austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

Some dance, some prance

Wednesday would be our last full day in Charleston and we figured to take a horse-drawn carriage ride around the downtown area. I don't think this was my first horse-drawn carriage ride ever, but it would certainly be my first in years, anyway. My father talked a bit about the complicated politics of building stuff in Charleston as there's a strong architectural-history and historical-preservation movement and so things have to fit the style. I'm of divided feelings about that. On the one hand, I'm inclined to generally let people be to build stuff the way that suits their tastes, and to allow that architectural styles have lifespans, and accept their passing with grace. On the other hand, it keeps the place from looking like every other place, featuring endless storefronts in that dark beige wall with triangular roof fronts to give the implication of architectural ornamentation. My parents, though not living in Charleston proper, are in a town that is roiled right now with the debate about whether a drive-through Starbucks would fit its architectural character, a debate elevated by the town being in some areas nearly as much as fifteen weeks old. And this may be a petty quarrel, but it also touches on some important stuff of defining public space.

On smaller issues we had to eat, and went to a Greek restaurant adjacent to a former movie palace, the kind with your grand overhanging balcony. It's apparently still a theater but now dedicated to live events and rentable for special occasions. Nothing was happening when we were there, which is to be expected for early afternoon on a Wednesday, I suppose. It also turned out we were there at the start of Restaurant Week, devoted to finding something to bring tourists in during a two-week dull stretch for the tourist trade. Yes, they had sandwich wraps, because we live in an era when pretty much everything can be eaten in wrap form.

We got a reservation for a carriage tour --- it hadn't occurred to me they wouldn't just set off as soon as they had enough people --- and since there was time to pass before that we wandered around the City Market which does go back to the 19th century but was not, our tour guide would point out, where Americans held as slaves were bought and sold. It's occupied now by cute decorative and tourist-y stands, including a number of Christmas ornaments that we looked at fairly seriously, and jewelry counters, and even a spot selling (among other things) Cheerwine. My father was surprised we knew what that was, but we'd tasted the soda back at the Midwest Pop Festival, when we went to that pinball arcade outside Kalamazoo with the distant sodas, Moxie included. (We also saw racks of the Avanti greeting cards, made in Detroit, down there.) There's also an outdoor part of the market, which had relatively few sellers there, since it was in the low 40s and windy, and was looking only to get colder and windier.

Trivia: The Greenwich Observatory's original construction costs of £500 were raised by selling off 690 barrels of surplus gunpowder which had been provisioned for Prince Rupert of the Rhine during the Third Anglo-Dutch War. Source: Ingenious Pursuits: Building the Scientific Revolution, Lisa Jardine.

Currently Reading: A Brief Guide To Oz: 75 Years Going Over The Rainbow, Paul Simpson. OK, so there's a link between Ghostbusters, the guy who made Santa Claus versus the Ice Cream Bunny, and 1960s efforts to make new Wizard of Oz movies. Didn't see that coming.

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