Monday, October 22, 2018

The Low Country

No this is not about the state of our country as bizarre and disturbing it is of late, this is about the last week I spent touring the low country.  This is the region of America that is defined by South Carolina through Georgia - Charleston to Savannah are the bookends to this historic region of the South.  The Gullahs, unlike the Cajuns familiar to those in the New Orleans region are the Black residents who were largely traded via the Bahamas and Barbados and in turn lent to the economy in not just rice but the dye of Indigo.  Hence is explains some of the way the architecture and color palettes are so richly diverse in this region of the South.  But as always in the South this is an area as complex as any painters palette.

I began my journey in Charleston staying at a charming property the Zero George, which while it was off the main track it was perhaps the best hotel I have ever stayed at in my life, rivaling only one in Australia that was on the Barrier Reef, as exclusive and private as one could ever imagine but again that is an unfair comparison as I was at that one with my ex-husband so  the Zero George wins just on that alone as alone I was and have preferred to be in life and travel since.

That also set a high bar for the rest of the journey which included driving along the routes and roads of the low country, with a pit stop in Hilton Head and a day trip to Savannah ultimately to return to Charleston for another two days to take in this historic city. And road trip it was as I cannot stress enough that despite my ability to read maps (apparently not that well ending any future on Amazing Race) nor the ability of Google Maps to dictate how to circle roundabouts that defy logic, I managed to get to and from Charleston without incident and only being on HWY 17 for a small part of my journey. In fact I don't think I was on any main highway ever so if it is possible to travel several roads throughout the region I took all of them and since I knew Beaufort (BOfort) was the home of the late writer Pat Conroy and was a pit stop for my amazing race I simply used that town as my compass to get in and out of said low country regardless.   And Beaufort is charming and I can see why he could write the Prince of Tides while watching said tides from the waterfront there.   I loved Hilton Head despite the fact that I had again some stereotype image of the elderly with golf clubs I found that it had miles of pristine beach in which to walk and 91 degrees in which to avoid by diving in.

The weather unseasonably warm thanks to the long denied climate change in this region made my exploration around Savannah off putting but I found the city less the garden of good or evil but a more attractive tourist town in which Nashville could only wish to aspire.  My visit to SCAD wielded less art than anticipated and while the food was fine I was glad to head back to my middle ground of Hilton Head and sit by the pool and just read fashion mags over newspapers as one can only listen to this ongoing Trump bullshit, the murder of the Saudi journalist and the endless negativity that dominates news and in turn its extension on social media.  So that blackout was less of curtains and more by choice to step out of my comfort range in more ways than one.

When I finally got back to Charleston I stayed at a different hotel in the more busy end of the city by the port.  It was expensive, highly rated and definitely unusual and I was looking forward to it as it was the luxury I wanted after a week of hot travel during this my 20 + 39th birthday.   The Hotel Vendue is that if you are fortunate to have that.  I had a part of it as I have come to realize that when you travel alone you, you are of a "certain age" and don't fit a "type" you are fucked as that is the issue, no one wants to fuck you so they can't figure out why you would leave home and spend that kind of money on yourself. I was married, did that and still did not like to fuck my husband so that part is the only thing that has changed - me being married.  Luxury and not fucking anyone no.

The property has two hotels one across the street from the other and the one across the street from the main hotel has an amazing Gallery and an Artist in Residence who is there almost daily painting.  Such a divine building in which to enter each day only can for most put a smile on one's face.  But other than that the rest of my experience lacked.   I was checked in by a young woman who literally ignored me by avoiding eye contact and when asking if I needed two keys - despite the reservation clearly saying one - lectured me on the cost if I lost it.  Then as if it was an inconvenience or oversight gave me the card needed to use in the restaurant and bars for incidentals after taking my ID and Credit Card in which to ensure payment security.  I had already paid the hotel in advance as I like to leave all cards clean when I travel and can then set up a budget in which I can decide what incidentals I can spend on without going over the top.  So knowing what you spend in advance with car rentals, airfare, hotels allows one to have costs up front clean and paid for and then you can play with the budget to spend how you like.  And yes even I "budget".  And the rest of the staff were equally dismissive (well the one Bartender and the bellhops were courteous but again Southern Hospitality is again variation of a theme. But in all honesty again this reaction and my own response always confuses me with regards to race, gender and age and it becomes difficult to discern why this young woman who also checked me out seemed annoyed by my presence.  Then again she had texts to respond. But regardless of what spends on a room or how they elect to pay should not be an issue.


