Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Gift of Giving

Bluffton Today Column, December 22, 2006

I was sitting at a traffic light today, listening to Christmas music, watching palm fronds blow in the breeze and thought to myself - I can’t believe that I am preparing to spend my second Christmas here in the Lowcountry. How time flies.

While thinking about crafting the perfect Christmas column, I started to look back on Christmas’ past and my traditions growing up.

We would always spend Christmas Eve with my mom’s side of the family. Three and, for many years, four generations of our family would gather for Christmas Eve dinner. Santa always arrived after dinner and everyone (young and old) would have to sing a Christmas carol to receive their first present. Over the years, singing carols progressed into playing musical instruments, writing our own lyrics to the tune of existing carols, performing scenes from our school plays – you name it.

On Christmas morning my mom would always make our special Christmas breakfast – a Bisquick recipe that she clipped one year and had quickly become a tradition.

Our tree was always downstairs and we would have to wait for my parents to have the video camera set-up before we could go downstairs. This ensured that they would capture the look on our faces as we got our first glance at what Santa had left.

As I traveled down memory lane one moment really stands out in my mind – the year my sister and I received our own house. Not a doll house mind you, but our very own house. It was made of cardboard (but we were potty trained, so it was ok) and easily stood five feet tall. It had a working door and windows with painted-on flower boxes.

We were thrilled with this gift! And, as the video captures, despite my excitement I did make time for a brief speech … “Hi, my name is Courtney and this is my sister, Sharon, and welcome to our new home!” (Imagine that with a squeaky, high-pitched, sugar-high, Christmas morning voice.) It must have been a sign of things to come as two of my favorite hobbies are interior decorating and entertaining a house full or people. (Well that and making Joe buy me a new house every two years …)

As I reminisced about my favorite gift over the years, I thought I would ask some others what they remember as their favorite gift from Christmas’ past.

My hubby, Joe, remembers his first Huffy BMX bike right down the flat black paint. He remarks that it was “the first year of transition from the banana seat, so it was a big deal.” He is also quite certain that there must be a scar on his head somewhere from when he flipped over the handlebars in, as he says, slow motion. (This could explain why the bike he got last year for his birthday has accumulated 11 months of dust in the garage.)

Bluffton Today’s very own Kim Jones (Nature Notes columnist) said, “I was always a science nerd in the making – I remember being VERY disappointed one Christmas that I didn’t get what I REALLY wanted – a telescope – and then all the presents were unwrapped and miraculously from my parents’ bedroom came my very own telescope. That Christmas was closely rivaled by the one during which I received a microscope. Really, I never stood a chance!”

My mother, as always, had the perfect answer. She said, “That's a tough question. I've been thinking about it a lot and can't think of a single ‘thing’”. She reminded me of the Christmas my Great-Great-Aunt Mary gave away all her valuables and then how we went through Aunt Mary’s house as she prepared to move into the assisted living apartment and that none of us really wanted any of the "stuff" she spent her lifetime accumulating.

“Those moments really brought home how unimportant stuff is,” she said. “But, as I continued to think and felt like I needed to answer you, I thought of this little, pink, rubber ball that I had as a young girl. With that ball my brothers and I, and my neighborhood friends and I, would play for hours outside making up all sorts of throwing and catching games. From that (and my mother's constant "go outside and play" mantra) came my love for being outside and playing! I made a career out of it (Mom was a physical education teacher for 20 plus years) and still find myself happiest when I'm outside playing.”

So, as you hurriedly finish your last minute shopping and as you sit amidst your family Christmas morning, make memories. They really do last a lifetime.

Merry Christmas Bluffton!

Friday, December 15, 2006

A Man on a Mission

Bluffton Today Column, December 15

His stature is imposing.

His posture alone reflects his years as a Citadel man.

He is a man that every resident of Bluffton should meet.

He’ll tell you that he is a Southern boy and that some of us will probably only understand 80% of what he says … we’ll struggle through his dialect for the other 20%.

He has a great sense of humor. When I asked him if I could write about him this week he replied, with a smile, “Have at it girl.”

He has an enormous job ahead of him.

He is Bill Workman, Bluffton Town Manager.

I had the opportunity to hear Bill speak earlier this week on the topic of leadership. As any true leader would, he credits others for helping to define his philosophy on leadership.

He believes that somebody has to call a meeting – and they are heroes. For Bill, Bob Dylan said it best, “I think of a hero as someone who understands the degree of responsibility that comes with his freedom.”

Bill will tell you that leaders are responsible for self and responsible for others and he quotes Henry Miller, “The ordinary man is involved in action, the hero acts. An immense difference.”

And, Bill will tell you that to be effective leaders, we must: create and maintain a sense of community, get along, listen to each other, create a sense of urgency, be courageous, be committed, and seize opportunity to impact our destiny.

The bottom line is that the leaders of our community, Bill included, want and appreciate our input. But, they also want us to be diligent in our research of issues, and drawn conclusions from the facts.

Bill told a great Jerry Clower story during his presentation, which I find incredibly relevant to Bluffton. (Clower is a comedian dubbed “The Mouth of the South” – this Northerner, of course, had never heard of him until this week.)

It seems that Uncle Versies learned that the church was fixin’ to spend some money. So, Uncle Versies headed over to the church to hear what they had to say. The church leader declared to the congregation “we need to spend the money on buying the church a new chandelier.” Uncle Versies stood up to state his objections and said …

First, why would we buy a chandelier when I reckon that no one in this congregation can even spell chandelier.

Second, if we were to get a chandelier I am quite certain that none of us would even know how to play it.

And third, why are we talking about spending all this money on a new chandelier when what we really need are some lights in the church sanctuary?

It is no secret that Bluffton is growing by leaps and bounds. It is also no secret that our residents are largely apathetic and reluctant to be involved in the process of our town’s evolution. We hear and read a lot of anonymous criticism, but when it is time to step up to the plate – attend a meeting, or vote – our numbers are dismal.

Bill’s philosophy on the growth of Bluffton and how to achieve sustainability is inspiring. But, rather than let you read it here I challenge you to attend a Town Council meeting, a Planning Commission meeting, a Historical Preservation meeting, a Hospitality Tax meeting and learn first hand how our Town Manager and our town officials are working toward a better Bluffton.

When asked why a 66 year old man would want to commit to this undertaking in Bluffton, Bill quotes his wife who says, “I married you for better or for worse, but not for lunch.” Bill’s smile fades to stoic as he continues, “I like to see a good plan come together. This is an adventure – vision plus action equals adventure. I want to be part of the adventure.


Bluffton Today Column, December 8

Get out the record players because it is time for Courtney’s Broken Record Show. (Cue the Family Feud theme song.) Congratulations to the 13% of eligible voters in Bluffton who turned out for the local council elections on Tuesday. To the 87% who couldn’t muster the effort, I look forward to not hearing you complain until Election Day 2007.

Congratulations to Charlie Wetmore on his victory and thank you Charlie, for taking down your campaign signs immediately following the election. You kept your first promise and I look forward to your leadership in our town.

Moving on … as much I love Bluffton, living here, and being a part of the community, I can’t help but feel homesick at this time of the year. An email from my Aunt Maryalice back in Pennsylvania just before Thanksgiving started me on my annual “let’s move back North” campaign with Joe. Her email went like this …

“I'm remembering Thanksgiving's past ... when we were all together. You spent a few holidays in our home, and we traveled to yours. Our first Thanksgiving married, we were with your family in Brick (Mike was still eating baby food - he and Sharon sat next to each other in highchairs). One of my favorite Thanksgiving was 1997 - all of your family and mine were here. We celebrated the fact that Mike was in his first year of recovery … I loved watching all of you young cousins enjoying being with each other. And of course, two years ago when you and Joe came here ... I was so excited that you had moved closer to us. And now life is very different. The miles have grown, but really our love for you has never changed … now new traditions will grow. And we'll all find new ways to celebrate the holidays ... but the best is that the memories of holidays past, we get to keep.”

You are choked up right? And you don’t even know Aunt Maryalice. So, you can imagine how this email affected me. I cried when I first read it. I turned to Joe and told him that I wanted to move back home – I miss the family traditions, I miss our friends, and more than anything at this time of year I miss the weather, I miss the snow!

Ok, I know what you are thinking – move back home Courtney. But, please just read the rest of the story…

Since the temperatures here last week were still in the 70s and almost 80s I felt justified in my request to consider moving back to the cooler climates. I watched the news of impeding snow storms in the northwest and got misty-eyed. Until, snow almost ruined the day.

You see last Saturday Joe and I were attending a wedding. I panicked mid-week and decided that what I had in my closet would not do and I needed a new outfit. Fifteen minutes of midnight internet shopping later and I was set. I paid the extra $25 to expedite the shipping. When the package didn’t arrive as promised on Friday, I panicked. I called the shipping company to track the package and learned that my package had stalled in Chicago, where a pre-winter snow storm had stunned the city on Thursday. No phones, power outages, closed airports and my cashmere wrap was sitting in a box somewhere in a warehouse waiting for the weather to break.

I continued my desperate calls well into Friday night and learned that my package had made it out of the windy city and was en route to Savannah, but there was no way of knowing when it would arrive.

I woke up bright and early Saturday morning prepared to go shopping for appropriate wedding garb and was out and about when my cell phone rang. “Hi Courtney, this is Kenny at DHL in Savannah, I have your package in my hands would you like to come and pick it up?”

Impressive right? I have to imagine that with all of the shipping delays that occurred in the days prior that Kenny was probably up to his eyeballs in customer service back log. However, he picked up the phone and called me.

