Saturday, April 22, 2006

The sweetest little town in Dixie ...

So Thursday evening found me driving to the quaint little town of Cheraw in the northeastern part of the state, in the heart of the Pee Dee region of South Carolina with my dear friend Matt B. Matt has been talking about the annual "Taste of Cheraw" festival for years ... an evening where the townsfolk dress up and come out for a good time with lots of great food and fun and laughter (and, for the heart of the bible belt, a surprising amount of liquor. :-)).

When I first heard of it, I joked with Matt, "So, how many dark folk will there be, and will I be allowed in the front entrance?" Yes, it was a largely white gathering -- hardly unexpected given the social dynamics of the contemporary South. But still, it certainly was a blast ... I told Matt that I would be introduced as "The Maharajah of Bandarpur, come here on official business ... to take all your jobs away!" It did evoke some laughter. And one sad conversation with a lady who'd lost her job recently as the textile industry in the United States goes through it's final death throes.

At one point we were sitting down and gorging ourselves silly on a plateful of sauteed oysters and scallops (catered by his parents, who were working the event), and we both go, "You know, this is just like a scene out of the 'Midnight of the Garden of Good and Evil." "Yes, genteel Southern society. Everyone being oh so nice and polite. But you know they've got secrets. And I can't wait for the evening to progress and that nice facade to dissolve in the flowing alcohol revealing the ugly truth below!" Ouch! A bit vicious. You know, in that Southern way when one says the most ugly thing about someone and follow it with "well just bless his heart" and it's all ok!

And then at times I felt this was the best setting for a Flannery O'Connor novel.

The evening didn't progress to a debauched, revelatory ending. But yes, after several oyster shooters, a nice warm glow permeated the air, as the music (performed by a live band from Florence [SC]) revved up, folks took to the dance floor (yes, shagging away. It's the state dance, y'all!), and the beer, wine and mixed drinks just flowed.

Boy, I'm gonna miss the South!

Here's some photos from the trip.

There's Matt obligingly filling up air in my tire, at the Hot Spot in Camden on Hwy 1.

One of the oldest houses in Cheraw (and it's full of beautiful, historic Southern homes). The Taste was on the lawns of this house (and a few adjoining ones).

Mmm, mmm mmm! Love the Palmetto too (even if it's cut off in the photo!)

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