College Football

Never Lost in South Carolina

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Shem Creek

I did not experience a college football rivalry until I moved to South Carolina fifteen years ago. On my first day at the College of Charleston I was confused by all the people talking about “Carolina” football. I knew these people couldn’t be Carolina Tar Heel fans because we never mention football. I learned quickly that some words mean different things in this state than they do everywhere else in the world. In South Carolina, “Carolina” refers to the South Carolina Gamecocks; the rest of the world uses that term to refer to the place where Michael Jordan played basketball. The world loses most arguments in this state.    

The only other football team in South Carolina that anyone cares about is the Clemson (clem(p)son) Tigers. I am sure you have heard of them. It doesn’t matter who you root for outside the borders of South Carolina, inside them you must pick one of the two teams. I have decided to approach the rivalry as a chameleon. I root for the better team unless I am surrounded by an inordinate amount of the worse team’s fans and then I will pretend to share their misery. Being a Clemson fan these last five years has been a lot of fun. They have beaten the Gamecocks five times in a row and won two national championships. Before that, I was a big fan of the Ol’ Ball Coach. He lead the Gamecocks to five-straight victories over Clemson before he retired. I haven’t pulled for a loser in the Palmetto Bowl in ten years.  

My South Carolina friends are split down the middle; half of them are Gamecocks fans and half of them are Clemson Tiger fans. Whether I get invited to a Clemson viewing party or a Gamecocks viewing party, I dutifully show up with my orange or garnet pompoms. It has been fun watching my Clemson friends revel in their success these last few years. It hasn’t been as fun watching my Gamecocks buddies wallow in such misery, but at least they have a good women’s basketball team. 

One of the greatest qualities of Gamecocks fans is their optimism. Every “national signing day” they joyously expound upon their new recruits like they just won it all. I consider this day to be their national championship because they are undefeated and the new recruits have yet to disappoint them. Clemson’s national championship is usually the national championship. 

I have enjoyed Clemson’s domination of college football these last few years, but it is becoming tedious. I’m a Tar Heel at heart and since we don’t mention football, I only watch the games to be entertained. There is nothing entertaining about a 55-10 trouncing, even if the victim is N.C. State. Clemson made its bones ending Alabama’s preeminence only to become that which it killed. Nobody except for those draped in orange wants to watch a football game where graduate student-transfers are substituted for starting players in the third quarter because the game is already won. The price you pay for being better than everyone else is that your games become boring and unwatchable.   

I would like to encourage all the Cocks I know to keep their heads up. What, what? Another word that means something different in South Carolina than it does everywhere else in the world. Anyway, things will not stay terrible forever. Life has an ebb and flow like the tide and the Tide may be your only hope. Dabo will go to Alabama after Trevor Lawrence leaves and things will be peachy in Columbia once again. You will be Sandstorming your way back to prominence before you know it. In the mean time you’ll just have to be content with beating Georgia every year. 

On November 30, 2019, the Clemson Tigers will play the South Carolina Gamecocks for the 117th time. Clemson’s season will be on the line and the Gamecocks will have nothing to lose because their season ended weeks ago. Both teams are lucky that the Tar Heels don’t mention football because they have already beaten South Carolina and they almost beat Clemson. Regardless, I believe that the Palmetto Bowl will be a great game; one in which the Gamecocks have a real chance of winning. No matter the outcome, I am going to enjoy watching the game because it is guaranteed that I will like the winner.

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Travel

Great Uber Rides in Toronto

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Toronto, taken from Centre Island

A few months ago I decided to go to Toronto, Ontario. People asked why I picked Toronto. I do not know why, but I have never heard anyone say anything bad about the place so I decided, why not? I’ve been looking for somewhere new to go and experience new things, so I threw a dart at a map of the world in my head and I hit Toronto. 

“M”

After I checked into the Westin Harbour Castle on the shores of beautiful Lake Ontario at noon, I just started walking. I had no plans on this trip other than going to Niagara Falls, so I made it up as I went along. I think the best way to experience somewhere new is to walk around aimlessly for a while. Doing so gives you the chance to get a feel for the place. You can see the people, smell the air and hear the commotion of the city. 

