Archive for the ‘Islands’ Category

The first faint hints of warmer weather two weekends ago provided ample opportunity for me to demonstrate my downright geeky interest in sea commerce by taking our guests to the beach near Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island.  The spot possesses all of the locational hallmarks of a great study of Charleston Harbor: expansive views of the Atlantic, the Holy City, Fort Sumter, the breadth of the Ashley and Cooper Rivers, and Morris Island in the distance.

Fort Moultrie stands watch over the shipping lanes into and out of Charleston Harbor along with its sister, a Spanish-American War-era battery installation.  The whole site is teeming with historic prominence, local lore, and the ever-present evidence of an economically viable port that has sustained its relevancy since the infancy of this grand city.  There is something about watching these huge container ships make their slow, deliberate foray into the harbor that alights my imagination with visions of times gone by, drawing upon those historic links between tall ship merchant seafaring in a more dangerous era for sea travel and modern commerce.  The physical circumstances of the beach also lends itself towards this “looking glass” approach to a trip over the dunes, as the site nestles next to the Cooper River’s confluence with the Atlantic, making water recreation exceptionally dangerous to the point that its illegal to take a dip.

Which is for the best, as this beach is one best served by quiet, reflective reverence.


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An ice storm moving swiftly into the Bluegrass last Wednesday resulted in us having to condense all of our holiday plans into one short evening, which included our first go-around at James Island County Park to see what amounted to the most spectacular display of electrical Christmas cheer this side of the Griswold House, or to a lesser degree, those crazies on that one show on television.







With an onslaught of family Christmas activities in the next two days, this post on the lights James Island County Park will also be condensed into a much shorter product than I would like.

From the different themed areas of lights to Santa’s insanely elaborate village, complete with both members of the Claus couple getting their ears bent by eager kids, a full service train, sand sculptures, absurdly sugary hot chocolate, crafts, and rides too small for me to spend a night upon screaming my head off, the display was pretty unreal.  It took us almost 2 hours to see everything there was to offer and the (at the time) frigid temperatures added to the atmosphere of a real life Christmas community.

I’ll let Suzanne’s photos do the rest of the talking.  I need to get busy reading my copy of Black’s Law Dictionary.

Yes, I actually requested that for Christmas.

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Taco Boy

Although there seems to be a continuing debate amongst several groups of my friends elsewhere regarding the individual merits of faux-Mexican establishments Qdoba and Chipotle (Moe’s doesn’t qualify due to dinginess), the lack of such establishments in the vicinity have spared us having to weigh in on the subject.  We can, however, espouse to the greatness of our local faux-Mexican haven, Taco Boy.

Taco Boy sports two locations in the Charleston area:  the original on Center Street at Folly Beach and the grass-roofed ‘new’ business on Huger Street downtown who is striving to become a community leader in green practices through stormwater collection irrigation and on-site recycling, which we have regrettably never set foot in.  You know that you are in for a good experience when you arrive at the restaurant and are greeted by a huge mural of the Taco Boy, the scorned lovechild of the Hamburglar and Delta Burke in a sombrero.  As expected, the atmosphere is pretty rocking, aided by a strange decor motif of antique lighting fixtures and ancient tribal masks that line the walls.  It’s a fun enough place to visit even if the food was sub-par, but luckily, it is anything but.  It boasts very fresh ingredients and inventive salads within a fairly large menu in comparison to its more ubiquitous cousins.

Adults love Taco Boy but I’m pretty sure most kids will be disappointed and feeling deceived upon entering and realizing there is, in fact, no PlayPlace.  There are no guys made of shredded lettuce wearing Airwalks running around, no formless green blob of guacamole name Guacmus, and no El Chupacabra dressed up like a sadistic clown.  All they have is the Hamburglar’s kid to stare at them mockingly while they devour their healthy, vegetarian quesadilla.  They’ll think they are in some sort of alternate dimensional clone of that other place.

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Last Call

Yesterday, we both got out of work early in order to take advantage of the waning dog-on-the-beach season at Folly.  Starting May 1, Finley will be relegated to mainland duty until we register her with the Town of Sullivans Island for what amounts to ‘crack of dawn’ beach access for the summer months.

It seemed that Finley understood her time in the sun was nearly extinct, as she certainly went all out.  A few things we learned about our mutt, as depicted in these photographs:

1)  She is no longer scared of waves.  Is this good or bad?  Probably both.

2)  Saltwater is her new favorite drink, surpassing air conditioning coolant condensation and puddles in the middle of King Street with oil slicks in them.

3) She is actually Marmaduke.  The shadow in the photo below explains a lot.  Now I just need to write a horribly lame, inconsistently illustrated rag of a comic about her.  Or this blog will suffice, I guess.

4) When she’s not Marmaduke, she is a Charleston sewer rat.

5)  She loves being filthy.  Removing this sand amidst sand spurs, sticks, and dune grass proved to be quite a challenge.

6)  Our dog is awesome.

