Friday, January 31, 2014

Charleston Social Diary

NB's Ollie and Spicey ready for the big snow day.
Yes, It's Even Cold in Charleston, SC
By Ned Brown

The Polar Vortex has dipped into the Palmetto State. Our typical winter spell from January to mid-February is generally temps in the 30s at night and 50s during the the day.

Not this year. Since early January, it's been nights as low as the teens and days in the 30s. As I write this, we are awaiting freezing rain, and snow not too much further upstate. My poor hibisci, lime trees and eugenia are zapped by the frost and cold. It will be a challenge to see what bounces back this spring. However, my koi and goldfish are swimming right along in their 55-gallon outdoor fish tank. I just bundle the tank in blankets, which they also seem to enjoy.
Black Moor Goldfish swimming around at 26 degrees.
Fish tank tucked in for the night.
Unlike our friends up north who retreat indoors during the winter months, Charlestonians relish the outdoors to celebrate the colder weather. We retreat during July to September when the heat and humidity get oppressive. My friend, Merrill Benfield, celebrated local antiques dealer and noted vintage Rolls-Royce judge, likes to quip, "Let's bust-up the Chippendale for firewood, and drink cheap bourbon out of the Baccarat." 

This weather is also for the dogs ... literally. Our canine friends seem to enjoy the cooler weather, and step it up a notch romping through White Point Garden with their pals. The owners are often in full Barbour gear.
Mike Frederick with Queen Victoria (Jack Russell). Dr. Bonner Thomson with Shang Whu (Shi-tzu).
Allan Anderson with Mazie and Angus (Westies).
A perrenial favorite winter activity is the Lowcountry oyster roast. The Charleston Historical Society held theirs recently at Lowndes Grove plantation house along the Ashley River. Lowndes Grove is a wonderfully preserved eighteenth century
Venue where many weddings and corporate events are held.  The typical oyster roast comprises lots of steamed oysters (this year from the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia), accompanied by home-made chili with all the fixin's, freeflowing beer and wine, and good conversation across the shucking table with friends.
Lowndes Grove plantation house — scene of the Lowcountry oyster roast.
Tented area at Lowndes Grove beneath the live oaks for the roast.
Virginia oysters a'steamin'. Shuckin' at the community oyster table.
John LaRoche and David Crump replenish the supply.
Patricia and Tom Bliss digging in.
Authors Harriett McDougal and John Thompson.
Lowndes Grove dock onto the Ashley River.
Common topics of agreement are that while the sustained cold takes its toll on our beloved gardens (even the camelia blooms were burned by the frost), the cold kills the pesty tick and mosquito larvae. We also know that the spring flowers will be popping up by mid-February, and the azaleas will be in full bloom in just eight weeks.
A few holdout red camellia blooms.
Freeze-singed camellia blossoms.
Looking ahead to spring, the Charleston Antiques Show is about to get underway March 21-23, with a preview party (food by Salthouse Catering) on March 20th. The antiques show has become a sought after event by dealers from around the country who love visiting Charleston, meeting-up with old friends, and for those dealers coming from above the Mason-Dixon line, a taste of spring.
The antiques show is being honorary chaired by Lourenna "Lou" Hammond (of New York and Charleston), and it benefits the Historic Charleston Foundation (HCF). The foundation, ably run by Kitty Robinson, preserves and protects the historical, architectural and material culture that make up Charleston's rich and irreplacable heritage. When Travel & Leisure magazine votes Charleston the #1 city in the world, HCF is one of those key local organizations that steadfastly ensures the quality of the 18th century homes and gardens that millions visit each year. If you just visited the New York Antiques Show, book your ticket to Charleston, particularly after this year's winter weather.
Lou Hammond, Stephen Gates, and Anne Sutherland Fuchs at last year's Charleston Antiques Show.
Okay, so all is not picture-perfect in Charleston. If you want to see what happens when your beloved children come to Charleston for college — with an AmEx Platinum card, a Mercedes SUV, and a great apartment — and you want to see what they could turn into after college, just tune into Bravo's new reality show, Southern Charm, debuting March 3. The show's premise is to show the boozing (that's there), partying (there too) antics of Charleston's old society millenials (not there). Everyone I know from Charleston's old guard who was initially involved with the show scattered when they got wind of where the show was headed, except our loveable, local 50+-year-old bad boy, Thomas "T-Rav" Ravenel, member of a prominent business and political family.
Thomas "T-Rav" Ravenel on location with friends for Southern Charm.
Thomas Ravenel. Mug shot, Easthampton Police, DUI July 2013.
Don't get me wrong, I sincerely like T-Rav; I find him engaging and personable. But when you go from being an elected state official (South Carolina Treasurer), to convicted coke junkie serving federal time, to getting busted last summer in East Hampton on a DUI, to getting a young woman pregnant and capturing it on a reality TV show ... all of this in a five-year span; when do you wake-up from a nightmare trainwreck being driven by the Lindsey Lohan of the Lowcountry? 

In full confession, I got invited to one of the Southern Charm tapings on the old presidential yacht, Honey Fitz. When I saw what was coming from the creators of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, or Princesses of Long Island, or Vanderpumps, I knew the course chartered for this show was the mud flats of Charleston Harbor. 

So, look ahead to another wonderful Charleston spring after our winter cold snap; we had freezing rain today. Come visit the real reality of Charleston and its wonderful, gracious people, and skip the faux "reality" on trash TV.
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