#82: The Angel Oak

It’s been over a year since I’ve marked something off The List of Things to Do Before I Die. But when my best friend and I took a brief trip down to Charleston to see one of our favorite bands, Fitz & the Tantrums, play a show, I took the opportunity to visit the Angel Oak, a really old, massive tree out on John’s Island.

The first view of the tree once you enter the property.

The view of the tree once you enter the property.

The tree was apparently damaged during Hurricane Hugo in 1989 (but, honestly, very little on the coast of SC wasn’t damaged during Hugo). So the tree is braced with wooden posts and wires that criss-cross through the canopy, ensuring that it doesn’t collapse under it’s own weight.

No one is really sure how old the tree is, but it’s at least 400 years old. It’s not the oldest tree in the Eastern US, not even close really, but it’s quite the spectacle nonetheless. I think my favorite part about the tree is that the branches that are spread across the ground are as big as trees themselves. It’s just a really neat little place, down this rough dirt road. For being on an island, it’s kind of in the middle of nowhere.

Proof that I actually visited the tree and didn't just Google images.

Proof that I actually visited the tree and didn’t just Google images. Look how tiny I am (comparatively)!

That morning, before visiting the Angel Oak, my friend and I also visited Fort Sumter, the site where the Civil War began. I’d been once when I was very young, and she had never been. I love military sites, and it was definitely worth taking the half-hour ferry ride to the island to explore.

Approaching the island.

Approaching the island.

Crumbling brickwork where the cannons were once housed.

Crumbling brickwork where the cannons were once housed.

We also enjoyed lunch at Poe’s Tavern on Sullivan’s Island and then visited the Charles Pinckney National Historic Site because we’re working on getting stamps in our passports to the National Park Service. The Pinckney Historic Site is a lovely farmhouse near Mount Pleasant, so all in all, we ended up traveling all around the Charleston area in a 36-hour span. Pretty great.

Snee Farm at the Pinckney National Historic Site

Snee Farm at the Pinckney National Historic Site

So there it is–an item off The List (plus other historic adventures!). Now, to figure out what item to do next!

#81: Shoeless Joe Jackson Musuem

My friend Joanna has been volunteering at the Shoeless Joe Museum, right here in Greenville, for a long time now. And I’ve always said I would go, and had not yet made it. So I finally added it to the List (nothing like a little pressure to get something done), and today, I was actually free on a day when Jo was volunteering. So I headed downtown to the museum, right next to Fluor Field, where the Greenville Drive play, and Jo gave me a tour.

It’s a great little museum. The walls are covered with newspaper articles and photos from Shoeless Joe’s career with the mill team he played on in Greenville, as well as with the professional teams he played with. And, of course, there’s plenty of info on the infamous Black Sox scandal of 1919, in which he and 7 other players were accused of fixing a game in the World Series.

The museum also houses a pretty extensive library of books on baseball–Shoeless Joe and many others. I could have stayed in that room all day, probably. 🙂 One really awesome thing they have, too, is a baseball signed by both Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. It’s not Shoeless Joe memorabilia, exactly (though he certainly knew Babe Ruth), but it is vintage baseball, and it’s awesome.

And, of course, I took Bernard along with me, so he browsed the museum, too.

This is me holding the Babe Ruth & Lou Gehrig-signed baseball.

This is Bernard, the roaming gnome, with a stadium chair and bricks from the old Comiskey Park in Chicago, where the White Sox (and Shoeless Joe Jackson) played.

This is a replica of one of Shoeless Joe’s Louisville Sluggers. And Bernard, of course.

We’re the problem, we’re the politicians.

Yes, I’m from South Carolina. Yes, I’m writing a blog with the word “politicians” in the title today. I’ll give you one guess what it’s about.

Yesterday, our governor arrived back in the States from a trip to Argentina. He then held a press conference, openly admitting to an affair with a woman who lives in Argentina.

Go to any news site, and you can find details of the whole sordid affair. I won’t bother summarizing here. I’ll just give you some quick thoughts.

First, I am not a Mark Sanford fan. I disagree with him politically on many points. But my political opinions have no place here. This issue is mostly with his personal life. I think it’s important to make that distinction. (I agree that a politician really has no personal life, as he or she will constantly be in the public eye. My point is merely that I’m not discussing his political agenda here.) The only thing that really has a political connection is that he disappeared for a few days without telling his lt. governor or anyone else where he is. A governor should not disappear like that; he has a responsibility to his constituents to be here. Moving on.

I watched the press conference yesterday. Within moments, my respect for Gov. Sanford increased greatly. The man apologized for letting down his wife, his kids, his friends, and the people of our state. I believed him. I dislike the man, and I have a tendency to criticize him, but when he choked up and had to wipe away his tears during the press conference, I truly felt his sorrow and grief at the pain he’s caused so many people.

The man is human. He reeks of humanity, in fact. He made a terrible mistake–one that many, many others have made. He just happened to make that mistake while living in the public eye. He deserves our forgiveness just like anyone else. Are we so uptight, so judgmental as to demand perfection from an imperfect creature? If that’s the case, then we shall indeed become bitter cynics–everyone will let us down, and we will be so blinded as to focus only on another’s vices rather than virtues. (For example: during the press conference, several women standing behind the governor openly smirked throughout the entire press conference. How could they possibly openly rejoice in scandal and tragedy? )

Gov. Sanford deserves to be allowed to put his marriage back together. He deserves to seek forgiveness from his family, friends, and South Carolinians. I can give him that. And–shockingly, perhaps–after some thought, I don’t believe he should resign. This is a trangression of a personal nature, one that he openly admitted to before anyone discovered the true nature of his visit. Yes, he lied about his whereabouts, which is the only reason I see for punishing him politically. Perhaps that’s enough to call for his resignation, but I disagree.

We’re all human. Let’s rejoice in that, love one another, and not feel trimphant in the face of another’s tragedy.