Don’t let them tell you irony’s dead. Here I am putting an audience to sleep reading a poem about insomnia.
Alas, the other day a woman, who (perhaps not coincidentally) happened to be an enthusiastic lover and promoter of animal life, perished when she wandered too close to an alligator on Kiawah Island.
Here’s Post and Courier reporter Gregory Yee Gyee’s account of the unfortunate incident, which I have subtitled, “The Report Said.”
[The victim] Covert saw an alligator in a pond behind her friend’s home on Salt Cedar Lane and wanted to get closer, the report said.
The friend told deputies that Covert was on the back steps of her home and eventually moved down toward the pond.
″(She) kept yelling for her friend to get away and saw her friend was about four feet from the edge of the water when the big alligator came up and attacked her friend,” the report said.
The friend’s husband grabbed a shovel while Covert’s friend called 911, the report said. The husband tried to hit the alligator in a bid to make it release Covert, but those efforts were not successful.
The alligator dragged Covert under the water, the report said.
“She stated her friend never screamed,” the report said.
Will this unfortunate incident go viral as a sort of parable for the dangers of violating social distancing during what I have come to call Da Cora?
I’m betting not.
Damn, why didn’t I sell my Boeing stock and reinvest it in some cut-off jean manufacturer?
Anyway, in the USA, divided as it is, we have two opposing factions clashing across social media about how we should handle the contagion, and, not surprisingly, ideas about how to deal with the crisis tend to align themselves to opposite ends of the political spectrum.
On the one hand, we have the left, citizens who believe in science and place human life above economic considerations. They see the denizens of nursing homes as memaws and papaws, not as statistical models who have in many cases outlived the expected average lifespan of 78.54 years.
The left believes opening too soon is ill-advised, that a new wave of contagion will result, which will wreck the economy the other side hopes to rescue by reopening restaurants, barbershops, beauty salons, tattoo parlors, and strip joints.
The left has faith in human rationality, believes that restaurants will remain empty because people won’t feel safe. They believe we all should wear masks, as much to protect others as ourselves. Ideally, some would like social distancing to continue until a vaccination is available.
On the other hand, we have the right, Gadsden-flag-waving, mask-eschewing rugged individualists who don’t want the government treading on them. They cite articles from outlier scientists who claim the infection and death tolls are statistically insignificant, that the way to overcome Da Cora is to have a majority of the population get infected and develop antibodies, which eventually will choke off the virus. Embracing social Darwinism, they argue that young folks (with a few exceptions) tend to suffer only mild symptoms, so let’s get them infected so they can develop antibodies, recover, and go back to serving those beers and inking those biceps, and if the aged and others suffering from pre-existing conditions die, well, that’s too bad – that’s the way that nature works.
Of course, things would be much better if we had adequate testing to determine whom it’s safe to be around and who isn’t, but the fact of the matter is that we don’t. I personally don’t know what ultimately is right. I tend to seek a middle way in life’s dilemmas. Is there one to be found here? Dunno. Maybe?
Anyway, at least in South Carolina, where I live, the Governor is reopening the state. I also read in this morning’s paper that the beaches are letting non-residents back on. Yesterday, here on Folly, restaurants were offering outdoor dining, and when I went for pick-up at Chico Feo, the customers were, unlike at Jake’s, practicing safe social distancing.
At Chico, there were one-way entrances and exits and bottles of hand sanitizer available. Nonresidents were being allowed on the island at seven, but I was safely at home by then and didn’t gander back out to take a peek.
At any rate, I would suggest that if you’re old (like me) and/or suffer from an underlying condition, you might want to postpone that barbed-wire tattoo or foray to the Wild, Wild Joker Club.
But, hey, it’s up to you, dear existentialist.
 Lap dances, I have read, occur much closer than the six feet of separation epidemiologists consider safe.
Of course, whenever there’s a celebration on Folly Beach, I shed the fedora and don my pith helmet to study the folkways of the island’s men and women, whether they be our ancient, reptilian residents who seem to make up the majority of the population; the younger year-round renters who often work in the food and beverage industry; the bourgeois house-renting vacationers; or the daytrippers, which include surfer dudes and dudettes, but mostly consist of young people eager to ditch their sobriety. The question arose: what type of person (besides intrepid anthropologists) seeks out crowds during a pandemic?
