ThursdayDoors: The City of Facades

In Charleston South Carolina it takes a lot of money to be an SOB. You also have to be willing to live in a house that’s over 200 years old but which you cannot change the exterior of in any way other than to repair or repaint. And don’t expect to get around your neighborhood easily. You have to share the road with an endless stream of horse drawn carriages filled with people snapping photos of you in your bathrobe.


Note the lady in pink on the balcony trying to escape my camera.


The SOB, which in Charleston stands for South of Broad (street), is an enclave of historic buildings on narrow sometimes cobblestone streets. Although there are strong restrictions concerning remodeling, they were built in a variety of architectural styles ranging from Queen Anne to Art Deco. Every effort is made to save these beauties, however sometimes they burn down or simply can’t be repaired.  Any new building must resemble one built two hundred years ago.  As you can imagine, that would be quite a challenge.

You can either take a guided walking tour through the SOB or a horse-drawn carriage. It was 85 degrees and humid so you can probably guess which one we chose.


A Queen Anne given as a wedding present to the daughter of a Confederate millionaire.

I have to apologize for the quality of the photos.  We were at the whims of Jack, a horse who didn’t like to stop even when we were at a stop sign.



But he is a handsome dude, don’t you think?   You would expect with as many horse drawn carriages as they have in the SOB the streets would be knee deep in you-know-what  but they’re not which led me to believe Charleston has an army of horse poop picker uppers who, like the street sweepers in Disneyland, work in stealth. The streets were always miraculously horse poop free though no shovelers were in sight.


One of the few houses undergoing some sort of renovation

Characteristic of homes in this area are balconies that could host tennis tournaments.  Many face the street but along the waterfront, they face that vile reminder of Northern Aggression, Fort Sumter, which I talked about last Thursday.


An example of pineapple gates

Another thing you see in the SOB is intricate iron work on gates, fences, and windows.  Their purpose was not entirely decorative.  They were installed as protection against slave revolts but of course they have to be lovely and not coarse and vulgar.  Racism in the south is laced with the nuance of genteelity.

During the Civil War, genteel Southerners surrendered anything made of iron to the Confederate Army to be melted into munitions so they could keep the right to own human beings. Those bullets and cannon balls shredded many an arm, a leg and heart but over the years they’ve been replaced.


Washington/Heyward House



This is one of the oldest houses in Charleston, built in 1772 in the Georgian style by one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Heyward. Today this house is a museum primarily because George Washington once stayed here. There are a number of houses and plantations in the area built by Founding Fathers who themselves owned slaves and believed women shouldn’t vote. I don’t know what to tell you all but it’s sinking into the sea so if you want to visit the City of Facades you’d better visit soon because every morning the streets are flooded with seawater which the non climate change believers  have somehow accepted as normal.

No one can live in a house over two hundred years old without changing the exterior which it appears we in the USA might have to do.

Please skip on over to Norm Frampton’s #ThursdayDoors event to see other doors from around the world.


#ThursdayDoors: The Civil War

For #ThursdayDoors (Norm Frampton’s foray into doors around the world) I’m taking y’all to Fort Sumter which sits on a manmade island guarding Charleston South Carolina and which is where the American Civil War, or as the Southerners call it, the War of Northern Aggression, began.  Oddly, the Southerners were the first aggressors, not the Northerners, but we were guests and so held our tongues when the subject of those vile Yankees came up.


Fort Sumter: doors leading to what’s left of the armory.


Charleston, a town on the south eastern coast of the United States, was founded in 1670 and until 1861 had been a major center of trade, including the selling of human beings. Although the surrounding rice plantations couldn’t survive without slave labor, in the town itself skilled slaves were often given the opportunity to buy their freedom and even own slaves themselves. So Charlestonians considered themselves quite genteel and fiercely resented Northerner implications that they were doing anything at all immoral.

Artist rendering of Fort Sumter.

Artist rendering of Fort Sumter.

After the state of South Carolina seceded from the union, they immediately demanded that the soldiers at Fort Sumter surrender to the newly formed Confederate army. The soldiers responded by flying a US flag so huge the fine citizens of Charleston could see it from their waterfront.

When the Confederates learned that a ship was on its way to supply Fort Sumter, they bombarded the island from two peninsulas on either side (the harbor is shaped like a fishbowl) until nothing remained but

Remarkably only two Union soldiers died and their deaths were the result of poor artillery training (they blew themselves up).


