Under a Carolina Sunset – Original Poem

By Mark A. Leon
By Mark A. Leon

She wore that yellow sundress
Basking in the Carolina sunset
A sky of orange and red streaming to the notes of a Bach

Not a care or a worry
Just her love waiting in the distance with his denim, a glimmer and a place she calls home
No more goodbye in those sparkling eyes

Dreaming of cornfields and lilies, this little girl has become an angel
Spinning freely on the wet sand of the ocean front
A beauty for the ages; a porcelain sculpture with no imperfection

With her boots in the air she dances to the rhythm of the country
With the memories of ma and pa playing music on the porch, she smiles

They smile back in a warm embrace; reminding her to always look to the stars and know

The horizon is limitless
A world without boundary; a life without limit; a harmony as strong as her heartbeat

The spirit of America rings strong
Powerful and free

flower2Swept by the wind; tickled by the flower petals brushing against the soft curves of her legs
Hair flowing as swiftly as the doves above

She falls, letting gravity pull her down to a bed of green grass

In a deep sigh she reflects on a life of good intentions

Now she closes her eyes and visualizes a world of hopes and dreams wrapped in ribbons and bows

Under a Carolina sunset

The Dayporch takes a hilarious look at Southern Values and Empowerment – Threshold Repertory Theatre

By Mark A. Leon
By Mark A. Leon

Deep in the natural and majestic beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountain range in North Carolina resides Ceille Baird Welch, a playwright, poet and counselor. With her collective body of work and experiences, Ceille has brought to life The Dayporch. Set in the countryside of South Carolina in the early 1980’s, this play follows the three residents of a retirement home and former asylum known simply as East Jesus, their nurse and a mysterious chaplain that comes into their lives.

The Dayporch is the Golden Girls meets Cary Grant with a mysterious, yet comedic Hitchcockian twist set to the values and themes of the South.

Each night, Rosie, Lula and Maggie sit on the day porch watching the sunset, counting the days until they will be invited to their eternal resting place. Still showing signs of life and vigor, they share memories through poems, songs and anecdotes; some true and some slightly embellished. With a bit of sensuality and naughtiness, the ladies hold on to the last connection to youth lost.

When Steve Grayson enters the picture, that all changes. As the three elderly women transform into little school girls wooing at the charms of Steve, the real mystery begins to unfold.

The stage director and set design were beautifully arranged by husband and wife team Clarence Felder and Chris Weatherhead bringing the charm of Southern courtesy and hospitality to life. With an inviting set that takes you to the countryside far away from the hustles of the city and five powerful performers that each bring a unique style to this rustic land, Chris and Clarence paint a picture of a simpler time; a simpler place.

During a poignant moment between Lula and Steve talking about moving to the White Columns, the plantation home of Lula, Steve references sitting on the porch drinking mint juleps. Lula promptly responds with “We don’t do mint juleps. That is just Yankee propaganda.” This sent whimsical eruption of laughter from the crowd, many recalling their memories of not too long ago and one of the many reminders of the culture clash between the North and South.

Paul O’Brien takes on the role of Steve Grayson, the charming stranger who sweeps the ladies of East Jesus with the bumbling charm and charisma of Cary Grant to Kathryn Hepburn or Clark Gable to Claudette Cobert. His easy spoken compliments and soft ear for listening brings a rebirth to Rosie, Lulu and Maggie giving them each a renewed sense of value and rekindled beauty.

Playwright Ceille Baird Welch and Producer Chris Weatherhead speaking about play
Playwright Ceille Baird Welch and Producer Chris Weatherhead speaking about play

Susan Lovell as Rosie is a powerful force on stage offering witty sarcasm, self-absorbed narcissistic behavior and subtle evidence of insecurity. Here cackling laugh and cough is a defining characteristic of her persona. With a na?ve sense of the modern world combined with her playful naughty thoughts, the complexity of this character and her ability to own her scenes made her a true scene stealer.

Margaret Nyland transformed the role of Lula into an aging Southern debutante. A traditionalist with soft skin, glowing blonde hair and a lifetime of memories of a time when life was simpler. Her attachment to the poetic vision of Edna St. Vincent Millay signals to the audience that her body may have aged, but her inner beauty remains.

Poetry plays a significant role in this production reminding us that it is a fixation from birth to death in chameleon appearances. As a newborn, we are brought into the musical spectrum with lullabies, as adult song and dance fill our minds and souls and in the twilight, the profound verse of poetry aides in our reflection of life. All forms of poetry, self-expression and emotional release. This point is brought out beautifully in The Dayporch.