I began my foray early, keeping at least six feet away from those as foolhardy to brave the great outdoors as I walked to Center Street via the beach. The strand itself was wind-swept, and the few cloud-bathers who braved the beach had placed their chairs and blankets on the leeward side of the concrete groins where they huddled and shivered. Most of the other beach strollers consisted of dog worshipers, who barely outnumber the host of young females who have chosen The Edge of America as the destination for their bachelorette parties.
Over the course of the day, I counted six different groups engaged in celebrating the waning days of some betrothed female’s singledom. Depending on the socio-economic situation, the attire of the ladies ranges from civvies to tee-shirts printed for the occasion. Although anthropologists are not supposed to let ethnocentric emotions like pity come into play, I felt sort of sorry for these chilly, less-than-festive seeming young women in short sleeves hugging themselves. Who can blame them, having planned the events months ago not knowing it was going to be a Masque-of-the-Red Death weekend?
Indeed, the numbers of revelers who decided to come out was scant. It was like, as Caroline noted, living in Charleston thirty years ago when parking spaces were plentiful and sidewalks easily traversed. I began and ended my fieldwork at Chico Feo with brief stops at the rooftop of Snapper Jack’s, St. James Island Pub, and the Sand Dollar Social Club (cash only). Here’s a virtual visit for my social-distancing readers.
On a typical St Patrick’s Saturday on Folly, these venues would have been packed to, as they say, the gills.
 The overall median age of Folly residents is 49.7 years, 43.7 years for males, and 58.4 years for females.
To my mind, the most important component of a great bar is a great bartender. I’d rather be enjoying a cocktail in in a seedy dive with a personable bartender than drinking in splendor at the Castell Rooftop Lounge with an aloof one. Of course, it’s in the best interest of a bartender to be friendly, given that he or she obviously would like to be tipped, and it goes without saying that bartenders should be attentive, efficient, and if you’re a regular, reaching for what they know you drink as you climb upon your stool at the bar. However, the very best bartenders end up being something more than just a friendly face; they become confidants.
One of the all time great bartenders I’ve encountered is Steve Smoak, who used to work at Rue de Jean on John Street. When the joint was packed, you’d see Steve busting his ass. It was as if he were dancing, pouring to a rhythm. In those inside smoking days of yore, one time I saw him with a drink in his left hand slide past a customer, light her cigarette with his right hand, and deliver the drink in his left hand to another customer two stools down — all in one fluid motion.
It was literally entertaining to watch, almost like one-man ballroom dancing
If Rue was really crowded, and Steve saw me stuck behind a throng, he’d step out from behind the bar and deliver my Jameson’s. Perhaps the biggest favor he ever did was talking me out of resigning from my job. After listening carefully to my tale of woe one week night, he said, “Wes, I’ve talked to lots of your former students. Don’t be a fool and quit over something like this. Swallow your pride. It’s not worth quitting over.”
Even though Judy Birdsong, my late wife, had given me permission to quit, I did swallow my pride, took Steve’s good advice, and continued my career..
Chico Feo is my go-to hangout because of the bartenders, Hank, Greg, Jen, Kelly, and Phillip, and I miss those who have left for greener pastures, like Jude and Charlie.
I’d rank Charlie right there with Steve Smoak as far as greatness goes. During Judy’s long illness, Charlie offered a sympathetic ear and later dating advice when I began seeing Caroline. He had become a sort of confidante.
Alas, Charlie left Chico for a downtown peninsula gig in a basement bar associated with the restaurant One Broad Street. I’d been missing my man, so last Wednesday, Caroline and I stopped in to see him during Cotillion.
The place is friendly, cozy, well appointed, and rumor has it the pizzas are the best in town – and cheap. However, its most valuable asset is Charlie, a master bartender and a helluva a guy – intelligent, articulate, easy going. Going downtown can be irritating with traffic and parking, but hanging out with Charlie makes it well worth the hassle, and as it turned out, an empty parking place was waiting for a customer right at the front door.
So check it out. Tell Charlie Wesley sent you.
As my dedicated blog and Facebook followers may know (we’re talking of literally tens-of-people), I got married last Saturday to Caroline Brooks Tigner Traugott, a woman known for her beauty, intelligence, learning, and Hellen-Keller-grade blindness (hence the possibility of our union).
