After spending a few days on the beach, our whole family boarded three cars and all 14 of us caravanned from Myrtle Beach to Charleston. Might as well get a little culture (Southern style) while on vacation. A two-hour drive for my family is still a bit long, so we took a pit stop about 40 minutes away from Charleston for restroom “rest” and snacks. We stopped at a large gas station/general store (sorry no pix).
Visiting the Men’s Room
One by one, the men headed back to “our” room, which was at the back of the store. As we stepped through the door of the men’s room, we stepped onto a loading dock at the back of the store. My first response was to assume I entered the wrong door and turn around. Nope. I was right. The men’s room door opens onto a loading dock. Immediately, I wonder if the men are expected to find some outhouse out back.As it turns out, the men’s room was behind another door on the dock. If you’re ever 40 minutes outside of Charleston, this is good fun watching the puzzled faces of men as they step onto a loading dock in search of the restroom.
A 14 person pit stop takes about 45 minutes of stopping, snacking and looking for stragglers. I think we waited about 10 minutes for Andy (my brother-in-law) to come out of the store who happened to be in his car waiting on us. Once we discovered that we were all really present (as present as possible), we shifted into drive en route to the “Holy City.”
As we rolled into the city, a sign pointed left to Ft Sumter, so we obeyed. When I walk through a museum, I try to read all the words on the signs. It’s my form of penance for years spent reading comic books instead of my history books. I’m hoping to learn all I missed before I forget it.
As I meandered through the exhibits, I was stuck by beauty of these people. The families of Charleston play a fundamental role in the formation of these United States of America (even though we often fail to recognize all the ways they contributed to the forming of the fledgling nation). In so many ways, these were beautiful people with beautiful stories and beautiful dreams. And yet…
the stain of slavery bleeds onto every page of this multi-layered tapestry. As a Southerner myself, I wonder how could so many devoutly religious people defend a system that dehumanized an entire race of people. How could they be so blind? But even as the words stumble out, I am struck with a deeper, darker question, “What is our blindspot?” This generation so easily looks back in judgment on the cruelties of early ages, but are we to assume a race of people has finally been born without blindspots? I doubt it.
Before this turns into a game of political finger-pointing at what group is blind and immoral, let me clarify to say that I am so very blind. If anything, Ft Sumter reminds me that I have the same capacity to dehumanize and fail to see the beauty in the people (and world) around me.
Lord have mercy.
Soon our stomachs won over our minds, and the whole Floyd clan scrambled away from Sumter and toward sandwiches.
After a delicious meal at Tommy Condon’s Irish Pub, we boarded “rackshaws” (pronounced pedi-cab) and quickly learned the difference between a taxi and a tour. Thinking we were getting a carriage drawn tour of Chareston for the low, low price of $4.50 a person, we lined up outside of the restaurant awaiting our “prince charming” so to speak. After about ten minutes, we noticed several rackshaw drivers sitting across the street waving at us. Turns out our carriage turned into a pumpkin before we even boarded.
They convinced us to take a chance and “ride the rackshaw.” So we did. Admittedly, we had a nice ride circling the block. In fact, I really like Larry (the guy who drive Kelly and I). He even told us a few interesting points of interest about Charleston. As it turns out, most drivers were silent. As licensed “taxi” drivers they were not licensed to give tours. If you want a fun little “green” taxi drive in Charleston, these guys fit the bill. If you want a tour of the historic city, look elsewhere.
The Candy Girl
By the time we finished our taxi, the snacks from the morning and the lunch from 15 minutes ago, were already starting to fade. With out “active pace,” we needed refueling. There’s nothing like sugar to strengthen a weary soul, so we ambled over to Charleston’s Candy Kitchen. From the moment we walked in the door, we were treated to candy corn, pralines, glazed pecans and gelato samples. This has to be one of the friendliest stores I’ve ever visited. It goes to show that sugar really does make you sweeter.
The young lady who greeted us upon arrival and departure was named Lanis (see picture at top of page). She wins the award for “friendliest of the friendliest.” In fact, her hospitality reminded me of the warm welcome I received several years earlier from “Uncle Ben.” A legless, faith-filled kind seller of incense who welcomed us to Charleston in 2006 with outstretched arms and a heart of love.
Lanis revealed that same joy-filled sparkle in her smile, her demeanor and her words. She told me that she was studying women and gender in college with hopes of eventually serving women and children in Latin America. As I talked with Lanis and listened to her passion for mission and service, I kept thinking about my walk through the Ft Sumter museum. She’s one of the beautiful people of Charleston.
This grand old city has known prestige and grandeur as well as struggle and pain. The conflicted story of slavery stains its past, and yet the beauty still shines around every corner. As I think of Charleston, I am reminded of a world that is filled with real and awful suffering. But as a person of faith in Christ, I do not believe suffering and human cruelty has the last word. Rather, I behold the God who pour himself into the brokeneness of human life and healed it from the inside out. He restores beauty into His good and wondrous creation.
So Lanis reminds me of beauty and love and kindness and self-giving. In her, I see a glimmer of His making all things new. Once again, I am reminded that wherever I turn and whomever I meet, has been created in His image. Oh that the blindness of prejudice and envy and jealousy might be healed so that I can see in and through the light of His glory, beholding the beauty of His handiwork throughout all of His good and glorious creation.
The Fabled Carriage Ride
After this exhausting day of eating and riding, we finally took respite in a nice leisurely stroll through the streets of Charleston aboard a horse-drawn carriage. Greg, our part historian/tour guide and part PT Barnum, led us through the city with tales of the glory of this city and tales of his life. Ever the showman, Greg recounted stories of Charleston’s yesteryear, Charleston’s shipping community, Charleston’s role in the Revolution, and Charleston’s dedication to libation.
Along the way, he also recounted his own rich Southern heritage and his successful bet to live in Charleston for a year without electricity. By the end of the ride, our eyes were dancing with dreams of days gone by and a sense that magic still happens in along these lanes. if you ever visit Charleston be sure to take a carriage ride with Greg and ask him to tell you the story of Eli Whitney.
As the day came to a close, we feasted on Bubba Gump’s shrimp, then boarded our motorized carriages for an evening drive back to Myrtle Beach, to our awaiting beach house, and to dishes of ice cream for all.