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View from my hotel room

Toronto smells nice. Even though it is a major metropolis, it is very clean. I was walking around what is known as the financial district which mainly consists of giant bank buildings. It was a holiday so no one was working and the eight or nine skyscrapers felt deserted. 

Toronto has to be the safest major city in the world. I saw five cops the whole time I was there and four of them were directing traffic. The one that wasn’t was overseeing the most cordial repossession of a car I have ever seen. 

I stopped at a place for lunch that I don’t remember the name of and then I kept walking. 

By 4:00 PM I could not walk anymore. I came to a corner where there was an Asian noodle place and called my first Uber of the trip. In Toronto you never have to wait for more than two minutes for an Uber. 

“M” picked me up in a Ford Flex. He is a distinguished looking black man, bald and had an accent. Some sort of jazz was playing on the radio. I know nothing about jazz; the only thing I know about jazz is that it is making a comeback and new clubs are opening all over the United States, such as the Middle C Jazz Club in Charlotte, NC. 

I think his accent is from the islands like Jamaica or the Bahamas. Maybe the Bahamas were on my mind because part of it had just been destroyed by hurricane Dorian. Looking at the Uber app now, I see that “M” is from Montreal. “M” is the only name given in his profile.

When you travel alone, you go for long periods of time without having a conversation. When one starts up, it can be a little jarring like you forgot for a second how to speak. The ride began with someone behind us honking and speeding around the car, angry that he was delayed by an Uber pick-up. “M” mentioned that he does not understand why people have no patience anymore. I said I thought it was because we expect everything instantly, like Uber. We came to some traffic and “M” asked me if it was ok if we went out of our way to avoid it, not wanting to wait. I said that was fine. 

By now everyone in the connected world had seen the horrible pictures coming out of the Bahamas. That topic came up and I mentioned that I lived in Charleston, SC and was more than a little worried about hurricane Dorian’s projected path. “M” asked me if I had seen the tweet from our president about Dorian and Alabama. I told him that I do my best to avoid all communication from our president. As a person who lives in a place that relies on hurricane forecasts as a matter of life and death, I was annoyed to learn about the president’s irresponsible and dangerous tweet. “M” said that the president gives him hope because, “if someone that stupid can become a billionaire and president of the United States,” then he feels he has a great chance to make it in this world. That is something, I guess. 

“M” got me to my hotel and I thanked him for the conversation. He said that he hoped my home would fare well in the hurricane. Thankfully, it did. 

 

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Incredible, powerful Niagara Falls

“Thanh” 

Toronto has a horse track and a casino about twenty-five minutes from downtown, so naturally I went. Gambling is great in Canada because of the exchange rate: losing doesn’t feel so bad when every dollar only costs you seventy-five cents US. This was still my first day and even though travel was easy, I had walked around for about five miles and I was exhausted. I should have just stayed at my hotel and gotten some rest. I went to the horse track instead, but I had to tap out after a few hours. I feel like there is always a moment on the first day of a trip where your brain says, “go to bed, fool!” I finally listened and called an Uber. 

Thanh picked me up in a red Toyota Camry. Before we made it out of the parking lot he asked me how I did in the casino. I gave him the typical gambler’s response of I did not win but I had fun (no one has fun when they lose); total baloney. Thanh said that the casino is building a hotel and that they have tightened the machines to pay for it. I asked him if you used to be able to win here and he said it was “very hard.” 

Thanh was Vietnamese and he spoke English perfectly well but with a deep accent and I think he had a hard time understanding my deep southern accent and so we had a bit of a language barrier for the twenty-five minute ride. He asked me what games I played and I told him the machines. Then he chastised me for my gambling choices saying, “machines very hard, you should play tables.” I said I know that but I played the machines anyway. He said, “machines very hard, you should play tables.” Then he told me that before he picked me up he “only put a few hundred through the machines.” He said if you do not win after a few hundred, then you should leave. I said that is exactly what we have done and then I told him that the “machines are very hard, you should play tables.” He laughed.

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American side of Niagara Falls
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Below the falls

We transitioned from our gambling choices to what he did for a living. Thanh has been a brick layer in Toronto for thirty-five years. He said that he immigrated here from Vietnam and has worked very hard ever since. He still owns land in Vietnam and is looking forward to retiring and moving back there to be with his ninety-one year-old mother. He said that he is ready to quit laying bricks. 

