Folly Beach, a Scary Place!

You have to wonder if the reputation of the tiny sleepy hungover hamlet of Folly Beach, SC, will ever recover from last Saturday’s shocking assault at Snapper Jack’s. In case you’re just emerging from a coma and haven’t heard the news, Amber Fortson of Little River is outraged because Barbra Green 59, allegedly mistook Amber’s five-month-old son for a doll and “punched her baby in the face,” committing in the words of Mrs. Fortson, “a random act of stupidity.”

You can read the Post and Courier’s account HERE.

Aspiring Model Baby Doe Fortson

Aspiring Model Baby Doe Fortson

The day had started so promisingly for the Forstons who took little Baby Doe Fortson* “to Folly so their son could participate in a modeling tryout at the Tides Hotel” because Amber “just want[ed] him to develop confidence.”

Mrs. Fortson hopes, to quote Post and Courier staff writer Dave Munday, that “being punched in the face by a stranger doesn’t undermine that goal. Her doctor [obviously not a practicing psychoanalyst] told her children that young usually forget about such traumatic events.”

Alleged Assailant Barbra Green

Alleged Assailant Barbra Green

I’m not so sure. It wouldn’t surprise me if the poor boy starts blinking up a storm well into his toddler years whenever a scowling, slack-faced red-headed stranger approaches him.

At any rate, this unfortunate incident has not only reddened the little one’s nose, but has also given a black eye to the tiny seaside hamlet I call home. For example, in the Comments Section, Sean Kennedy of UF School of Law writes, “I absolutely hate Folly. So many scumbags, drifters and rednecks infest Folly Beach.” Judy Auld Byrd, a graduate of Roper Hospital School of Nursing, adds, “Folly has always been a scary place to visit.”

Gil Luckytohaveallgirls White probably had the most poetic comment: “This city is nuking futs.”

the upstairs bar at Snapper Jacks

the upstairs bar at Snapper Jacks

Lee Bonifay of Trabuco Canyon California (bad news travels fast) writes that Folly “has turned into a giant human toilet. This is sad bc (sic) when I grew up surfing there, all the locals were close-knit and respectful. You use crappy bait….you catch crappy fish…..perfect example of what Folly has become.”

This comment started the equivalent of an on-line shouting between Mr. Bonifay and someone called Erik Swartz of Snug Harbor Design. Bonifay supports his toilet analogy with some fairly convincing anecdotal evidence:

Just came back to visit in Sept and stayed down there for ONE NIGHT. Saw three fights, one drunk guy get arrested for drunk and disorderly for standing outside Snapper Jacks screaming and cussing at the football game he was watching through the window…AND saw another guy drive his truck head on into a ditch..wasted drunk….and that was ONE DAY!!!! I understand your desire to defend it if you live there. BUT, you OBVIOUSLY can’t see the forest for all the trees. Try leaving for a little while (ya know…get OUTSIDE the bubble) and you’ll see what it has become.

All of this Folly bashing ignores the most interesting aspects of the incident. What prompted Barbra Green to punch the baby? What does she have against dolls? Why does she feel no remorse? Perhaps barren, she resented the fuss everyone was making over what Amber calls “her little man.” Or perhaps Green actually mistook the baby for a little man, a midget, and thought he shouldn’t be standing on a man’s lap “laughing, smiling, and dancing to the music.”

We’ll probably never know because Ms. Green, out on $25,262 bail, “did not immediately return a phone message asking for comment.”

*Mrs.Fortson asked that the baby’s name not be published to avoid “future embarrassment.”


Frank Speaking

“Well, I try not to hope for too much [. . .] It puts pressure on the future at my age.  If you know what I mean.  Sometimes a hope’ll slip in when I’m not paying attention [. . .] That I’ll die before my wife does, for instance.  Or something about my kids.  It’s pretty indistinct.”

Frank Bascombe from Richard Ford’s Let Me Be Frank With You

Bill Walsh of Live-5 Weather

Bill Walsh of Live-5 Weather

It’s a bleak morning, the day before Thanksgiving. Last night on the side porch when I sensed a drop in temp, I boldly predicted that our tubby foppish weatherman Bill Walsh was wrong. The chill in the air meant that high pressure was pushing the dismal, life-negating, leaden, dripping sky turds out to sea and that we’d awake to blue skies and the possibility of the Moore/Birdsong nuclear family foursome enjoying a beer at my favorite meeting place, the open air bar known as Chico Feo, home of the $2 PBR, the $3 All Day IPA, home of homeless, Greg and Odie.