When I got to DHL I was met my Kenny, with a smile and a Southern drawl – “You have a great day ma’am.” As I left the DHL warehouse at the Savannah airport I noticed the hours posted on the door – Saturdays 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. It was 1:30 p.m., Kenny has stayed late for me. And I was misty-eyed once again.

So, I’m over my need for snow and once again in love with the Lowcountry, I don’t think you can find better people anywhere in the world.


Bluffton Today column, November 30.

Last Friday Joe and I headed to the movies. It seems that the day after Thanksgiving is our standing “movie date” each year. We hadn’t been since last November when we went for some relief from the in-laws (mine), and this year it was simply to do something other than battle the Christmas shopping crowds.

We settled in at the Sea Turtle for an afternoon showing of Bobby.

Rather than critique the movie, the popcorn or the seats, I wanted to share with you some excerpts from the ending dialogue of the movie. For some, it will be the first time you’ve read or heard these words. For others, it may be a reminder of what once was. But, for all of us it is the scary truth that history can indeed repeat itself.

“This is a time of shame and sorrow. It is not a day for politics. I have saved this one opportunity, my only event of today, to speak briefly to you about the mindless menace of violence in America which again stains our land and every one of our lives.

It is not the concern of any one race. The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. No one - no matter where he lives or what he does - can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on and on in this country of ours.

Why? What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? No martyr's cause has ever been stilled by an assassin's bullet.

No wrongs have ever been righted by riots and civil disorders. A sniper is only a coward, not a hero; and an uncontrolled, uncontrollable mob is only the voice of madness, not the voice of reason.

Whenever any American's life is taken by another American unnecessarily - whether it is done in the name of the law or in the defiance of the law, by one man or a gang, in cold blood or in passion, in an attack of violence or in response to violence - whenever we tear at the fabric of the life which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children, the whole nation is degraded.

"Among free men," said Abraham Lincoln, "there can be no successful appeal from the ballot to the bullet; and those who take such appeal are sure to lose their cause and pay the costs."

Yet we seemingly tolerate a rising level of violence that ignores our common humanity and our claims to civilization alike. We calmly accept newspaper reports of civilian slaughter in far-off lands. We glorify killing on movie and television screens and call it entertainment. We make it easy for men of all shades of sanity to acquire whatever weapons and ammunition they desire.

Too often we honor swagger and bluster and wielders of force; too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of others. Some Americans who preach non-violence abroad fail to practice it here at home. Some who accuse others of inciting riots have by their own conduct invited them.
Some look for scapegoats, others look for conspiracies, but this much is clear: violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation, and only a cleansing of our whole society can remove this sickness from our soul.

For there is another kind of violence, slower but just as deadly destructive as the shot or the bomb in the night. This is the violence of institutions; indifference and inaction and slow decay. This is the violence that afflicts the poor, that poisons relations between men because their skin has different colors. This is the slow destruction of a child by hunger, and schools without books and homes without heat in the winter.

This is the breaking of a man's spirit by denying him the chance to stand as a father and as a man among other men. And this too afflicts us all.

I have not come here to propose a set of specific remedies nor is there a single set. For a broad and adequate outline we know what must be done. When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies, to be met not with cooperation but with conquest; to be subjugated and mastered.

We learn, at the last, to look at our brothers as aliens, men with whom we share a city, but not a community; men bound to us in common dwelling, but not in common effort. We learn to share only a common fear, only a common desire to retreat from each other, only a common impulse to meet disagreement with force. For all this, there are no final answers.

Yet we know what we must do. It is to achieve true justice among our fellow citizens. The question is not what programs we should seek to enact. The question is whether we can find in our own midst and in our own hearts that leadership of humane purpose that will recognize the terrible truths of our existence.

We must admit the vanity of our false distinctions among men and learn to find our own advancement in the search for the advancement of others. We must admit in ourselves that our own children's future cannot be built on the misfortunes of others. We must recognize that this short life can neither be ennobled or enriched by hatred or revenge.

Our lives on this planet are too short and the work to be done too great to let this spirit flourish any longer in our land. Of course we cannot vanquish it with a program, nor with a resolution.
But we can perhaps remember, if only for a time, that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short moment of life; that they seek, as do we, nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and in happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can.

Surely, this bond of common faith, this bond of common goal, can begin to teach us something. Surely, we can learn, at least, to look at those around us as fellow men, and surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our own hearts brothers and countrymen once again.”

I’m not trying to make a political statement, just simply sharing the words of Robert F. Kennedy. Words that impacted me profoundly 38 years after they were first uttered. Think about it.

Excerpts from Robert F. Kennedy, The Mindless Menace of Violence

Friday, November 24, 2006

Local election hitting a sour note

In elementary school I participated in the school band. I can remember my parents making me practice “Mary Had a Little Lamb” over and over again. I also recall our Christmas concert, an ill-fated evening for one of the band members. We were well into the concert when Mr. Regney, our band director, could be heard whispering to young Bryan in the front row, “Play Bryan, play.”

Finally, we began to hear a squeak from Bryan. The squeak, however, was not from his violin strings, but instead the sound of his music stand being raised to hide his reddening face. Bryan had stage fright and tears running down his cheeks. He was mortified and worked diligently to maneuver that music stand in front of his face to spare himself some pain.

That was 20-something years ago and I remember that story often (it helps that we have it on videotape).

Ironically, local politics always makes me think about Bryan; he is now the public information officer for the town I grew up in. He is the mayor’s right-hand man and spends much of his time these days in the spotlight. And that is exactly where he belongs. In fact, all of our elected officials and their staff should be in the spotlight.

Now, what does Bryan have to do with Bluffton? For me Bryan is a symbol – he is the reason I try to be well informed, a responsibility that we should all share.

As Bluffton prepares for our local election on Dec. 5, I find myself wondering: Just who are the three candidates for Bluffton Town Council?

Other than some short bios on the candidates in the local papers, I haven’t seen these candidates out and about sharing their story or their desire to hold public office. Shouldn’t they be trying to gain our vote and educate us?

Willis Latham seems to have hit a minor bump in the road with questions regarding the reasons for his separation from the Bluffton Police Department after 10 years.
Willis, I beg you, send out a press release, stick a flier in my mailbox. Tell me something that will help me make my decision.

Thomas Heyward, where do you hang your hat? He tried a run once before, in 1998, but withdrew his name when it was realized that he wasn’t living in the Pine House in historic Bluffton. Second time is a charm?

Adding to my concern, I think a candidate should always ask themselves, “Have I ever failed to pay taxes when I was supposed to?” before deciding to run for office. If the answer is “no,” perhaps another career path should be considered. Mr. Heyward, how do you respond to someone who asks you this question?

From what I have seen, Charlie Wetmore has done the best job of educating the people. He has a Web site— - and although limited on content, you can get a sense for what Wetmore considers the important issues.

However, Wetmore has also blanketed the perimeter of my neighborhood (his neighborhood, too) with campaign signs, which I will admit has rubbed me the wrong way. (This becomes another issue and maybe fodder for another “what’s the deal with these POAs” column.)

If a winner was determined based on total campaign signs, Wetmore would win in a landslide. While a campaign sign offers name recognition it does not provide the cold, hard facts.

Bottom line? I long for good old-fashioned debates, public forums and grassroots, door-todoor campaigns. The “old days” allowed you to look a candidate in the eye, shake his hand and perhaps feel at ease.

There’s good news: The Hilton Head-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce and the League of Women Voters is hosting a candidates’ debate at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Bluffton High School.

Be diligent, Bluffton. Educate yourself. Get involved. And I challenge you — put North vs. South, illegal immigration, traffic patterns on U.S. 278 and Tom Kat’s wedding discussions on the shelf. Instead, spend the next 12 days learning about the candidates and asking questions.

Attend Wednesday’s debate.

Let’s make sure our elected officials and candidates are never caught hiding their faces again.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Puttin' on the Hits ...

“I’m all outta love
I’m so lost without you
I know you were right –
believin’ for so long
I’m all outta love …”

As I drove into work this morning I flipped the dial on the radio and was quickly transported back to the 1980s by singing these lyrics. There is nothing like a little Air Supply first thing in the morning to brighten your day. Seriously, singing Air Supply at the top of my lungs, brightens my day.

For thirty years I lived less than sixty miles from New York City and Philadelphia. You would think that with all of that art, culture, and theater at my finger tips I would be a culturally aware person. Sadly, I am not. No, I never visited Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall or saw a Philharmonic performance. (I have however, been to every sports stadium and arena in the tri-state area.)

I only ventured to see a Broadway show three times in my adult years and I am embarrassed to say that two of the shows were renditions of two of my favorite movies – Grease and Footloose. Pretty lame, I know.

On the music scene I was vaguely more in tune with what my options were. After all, in my twenties I lived and worked just miles from two of Jersey’s favorite sons. I met Bruce Springsteen on a number of occasions and of course saw him play a sold out Giants Stadium in 2003. To top that, Jon Bon Jovi was the keynote speaker at the graduation ceremonies when I received my master’s degree and I am the proud owner a photograph of me and him together – me in my cap and gown and he with his big hair (it was still big then) blowing in his face.

Now that I am twenty-thirteen (that’s 33 for the English majors), I got to thinking. It wouldn’t hurt to introduce a little culture into my life. Lucky for me, Doug Barry, CEO of the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra is one of my Leadership classmates, and he invited Joe and me to be his guests last weekend at the Orchestra’s “Big Band Bash.” The evening was a tribute to Frank Sinatra, which is how he sold me on the deal. Who doesn’t love Francis Albert, right?