View coming into Charleston from Fort Sumter

When I looked across the bay at Charleston I couldn’t help imagining how the union troops must have felt.  There they were, completely surrounded by fellow Americans who’d turned against them and wanted them dead or at least gone. They probably felt the way minorities feel in America today.


Looks like a ghost is down this tunnel, doesn’t it?


"All wars are civil wars because all
 men are brothers" 

François de Salignac de la Mothe-Fénelon

This Thanksgiving I’m grateful to call so many hardworking and decent people of all races, sexual orientations, and religions my friends. It’s horrifying to realize that so many of my fellow Americans don’t feel the same way.

Bah Humbug

th-5Thanksgiving is not my favorite holiday, however I am looking forward to joining with friends and commiserating over what the f**k has happened to this country. Instead of Happy Thanksgiving we will be having a Grave Misgivings bash, drinking margaritas and eating turkey mole.

When I was young Thanksgiving meant sharing a room with my sister when either one or the other set of grandparents came to visit.  I wish I could say it was jolly fun to spend time in that small house with my grandparents but all four firmly believed children were to be seen and not heard and they insisted on making weird shit which we were expected to eat.

th-4 For Grandma J from Massachusetts the feast would not be complete without oyster stuffing and green bean casserole. I’m sure there are many fine cooks out there who work wonders with those two dishes but alas my Grandma J believed that any recipe could be improved by Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup and dried onion flakes.

For Grandma M from North Dakota it was mincemeat pie and ambrosia salad.  I like fruit and I like coconut but her ambrosia salad was made with canned fruit and coconut that I swear had been sitting in syrup for years. And mincemeat pie, really?  Does anyone really like mincemeat pie?th-6

And we had to eat everything that had been piled on our plates otherwise we weren’t getting away from the dining room table.  The idea, hammered into our heads, was to be happy we had something to eat and weren’t starving like all those children in China. Seems an odd way to make children grateful, to force mincemeat pie down their throats.

I have to admit that as a child I also hated pumpkin pie. What a nasty little unpatriotic brat I was!  But I’ve changed my tune. After many years of experimentation my husband’s figured out how make pumpkin pies that don’t taste like wallpaper paste and they smell divine.  He generally makes three pies – one to take to friends and the other two to eat all by himself with a scoop of cookie dough ice cream.  He could eat pumpkin pie all day long and all year long without any qualms but luckily he doesn’t.

Joel's pumpkin pie - he makes three of them at Thanksgiving and doesn't share.

Joel’s pumpkin pie – he makes three of them at Thanksgiving and doesn’t always share.

Food isn’t the only issue I have with Thanksgiving. Its proximity to Christmas is the other.  Oh boy, time to really start stressing as the season to buy, buy, buy rolls over us like a big, black cloud.

But I don’t want to end this post on a negative note.  I am a thankful person – well fed, a roof over my head, healthy children and I’m doing what I love: sharing thoughts, stories and photos with other bloggers from around the world.img_2394

#ThursdayDoors: Bucolic


I love the happy faces of well-kept barns, don’t you? I couldn’t get close enough to take a picture of the actual doors without going through the cow pen which would have been trespassing (as well as very messy).

I bet you think I took this picture out in farm country, right? Actually we were on the campus of the University of Maryland, about 20 minutes from downtown Washington DC. This is “The Farm” where agricultural students learn all about animal husbandry.



The students not only tend the cows, sheep, pigs, chickens and horses but they’re also famous for their hand-churned ice-cream.  I’ve never encountered a working farm in the middle of a university campus but I definitely like the idea.  I can’t think of anything more stress-reducing before finals than having a conversation with a pig.  Can you?

Check out Norm’s #ThursdayDoors challenge.  It’s always interesting to see doors from around the world.

We shit and fell back into it

Texans often say it the best.  “We shit and fell back into it,” wrote my friend Carol the morning after the elections. oliviaWell, crap.  Can’t say it better than that. To my blogging buddies in other countries, before you start waving the “you’re not welcome here” and “you’ve made your bed, now lie in it” flags in our faces, keep in mind that the US is in this predicament precisely because of the rhetoric of fear and if you think it can’t happen in your country, just look around. Fascism is on the rise in all countries and it feeds on fear. So don’t feed the beast. Just wish us well. Thank you.