Carolyn Heyward as Maggie takes on the challenging role of motherhood and disability. Being the mother figure with all the burdens of responsibility and fiscal conservatism was one filled nicely with her soundness and voice of reason. Here ability to mediate quarrels and nurture was comforting. Becoming so dependent on her walker and not having the motivation to walk without assistance was a symbolic foreshadow to that powerful ending and act of sisterhood.

The final key performance and the glue that keeps the characters locked as the mystery unfolds is the role of Nurse Sara Mefford played by Samantha Andrews. A quirky, yet responsible hopeless romantic trapped in the countryside away from civilization, men and romance. She is jaded by a past love, but optimistic that love could find a way once again. Her penetrating power combined with moments of vulnerability compliment the cast well.

There are many wonderful elements to take away from this production including friendship, companionship, value of life, Southern values, acceptance and trust. One principle that build a pronounced strength as the play progresses is empowerment. Four strangers find each other at East Jesus. Through unlikely means, they develop a bond with each passing sunset on the day porch. That friendship is tested and in the end, well you have to see.

The Dayporch – Ticket Information

The Dayporch set
The Dayporch set

Happy Earth Day: It’s Time We Found Our Humanity

By Mark A. Leon
By Mark A. Leon

Now that I have your full attention, it is time we bring attention to a very delicate matter that hits many of us close to home: ?the decaying of humanity!

You heard me. ?Many are quick to blame everyone and everything except ourselves.

It must be corporate greed

No, blame Facebook for providing an isolated window from human interaction

Better yet, blame smartphones for allow us to break up via text

We need to include GPS systems to reinforce that Big Brother is watching

Who can leave out reality TV. ?If every occupation and household is a reality show, what exactly is reality…More importantly, what are we?

I know, everything is a phase or a trend, like Rubik’s Cube, MySpace and Boy Bands…Rubik’s Cube became Tetris, MySpace became Facebook and Boy Bands, well we can’t get rid of them (Thank you Marky Mark). ?So if history is deemed to repeat itself with each generation, we are safe; but if technology is slowly skewing us in the wrong direction of moral humanity and we keep repeating the same mistakes…BOOM! ?What then?

For centuries, territorialism and religion have been blamed for thousands of senseless deaths.

The media, let’s talk about the media. ?They glamorize looks and money and provide millions of innocent viewers with a less than perfect image of themselves which leads to depression, dangerous health habits and for some, suicide.

Let’s look even deeper to the multi-billion dollar world of gaming…Oh yes, don’t go hiding your Play Station or X Box now. Let us take a moment to dissect

Here is a list of the top selling X Box and PlayStation games of all time:

Halo 2
Halo: Combat Evolved
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell
Fable
Project Gotham Racing
Grand Theft Auto Double Pack
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Counter-Strike
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Need for Speed: Underground 2
Call of Duty 2: Big Red One

Correct me if I am wrong, but I see a theme that is present in many of these titles: Violence and death.

Gender, we cannot leave out the age old genetic dilemma that men and women are inherently different. Personality, emotions, passions and physical make up are all unique and separate qualities. There are exceptions, but for the near future, let us accept that for the remainder of mankind we will have to learn to deal with those differences.

Music, music music. It is the soundtrack of our lives and the power of words has the ability to translate to the power of perception. Are we influenced by lyrics in rap and death metal? Perhaps that is a factor as well.

“And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said, “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls”
And whispered in the sounds of silence”

– Written in 1964, this classic by Simon & Garfunkel spoke of a world today 47 years ago

The internet…The most powerful mastermind of covert activity. You can be anyone and anything you want on the internet. You can be an eighty-year old man who can transform to an eighteen year old prom queen. Or a janitor becoming a CEO. The magic to transform can take on a life of its own..Be careful, do you know who you are talking to.

I was watching the news last evening and the newscaster said “Stay tuned, this next story could very well restore your faith in humanity”. Did we lose faith in humanity at some point? That was a profound statement to an audience in the New York City area of potentially millions to assume they have lost the belief that there is good in the world. That got me thinking, am I an optimist or a pessimist? Has reality, technology, sensationalism, violence, civil unrest, death, greed, power, recession, poverty, disease and loneliness numbed my senses and restricted my ability to feel?

I hope not. There is so much good out there, everywhere we turn.
Each spring the flowers blossom and there are colors everywhere you turn.
Each generation, children are filled with imagination and wonder.
Dreamers continue to dream and achievers teach us that there are no limits.

As we celebrate Mother Earth today, remember it is not a single day to reflect on what is good, but a 24 hour reminder that we should always focus on each and every living thing that makes this ecosystem so wonderful.