The bash was held outdoors, under a tent at Honey Horn. You may recall that last Friday evening temperatures dipped into the low 40s, but the weather never fazed me or any of the four hundred other guests who came out for the event.

The Hilton Head Orchestra was amazing. I am definitely not a music expert (see Air Supply reference above) but I was entranced. I was sitting in the front row (thanks to my CEO contact – it really is all about who you know!) and was able to watch each musician and their process – the concentration on their faces, their furrowed brows, their toes tapping and even the trombone player’s use of the spit valve (amazing that he never hit his shoe).

Steve Lippia, a Connecticut native who started his career at four years old singing in his neighbor's, Mrs. Clemens, backyard had a startling voice – he sounded just like Frank. I have been to quite a few concerts in my day and I can honestly say that this is the first time I knew and loved every song that was sung. And of course, Steve finished his performance with “New York, New York” … and the crowd went wild. I guess even the natives enjoy a little reference to the Northeast now and again.

For more information about the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra, please visit their website at

Courtney Naughton is a Jersey Shore native who relocated to Bluffton. She is often spotted in her car singing eighties tunes. To sing along, contact her at

Monday, November 06, 2006

Giving Thanks

Darts to me.

Yes, I’ll admit it. I am one of those “meanies” who turned out the lights and avoided the trick or treaters. Not because I have an aversion to Halloween (I do have an aversion to people decorating their houses for Halloween complete with orange lights strung from every tree and eave, but that is another column all together), but because I have an over-protective dog who barks at (and scares) anyone who rings the bell. We like that our dog is protective, so rather than punish Darby on Halloween, we walk five houses down the street to my mom’s and we give out candy there.

Whew. I feel better getting that off my chest.

So, now that Halloween is in the bag, so to speak, we look toward Thanksgiving. I can’t believe it is a mere three weeks away. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It is one of the few holidays where gifts are not exchanged and the purpose is truly getting together with the ones you love and I take it seriously. Every since I received my November issue Martha Stewart Living in early October, I have been plotting the perfect day. My menu is set and my strict preparation schedule is in place.

I love entertaining and nothing makes me happier than seeing our house overflowing with people – enjoying good food, good drink and good friends. This year however, I am sad to report that the current status of my Thanksgiving table is a mere four chairs. My sister and family are traveling back to New Jersey, friends have new houses and new kitchens that they plan to utilize this year – so it looks like it may just be four of us. Four people for Thanksgiving is unacceptable in my mind – I need noise, activity, excitement. No offense Mom and Bob, but I still feel the need for more.

My original plan was to hold an essay contest “What I Would Bring to Courtney’s House for Thanksgiving Dinner” for the readers and I’d pick the winning essay to come to my house for Thanksgiving dinner. That idea lasted about three seconds. Thank you Joe for bringing me back to reality. (Although I must say I would still be interested in some response – it will, I am sure, make for great reading.)

Anyway, in an effort to bring some additional meaning to Thanksgiving this year, Joe and I decided to provide Thanksgiving dinner for a local family who would otherwise not be able to afford to put a feast on the table. Through Bluffton Self Help, Joe and I will receive the name and details about a Bluffton family in need. We will talk with the family before hand to find out their food favorites and determine what they need and then just prior to Turkey Day we will deliver to them a turkey and all the fixins to make their Thanksgiving Day one worth celebrating.

Looking for some hearts? Adopting a family for Thanksgiving will certainly earn you some points in my book. It is easy to do. Call Bluffton Self Help at 843.757.8000 and ask how you can help.

About Bluffton Self Help –
In 1987, a group of concerned Bluffton citizens under the leadership of Mrs. Ida Martin banded together and formed Bluffton Self Help, a non profit organization. Mrs. Martin and other residents discovered that many families and individuals in their community were struggling to meet their basic needs. Bluffton Self Help sought to respond to the needs of these families and individuals living in Bluffton. Since then, Bluffton Self Help has served countless individuals including adults and children, who otherwise may have continued to struggle to make ends meet.

The mission of Bluffton Self Help is to help those individuals in the greater Bluffton area, who are in need of short-term emergency assistance, by providing them with basic human needs (food, clothing, shelter, medicine) and encouraging them to be self-reliant.

For more details visit or stop in their offices at 1264 May River Road.

Courtney Naughton is a Jersey Shore native who relocated to Bluffton. Submissions to the “What I Would Bring to Courtney’s House for Thanksgiving Dinner” Essay Contest can be sent to

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Thrill of the Hunt

It was getting dark and I was anticipating that my guide would remark, “I’m calling it” as he typically did when dusk settled upon us and we have had no luck on our hunt. This evening though, was different.

As I waited for those three words that would end our hunt, my guide grabbed my elbow and instead whispered, “Deer in the field.” That was my cue. My heartbeat quickened as I moved in slow motion. I folded my right leg beneath me on my chair to give myself some added height. I lifted the gun from where it rested in the corner of the blind and painstakingly maneuvered it – onto my shoulder, through the slat in the blind.

I quickly ran through the “rules” in my mind … I released the safety, placed my finger gingerly on the trigger and looked through the scope. And, I couldn’t see a thing. I whispered to my guide for some help and he grabbed my shoulders to guide me in the right direction.

As if I wasn’t nervous enough, when the deer appeared between the cross hairs of the scope every sense was heightened. I could hear my own breathing as my guide reminded me what to do – don’t hold the scope to close to your eye or we’ll be stitching you up, center the cross hairs just below the deer’s shoulder, slowly squeeze the trigger. Check, check, check – I did it. I pulled the trigger.

Surprisingly, I barely heard the gun shot – it was silent compared to my practice round. It was after I pulled the trigger that I realized I was shaking and so was my guide who hands remained frozen on my shoulders. I think he was as shocked as I. (I’m quite certain that no one believed I would actually go through with it!)

“Did I get him?” I asked. “You got him, you got him,” my guide yelled. I think he was even more excited than I. He had successfully converted a Jersey Girl into a huntress. A task that very few thought he would accomplish, including myself and my husband. (He still calls me “killer”.)

I placed the gun back in the corner of the blind and followed my guide out into the field. He was walking so fast I could barely catch up. He told me to stay put, which thrilled me (note the sarcasm) since it was pitch black and I was in the middle of nowhere. I watched the light of his flashlight, so in case something started chasing me I would know which direction to run in. After what seemed like forever and was actually about thirty seconds, my guide called me over.

He asked me where I thought the deer went down. I pointed and by gosh, I was right. I picked up the blood trail with the flashlight and followed it into some brush, where the deer lay. My immediate reaction was, “oohhh”. I felt horrible. I was so sad. My guide was quick to remind me that we hunt for a reason – we hunt to cull the deer population. If we didn’t, the deer wouldn’t survive as there is not enough food or resources for a large population, so we keep the population in check.

The ride back to our meeting point was silent, I was still debating whether I had done a bad thing or not. Once we re-joined the group, spirits were high. I was the only one who got a deer that afternoon, on the last day of the season. And since it was my first, I was treated to a ritual – blood from my first deer was smeared on my cheeks and my nose, like war paint - paint that I proudly wore as I promptly got in my car and drove right over to my mom’s house where the rest of the family was having dinner. I just couldn’t resist!

This experience took place during last years hunting season. However, I remember it like it was yesterday. As the fall air chills - much to my own surprise - it seems I have a hankering for going hunting again. Who knew?

Courtney Naughton is a Jersey Shore native who relocated to Bluffton. She is currently the proud owner of a pair of camouflage pants. Courtney can be reached at

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Fido for President

I need you to help me understand something.

Three to four thousand people attended the Shelter Party and Treat Fest last weekend. This is a remarkable number and I am thrilled that the Palmetto Animal League is receiving such great support. I am, after all a dog lover at heart. However, I have to admit that this number shocks me.

Let’s review… On November 15, 2005, 265 Bluffton voters came out for our local election. This was a mere 22% of the nearly 1200 registered voters.

We throw a party for pets and thousands come out of the woodwork. Let’s be conservative and estimate that 40% of Pet Party attendees were adults of voting age. Then, let’s assume that there were 3,500 people in attendance. That means that 1,400 people woke up in the morning, took a shower, ate breakfast, grabbed a leash, treats, and poop bags, loaded the dog into the car and drove to the event.

How come 1,400 people can’t be moved to wake up on Election Day, take a shower, eat breakfast and head to the polls? Imagine the ease of not having to bring the dog with you. Heck, it is so easy to vote. Why aren’t more of us taking advantage of our right to vote?

If all of the adults who attended the Shelter Party were registered and voted in the upcoming elections, we would see a 528% increase in numbers at the polls. That is an impressive number.

Moving on … here is a sample of topics discussed in the VOX and blogs in the last week:

Those damn left-wing liberals.
Those damn right-wing conservatives.
Those damn Yankees.
Those damn illegal immigrants.
Those damn Sun City-ers.
That damn Bluffton Parkway.
That damn Sheriff.

With 2 available seats on the Bluffton Town Council, how come we aren’t discussing the candidates? There are two so far. Do you know who they are? And why pray tell is no one else stepping up to the plate?

Have you heard? Our Governor is up for re-election. How come we aren’t debating the merits of Governor Sanford and his opponent Tommy Moore?

With our U.S. Representative seat on the ballot this year, how come we aren’t discussing incumbent Joe Wilson and Michael Ray Ellisor.

Voter apathy in Bluffton is an epidemic.

Let’s put our energies into something positive, something that we do have control over. Get off your damn derrieres and vote on November 7 for the state and national races. And, if you would be so kind please vote again on December 5 for our local races.

