After a great visit in Florida with Josh, Leah, and Amy, it was funny to get in my car and set off for another lengthy drive alone. My only plans for the next few days involved reaching the Chapel Hill area by Thanksgiving, so I let my housing options dictate my route. Michael, who was also a proctor at the infamous J.K. Wright geography computer lab during college, invited me to stay with her in Charleston and I found a promising couchsurfing host by the beach outside of Wilmington, so that became my route.
Michael and her girlfriend Sue were fantastic hosts and rallied when I arrived to take me downtown for some fried green tomatoes, hush puppies and sweet tea at Hyman’s. This restaurant had memorabilia crawling up the walls from movie stars, notable politicians (I think I’m remembering Al Gore?!?), and visitors who had made it their favorite vacation stop for decades. The hush puppies, my first experience with this fried batter deliciousness, were out of this world amazing. They also came with a side of sweet cream butter for dipping. It was magic. As for the fried green tomatoes, I could rant about tomatoes being out of season, but I’ll simply say that vegetables are better unfried.
At Hyman’s I was also brought into the know about the “to go” cup. That is, we asked for our sweet tea, a whole fresh round of it, to go and our agreeable waiter provided it without even batting an eye. I had heard of a “road cup” which refers to the lawful opportunity to purchase a big styrofoam cup of an alcoholic beverage to go, but I was baffled by merchant’s willingness to send customers home with a free cup (definitely styrophone here too) and unlimited beverage. This is crazy talk. How is the “to go cup” not bankrupting every business in the South, and making an entire region obese with unlimited sippable calories? OK, I’ll get myself off my overly-high-fructose-corn-syruped inquiry.
Charleston is incredibly beautiful, and like I mentioned in my post about Savannah, it is a city that Sherman did not level with his campaign of fire, and one with delicious pralines. Similar to many cities, Charleston has a Market Street in downtown. It took me way too long to realize that Market Street in Charleston is the site of the slave market, where men, women, and children were commodified and treated as chattel. The South’s history snuck up on me like this–the legacies of segregation, active KKKs, streets named after Jefferson Davis, tobacco fields and cotton. It’s still there, it is.
Wrightsville Beach is a town outside of Wilmington. My only connection to this corner of the world was a hunch that Dawson’s Creek was filmed here. It was, and apparently Wilmington is a bit of a movie-making mecca, although I couldn’t tell you what else filmed there. A lovely couple let me couchsurf with them, literally a few blocks from the beach. We had fish tacos for dinner at the local burrito shop (ode to California decor) and burned new music for eachother. I took off pretty early in the morning to get a good walk on the beach in before heading west to Chapel Hill.
I feel a deep connection to the waters of the Atlantic; walking along the shoreline was like arriving home. It was a cold enough day for a sweatshirt and down vest, but warm enough for me to walk the beach with my feet in the water. I danced along the shoreline, enjoying a cathartic moment before getting in the car to crash a friend’s Thanksgiving celebrations.
I walked around the fishing polls and made small talk with the wives who joined their husbands at the beach. It was actually quite a sweet scene, with some retirees and other longtime fishermen enjoying a nice morning fish before the chaos of Thanksgiving. Peaceful, relaxed, entertaining. A lovely life.