I had been very lucky up until that moment. Nothing truly bad had ever happened to me. I have never been beaten, raped or murdered. All of that was about to change.
“Just open the door.” My attacker squeezed the back of my neck and pressed his body against mine, wedging me against the door. I knew who he was: the man who had been bothering me all night at Capone’s, the bar around the corner from my apartment.
A scream caught in my throat and he ripped the keys out of my hand and began jamming them into the lock. I knew I had just a few seconds to get out of the situation and finally my screams echoed up King Street and down Burns Lane. He grabbed my pony tail twisting my neck, but I managed to scrambled away, leaving him with a handful of my hair. By the time I could turn around, my attacker was no longer behind me, but being dragged down King Street and onto Burns Lane by a large, black man. That man’s name was Byron Knight. I ran inside and locked myself in my studio apartment, hysterically sobbing while Bryon beat my perpetrator with his fists behind a garbage dumpster.
Byron was a fixture on King Street in the late 1990’s to 2000’s. Well known for panhandling to scrape up enough money for a single cigarette or a hot dog from King Street Station, few know about the good deeds he did. Byron saved me that night, from certain doom. I cannot say where I would be today if Byron had not intervened. My next encounter with Byron, I sheepishly gave him a corndog and a pack of Newports in appreciation. He accepted gratefully, without further discussion. It became a ritual thereafter. I would buy him a corndog whenever I saw him. We would chat and then part ways. I would study. He would, as rumor would have it, go smoke crack. It didn’t bother me. One summer day, I found Bryon sitting in front of my apartment, with a huge smile and a box of chicken wings. “Hey girl, break bread with me.” I politely declined. “No way lady, you take care of me all the time. Let me give a little back.”
Rejecting his kindness was not an option. His honor was on the line. I knew those wings were from a trash can. I sat beside him on the stoop, reached in for a wing and ate it. I even had seconds. “This makes me legit, right?” Bryon asked.
I moved off of King Street, to the suburbs of Rutledge Avenue and saw Byron a lot less. One bright morning, while walking to class, Bryon rode by on a bike. He saw me and turned around with that famous smile. “Hey girl! Let me give you a ride.”
“Neh, Byron, I’m good.”
“Get on the bike!” he ordered. I immediately acquiesced and hopped on the back, wrapping my arms around his waist. I’m not gonna lie. He was dirty, dirty from living on the streets. He took me to my destination and a thanked him for the ride, suddenly smelling myself smelling like him. “No problem! Hey can I borrow your cell phone. I wanna call my girlfriend.”
I was shocked. “You have a girl friend?”
“Shoot, you must be crazy. I got girlfriends.” He laughed. I lent him my phone and he arranged his date with a lucky lady. He rode away on his bike. That was the last time I saw Byron. I hear someone bought him a bus ticket to go to California. I carry him with me still, in my heart: a homeless man, who shared his meal, gave me a ride and saved my life. Byron had very little, but what he did, he was eager to share with others. He is an example of the true beauty of Charleston.
I like to go out of my way every now and then to see what I might be missing.? On my way back from an afternoon cruise around Johns Island, I stumbled across The Southern General and stopped in for lunch.
Moments after taking a seat at the bar in this dimly lit and cozy little shop, I settled into a local beer and opened the menu.? My eyes were immediately drawn to the words “sweet potato” that popped up sporadically across the menu, but it was not in the usual manner.? Typically, when I think of sweet potatoes, I imagine baked with butter and brown sugar or fried with cinnamon sugar and honey.? Southern General takes it to a new level.? Spicy sweet potato cream cheese and sweet potato garlic kimchi?? Where have you been all my life?? There are other eye catching ingredients used in their dishes – guavanero banana mustard, bourbon mushrooms – but I couldn’t get sweet potatoes off my mind.
My server recommended either the Sesame Shrimp, Super Butt, or the Cubano, so I decided to give the Super Butt a try.? I don’t know whether it was a genius plan or a stroke of luck, but the ingredients in this sandwich work together perfectly on a functional and gustatory level.? Just beneath the crispy toasted local honey white bread is a spread of spicy sweet potato cream cheese.? This condiment not only adds a light sweet and spicy touch, but it also functions to create a barrier between the juices of the braised pork and relish.? If there’s one thing I hate about barbecue sandwiches, it’s a soggy bun that disintegrates in my hands.? The cream cheese keeps the bread crisp and juices in the meat, right where they belong.? The tender house braised pork brings the meat of the flavor – pun intended – and the sweet onion mustard relish brings another sweet and zesty touch that pairs well with the faint sweetness of the cream cheese.? Over all, this sandwich is a well balanced collection of flavors that will fill you up and have you longing to come back for more.