Oh did I mention that we have two Election Days in Bluffton? I am amazed that with the rampant voter apathy in Bluffton the decision was made to keep two separate elections days in the town. (All so recently annexed residents could experience two elections. Whoopee!) The good news is in 2007, we only have to wake up one morning, take a shower, eat breakfast and vote. What a relief that will be.

Courtney Naughton is a Jersey Shore native who relocated to Bluffton. This damn Yankee is really peeved by the voter apathy in Bluffton. Courtney can be reached at

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Dear Mr. Politican

One of the things that impacted my life most when I moved from New Jersey to South Carolina was the lack of the legislation that I mention in the letter below, which I sent to Representative Bill Herbkersman a couple weeks ago.

Dear Mr. Herbkersman:

I am writing to request that you sponsor legislation that would require insurance companies to provide coverage for infertility treatment. Currently, 15 states throughout the country require or encourage some type of infertility treatment.

Infertility is a medically recognized disease that affects men and women equally. Still, many insurance companies do not provide coverage for treatment to overcome this disease, but single out infertility for exclusion. I find this to be discriminatory. Well-managed insurance coverage will not place a large burden on insurance companies. Studies have shown that infertility coverage may actually reduce costs by limiting costly treatments that have low rates of success in treating the underlying problem.

In fact, a recent employer survey conducted by the consulting firm William M. Mercer found that 91 percent of respondents offering infertility treatment have not experienced an increase in their medical costs as a result of providing this coverage.

Insurers argue that bearing children is a lifestyle choice. In fact it is. But it is not a choice to have a disease that prevents a person from having the option to bear children.

My own personal battle is that both of my fallopian tubes have been removed due to ectopic pregnancies. During an ectopic pregnancy the baby doesn't make it to the uterus and instead begins to grow in the fallopian tube, until the tube bursts, killing the baby and causing the expectant mom to bleed internally, severely and rapidly. If the woman does not get immediate medical attention, she will die. I have gone through this horror twice, almost losing my life, losing two children and both of my fallopian tubes. The only way I can become pregnant is through in vitro fertilization.

Insurers raise concerns about some treatments and the possibility of multiple births and the associated costs. Reproductive doctors are careful to help couples minimize the risks associated with multiple births. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (Aug 29, 2002) concludes that the incidence of multiple births is actually lower in states that have enacted an infertility insurance requirement than in states without coverage. Why? Because couples with insurance coverage are free to make purely medical decisions when pursuing some infertility treatments, as opposed to other couples who must also weigh financial considerations that often result in medical risk taking, multiple births and a high rate of complications during and post-pregnancy.

In 1998, the United States Supreme Court ruled that reproduction is a major life activity under the "Americans with Disabilities Act." This ruling demonstrates the importance of reproduction and the impact that infertility, in which the ability to reproduce is impaired, has on the lives of men and women.

Many affected by infertility do not feel comfortable speaking publicly about this very private struggle, but we represent all racial, religious, and ethnic groups, as well as both sexes. We are neighbors, co-workers, friends and relatives, and we just want to experience the joy of raising families without having to bankrupt ourselves in the process. I am willing to tell my story and would encourage you to call upon me anytime.

Please support infertility coverage legislation and help fulfill the dreams of thousands of couples waiting for a family to love.

Courtney Naughton

I was extremely encouraged by the response I received from Mr. Herbkersman, who emailed me within a day and began researching the issue. I hope that Joe and I have the opportunity to work with him and champion this cause.

Statistics tell us that one in every eight couples suffer from some form of infertility. So look around. Chances are some of your friends, your co-workers, or your family members may be interested in learning more. This legislation, while worth ten of thousands of dollars to the folks who need it, is in fact in the end – priceless.

Courtney Naughton is a Jersey Shore native who relocated to Bluffton. The 17th Annual National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW) is October 29-November 4, 2006. More details on the issue can be found online at Courtney can be reached at

Monday, October 09, 2006

Snakes on the Brain

“Um hun, I think you are going to want to change your shoes for this.” That wasn’t a good sign for a flip-flop loving girl just looking for a little excitement on a weekday. It is safe to say that I was a little out of my element a few weeks ago when I embarked on a wildlife expedition.

Due to the diverse group of friends I have made since I arrived, I once again found myself in the middle of the woods (ok, a nature preserve) on a mission. Our purpose – rattlesnake management. The idea was sprung on me merely a day in advance and without enough information to make an education decision, I agreed.

The outing started like this. The back door of a pick up truck swung open and I was invited to jump in. “Not a chance” I remarked as I noticed the white covered bucket labeled “venomous” strapped into the backseat. I slowly backed away and hitched a ride in a non-venomous vehicle.

We drove a few miles into what I lovingly describe as “the middle of nowhere” and we unloaded. We bug-sprayed from head to toe and I watched mesmerized as our leader dubbed “The Snake Girl” gathered her rattlesnake tracking paraphernalia.

Allow me to elaborate. The Snake Girl is a Herpetologist, working with the Savannah River Ecology Lab. There, she derived a research project working with rattlesnakes to determine how different rattlesnake species are affected by development and how these creatures react in our environment throughout the year. She captures rattlesnakes and takes them to a Veterinarian, where they undergo surgery to have transmitters implanted into their body cavities. Once these snakes have fully recovered from their ordeal, they are released back into the wild in the same spot they where captured. The Snake Girl then monitors these snakes for several years before, during, and after development and construction of particular areas.

Now back to the mission. The Snake Girl is now leading us through the woods. She carries a transmitter and large antennae in an effort to pick up the frequency of a recently released snake. We walk for about ten minutes (I was at the back of the pack) slowly following the beep, beep, beep. As the signal gets stronger we are warned that we are coming up on the rattlesnake and we should watch where we walk. (Feeling a little freaked out right about now.) Everyone stills and scans the ground. “Oh look, there he is,” comments the Snake Girl as if we’ve just stumbled upon a friend who we lost in the mall.

And sure enough coiled beneath a pile of leaves and twigs was our rattlesnake, I believe his name is Jay. It seems he has moved since the last spotting and the Snake Girl ties a marker around the closest tree and dates it. This is how she continues to track his movement.

Whew, it’s over. We are back at the trucks and then it hits me. We still have the issue of the venomous snake in the white bucket that has recently been implanted with a transmitter and needs to be released. Woo hoo!

So, we turned around and headed back into nowhere to find a good spot to release our venomous friend. We were told that there were two possible scenarios once the bucket was opened. In Scenario #1, the snake is a little agitated and will rattle something good, probably scaring the heck out of me. In Scenario #2, the snake high tails it (no pun intended) out of there and makes him self comfortable in his environment.

We were lucky to see a little of both. The lid came off, there was some definite rattling and then we watched this amazing creature move smoothly into the ground cover and back home. The Snake Girl marked the tree where he was released and she will continue to track him among his other friends.

This was such an interesting project to witness. And with all of the development taking place in the Lowcountry, it was refreshing to spend time with a group of wildlife experts who’s focus is on ensuring that humans and wildlife can continue to cohabitate.

Ah, just another day in the life of a converted Carolina girl.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Drivers Ed

I got my drivers license two days after my seventeenth birthday, with no restrictions. (The law in NJ is now 16 for a learner’s permit, 17 for your provisional license, and 18 years old for the real deal – not that NJ is better than SC.) A few months later I finally got a car. And minutes after signing the paperwork, I was headed out for a night on the town.

That first outing in my own set of terribly un-cool wheels went like this. Rather than waiting in line to make a left hand turn at the big intersection, I did what everybody did and cut through the parking lot of the movie theater. With no clear entrance and exit lanes cutting through this parking lot was always precarious at best. Well, the car in front of me stopped and started backing up. So, I started backing up and hit the car behind me. I guess I “front-ended” him. Talk about a panic attack. I’d been street legal for all of one hour and already I’d had my first car accident. Thankfully no damage was done and I didn’t have to tell my parents. Well, until now.

I had my fair share (4ish) minor fender benders in my first few years as a licensed driver. Some did require telling my parents and a bit of body work (the car, not me). And it took awhile before I really understood the rules of the road.

I can remember driving with my father and him telling me to slow down. My response was “Dad, the speed limit is 40.” And he said, “yes, but the car in front of you is only going 35.” It still makes me laugh … and realize that we really need to be aware of the drivers who are sharing the road with us.
And, whenever Mom was a passenger in my car and I would be yelling at a careless driver she would warn me, “one day someone is going to pull out a gun and shoot you, you never know who these people are.” Well Mom, you were right.

Last Sunday I attended a party and the topic of road rage came up. We of course discussed the recent incident with the Sun City gentleman who was unnecessarily a target of violence. Then, I heard this story from a friend …

“I was driving down S.C. 170 earlier today and a white GMC Yukon flew past me and cut me off. I noticed that the plates were Legislature plates – S.C. Legislature Plate #97. He was doing 80 mph and talking on his cell phone!” (Yes, my friend sped up and broke the law to read the license plate.)

My immediate response was “you should have called the VOX!” and he said, “I did.” And his VOX comment made a really great point - after all, if we can’t keep our legislators abiding the laws, how can we get them to create the laws that will help our public good?

I don’t know the answer and since only 20% of us vote, I’m not sure that anyone actually cares, but consider this:

• In South Carolina the minimum Permit age is 15 years.
• The minimum License age (with provisions on nighttime driving) is 15 years, 3 months
• Full driving privileges begin at 16, if the provisional license has been held for one year and there are no violations of at-fault accidents on the teen's driving record.

At the risk of creating an uproar in high school lunchrooms across the county, I have to ask, is 15 years old too young to be driving a car? I say, yes.

