve had enough Southpark”

“Me, too”

We then go and have an extended rest period

We run into some Charleston folks who tell us they went to this super nice store called Capitol

“Do y’all know it?”

May be

May be

They recommend another store

We go there

Should not have

More of an extended rest period

More updates

More news

And, then, this guy. He lost the hurricane for sure

More updates

“How’s the neighborhood?”

“Messy, but dry”

“Not too many trees down”

“Your house is fine”

Off to supper at Bar Marcel

So many Charlotte Moms there

It’s a trope to be explored in full at a later time

They don’t look like our Charlotte friends

But, they look a lot like each other

Stepfordesque

Good supper, but we’re ready to go home

Really

It’s time

Storm has already moved on

Thought about driving after supper

Up early the next day

The Governor had not lifted the evacuation order, but we’re fighters

We fly down the road as fast as we can

We pulled into our own driveway by 10:00 a.m.

Only a little bit messy around Orangeburg, SC

Everything is a litte messy in and around Orangeburg, SC

Obviously, we weren’t the only ones to leave Asheville, Greenville, Flat Rock, Charlotte, Atlanta, Columbia early

Glad to be home

Glad to have power

Glad to have no loss of life in the Palmetto State

As the old saying goes, “September, we remember”

Snark notwithstanding….hurricanes are existential crises for those of us who are privileged enough to live on the coast. Port towns. River cities. We’re all bonkers, but we send all our love, sympathy, prayers and donations to our friends in the Bahamas.

Oh hear us when we cry to Thee for those in peril [who leave near] the sea

Franking Out

Back when Hurricane Matthew was headed our way, I sent a text to some folks who live in our neighborhood.  My fat fingers stumbled over the digits, and I wrote:

These people got to quit franking out

I meant freaking

Another storm is headed our way and people are franking out already

FRANKING

I am not taking hurricanes lightly

We who are blessed enough to live in kingdoms by the sea deal with this every year

September we remember

See, Tenuous, supra, from about this time last year

Some five days out and people are franking out

Way ahead of the arrival of any storm, people are already in panic mode

And, yes, we are at perigee with King tides

img_0032
Dry day flooding; perigee; king tides; stop; don’t pass go

Not to storm prep, but, because we needed some victuals, I went to the grocery store earlier

At the grocery store, I ran into a lovely Charlestonian who has taught generations of children to dance. She’s an accomplished baker.  My daughter works for her

We spoke and hugged, as we do

We walked through a couple of aisles together

When we noticed the shelves bare of water, she said to me in her Lowcountry cadence, “Son, can you believe this sto’. It’s like no one’s evah bun through a hurrikin”

Well, duh

So many folks from off probably haven’t been through a hurricane

As our friends from Public Enemy used to sing, “Don’t believe the hype”

Don’t frank out

Have a plan

Keep your powder dry

Keep your insurance papers dry

Where’s the turn?

Where’s the Bermuda high?

Where’s the flashlight?

Where’s the battery operated flashlight?

Where’s the free sandbag pick up point this year?

Do we have water?

It may not matter, because we’re days away

But, even some days away, the shelves are as bare as Mother Hubbard’s cupboard

img_0031
“Water water everywhere/Nor any drop to drink”. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”

“We don’t know how this hurricane will impact the Lowcountry,” states the nice lady on the news

All schools will be under normal schedules for now

Until they aren’t

And, now, they are closing

No evacuation order given

And, now, there has been

I have a dear friend who works for a national news outlet.  As I write, he is in Florida.  I sent him a text asking if he was going to be in the eye of the storm

He replied, “I may be your houseguest in four days”

Come on, Bubba

If there’s an evacuation order, he can have the whole house. Now that there is one, he may have it

Then we might frank out

If His Excellency Henry McMaster, the Governor of South Carolina, gets on the tube and tells us in his inimitable Foghorn Leghorn voice, “It’s time to pahk ya cah on a hill”, then we might frank out

No hills around here, Son.  I said, Son

His news conferences are hilarious

Until they aren’t

Like right now …. when he’s telling us that there’s a mandatory evacuation

Not enough to frank out about, though

I ain’t leaving

I’m just not

Plus, while the Cape Cod chips are still buy one get one free at the Harris Teeter, we might just hunker down

We will fill up the tubs so we can flush toilets

We will buy some more water

A highly cynical friend sent me this:

img_0035
Think of the turtles…

Really, think of the turtles

Their nesting beaches might be submerged yet again

That might be reason to frank out

And, now, with all the lanes being reversed and the texts flying

It might be time to frank out