Anyway, Caroline booked a couple of days at the Grove Park Inn Monday and Tuesday for our honeymoon. Sunday night, thanks to the generosity of Hank Weed, the owner of Chico Feo, Caroline and I stayed in the upstairs apartment, which boasts perhaps the best porch on Folly Beach, especially if, as former resident Charlie Neeley has noted, you’re into 4 am people watching. A couple of weeks earlier, I had traded Ashville musician Luke-Dogg a copy of one of my masterpieces, “Greetings from the Edge of America, Swim at Your Own Risk” for tickets to his show in Ashville.
So after a lovely Sunday evening of porch sitting and chatting with younger son Ned, we awakened to sunny skies and took off in Caroline’s Prius for the Grove Park Inn.
Caroline had booked rooms on the club level, and upon our arrival, the desk clerk congratulated us for being upgraded to the Penthouse Suite, where Mrs. Grove herself used to spend her summers. Not surprisingly it’s a huge corner suite of beautifully furnished rooms that feature panoramic views of mountains, sunsets, and Ashville’s skyline.
Soon after we unpacked, a lovely young woman brought in chocolate strawberries, a bottle of champagne, and a celebratory note addressed to “Mr. and Mrs. Traugott.”
So here’s what you get on the club level: breakfast, drinks, and dinner on the hall, access to the spa, and in-room performances by none other than the retro 70s Chippendales revue.
Frankly, I wasn’t too keen on going to the spa. When I think of spas, I think ancient Rome, frighteningly obese and hirsute Chris Christie types wrapped in towels and sweating like professional wrestlers. So I quickly wove my way through the men’s section to join Caroline in the co-ed pool area, which featured hot tubs with waterfalls and a cooling pool, and most importantly, a bar.
The views from the suite were so spectacular we hesitated to leave, but we had friends to see. First, on Tuesday night, Anna Williams, daughter of best friend Jake, and on Wednesday after checkout the mighty Cat Forester who gifted us two of her beautiful prints. We met her at Nine Mile, a killer Jamaican restaurant I highly recommend.
We killed time in an underground Brewery before meeting Luke-Dogg at 4 at the farmhouse, and as we sat there sipping on craft beers, the lights went out thanks to a lightning strike on a power station that wiped out all the traffic lights in Ashville. Once it was time to go, Caroline, undaunted, hopped behind the wheel of the Prius and negotiated the traffic-clogged thoroughfares and got us to the farmhouse in time.
Luke-Dogg met us there, introduced us to his housemate Leslie, and later transported us to the gig in his VW bus. He’s associated with at least two bands, “What It Is” and “Pleasure Chest,” who play at Chico Feo now and then. Interestingly, for “What It Is” he plays guitar but the drums for “Pleasure Chest.”
Move over, Stevie Wonder.
The venue, whose name I forgot was killer, and so was the music.
Here’s a snippet from Pleasure Chest from last night at Chico Feo. The cat on trumpet, Justin Stanton, also plays for the three-time Grammy winner instrumental jam fusion band Snarky Puppy.
And here’s a clip of Snarky Puppy:
Alas, like all good things, our honeymoon came to an end, which means, not alas, the beginning of a new life of love.
The mornings, evenings, afternoons . . .
TS Eliot, “The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock
I started hanging out at bars at a very young age because whenever my mother left me alone with my old man, he’d throw me in the car and head off to some hole-in-the-wall near the Navy Base. There were no such things as kiddy car seats in those days. Come to think of it, there were no seatbelts either, at least in the cars we owned. Nor were we stowed in the backseat for safety’s sake.
Whenever Daddy hit the brakes, he’d reflexively extend his right arm as a barrier to prevent us from hurtling into the dashboard with its array of dangerous knobs, seemingly designed with poking out eyes in mind. I was only thrown into the dashboard once when my grandmother let me stand up in the front seat. I lost my front baby teeth, and one of my permanent front teeth grew in discolored and had to be capped. The cap kept falling off, and what was left of the tooth had to be drilled down to fit on another cap. Eventually, when there was hardly anything left, it had to be pulled, which made me look like Alfred E Newman until we acquired a retainer like false tooth.
At any rate, sometimes, if you’re lucky, natural selection doesn’t work out the way it’s supposed to.
That grandmother, a Baptist, despised demon alcohol and considered bars dens of iniquity, though she and her sisters (Pearl and Ruby) traded pharmaceuticals like jelly beans. My mother, though less severe, didn’t like to come home and discover us missing. The story is that she could mysteriously intuit what bar we were at by flipping through the Charleston phone book, which was much thinner in those days in before the Old South turned into the Sunbelt. According to the dubious story, she’d call the bar, offer a description, get the old man on the phone, and he would come dutifully home with little me in tow.
