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Nothing says "spring" more delightfully than a full bush of blossoms on a Lowcountry azalea bush. With the recent weather being warm and cold, cold and warm, this year's azaleas have been popping open for weeks. But we seem to be now in the peak of them. For different effect of spring, take a look at Broadus below. Photo by Michael Kaynard. More: Kaynard Photography.

Issue 5.20 | Monday, March 18, 2013
Time to import Claritin by the boatload

FOCUS On being a walking tour guide
BRACK Eating on $35/week isn't gimmick
KIDS Lots of great local parks
GOOD NEWS Medicaid forum, garden tours
HISTORY Heyward-Washington House
SPOTLIGHT Piggly Wiggly
FEEDBACK Storytelling festival was awesome
THE LIST On the menu
QUOTE On common sense
CALENDAR This week ... and next

On being a walking tour guide
Special to Charleston Currents

MARCH 18, 2013 -- The Southeastern Wildlife show more or less reopens the active tour guiding season for a lone tour operator such as me. The onset of spring brings new guests to Charleston as well as those who have returned faithfully year after year.


The pleasures of walking the streets, hidden alleys and byways of the historic peninsula are their own reward and when one thinks about it, getting paid to walk the most beautiful city in America on a regular basis -- and to get paid for it -- has to be if not the perfect job, very close to it.

Having been "in the game" since early 1997, I have had the continuous opportunity to uncover more of Charleston's amazing history, find out more about its architectural fecundity, and enjoy the beautiful gardens, hidden and public, in every season.

Upon first moving to Charleston, because of its history and climate, but primarily its history, I investigated and found that one could survive very well by becoming a licensed tour guide. That was the rumor, and I wished to confirm it. After several weeks of inquiry, I determined that the best way to earn one's license was to find a teacher and I was fortunate in being directed to Anna Blythe, an excellent teacher and, as it turned out, a good friend. Her guarantee: we study, we learn, we visit sites and prepare ourselves for the [city's] tour guide tests, one written, and if passed, onto the oral. If the tests were not passed, one did not pay. Who could beat such a deal!

Conducting ghost tours was not my forte, as I soon found out working with the first company for which I conducted tours. Not being a believer and finding the truth more appealing than fiction, I soon ran afoul of the company's policies. Shortly thereafter, I went into business for myself and have enjoyed most of my guests. Occasionally one has to deal with unique individuals with their own agendas. The most memorable was a middle-aged couple very much into evangelizing their point of view, rather than appreciating Charleston history. What normally was a two-hour tour became a 45-minute sprint, where all parties were winded, but no feelings were hurt and the status quo of all remained intact.

Nor infrequently, my tour of historic Charleston featuring the Civil War years, which I conduct for Jack Thomson's Original Civil War Walking Tour, has me discussing the Recent Unpleasantness with native Southerners whose great-great granddaddies, or other antecedents, fought in the war. All are experts having been told the oral history of the war and are happy to point out my errors. It does not help that this guide is a Yankee. Verbal conflict is almost assured! It has never come to blows and by the end of the tour, a satisfactory denouement has been reached.

Several years ago when Charleston was having one of its late springs, a group flew into Charleston from southern California, where spring was well underway. The group passed gardens not yet in bloom, and through alleyways and hidden streets, not yet yielding their ultimate spring glory, and past beautiful homes, not at their best under grey skies. This lack of cooperation by Mother Nature was held to be the responsibility of the touring company and disappointment was strongly expressed. It had to be explained that a tour company did not have the power to change weather patterns and proper recompense was ultimately made. The group has never been in contact since.

With these minor problems and incidents, in mind, a tour guide in Charleston is not one of the best jobs in the world, but THE Best Job!

Hedden also does tours with J&G Tours.


Eating on $35 a week isn't a gimmick
By ANDY BRACK, publisher

MARCH 18, 2013 -- Could you eat on $35 a week?

Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker did it in December as part of a challenge to eat for seven days by spending the average budget of food stamp recipients. After seven days, he admitted it was tough. He described how he suffered from caffeine headaches and got very hungry when his food supply dwindled by the end of the week.