But I was wrong, and Bill was right. Today dawned — if you can even call it that — as bleak as ever — with low dark clouds scudding in the same direction as the river and a wind so strong it’s sloshing the water in the birdbath.

Despite the mournful weather, I’ve been enjoying the company of a very old friend, Frank Bascombe, the protagonist of what now are known as the “Frank Bascombe books” — The Sportswriter, Independence Day, The Lay of the Land, and Let Me Be Frank With You, the last a surprise gift from Judy Birdsong.

Richard Ford

Richard Ford

Although the phrase “Frank Bascombe Books” might suggest to the uninitiated tales of detection or spydom, these novels follow the quotidian life-journey of a once-promising fiction writer who turned to the easier craft of sportswriting but even abandoned that for the even easier money of real estate sales, at which he excelled. Their author, Richard Ford, like his protagonist, for a while worked as sportswriter, but praise be to whatever he didn’t give up fiction-writing for real estate. The second book in the Bascombe series, Independence Day, got him a Pulitzer and a Faulkner Pen award.

Now, in this latest book, a collection of four interrelated stories, Frank is 68, retired, and living in post-Sandy Haddam, New Jersey, a city name that conjures in the echo chamber of my juke-box-like mind Wallace Stevens’ great lines:

O thin men of Haddam,

Why do you imagine golden birds?

Do you not see the blackbird

Walks around the feet

Of the women about you?

imagesFrank Bascombe has taken Stevens’ advice about jettisoning the wanna-be for the what-is. He seeks to see things as they are, un-misted by sentiment. Here he is in the last story “The Death of Others” talking about simplifying his life:

Indeed for months now — and this may seem strange at my late moment in life (sixty-eight) — I’ve been trying to jettison as many friends as I can, and am frankly surprised more people don’t do it as a simple and practical means of achieving well-earned, late-in-the-game clarity. Lived life, especially once you hit adulthood, is always a matter of superfluity leading on to less-ness. Only (in my view) it’s a less-ness that’s as good as anything that’s happened before — plus it’s a lot easier.

In addition to paring down friendships, Frank is also eliminating certain words and phrases from his vocabulary, words that he believes “should no longer be usable – in speech or any form.” He continues, “Life’s a matter of gradual subtraction” and “a reserve of fewer, better words could help, I think, by setting an example for clearer thinking.”

Here are some of the words and phrases on the chopping block:



We’re pregnant

What’s the takeaway


no problem (as a substitute for thank-you)

soft landing


hydrate (when it means drink)

reach out

It’s been quite a pleasure growing old with Frank, who in The Sportswriter at 38 tried to overcome the death of his son Ralph by willing away irony but succumbed to what he calls dreaminess and the temptations of extra-marital embraces, which wrecks his marriage and to a lesser extent his writing career.

I’d call him a practical existentialist,* a nephew of good ol’ Binx Bolling from The Moviegoer. What I really love about Frank, though, is his voice, his way with words, how he expresses what I sometimes think so much better than I ever could, for example this description of a mealy-mouthed preacher — “Fike’s morning devotionals all have the tickle-your-funny-bone, cloyingly Christian pseudo-irreverence calculated to make God Almighty as just one of the boys” or this description of searing pain: “my neck had started zapping me, and I’d begun feeling the first burning-needles-prickle-stabs in the soles of my feet, sensations that now [. . .] had travelled all the way up my groinal nexus and begun shooting Apache Arrows into my poor helpless rectum.”

Alas, I’m afraid this book may be the last we hear from Frank, another notable subtraction from the subtractions that old age brings.

If so, so long, pal. It’s been great knowing you.

*I don’t look in mirrors anymore. It’s cheaper than surgery.


On Teaching

For some teaching is a calling – my colleagues Ralph Nordland and Chuck McCarver come to mind. To them, it’s as if teaching is a vocation in the religious sense. These individuals devote their lives in almost monastic fashion to educating young people, in Ralph and Chuck’s cases, educating young people about the profundities and intricacies of history, a subject they revere almost religiously.