I mentioned that I would really like to visit Vietnam some day. Thanh said that when he retires to Vietnam, I should come there and he would be my tour guide. He was serious, too. I wish there was some way I could do that. 

We reached my hotel and I opened the van door to get out. Thanh said, “remember, the machines very hard.” Yes, they are, Thanh, yes they are. 

“Kuldip”

When it comes to public transportation, I am a complete boob. I grew up in the suburbs and did not have any cause to learn how to use it. Toronto has an incredible public transportation system that is cheap and efficient. Between the subway, trains and trolleys, you can get anywhere relatively easily. I could not, however, figure out the trolley system. I was so intimidated by it, it took me three days to get on one. I looked at the route map at one of the stops and I couldn’t figure out where I was on it or where the trolley went. Then, I could not figure out how to pay for the ride. Roll your eyes all you want, but it did not occur to me that I had to know where I was before I could find the stop on the map. I thought it would say, “you are right here,” but the map assumed I was not a fool.

I finally got up the courage to try the trolley. I was on a perfectly straight road and I knew that as long as I got on the trolley heading directly for Lake Ontario, I could not get lost. Unfortunately I miscalculated where Lake Ontario was and I got on the trolley heading in the opposite direction. I realized my mistake after a few miles of being proud of myself. I got off in a neighborhood by a huge park, waved a white flag and called an Uber.

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Beautiful Casa Loma

Kuldip picked me up in a Toyota RAV4. He was an Indian fellow with a grey beard and a dark blue turban. Well, I call it a turban because I am an uncultured buffoon. What Kuldip was wearing is called a Dastar and he wears it because he is a Sikh. He had a pleasant speaking voice with barely any accent at all. He told me that when he moved to Toronto forty years ago none of these skyscrapers existed. Toronto is a very young major city. 

Kuldip said that he drove trucks for a living and was now retired. He said that he has been all over the United States and Canada. I told him that I was from Charlotte, NC. He said that he remembers that you can see the Bank of America building from I-77. It truly is a small world. 

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Rich feller’s Tiger rug, Casa Loma

Kuldip and I talked about progress and how things change without you even realizing it, like skyscrapers all over Toronto. He said that he loved the landscape of the American south but it was too hot for him. I told him how much I was enjoying Toronto, but that I was sure the winters were too cold for me. In Toronto, they have a thing called “The Path,” which is an underground mall/subway/everything that winds under the city for miles. That should give you an idea of how cold it gets. 

I would have liked to talk with Kuldip for much longer than our ride together. He was so kind and interesting, and he emitted a very positive energy. Rarely do we get the opportunity to talk with people that come with a completely different perspective than our own. Most knowledge is readily available on the internet but experiencing people may be the last bit of education that has to be gained offline. Kuldip has lived a vastly different life than I have and yet we were able to connect almost instantly. I was able to learn from him and maybe he was able to learn a little something from me during our short time together. When he dropped me off, Kuldip called me “a true gentleman.” That is less a reflection of me and more a reflection of him. 

Why did I go to Toronto? That is why.

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Toronto, through the ferry boat window

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Charleston

10 Things I Hate About Charleston

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Downtown Charleston

I wrote a post like this in 2013 and it is my most popular post by far. Unfortunately, I recently re-read the post that garners the most traffic on Covered in Beer and was thoroughly disgusted by its lack of effort, skill, talent and words. I decided to rewrite that post here and update it with better opinions, ideas and frankly better paragraphs. I never delete anything from this blog but I deleted that because it deserved nothing less. 

Charleston, South Carolina is my home and I love it here. I do not “hate” anything about it, but “greatly dislike” is too wordy for a title. Other than replacing an embarrassing example of my past work, I hope this post helps you to learn things about Charleston, South Carolina that you would not have otherwise. And, as always, please leave a comment and hit the “Like” button below if you have anything to add about the post.

Flooding 

I do not mean to get up on my high horse about major issues such as global warming, but a high horse is the only way to travel down some Charleston streets when it rains. Sometimes the flooding gets so bad that they close downtown completely to oncoming traffic. In the words of Cosmo Kramer, “We got a big problem, Jerry.”

