Fair Columbia

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June 25-26, 2019, Columbia, SC-

Fifty years ago, I found myself among thirty or so young men, some a bit more worldly than I, others as green to the ways of the world as yours truly.  We were the trainees of Echo Company, Third Battalion, First Brigade, at Fort Jackson.  There were times that I broke down in the tears of an under-challenged, immature novice to life. There were times that I tried to avoid the challenges that, deep-down, I knew I needed to overcome.  In the end, I managed to overcome my own physical challenges and the constant ridicule from the jaded First Sergeant- and earned the respect of most everyone else.  I was a better person for the time spent here.

Once here, planted for what I thought was a day, at Palmetto Inn, east of town, I got messages from faithful readers, advising as to what I might do in the town.  Among these was word of a Wednesday evening event at a coffee shop, sounding as if it were sponsored by local Baha’is. So, I took the room at Palmetto for two nights.

The day started with a passable breakfast at George’s Southside Restaurant, hearing the plaint that I am finding increasingly common, in the workplaces along the road, this summer:  “I’m alone here, hon.  Please be patient, one co-worker quit and the other overslept. ”

In planning my day here, I focused first on the South Carolina State Museum, then the area around the Capitol and, rather whimsically, thinking I might pay a visit to Fort Jackson.  This last, of course, would not be realized.  Military posts are very well-guarded, even against visits by veterans.

I had a tip from a friend who had also spent time on Fort Jackson, to visit a fine dining spot, with an unlikely name.  Before going to the museum, I followed up on this recommendation.

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Motor Supply Bistro is a gem of a place.  I sat at the bar, for lunch, as I frequently do, when dining alone.  Bars and counters are a great place to feel at home, in an eatery, as one connects with both workers and with other solo diners.  I made several new friends here, as a result and the food is delectable.   There is valet parking here, and the attendant found himself being both ignored and blocked in, by a surly delivery truck driver, when he went to retrieve my car.  I tipped him for his trouble and faced down the ruffian, myself.  I did not get ignored and my car was off the lot, in short order.  I don’t take kindly to my contemporaries treating younger people with such contempt.

The South Carolina State Museum is worthy of at least two hours’ visit.  I focused on the Museum’s take on the Civil War, which was a bit less top-heavy on defending the Confederacy, than I had thought might be the case, before visiting, and on the various industries that took root, after the War, in both the Piedmont and Low Country regions of the state.

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It is always a joy to see the work of students, in public museums.

Here is a map of South Carolina, prepared by children in a Columbia school.

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There is a fine little area that tells the story of Palmetto State paleontology.  The region had its share of dinosaurs-and of megamammals.  Here are an Albertosaurus skeleton

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and a Glyptodont, or giant armadillo.

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The rails were critical here, moving textiles and lumber, even before the Civil War.  This long car was called the Friend of Charleston.

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Textiles were able to be more efficiently produced, by machines such as this.

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The processing and de-shelling of nuts, a major cash crop, was abetted by this machine.

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Coastal hardwoods were much in demand, beginning in the mid-nineteenth century.  This device helped greatly, in hauling cut timber’

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The Catawba people, who lived in the Columbia area, prior to European settlement, produced basketry and intriguing wood carvings, as part of their cultural legacy.

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Here is a mock-up of a traditional Catawba house.

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Finally, I ended my photo-journey around Columbia, by visiting the Capitol grounds.  There are a few statues in honour of the Confederates, but my interest there was the State Capitol as a whole.

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The day ended with a lively poetry and visual media session at Cool Beans Coffee House.  The person who had invited me never showed, but I was made to feel welcome by the program’s hosts, so Columbia left me with a warm feeling.  Gamecocks are good people.

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My Life Thus Far: The Sixties

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February 5, 2016, Phoenix- I had my lunch, of spicy California rolls, at Dreamy Draw Park, a popular desert redoubt, on the northeast side of town, before going in for what was an encouraging dental checkup.

While sitting in the coolness of the Sonoran Desert, I went back, in my mind to the years of adolescence.

1960-High Point: The New England Shopping Center opened.

            Low Points:  Ellen moved; my Grandma died.

People in the Heart:  Barbara I., Ellen S.