And the same goes for food.  Irony that few are eating out at high end restaurants and I can see why, the service sucks, the prices outrageous and most of it is often overrated.  Thanks to the bullshit foodie culture it has turned this experience of eating into an experience.  My first night I chose to remain at the hotel,  Zero George,  and had an amazing meal there the help was the generous and a bottle of Champagne awaited me on my arrival with a Happy Birthday so they had me at Hello.  Even  the Omni at Hilton Head had also spoiled me with a divine cake so when I got dismissed and sent to a room overlooking the dumpster at the Vendue I thought I would have to do my spoiling elsewhere. I went to FIG one of their many acclaimed restaurants and while the door greeters were lovely and my bartender was fantastic, the food was overrated and frankly I stopped at two appetizers as it was good and but really nothing special.  I ended the evening quickly getting a piece of pizza nearby to walk home with.   My company at the bar did not help as that also affects the meal, the people on both sides of me were an interesting mix, to my right the white male asshole of a 'certain age' talking to two tech bros who were all self defined foodies but well defined assholes.  Their choices were to say the least conventional, a fish stew and a something else which looked as if I could do that if I was willing to put in the effort but even that was not reason enough to carry on as they clearly had never eaten fish stew before.  I spent most of that time coughing out a lung and the white asshole to my left shoved in his stew, his butterscotch pot au crème and headed out leaving an 8.00 tip,  yes bitches I checked.  His tab was just over 65.00.  He goes there all the time as everyone knew his name,  it should have been asshole.  I love white assholes who think they are the shit and he did as he explained to the tech bros about his father and his orphanage in Kenya which he goes to "give back."  Really this shit with white people needs to start by going down the road to the projects and giving back there in your backyard.   To my right, were a couple who were young and beautiful and all  things we value in society and as tragic. The woman ate or drank little to nothing as both food and arrived and she picked at it.  Every plate of food delivered to the adjacent seats however was stared down as if they were attack planes coming in for a landing.   Either her spouse was oblivious or in fact complicit as he was aware of her eating disorder and did little to care or did so to humiliate and embarrass her.  Yes folks this is why I travel solo and quit fucking for if that was my marriage I would have stabbed him with a fork and ran from the joint.  This is not the way to spend any holiday, birthday or any day.

So on my last day I simply went to some Oyster joint had bad pasta and good Oysters.  Service sucked but I left an $8.00 tip as I learned from the asshole that seems to be just above cheap but not completely rude.  But at least my seat mate was an amazing man who was 62, his father an Editor for ABC news, including at one time in his career for Bill O'Reilly who his father called an asshole (again confirming that white men of a certain age and privilege are) and was in said job  until Peter Jennings passed.   His father was sure that the death of news was due to the 24 hour cable cycle and I cannot agree more.   The man (whose name I never got, a terrible oversight) was interesting and funny and sad as conversations progress over a meal.  And again it made an average meal above average.    It was not a long convo by any means but again good ones need not be as you can make a point and move on to the next with easy transitions.  We realize that art is one lost as is knowing the difference between conversation between two strangers that ends when the time ends in that encounter (in this one when the check arrives) or one over a coffee, a drink, in passing or just by chance.  None of them have to end with anyone getting raped, robbed or harmed.  I am very capable of watching my alcohol consumption, getting myself home safely and in turn assessing character and even talking around it as a way to be pleasant and outgoing. I always remind myself that it was someone I knew who tried to kill me, someone I had had consensual sex with and in turn again drugged me, allowed me to drink to near unconsciousness so I know that now I can trust no man but I can trust myself to be better than to hate every man I encounter.