Last month, Gov. Nikki Haley said she wanted to change the food stamp program in South Carolina to keep food stamp recipients from buying junk food. While that might sound good at first blush, it's really just a simplistic way to target "those people" on food stamps. Lift the hood on Haley's suggestion and you may wonder how a libertarian governor could endorse such an authoritarian prescription to take away choice. (A similar proposal by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to limit the sizes of sugary beverages was thrown out by a New York court this month.)

So it's no wonder state Rep. Bakari Sellers, D-Bamberg, cleverly challenged the governor to put her money where her mouth was by eating healthily for just $35 a week. Haley declined. But her spokesman didn't miss the chance to attack Sellers by alleging he was pulling a stunt.

Governor, this is not all about you and attack politics. It's about the 878,022 people in South Carolina who get food stamps, known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. In January, the federal government pumped $114.9 million into the Palmetto State for food assistance. Yes, that money is supposed to supplement other food purchases, but the reality is many people -- including a lot of working people -- in our state are so poor that all they have to use to buy food is food stamps.

Sellers challenged Haley to draw attention to how hard it is to find affordable healthy options in rural counties like the one he and Haley grew up in. Many people who get food assistance aren't eating junk food because they want to, but do so because they don't have the access to places with healthy food choices or have money to pay for them.


35aWeek.com offers 13 great tips for eating on $35 a week. Here are some:

1. Don't buy full-priced meat.

2. Don't eat meat every meal.

3. Bake your own bread.

4. Make your own sauces, condiments, stocks.

5. Stock up on bulk foods..

6. Don't snack, or keep to a minimum.

7. Keep a garden.

8. Cook every day from scratch.

Sellers is pushing a bill that calls for healthier lunches to be provided at local schools, which are where many kids in his House district get their only square meal of the day.

His proposal calls for lunch vendors to provide daily meals with a maximum number of calories so there's a continuing incentive to remove fat and sugar. The bill also would ban high-calorie snacks and soft drinks from school vending machines.

"This is the only bipartisan approach that can truly curb health care costs by preventing preventable diseases," he said. His bill currently is stuck in a House committee.

If you wonder whether you could eat a healthy diet on $35 a week, it is possible. But you have to be very smart about what you buy. You have to be a good planner, buy in bulk and eat less meat. And you need to have your own garden to supplement the weekly budget.

That's the experience of an Oregon woman and her husband who ate on $35 a week -- for both of them -- for a year and a half. (You can check out her tips and experiences here; the blog is on hiatus because the couple recently had a baby.)

"It takes a LOT of time, energy and resources to eat well on $35 a week -- things people working full-time and taking care of kids probably don't have, so I get it," she said. "And sometimes when you are down and out, a bag of greasy chips and a soda are really your only indulgence -- the only thing you look forward to at the end of the day. You don't WANT pickled ginger carrots and a piece of wheat bread.

"It's easy to be sanctimonious about other people's eating habits when all your own needs are met."

Sellers said he planned to eat for a week on $35 at the end of the month. He said he would highlight the results on a new Web site, www.HealthyMarch.com.

Andy Brack is publisher of Charleston Currents and Statehouse Report. He can be reached at: publisher@charlestoncurrents.com.


Local storytelling festival was wonderful

To the editor:

My wife and I, along with three friends from Columbia, attended the [Charleston Tells Storytelling] festival and it was wonderful. This was my first time at storytelling, but our friends are regulars at [the National Storytelling Festival in] Jonesborough, Tenn. They loved it as well. We will put it on the calendar for next year.

-- Rial Fitch, Mount Pleasant, S.C.

  • Send us your thoughts. If you have an opinion you'd like to share (150 words or less, please), send your letters to: editor@charlestoncurrents.com. Please include your name, address and phone number for verification purposes. We look forward to hearing from you!

Piggly Wiggly Carolina Company

The public spiritedness of our underwriters allows us to bring Charleston Currents to you at no cost. Today we shine our spotlight on the most famous Pig in the Lowcountry: Piggly Wiggly Carolina Company.

Founded in 1947 in Charleston, Piggly Wiggly Carolina Company proudly serves customers at more than 100 stores throughout South Carolina and coastal Georgia. Piggly Wiggly offers the finest quality meats, cut to order by skilled, in-store butchers, more local produce than anyone in the state, and freshly prepared deli foods that satisfy the Southern soul. The Piggly Wiggly family provides legendary customer service, delivered every day by the Employee Owners of our 100 percent employee-owned company.

By using their Pig Card, customers earn Greenbax that returns incredible value by offering free gas, free groceries, free gift cards, and many other opportunities to cash in and save. Piggly Wiggly remains deeply committed to investing in the communities we serve by supporting not-for-profit organizations of all missions and sizes to enrich the region’s quality of life. Piggly Wiggly’s roots run deep in the Lowcountry, and Mr. Pig invites Charleston Currents readers to invest in our local economy by shopping The Pig! More: http://www.thepig.net.


The local parks we love
By LEIGH SABINE, contributing editor
Special to Charleston Currents

"I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order."

-- John Burroughs, essayist and environmentalist

MARCH 18, 2013 -- For the past decade, sometime within the heart of a Lowcountry winter, my boys and I have looked forward to the coming spring through the simple act of compiling a list of parks to visit.

It's a great feeling of anticipation as we approach Easter weekend and spring break. We look to the list posted on the refrigerator door as a sign post on the road of trails, parks and green spaces that lie waiting for the warm sun and our happy feet.

School and busy schedules have a way of anchoring us close to home and we forget the parks we treasure most -- out of sight is truly out of mind. I encourage you to sit down with your children with pencils and crayons and make an actual paper list for them to ruminate and decorate. In this way, they put their senses in order by making the list come to life and can visualize with budding excitement the parks they may have forgotten.

Here is a list of some of our favorite Charleston area parks that have a decade's worth of Pluff Mud Kid testing for your enjoyment! [Follow the links to learn more about each park.]


Forum to highlight need for Medicaid expansion

The Trident United Way, AARP of South Carolina and a host of local and state groups in the "AcceptMe" Coalition are sponsoring a two-hour community forum starting at 6 p.m. March 21 that focuses on Medicaid expansion as outlined in the Affordable Care Act.

The forum, which will be at the Family Life Center at Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church, 7396 Rivers Avenue, North Charleston, will feature several top speakers, including Rozalynn Goodwin, director of policy research at the S.C. Hospital Association; Robert Greenwald, director of the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation at Harvard Law School; Roper Hospital CEO Matthew J. Severance; and Reuben J. Pettiford, executive director of Franklin C. Fetter Family Health Inc. WCBD anchor Carolyn Murray will emcee the event.

Organizers say the forum is important because the state of South Carolina is considering rejection of billions of federal dollars for Medicaid expansion to more people in need even though the money is free for three years and the federal government covers 90 percent of the costs until 2020.

Lowcountry residents head to the polls Tuesday

With incessant political television commercials and thousands of signs littering roadways from Charleston to Hilton Head Island, it's inconceivable that folks missed news of a special election Tuesday to fill the congressional seat left open when Tim Scott became a U.S. senator.

Some 16 Republicans are running to win the GOP nomination with former Gov. Mark Sanford of Appalachian Trail fame reportedly in the lead. A runoff is expected. On the Democratic side, newcomer Elizabeth Colbert Busch faces perennial candidate Ben Frasier.

If you plan to go to the polls for the first district primary, remember to bring your photo identification as this is the first congressional election that it is required under a new state law. Here are some links that may be helpful:

'Tis the season for garden tours

There's a plethora of garden and home tours this spring. Here are a few that you might find to be interesting:

  • Garden Club of Charleston's 78th annual tour: The club's walking tour of private homes and gardens will occur 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on April 5 and 6. This year's tour will include some of Charleston's finest houses and gardens in Historic District, and will feature flowers arranged by members of The Garden Club of Charleston. Refreshments will be served in a Charleston garden.

    The Garden Club of Charleston, which was founded in 1922, opens our houses and gardens for the public to enjoy, and to benefit our continuing projects -- maintaining the gardens at the Manigault House, the Heyward-Washington House, the Gateway Walk, the Healing Garden at MUSC, the Museum Courtyard Garden and the garden at the Historic Confederate Home.

  • Old Village Home, Garden and Art Tour: You can stroll the historic Old Village of Mount Pleasant from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. April 21 on a self-guided tour of Old Village homes with music, food by local chefs and art created for sale by local artists. New this year is "Ask the Garden Expert" on hand to answer your questions and offer advice. Tickets are $45; $35 for groups of 10 or more. Proceeds from tour support the Carolina Lowcountry Chapter of the American Red Cross.

  • Heyward-Washington House. The Charleston Museum will offer special spring garden tours on Thursday afternoons during the month of April. Garden tours begin at 4 p.m.; reservations are not required. Admission is $10/adult and $5/child 3-12 (free for Charleston Museum members) and includes both the garden and house tours.

    The Heyward-Washington House is located at 87 Church Street. The Heyward-Washington garden is of a formal design which became popular with the building of the Palace of Versailles in 1661. The formal garden was distinguished by its symmetry, discipline, and geometry. All plants in The Heyward-Washington garden were introduced to the Lowcountry no later than 1791; many were imported from Europe. Visitors will see camellia, tea olive, boxwood, anemones, roses, herbs and more. Today, the garden is maintained by the Garden Club of Charleston.

    • For more information, please call 722-2996 ext. 235. Please note: the April Garden Tours time slot is not available to tour groups.

TEDxCharleston seeks 100 to attend May event

One hundred people are sought to attend the inaugural TEDxCharleston event from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 15 at PURE Theater in downtown Charleston. Focused on the theme of "Reinvent," this independently produced event, operated under a license from TED, is an all-day immersion experience at the intersection of science, art, performance and business.

  • Applications to attend TEDxCharleston can be submitted here.

The event will feature at least 15 diverse speakers with interesting stories to tell and ideas to share. Speakers, announced last week, include Winslow Hastie of the Historic Charleston Foundation, Lua Martin Wells of Mount Pleasant Regional Branch library, filmmaker Justin Forest Nathanson, chef Ricky Hacker and singer Brendan James.


Heyward-Washington House

Owned by the Charleston Museum and open to the public, the Heyward-Washington House at 87 Church Street, Charleston, was built in 1772 by the rice planter Thomas Heyward, Jr., who later became a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

President George Washington stayed in the house during his visit to Charleston in 1791. The three-story brick double house features four rooms plus a central hall on the first floor. The second floor features a drawing room and a smaller withdrawing room in front and two chambers in the rear; additional chambers are found on the third floor. In the 1880s the Fuseler family converted the property to a bakery, radically altering the first floor of the house to include a storefront.

It was saved from destruction by the Charleston Museum and the Society for the Preservation of Old Dwellings in 1929. Architectural research aided restoration of the first floor, while a study of Charleston gardens led to the creation of a period parterre (an ornamental garden with paths between the beds) in the rear lot. The house museum is furnished with period furniture and appointments, including Charleston-made furniture.

Thomas Heyward sold the property in 1794. Archaeology and documents reveal a long history of occupation, both before and after Heyward. A wooden house and outbuildings built in 1730 by the gunsmith John Milner burned in the Charleston fire of 1740. Milner and his son continued the smithing business with the aid of eleven slaves. In 1749 John Milner, Jr., built a brick single house and outbuildings. Thomas Heyward razed the single house but kept Milner's kitchen and stable.

Excavations by the Charleston Museum revealed the houses, activities, and artifacts of the Milners, the Heywards, the antebellum owners, and the enslaved African American occupants. The house was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1970.

Excerpted from the entry by Martha A. Zierden and Ronald W. Anthony. To read more about this or 2,000 other entries about South Carolina, check out The South Carolina Encyclopedia by USC Press. (Information used by permission.)


Looks almost surreal

All of the pollen in the air is collecting on all sorts of surfaces, including streams like the one above from Caw Caw park in Ravenel. The photo looks a cross between modernists Kandinski and Pollock. At least the water captured the pollen -- not people's noses! Photo by Andy Brack.


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Tacos, beer shakes and more

New from the RiverDogs this season:

  • "Wacko Taco" stand, a new concession stand replacing the Nacho House. The taco menu will feature tacos made with Chipotle chicken, beef or pulled pork, plus the MUSC Urban Farm Veggie Taco made with fresh vegetables.

  • Beer shakes in three flavors -- Palmetto Espresso Porter Chocolate, Guinness Caramel and Sweetwater 420 Strawberry.

  • The Peanut Butter & Jelly Jalapeno Bacon Burger.

  • Fried pork rinds and cracklins

  • Moonshine margaritas and Piggly Wiggly's Pig Swig beer.

Learn more: www.riverdogs.com


On common sense

"There is nothing more uncommon than common sense."

-- Frank Lloyd Wright



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(NEW) Women's rights: 6 p.m., March 20, Charleston County Public Library, 68 Calhoun Street, Charleston. Dr. Nic Butler will explore women's rights in early South Carolina during a talk that looks at how the traditions of law and family dictated the rights of women in the 18th century, and constrained the lives and liberties of daughters, wives and mothers in early South Carolina.

Walter Edgar: 12:30 p.m., March 21, Hanahan Hall, Grace Episcopal Church, Wentworth Street, Charleston. The South Carolina historian will speak at the church's luncheon series. $7 for lunch. More: 723.4575.

Book signing lunch with Lee brothers: 10:30 a.m., March 22, Fleet Landing restaurant, 186 Concord St., Charleston. Blue Bicycle Books is offering this special access to the Lee brothers as they discuss their new book, "The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen." For $75, you can get a great lunch and signed book. More.

Bulls Bay Nature Festival: All day, March 23, with keynote address by Clemson's Patrick McMillan of "Expeditions with Patrick McMillan" at 6 p.m. At the Sewee Visitor and Environmental Education Center, 5821 Highway 17 North, Awendaw. Music, art, nature hikes, more. Register online.

Natalie Merchant: March 23, Charlotte Symphony, Belk Theater, Charlotte. The singer-songwriter will perform in Charlotte with its symphony with music from her new album, as well as from her solo and band days. Tickets start at $44.50 and can be bought online.

Free admission to county parks: March 24. The Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission will offer free admission to all county parks on this day as part of Customer Appreciation Day. Visitors also will be able to win waterpark and fishing passes ... and more. More: www.ccprc.com


Spring break camp: March 26-28, Dill Sanctuary, James Island. The Charleston Museum will offer morning camps for children age 5 to 10 where they'll take marsh walks, collect fiddler crabs and make crafts. More info.

(NEW) "Quidam" by Cirque du Soleil: The dance group will perform March 27 to March 31 at North Charleston Coliseum with a show that tells the story of a young girl who escapes into the world of imagination. Shows are at 7:30 p.m. March 27-30 with matinees at 3:30 p.m. on March 20 and 2 p.m. March 31. Tickets are available online at $45 to $103 for adults and $37 to $85 for kids under 13. More info is online.

(NEW) "Anything Goes:" Opens April 5 for a month-long run at the historic Dock Street Theatre. Charleston Stage will offer Cole Porter's classic musical comedy as the grand finale of its 35th anniversary season. Choose from among 15 performances through April 27. Tickets range from $38.50 to $57.50. Available online at: www.CharlestonStage.com

Lowcountry Cajun Festival: Noon to 6 p.m., April 7, James Island County Park. There will be lots of Cajun and Creole food, great music and more at this event that costs just $10 for anyone over 12. More.

Dig South: April 12-14, College of Charleston TD Arena, Charleston Music Hall, The Alley and Redux. The interactive festival explores the intersection of technology, social media, marketing and the arts. More.

Hunt & Habit: Through April 21, Charleston Museum, Meeting Street. The museum will present an original exhibition of women's and men's riding habits, hats and accessories from the 19th and early 20th century. More info.

Photo contest: Images due by June 6. Magnolia Plantation and Gardens is holding its annual photo contest for photos taken at the attraction between March 1 and May 31. Entry is $25. To enter and look at rules, visit the Lowcountry Photographic Club.

Bird walks: 8:30 a.m. to noon, every Wednesday and Saturday. This is the time of year that a great variety of migrating birds fly through the Lowcountry so what better time to take part in one of the regular early morning bird walks at Caw Caw Interpretive Center in Ravenel. Pre-registration is suggested. Cost is $5. Walks also are conducted on James Island and Folly Beach.Learn more online.


4/1: Angstadt: Manatees

3/25: Benson, Noble: Envision SC
3/18: Hedden: Walking tours
Koroglu: Dervishes
Richards: Teddy Bear Picnic

Thomas: Storytelling event
Logo contest
Anderson: 2-1-1's 10th
Colwell: Teen pregnancy

1/28: Ross: Root of stress
Roberts: SEWE 2013
Begin with Books update
Vail: Jr. Achievement

12/31: Hester: Tech trends
Abrams: Holiday time
C. Brack: Help others
Sabine: Pluff Mud for kids
LaFond: Health directives

11/26: Stevens: Thank you letters
McConnell: Retirement plans
Franklin: Long-term care
Middleton: You make the call

10/29: Herrick: Saucy new book
Spencer: Invest in arts
Ferillo: Hope's promise
Brooks: Senior hunger
Belton: Florence Crittenton

Eberle: Hampton Park
Ringler: Child cancer
Craft: Our water
SC Dems: Convention


5/13: Recovery of Keokuk guns
"Turrets are coming!"
Preparing to attack
Blockade is broken
Stono Rebellion

Charleston Christmas
"Satan's Kingdom"
Christening ironclads
Beauregard's return
Second Battle of Manassas
Secessionville aftermath
Battle of Secessionville
Robert Smalls
Preparing for the attach
Yankee in charge?
Lee and Traveller
Stone Fleet


4/1: With no vision ...

3/25: Candidates spend $2M
Eating on $35/wk
Ads aren't worth much
Scary SC-1 survey

Old-timey customer service
New House Speaker?
Reject Riley tax hike
Episcopal schism

Nullification talk wrong
Tailgaters: Back off!
A lot to be proud of
Myth of big government

12/31: Mexican new year, more
Looking back at 2012
Action, not talk, on guns
Two off Bucket List
1-526 hoodwinking

11/26: Guilty pleasure
Earlier education
Lessons from the election
Battleground state

10/29: 16 days, Gov. Haley?
Our next mayor?
Remembering Peatsy
Haley's options
Reform ethics system

9/24: New TravelOrMove site
Cake and I-526
Raise gas tax
Doby on stamp, book


4/29: Tax policies
On good policy
Heirs' property
1/28: Two conferences

11/26/12: Consumerism
Can we be a better town
Permaculture, more
Bank on Charleston
Did you know?
Payday lenders hurt economy
Waterkeeper event
GrowFood difference
Earth Day festival
Lorax Project
More gardening tips
Food Waste program
Energy from farms
Turtles that fly
Art from beach trash

Coal ash, more
Boeing's solar farm
More eco-tours
More recycling ahead


3/18: Great local parks
What's new in Charleston is old
1/21: Blaze a trail in 2013
12/10: Great holiday adventures


4/1: Vacation ID tips

3/25: Park and play
On the menu
Still no response
No response

2/25: Five on storytelling
Earth Day duties
For the heart
Home energy tips

Cold water boating
On Ted Stern
SMART goals
Dealing with email

12/31: New Year's prep
Last-minute gifts
Gift of insurance
Creative finals
Great kid gifts

11/26: Giving back winners
Tech gift list
S.C.'s top golf courses
We're No. 2!

10/29: Anti-hacking tips
#1 best in world
Earthquake tips
Great U.S. streets
5 tech tips

Be tax-ready
One long swim
Clean water
Going postal



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