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After over a month and a half of non-stop weekend visits from friends, Suzanne’s sister Caroline had the honor of being our final guest for the foreseeable future, a fact that is both exciting and somewhat lamentable.  This weekend was a busy one.  It started off gloriously on Saturday morning with a bit of hilarity.  A man was attempting to ride a bike down Ashley Avenue in front of MUSC while carrying a 12-foot ladder.  What possessed him to even attempt this feat no one can be for certain.  We waited with bated breath for the inevitable tumble, which occurred probably 10 seconds after we first spotted the guy.  After falling face-first into asphalt and monkey-rolling a couple of times as the ladder bounced erratically on the ground next to him, the man ripped off his shirt and flexed his muscles in some sort of weird ‘I’m ok, but I want you to know I’m enraged’ way.  Convinced he wasn’t seriously injured, we sputtered down the road in hyperventilation.

We spent Saturday afternoon at James Island County Park, first attending a cookout and then making our way over to the East Coast Canoe and Kayak Festival.  I spent most of our time at the festival in a state of near salivation, as it was definitely a water-enthusiast’s dream.  Practically any form of water recreation not involving mechanical motion was on display and for a small price, you could try out the myriad of products all afternoon.  If it wasn’t for Finley’s frequent attempts to scream “Help! I’m hot!” by diving underneath the miniscule shade created by beached canoes, we might still be out there paddling away.

Following our return to the peninsula, we fought the crowds to take in the Blue Angels show over the harbor.  I actually wasn’t aware that the show was taking place this weekend until Friday, when three of the jets streaked over Cannon Park at an altitude of 100 feet, leaving me standing completely upright, gawking mouth agape while trembling.  The show was pretty spectacular, and the day as a whole would have been perfect had it not been for the sorry display of a lack of emotional fortitude by the host at Blind Tiger Pub.  After a whopping total of 3 parties of 3 people each converged on the restaurant at the same time, the host threw a conniption fit even though the situation was completely free of anything resembling stress, ordering everyone to ‘return to the front and start over one by one’.  This sadly wasn’t the first instance of this guy failing that we have witnessed.  Needless to say, we left and will probably not be patronizing the place for a while, which is a shame since we are frequent customers.

Our Sunday was spent in a fashion that is becoming a tradition when guests are in town:  lunch at Poe’s Tavern, a simple burger/chicken restaurant located on Sullivan’s Island themed after the famous author and poet who spent time serving his country at nearby Fort Moultrie, followed by an afternoon on the top deck at Red’s at Shem Creek.  From the deck, we were able to see Sunday’s Blue Angels show, a flock of pelicans emulating the jets (poorly), a performance by a family of dolphins, and a beast fight between Finley and a 7 week old Labrador retriever puppy that was observed by a woman in biker chaps who looked horrifyingly similar to the Cryptkeeper from Tales from the Crypt.  It was the first time Finley had employed her new fighting technique of ‘ram my butt into you until you just submit’ and probably the first time I looked at her as being ‘big’.  She’s growing so quickly.

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Smoky Oak Taproom

Smoky Oak Taproom, intersection of Dills Bluff and Camp, James Island

Last evening, hunger pangs for the most popular type of food from land of my birth became nearly unbearable, so Suzanne decided to treat me to a trip out Dills Bluff Road on James Island for some barbecue courtesy of Smoky Oak Taproom.

By treat me, I mean driving the long, arduous 2.5 mile trek like a crazed Shriner clown in a parade.

By treat me, I mean she forgot her wallet at home and I had to pay for dinner.

Nevertheless, Smoky Oak is probably my favorite place to grab some barbecue within a reasonable distance from both of our houses.

There isn’t really anything too remarkable about Smoky Oak Taproom.  Probably the most remarkable part about dining there is the sheer amazement that overcomes you when you finish your meal and realize the roof trusses haven’t caved in on top of you.  The building is quite the piece and I could go on an extended diatribe about how the entire parcel in general violates all sensibilities of quality site development (another time).   However, the barbecue is pretty delicious, the portions are massive, and the beer selection on tap is pretty robust.

Plus, check out these seats.  If these don’t entice you to visit, well, I don’t know what will.  It’s barbeque….Squanto-head-shaped-tail-light-of-a-classic-car style.

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Fat Hen Restaurant, John’s Island

For Suzanne’s inception into old ladydom, we decided to venture off the peninsula to have a nice dinner at the Fat Hen, a French-styled country kitchen along Maybank Highway on John’s Island.  We had been to this restaurant several times for brunch but it was our first trip for dinner.   It certainly did not disappoint.

Following a momentary lapse in driving acumen in which I somehow managed to maneuver the car perpendicular through three 90 degree parking spaces, a move that incited a dismayed driver in a minivan to mash the accelerator and throw gravel literally all over the parking lot while I was overcome with extreme embarrassment, we enjoyed one of the better dinners we have had in quite some time around here.

I’m not exactly a connoisseur of fried green tomatoes but the appetizer at Fat Hen is absurdly delicious.  We wanted to order fifteen additional plates of the thing.  Needless to say, the Skinny Chicken (as Suzanne’s father refers to it) is one of our favorite places in the Charleston area.  Just wish we could walk to it.

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