By Steve Siciliano
I have to admit, as much sightseeing as we did during our recent visit to the South Carolina Low Country around Charleston, we probably spent an equal amount of time just hanging out in bars. That’s certainly not a bad thing. When I travel I enjoy exploring an area’s museums and historical locations and being awed by its natural and man-made wonders. But I also like getting glimpses into the lives of the people who live and work in the locales where I’m sojourning. What better way to do this than by rubbing elbows with them in the local watering holes.
Case in point. If we didn’t stop for a beer in a dilapidated bar on John’s Island we would not have heard the bartender’s frightening story about how she and her family failed to evacuate in time and had to ride out Hurricane Hugo. I would not have seen the terror in her eyes nor heard the fear in her voice, still there despite the fact that Hugo hit in 1989. Nor would we have heard from another bartender in a bar on Saint Helena about how the local shrimpers, themselves struggling to make a living, passed around the hat one night and sent a donation to the victims of Katrina.
If we weren’t at a bar on Folly Beach one evening I could not have listened to the transplanted retiree who had been walking his dog tell me how he was having a hard time selling his home in New York and then his complaints about the taxes and leash laws on Folly Island. If we weren’t at a dive bar one afternoon I wouldn’t have watched two local women chain smoke while playing the video poker machine nor would have I heard their loud argument about which bar in town served the best burgers.
And finally, if we didn’t go to a touristy pub on Sullivan’s Island I wouldn’t have gotten a bit of wisdom from the laid-back bartender: “Us folks here in the South start the morning off slow,” he said. “And then we taper off the rest of the day.”