James Gasque

James Gasque

These dedicated teachers approach the academic year like generals mapping out a campaign. No improvisation for these masters. Each precisely planned class (to abruptly shift metaphors from the martial to the aesthetic) creates a distinct picture but also serves as a mosaic piece that occupies a place in an arrangement of other pieces that collectively form a “bigger picture” – in Ralph and Chuck’s cases, portraits of civilizations. We’re talking here – if you’ll allow one last metaphor shift — – motifs, tapestries.*

Not coincidently, these teachers demand much, receive much in return, and are almost universally revered by their students.

Another teacher of this ilk was the late James Gasque, a legend at Dreher High School and Heathwood Hall in Columbia.

*I wish I could blame my inability to sustain a metaphor on over-exposure to the attention-span obliterating frenetics of Sesame Street, but that was before my day.

* * *

Still other teachers enter the profession because they love children as a species. They think science or math is cool but don’t live and breathe their chosen subjects the way the “called” teachers do.

Still others — like me — stumble into teaching because they haven’t planned their lives out well, and, in my case, as HL Mencken said, “all that’s required of an English teacher is that he can read and write.”

Plus, you get the summers off.

* * *

Who in his right mind would spend the majority of his life in high school?  I hated it when I was a student at Summerville High: the hierarchies of popularity, the drab concrete walls plastered with bright propagandist posters, the jock friendly administration that suspended you when exercised your First Amendment rights by wearing a black armband to protest a stupid war. The principals, vice-principals, coaches considered non-conformity a personal affront.

T-A67107LIn my case, I majored in English in college because I enjoyed reading and especially poetry. I remember being in kindergarten and checking out old editions of Mother Goose from Summerville’s Timrod Library. I read the rhymes out loud, despite suffering from a speech impediment that rendered s-sounds lispingly and prevented me from pronouncing L-and-R sounds. Hick-o-wee, dick-o-wee, dock.

At any rate, I ended up being a teacher thanks to a series of fortuitous accidents.   Engaged to be married and having dropped out of grad school with 27 hours, I was unemployed and responded to an ad in the paper to teach at community college even though I lacked both of the requirements it demanded, a Masters degree and teaching experience. The ad said to contact Ed Bush, English Coordinator.

So I did, not by sending him a letter or resume but by showing up on campus, standing in a drop-ad line with students, and being hired on the spot, sans resume, sans transcript. As they say, timing is everything.

Years later Ed Bush, who was close friends with the English Chair at my current school, suggested me as a replacement for someone who had been fired. I didn’t realize that the Chair himself had been forced to resign, but thanks to the compassion of the incoming chair (she felt bad for the departing chair who wanted me), I was hired.

Despite my lack of credentials and high school experience, I had published a couple of short stories, and as it turns out, being a working writer is advantageous in teaching writing, so all in all, it’s worked out all right, despite my lack of dedication, my not particularly liking children any more than I do adults or old people, despite my inability to shovel propagandist bullshit (like consoling the losing team by telling them everyone is a winner) or my inability to buy into the latest pedagogical methodology. Yawn.

Anyway, if every teacher were super dedicated, the kids would have 10 hours of homework a day, which might lead to an armed insurrection, or in the case of independent schools, a mass exit for less Spartan education.

So I raise my glass to the average teacher, the Joe or Joanna who does the best she can without sacrificing the rest of her life — romantic relationships, outside hobbies, lazy Sunday afternoons — for the sake of the hormonally unbalanced. After all, it ain’t the best paying job; plus society holds you to a higher standard in your personal behavior than it does doctors, lawyers, and Congressmen.

Designer Porn

Overheard a student say he couldn’t wait until the Fifty Shades of Grey movie came out, so I thought I’d excavate this May 2012 post from the Purgatorio of my defunct blog Late Empire Ruminations.

THE BATH IS A white stone, deep, egg-shaped affair, very designer. Christian leans over and fills it from the faucet on the tiled wall. He pours some expensive looking bath oil into the water. It foams as the bath fills and smells of sweet, sultry jasmine.

EL James, Fifty Shades of Grey

DSC06444Sometimes, heroic individuals sacrifice their happiness, peace of mind, even their lives for the greater good. One thinks immediately of Sarah Smith, pantomime artiste, who, according to her memorial plaque in Postman’s Park, London: Died of terrible injuries received when attempting in her inflammable dress to extinguish the flames which had enveloped her companion January 24 1863.

Think of Sydney Carton, the doomed ne’er-do-well of A Tale of Two Cities, ministering unto the young seamstress as he awaits his self-chosen beheading to save the life of Charles Darnay and the happiness of his beloved Lucie.

