Saturday, 29 November 2008

Charleston (November 28)

Day 75

Dick showed me pictures of their Florida island home, replete with outdoor kitchen, on the market for $1,000,000+. Then he, Candace, Sarah, Matt & Christian repaired to the gym to burn off the turkey dinner calories. I stayed at their place, typing up my blog and watching the tourists wander by their apartment in the heart of the historic district.

Later Candace and I walked over to Cat's 'Charleston Single' (one room width house peculiar to the city) for a few games of Scrabble. How odd that we should come across a bagpipe player (a teenage American boy) and on Wednesday I had passed a 'Scotsman Garage'. Cat (and her dog, a gentle old Golden Retriever) was a management trainer who had also recently narrowly failed to run for Congress, lived with her partner, Beth, who was out shopping, this being Black Friday (the busiest shopping day of the year and so named because it is the official start of Christmas shopping, when shops hold sales in the hope their balance sheets will go into the black). Another incredible abode, this time furnished with items befitting it's early 19th century origins. It was like a museum and I couldn't stop taking pictures inside, and outside where there was a pool, a hammock and rocking chairs (including a side to side one). Cat said I must be very fit and asked “Can I feel something?” It was very inconsiderate of them to lay on tortilla chips, peanuts, cookies and Peanut M&Ms though, all of which are unputdownable for me. Here we also hooked up with their friend Richard, and who, together formed the Charleston Scrabble Club. We played three four-player games and I felt a bit bad that I won all of them, especially as we placed $5 wagers on games two and three. Never have I made money out of Scrabble before and I think I'd like to continue. In game number one Candace played the pretty PETTY, adding the Y to MEAL, where the Y sat smugly on a triple letter and PETTY was doubled (54). However, my SCOOTER, although less creative, had the desired effect (75). Number two and I bingoed again with -EFACING off an R Richard had kindly just laid, and with the C on a double letter and the whole word trebled; that was 101 points and $15 thank you very much. In the last game Candace was the only person to bingo with BETTLES, but I challenged it as the nuts are spelt BETELS (and so was she for spelling them that way). During the games I learned the word 'snowbird', which refers to Americans who travel due south to Arizona or Florida for the winter.

Then it was back to Candace's apartment, where I packed up and took my leave of yet more delightful Americans and rode off to my last stop. It was fortuitous that I had locked up my bike in the ground floor garage space, as the door was wide open. It had only been the third time since arriving in Seattle that I had locked it, partly because America generally feels safe to me and partly because I'm shockingly casual about such things. My last day's ride was a mere ten miler in the delicious, balmy, night air, to North Charleston and the home of another Pixie Pitter, Kathy. The journey took me through poor, black neighbourhoods, like so much of South Carolina I had seen – and contrasting starkly with the downtown area and the luxury homes I had visited there. As Candace's sister, Linda, had observed during the Thanksgiving Dinner, all of us sitting round the table were very fortunate to have what we had.

And so to another stylish home; resided in by Kathy & Peter, a lawyer and a man of many occupations, including musician, respectively; and also four cats and a dog. The dog was very sweet and had an electronic collar, which let off a warning beep if he tried to leave the invisibly fenced perimeter. If he ignored this and went over the underground wire, a tiny electrical shock would be administered. When his owners took off this collar (leaving the regular one) he understood a walk was on the cards and there would be no beeps or shocks. He also only fetched sticks once; in other words if a stick was thrown twice, he thought the thrower wanted rid of it. There seems to be a correlation between Scrabble players, pet ownership and liberal attitudes in this country. In the aftermath of the election I haven't mentioned political affiliations, but since that time in St Louis I think just about everyone has been an Obama fan. As Paul, a poet, who joined us for dinner, pointed out, “How could a lover of language support Bush?”

Dinner was a Low Country speciality, called Beaufort or Frogmore Stew, a soup of prawns, sausages, potatoes and sweetcorn. This was as good as the Key Lime Pie that followed. Poor Paul picked terrible letters in our four-player game after the table was cleared. At one point he exchanged three of his six vowels for three more and later had seven vowels, when it was too late to trade them (there were less than seven in the bag). He hadn't played for years and probably wouldn't play again any time soon. Peter was a newbie too, and Kathy (who only played online) and I ran away with the fiercely contested lead. We were down to our last few letters and there was one point separating us, when Kathy was able to play her last letters (CUMIN with the M affixed to EAT) and the game was hers. Next Kathy and I played a two-hander and after I laid the only bingo (-EATINGS added to an S and leading to a triple word tile for 80) she was unable to bridge the gap.

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