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Thursday, May 31, 2007Charleston History
Yesterday Mikah and I drove into downtown Charleston to walk around and visit the "festival". I put that in quotes because it wasn't really a festival. It was just some week long event that takes place at 1000 different places downtown; effectively making it impossible to see any of it. (we did get to see a bad art gallery which was calling attention to global warming and the pollution I caused while driving there. I might have been more convinced if the art was better than my 6 year old cousin could do.)
After we walked down Market Street, which is a place where vendors hawk their trinkets (think Traders World flea market -- but in a nice locale), we headed over to Calhoun Street (John Calhoun that is!) and embarked on a 1.5 hour walking tour with 3 other people and Dave the Tour Guide. We gave Dave $40, which apparently allowed us to listen to him as we walked around the block.
Dave asked where the two groups were from. The other group was from Sommerville, a city right up the street from Charleston. We replied, "Cincinnati". He asked how cold it was up there (umm...85 and humid...it's not that far north), then called us "bad Northerners", and reflected how we started the "War of Northern Aggression". So obviously the sides were divided. The Southerners vs. The Northerners. No wonder the Civil War happened. I just met this guy and he is already being divisive! As we embarked on our tour I could feel the 4 southerners glaring at me...hating me because I voted for Lincoln. It was palpable...I COULD FEEL IT!
Actually, Dave the Divider was very informative on the history of Charleston. We briefly stopped by a building that had "Earthquake Posts" in it. These were posts that ran through the entire building, horizontally, to help keep the building standing during an earthquake. Apparently because Charleston is at sea level, and built on a marsh, it is susceptible to those. Dave then informed us that before the Richter scale was invented Charleston was hit with an earthquake two points higher than the San Fran quake of '87. This would make the Charleston earthquake a 9.1 on the Ricther Scale. This is a MASSIVE earthquake. Of course there is no way to check Dave's accuracy...I think he is aware of this. I could ask him what they used to measure it way back then. Maybe later once the Ricther scale was invented, some guy went back and looked at some video from the Charleston quake and deduced it was a 9.1. Or maybe he used before and after photos of the damage. Or maybe they had a soothsayer and he predicted it would happen. I thought about challenging him on the veracity of his statement, but a look from Mikah convinced me other wise. Still...I decided to keep a close watch on him for the rest of the tour.
Later Dave the Liar walked us around commenting on how much money was in Charleston. He said it was the wealthiest city in early America. I believe him. He continued to comment that the wealth was due to ingenuity and smarts (the first American college is in Charleston). I don't recall him mentioning SLAVERY as a gigantic aide in building wealth. Free labor is neat like that. Actually I think he did mention slavery at one point. I don't remember everything he said. My guess is that when he did finally did mention it, he talked about the glory days of the "Peculiar Institution" and deviously grinned. Later he did mention how "black folk" did help with the local economy, seeing how "they" outnumbered "us" 2-1. I sense a hint of racism. But Dave wouldn't be a liar AND a racist would he?
Apparently yes...as the tour ended (which was an interesting tour by the way) we asked Dave where a good place to eat was. He recommended "California Dreaming" and some other place "where they serve you great lowcountry food...COOKED BY REAL BLACK FOLK" (emphasis added by me...but only because I know he would want me to). We weren't sure if these cooks were being employed against their will or not (SLAVERY!) so we decided on California Dreaming, which had no obvious racism and excellent food.
Overall, it was a good day. I'm glad I met Dave the Divider/Liar/Racist. I do wonder if the rest of South Carolina feels the same way. Probably.