From Wando to Bonnaroo – Charleston’s Stop Light Observations is a musical force

By Mark A. Leon - Photo Credit: Stop Light Observations 2015 by Vincent J. Musi
By Mark A. Leon – Photo Credit: Stop Light Observations 2015
by Vincent J. Musi

This Friday, April 22, Charleston’s Stop Light Observations will be lighting up the Charleston Music Farm with a sound wrought with angst, passion and energy.

We had an opportunity Monday evening to sit down on conference with the band while they took a break from their rehearsal in John Keith Culbreth’s home overlooking the marsh in Old Village.? The band was pumped full of musical adrenaline as we opened the dialogue anxious to kick off what expects to be a big weekend with a show in Columbia, SC, Atlanta, GA and the much anticipated Charleston Music Farm show Friday night.

What are your expectations for Friday’s big home show focused on the promotion of your new upcoming album expected later this year: Very simple, show the home town crowd an explosion of musical talent from a band celebrating their Southern roots.? From their first gig at the old Charleston Beer Works, to Awendaw Green to Bonnaroo, SLO has matured to a new level of musical expression.

Most of the lyrical inspiration comes from the mind of John-Keith (Johnny), lead keyboardist and songwriter.? Specifically, we spoke about the first release off their upcoming album Toogoodoo,? Dinosaur Bones. With lines including, “Decorated on the outside, but empty in my core.? I feel so extinct, I’m beginning to think I am a dinosaur”, the somber message and raw powerful chords are demonstrate a new level of maturity in the evolution of this band.

As multifaceted Louis Duffie explained the development of this track saying, “Johnny wrote that song so I know it has a personal meaning to him, but as for the music it always had a somber feel to it. It evolved into something far greater though once we started to record it out at Toogoodoo. That soft, mellow feel was mixed with this powerful chorus and bridge section that you hear today.? Johnny comes with a soft structure and some lyrics and then the band jams it and each person puts a little of their own secret 11 herbs and spices. Then once a semi concrete song is there we just keep playing it until it’s the best it can be.”

The name Stop Light Observations took on a number of face lifts over the years including Tru Colors and thanks to the infinite wisdom of Hootie’s Mark Bryan, that name was short lived.

CD: Tell us about your experience playing Bonnaroo.

SLO:? “Hate to be cliche but playing Bonnaroo was, at the time, the biggest dream come true. Just three years prior we went to the Roo and witnessed the raw energy of a music festival and saw great acts like Kings of Leon, Weezer, and Flaming Lips absolutely melt the stage.? For me, that year really inspired me to not only play music but perform for people because I saw what joy it brought to people, including myself.? Also the year we played at the Roo a large number of friends and family made the haul so it kinda felt like we were at the Barn Jam at Awendaw Green with all those friendly faces in the crowd.”

CD: What inspiration do you draw from the crowds during your live performance and what do you want them to take away?

Louis (SLO):? “The inspiration that we draw from a crowd is their energy.? It’s probably safe to say for any musician that if the crowd is digging the show then you the musician are going to perform and enjoy the moment even more.? As for what I want people to walk away from our concert is the feeling of “what did I just watch?? I’ve never seen a concert quite like that, and when’s their next show”

Well ole Johnny boy wrote those lyrics and rarely explains his songs so I hope he answered that, but as for when we’re performing songs that have that emotion we’re trying to take people past their boundaries and “lose themselves”.? Each song has a different message but the overall message of a show I would say I do whatever you want, express yourself, and dance your ass off because no one is there to judge, but to have a fucking epic time dancing and listening to music.

Cubby (SLO):? The main inspiration I personally draw from the crowd is when I see a really enthusiastic fan lose themselves in the spirit of life, and then watch the spirit trickle into the people surrounding them like a positive infection.? I have seen one fan change the entire performance.? This gets me head over heels and inspires me to match their energy and point them out and have subconscious conversations to push them even harder in the spirit in hopes that they will push me even harder.

Photo by Alex Boquist
Photo by Alex Boquist

CD: Who are you key musical influences?

SLO:? “As a whole we were influenced by Kings of Leon, The Strokes, Led Zeppelin, My Morning Jacket just to name a few.? In our earlier years we listened to a lot of Sublime, some Band of Horses, a lot of 90’s and early 2000’s rap.? In this upcoming album I think some of our early influences shine through because we as musicians I think we’re trying to go back to the early days, our roots.”