Yours Truly

Yours Truly

Or, if you will, think of your humble blogger subjecting his all too delicate sensibility to the vulgarities of EL James’s hyperventilated prose so that he can save you from the experience.

Of course, if you’re reading this blog, you’re hip to the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon – the blockbuster bestseller supposedly every woman is devouring, a novel so entrancing that it has transformed ardent feminists into devotees of male domination. That paragon of journalistic integrity Fox News proclaims:

Everyone from so-called “mommy bloggers” to hardcore feminists is hailing the tome as a triumph for women, in spite of the book’s strong themes of female submission at the hands of a high-powered man.

Personal Note: As I read that hardcore feminists see the book as a triumph for women, I feel cognitive dissonance – dyspeptic, incessant – surging from my belly to my esophagus. I am in its Sartrean thrall! Holy Hell, hardcore feminists, how can it be my left brain murmurs as I clamber from my antique desk chair and pad across discount carpet into the master bath to retrieve my Thorazine.

More from Fox:

Television host Dr. Drew Pinsky recently called the book a “rape fantasy” on his HLN show.  Women writers laughed off Pinky’s remarks, saying there is absolutely no reason for men to weigh in on this issue at all, and certainly no reason for them to use the term rape.

Arch-Feminist Jessica Wakeman of Frisky

Arch-Feminist Jessica Wakeman of Frisky

“Why is Dr. Drew speaking on behalf of the fantasies and desires of women, let alone women he hasn’t even met?” Jessica Wakeman of the women’s blog The Frisky told Fox411.

The novel chronicles the sexual awakening of Anastasia Steele, a seemingly asexual college senior English major who has only been kissed twice because none of the fellows she’s met can flip her switch the way that Edmond Dantès and Heathcliff do. Somehow or another, the college newspaper her roommate edits lands an interview with publicity-shy Christian Grey, a man who possesses the beauty of Adonis and the net worth of Nebuchadnezzar. Alas, Ms Steele’s domineering roommate Kate is too sick to conduct the interview so she sends in her stead Ms. Steele, who, perhaps too concerned with the unruliness of her hair or the largeness of her eyes, doesn’t bother to google Mr. Grey in preparation of the interview.

As Steele enters the headquarters of “Mr. Grey’s global enterprise,” the lavishness of the decor works its magic on her like skilled foreplay.

Behind the leather chairs is a spacious glass-walled meeting room with an equally spacious dark wood table [huh?] and at least twenty matching chairs around it. Beyond that, there is a floor to ceiling window and a view of the Seattle skyline that looks out through the city toward the Sound. It’s a stunning vista, and I’m momentarily paralyzed by the view. Wow.

As soon as she lays eyes on Grey, Anastasia’s long repressed hormones break free from the Bastille of their repression, clambering in waves from down there, up, up, up into her cerebral cortex where they hungrily devour all synapses devoted to critical thinking.

So young – and attractive, very attractive. He’s tall, dressed in a fine gray suit, white shirt, and black tie with unruly dark copper-colored hair and intense, bright eyes that regard me shrewdly*. It takes a moment for me to find my voice.

Anastasia swoons as her bare skin comes into contact with Grey’s Rolex

Anastasia swoons as her bare skin comes into contact with Grey’s Rolex

*n.b., Anastasia has not lost her voice because Christian Grey’s tie has copper hair and is shrewdly regarding her. Suggested edit for subsequent editions: Slap a period after tie, capitalize the w of with, place a comma after eyes, substitute he for that, add an s to regard, and you’ll see that it’s Grey not the tie who sports copper hair and is doing the regarding.

Grey himself possesses all of the charm of a Bond villain and employs the same stilted politesse:

“Business is all about people, Miss Steele [. . .] My belief is to achieve success in any scheme one has to make oneself master of that scheme, know it inside and out, know every detail. I work hard, very hard to do that.”

Well, to make 514 page story short, Steele wants to add unconfident Anastasia to his collection of contracted submissives, to have her willingly perform various acts stipulated by the contract she signs  — in short, to completely dominate her. In essence, his wealth and beauty have transformed her from an unconfident, gawky lover of English literature into as vapid a tween as you’ll ever encounter at a Justin Bieder concert.

