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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Thank you so much for being a patron of this site. Whether you give or not, I am grateful for your support.

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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.

 

 

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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”

Charleston

Spring in Charleston

People from Minnesota laugh at our winters. Why do we do that? Project our reality onto other people. If you live in Minnesota, you better learn how to deal with a frigid and dominating winter. If you live in Charleston, SC, two days below freezing is a damn ice age. It actually snowed in January of last year. I grew up north of here and I’ve never experienced snow like that. Six inches of snow that turned into ice. The city was frozen for a week. I walked to the grocery store down the street and was almost killed by a car sliding off the road. I didn’t leave the house again until it thawed. You could hear the people from Minnesota laughing at the Charleston “snowpocalypse” clips on the weather channel. Everyone in northern states loves a good southern snow storm so they can make fun of how unprepared we are. It just reinforces their stereotypes of us. Fine because we have some pretty good ones about them.

We can’t drive in snow and ice because we never have to. A few weeks before the snow it was 65 degrees on Christmas Eve. I’ve always said if I need to use a heater to get my car battery warm enough to start my engine, I will only do that once, pack whatever fits into the car and hightail it south as fast as I can. I’m proud of my novice snow driving because driving in snow and ice stinks. I think snow is pretty for a day and then I’m ready to say goodbye. Enough already. Last year, snow piles in Boston were still around in June. Oh, the superiority. 

If you live in a place that is stunningly beautiful and pleasant in the spring and fall like Charleston, winter is a real burden, even if it is mild. The short days and gray skies are like a sedative for the population. People are less happy, a little fatter, sun deprived and tired of being inside. Occasionally a 70-degree day will pop out of January and we all become like escaped inmates. We had one of those days this year and I went outside and stood in some sunlight for about thirty minutes. It’s a real weather tease.  

Now it is spring and Charleston is alive again. Our cars are yellow and our noses are running; a small price to pay. Most days in the Charleston spring feel like nothing. You don’t notice temperature, which allows you to notice other things like the sweetness of the air or the gentle sea breeze. The temperature allows your mind to wander; to search for better descriptions than “it’s hot” or “it’s freezing.” 

Humidity begins to build in the spring. In the early morning, it lays across everything like streaks on a freshly washed window, slowly disappearing. Green returns to the marsh grass. Color creeps up the spartina stalks beginning in late march. I actually think it is prettiest when the grass is half brown and half green.  Spring happens underwater as well. Nutrients return to the marshes fed by the Ashley and the Cooper rivers. That brings mullet and shrimp that bring bigger fish and so on. Winter water is a pretty aqua, but it is also dormant. When marsh water is dark with mud, it is alive. Life pops and flips throughout. Winter is hard under water. Food is scarce and the water is clear making it tougher to hide from dolphins. Fish from Minnesota wouldn’t stand a chance. 

I would not drive around Charleston during the first week of spring. People are delirious, gray-eyed, like they haven’t completely awoken from hibernation yet. I imagine when a grizzly emerges from her winter sleep, she is also ravenous and irrational. We are starved for sun and pleasantness. The winter sun is lower in the sky and most of its rays go right over our heads. The summer sun shines down on us like a cop interrogation scene from 80s television. The spring sun is gentle, friendly. 

The spring sun gets inside the house as well. It turns the shades burnt orange as it breaks the horizon. Then, it paints everything a soft yellow as the day moves on. 

Charleston isn’t a sports town. It is too nice in the fall to bother with football all the time. We watch, but we aren’t fanatics. Your team stinks? Let’s play nine. College basketball has a presence here. The College of Charleston has a great mid-major arena right downtown. We enjoy sports with an eye outdoors. We can just as easy listen to the game on the boat. Worlds are never as in sync as they are when it is beautiful at The Masters as well as out your window. The green of the fairways of Augusta National seem to spread from the TV into your living room and beyond. We also love March Madness. Not because we are rabid fans but because we love excuses not to work. If you have business in Charleston on a beautiful spring Friday, you better get it done before noon. 

Spring in Charleston has some flaws. No-see-ums will ruin a pleasant morning. Female no-see-ums have to feed on your flesh so they can have the energy to reproduce. Males don’t bite. Metaphor all you want. No-see-ums are warded off by wind and the hot sun. Early morning and late afternoon hours can be torturous if you get into a swarm. The worst thing they do is bite your scalp. The bites raise huge welts on me because I’m allergic. The welts don’t last long but they are itchy and painful. I always think about the days in the south in the past when working and living in the marsh must have been almost unbearable. I’m sure they had some no-see-um remedy that was a solid lead salve or something equally as deadly. I wish they had passed it on to us. Lead poisoning might be preferable. 