My vague memories of hanging in bars with my father in the mid-Fifties may be manufactured. They may be based more on movies I’ve seen featuring dark, small, smoky spaces. I do clearly remember him playing pinball machines, a cigarette dangling from his mouth. These were in the days before aluminum cans were equipped with pop-tops, a great invention. Back then, bartenders opened cans of beers with small metal openers [see illustrations below] and had to make two openings to create airflow to help gravity along.
That reminds me. When I was around ten, my father had this foolish idea that I needed to drink one beer a week to gain weight – as if the weight gain would be equally distributed along my skeletal frame instead of creating a stick-legged, stick-armed tween with a beer belly. I absolutely detested the taste of beer. Now that I think of it, it may have been a ruse to allow us to have beer in the house.
The next bar I visited in my youth was a roadhouse called Morris Knight’s, a one-story honky-tonk-like establishment about a half-mile from my house. It consisted of two rooms, one with a bar and stools (where they sold candy and fireworks to kids in the day time) and a back room with a vending pool table and a jukebox. One night when we were camping out, we made an excursion there to score some Squirrel Nut Zippers and encountered staggeringly drunk men and women. The fat woman bartender kicked us out, informing us it was no place for children. It seemed at once both sinful and fascinating, Felliniesque in a po-dunk sort of way.
The S & S poolroom, where I hung out in high school, wasn’t, strictly speaking, a bar, though they did sell both draughts and canned beers. They served the most delicious hot dogs ever thanks to their secret chili recipe. Sometimes my mother would have a craving for one, and Daddy would go fetch her “a poolroom hotdog” because “ladies” didn’t dare step inside.
It was tacitly understood that I was not to go into the poolroom, but I did for the first time when I was a 7th grader, the victim of peer pressure. You couldn’t get away with sneaking in there, though, because you would come home with the telltale poolroom smell, a sort of sour smoky odor laced with fried food.
The poolroom was sort of a grander Morris Knight’s and employed young black boys to rack the tables and collect the dime it cost to play a game of nine ball. When the game was over, you’d holler “Rack!” Gambling was allowed. I saw a friend of mine, Glenn Farrar, win a hundred dollars in about forty minutes one time. It was a Friday, payday. Tensions ran high.
Anyway, my parents eventually didn’t mind my hanging out there, and in the early 70’s a couple of girls actually started frequenting, which sullied their reputations. By then, the hissing sound of the double metal can opener had been replaced by the plunk of tabs you tore off.
You had to be somewhat circumspect in the poolroom, though. Using a word like “whom” might end up getting your “ass cut,” as we locals put it. You weren’t allowed to cuss, though. A “No Profanity” sign was displayed prominently behind the bar beside prints of monkeys shooting pool and playing poker.
You could drink legally at eighteen in those days, so college was where I learned the art of making eye contact with the bartender, the advantages of busing your own tables by returning your bottles, and how leaving a tip could help you get served faster when the joint was busy.
My freshmen year I hung at a place called the Opus that served only Bush Bavarian beer, or at least that’s my memory, but they tore the Opus down to build the new Law School. There was also the Campus Club, a cool space with a wraparound scaffolding-like structure that created a sort of second story but was open to the space below, like the saloons you sometimes see in old Westerns. I liked sitting there in the afternoons after class when dust-moted sunbeams bore down on the tables like spotlights.
I never really liked the Golden Spur, the bar located in USC’s student union building, a sort of cafeteria-like soulless place where unadventurous students hung. Ironically, I ended up tending bar there along with my future wife, who had white-lied to her parents and told them that she worked at “the student center.” The bar did boast some really cool musical acts, like Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee. That may have been my best job ever. If we went out after work, it was to Oliver’s Pub on Devine Street, a private club where you could drink on Sundays.
Like a chip off the ol’ block, I started taking my two sons to bars early in their lives. When then they were pre-adolescents, on nights their mother attended classes to get yet another graduate degree, we’d eat out at bars. Our favorites were the Acme Cantina on the Isle of Palms and Station 22 on Sullivan’s Island. The boys were on a first name basis with the bartender, Fronz, at the Acme, and with Cathy Coleman at Station 22. The big difference between my childhood experience and theirs is that their mother didn’t mind at all, especially on 25-cent wing night.