The cucumber salad, which comes standard with their sandwich options, is a delicious accompaniment to their bold and savory sandwiches.? The thin sliced cucumbers, carrots, onions, and bell peppers are thin enough to have thoroughly absorbed all of the tangy flavors of the vinaigrette, but they are far from soggy.? The veggies still retain a refreshing crispness that rounds out this side dish.
The owner, Chef Tim Erwin, came out and introduced himself and we had a pleasant conversation about how they work with other businesses on Johns Island to make Southern General a tight part of the island’s community.? I was excited to learn that they work together with Seanachai, the Irish pub and social club next door.? Seanachai doesn’t usually serve food, so you can order from Southern General’s menu and enjoy the delicious sandwiches while you delight in the full bar-service at the pub just next-door.
Tim also let me in on the fact that they’re going to be bringing on some new menu items in the near future, so there’s one more reason on top of the already delicious menu offerings to bring me back. ?
Don’t let the sunny skies fool you. As much as we don’t want to hear it, before too long a hard rain is going to fall here in Charleston, and you’re going to want to be ready. If we choose to believe the folks at the National Weather Service, we could be in for some cool weather as we move closer into winter. On the streets of downtown Charleston, we have already begun to see some boots, sweaters and coats… A preview of what’s to come. Now that we have been reunited with the sun for a few weeks, take advantage of the outdoors, but also take this time to start planning out your cold weather must-haves.
This year, the runways were packed with exciting new styles that will appeal to anyone’s taste. From bright blues to soft pastels, the season has a variety of colors in store for everyone. For those who are daring, warm colors of orange and red, as well as metallics, will be dominating colors for winter 2014. For the rest of us who tend to stray away from anything too bright, every shade of blue will be popular this season, as well as an array of pastels like pale pink and light greys. Downtown Charleston’s House of Sage stylist and retailer, Molly Stichter, provides insight as to what she foreshadows trending in Charleston over the next few months: “Although it seems like the holidays are a ways away retail-wise, we always have to be looking ahead. I’m predicting a lot darker hues and metallics on trend with pops of bright colors to keep the transitional period from fall to winter fun and lively.”
With regards to keeping warm for the upcoming cold front, bomber jackets, oversized coats, ponchos and anything shearling will be the new “go-to,” no matter where you live. Per usual, winter seasons are full of sweaters. But this season holds a strange twist: sweater sets. Feeling daring? Try out a matching pair of knit pants with a coordinating sweater. Although this winter gear may sound excessive for cold weather months in Charleston, trust me, you will be happy with your investments once the thermometer begins to drop.
While it is still nice out, take a stroll down King Street and observe the new window displays of Charleston’s varying fashion boutiques. Notice something? That’s right girls, leopard print is finally back on the market. This season’s collections are a serious “blast from the past” as many designers have created mod pieces with inspiration from the 1960s. Animal prints, plaids, men-inspired oxfords, waist-high belts, and a-line dresses are among some of this season’s exciting must-have styles.
Whether you are in Charleston, New York or Milan, other emerging trends to take note of this season are: the “tough girl chic” look, below-the-knee dresses, statement bags, and my personal favorite, ankle boots. So forget about buying those new pair of shorts or those summer sandals, and begin to stock up on these trendy pieces in preparation for the chilly upcoming winter.
Since relocating to Charleston I’ve noticed a peculiar trend amongst locals when discussing the state of the public transport system – everyone has an opinion. And everyone considers their opinion legitimate regardless of whether they have ever set foot on a CARTA bus or not.
I recently moved to Mt Pleasant and for the past three months I’ve relied solely on a candied pink and green colored women’s cruiser and the Route 40 to get around. I find CARTA a consummate service at an unbeatable price. A standard flat rate fare is $1.75 with a $0.30 transfer fee allows me to travel across the city, through downtown and all the way to Folly Beach or North Charleston for a mere $2.05.
However, cost alone won’t persuade people to leave their cars at home. Most of us happily pay for convenience, or at least the illusion of it. CARTA describes this as “point-of-pain” which refers to the frustrations of congested traffic, increases in petrol prices and parking difficulties. And most folk need a lot of pain, or a damn good excuse to get out of their vehicles ? even when the long lunchtime queue at Chick-fil-A’s drive-thru can easily be circumvented by parking up and walking into the store for counter service.