Springtime ushers in abundance. Tourists come and spend their money. The city is teeming with life again. Farmers markets begin. My health and my mind are both benefited by weekly farmers markets. I’m not sure I have grasped their privilege yet. Lots of places struggle to get fresh anything, even in summer, and here we are with a weekly cornucopia. Blueberries are my favorite. There’s a farm in Awendaw that specializes in growing them. I think they grow the best blueberries you can buy anywhere. 

I do not believe there is a prettier place on earth than Charleston in the spring. I try not to take it for granted; to enjoy as much of it as I can. Don’t worry Minnesota, spring will come to you as well. It will be summer down here by then. Hang in there. Come on down if you are feeling restless. The weather is fine.

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Humor

I Sneezed

I’m always sick at the end of the sick-getting season. At the end of February or the beginning of March, you can bet I’ll have a cold or the flu. I get the flu shot every September. Does it expire by February? 

On the morning of February 16th, I sneezed. Just woke up and sneezed. I knew that this was it. No idea if it will last one week or two, but I needed to prepare myself for the worst. I got up and made coffee even though caffeine weakens the immune system. I think I need some terrible tasting green juice that all the assholes drink after the gym. Please, someone blend me up a cure. Continue reading “I Sneezed”

Charleston, Humor, Travel

Jack Hanna Flies Coach

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On a recent trip out of Charleston, I noticed a celebrity on my flight to Atlanta. None other than TV’s Jack Hanna was standing with his wife, waiting for his boarding zone to be called. I didn’t bother him. I like the man and I appreciate his work, but he’s not exactly the Crocodile Hunter. The odd thing about the encounter was that “Premium” was already boarding and I was next in “Sky” (because I foolishly paid more for the extra leg room and the free banana) and Jack and his wife weren’t in my boarding group. They were in coach with all the other people who weren’t international TV personalities or frequent Late Show with David Letterman guests. Continue reading “Jack Hanna Flies Coach”

Charleston, Humor, Travel

Charleston Tourist Season

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Drone picture I took of The Holy City

Charleston, South Carolina used to have a tourist season. Tourism would begin to ramp up during the weekend of “SEWE,” which stand for the “South Eastern Wildlife Expo,” and continued until Thanksgiving. But after major travel publications like Conde Nast and Travel+Leisure named Charleston the “Number 1 tourist destination in the world” (good lawd, y’all) there is no longer a tourist “season” in Charleston; tourist flock here year round. 

I am not one of these “poo-poo the tourists” locals. In fact, I’m not even counted as a “local” by the poo-poo people. Your family has to have lived in Charleston for 2-3 hundred years before you’ll be welcomed at any Battery-addressed soiree without at least one disapproving glare as you walk through the door. I’ve lived in Charleston for 15 years, but in the eyes of the Blue-Bloods, I’m closer to a tourist than a resident. Which is why I believe I am most qualified to offer this list to tourists because, basically, I am one who simply hasn’t left since 2005.

There are hundreds of “Charleston Tourist Guides” on the internet. A few years ago, I wrote a piece called the “Ten Things I Hate about Charleston.” Not my finest work as it was an attempt to be different in the realm of Charleston lists, but worth a look if you’re interested. What I didn’t find on the internet was something that prepared you for being a tourist in Charleston. So instead of telling you what to do and where to go (I’ll do some of that), hopefully this piece will prepare you for being a tourist in Charleston and give you an idea what to expect while you’re here.  Continue reading “Charleston Tourist Season”

Charleston, Humor, Travel

Come Sail Away

I’ve been listening to an incredible podcast produced by Dan Carlin called “Hardcore History,” where Dan (who doesn’t claim to be an historian, but otherwise an “admirer of hardcore-history-4-200x200history”) takes subjects and fleshes them out for hours. I’m currently listening to “Kings of Kings part 2” about a few of the leaders of the Persian Empire. He basically produces entire books on tape in each series, as they are 5-6 hours long. If you like history, definitely check this podcast out.

I bring this up because lately I’ve been ruminating about a subject that was mentioned on the podcast. Carlin was explaining how the ancients would use a navy to support anarmy moving along a coast by protecting supplies on ships and feeding the army when required. Now, I don’t know the nature of the ships, whether they were sailboats or rowboats, but in the interest of this blog post, let’s pretend they were sailboats. See, I’ve been fighting a war with sailboats in my head for a few months now. Sailboats were once essential to humanity but are now only enjoyed by a few nincompoops who don’t mind making us sit in traffic at the foot of a drawbridge while they “sail” under it. Continue reading “Come Sail Away”