Courtney Naughton is a Jersey Shore native who relocated to Bluffton. Since moving here she has shaved 100 miles off of her daily commute and hasn’t yelled at a fellow driver in eighteen months. She can be reached at

Friday, September 22, 2006

Someone is snoring and I don’t know who!

Have you ever woken up in a foreign place? The bed doesn’t feel quite right, the sheets are definitely not yours. You are not really sure of your surroundings so you slowly look around to get your bearings.

That was me last Saturday morning. When I finally wiped the sleep from eyes and remembered where I was, I smiled. I was at the Penn Center on St. Helena Island. My mission: a leadership retreat.

An ordinary Saturday morning would not see me waking at 7:00 a.m. to don my sweats and sneaks in preparation for a 3-hour outdoor “ropes course” experience. But this week was different. Together with my seventeen Leadership Hilton Head Island-Bluffton classmates I enjoyed a two-day journey of leadership and fellowship.

Started by the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce in 1985, the Leadership program was designed to “cultivate leadership resources within the community by giving participants the opportunity to study and experience the Hilton Head Island, Bluffton, Okatie and Daufuskie Island communities their history, government, economy, human services and culture.”

Our two-day retreat began on Friday afternoon. We all met at the Chamber Offices for the hour ride to The Penn Center. I made the mistake of sitting in the middle of the bus, and spent too much time turned around in my seat chatting. I was never so happy to reach solid ground … another few miles and my introduction to my classmates would not have been pretty (it would have been chunky – that was gross, I apologize).

Anyway, once at The Penn Center we had an hour to explore on our own. If you have never made the trek to this historical landmark you need to; it is the site of one of the country's first schools for freed slaves and one of the most significant African American historical and cultural institutions in existence today. “It sits at the heart of Gullah culture, on the 50 acres of the historical campus of Penn School. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1974, it is a part of the Penn School Historic District which is comprised of nineteen buildings related to and used by Penn School--Brick Church, Darrah Hall, one of the oldest buildings on St. Helena Island, old burial grounds, Gantt Cottage where Martin Luther King Jr. lodged, a Nature Trail, Chowan Creek, acres of pines, native flora and fauna.”

Touring the Penn Center was a humbling experience and one I won’t soon forget.

After the tour, we re-grouped and participated in workshops on business ethics, leadership, management and Robert’s Rules of Order, working well into the night.

As I mentioned, Saturday morning we rose early ready to endure three hours in the woods – as a group we tackled tasks that tested our minds and our bodies. I think it is safe to say that we learned a lot about each other through that experience. It was exhilarating to participate and even more interesting to sit on the periphery and just watch the class in action.

My class of eighteen is as diverse as they come, but that is the beauty of the program. I’ll spend a year with my classmates meeting monthly for scheduled programs and based on the fun we had at the retreat I imagine that I will be seeing them all beyond the program requirements.

It is only appropriate that I give credit to the amazing group who will share this journey with me: Kim Abbott, USCB South Campus; Doug Barry, Hilton Head Orchestra; Maria Bell, Coastal Gastroenterology and Core Business Strategies; Barbara Conway, Hilton Head Regional Medical Center; Archer Crose, Coastal Mortgage Company of SC; Amanda English, Hilton Head Plantation POA; Michael Ethridge, Wood + Partners; Karen Golden, Dunes Marketing Group; Nicole Guy, Low Country Adventures; Andrew Jablonecki, SOS Marketing; Carolyn Kraus, Atlantic Community Bank; Trip LaCoste, First Citizens Bank; Angela Mullis, Charter I Realty & Marketing; Allyson Reaves, Community Foundation of the Lowcountry; Huntley Tarleton, Bank of America; Donnie Jo Thibault, Beach First National Bank and André White, Main Street Realty/Wallstar Development Co.

And to Laura Wolf, Special Events and Projects Manager for the Chamber, who will be our fearless leader for the next year.

Suffice it to say, the program is the perfect introduction for a newcomer. There is a one-year residency requirement and an application and interview process, but the results are beyond rewarding. For more information on Leadership Hilton Head Island-Bluffton call 843.341.8377.

P.S. A requirement of the program is a year-long Class Project. Stay tuned for more details as I am sure I will be rallying y’all for support of our initiative.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Lowcountry Living, I love it so ...

A group of Bluffton’s concerned citizens have joined together for the second year to present the Bluffton Arts & Seafood Festival. I am honored to be a part of the committee this year as the event is a natural for Bluffton, a town whose allure includes a diverse mix of artisans and the best shrimp and oysters on the East Coast.

Last year, the festival was on a crisp Saturday, one of Bluffton’s first fall days. Well, fall as I know it - sweaters, jeans, and a chill in the air as the sun goes down. I gathered with a group of friends at the Oyster Company in the late afternoon and watched the sun set - casting a spectacular red/orange light that danced across the May River.

I remember it like it was yesterday, that day I created a memory. There were oys

ter shells beneath my feet, the scent of the river and marsh in the air, and a cold beer in my hand. The hum of the crowd barely broke my reverie as I was so content in my surroundings. That memory is my answer to a question that I am asked often, “Why did you choose Bluffton as your home?” That one day delivered all that I have sought in a new hometown.

According to festival organizer, Dan Wood, “Festivals are like magnets, they attract the young and old, rich and poor, locals and transplants, all to celebrate their community.” I couldn’t have said it better. (Well maybe, but Dan deserves the credit for this one!)

The success of last year’s event moved the committee to expand the event to a full weekend this year, scheduled for Friday, October 27- Sunday, October 29. On Friday evening, you are invited to a V.I.P. reception – “Pop an Oyster with Champagne” at the Bluffton Oyster Company. Tickets are $100.

A full day of activities is planned for Saturday including: a 5K morning run through Historic Bluffton (I convinced Joe this morning that we should give it a go, hopefully paramedics will be on site); environmental exhibits; kayak and boat tours; and food, art and music showcases on Calhoun Street. A fireworks finale will accompany the sunset. A blessing of the fleet will round out Sunday.

The Festival was created last year in response to the citizens of Bluffton who have expressed a great passion for protecting and maintaining the pristine quality of the May River and the historic Bluffton Oyster Company. The event creators tell me, “As Bluffton continues to grow it is paramount that we continue to introduce our citizens, old and new, to these precious Bluffton gems. A portion of the proceeds raised through the event are earmarked for the protection of the May River, and to assist in establishing a Bluffton Oyster Company Public Park for the enjoyment of generations to come.”

Support for the event from the community has been strong - Bluffton Today (shameless plug), Coastal Carolina Medical Center and Hilton Head Regional Medical Center have all committed to major sponsorships – but we still need your help. Sponsorships ranging from $50 - $10,000 are available and a great way for local businesses to spread their word and support a great cause.

For further details on V.I.P. tickets and sponsorship, and the full schedule of events visit or call 843.815.6278.

The mission of the Arts & Seafood Festival is to help further a sense of community in Bluffton; and to increase tourism, which will benefit residents, local merchants and artists alike. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who disagrees.

Courtney Naughton is a Jersey Shore native who relocated to Bluffton. She disagrees with those who think NJ is the armpit of the country, but will agree with anyone who says that the South Carolina Lowcountry is paradise. She can be reached at

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Puppy Love

Puppy Love

While trolling the blogosphere last week in search of a column idea, I came across the following:

“I know this is going to pi$$ a lot of people off, but I don't really care at this point.

First off let me say that I love dogs. Since I was three there has never been a time where I haven't had a dog. Now cats on the other hand are useless in my opinion, but that's just my opinion. I totally respect people who love cats.

Now that I said that, it's really freaky how several people on this blog go on and on about dogs.

People, get a life. A dog is not a child, baby or a replacement husband in your sad marriage. A dog is a dog.”

It is no secret that Blufftonians love their dogs. Non-dog people just don’t understand our affinity for our beloved pups. To them, I say…

Think about the couple who wants nothing more than to have a child.

They have tried unsuccessfully for five years.

They have explored every medical option available.

The woman has undergone numerous procedures and surgeries.

The man watches helplessly as his wife cries each time there is another failure, another loss. He sheds silent tears as he tries to be strong for her.

Together they have watched their friends and siblings start families.

Together they endure Mother’s Day and Father’s Day knowing that they would be honored on these days, if only they hadn’t lost so much.

And then, there are the days when they come from work and without fail there is someone waiting at the door for them. He is always happy to see them. He protects them. He shares in their excitement when they have good news. And, he climbs on their lap and rests his head on their shoulder when they are down. He is one of their best friends. He is their dog.

For some folks, their dog is just like another member of the family. He is loved, he is honored, and he is needed.

I love going to “Wines Etc.” and “Liquors Too” in the Publix plaza, where you are greeted at the door by one of the owner’s five pups – all named for South Carolina and Georgia towns.

It tickles me to see dogs at the bow of their master’s boat heading down the May River; or in the passenger seat of a pick-up truck, head out the window, slobber flying in the wind.

I commend the people in our community who fight for “doggie rights.”

Kudos to Karen Wilkins, who fosters as many dogs as she can fit on her farm. She nurses them to health, and she spends her weekends at Pet Smart hoping to find homes for her brood. She does this as a volunteer and deserves our continued thanks.

Congratulations to the new Palmetto Animal League (formerly Bluffton Humane Association), President Amy Moberly and the many volunteers (and generous donors) behind the scenes who have launched a fundraising effort to build a shelter in Hardeeville, to house our less fortunate furry friends. Support them at their October 14 “Treat Fest” - more details are available at

As I drove home from work a few nights ago, I saw a dead dog on the side of the road and I cried. I cried for the dog. I cried for his owner who will miss him dearly. I cried for the poor soul who hit him and left him on the side of the road. I cried for the joy my dog brings me, in the face of my loss. Yes, that couple I write about includes me.