There is a state-of-the-art [cooking] range. I think I have the hang of it [. . .] Amy Studt is singing in my ear about misfits. This song used to mean so much to me; that’s because I’m a misfit. I have never fitted in anywhere [. . .] I whisk some eggs and turn and Christian is sitting at one of the stools of the breakfast bar, leaning on it, his face supported by his steepled hands. He’s still wearing the T-shirt he slept in. Just-fucked hair really, really suits him, as does his designer stubble.

Amy Studt

Amy Studt

W-t-f, my superego scolds, designer stubble , please! Look at all of the books that remain unread, Remembrance of Things Past, The Mill on the Floss, e.g. – put that trash down immediately. “Okay,” I murmur, my face reddening with shame . . .

Okay, enough, but the question remains – what is it about this poorly written, cliche-ridden, salacious piece-of-shit that has all of womankind in the Late Empire in its throes?

I’m probably wrong, but I don’t think it’s the sex. After all, Mr. Grey doesn’t deflower Ms Steele until page 117. I think the Anastasia’s fast-paced, commodity-laden first person narrative (it reads like a diary) must trigger some atavistic impulse in women to relive their early adolescence. Perhaps they find Anastasia’s lack of confidence endearing, the tug-of- war between her “subconscious” and “inner goddess” familiar, and as they vicariously live her life, their inner tweens emerge, shattering, as Anastasia might put it, their critical faculties into a thousand little pieces.


The Grammarians: Covers

Roll over, Edmund Burke!













Believe it or not, George Wills, Tucker Carlson, and David Brooks played together in a cover band in the early ’80’s called the Grammarians.  Here’s an exclusive playlist of their first and only album, a self-published collection of cover songs with grammatically correct lyrics. Unfortunately, all of the albums have been bought by the Koch Brothers and destroyed, along with the original tapes.

Here’s what we’re missing:

“I Can’t Get Any Satisfaction” – The Rolling Stones

“It Isn’t I, Babe” – Bob Dylan

“Love Me Tenderly” – Elvis Presley

“Everyone Has Something to Hide Except for My Monkey and Me” – the Beatles

“Whom Do You Love” – Bo Diddley

“What Did I Say” – Ray Charles

“There’s Nothing like the Real Thing” – Marvin Gaye and Tammy Terrell

“Lie Down, Sally” – Eric Clapton

“There Isn’t Any Sunshine When You Are Gone” – Bill Withers

“I Feel Well” – James Brown


The Return of the Ethnologist

As Folly Beach’s most eminent ethnologist — why mince words — I have devoted much of the last two decades living among the natives, sharing their waves, participating in their Dionysian rituals, floating in their float frenzies, watching their parades. (You can read my previous studies here: ST PATRICK’S  DAY, FOLLYPALOOZAFLOAT FRENZY, XMAS PARADE).

Today, I again don the pith helmet to participate in the Folly Porch Fest, an odd ritual. Native householders invite complete strangers to play musical compositions on their front porches. Afterwards, the participants will gather at Chico Feo as the sun sets for the so-called After Party.

I, too, will be there, having sacrificed the experience of getting to watch my beloved alma mater’s mighty eleven lose to their orange-clad rivals from that phallus-shaped state that claims the alligator as its totem.

Why? you ask. Because I place science above mere personal pleasure.

Nevertheless, as time’s winged chariot has swept me from bushy-headed youth to Gobi-domed senescence, I find myself turning my studies to more sedentary pursuits as I zoom out from the folkways of the small strip of land appropriately named Folly Island to obtain a wider purview of American culture.
images-2More specifically, I have been studying old episodes of the Lone Ranger and the Roy Rogers Show, comparing the popular entertainment of the Cold War era with the irony-surfeited popular entertainment of the new millennium.

As it turns out, the Lone Ranger series attempted by subterfuge to eradicate bigotry through the symbiotic relationship that the Lone Ranger and Tonto share, the former an alienated white man devoted to establishing law and order in the territorial West, the latter a red man whose nobility so outshines those of the rustlers, murderers, and con men he battles (between commercials for funeral insurance and orthopedic beds) that it should be plain even to Lester Maddox or George Wallace that it’s not the color of a man’s skin that determines the content of his character.

I’ve accumulated a container-ship worth of data to support this argument, but shall offer only three short examples, which appeared in 1956’s Season Five. In episode 204, “A Message from Abe,” the Lone Ranger disguises himself as Abe Lincoln and delivers the Gettysburg Address to a town foaming at the mouth to lynch an innocent.   In episode 216, “Mission for Tonto,” the “noble savage” explains to an incredulous gunshot victim why he Tonto is helping him despite the bigotry he had displayed against the “Redskin” who is now saving his life.