Now, our sons are in their 30’s, and, of course, we still enjoy venturing out to a bar when they’re home, and Folly Beach where their mother and I now live may have more bars per capita than anywhere in this side of Vegas. Our favorites are Chico Feo and the Jack of Cups, but the Surf Bar is top-notch as well.
By the way, the worst bar I ever visited was outside of Leningrad on the Bay of Finland. Black walls, red lights, bad vodka, the reek of Turkish cigarettes, drunken Finns looking for love. It made Morris Knight’s look like a Dairy Queen.
 My grandfather hid half-pints of rum in his dress shoes in his closet.
Last Saturday, I had the opportunity as an anthropologist to observe a late afternoon bachelor’s party at Folly Beach’s little corner of the Caribbean, Chico Feo.
By the way, bachelor parties for centuries have been traditional components of mating and marriage rituals in the West. Whether you’re bidding “farewell to bachelorhood” in Munich at a Junggesellenabschied or in Arles marking the “burial of the life of a boy” at an enterrement de vie de jeune fill, you can be assured of one commonality: the Junges and garçons are gonna get shit-faced just like the lads in Liverpool and the dudes of Malibu.
Indeed, even though it was merely four in the afternoon at Chico Feo, a few of the entourage exhibited telltale signs of intoxication — sleepy, glazed eyes; mouths that hung open; wobbly legs. The first reveler in this condition I encountered kept bumping into the vacant bar stool adjacent to me. Charlie, Chico’s world-class bartender, informed me with a scowl that these fellows were part of a bachelor’s party. It appeared that Charlie had already cut this fellow off.
I’d estimate these young men to be from the Northeastern United States, a section of the country in which good-natured mockery seems to be an ubiquitous social custom (see Tolerating Middle Class Northerners for Dummies). The bros bantered about slinging insults, ordering beer after beer, and slurping down in one swallow Chico’s delicious tacos as if they were oysters.
Most of these young men were large in stature, and even if they weren’t, they sported over-sized biceps and an array of body art ranging from rustic gunmetal blue barbed-wire wraparounds to high-end multicolored patterns that screamed Gauguin. It seemed, though, that some had acquired their muscular upper arms a while ago because now their abs resembled not so much washboards as loads of laundry.
It was interesting to try to determine who reigned as alphas of the cartload. One “dude” particularly seemed in charge, a vociferous twenty-something who looked as if his ancestors may have entered Ellis Island from Brindisi. He had an olive completion, aquiline beak, and jet-black short-shorn hair covered by a baseball cap worn backwards. He was conversing with some female patrons, boasting of the Adonis-like beauty of one of his friends, Paul, a ridiculously good-looking and fit fellow whose sandy hair fluttered in the on-shore breeze. Paul was sitting at the bar but looking in the opposite direction at the bacchanal taking place beneath the overarching trees that provide shade for Chico’s tables and chairs.
“These chicks want you to take off your shirt, Paul,” the alpha shouted in an accent that I’d place somewhere close to Newark.
Paul sat there passively grinning.
“C’mon Paul. Show ‘em what you got.”
The females nodded their heads, and the ringmaster shouted, “C’mon, Paul, take off your shirt. Now! Show us your tits,” and a chant began “Show us your tits, show us your tits,” to which bartender Charlie, the real alpha, put an immediate stop. The ringleader opened his mouth and raised his arm as if he were going to continue, but Charlie’s stare short-circuited the bravado, and the erstwhile alpha dropped his hand and benignly smiled what I would call (removing my pith helmet of anthropological professionalism for a second) a stupid, shit-eating grin.
“Hey, which one’s getting married?” I asked Charlie.
“I don’t care,” he said shaking his head.
Unlike Dian Fossey or Jane Goodall, I didn’t ingratiate myself my this cartload of not-so-fun-folks to follow them to their next destination, the Tides Hotel where they were wisely staying, eliminating even the need of Uber for their locomotion. However, I suspect that before the evening came to its inevitable end, these celebrants would witness some form of burlesque for hire, i.e., a stripper performing that age-old ritual.
I’ll leave you with this from Wikipedia:
In Israel, the bachelor party is called מסיבת רווקים. Such parties often feature heavy drinking and sometimes the presence of strippers.
Seems like a pattern, huh.
 Did you know you call a group of chimps a “cartload?” It’s a troop of gorillas and baboons, a barrel of monkeys, but a cartload of chimps. Go figure.
I’m a 47-year-old man who’s lost a portion of my left leg to diabetes, my erstwhile wife to — and I’m not making this up — a yoga teacher ten years her junior.