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Flood Barrier, A downtown staple

 

When I lived downtown ten years ago, flooding was an issue but only after heavy rains. Now, downtown Charleston experiences flooding and street closures when the moon is full and the tide is high. It doesn’t even have to rain. Politics kind of goes out the window when your couch floats out the window after every thunderstorm. I have no idea how to solve this problem, either. Better come to Charleston as soon as you can! It is going to take some Elon Musk-type of visionary to fix our flooding. 

If you are planning a visit to Charleston, do these things:

    1. Check where your Airbnb lies on the flood maps available online. Your car could be totaled overnight if parked in the wrong place during a flood. 
    2. Do not walk, swim, ski or wakeboard in floodwaters. That water starts in the sewers and unless you are a Ninja Turtle, you aren’t going to like what is floating in it. 
    3. Check the tide schedule before you come. Seriously. If you are planning to visit here during a particularly high tide cycle, definitely make sure you aren’t staying in one of the many riverbeds that also pose as streets downtown. I wish I was joking. 

The good news is, Charleston ranks #1 on Conde Nast’s “Unintentional Waterparks” list

Carriage Rides

I understand that touring the opulent streets of Charleston in a horse-drawn carriage while learning about pre-Civil War structures and history is charming. I also understand that the horses used to draw the carriages are cared for in the best way possible given their circumstances. But horses continue to fall over from exhaustion and are injured every year, especially in the summer.

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Boo

No matter the cause, this is not acceptable. There is a multitude of alternatives to using livestock for transportation that would allow the carriage tour companies to remain viable and tourists to remain toured. It is time to retire these horses to their just reward of open fields, oat bags and days free of honking horns and steamy asphalt. Not to mention free the walking tourists from the pungent odor of horse rump and all the fine matter that extrudes from it. Let’s agree to evolve together and release these horses from their unnecessary servitude. 

Shark Propaganda

I hope that it is not breaking news to you that sharks live in the ocean; hundreds of millions of them in fact. I have always heard that when you are in the ocean, you are never more than fifty feet away from a shark at all times. That is a scary thought if you think all sharks are like Jaws, hunting humans for fun and revenge depending on what number sequel we are talking about. The truth is that sharks pose such a minimal threat to humans that it is barely worth covering even for this lowly blog. Last year there were 66 “unprovoked” shark attacks worldwide resulting in 4 fatalities. You have a better chance of dying in a dust-buster accident. 

Despite such a low number, Charleston’s local news stations and papers seem to cover a “shark spotted in ocean” story once a week during the summer. One lady was “terrified when she filmed a shark in the surf from her 15th-floor hotel room in Myrtle Beach.” If the shark had gotten to the woman on the 15th floor, then we would have something worth reporting. 

I wish we would spend more time educating people about how important sharks are to our own survival. If there were no sharks in the ocean it would be a putrid soup of rotting organisms that would make boogie-boarding far less appealing. Sharks keep our oceans clean and enjoyable and they should be revered instead of feared. I wish the local news agreed. 

Cops on the Beach

I recently went to Pawley’s Island, which is about 60 miles north of Charleston, and I noticed a difference in the beach experience there. In Pawley’s, there were no cops constantly searching for violations on the beach. In Charleston, police patrol the beaches on ATVs all day looking to write tickets. It can be quite obnoxious and annoying to have an officer ride behind your beach chair in a loud ATV belching diesel fumes every hour while you are trying to read Where the Crawdads Sing. It would be one thing if those officers were there only to ensure public safety, but they aren’t. The Town of Sullivan’s Island will tell you that they are, but they are really there looking for people drinking alcohol on the beach. That carries with it a fine that exceeds $1000. Having police ride up and down the beach all day is a lucrative business.

I am not anti-cop and municipalities have to enforce their laws. I am merely saying that the constant police presence on our beaches greatly diminishes the experience. If you ask me where I think you should plan your beach vacation, I would suggest choosing somewhere north of Charleston where you can sit on the beach in peace. But come to the city for a few days first, of course. 

Historic Rubble

Depending on which Charleston neighborhood you are touring, you will either see a collection of beautiful historic homes or crumbling rubble. I was recently walking around downtown and I thought about what a tragedy it would be if people were allowed to tear down old houses like they do in so many other places. But the flip side to preservation laws is that we end up with uninhabitable houses that are eyesores scattered throughout our neighborhoods.