Courtney Naughton is a Jersey Shore native who relocated to Bluffton. Don’t give her any sh$$ about this column, ok? You can reach her at

Sunday, September 03, 2006

We Live in a Fantasy World

Well, I have the 11th draft pick in my fantasy football league, which I have come to learn, means that I will have the 11th best running back. Now, I really don’t follow football, but it was the brainchild of Joe that if we join a fantasy league together, we will watch the games together, and I won’t be able to complain about our satellite television bill, which includes the football package. A smart man, indeed!

So, our league draft is scheduled for tomorrow, which means I have a few hours left to print out some cheat sheets. As I watch the emails fly between my league mates – four from Bluffton and eight from New Jersey – I am amazed by the amount of time that is being dedicated to this endeavor. There is nothing “real” about this (hence the name fantasy) but the need to “win” this “fake” league abounds. And, that got me thinking.

Wouldn’t it be fun if we could apply the fantasy sports model to other things?

In fantasy politics we would be able to pick our own candidates and see them through the election. My fantasy politics league would be the Beaufort County Council. I would draft a challenger for the District 4 (Bluffton) seat to run in the November elections as a write-in candidate. The Republican candidate, Wm. Weston Newton, is moving from District 3 (Hilton Head) and looking to fill the spot vacated by Peter Lamb earlier this year. He is running unopposed.

We have so many people in Bluffton with great ideas and strong voices. While it is too late to file to be officially on the ballot, in this day and age of electronic media, a write-in candidate could run a virtual
campaign and see success. Is anyone game?

Think about it Bluffton, only 265 voters turned out last November for our election (and only 280 votes were cast in 2004). So, theoretically, if we err on the cautious side, a candidate would only need approximately 150 votes to win the County Council seat. It isn’t a far fetched idea.

As I have previously disclaimed, I am politically challenged. However, for me this is about choices. Our system allows us the opportunity to make choices on Election Day. Why don't we take advantage of this right we enjoy and do something about it? Just a thought.

On a lighter note …

In my fantasy television world, “Celebrity Duets” would not be a show and Joan Rivers would not be allowed to host another awards show – how is it that after thirty years at it, she still doesn’t know who the
stars are?

In fantasy happy hour land, beers at Pepper’s Porch are $1 each and $3 pitcher. In reality, the prices have gone up. My trek there last Friday night ended up costing $1.50 per beer and $5 per pitcher. Still a deal in my book but wow, how quickly things change.

Courtney Naughton is a Jersey Shore native who relocated to Bluffton. This column is in no way intended to insight any riots. If you are interested in the idea of a write-in candidate for Beaufort County Council, contact Courtney via email at

Sunday, August 27, 2006

A Year of Courtney

Well, I’ve made it. One year of meanderings about Bluffton and Lowcountry happenings, hot spots, not spots, and a little controversy thrown in for good measure.

So, it wouldn’t be a fitting anniversary celebration (thanks for all of the cards and flowers by the way) without a re-cap of the last 365 days, so here goes. What did this Yankee learn during her first year in Bluffton?

Southerner’s have a special way about them, as evidenced by our move to South Carolina. When our moving van broke down on I95 in North Carolina, a Southern Gentlemen escorted us, our three pets, our two cars, and one 26 foot moving van, to our new hometown.

Don’t pack the plunger, unless you have clearly labeled the box that it is traveling in. Chances are you’ll need it before all of the bathroom boxes are unpacked. (Especially if you’ve bought a brand new home, takes a little time for those pipes to get up to speed.)

The New Jersey DMV could take some lessons from the SCDMV. The experience was actually a pleasure.

Bluffton High School football offers the community the opportunity to leave their differences at the gate and be part of the same team, if only for a few hours.

R, R, R is for Oyster, oyster, oyster. (Months with “R” in them are oyster months.) Never had an oyster before I moved here yet I find myself counting the days until May River oysters are back in season.

You could miss fall, if you don’t pay really close attention. The good news, however, is that your mums can virtually pass as perennials (ours did). Your pumpkins, on the other hand, may suffer an unkind fate falling victim to the bright fall sun.

Starting your day at the Bluffton Coffee House, where you not only get good coffee, but great conversation can make you smile all the way to work. It is so nice to see the same faces week after week – old friends and new.

The smell of the May River is intoxicating, however pluff mud, not so much.

Jersey Mike’s subs are the perfect cure for brief bouts of home sickness.

No frozen fingers or toes when hanging your holiday decorations. Heck, its still seventy degrees out!

Finding a new hairdresser, a new dry cleaner, or a new circle of friends is difficult. But, if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. (On the latter, if all else fails, wear a sign that exhibits your personality profile in the hopes of meeting a good match.)

Grits come in two varieties … the kind you eat and the Girls Raised in the South. Get to know and respect both.

Property Owner Associations abound. Learn the rules, abide by the rules and report the folks who don’t? I still haven’t figured out the answer to the POA puzzle, I want a nice neighborhood, but I don’t want to live in Pleasantville. What’s a control freak to do?

Get out of Bluffton every once and awhile and explore Savannah, Charleston, Beaufort. It is fun to play tourist for the day. Or play tourist closer to home by strolling Calhoun Street or braving the beaches of Hilton Head.

And, finally … no matter what you do, never, and I mean never, knock pancakes or NASCAR. It just won’t be pretty!

Now, what to do for the next fifty-two weeks … any ideas?

Friday, August 18, 2006

Happy Hour Hot Three

"Within the South itself, no other form of cultural expression, not even music, is as distinctively characteristic of the region as the spreading of a feast of native food and drink before a gathering of kin and friends."
- John Edgerton, from "Southern Food”

After much research, and a number of hours imbibing, I am excited to unveil my happy hour top three hit list. My first instinct was to try to for a top 10 list, but the time and effort involved could have been detrimental to my health (and I don’t get reimbursed for expenses).

#3. MiTierra
Dr. Mellinchamp Drive, Bluffton
After surviving a minor hiccup earlier this year and a temporary loss of their liquor license, MiTierra is back. I’ve mentioned them before and I stand by my claim that MiTierra is a perfect spot for an after work happy hour. The frozen margaritas are a treat. As a connoisseur (or so I thought) of the frozen concoction, I was also surprisingly pleased by their margarita on the rocks, I may be a convert.

What I like best is that you can grab a table with the goal of only enjoying a few drinks and there is never any pressure to order a meal. The waitresses keep the chips (always warm and right out of the kitchen) and the homemade salsa (a cilantro lover’s dream) coming all night.

No worries about the disrupting the diners with bouts of laughter or loud conversation. The bar sits in a separate room, perfect for the office crowd to get together and complain about their day and their boss, which I of course, never do.

# 2. Myrtles Bar & Grill
Bruin Road, Bluffton
Myrtles is a perfect Thursday night stop because … oh yes, its ladies night and the feeling’s right, oh what a night, ooohhh what a night. (Any one else picturing John Lovitz in the Wedding Singer right now, or is that movie moment mine alone?)

Some of the girls from work and I dropped by to test out the $3 martini menu. As we perused the menu for appetizers, the bartender informed us that he was the Chef and everything on the menu was, of course, delicious. He went on to tell us that he worked the bar on Thursdays because they needed a good looking guy for ladies night – humor and talent, what a combination!

Anyway, much to my delight, the martini menu included a margarita (see number 3 for my love of margaritas) and it was perfect. The glasses seemed to get bigger with each round, but that could have just been us. I had three and had to leave before I felt the need to spend the night sleeping on the sidewalk at Myrtle’s.

Appetizers were great too, we sampled the spinach dip – warm, cheesy, and definitely in the comfort food family, the friend oysters and fried calamari. All were spectacular. (I guess the Chef really isn’t needed in the kitchen on Thursdays.)

As a bonus, J. Howard Duff plays the blues from 7:30 until 10:30 PM.

Drum roll, please ...

1. Pepper’s Porch
May River Road / Route 46, Bluffton
Rounding out the top three, at number one is Pepper’s Porch. We’ve been heading to Pepper’s most Fridays this summer. The new Back Bar opened a couple of months ago and the outdoor venue is a hit! I could sum it all up in two words – dollar beers.

Yes, you read correctly, happy hour on Friday nights ‘til 7:00 p.m. features $1 beers, and $3 pitchers. Carolina Blonde, on tap, is amazingly refreshing and not beer bitter.

The interior of the Back Bar feature a couple televisions, dart board, disco ball and a pole, which I’ll admit is a bit suspect. I have never seen the pole utilized, probably because I am home in bed before its starts to see an action. For all know it could be a support beam, but it adds an interesting element nonetheless.

The outside tables sit upon a bed of oyster shells and fill up quickly on Friday. The full menu is served outside but if its finger foods you desire, try the fried pickles and peel and eat shrimp.

At 7:00 p.m. “Snow Bird Mike” hits the stage with his guitar and plays classic rock hits from the Eagles to Bread, perfect for singing along.

Pepper’s Porch screams Lowcountry and that is what makes it a hit in my book. So, maybe I’ll see you there? You can buy me a beer. Cheers!

Courtney Naughton is a Jersey Shore native who relocated to Bluffton. She is really quite responsible and has not tested the beer or margaritas at every establishment in Bluffton. Give her another year.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Bookworms Unite!

When I made my first holy communion, I was selected by our Pastor to do a reading during the church service. My mom loves to tell the story about little seven year old me, in my white dress and veil, standing on the altar looking out at the congregation of hundreds of people. I was the best reader in the 2nd grade and this was my reward.