While sharing public transport with retirees, hospital staff, the odd tourist couple, and young workers dressed in aprons and nametags, my only major criticism is its infrequency and lack of after-hours services. A CARTA spokesperson agrees.
“Increasing frequency of service and offering late-night service are two of the major issues we encounter while trying to grow ridership – and in those areas we find ourselves constrained by limited financial resources.”
Covering North Charleston, Route 11 operates CARTA’s latest daily service which departs downtown at 8.52 pm on Monday through to Saturday. Typically all routes suffer from heavily reduced schedules on Sundays with no service after 7.00 pm.
From Mt Pleasant I can use public transport and arrive downtown to meet friends as late as 9.45 pm on most nights. In contrast, the last service home departs from Mary Street/Meeting Street at 7.45 pm. So like a fairytale, the Ravenel Bridge for me transforms from an aspiring, sunlit image of connectivity to a nocturnal curse. And on most evenings I feel marooned in Mt Pleasant, barred from the peninsula’s late night hubbub due to costly taxi prices.
Mt Pleasant Mayor, Linda Page agrees that while CARTA performs an invaluable service to people with limited resources there should be much shorter times between trips.
“Public transport is difficult because it often does not recover the cost of the service. Communities need to bridge the gap until the service can support itself. This is not to say that we should fund a public transportation that does not meet standards, but we should strive to have a system that is self-supporting.”
CARTA believes Lowcountry residents should be applauded for recognizing the need for a strong public transport system. A CARTA spokesperson also identified commuters who forgo individual vehicles in favor of public transport as an enormous help to the city.
“CARTA’s ridership continues to grow at a record-breaking pace. Last year our ridership was 4.9 million, or about 40 percent of transit trips in South Carolina. Public support has grown in the past few years, and that can largely be attributed to advancements and improvements in the system, as well as increased visibility and communication with the community.”
So is it strange for an antipodean import to be questioning the lack of late-night transport? Well, to me it is – especially as Charleston is consistently ranked highest in terms of the most desirable and livable city in numerous international economic and travel guides.
Only recently Charleston City Paper reported the confounding arrest of a young man for public intoxication when he unwittingly asked two undercover cops for a ride because he had drunk too much and rightly decided against driving. Whether this is indicative of a growing intolerance to Charleston’s late night drinking culture is debatable. But along with the controversial confiscation of bicycles on King Street, and the increased congestion and parking difficulties due to large-scale development and the 1300 people CARTA says are moving to the region each month, more and more residents are turning to public transport.
Most young Charlestonians who I address the lack of late-night transport with shrug indifferently, as if it were an immutable facet of Lowcountry living, while others sound more concerned with their legal rights to evade a DUI.
CARTA appreciates the steady influx of people moving to the region for this reason. A CARTA spokesperson says new arrivals also play a major part in changing public transport’s unfortunate cultural stigma.
“Leveraging residents, who are new to the area and very familiar with using public transit plays an important role in removing old ideas and stigma. They come to the area with a different perspective and attitude and often influence their peers to ride as well.”
As a wanderlust struck author I have always been a strong advocate of public transport for countless benefits communal travel provides. Beyond the pragmatic and environmental advantages, sharing a journey with others reinforces social connectivity, broadens cultural perspective and emboldens our compassion. It shapes an internal vessel of appreciation that we’re all in it together – from the toil of early morning wakeups to end-of-day relief where a tacit nod of understanding or shared greeting become the medicine for everyday vicissitudes and hardships.
CARTA admits the public has shown moderate demand for late-night services, but this is not enough without additional interest and funding.
“Operating the buses is a huge expense, and the fare we collect recovers at most a third of that amount. The one way we can effectively combat this is by partnering with businesses to fund routes. It’s something we do with Boeing, Tanger Oulets and North Charleston on our North Area Shuttle Route.”
Lack of funding has always plagued CARTA since its inception in 1997. A CARTA spokesperson explains the recent recession caused forced cuts in hours and late-night services because of diminished funding. While Mt Pleasant Mayor, Linda Page agrees additional services would be of benefit she says there are more pressing issues facing CARTA.