Cubby (SLO):“To answer the question primarily for me (lyrically) is Biggie Smalls, Bob Dylan, Jack Johnson, Isaac Brock, Jack White, and John Lennon. Musically it would be 70’s Rock, 90’s and early 2000’s Hip Hop, and 90’s and 2010’s EDM. Specifically Led Zeppelin, Kings of Leon, The Pixies, Nirvana and The Beatles.”

CD: Where are your lyrics derived?

SLO:?“The songs are driven by story and the curiosity for life’s questions.? The lyrics are the reflection of what we see around us. The world is changing so quickly that no adjective can do justice to describe its profound change and in return many of us are being left behind and unnoticed.? A massive thrive for spirituality is growing while ironically a massive interpersonal disconnect to life is growing due to technology and this ever-growing fast pace of life.? The angst comes from this. It is call for help from others for strength to grow, as well as a helping hand to help others who are on the same chase for life’s fruit.? To experience a community of like and unalike minds coming together through art is the ultimate goal and the lyrics desire this.”

CD:? Do you have any words of wisdom about life?

Cubby (SLO): “My life goal is to die with a smile. As of today that would include jamming with all the home boys on our compound back porch as a 99-year-old man tokin some chronic purpy dogs, sippin’ a Miller High Life, and holding my current dream woman of 8 years as all us wrinkly ass SLO bubbas perform for all of our great gran babies.”

CD:? What does Charleston mean for you as a band?

Cubby (SLO): You have no idea.? No words can answer this.? Art is the refection of the reality in which we live in.? The reality we lived in is Charleston. SLO is Charleston”

Louis (SLO):? “Charleston has morphed this band into what it is today.? They say it takes a village to raise a child and in a sense I feel we’ve been raised by Charleston. This city and its people have given so much love that it’s hard to put into words the emotions and gratitude I feel for Chucktown.? Would not want to grow up anywhere else in the world!

Photo by Alex Boquist
Photo by Alex Boquist

As I spoke to the band mates in the forefront and back of the room chiming in while tuning their instruments, there was a brotherhood of respect and admiration for each other and with their responses, it was clear that carried over to their fans.? I asked the band about being born into the online video and digital age of music and the response resonated loudly: “Online and digital will live and die, but now we feel the music is speaking for itself.”

At the conclusion of the interview, I listened to their album Radiation a second time.? This time with my eyes closed, listening closely to the marriage of music and lyrics.? As I took in The Maze, I absorbed the transitional sound of the decline of 80’s rock and the birth of early 90’s grunge.? Daydream delivered the somber serenity of Sigur Ros with the soulful voice of Pete Yorn.

Our lives are the collective culmination of millions of individual moments stored in a memory bank and SLO is an explosion of? musicians, maturing with each individual moment and translating the pain, joy and everything in between into an eclectic tour de force of musical declaration.

If you have not yet seen Stop Light Observation, reserve Friday night and see why the Charleston music scene is alive and well.

Stop Light Observations Tracks – Soundcloud

Stop Light Obervations Ticket Information

Defining the Best Charleston Talent: Top Attributes of a Strong Candidate in the New Economy

By Mark A. Leon
By Mark A. Leon

Breaking News Alert:? Charleston is becoming a technology and career hot spot.? With the additions of Boeing and Volvo, growth of People Matter and Benefitfocus and the birth of the East Coast mini Silicon Valley, Charleston is a destination, not only for vacation, but for challenging career opportunity.

Do you have the right skills to make the cut and become a great value added asset to the workforce?? Let us find out.

Don’t fear the new economy…Embrace it!

We have officially stepped into the new normal. The evolution of the job market has witnessed some dramatic change in the last decade. Automation, operational cost management, productivity efficiency and M&A have bestowed a new workforce. One that is driven by higher expectations of performance and stronger measurable results. With less opportunities available and more pressure to succeed, what attributes are potential employers seeking in their candidates?

Do you have what it takes to make a difference? With the ever increasing competition, a candidate must look at an application like an audition for a Broadway show. You stand on line back stage for hours and hours and then finally when you get your moment, you have the stage alone with the spotlight on you and 30 seconds to impress five strangers whose shadows lurk in the distance.

After all that effort, sweating and anxiety, it is now down to a waiting game.

How do you get that edge?
How do you make yourself stand out from the hundreds of other aspiring professionals?
Do you have the right characteristics to be the best?

Here are the some of the top attributes of a strong candidate.