What my mom doesn’t know and what I remember most about the day is this … I wanted to cry. I remember standing up there and debating in my mind should I cry or should I keep reading? I chose the later, and thank goodness I did, or my mom’s story would be very different – ending with me hiccupping and red in the face with swollen eyes.

Fast forward twenty something years and I still love to read. And good news - when I am in front of a crowd I still manage to read without crying. My true passion however is curling up with a good book – spending weekends swinging in the hammock when the weather is right and toasting in front of the fireplace for the couple of months that bring a chill to the air.

I have seen and heard a number of discussions regarding the things that we would like to see in Bluffton. I only have one thing on my list - a book store. (If there is a book store in Bluffton and I’ve missed it, please let me know!)

Yes, I am lazy, but I hate driving to Hilton Head after work on weekdays and risk getting stuck in bridge traffic on the way back to Bluffton. Saturdays on the Island offer even less appeal with checking in and checking out tourists clogging the roadways. Sometimes I will make the trip to Barnes and Noble on a Sunday. And when I do, it is like going to a spa – it is comfortable and relaxing, and you can talk out loud without being shushed. In case you haven’t noticed, I have a lot on my mind that I like to share now and again, so the Library isn’t the best spot for me.

I browse the book aisle in the supermarkets and in Wal-Mart and Target, and my response much too often is …read it, read it, don’t want to read it, etc.

But, think about how much easier life would be if we had our own book store in Bluffton. I have a growing list of friends who are longing for a convenient way to get books, so I throw this idea out there to all of you - an idea that definitely needs some fine tuning from anyone who feels the same way I do.

What do you think about a Bluffton book swap? This could be an opportunity for us to get rid of the books we feel comfortable parting with and a greater opportunity to discover new authors and a little bit more about our neighbors.

I know I have two or three healthy boxes of books that I’d love to share. In addition, I have moved with Joe three times and each time we have packed up boxes of his enormous political and history book collection, none of which I have ever seen him crack open. (I think they were an accessory to lure me in! Love you honey.)

A book swap would offer some of the connectedness of a book club without the commitment.

Can we do this? Am I out of my mind? Is there space for this in an existing business? Does the swap include a minimal fee - on the honor system – that we can contribute to help our neighbors and friends in need? How can we satisfy our book fix and give back to the community?

This is a very rough idea, but one that I feel strongly about (and my friend Karen urged me to write about). If you think we could make this work, drop me a line. If nothing else, perhaps this has rejuvenated your interest in reading and your circle of friends may give a book swap a whirl.

Courtney Naughton is a Jersey Shore native who re-located to Bluffton. She hasn’t stopped reading or talking since her public speaking debut 26 years ago. You can reach her at

Friday, August 04, 2006

Sticks and Stones

I went out of town for 11 days and returned to some hateful and downright mean emails. Then I made the mistake of checking the vox and blogs where I found a number of colorful comments about me, because I expressed my opinion. Sorry folks, I don’t get NASCAR, but I recognize its importance as a sport and that is why I wrote about it. I also don’t like to watch ice hockey – big, bulky guys hitting a small puck just don’t do it for me. Guess this means I am anti-Canadian too?

It seems that if my column has both the words North and South in it (as it almost always does because that is the purpose of my column), I must be making fun of Southerners and touting the superiority of Northerners. Well, it hasn’t happened that way yet, and it won’t.

When I signed on with Bluffton Today to write a weekly column, I thought it would be fun. This isn’t my full-time job and honestly they pay me peanuts, but I thought it would be a great way to get to know my new hometown and the people in it. My goal here is to share my experiences as a Northerner living in the South. That is what I am paid to do. I talk about the places I go, the people I meet, the things I see, and adjusting to a new lifestyle.

If you hate me, fine. If you love to hate me, that’s fine too. But, rather than telling me to go home, or calling me an uppity Yankee b*&%!, how about you re-read the column and talk to me about what I really wrote about, not what you imagine my perception to be. Or, here’s an idea -- you could just turn the page! However, if your purpose is to get under my skin, which I suspect it is, I’ll never convince you otherwise.

To Alice in Wonderland’s friend in the “blogosphere” who found it necessary to research me and my personal life further – I wish I had the free time that you do.

To those of you who claim to “know me” – I don’t know any cartoon characters so, as far as I can tell we are not acquaintances.

Now most importantly, for the many Blufftonians who send me funny emails and share their stories, experiences, and ideas, thank you. You make me smile every day!

So, since we all have to learn to live together – here’s an idea for some G-Rated fun:

Tuesday nights throughout August at Berkeley Place on Buckwalter, The Headliners are performing FREE concerts. It was great to see a Bluffton venue bustling with people. The restaurants were full, business was good, families were enjoying a night out, the crowd was dancing and little girls were twirling in circles around the fountain. It was a beautiful thing. Check them out Tuesdays this month from 7:00 – 10:00 p.m.

Courtney Naughton is a Jersey Shore native who relocated to Bluffton. She wishes she was an armadillo for the thicker skin! You can email her at Stalkers need not respond.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Excuse me, can you repeat that?

Hey, have you happened to notice the accent that us Northerners seem to have down here? I’ve also noticed a slight difference in the way Southerners talk. Truthfully, the differences are hardly even detectable by the average ear. Ok, I’m kidding. Hello? Are we all speaking the same language?

One of my first Southern friends and is a born and bred Georgian. We talk almost daily but I must confess – many times I can’t understand a word this boy is saying. I’ve come to realize though, that it’s not just the accent, it’s the dialect. Sometimes we are speaking a “different language”.

Dialect, as you know, is a regional variety of a language. So, in this new region of the country, it makes complete sense that we may have some communication issues.

I thought it may be helpful to provide a dictionary of sorts to help ease the communication barrier you may face on a day to day basis.

For the Southerners who, on occasion, respond to my comments with a look of question in their eyes I give you a cheat sheet of common New Jersey terminology, courtesy of Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, where they offer a dialect course:
Block: everything in North Jersey is measured by blocks. Any walking distance is a certain amount of blocks away.
Coke: a common term for any type of carbonated beverage.
Fired-Up: to get all sorts of angry.
Foul: a term used in Jersey to describe something that is "messed up" or morally wrong.
Italian Ice: opposed to "Water Ice". A colorful frozen dessert very popular in the summer months.
Shady: One who is of questionable character. Especially, when dealing with issues of love and relationships.
Sub: a sandwich containing various types of meat, cheese, and vegetables.
Slider: a pork roll, egg and cheese sandwich found in every New Jersey deli and diner, breakfast food for many. (Hint to local deli owners: add this to the menu and you’ll have a hit!)
As transplants, we have a responsibility to adapt to our new surroundings. Some Southern terms, that I have come to love include:

Bubba: Originally short for "brother." Now refers to all good ole boys.

Damn Yankee: Anyone from above the Mason-Dixon line, or Southerners who fought on the Union side during the Recent Unpleasantness. I don’t necessarily love this one, but I’m getting used to it.

Fixin: Getting ready.

Sugar, Honey Pie, Purdy Thang, Darlin: Terms of endearment. And damn if they don’t work. There is nothing sweeter than hearing a southern boy utter the term “darlin.”

Perhaps my favorite term is “bless her heart.” It seems that adding this qualifier to the end of any sentence softens the sentiment. As in, “Did you see how tight those pants were on her? She must have gained twenty pounds, bless her heart.”

Go forth my friends and communicate!

Courtney Naughton is a Jersey Shore native who relocated to Bluffton. She talks fast, laughs out loud, and has an air of sarcasm about her, bless her heart.

Driving Around in my Automobile

I watched my first NASCAR race recently. Well actually, I tuned in, watched it for a couple minutes and changed the channel. I felt obliged to at least give it a try. After all, NASCAR has its roots in the South and certainly has quite a Southern fan base.

From the Yankee perspective though, I can honestly say that I don’t recall ever hearing a NASCAR recap on a Monday morning at the water cooler. Football, baseball, basketball – yes. But NASCAR? Nope, it never happened.

In the South, however, I’ve noticed that if a race is on, it’s ON! On the televisions in local bars and restaurants that is. I’ve even figured out that those number stickers on the back bumpers and back windows of cars are representative of NASCAR drivers. And here I was thinking it was a tally of the numbers of accidents that car had been in.

But, I still don’t get it. Watching cars ride round and round in circles for hours on end, is not entertaining to me.

Maybe I just don’t understand the “need for speed.” You see, my first car was a 1984 Chrysler E Class. She was one of kind. And by that I mean I have never seen another of her kind on the road. She was a clunky, four-door sedan, that I am convinced was my parent’s one last attempt at embarrassing me before adulthood.

Oh the talk in the High School hallways was priceless. “Oh, you got your license, congratulations! What kind of car did you get?” “A Chrysler E Class,” I would mumble. “A what? I’ve never heard of that.” “Of course you haven’t,” I would concede.

I “allowed” my parents to talk me into the car because it had a tape deck and I figured no matter how dorky the car, I’d be able to play music and that would make me cool. Of course, the tape deck is the only thing we didn’t “test” on the test drive. So when I brought her home and tried to play my 10,000 Maniacs tape it didn’t work and I was devastated.

A couple accidents later (within the first few months) and the E Class was far worse off than when I acquired her. She was not built for speed and in fact, had the pick up of an old lady crossing the street. And while I have since graduated to Volvos and SUVs I still don’t understand the allure of driving so fast that your face hurts. More importantly, I don’t understand the attraction to watching others drive so fast that their face hurts and your neck hurts from watching them go round and round.