Tonto: All men are brothers. Some have white skin, some have red skin, some have black skin, but we all bothers.

Lastly, in episode 217, “Canuck” the Lone Ranger explains to a French Canadian émigré why the town has persecuted his family. “It’s the age old human tendency to dislike people who speak a different language,” the Masked Man explains.

03_lone_ranger_5As a pre-pubescent viewer growing up in the segregated South, these lessons didn’t consciously register with me, nor, not surprisingly, did I pick up on the obvious gayness — albeit celibate — that the Lone Ranger and Tonto embrace since I didn’t have a clue about heterosexual sex, much less homosexuality.

On the other hand, The Roy Rogers Show possesses all of the high-mindedness of a trained seal act. The setting is some odd anachronistic town in the Old West where everyone locomotes via horse except for comic sidekick Pat Brady who drives a jeep named Nellybelle.

Roy and his wife Dale Evans run a cafe where Pat Brady is chef. Although Roy and Dale are champions of justice, they do seem to take a bit of sadistic pleasure in mocking poor Pat Brady who obviously suffers from some sort of mental disability that might be termed in those politically incorrect days as “mild retardation.” Think of him as the dim-witted father of Barney Fife.

The highlight of each episode is a bare knuckled fist fight where the combatants exchange a series of jaw-crunching haymakers that might give a rhinoceros a concussion. (The Lone Ranger and Tonto augment judo moves with their fisticuffs).

As in the Lone Ranger, justice always wins over nefariousness, and irony never rears its mocking head.

Comical Sidekick Pat Brady

Comical Sidekick Pat Brady


The Little Things I’m Thankful For

My school highlights a virtue each month, and not surprisingly, given the season, this month’s virtue is Thankfulness. Each morning a quote extolling gratitude appears in the daily announcements, and these quotes make sense to me. You’re much better off, much more likable, if you project an aura of humility as opposed to one of entitlement.

Not to be a whiner, but the last 6 months have been a trying time, what with the death of a childhood friend/college buddy, our deck catching on fire (same day), Judy’s diagnosis of cancer, a rat infestation resulting in the replacement of our air-conditioning duct work (objective correlative for cancer), my mother’s stroke, the death of another dear friend, not to mention the return of the Chicken Curse.

But what the hell? I can think of some people who’ve had it worse. — Job from the OT, the chick in Boxing Helena, Bruce Jenner — so I’ve decided to compile a list of the little things I’m thankful for — not obvious big things like being thankful I’m not a leper or that a gigantic asteroid isn’t hurtling towards earth in a collision course — but the little things that can make a big difference in your day-to-day existence.

1. I’m thankful I’ve gotten over my former compulsion to blindly follow the strictures of correct grammar; otherwise, this piece would be called “Little Things for Which I’m Thankful,” and I would have typed “the compulsion blindly to follow the strictures of correct grammar.”

2. I’m thankful I don’t live next door to a motorcycle mechanic.

3. I’m thankful I’ve never been stuck in an elevator — especially stuck in an elevator with either or both of Car Talk announcers (I know one’s dead but so is Buford Pusser, and I’m thankful I’ve never been stuck in an elevator with him as well).

Diamond Dogs

Diamond Dogs

4. I’m thankful that in 1974 my girlfriend talked me out of getting David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs album cover tattooed on my chest.

5. I’m thankful that no one in my family “talks in tongues.”

6. I don’t know about you, but I’m thankful Dylan went electric.

7. I’m thankful that our rescue dog Saisy doesn’t suffer worse mental problems than PTSD, an insatiable appetite, the propensity to snap at people who pet her for too long. I’m also thankful that Kelly Campbell didn’t sue us when Saisy bit Kelly’s hand off.

8. After decades of drinking Old Milwaukee, Schlitz, Milwaukee’s Best, Carling Black Label, Bud, Miller, Busch, I’m thankful for the craft beer movement.

9.  I’m thankful that despite my tragic – let’s call it Sophoclean – vision of the world, I still possess what my grandmother called “a naturally sunny disposition.”