1. Research

It is no longer enough to use the throw it and see what sticks approach to job hunting. You need to understand yourself and find the culture, environment, associate base and feel that will keep you focused, motivated and satisfied. Look within yourself and find out what makes you soar above the clouds. Are you a techie, a conservative, do you excel with process and structure or free flow? Do you believe in a chain of command or a flat organization? Do you want to be in a big global culture or a small intimate boutique? These are the questions you must address as you develop your personal marketing strategy and identify companies that are a “Fit”.

2. Long term growth potential

There was a time when two years and out was a common practice. You learned a new skill, job jumped and got a huge pay increase. Those days are dwindling away very quickly. Companies are investing in their human capital with more value placed on training, performance management, growth and challenge. If you are the type that wants to be part of an organization and continue to growth and harness your soft skills and technical skills, you will stand out.

3. Stability / Loyalty

I know what you are thinking, loyalty is dead. Businesses only care about profit and growth and not their associates. The truth is that you are the profits of the company. Without your expertise, those well oiled machines would not be moving very far. If you show that you believe in the mission, values, believe in the products and services, continue to give your best performance each and every day, that loyalty will pay off very well.

4. Creativity

In the workforce, as in life, many of us fall victim to routine and comfort. We get used to the same commuting route, the same restaurants and even the same way of preparing your coffee. Once a routine is developed, we tend to resist change and with that resistance comes the shackling of creativity. A strong professional will never stop mentally growing. These individuals always seek out need information and new ways of accomplishing tasks. As we look through history, it is the innovators from Da Vinci to Steve Jobs that have shaped culture. You of course do not have to be a universally known innovator, but never let your creative juices rest.

5. Motivation to go to the edge of reason

Throw out the normal. Throw out the accepted principles of life. Throw out process. Dare to take the ultimate risk. A strong performer will be present in meetings, will take in information, research the best possible options and implement effective resolution. Sometimes the answer is not about what has worked in the past, but what will work in the future. Thinking about the alternatives will open more doors and increase your probability of success. Being a risk taker does not always mean you will always be right, but it will define you as a leader of change.

Be fearless!

6. Technology

You don’t have to read the hundreds of thousands of blogs and articles to know that keeping up to date with technology is a critical skill set for any professional from an intern to a CEO. As the business world continues to shape and mold itself, one thing is certain, technology is leading the way. Whether that is cloud solutions, programming/systems or social media, we are only beginning a new age of technological advancement. You better be on this train.

7. Focus

Focus, focus, focus. We cannot emphasis enough about career focus. Every great performer has a set of skills that are strong, consistent and focused. Look at the career of a great leader in industry and as you review their LinkedIn profile or resume you will see their academics, professional experience and social experience are very focused. Look at the profiles of people in your circle (Facebook or Pinterest and you will see certain interest and attributes that are translated well in the personal and professional lives of these individuals. Your career is merely an extension of your own life. That is an important aspect to remember.

8. Compassion, adaptability and teamwork

A great candidate is involved. They share resources and expertise but they also participate in gatherings. A work experience is a complete experience. That includes birthday celebrations, stressful deadlines, client interface, collaboration, routine and even water cooler talk. A strong candidate is adaptable to the diversity of their colleagues and can make proper adjustments to be part of the community. With acceptance is compassion. A career is also being part of a family and this includes deaths, marriages, engagements and other life changes.

Whether you are an individual contributor, strategic leader or on a collaborative team you will be leaned upon for assistance as well as put in a position where you will need assistance. Creating honest alliances will help make life in the office more productive and will extend further to friendships and more.

9. Believe in yourself

As you stand on the starting line, looking at the runners to your left and to your right and await the sound of the gun, your heart races, adrenaline levels are rising and the feeling of competition hits new levels. Your blood is racing as you now realize that all the months and years of hard work come down to the next 10 seconds. Do you have the will to win?

How exciting was that?

If you don’t believe you can win, all the intellect, power and skill will not get you to the finish line.
The first step is the hardest, maintaining that belief in yourself maybe just as hard but the reward at the end is so worth it.

Now you have an edge on the other career seekers so go and get your dream job!