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Cornerstone of Radcliffe Street

Laws in Charleston forbid the removal of structures of a certain age as long as one wall is still free-standing. I wish that Charleston would look at these places on a case by case basis and allow the owners to tear them down and build houses that can actually be lived in. This is an area where government and common sense butt heads. We all want history to be preserved in Charleston but sometimes that history simply falls down. If we do not do anything to replace the ruin then all we will have left is “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone/ Stand(ing) in the desert.”

Crime

The glowing reviews of our fair city that appear in a multitude of international publications fail to mention the crime that plagues Charleston. I was the victim of an armed robbery a few years ago, so maybe I am overly sensitive to this subject. But it is unfair to visitors and residents to pretend that crime downtown does not exist. It exists in the “bad” parts of town and in the “tourist” part of town. Criminals do not care about our rating in Travel & Leisure. I mention this not to scare you away, but to make you aware. When you come here, it is not safe to wonder around alone downtown at night after a few drinks. You must be aware of your surroundings at all times, never walk alone and take cabs. I paid the price for forgetting these simple tips. Learn from my mistakes.

Street Signs and Turn Signals

On one of my Sunday walks around downtown Charleston, I found myself traveling down a street that I did not recognize. When I came to an intersection, I looked for the name of the street, but like happens often downtown, no street sign existed. I do not know if people steal the signs off the lamp posts or this is the city council’s attempt to keep some things in Charleston secret, but the lack of street signs downtown is a problem. Especially in a place where most of the people walking around have no idea where they are going. Three intersections later, I finally discovered that I was on Queen street. You know, Queen Street, one of the most famous streets downtown. I should have known where I was, but the city should also have done its part by posting at every intersection the name of the streets. That is kind of a hallmark of the modern city, wouldn’t you say?

Good luck finding where the hell you are.

Another thing that I hate about Charleston is the lack of turn signals. I do not mean Charleston’s lack of using them; that is a problem in the whole state. I am talking about the lack of left turn arrows in busy intersections. I guess the city council has saved a fortune on street signs and left turn lights because they barely exist downtown. Now we have people with no idea what street they are on risking it all trying to get through a yellow light because there is no other way to safely turn. My advice for tourists driving in downtown Charleston: take it easy! Use Google or Waze and only plan on making right turns.

Tourist Complaints

I am not talking about Penelope’s Yelp review where she scored “The Market” one star because she stepped in a puddle. I am talking about local Charlstonian’s general complaints about tourists. If it were up to some people (who live on the Battery), there would be a fence around Market street that allowed tourists to enter but never go anywhere else. These people are misguided boobs that do not represent what Charleston is about. Tourism is what has driven the Charleston renaissance and I am thankful for it. I am especially thankful to the folks from Ohio because they are the Charleston O.G. tourists. People from Ohio have been visiting Charleston for so long that I believe Lord Moultrie had a “Go Back to Ohio” sticker on his cannon. These stickers should read, “thank you for driving a thousand miles from Ohio to come to Charleston for a week a year for the last thirty years!” We appreciate it.    

Charlestonians need to give tourists a break. We need to thank them for coming here and spending their travel dollars so we can have things such as many UNBELIEVABLE restaurants. That is not the only effect tourists have had on our city, but it is my favorite symptom of popularity. If you are a local reading this post, go out downtown and thank a tourist today.

Bad Food

Huh? Yes, bad food does exist in Charleston. And I am not even talking about the ultra-touristy joints where people do not understand that if there are cartoons on the menu, then the seafood probably is not fresh. I am talking about places that ride the coattails of our great food culture but never deliver. Places like Red’s Ice House on Shem Creek.

Red’s is a great place to have a cocktail, enjoy the scenery of Shem Creek and even catch sight of a dolphin swimming out to the harbor. You would be better off, however, eating some of the raw fish that the dolphins are chasing than eating anything that Red’s has to offer. Places like this bug me because they fool tourists into thinking they are about to get another great Charleston meal in a wonderful setting and by the time they find out they have been duped, it is too late. If you are a Charleston first-timer, use online reviews to your advantage. Without looking, I guarantee Red’s reviews mostly say that it is a great bar with a great view and terrible food. Correct.