10.  I’m also thankful for my blog readers. Now, rather than waiting around for rejection slips, I can publish whatever I want, no matter how shitty.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Buford Pusser

Buford Pusser




South Carolina’s Musical Heritage

To say South Carolina is a colorful state is like saying Orson Welles had a weight problem, Yul Brenner was follicularly challenged (better add a reference someone under 60 might recognize) or Justin Bieber isn’t what you would call winsome.

Damn right we’re colorful – got a Asian-Indian-American governor against immigration, a black senator backing legislation that makes it more difficult for blacks to vote, a white not-so-closeted gay senator against marriage equality. Got a state university that houses its “Honor College” in a building named for former governor/senator who went by the moniker “Pitchfork Ben” and was an outspoken advocate of white supremacy and lynch laws.

hunleyfuneral11We put on elaborate funerals for found Confederate bones, wear seersucker suits, interbreed, whoop it up all the time (cf. Southern Charm). In fact, I hear James L Petigru’s quote that South Carolina’s “too small to be a republic and too large to be an insane asylum” so often it’s almost become a cliché.

Given our eccentricities, it follows South Carolina boasts a bumper crop of potent popular music, and it does — to a certain extent.

* * *

Each year the magazine The Oxford American puts out a Southern Music edition that comes with a cd featuring an eclectic selection of songs from the South. The last few years, the editors have featured the songs of one state; e.g., Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Tennessee have all had cds devoted to their home grown music. Because of the rich treasure trove these states possess, the editors have refrained from choosing the states’ most famous or most accomplished musicians but have opted instead for a [redundancy alert] smorgasbord of arcane eclecticism. For example, you won’t find Iris DeMent or Robert Lockwood, Jr. on the Arkansas cd; however, Suga City makes the cut.

Iris DeMent

Iris DeMent

Whenever the Oxford editors get around to culling some tunes for the South Carolina cd, they’re not going to have a profound number of musicians to choose from, but damn, they’re going to have some true masters who hail from the Palmetto State. The problem, I suspect, will be which James Brown or Dizzy Gillespie tune to showcase.

What follows is my South Carolina cd with the caveat that I ain’t no expert and will no doubt omit some obvious choices. Also, I’m not listing the musicians/songs in the order that would appear on the cd but in the order they occur to me.

* * *

One gripe I have with the Oxford cds is that they can sound a bit too archive-y, if you know what I mean. I like listening to cds in the car on the way to work, not necessarily listening to them as an exercise in musical scholarship. Therefore, I’d match the following SC musicians with these songs.

Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs – “Stay” [Lancaster, SC]

The Swingin’ Medallions – “Double Shot of My Baby’s Love” [Greenwood]

The Marshall Tucker Band – “Can’t You See” [Spartanburg]

Eartha-Kitt-Bad-But-Beautiful-375528Because Eartha Kitt’s “C’est Bon” has already appeared on an earlier Oxford compilation, I’d go with maybe “I Want to be Evil” or “Je cherce un homme.” {North]

Of course, the geniuses Dizzy Gillespie [Cheraw] and James Brown [Barnwell] have left profound bodies of work. I’m too lazy to even try to come up with representative songs. It’s no fun, too fraught with danger.

 * * *

Okay we have 6 songs so we need at least 14 more. SC beach music needs more representation than the Medallions, so Bill Pinckney’s Drifters [Daizell, SC] is an obvious choice. Let’s go with “There Goes My Baby.”

Chubby Checker - Twisting USA Album CoverChubby Checker [Spring Gulley] checks in [forgive me] with “Let’s Twist Again” because it’s such pure rock-n-roll, but “Limbo Rock” would be a close second.

As far as country/Americana goes we got Bill Anderson [Columbia] “Po Folks” and the country swing of Uncle Walt’s Band [Spartanburg] featuring Champ Hood, David Ball, and the late Walter Hyatt. “Gimme Some Skin” would be my choice.

I love gospel, and we have an impressive number of groups to choose from, but in deference to my pal Jo Humphreys, I’m going with the Brotherhood Gospel Singers [Mt. Pleasant] “Mary, Don’t Weep.”

Now, it’s blues time. The Reverend Gary Davis’s {Laurens County] “You Got to Move” or “Prodigal Son” will be familiar to Rolling Stone aficionados. Pinkey “Pink” Anderson {Laurens] certainly deserves the nod above Drink Small [Bishopville].

Though I’m not a big fan, it would be churlish not to include Hootie and the Blowfish [Charleston]. You choose.