I would like to think, however, that through these two rather major subtractions, I have gained a greater appreciation for what I’ve come to call the Whatness-of-the-Right Now (WORN), Now I pay heed to the slow softshoe of the keyboard’s clicking, note the redness of the Bic lighter lying next to my empty coffee cup, the grain of the walnut of this desk that once was a tree, the steady samba sway of the branches of magnolia outside my study’s smudged window panes.
As that master of the Whatness-of-the-Right-Now, Van Morrison, once scatted, “It ain’t why why why why why; it just is.”
So I’ve tried to jettison the dichotomy of wise and unwise and replace it with interesting versus uninteresting, which, of course, is inviting Old Man Trouble to crash on your couch. Also, I guess I should mention I have a 17-year-old daughter Bronwyn whom I’m attempting to nudge in the right direction, i.e., a path that leads to happiness. Of course, at her point in life, WORN and opting for what’s-interesting over what’s-not-interesting is as foolish as encouraging her to read The Sound and the Fury in the dad/daughter book club we’ve formed. 
Dad, I’ve decided to go to the all-night rave in a club downtown instead of the Drama Club production of Annie. The rave sounds more interesting. Yes, I have my fake ID! Jeez, Dad!
The thing is, though, when WORN kicks in, everything is interesting – even the logo of the Allstate bill that lies next to the empty coffee cup.
Are the hands about to receive a communion wafer?
Are we the communion wafer?
Are they the Hands of God?
How come the A is listing to the right?
How much was the creator of the logo paid?
After our divorce, Gwen and I sold our house on Limehouse Street in Charleston, SC, and I moved to a barrier island called Folly Beach, the most bohemian of Charleston’s beaches. I live on the backside facing the Folly River in a small one-story, two-bedroom bungalow propped on pilings, but my study faces the front of the house because I don’t want the constant Darwinian dissonance of pelican plummet – splash – or the baby-butchering sounds of raccoon sex — or the insect-like buzz of jet skis to distract me as I try to put into words what is happening.
After the amputation, which I prefer to call dismemberment, I retired from my job as the arts editor at the paper and became a househusband, which drove both Gwen and Bronwyn crazy. Did I mention I am a smoker? An occupational hazard in journalism and a must-not for diabetics. Of course, I smoked outside on the verandas (there were two, one upstairs, one downstairs) running along the front the house (whose side faced the street in typical Charleston fashion), but even my smoking on the porches irritated spouse and daughter. Also, I had erectile issues, not-exercising issues, Jameson whiskey issues (another diabetic no-no); nevertheless, Gwen’s affair with the vapid spike-haired Brandon I could have not imagined; her moving out on me and in with him after 22 years of marriage seemed almost goddamned cartoonish. In this case life imitates unimaginative romantic comedies.
Milton’s Satan, one of my boyhood heroes, says that “sometimes solitude is best society,” and I get plenty of it now, but I do every afternoon, depending on my mood and/or the weather, visit one of two Folly Bars, Chico Feo or The Jack of Cups.
Chico Feo is right across Second Street East from Berts, a small grocery store that’s been in operation for 60 years. I guess you could call Chico Feo an alfresco dining experience featuring Caribbean cuisine or a funky drinking establishment without a roof. It’s in the backyard of an old un-air-conditioned two-story house where they prepare the food, goat curry, beans and rice, tacos. The bar forms a barrier to the back door of the house where the kitchen is located. Beers are retrieved from coolers, or rather, large ice-filled tubs. Throughout the day whatever bartender’s on duty — Charlie, Tyler, Paul, or Greg — makes the trek across the street to Bert’s to procure more ice.
Chico Feo is only six blocks from my house, so I ride my bike, adding to the island’s quirky charm, a one-legged man with a notebook in his hand peddling a mountain bike on a flat barrier island. By the way, prosthetic legs have come a long way since Flannery O’Connor’s Hulga stumped her way up into the hayloft and into the arms of Manly Pointer. I opted for functionality rather than cosmetics in choosing mine, which I have rather pompously christened “Ahab,” though if you check out this link on eBay, you can find some pretty tempting vintage models, advertised with élan: http://www.ebay.com/bhp/prosthetic-leg
From my private collection :
Rare german steampunk vintage pre WW1 (about 1900 – 1910) leather wooden foot with metal spring!