Anyway back to the election, for the past five days I’ve been buzzing around the pile of shit we’ve landed in, trying to make some sense of the senseless and coming up blank.

Until today.

Sunday’s the day I generally work outside, taking a break every now and then to watch either classic movies or re-runs of Law & Order which run all day long.  I generally don’t pay much attention to the plots. The shows are just background noise while checking email or reading blogs.  But I did perk up when I recognized one of the characters. As my mother would say “Holy Crow.  It’s Robin Williams!”


I had been listening to a Law & Order episode called “Authority:”

Synopsis (from wiki): A fast-food restaurant employee files a complaint with the police after being subjected to a strip search on the premises. The search was conducted by her manager, who claims that an NYPD detective called him with information that this employee was stealing from the business. However, the call turns out to be a hoax, one of several perpetrated by an individual going by the pseudonym “Milgram.” It does not take long for the detectives to connect the calls to an audio engineer who delights in flouting and opposing authority figures every chance he gets.

To make a long story short, Milgram (Williams) gets arrested and goes to trial where he convinces the jury that they shouldn’t follow authority figures.  It doesn’t matter that he’s a liar and a conman, his message resonates and suddenly he’s got thousands of followers anxious to act on his every word. The result, a giant pillow fight that does nothing more than make his followers feel like they have power. But in reality they’ve traded order for chaos.


Sound familiar?

Of course, the week didn’t get any better.  Goodbye Leonard. We are ugly but we have the music.

Pretty in Pink

I’ll be out of touch for the next couple of days and not because I’m so flummoxed about the elections that I’ve checked myself into Shady Glen Drug and Alcohol Rehab Center (although that’s not a bad idea). I’m going to see mother where access to any sort of modern technology is iffy at best.  I’m leaving you with a few shots from the US Capital which seem appropriate. viewfromcapital

View from the side of the US Capitol Building as the sun was setting. We were prevented from going around to the front by Capitol police.


Front view of the Capitol. It’s really not pink – it’s bone white but when the sun sets, yes it is pink. Sort of a cotton candy pink, don’t you think? This is as close as you can get until after the inauguration.  They’re already putting up scaffolding.


One more shot as night fell. Hope you all survived the elections and that we will all survive the outcome!

#ThursdayDoors: A Stark Contrast

Last month we took a trip back to Washington, DC and Charleston, SC – two places technically in the southeast but, aside from grits and soft-shelled (blue) crabs, they’ve little in common. One is a sprawling metropolis and the other a snapshot of the genteel south circa 1780. Needless to say, I have enough doors to be able to participate in Norm Frampton’s #ThursdayDoor event for a long time.

I’m going to start with these doors from the FDR Memorial to remind my American friends of the stakes at risk in our upcoming Elections.

Door representing the hopelessness of many people during the Great Depression

Door representing the hopelessness of many people during the Great Depression


Door to the Soup Kitchen, the only way to survive for many people.

The Republicans and Libertarians have made consistent threats against  programs like the ones President Franklin Delano Roosevelt put into place; programs that saved this country from the Great Depression and provided a safety net for millions of Americans, particularly the weakest and most vulnerable of us.

The FDR memorial sits across the Potomac from downtown DC and is just down the road from Arlington Cemetery (which is always on my must visit list.)  The memorial is a maze-like series of granite walls representing each of FDR’s four terms in office. Into the walls are carved quotes from his most famous speeches.fdr15

The one above says:  “We must scrupulously guard the civil rights of all citizens, whatever their background.  We must remember that any oppression, any injustice, any hatred is a wedge designed to attack our civilization.”

FDR and Fala, the only presidential dog to have his own monument.

FDR and Fala, the only presidential dog to have his own monument.

It’s shocking to contrast what a man in a wheelchair and in dubious health created in both words and deeds in twelve years while for eight years our Republican-held congress has accomplished nothing but repeatedly attack Obama care, fund baseless investigations against the Clintons, and encourage through word and deed citizens to turn against each other with hatred, intolerance and incivility. img_2246

I think every American needs to keep in mind why social safety nets were put into place and why any politician seeking to destroy them should be defeated on November 8th. By next Thursday we’ll know.  Are we going to go backwards or forwards – what’s your guess?

Apologies for the darkness of the pictures – we were there in the evening.