Now for some lesser known South Carolina artists. Julius Cobb’s {Greenville] soul ballad “Great Big Change in Me” with its horns and killer vocal (featuring talking) is an obscure gem (and my former roommate Warren Moise once played keyboards with one of his bands). You can listen to “Great Change in Me” HERE.

Even though they’re from North Carolina, we could sneak Jump Little Children into the mix, but why do that when you could include The Fire Apes’ [Charleston] “Let Me Know” or “Lori.”

killerwhales_largeEver heard of the Killer Whales [Charleston]? Well, I have, and their cover of the Melodians’ “Johnny Too Bad” adds a much needed Caribbean lilt into the mix.

How bout some jazz fusion funk via Alphonse Mouzon [Charleston? “Funky Snakefoot” will do in a pinch.

Okay, I’m down to two Do I want to throw a bone to the younger set with a selection from Iron & Wine or add a couple of unrepresented country crooners like Josh Turner?

Naw, I’m going with the Blue Dogs’ “Walter” [Charleston] and Danielle Howle’s [Columbia] “Oh Swear.”

Jim Crow

Jim Crow

By the way, if you’re reading this before 15 November 2014 and are in the Charleston area, come out and see two of my favorite acts at the Folly Beach Front Porch Festival, i.e. Jim Crow going solo and Po Dunk led by brother/frontman John Fleming Moore. It starts at 2 at various venues in walking distance of Center Street.



Thank you, Obama

Remember the halcyon days before 9/11 when you could pack liquids in your carry-on bags and saunter shod right up to the metal detector without feeling terrified that you were going to set the damn thing off and be subjected to a strip search?

I’m talking about those by-gone days when passing through airport security was as informal and quaint as the tip of a cap.

Guess what, my friend. Those days are over.

Thank you, Obama!


What do Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, Karl Malden, Robert McNamara, Walter Cronkite, Les Paul, William Safire, David Carradine, and Gidget have in common?

They all died in the summer of 2009, the so-called Summer of Death. Wikipedia posits that “the sheer number of celebrity deaths, coupled with increasing nostalgia in the population of Western Nations, may have increased the outpouring of grief during the summer.”

What Wikipedia conveniently forgets to mention is that the Summer of Death was the first summer of the Barack Hussein Obama administration!

Thank you, Obama!

How often do passenger flights end up disappearing without a trace? Can you name one? By the way, Amelia Earhart doesn’t count because her ill-fated journey wasn’t a passenger flight but an experimental attempt to circumnavigate the globe.

Flight 739

Flight 739

Okay, there are two. The first one was the Flying Tiger Line Flight 739 that had been chartered by the US government in 1962 to transport soldiers to Viet Nam. After refueling in Guam, the plane took off, made routine radio contact, and was never heard of again. The second, of course, is Malaysian Airlines flight 370. What do the years 1962 and 2014 have in common? Democratic administrations, that’s what.

Thank you, Obama!

Ever seen those heartbreaking before-and-after photos of Lincoln at the beginning and the end of his presidency? If you think he aged during those 49 months dig these photos of me, one taken before Obama’s Presidency, the other taken during his presidency.  Can you guess which is which?

rusty prom wes with tux









Thanks a lot, Obama! (and Harrison Moore for the idea)

Mojo Malfunction

mojo bags






An experimental African-Chaucerian doggerel dub


Mojo bag, black cat bone,

my gris-gris ain’t working

on her heart of stone.



cold as Iceland steel,

it know how to beat

but not how to feel.


So I went to see the hoodoo man

down at the shaman shack.

begging for some conjuration

to launch me a love attack.


A week’s pay he took from me

and handed me a sachet sac.

He claim it reversal be so strong

it could turn Strom Thurmond black.


The very next day when the sun uprose

and I was moaning in bed,

she slid a note beneath my door,

and this is what it said:


“I done slap a ‘straining order

on your obsessive ass.

I’m sick and tired, fool,

of this never-ending harass.


“Get yo ass to the record store

and check out the Marvelettes.

I wouldn’t be your lover, baby,

if you owned 76 Corvettes.


“Listen to that song they sing,

‘Too Many Fish in the Sea.’

Cast yo line in another pond

And for Christ’s sake, let me be.”


I cry: O, what yo gonna do, mama,

when yo problems get like mine?

Take a mouth full of sugar,

drink a bottle of turpentine.


Mojo bag, black cat bone,

my gris-gris ain’t working

on her heart of stone.