“The largest issues facing CARTA is an ageing fleet and the cost to build its Intermodal Centre in North Charleston. I don’t believe CARTA can afford to discuss new or expanding service without first budgeting for new equipment to meet these demands.”
However, with its new center and a push to have mixed traffic-HOV lanes, CARTA and its progressive team are not stepping back from the challenges ahead.
“We are looking forward to leading our community in thinking about transit from a more regional perspective and connecting our communities with more efficient and effective services. To get there, we would like to see more partnerships cultivated between CARTA and other agencies and organizations in the area. Growing these relationships will directly impact funding the future of public transit here in Charleston.”
From opera to contemporary theater, Dock Street Theater represents Southern historic grace with flashy dances, memorable ensemble casts and laughter to carry you long into the night.? In its latest Charleston Stage at the Dock production, Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein, the cast brings a series of musical numbers, dance routines and quirky romance into this 2 hour and 8 minute production capped off with a memorable and slightly audible Monster doing the chorus of Puttin’ on the Ritz.? True to form of the witty and subtle humor of Mel Brooks, the direction of this production from casting, to stage numbers to accents would make Marty Feldman, Peter Boyle, Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks proud.
Jocelyn Lonquist plays the role of Inga with an unconventional and adorable sexiness.? Her slight of hand Romanian accent and sexual undertones set the stage for an awkward romance with Dr. Frankenstein that shines.? Her chemistry with Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, played by Jesse Siak worked so well as their differences complimented each other throughout the play.? Jesse set the pace early with his musical lesson on the brain at Johns Mirian and Anthony Hopkins University.? Looking like a cross between Josh Grobin and Gene Wilder, Siak carries the role of the lovable doctor with ambitions of greatness with ease and charm.
Though he only had a few lines that would be considered coherent English, the role of The Monster, played by Kyle Barnette went without a flaw.? His interaction with the blind hermit and his stage performance of Puttin’ on the Ritz made for a stream of laughter that was heard throughout the entire theater.
Aaron Hancock, was Marty Feldman reborn.? His presence on stage as Igor was magnificent with incredible creativity and range and near flawless timing and mannerisms fitting of a Transylvanian named Igor.
Like Coke and Bacardi, Hepburn and Tracy, Together Again, sung by Igor and Dr. Frankenstein showed from their opening scene together, they were destined to be together again for the first time.? Both actors brought they own personal zaniness to the stage, but together, it was clear they were meant to be.
Frau Blucher, played by Becca Anderson, who also gave a phenomenal performance in Boeing, Boeing, continues to show her incredible range as an actress.? Her strong deep accent and strange bed manner, that made the other actors feel slightly uncomfortable on stage, made her strange and delightful at the same time.
As Act I concluded and Act II continued with the same intelligent slapstick way, the relationship between Dr. Frankenstein, Igor, Inga and Frau Blucher grew stronger and stronger.? In the end, finding love in wake of the insanity of medicine demonstrated the humor of life, passion for greatness no matter how insane and the compassion to fit in no matter how different you may be.
The success of this show would not be complete without an amazing ensemble that interchanged between villagers to performers to an entourage.
Allie Reidy added just the right mix of timely comic relief as Elizabeth Benning, the rich estranged fiance of Dr. Frankenstein.? Her self-absorbed depiction of the rich New York debutant with her make-up, minx and fancy dresses would make any rich brat proud.? She hung her head high with playful cockiness in each of her scenes.
Dock Street raises the bar of Charleston Theater.? It tackles projects that Broadway takes on with multi-million dollar budgets and executes them with a level of excitement and energy that makes Charleston proud.? Young Frankenstein is no exception to the quality and excellence of this theater company.
With brilliant casting and direction, Young Frankenstein will keep you laughing and talking long after you have left the theater and are walking the streets of downtown Charleston.
Young Frankenstein is playing at the Dock Street Theater at 135 Church Street from October 17th to November 2.? You should get your tickets soon.? This show will impress.
“Charleston is your forever love.? It is a perfect blend of character and class.? There is always something, but not too much.? It is playful and it romances you.” – Rebekah Phillips
In light of the Conde Nast results naming Charleston the number 1 tourist destination in the United States and number 2 in the world, Charleston Daily decided to ask some of its loyal locals, what they love about Charleston.? We received some passionate and exciting responses from those we polled.
Here are some of the things we love about Charleston.? How many made your list?? We would love to hear from you in our comments section.
