Charleston, SC -- August 20, 2007

When the bus pulled into the station at 7:30A.M. I wondered if I should just go on to Columbia--where was the historic ville I'd been told about? The station was located near the highway off-ramp, was under renovation, smelled like paint, had no baggage storage facilities and the only operational bathroom was a fragrant porta potty in the parking lot. Its stench was secondary. The area as a whole reeked of pricey taxi fares to places more urban.

But, when the bus hauled on, I stayed behind and, by asking around, found a city bus that would take me to town, where I ducked into a hotel and changed out of my jeans and long sleeves, which, though commonplace on the the air conditioned bus, were starting to get me some stares--it was already close to eighty degrees.

I hadn’t really understood the concept of preppy until I visited downtown Charleston with its strip of J.Crew and BCBG, and College of Charleston students dressed accordingly. I had been on a bus for over a month and didn't quite blend in. Somewhere along the way I must have misplaced my Gucci hand bag.... Only the books displayed in some of the storefronts kept me from fleeing before I found even one reader.

As it was the beginning of the school year, books were the theme, in store windows as well as in real life. Parents and students bought books and hauled books, but, did not read books.

I had a nice breakfast of grits and sausage at a place called Joseph's and wandered around town, seeking out readers and pretending like I lived in another century. Between 9:00A.M. when I got to town and 2:00P.M. when I had to go back to the bus station, I found only two readers, but with them and with the librarians I met, I had some really great conversations.

Back at the bus station, completely comatose from my wanderings, I collapsed in the shade and asked a couple of guys, one of whom I later learned had just been released from prison where he'd been detained for beating a man with a rake, to help me open the bag of spinach I'd got at the grocery. I had been craving green vegetables and was just short of ripping it open with my teeth. They had pocketknives. They laughed at my meager dinner and gave me a bag of beef jerky and a can of Vienna sausages. Apparently, as I would learn later, jerky is the gift of choice to bestow upon a damsel in distress. Has anyone else ever eaten jerky/Dorito sandwiches?

I still have the Vienna sausages. They're sitting on my bookshelf.

1 comment:

heather said...

great pictures, awesome slice of life! am so loving your series and will be so sad when the postings are complete. although i suppose if i'm lucky, eventually you'll go back to meandering around SF. :)