Appendix:

Charleston Works – Charleston Technology Companies

Charleston Technology Companies ranked in Top 500 fastest growing in the US

Charleston, SC Outpaces the Nation in Tech Growth – HuffPost

7 Ways Charleston Tech is Gaining Talent from Afar

Fallen Under a Southern Sky – Tribute to Jared Murphy (Original Poem)

By Mark A. Leon
By Mark A. Leon

Fallen from the clouds
Under a southern sky you perished
Not to be forgotten; not to be mourned

A protector of humanity
Behind the uniform you stood
Humbled by the embrace of a community shielded from danger; welcomed by the hug of family

Each day a promise to the smiling faces of our future
To lead, to protect, to honor

Under the warm spring sun surrounded by eternal reminders of lost sons and daughters we stand in silence
Only the cinematic mental images of memories make any movement

Alone a wife, three children and a void
By the grassy knoll they stand in tears
In the final moments, his body lowered to a resting place
So peaceful

His spirit will continue to teach life lessons
He will not throw a ball or tell a bed time story, but he will always be there

With the brush of the wind, his hug will be felt
With the raindrops, a kiss on the cheek

A loyal servant to the people
Five years, a patron to the citizens of the Holy City
Now an angel to the heavens

Look up
Look up fondly
He remains with us always

Go Fund Me for Family of Jared Murphy

Zig Zag Alley: The Littlest Alley That Could (Charleston, South Carolina)

As I entered the tiny little dead end alley, Zig Zig Alley, I was greeted by a warm and gentle older gentleman in a Sunday suit and bow tie and his very cuddly dog.? As the gentleman said good morning and quickly explained that his dog was very friendly, it was too late.? This big fluff ball, not only approached me, but pressed his body against me saying “take me home” without saying a work.? It was the perfect way to enter and explore this quirky named alley just off The Battery.

I can’t tell you exactly where it is except that it is just off one of the side roads of The Battery.? If I told you any more, it would ruin an opportunity to take a Charleston mystery walking tour.? Many locals already know of this fun residential alley.? If you are going to make it a mystery tour, no GPS cheating.

If you have not yet completed your bucket list of visiting all of the alley’s on the peninsula, here is one more and perhaps the littlest one of them all.

Zig Zag Alley

The sign says it all
The street sign says it all

 

This may be the last thing you see as you hit the dead end.
This may be the last thing you see as you hit the dead end.

 

Natural decor around the front porch
Natural decor around the front porch

 

Lamp post and red brick to compliment your walk
Lamp post and red brick to compliment your walk

 

Some modern look as well
Some modern look as well

 

Beautiful tall trees all around
Beautiful tall trees all around

 

A maze design. Fitting for the Zig Zag Alley
A maze design. Fitting for the Zig Zag Alley

 

Now we must depart
Now we must depart

 

Happy Alley Hunting.? Be careful, as you may expect, the road does have a little twist to it.

 

 

Dear Charleston Area Drivers: A Few Lessons in Courtesy and Safety

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By Mark A. Leon

Driving and traffic have become a hot bed of water cooler conversation in the last several years in the Charleston area due to the unorthodox population growth we have been experiencing.? Depending on whom you ask, we are going between 40 and 100 new residents a day into Charleston County and beyond.? Needless to say, with any growth, there are “growing pains” and one of them is increased traffic and a challenging infrastructure that needs to find solutions to our our road layout and the increasing number of vehicles.

There are ways, as drivers we can help provide a safer, environmentally sound and more courteous experience on the roadways.

We would like to provide a few reminders of some of the proper and improper behaviors.

Charleston area driver lessons and recommendations:

  • Don’t throw cigarette butts out your window – Please do not discard your cigarette butts out of your window.? This is our home.? You may think one or two or three a day does not make a difference, especially when they are tossed from different parts of town or on the highways, but let us put that in perspective for a moment.? What if 10,000 people threw out two a day.? That is 20,000 cigarettes littering our roads, sideways, marshland, rivers and the list goes on.? Even one is bad for the environment.

 

  • Stop signs are not optional – Often times, we see stop signs that seem inappropriate or there is rarely a need to stop because there isn’t traffic coming from the other direction or often at all.? That does not give a driver the option to roll through.? You may miss a pedestrian or unexpected vehicle and cause more harm than good.? Please respect the law of the stop sign and come to a complete stop.

 

  • Blinkers helps other drivers understand your actions on the roadway – Unfortunately, our population does not use blinkers often enough.? On the Crosstown or the Cooper River Bridge, where cars are moving quickly from lane to lane as the road curves, there are many hazards that can potentially be avoided if blinkers are used.? Blinkers provide drivers behind you an expectation of your next move and allow them to plan ahead to avoid any likely accidents.

 

  • Yield to pedestrians signs are law, not optional – If you are in a high pedestrian area and you see a yield to pedestrian sign, it is required law that you stop as a driver.? Most wait to see if a pedestrian makes a first move, then they slow down.? They should not have to take the risk and hope you stop.? If you see a pedestrian crossing sign and people at the corner, slow down and let them know you will stop for them so they are comfortable to cross the road.