Breathtaking sunsets on the beaches of Folly, Sullivan’s and IOP
Late afternoon sitting on a patio sipping wine, accompanied to the sound of a slow moving horse carriage
Faith in community, family and unity
Oysters Roasts and S’Mores in the autumn
Farmers Market on Saturday morning
Wine on the Rooftop of Vendue, Pavilian or Stars overlooking the city
Rich history and cobblestone roads
Walking the Ravenel Bridge high above the harbor
Sailing on a clear day
Kayaking through the marsh
Picnics at Pitt Street Bridge
Laying out and napping at Marion Square on a warm spring day
Boat life – Living the life of a coastal water dweller
Stunning views of the skyline from high above
Great eclectic live music
Nature, flowers and all those beautiful palmetto trees
Intimacy of the community and the warm hospitality
Festivals, festivals and festivals
Great community based fund raising events
Horse drawn carriages
Flourishing college life at the College of Charleston, Charleston Southern and The Citadel
Sunsets over the James Island Connector
County Parks with its diverse activities (rock climbing, water parks, dog parks and disc golf)
Pet friendly bars
Victorianesque old world view and feel
Beautiful architecture and life long friendships
Never a day without a stranger or neighbor saying hello
300 days of blue skies
Walking to wonderful restaurants and theaters in an intimate setting
Rivers, oceans and hiking
Embracing the courage and honor if our military
Passion for wellness (Yoga, jogging, walking, biking)
Love of the arts (Poetry , painting, theater, crafts)
Entrepreneurial spirit toward business
Romance of the Bed and Breakfasts
Brunch, brunch, brunch
Pure awesomeness of the plantations
Mimosas and college football
Fishing on the pier
Patriots Point, The Battery, Pineapple Fountain
Themed Bar Crawls and runs
StingRays, Battery and The RiverDogs – Local sports
Bill Murray and Darius Rucker
Patriotism and our unyielding support for active military and veterans
Ghosts of Charleston
Friendly smiles and hellos from strangers
Eco-friendly city (electric cars, community gardens)
Weddings and love all around
Drum circles at The Brick House
Movies on the beach
Folly Boat – Remembering our past with art and emotion
I have the sniffles again. Despite frequent hand washing and sneezing into the crooks of our arms, catching the common cold can seem unavoidable. Unfortunately, there is no cure for the common cold – all we have is supportive care. Besides throat lozenges and cough suppressants, NSAIDS for aches and pains, and nasal sprays for stuffiness, in my opinion, the best component of supportive care is soup. Warm soup sits easy on the stomach and provides fluids and electrolytes (potassium, sodium, etc.) when our bodies get dehydrated from low intake and fevers.
Besides homemade soup, there are three soups that can be found locally that I seek out when I am stricken by a cold. The first is a no brainer for me but may be unexpected to others: the chicken noodle soup from the MUSC Cafeteria. I have eaten approximately 33.3% of my meals there since 2001 and while it is a hospital cafeteria, it is just fine. Several times a week, chicken noodle soup is offered. Curly egg noodles, diced carrots and celery, and white meat chicken swim in a savory broth. For under $2 a bowl, it is a steal.
The next soup that I see out is the tonkotsu ramen from Menkoi Ramen House on George Street. If you have never tried authentic Japanese Ramen, Menkoi finally offers a great rendition here in Charleston. Traditional ramen is a bowl of bouncy noodles in hot, savory broth with various toppings (pork, soft boiled egg, corn, bamboo shoots, etc). I have frequented this ramanya since they opened and they are perfecting the broth. The soup is milky, hot and slippery, with great depth from slow simmered pork bones. If you are a vegetarian, the miso and salt broths are luscious as well. For the brave (or stuffed up invalids with dormant taste buds) all of the soups can be prepared spicy.
The final soup for soothing a cold is Pho. Pho is traditional Vietnamese noodle soup with an aromatic broth that is simmered for many hours. The spices in pho will awaken your senses, especially when they are dulled by a cold. Phuong Vietnamese Restaurant on Rivers Avenue has one of the most delicious bowls of pho I have ever had. The broth is clear, with a shimmer of fat floating on the top. It tastes of cloves, coriander, and star anise. The rice noodles at the bottom are filling and the thinly sliced beef on top is super tender. Served with a plate of fresh bean sprouts, sliced limes, basil and cilantro, the soup can be dressed up to your liking. This hot herbal concoction can ease the worst cold symptoms.
In summary,?step up your hygene this cold season and if you do catch a bug, treat yourself to supportive care and savory soup.
