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 fa├žade 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

Friday, June 23, 2006

Stereotypically Speaking ...

One August night in 1979 my father came home from work and he was visibly upset. My mom thought the worst – someone had died. She assumed it was a family member or one of my father’s fellow firefighters. She was off by a bit. New York Yankee, Thurman Munson had died in a plane crash and my father was devastated.

Dad is a huge Yankees fan. I can remember going to see the Yankees play twenty years ago. It was always an exciting trip, trekking into New York City, navigating the South Bronx (with a different game plan each time), eating Yankee franks, the works.

My sister and I broke my dad’s heart I’m sure when we married a Red Sox fan (Joe) and a Mets fan respectively. However, I am sure he had no idea that when we announced we were moving to the South, that he would become the father of two bona fide “Yankees.”

Believe it or not, in the North we don’t refer to ourselves as Yankees. However, in the fourteen months that I have lived here I have been called a Yankee more times than I care to recall – sometimes in a joking manner and too many times it has been said with contempt.

So, will I always be a Yankee? Will time ever expunge that offense from my record?

I just don’t understand the whole North vs. South thing. Now I’m no history buff, but as far as I can tell the Civil War ended 141 years ago. So, why the continuing battle?

Jeff Foxworthy, Saturday Night Live, and Hollywood in general have pigeon-holed us people. We need an uprising against the media. Down with stereotypes. We aren’t really like they portray us, are we?

Do you drive fast and without regard for others?
Do you talk fast?
Are you rude and obnoxious?
Are you in the mob or know someone who is?

If you’ve answered yes, well then, you must be a Yankee.

Do you talk slow?
Do you work at a snail’s pace?
Do you watch Nascar?
Do you know Larry the Cable Guy?

If you’ve answered yes, well then, you must be a Southerner.

Let’s move on people. We live in the geographically diverse melting pot of Bluffton, South Carolina.

If we’re going to make fun of someone, let’s make fun of the folks on the West Coast. After all, those tree-hugging, surfer dudes and gals (probably made of plastic), who either work in Hollywood or in a coffee shop in Seattle, hang out with Paris and Nicole, party all night, and are like, soooo lame.

Monday, June 19, 2006

My Wardrobe Malfunction

Don’t worry. I haven’t bared a breast in Bluffton. What I have done, is totally misjudge the heat of our Lowcountry summer. My wardrobe is all wrong.

It is hot!

We were blessed with a very comfortable spring, which I fear was the calm before the storm. As I write this, the thermometer nears 95 degrees. I just came back from lunch, where I sat in a screened-in porch. When I stood up I could feel the dampness on the back of my shirt (this could be considered “too much information” but bear with me), nothing like a sweat stain when you are out in public to make you feel self-conscious. I’m finding that just walking from the parking lot to the food store has become a mission to avoid overheating.

Ok, I know what you are thinking. The Yankee can’t handle the heat. That may be true, but with a little tweaking of the wardrobe, my problem (and yours) can be solved.

When packing to move to South Carolina, I was very diligent in cleaning out my closet. I parted with anything that I hadn’t worn in a year. I went through my Hope Chest, which houses my sweater collection - not all my hopes and dreams - and said a tearful goodbye to some sweaters that had been with me since high school (and still fit!).

In exchange for paring down my sweater collection, I beefed up my flip-flop and sandal repertoire. This was the first step in my reformation. I haven’t worn socks in 437 days. Ah, sweet freedom! Socks keep the heat in, so I avoid them. I’ve also nixed shoes that cover my feet completely. Its open-toe or open-heel shoes for this convert.

Now is the tricky part. What to do from the ankles up? Three words – white, linen, layers.

• Yes, you heard it here first. The owner of no less than a dozen pairs of black pants says put the black in the back of the closet.

• Linen can be your friend. Who cares if your pants are completely wrinkled by the time you get to the office. It’s better than your pants being soaking wet, right?

• If your day is anything like mine – you are inside and outside all day long. So you’re freezing in the air conditioning and sweating in the heat. Buy lots of t-shirts and a couple of light cotton cardigans. The on again – off again can be annoying but its better than pneumonia.

For the men (if you are still reading) I don’t have much advice to offer. However, my metro-sexual hubby did have some suggestions, which shockingly go against everything I know about him. But a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.

Yup, you guessed it my J Crew loving husband cut the sleeves off of his t-shirts. He’s gone country! No boots yet – its just too dang hot – but he has made the shift to flip-flops on the weekends. Joe has also taken to bringing an extra pair of shorts/pants with him to work each day, just in case it’s a day in the field.

Now, these solutions are less than revolutionary. I’m not even sure they are solutions. In fact, we’ve found that our favorite reprieve is a margarita. We planted a lime tree last year and are seeing the fruits of our labor. Get a blender and enjoy the summer. Don’t sweat it.

“Do Southerners laugh at different things than Northerners do? Yes, Northerners." - Roy Blount

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Dog Days of Summer

It’s been a doggone crazy week for me. It is Thursday morning and I am on deadline. Of course, deadline is a relative term since I am really supposed to be stockpiling columns for a couple of weeks, so when I am swamped or at a loss for words (ha ha) I can relax and not worry about the “tick, tick, tick” in my head.

My idea for this column hatched Wednesday night as my husband and I finalized our travel plans for next month, yet still haven’t answered the question, who will watch the kids? Our “kids” are of the furry persuasion, two cats and one dog.

The cats came first and have been with me for what seems like - always. When we tied the knot five years ago, Joe inherited Skye and Bauer, who will both be nine this summer. They didn’t seem to notice the transition. Just an extra set of legs to sleep on at the bottom of the bed and twice as many clothes to cover in cat hair. Cats seem to go about their business, not really noticing a change in weather (they are indoor cats), change of season, change of venue (we’ve moved a number of times), change of anything for that matter. Until – you add a dog to the mix.