Places in the Heart:  Makepeace Hill, Johns Pond (Mashpee)

1961-High Point:  Hiking Mt. Chocorua, NH.

Low Point:  Having a stupid meltdown, while on that camping trip.

          People in the Heart:  The Geotis family, who moved into the Statuto’s old house; the members of my Boy Scout troop.

          Places in the Heart:  The White Mountains of New Hampshire (all of them).

1962- High Point:  Family gatherings at Kingston State Park, NH.

             Low Point:  Five days in the hospital.

People in the Heart:  A tall, beautiful girl in our grade (anonymous, out of respect              to her and her loving husband); my then new friends, Dean and the late Mike; three            beautiful sisters, who were friends of our extended family.

            Places in the Heart: Canobie Lake;  Kingston State Park.

1963- High Point:  Putting an end to being bullied in Grade 8.

            Low Point:   The death of John F. Kennedy.

             People in the Heart:  Half the female population of Saugus Junior High School.

Places in the Heart:  Every school building that was torched by a serial arsonist,                  who was in our class.

1964-  High Point:  Promoting out of Grade 8.

Low Point:   Dealing with enuresis.

             People in the Heart:  Those three beautiful sisters; the thugs who actually stood                  up for me.

             Places in the Heart:  Our cellar, where I could shine the family’s shoes and listen                to the richness of pop music; Breakheart Pond.

1965- High Point: Getting my own newspaper route.

Low Point:  Dealing with a pedophile.

            People in the Heart:  My neighbourhood group of friends (who remain my friends,              to this day).                                                                                                                                 

            Places in the Heart:  Breakheart, Johns Pond, the Saugus Howard Johnson’s                          Restaurant (where so many of us hung out); Mt. Chocorua.

1966- High Point:  Getting my driver’s license.

            Low Point:  Working out the bugs in my own driving behaviour.

             People in the Heart:  Most of my newspaper customers; Coach Wall, who put me                 through Driver Boot Camp, and whom I credit for 50 years of driving, with only                   two, one-car, accidents; Joan M., one of my best female friends, ever.

             Places in the Heart:  Martha’s Vineyard; the above-mentioned spots, from 1966.

1967- High Point: Getting a job at a supermarket.

Low Point: Struggling on the job.

People in the Heart:  Bob Powers, my first boss, and one of the finest people for                   whom I’ve ever worked;  all my above-mentioned peers from Saugus High.

             Places in the Heart:  Merrymeeting Lake, Alton, NH; Fireplace 10, at Lynn Beach.

1968- High Point: Graduating Saugus High School.

           Low Points: Not taking college seriously; all the crap that went down that Spring.

            People in the Heart:  Ron Gerace, my fourth boss; Professor Ahmad and Jim                          Gorman, who tried to set me straight about college; Kathy W., to whom I should                  have paid more attention.

             Places in the Heart: The old campus of UMass-Boston; the Back Bay; Hampton                    Beach, NH.

1969- High Point: Completing Army Basic training.

             Low Point:  Leaving college, feeling like a failure.

             People in the Heart:  My Army buddies, Tim and Mike; Drill Sergeants Cummings,             Wescott, and Green.

             Places in the Heart:  Downtown Columbia, SC; Myrtle Beach; Indianapolis.

Junior High had its share of abysmal moments.  High school, I must say, was freeing.  I had a core group of friends, and yet made the rounds of several groups of people, in Saugus and in nearby Melrose.   I was too young, emotionally, to have attempted college.  Girls and protest marches were way bigger in my life than studying.  So, 1969 found me treading water in a job at my Dad’s GE Plant, then signing myself up for the Army.  It was past time to stop being the family nuisance.  On June 16, 1969, I left for Fort Jackson, SC.

I did not, in the scheme of things, end the ’60’s too badly.  By October, 1969, I had made a place for myself on a “clean-up crew”, re-establishing Army postal service to the residents of Tri-Service Barracks, Fort Myer, VA.  Still, the bugaboo of alcohol dependency, along with mild autism, kept me from bonding with many people and created all manner of problems, with my family and with others, who didn’t know me very well.  The hiatus of Boot Camp and Advanced Individual Training did bring me a bit further along towards adulthood, but relapse came, once I was back in routine.

The ’70’s would be the first of my two lost decades.