June 26th, 2009

get critical

Greetings from Charleston

We are in glorious South Carolina, which was mired in gubernatorial scandal this morning but that has been wiped off the front pages by the definitive end of my childhood via the deaths of Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson. That was all anyone was talking about as we traveled today -- the former not entirely surprising given her well-publicized struggle with cancer, the latter a total shock. It's always interesting to me how people feel this sense of having something in common with total strangers via celebrity deaths, even someone as controversial as Jackson was in recent years.

The other running theme of our day was stray cats, several of whom tried to adopt us (and it's probably a good thing we weren't going home, or the first one would probably have succeeded). After saying farewell to that cat outside the motel, we went to Petersburg National Battlefield, which has a museum and several large earthworks preserved -- its most famous feature, the Crater, was created by a massive mine explosion that killed about 300 Confederate soldiers instantly. We also went to a reconstructed Union trench site with cabins and an underground magazine. Then we drove to Bentonville for lunch, site of a smaller Civil War battle, and into South Carolina where we stopped briefly at South of the Border, which remains as tacky, stereotypical, and goofy as ever.

Now we are in Charleston, where we arrived around dinnertime and ate during the late afternoon thunderstorm that broke the heat. Afterward, we walked from our hotel down to the waterfront, where the ships for Harborfest had arrived -- some were sailing under the bridge giving tours, like Pride of Baltimore, but most were docked, and we got to see both ships we'd visited before (the Schooner Virginia, the Mircea) and gorgeous big ships like the Dutch Europa, the Russian Kruzenshtern (which broke a mast sailing to Charleston), and the French schooners Etoile and Belle Poule. The sunset was glorious as we walked back past the customs house and old market; we had Ben & Jerry's after we passed the fiddler crab-filled marsh, listening to cicadas and watching the bats fly above the trees.

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