When Darby arrived on the scene four years ago, Bauer and Skye didn’t “talk” to us for weeks. We were persona non grata – feed us, clean our litter box and leave us alone – meee-ow! The cats keep to themselves, rub up against us every once in awhile – generally when we are in black pants, and swat Darby when ever he passes by just so he knows who is in charge. They live their own lives and sometimes include us.

But, Darby, he is our baby. Non-dog lovers won’t get it. If you have a dog, you understand. If you are childless and have a dog, you’re nodding your head along with me right now - you know. I cry when we leave him for short trips or when he has to get a shot at the vet. I clap when he catches the ball, retrieves a stick, or remembers to wipe his feet before going in the house (we call it the “Darby Dance”). I sign his name to our Christmas cards. His picture hangs in various rooms of our house. I’m pathetic.

Anyway, we can’t convince our beloved pet sitter from the North to travel to South Carolina every day, for nine days, while we are away next month. So, the search begins for a pet-sitter. We need someone to love our “kids” while we are gone.

One of my favorite things about living in Bluffton is the overwhelming number of “dog people.” We live in a dog-friendly community. It is evident at community events, where dogs are often invited to participate i.e. the Ugly Dog Contest. It is evident on the River as many a pup is seen navigating the May from the bow of a boat. It is evident through the acts of concerned citizens who have launched the Bluffton Dog Park effort.

So, I am asking for your help. Who do you trust to pet-sit? Who have you used? Who should I avoid? Send me your best and worst stories. I know you will have the answers.

Earlier this week, a blogger posted the question, “How can you care so much for a dog?”

“He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion." - Unknown

Friday, June 02, 2006

Weekend Tourist

So what do you call the tourists who flock to Bluffton / Hilton Head Island each year for fun in the sun?

Back home, we called non-locals who visited the Jersey Shore, “bennies”, an acronym of sorts for the folks who traveled south from Bayonne, Elizabeth, Newark to visit the beaches of the Shore and make it virtually impossible for a local to enjoy what we believed was ours. The bennies would decend on Memorial Day Weekend and remain until Labor Day.

So, in keeping with the spirit of our roots, we had friends from New Jersey in town for Memorial Day Weekend (don’t worry they aren’t moving here) and they wanted to see the “sights.” We obliged and I was a tourist for the weekend and I loved it!

On Sunday we hit the beach at Coligny. It was a far cry from our usual quiet spot on Folly Field or Burkes Beach, but it was indeed where the action was. For $4 we paid for a full-day of parking, not a bad deal.

Coligny was packed with wall to wall college kids enjoying their summer freedom and with families weighed down by beach gear. I am always amazed by how much stuff people bring to the beach - more kids = more stuff. We selected a spot next what I think was a group of Ohio State Sorority sisters, which basically meant I had to suck in my stomach for 4 hours … there was just no way to compete with these young women. Ah, to be young again.

The weather was perfect, there was a nice cool breeze, and there was the Tiki Hut Bar (adjacent to the Holiday Inn). Frozen drinks were in the $6 range and perfectly refreshing. The Tiki Hut has entertainment seven days a week in the summer and we enjoyed the crooning of Jo Jo Squirrel and Home Pickles (I wish I knew where that name came from). Cooling misters keep the crowd in the check and if you manage to score the table right in front of the stage (we did) you sit beneath the shade of a large oak and a couple of palm trees. It was wonderful to feel like I was on vacation when I was only a few miles from home.

Back home later that afternoon, we assessed our sun burn and got ready for dinner. Doing the tourist thing, we of course, had to head back to the Island. Surprisingly traffic was non-existent and we made it to Hemingway’s at Palmetto Bay Marina in no time at all.

We picked the restaurant based on the recommendation of a friend and the pick was dead on. Hemingway’s didn’t take reservations, but the 30-minute wait for an outside table breezed by. For pre and post-dinner drinks you can try out Hemingway’s own outdoor bar or pop-in at Captain Woody’s. We browsed at Iguana Johns Island Oasis shop, which carries coastal inspired clothing, furniture, home accessories, and gifts. And, before we knew it we had a table looking right out over the bay and the Bridge.

Things only got better. Now, I know restaurant reviews ala me can be controversial, but Hemingway’s certainly hit the mark. For appetizer, try the Smoked Trout and Brie Dip, the Fried Mozzarella, and the Seafood Martini. For dinner, I had the Grilled Atlantic Salmon with Wasabi Potatoes – perfectly cooked with a citrus and marmalade-esque marinade. The rest of my group enjoyed the Sashimi Grade Tuna, the Paella (an old standby for Joe that he ranked as the best ever), Lobster Tails and the Cold Seafood Platter (the cold mussels on the platter didn’t taste as expected, but in no way dampened our spirits).

We were all very happy and very full. But, that didn’t stop us – we ordered dessert. I had the banana bread pudding with vanilla ice cream. It was heaven. All in all, a few rounds of drinks, appetizers, dinner, and desserts for five cost $237 plus tip. The service was excellent and the atmosphere was an added bonus. We will definitely be back, even when we aren’t playing tourist.

A tourist is defined as one who travels for pleasure. Many of the residents in Bluffton and Hilton Head will tell you that they moved here after vacationing in the area for months, years, decades. I was one of them. Maybe it is because of the vast beauty – the beaches and the rivers, the endless opportunities for recreation, the great restaurants, or maybe it is living life like you are on vacation every day. Not a bad deal, is it?