Very rare steampunk collectible – stay like this or do some restoation work on it for art design, museum collection or just an outstanding weird item for home design
outside leather is in very good condition for it’s (sic) age, rust on metal braces , inside of socket worn out and very used .
an unique item!
of course not for medical use !!!
Anyway, I usually wear long pants, unless temperature tops 90 or so, and though I admire those who flaunt their prosthetics, like Paul McCartney’s ex-wife, I’m also a great admirer of Ray Charles, whose dark glasses shielded children from at least one awful truth.
The Jack of Cups, my other hang out, is a small brew pub that features kickass Thai-like cuisine, though the owners/chefs are very white people from Santa Monica, as nice as they can be, and very talented when it comes to cooking.
I’m there right now, talking to one of the bartenders, Fiona, an articulate, culturally aware young woman with gorgeous wavy red hair, very pale freckled skin, and prominent hazel eyes that chameleon like change colors from light brown to green. She’s originally from Savannah, and although I wouldn’t quite yet call her Rubenesque, she’s headed in that direction. She actually edited the literary magazine at Bowdoin, has published poetry in on-line journals. We end up talking about Devon, an aspiring fiction writer who works at Berts.
“So, what you working on, Jake?” she says as I turn the page of a manuscript.
“It’s not mine. It belongs to Devon. It’s his latest novel.
Fiona rolls her eyes, adds a theatrical sneer.
Devon is a very upbeat young African American in his early twenties with excellent facial features but who is uncomfortably overweight. If one day Fiona might be Rubenesque, Richard is already giving Sydney Greenstreet a run for his money. Apparently, he spends every moment off work writing (and eating). When he talks about his latest project, he goes manic, as if you might be as interested in his made-up world as he is, which makes him a very poor conversationalist for a practitioner of WORN. He’s not interested in anything else but his “art,” not sports, not politics. I don’t think he’s ever asked me a personal question like “how did you happen to lose that leg?”
“You poor, stiff,” Fiona says. “You should’ve just said no. Let me be your role model, pal. When he asked me, I said, ‘no way, amigo, no can do,’ and believe me, he can take no for an answer.”
“Well, I am a man of some leisure, and I told him I’d be brutally honest, which I intend to be.”
“Yeah, and you don’t have to worry about any potential romantic delusions he might harbor Anyway, What’s it about?”
“It’s sort of hard to explain. I just started it. Two paragraphs in. But according to him, it’s actually a video game, the plot of the novel is a video game, and like those choose-your-adventure books, you – the reader – can opt where to go, to skip 50 pages ahead if you decide to go to a movie, or instead of that, drop some LSD and jump 150 pages ahead. He fantasizes that they’ll make it into a movie and then ultimately into a video game.”
“Sounds fucked-up. Delusional. Unpublishable.”
“It’s not the plot but the prose I’m dreading.”
“Well, sweetheart, I’ll let you get back to your reading,” she says wiping off the bar. Fiona’s writing a dissertation on film noir and has started to parrot the lingo of Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe.
“Thanks,” I say, and start over reading the manuscript.
 Actually, we’re reading Houseman’s A Shropshire Lad, which, though a tad bit sing-songy and cloyingly melancholy, is age appropriate for both of us:
Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.
Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.
And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.
11: 10 a.m. Saturday 16 January 2016
As the sun arcs across the bluest of skies on this glorious Saturday of a three-day weekend, why squander my benevolent mood by overturning the rock of US politics and commenting on the spectacle of the scurrying vermin underneath?
Let’s not go into Trump and Cruz bouncing off the ropes of Thursday’s debate delivering forearms and leg kicks like Jessie Ventura and Nikolai Volkkoff.
Let’s not revisit the pairing of Lindsey Graham and Jeb! standing awkwardly abreast at yesterday’s endorsement like Muff and Jeff .
And what about this century’s remake of the 1972 Democratic contest with Hillary Clinton in the role of Edward Muskie and Bernie Sanders playing George McGovern?
Enough! Already I feel dyspepsia roiling the previously pacific pools of my stomach acid.
No, I’m headed to the closet to don my pith helmet for another episode of “Hoodoo Anthropology.” Today, my adopted hometown Folly Beach celebrates its annual culinary extravaganza a “Taste of Folly, which I’ve never checked out, so I’m curious to see what type of crowd the festival attracts. You would think attendees might be a bit more subdued than the roisterers who descend for Folly Gras and Follypalloza, but frankly, I dunno.