The Mensch was having withdrawal symptoms on Sunday. This wasn’t the first time. It has happened before. In fact its happened every Sunday since the Mensch left New Jersey for the Lowcountry. Monday through Saturday there is no problem. I can face the day after my breakfast coffee and newspaper. But its those damn Sundays that leave my reeling and missing my friends. I don’t know when I got hooked.
Maybe it was back in the 70’s in Iowa when there was a morning and afternoon newspaper. After supper I’d put the kids to bed while Mrs. Mensch cleaned the kitchen. I’d sit in the recliner, tip my head back, put my feet up and read the newspapers. Front page, first section, business, local news, sports and then the comics, morning and evening.
The comics were my reward for reading all that self-serving boring stuff, editorials and letters to the editor. Here were Doonesbury, Blondie, Peanuts, Beetle Bailey, Garfield and Calvin and Hobbes to give me a chuckle. Four squares to a panel: the set up in square one, comments in squares two and three and the coup de grace in square four. But Sunday was the best!
Far Side, Bloom County, Kudzu, Over The Hedge, Mother Goose & Grimm, Dilbert and all the others came to “life” on Sundays when there were four, six or eight pages of comics in color!
The Des Moines Register, Ames Tribune, Newark Star Ledger, Philadelphia Inquirer, Asbury Park Press, Daily News, they all printed the weekday comics on Sunday in color. All the weekday comics!
In Charleston, a certain newspaper, the only newspaper, and to be Politically and Correct shall remain nameless, apparently cannot afford the ink or paper to print a full complement of comics on Sunday. Yes, there are six pages but the panels are so large that even Mr. Magoo could read them. There would be plenty of room for everyone if they shrunk the panels and dumped certain Sunday only strips.
Don’t take my word for it, take a count of the comics on any day Monday through Saturday. If you passed into second grade, you counted 32 comic strips. OK, now go get Sunday’s paper out of the recycle bin and do another count: Snoopy, Garfield and the Canadian family on page one; Hi&Lois, LuAnn and Prince Valiant on page two (the Prince doesn’t appear M-S and has fighting the same dragon in three panels for decades); Blondie, Dilbert, Lockhorns, Family Circus and FoxTrot (another Sunday interloper) on page three; Hagar, that busybody Mary Worth, favorite soldier Beetle Bailey, and know it all Mark Trail on page four; the bar sop Andy Capp, Dustin, B.C. and Doonesbury on page 5 and Dennis, who never ages, the Menace on page six along with the Pearls wackos. If you count Slylock Fox, it adds up to twenty-two comic strips.
Where’s Ziggy, Marmaduke, the Jump Start gang? I know that Curtis works on Sunday as do Sally Forth, Rose, Judge Parker, and Jeremy (Zits). The Mensch misses the Wizard and Grandma in Grand Avenue. And what about Wanda in Baby Blues and Fuzzy?
Can you feel my withdrawal pangs? It is a wonder that I can even make it through a Sunday.
And don’t get me started about the JUMBLE. How hard can it be to drop that puzzle in on the obituary page or in the sports pages? Instead of a picture of a kid holding his first fish or a dead deer, there could be the BMLEUJ. Get it?
Sat barefoot in jeans and a loose shirt in the corner of Mt Pleasant’s Dog and Duck, local musician Thomas Champagne could easily trick you into thinking you were somewhere else. His unique acoustic style and unusual syncopation fuses a myriad of genres, from his country and Cajun roots to reggae and Caribbean influences.
At times there is a pendulous sense Champagne’s innovative renditions of familiar songs will trip and fall. But while you’re not sure where you’re being led, there’s bearing and assurance the journey is somewhere positive and fun.
“The number one thing I want to convey is a positive message, but it’s the ability to catch people off guard I think that is the biggest present I can give to any audience – because that’s how you amaze somebody.”
Champagne achieves this with ease so when he segues into an original song it’s often overlooked because his sets flow seamlessly together. However, this didn’t come naturally to Champagne when he first arrived in Charleston from Austin, Texas. It was a challenge he says he had to grow into and work hard at developing.
“The biggest difference coming to Charleston is it’s primarily a tourist capital. While the thriving tourist scene here is awesome for the economy it can take over a musician’s directive by having to play more cover songs than one would normally like, or have to do.”
Champagne says he embraced the twist to what he was used to because he found ways to present cover songs in his own style. Being patient with this change has seen him over the past summer receive a great deal of encouragement and positive feedback.