Blogs About Charleston

I am tired of bloggers trying to cash in on the immense popularity of Charleston with their insufferable “Top Ten” lists. 

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If you want to experience the South’s most wonderful city, come here. Do not watch Bobo’s “24 Hours in Charleston” video on Youtube, spend 24 hours here yourself. Charleston is a place of great restaurants, unique scenery, kind people and a pleasant sea breeze. I have lived here for fifteen years and I am still in awe of this place every time I walk around downtown. Sure, we have our issues like anywhere else. I would be confident, however, in offering a money back guarantee if you do not enjoy your visit to Charleston. It is not possible.

 

 

Humor

Stupid Peanut M&Ms

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I ventured to Cherokee, North Carolina to do some gambling. When that did not work out I decided to go see the new Lion King at the fine Cherokee Phoenix Theater. The entire first row of parking spaces nearest the door were reserved for “Tribal Elders,” which should give you an idea of where I was. 

This was no IMAX theater, but it was suitable for a one-off visit by a gambler escaping a bad run. The movie ticket cost $5 and the popcorn cost $3. I almost asked the kid at the concession stand who was president just to make sure I had not stepped through some sort of time warp. 

I do not attend many movies these days because the home experience is so much better. The Lion King is a children’s movie so my standards for the viewing public are going to be more relaxed. I expected there to be many children in the theater and there were and they were great. They made the movie much better by singing along with the songs and offering adorable commentary like, “There’s Pumbaa!” Continue reading “Stupid Peanut M&Ms”

Humor

My Turn

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It was my turn to be the subject of ridicule last week. We all take turns. There is not a set schedule because my circle of friends are opportunists. For instance, if you try to get away with wearing a stupid-looking hat out one night, well then it is your turn. That is how it works. 

A group of us were playing golf at Wild Dunes in Charleston, South Carolina on Memorial Day weekend. We were at the turn house and I asked the lady what sandwiches they had. She said they had chicken salad, but when asked told me there were grapes in it, which I hate. Then she said they had tuna salad. It was very hot and I was very hungry so I really would have eaten anything. I had to ask, however, if there were red onions in the tuna because there usually are. I cannot eat red onions because I am allergic to them. I can eat them cooked or pickled, but not raw. The snack lady said she thought there were “regular” onions in the tuna. I am not sure what constitutes a “regular” onion, but I could no longer delve into the ingredients of the various salads at the Wild Dunes turn house and ordered the tuna. Continue reading “My Turn”

Essay

Green Purple-People Eater

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Nothing to do with the post. Just a nice picture of James Island, South Carolina

If you are reading this, then you are probably like me. They would never guide you to this post. You have to find blogs like this on your own. They do their best to keep a lid on posts like this written by authors like me because I have dedicated my whole life to being green. 

I have been green for as long as I can remember. You cannot be born green; you have to learn how to be green. I had opinions about green even before I knew what I was talking about. Even though I probably sounded like a parrot, I’m glad I was taught those basic green principles at an early age. Continue reading “Green Purple-People Eater”

Humor

Hunting and Pecking

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Nothing to do with this post, just a new picture I’ve taken.

I was in Barnes and Noble the other day looking for something new to read. Bookstores are so desperate these days that they are now begging for money. I bought a cup of black coffee and the barista tried hard to up-sell me on a larger size, a shot of flavor, a bowl of soup. A bowl of soup? No, I’ll just have the coffee that I ordered about an hour ago. She finally relented and handed me my receipt that also included a coupon for cookies.

I spent lots of time in bookstores in my youth. Borders afforded me a sense of freedom. I could ride my bike there, smoke cigarettes by the bucketload on the patio outside its cafe and thumb through photography books that could, by chance, contain a nude (one exposed breast constitute art; two, pornography). I should have used my time there to expand my knowledge and vocabulary, but instead I searched the racks of CDs for music I might like. In those days you had to buy a CD on speck. After plunking down $25, you might discover the album was terrible besides the one or two songs you bought it for in the first place. I once flung a Culture Club CD out the window of my car because I found the songs other than “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya” to be so reprehensible. It pains me today to admit I even liked THAT song. Continue reading “Hunting and Pecking”