What I do know is that the streets have been cordoned off, draught beer is flowing from sidewalk taps, and, of course, the chefs of Folly have taken extra care to present their signature dishes.
Your intrepid reporter/anthropologist (IRA) and his spouse/assistant (SA) park their bikes at Chico Feo. Charlie, bartender extraordinaire, informs them that a bluegrass trio will be performing at 5, and that the owner/proprietor/chef (OPC) Hank Weed has set up a station offering a taste of Chico on the main drag that bisects this seaside community.
We cover the block to Center Street on foot.
Over time, your IRA has developed mild anxiety when enmeshed in the amoeba-like pulsations of a crowd. SA Birdsong is hungry, a happy coincidence, but the lines for food are long along the bustling thoroughfare. As luck would have it, the queue for the Jack of Cup’s (JOC) curry is manageable, so the two split up; SA Birdsong procures two bowls while IRA goes inside the saloon to obtain a beer.
As sometimes happens in small villages, sitting right outside of the JOC are two friends, Larry and Jed, who offer an area of the table where SA and IRA can stand and enjoy the absolutely delicious combination of rice, potatoes, curry, peppers, etc.
Since Larry has been on site since “the crack of eleven,” he has procured a wristband that allows him to transport beers as a pedestrian.
“Since when do you need a wristband to drink at a Folly festival?” IRA asks.
“It’s new this year,” Larry says. “It’s not too bad. Costs a buck. They make it efficient.”
“Maybe so, “ IRA thinks, “but here’s another instance of government complicating the lives of citizens.” He wonders where Cruz, Trump, and Bush might stand on the issue. No doubt nanny staters Bernie and Hillary are all for it.
As IRA enjoys his beer, someone approaches him from the back and begins to tenderly massage his shoulders. Out loud IRA wonders who it might be — Emmylou Harris? Chrissie Hynde? Margo Timmins? Ambrosia Parsley?
No, it’s Vinnie Folly Beach’s most prolific songwriter.
“You know what,” Vinnie says, “I’m going to get drunk today.”
IRA: “You are?”
Vinnie [emphatically]: “Yes I am. You know why?”
Vinnie: “Because I got drunk last night, and I can’t get over it.”
Two beers are long enough for IRA to determine that the visitors for a Taste of Folly are very much like the visitors to the other festivals. Bands play, like at any other festival. There’s a Jump Castle (JC) for the kiddies, like at any other festival.
Bottom line: the festival goers seem to be having a fairly good time.
SA and IRA arrive home safely via bikes. Decompression time before Chico Feo 5pm bluegrass trio.
 Dream tickets: Sanders and Sharpton vs. Cruz and Cotton in a “the-center-cannot-hold” contest.
With the specter of terrorism, both domestic and jihadist, haunting contemporary life, it’s no wonder that yesterday’s annual Folly Beach, SC, Christmas parade seemed somewhat subdued. For example, no eardrum-shattering Shriner-produced gun battles “betwixt” Revenuers and Moonshiners terrified toddlers. Instead, we baby boomers were treated to this rather melancholy spectacle.
[For those not proficient in Southern US English, here’s a translation: “This gentleman right here is 91-years-old, still working for the burned and crippled children (not the burning crippled children)].
Compare that to this scene from four years ago when all the little Masons and Benningtons were treated to some semi-authentic street drama, a Western tradition dating back to the glorious days of the Hundred Years War and the bubonic plague.
Also conspicuous in their absence were the vintage car clubs, those MG-Bs, Triumph Spitfires, XKE Jags that ascot-wearing playboys used to tool around the countryside in with their scarf-headed mistresses headed to the Timberland Inn for a mid-afternoon tryst.
And, for me, an owner of two late departed VW microbuses, what a disappointment that nary a one puttered past belching clouds of oil-laden exhaust (as opposed to in years past when they appeared in abundance, transforming Center Street into a miniature Beijing).
Nor did the Surf Rider drill team wow us with their shenanigans.
Not that the parade was a complete bust. The James Island band was in fine form.
Plus, the Roller Derby girls are always a welcome addition.
Of course, Santa appeared, albeit with an armed guard:
And, of course, the after-party at Chico Feo never disappoints. Check out these not-exactly vestal virgins preparing to sacrifice this cloven-footed beast to Jah so Mr. Weed back in the kitchen can whip up some of his world class curried goat.
And as Solstice present to all of you wherever you be, a rare photograph of your humble narrator at Chico Feo with his bodyguards.