The result is a breezy and soulful marriage of sunburnt earth, salt and the sea which could have you convinced you were in some surf shack on the Californian coast. However, this is just one side to the constantly evolving and innovative artist, which began to emerge when Champagne relocated from Austin to Charleston.
“I’ve always been Champagne with Friends and I’ve had over 100 different friends on stage. But when I left Austin I stepped away from having a band back me up and I now play all these solo shows, which I wasn’t doing before. It definitely made me stronger as a musician and as a person by having to say, ‘Hey guys, I love you – I miss you, but I got to go and step into this by myself.’ And I think here in Charleston is the first time Thomas Champagne came out – with friends as my audience.”
Born and raised in Beaumont, Texas from strong Louisiana ancestry, Champagne is proud of his heritage.? He also appreciates the truth and irony that comes with journeying into the unfamiliar, admitting with a chuckle that he became more of a Texan by leaving Texas. Champagnes sees the move to Charleston as another chapter, both as a solo artist and his recent full-time commitment to his profession.
Two weeks prior to the Dog and Duck I first saw Champagne with Friends by accident when I entered the Blind Tiger on Broad Street on a Friday night to catch up with my own friends.? With two local musicians in support they belted out an infectious breed of classic rock tunes, and made the old floorboards at the Blind Tiger pay the price as everyone got caught in the rhythm and groove.
For me it evoked the great Aussie legacy of pub rock offered any weekend night in a beachside bar on the Indian Ocean in Perth, or a St Kilda pub in Melbourne. Continuing this prominent theme of evolution is the rotation of local musicians Champagne uses at every show.
“When you see Champagne with Friends it’s always different players so while you may have seen the show before it’ll be different every time.”
Champagne cites the generosity of Charleston’s music community as being invaluable in helping him gather new musicians to play with when he first arrived.
“The openness of the musical community here is awesome first of all. It’s nowhere near as competitive as it is in Austin, Texas which has advantages and disadvantages. Competition is a primary way to motivate an artist and make them grow, but it can also hurt you in the end.”
Not that Thomas Champagne is leaving Charleston anytime soon, but as someone not prone to taking time off he’s looking forward to opening up a new chapter in his artistic journey. After recording his last album with producer and former Hootie and the Blowfish guitarist, Mark Bryan, Champagne is due to head back to Austin to record another album at the end of the year. He then plans to tour the ski resorts in the Rockies before heading home to Charleston.
Not many may know the name Steve “Skip” Skipton Sr. in passing conversation.? On August 23, less than three months after his diagnosis, Skip passed away from complications due to lung cancer.? Leaving behind a caring wife and four beautiful children,? Skip left a legacy that stretches from his colleagues on the Goose Creek Fire Department to his friends and partners for UMDNJ in Camden City and Newark, New Jersey.? As a 9/11 EMS First Responder, Skip was one of the many brave heroes that worked tirelessly in the chaos and mayhem to selflessly take on acts of courage that are still honored today.? His unyielding commitment to family, patriotism, honor and preservation of life were ones he carried with him until his dying day.
To touch a life is a rare gift, but to touch the lives of some many is a legacy that his wife Jen, his children and all his friends and family will carry in their hearts for the rest of their lives.
As a Goose Creek Firefighter, Skip continued to give of himself with the same level of dedication to the force and the community.? He greeted you with a smile and always looked out for the safety and health of others.
“Steve was a person who always gave of himself and never expected anything in return.? If he had it and you didn’t, he would share or give what he had.? He was a devoted father, brother and son.? He will be sorely missed by everyone he tooted.? He had a knack for bringing out the best in people.? He was always good for advice, a joke or a simple laugh.” said friend Captain Warren Adair
Heroism, often times happens without the time to think or comprehend.? It is a momentary act followed by extraordinary action.? If you met Skip, you would find a soft and kind man, but if you listened to his stories, you would see a man brimming with courage.
In honor of Skip and in an effort to help his family cope with the medical expenses, a group of those that were touched by his life are hosting a charity golf tournament on October 27 at Crowfield Golf Club.
They are seeking sponsors and players to rally around the community for support.? From New York to Charleston, Steve “Skip” Skipton was a model for the community and firefighters/EMT around the nation.
Let’s show our true Charleston spirit and compassion and help support this cause in any way.
If you would like to support the event or the family please contact: