Introducing Fellow Coastie, Ultimate Frisbee player, and friend, Bill Putnam. He takes incredible pictures and agreed to write a post for me. He is one of those people you feel a little bit jealous of, always jet-setting around and just enjoying life to the fullest. This post is pure blog candy.
Hello fellow Simply Turquoise readers! I’m thrilled to contribute to one of my favorite spots to come when I want to sit down with a cup of tea, coffee, glass of wine or pint of beer and find another idea for making friends feel at home in the places and spaces I live in.
This is, after all, what Simply Turquoise is for me. Mariam is someone who seemingly knows no strangers and always has the right advice for making a space more welcoming. Perhaps that is why she was interested in having me share with you some words and photos from a city I recently visited again but have been to several times: Charleston, South Carolina. It is a place where I’ve never felt like a stranger or visitor, a place where just walking around you feel invited down every street, around every corner, and into each café, restaurant, or store front.
This essay won’t be a history lesson on Charleston. I’m not that well read. It’s old and new, it’s Southern yet somehow cosmopolitan, and it’s coastal and colonial. Most of all, to me Charleston whispers “hospitality”. If you’re a regular reader of Simply Turquoise you’ll remember perhaps that Mariam has written about a symbol of hospitality, the pineapple. You’ll find it throughout this city: from bed post finials to flags on storefronts, and even as a fountain found down on the waterfront near Charleston’s own French Quarter (yes the city even has a slight ’Nawlins feel to it in places).
I’m not Southern by birth unless you use the Mason-Dixon as your line of demarcation for that. Born in Fairfax, Virginia and raised in Northern Virginia, those residents typically like to call themselves D.C. suburbanites. But my time in the Coast Guard has taken me all over, and it is how I came to be introduced to Charleston. So I’m a reluctantly adopted southerner, granted probationary belonging by my grandparents’ being North Carolinians, my love of sweet tea, and my ability to use the word “reckon” comfortably and in proper context.
It’s difficult to feel out of place in Charleston, unless you don’t like comfort-able. You can wander seamlessly from the university district of the College of Charleston, where I tried mightily to sell my son on when he was shopping for schools and where there is that hip, edgy and creative personality everywhere between Coming and King Streets. Then as you cross south over Wentworth and find yourself on King in a shopping district mixed with high-end antique stores and the usual suspects of clothiers littered in all the new “town center” type developments you find everywhere, but which even here seem to have a unique charm, to the extent that’s possible.
One of the city’s nicknames is the “Holy City”. As you wander the streets around South of Broad you’ll see many church spires and wrought iron gates around cemeteries, with seemingly as many Spanish moss covered trees as headstones, all giving testimony to this well-earned moniker. And in keeping with the underlying theme of Charleston, even these places are not the cold intimidating off limits site of only those righteous or known enough to enter, they have their gates and doors open, inviting the passerby to come stay for a while.
And stay for a while is exactly what I want to do each time I visit this exquisitely contented city. There are still so many doors to explore and menus to try. Who knows, perhaps the name Putnam will fit as comfortably as Calhoun and Pinckney and I might also spend my day trying to decide which bronze door knocker looks best on one of the marigold-colored row houses, with pine grove green shutters and door. Or perhaps I already do fit in…that is after all how this city wants you to feel.
© copyright Bill Putnam and Mariam d’Eustachio 2012.