So, I felt it was only fair that I ask a NASCAR fan for his input hoping that it would shed some light on the subject. So, I hit up my husband’s boss, Tony, for his take on the sport. Tony is a good ol’ Southern boy and successful business man who drives a Cadillac Escalade, a small plane, a Harley and an R.V. Go figure! Anyway, I asked Tony why I should be a NASAR fan, what is in it for me? His response – “If I have to explain it to you, you’ll never understand.” Well, I guess that answers that.

A 2004 ESPN Sports Poll reported that 42% of NASCAR fans are women. So I did a little more research and I can certainly understand why – these guys are cute! Two words ladies … Jimmie Johnson. My interest is piqued and I may just give this sport a second try.

I’ve heard that to really appreciate NASCAR, you have to go to a race. That probably isn’t going to happen for me this season - I prefer to feel the wind in my hair on Highway 278 (if and when traffic is moving) – but I’ll keep you posted.

Courtney Naughton is a Jersey Shore native who relocated to Bluffton. She drives a Nissan XTerra – if NASCAR comes knocking, she’ll add a #15 to her vehicle and will court Pottery Barn as her sponsor.

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Power of the POA

I grew up in a quiet little neighborhood called “Cedarcroft”, which is an Indian word for “where the forest meets the shore”. (Note to readers: after this ran in the paper today, I received an email from some dope who told me that Cedarcroft is not an Indian word. Well, the sign had a big Indian on it and all of our street names were Indian - Shawnee, Lenape, Apache, Chocktaw, etc... forgive me for trying to use a childhood memory.) Ahem. In our little slice of heaven the roads were built around the trees – one road was split right down the middle by a tree that was easily over 100 years old. Many of the properties were right on the river where we had our own little (and I mean teeny) beach club, club house and slips for twenty or so boats.

As I think back to our neighborhood, most people kept their yards and homes looking pretty nice with the exception of one. Enter: The “Junk Man” who lived a few houses away from us. The Junk Man earned his name for sure. I can’t pinpoint one specific contributing factor but maybe it was the newspapers that were piled high in the back seat of his 1977 Impala, maybe it was the boxes and newspapers piled high and visible through each window of his house, maybe it was the dirt yard, or the lawn ornaments (i.e. garbage). Either way – he was the Junk Man. To this day I still don’t know his real name. In fact, I called my Mom while I was writing this and she couldn’t recall his name either, she said, “I don’t know, he was just the Junk Man.” Then she tried to soften it by saying, “actually Cour, he could be called the original recycler.” That was nice of her, but I know the truth … even the adults talked about the Junk Man. Today he would be a POA’s nightmare.

Anywho, my point (that I always get to eventually) is that until we moved here the concept of the Property Owners Association was foreign to me. And, I am still getting used to it. We just went through the pains of installing a wood picket fence. Well, we had someone install it, but we did the painting - white (three excruciating coats in the 90 degree heat) – the only color allowed by our POA.

POA’s are, by design, intended to provide community maintenance and in many cases they exist to ensure that everyone keeps their property just so. They keep the grass green, the pink flamingos at a minimum, plastic pools obsolete, lawn furniture fashionable, on-street parking in check (well, not in our neighborhood), and satellite dishes out of sight.

I don’t want to debate the value of a POA. Actually, yes I do. I understand their purpose and I am certainly the first person to make a comment about a dead lawn or a Sponge Bob Square Pants flag flying high, but maybe it needs to be said … is the power of the POA taking it too far?

If we all live in neighborhoods that look exactly the same, with the same houses, same landscapes, same fences, same patios, same flags, and same color combinations – we might as well be living on the set of the Truman Show or Pleasantville.

Pretty soon we’ll all be dressing alike, mowing our lawns in synch on Saturday mornings, flipping burgers on the grill in red checked aprons on Sunday afternoons, and frolicking in
dog-doo-free backyards. Ah, what a life!

Friday, July 07, 2006

Where's Your Sign?

Ever since I’ve crossed the Mason-Dixon Line, I’ve heard some stories of woe from fellow transplants about crossing the line. We’ve left our friends and family behind and we are faced with building our network all over again. This can be tough. How do you know who will make a good friend?

Well, I think I’ve come up with a solution for the new friend trend. We should all wear signs. These signs will identify our personality types and more importantly our emotional intelligence quotient (E.I.Q.) – our ability (or potential) to feel, use, communicate, recognize, remember, learn from, manage and understand emotions.

Signs will be broken into four color categories, each color denoting a different personality type. This will help you get started:

Make yourself a Blue sign if these words describe you:
Romantic, sensitive, understanding, peace-keeper, optimistic, inspirational, growth-oriented, authentic, likes to make a difference.

Make yourself a Gold sign if these words describe you:
Generous, cultured, stable, detailed, dedicated, accomplished, hard-working, dependable, loyal to home and family, a list-maker.

Make yourself a Green sign if these words describe you:
Analytical, explores ideas, perfectionist, persistent, standard setter, serious, complex, technical independent, uses precise language, striving for intellectual achievement.

Make yourself an Orange sign if these words describe you:
Spontaneous, accepts challenges, invites change, quick witted, creative, thrill seeker, entertainer, good in a crisis, seeks freedom and variety, darn funny.

Now, before you can don your sign you’ll need to answer a series of E.I.Q. questions.

Situation 1: A friend has borrowed something small, but high in sentimental value. You've asked for your friend to return the item, but your friend has failed to bring it back.

A. You end the friendship. You don't need a friend who disrespects you and your feelings.
B. You let it go. Friendship is more important than material items.
C. You give your friend the cold shoulder until he or she returns your item.
D. You admit to your friend how important the item is to you and why you would like it back, and ask your friend to return the item to you.

Situation 2: Your boss has assigned you your first big project, and the success or failure of the project could make or break your career.

A. You push it aside, you'll get to it later.
B. You spend the next week planning the project out in careful detail before telling anybody.
C. You take a few minutes to relax, give yourself time to think, bounce ideas off a colleague, and decide to pursue the idea that makes you feel most confident.
D. You get nervous and pace. Nervous energy helps fuel the process.

Situation 3: You are walking down the street, suddenly trip, and almost land flat on your face.

A. You regain your poise, laugh at yourself, and continue on your way.
B. You look around and give anyone who is looking at you a dirty look.
C. You turn red with embarrassment, put your head down, start walking, and hope no one noticed.
D. You get mad and curse yourself under your breath.

I think we can all agree that the emotionally intelligent answers to the questions are probably D, C, and A. But, is that how you would really react in those situations? Fess up, and on the bottom of your sign, post your answers.

Now we’ll know what we are getting into as we forge ahead into new friendships.

Moving to a new town, a new state, or a new region of the country is kind of like the first day of kindergarten all over again. It is exciting and stressful. It can cause butterflies and even tears. But, with a love for your new hometown and a brand new sign dangling from your neck, how can you go wrong?

Courtney Naughton is a Jersey Shore native who relocated to Bluffton. She wears an orange sign and can be reached at This column is in jest, if you are not laughing you should be wearing a green sign.

Friday, June 30, 2006

What's a Sports Fan To Do?

Road Trip: Savannah

On one of my first dates with Joe we went to a New York Mets game. It was late September, the air was crisp, the Mets were in last place i.e. it was easy to get tickets, so we made the trek to New York. Long story short - I had too much beer, threw up all the way home on the #7 subway train and ruined Joe’s favorite pair of shoes.

Living in New Jersey, we were fortunate that we had both the New York and Philadelphia metropolitan areas all within an hour trek, which meant plenty of professional sporting event options.

When we moved to South Carolina I knew that part of the deal was that Joe would get the NFL Sunday Ticket so that he could still watch “his teams”. And this spring we also had to add the Major Leagues Baseball package so that Joe could watch “his Red Sox.”

Allow me to digress for just a moment. I don’t understand the “my team” phenomenon. Ladies, you understand what I am saying here right? Joe screams and yells at the newspaper, the television, the players, the announcers – whatever form of media is bringing him his sporting news. And he reacts in way that makes you think he owned the team, or was on the team, or shared some stake in their winning season. I don’t get it.

Anyway, the bottom line is - we are paying $140 a month for television. So I of course, insist that Joe watch every bleeping game. But, I’ll admit even I have had a hankering for some live sports action. So, we decided to trek to Savannah for a Sand Gnats game.

A short 17 mile drive brings you to downtown Savannah, a few more miles and you are at the historic Grayson stadium, which first opened in 1926. Since then, a number of baseball teams and up and coming players (including Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle) have graced the field. The Stadium, just off Victory drive, is nestled amid live oaks and its fading façade conjures up feelings of nostalgia – as much of Savannah does.

General admission tickets were $6 each and we managed to grab dinner for under $10. We were amazed to find that beers were only $2 (typically you’ll pay $5-7 at a major league game). However, when we went back for a second round we learned that the “new girl” only charged us for one brew the first go ‘round. So, beers actually = $4 each.

I watched the thermometer on the score board slowly drop from 91 to 84. It was hot and sticky, but it did not ruin the spirit of the crowd. You would have thought that the Sand Gnats were playing for the national championship with the swell of cheers that followed a good play or a hit. It was actually comforting – good old baseball, in a historic stadium, in a beautiful city, with a mix of young and old enjoying the game – a slice of apple pie would have undoubtedly made this night one right out of a Norman Rockwell painting.

The Sand Gnats came away with a 3-1 victory over the Rome Braves. Ah, another one for the history books. O.k. not really, but it is indeed a trip worth making for some good ol’ all American fun!

Savannah is a great sister town to Bluffton, with a lot to offer. I think I’ll be traveling there often to keep you in the loop.

For more information on the Savannah Sand Gnats visit