So when I travel I do try to find conversation and learn about people, who they are, what brought them to where we are and about the place we are in.  I found myself chatting at the Yacht Club with a Security Director who allowed me to tour the property and in turn discuss the history of the region and with that I had a better understanding of what defines the South and its posture about many an issue that comes from being Southern.  I found my way to Mary's Secret Garden and met the daughter of Mary and from her the history of the garden which she opens a few days a week for a small donation of $10 slipped through the door.  It was as tranquil as it was beautiful and my self directed walk around Charleston led me to the home of Patricia on Southern Charm which to say was over stated would be an under statement.  Why anyone would live there alone with her Butler would be another explanation about the Belles and their odd relationships with men that enable said lifestyle.  The South is complex in more ways that one.

On my exit I had a Lyft driver who was a black woman from New York and they moved South as many have and are doing for cost of living reasons.  And the growth of Atlanta is another such example of the great reverse migration which The Guardian addresses in relation to the current election cycle. And I had said to her that I had thought I was a racist as I had never met black people like this in my life, the resignation, the poverty, the level of ignorance that seemed to be an archetype on top of a stereotype to the point that upset and disturbed me.  She and her husband  knew this and in turn waited to move until their children were already well through school and both now are at USC as they did not want them educated in the ways of the South so she "got it." Most of it she said is systemic, and in turn reinforced via its institutions - the schools and the church.  She meets dozens of people who have never left Charleston let alone the State.   I said it is not just about the money they don't have it is about the attitude or perhaps I should have said  beatitude.

I have said repeatedly that the Churches here have way more power and sway and they do little to encourage and inspire those to seek change and growth as that would mean possibly leaving the Church as education does that and in turn the community which means taking the money with them. Keep them close and keep them poor at least the Government will help you maintain that lifestyle of poverty and dependence which is what the white people believe.  Again who are these "people" that actually say that and are on government dole I have never met (the Welfare Queen driving along with the Baby Mama in the back seat)   but white people who say that I have met repeatedly.   And I met those same white men in Charleston sure that there are women having babies to stay on welfare. One who was the Bartender who claimed to be a Teacher by day.  Okay then.  Point and proof met there at the Vendue hotel with rooms over 300 dollars a night, including mine overlooking the dumpster.

We are sure that everyone everywhere is wanting something from us and even just being civil is taxing and we sure hate paying takes, just ask Jared Kushner, no wonder his father in law likes him and he is the current de facto diplomat to Saudi Arabia.  Another family dynasty only that one with blood on its hands.  God almighty we all need more Church! Or less as it seems regardless of one's faith it seems to provide a great excuse, justification or at least an explanation.  So how is Islam different from Christianity exactly?

We all need to drive in our respective low countries and find others who are not like us, talk to them and become a listener and not be defensive or rude just responsive and respectful when the conversation veers into those areas of difference.  I always find it odd that men are the most vocal antagonists regarding abortion and in turn "welfare" but when you simply point out that it is a matter of both access and availability and with education and information there are those who will choose the best option that will enable them to remove themselves off the Governmental dependency program and in turn find ways to reach those who choose not but not by simply denying access.  The reality is that without both you have a fundamental balance issue.  You want to not support baby mamas, then make sure they have accessible family planning clinics that are affordable with the options available to make good decisions.  And the way to ensure good decisions are made fund education that enables children to learn critical thinking skills to find ways and opportunities that enable access to those kinds of professions that can accomplish that means.  And from that the secondary options often result which includes indiscriminate unprotected sex and drugs as those options are less enticing when there are more lucrative and better ones just there but not out of reach.  So in reality which is cheaper? A good education, cheaper higher education, affordable medical clinics?  The racist right wing Republican whom I proposed that question was an Accountant so he of all should know.  Funny he did not as it was not black and white numbers that mattered to him but the black and white issues of skin.   So along with the Welfare Queen and the Baby Mama with many Baby Daddy's, we have the proverbial White Asshole.  Which do you prefer?  When in the low country always go high.

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