 

  • The speed limit is in fact a limit – Often times I will find myself on the James Island Connector or the Cooper River Bridge being doing 5 miles an hour over the speed limit on cruise control and having every single car pass me with some exceeding the speed limit by 15 – 20 miles an hour.? Unfortunately, we do not have the law enforcement capacity to stop everyone that puts other drivers in harms way with their excessive speeding and drivers know that.? Use a little common road courtesy and not drive others off the road.

 

  • Texting at stop lights is bad – We all know it is against the law to text and drive.? We are reminded constantly on the radio and billboards.? For some, their lives are so important they have to text at every stop sign.? Here is the issue.? With increased traffic, every second counts at a stop light or turn signal light.? When you are at the head of the line and the light turns green to turn and you are finishing a text, 4 – 5 seconds go by before you react and that causes two cars to miss the turn and cause a further back up.? Wait until you reach your destination please.

 

There you have it.? Six little reminders to promote a safe, courteous and environmentally sound driving experience here in the Charleston area.

I Have a Charleston Dream: Opinion Commentary – Charleston Daily

By Mark A. Leon
By Mark A. Leon

In the words of our forefathers, all men are created equal. A principle that has withstood the course of time, but action and principle has historically been at odds. We live in a world of cynicism deeply saturated with prejudice, hatred, jealousy and oppression. It is an unfortunate fact of our being. In our quest for freedom, we forget the basic elements. In choice, speech and acceptance, the guiding elements remain. We need to find them once again.

Charleston Observations of Compassion and Happiness

In the Waterfront Park fountain, a child laughs while running through the streams of water. A complete and uncensored freedom of unyielding happiness.

On the Cooper River Bridge, a couple holds hands and smiles as they look at the sailboats coloring the harbor with their sails.

In Hampton Park, close family and friends decorated in their best attire are sharing a promise of two people to love one another for all eternity.

At White Point Garden, the sun is rising over the Charleston Harbor and two dogs are playing in the early morning hours.

At Sunrise Park, an elderly man sits on his patio chair, fishing rod in hand hoping he can wrangle up some dinner and get some relaxing rays of sun.

On East Bay Street, a violinist plays to the passing crowds while his dog rests comfortably with water by his side. Across the street lines of poetry are recited from East Bay Meeting House.

At James Island County Park, dogs are splashing in the pond while others chase each other under the warmth of the calming sun.

On campus, students are walking, biking and skate boarding to Marlene and Nathan Addlestone Library to study for upcoming final exams.

Through the windows on Queen Street, we see couples dining to the culinary delights of 82 Queen, Husk and Poogan’s Porch.

At Marion Square, vendors are laying out fresh vegetables, honey, fruits and hand crafted jewelry where soon hundreds will flock to enjoy a morning in the park.

At the MUSC Urban Farm, I can lose myself on a bench and learn the art of growing fruits and vegetables in the heart of downtown Charleston.

In Mount Pleasant, I see a rainbow of colors illuminate the sky as the sun sets just beyond the Cooper River Bridge in the Charleston Harbor.

I also see a storm brewing where dark clouds loom ahead

I live in a city where poverty is being trampled by boutique hotels, fine dining and extravagant arts. A government ridding us of the tent city to make room for the golden expansion. I see hatred bottled up. I see a city divided in geography, race and economic status. I see a population growing at the fastest rate ever, but an infrastructure that cannot sustain it.

On the corner of Spring Street and King, a black family including a one-legged woman in a wheel chair could not cross on the walk signal because two trucks cut them off and made a right turn right in front of them.

On the Cooper River Bridge two young adults made a suicide pact, published their last words on Facebook and killed themselves and this city looked away.

The number of highway fatalities and gun related deaths are on the rise, but instead of looking at the family, our education system and the need for positive change, we smoke screen it with task forces on gun control.

We are a community wrought with festivals and fund raisers all year long, but lack the funds to give all citizens a comfortable living.

With the increases in food and luxury tax, cost of living well above national averages and the push for me high end dining, shopping and accommodations, we are looking for at the awards and revenue stream and not in the eyes of our own citizens struggling to survive.

In Marion Square during Fashion Week, where models are wearing thousand dollar dresses and suits, a homeless man takes comfort in a park bench just a few feet away next to the Holocaust Memorial.

At a gas station on meeting street, a couple just stopping for fuel is approached for a hand out and a solicitation to buy drugs.

Charleston is a culture built on individual and small business owners who take their talents and pursue a dream. That is the foundation of our being. Now, we are opening the doors to hotels, expansion of housing, high end restaurants and large management groups, driving the small businesses out.

So when does it end?

Do we wait twenty years, when the water levels raise another two feet and flooding is a complete way of life? Maybe, we wait until the road system is so damaged and we lack the federal and state funding to fix our streets, that we are forced to look at mass transit options. Can we continue to ignore the racial tensions? Were all the promises of affordable housing and livability improvements just rhetoric from the mayoral candidates?

So many questions, unanswered and so few want to speak up.

This all begins with a voice, that voice becomes a plan, that plan a movement and that movement becomes change.

I write about what I am passionate about. I find subjects that elicit an emotion and light a fire. The written word is a powerful tool, but the ultimate power is in the human mind and its ability to understand, find compassion and strive for the one thing we have; humanity.

The Magic of Mary Poppins Teaches Life Lessons – Charleston Stage

By Mark A. Leon / Edited by Loretta Jophlin
By Mark A. Leon / Edited by Loretta Jophlin

It may have been the unseasonal spring breeze or the sweet laughter of a dozen young ladies holding white umbrellas, but my stroll down the cobblestones of Church Street to the historic Dock Street Theater was foreshadowing of a magical evening where I would meet, Mary Poppins for the first time.

Let us for a moment fast forward to the conclusion of the play. It is a rare sight when an audience’s standing ovation transitions directly into a choral sing along. To the clapping and chanting of Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, the audience of children and adults alike joined the cast in a theater-wide celebration of life, family and youth. It was a joyful moment of exuberance that sent shivers from aisle to aisle. Characters joined the patrons in the aisles, dancing and singing until the final moments of the two hour and fifteen-minute production.

The Charleston Stage musical live adaptation of Mary Poppins is nothing short of artistic precision on a musical canvas. The vibrant colors of cherry blossoms in London and the welcoming teal of the children’s bedroom underscored a masterful set design that welcomes the audience into the magical world of Mary Poppins.
Barbara Young’s costume design swept the audience away to turn of the century England with its proper attire and class distinctions, rounding out the character personalities perfectly.

The use of strings for floating props and dramatic entrances played a critical supporting role in the production. The audience stood in awe at the edge of their seats as Mary arrived from the sky. During a wonderful musical number, Bert, played with lovable delight by Nathan Burke, scaled the walls dazzling a child in the audience who yelled out, “He’s on strings!” Even with that comment, the magical tricks of live theatre could not take away the feeling of wonderment.

Every child and adult found themselves humming or softly singing along to “A Spoonful of Sugar” and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” yet the number that delighted me most was “Step in Time “in Act II. High on the rooftop, with an ensemble cast of chimney sweepers, Mary and Bert reminded us of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire with a comical ensemble flurry of Chaplin mixed in. It was a memorable and well-choreographed scene by Cara Dolan. Showing how the simple class worker could rejoice in the celebration of life high above on the rooftops, almost touching the stars, was an important element to the plays message of acceptance and happiness.

The picturesque Talk Shop / Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious scene deserves special mention. Here we are introduced to Mrs. Corey, a charming woman who never ages and runs the Talking Shop. With the use of letters, colorful costumes, playful and educational mayhem, that scene was a delight to witness as the audience members found themselves singing along

Veruka Salomone and Tyler Caplea as Jane and Michael Banks took on the extraordinary task of playing two young children in a home void of love, transforming through the magical world of Mary Poppins into a period of enlightenment. Their awakening from a conscious sleep and discovering the value of family, love and acceptance was the pivotal message of this play. Through the eyes of Mary Poppins, they found feelings hidden within themselves. In this enlightenment, George Banks, the children’s father played by Patrick Tierney, rediscovered a youth he thought he lost forever.

With a subtle smile and firm confidence, Carin Lagerberg played the the role of Mary Poppins perfectly. The complex character, made famous by the great Julie Andrews, requires an actress who authentically exudes firm discipline, a warm heart and a deep understanding of the value of family. Lagerberg made us believe she truly was Poppins, entering the lives of the Banks children and giving them what we all yearn for; a feeling of being loved.

Throughout the performance, Mary’s character introduced us all to her magical world. In the end, it wasn’t her flying umbrella, endless bag of props, or ability to bring stuffed animals and toys to life that won us over. It was her classy and beautiful way of reminding us that we are all young and innocent with the same desires for love and imagination.

Looking around, I watched children peering up at their parents and smiling, pointing to the stage, laughing, singing and curling up in their parents’ arms. Sometimes, you experience something that puts you in a better place. Charleston Stage’s production of Mary Poppins is both entertaining and a valuable reminder of why we should love our family and stay young as long as we can.

Click Here to Purchase Tickets – Mary Poppins