Friday, February 23, 2007

The Jersey Devil v. The Gray Man of Pawleys Island

Bluffton Today column, February 23, 2007

So, earlier this week while grabbing my java at the Bluffton Coffee House, our conversation turned to the topic of the Jersey Devil. (Perhaps that is what they call me behind my back and there was a slip of the tongue?)

So, allow me to revisit my roots and recall the story that was commonplace at many a slumber party. The legend of the Jersey Devil has a number of versions – all shared as a right of passage growing up in the Garden State.

According to New Jersey history, most tellers of the legend of the Jersey Devil trace the devil back to Deborah Smith who emigrated from England in the 1700s to marry a Mr. Leeds. The Leeds family lived in the area of the New Jersey Pine Barrens in Southern New Jersey.

Apparently Mr. Leeds was insistent about having heirs. Mrs. Leeds had already given birth to twelve children, when she became pregnant again. The story goes that Mrs. Leeds invoked the devil during a very difficult and painful labor and that when her thirteenth child was born, it either immediately, or very soon afterwards, (depending on the version of the story), grew into a full-grown devil and escaped from the house.

From that day on the Jersey Devil is said to have haunted New Jersey and even parts of Delaware and Pennsylvania. The most recent account of an encounter with the Jersey Devil was in Freehold, NJ (we used to live there) in 2002.

All this talk of the Jersey Devil got me thinking.

Surely, South Carolina has similar legends. James Brown was the first legend to come to mind, but he is getting plenty of press on his own. So, a little research turned up the story of “The Gray Man of Pawleys Island”.

Here is an excerpt from the state’s website written by Patrick McCawley.
Historical ghost stories abound in South Carolina, but one of the oldest and most famous is the story of the Gray Man of Pawleys Island, a coastal community in Georgetown County. Several versions of this story exist, but all say the apparition appears before major storms to warn the island’s inhabitants of approaching danger.

The oldest version begins with a young woman from Colonial Charleston, the daughter of a prominent family. She had many suitors, but would not choose among them because she was in love with her wild and reckless cousin. Both sets of parents objected to the match and discouraged it by sending the young man to Europe. News soon arrived from France of his death in a duel. Brokenhearted, the young woman went into mourning, refusing to see suitors or other callers.

A year later, a young wealthy rice planter from the Waccamaw area visited the family. A recent widower, he fell in love at first sight with the still grief-stricken girl and sought her father’s permission to court her. The father agreed, but told the young man the sad story of her previous romance. Eventually, the young planter won her hand and the couple married. The newlyweds wintered on a large estate on Waccamaw Neck and summered on Pawleys Island.
During the Revolution the planter served as a captain under Francis Marion. While away fighting the British in the summer of 1778, his family moved to the summer home on Pawleys Island. One evening, a violent storm foundered a ship off shore. The slaves saw one survivor stumble out of the surf. The slaves told him their master was away, but that the mistress would provide him with shelter until the end of the storm. They took him to the summer house and gave the stranger food and dry clothes. When the mistress of the house came to greet him, she fainted. The mysterious stranger cried out and ran from the house, disappearing into the storm. He was her lost love thought dead many years before. It was later learned he died of yellow fever and exposure while trying to find his way south to Charleston. It is said he still haunts the island in the vicinity of this old house, a shadowy "Gray Man" warning islanders of storms and the perils they bring.

One hundred years from now as people travel the Lowcountry in their Jetson-esque flying machines, they will tell the legend of “The Big Mouth of Bluffton”. Who do you think it will be?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Is It Wrong?

Is it wrong that this morning while driving to work, I wished that the old man in the white corvette who passed me (and 3 other cars on the left on his way to a left turn a 1/4 mile down the road) flipped over and skidded across the road like the NASCAR driver crossing the finish line?

No, what I fear is wrong is that I just used NASCAR as a point of reference. Wow, I think I just became a Southerner.

I'll Show You Mine

Bluffton Today column, February 16, 2007

Since moving here we had been searching for a restaurant to replace our beloved “Metro Café” in Freehold, NJ. The first time Joe and I went to “Metro Café” we ordered a sweet and spicy calamari and shrimp appetizer. The dish arrived with chopsticks on the plate. In an effort to show off (I think) Joe picked up the chopsticks to demonstrate his skill. As he closed in around the first piece of shrimp … snap! The chopsticks broke in half, because after all they were breadsticks not chopsticks. We had a good laugh over that, and returned to Metro Café many times. It became “our place.”

So, for two years we have been on the prowl for a new “our place” Lowcountry style. It took awhile, but we finally found it. And, that got me thinking …

How many of you have “that place” where you go to celebrate the special occasions, or for a pick me up when you are feeling blue?

I’ve had a few in my day.

My high school/college boyfriend, Brian, and I made The Crab’s Claw in Lavallette our place, when he invited me there for Easter Dinner my senior year of high school. I had never celebrated a holiday without my parents until that point and it was that Easter dinner that made me realize, wow I am a grownup now. We dined there the night before I left for college and then again the night after I came back home six months later (homesick for him and with a 2.0 GPA from West Virginia University, ranked the number 1 party school in 1991, you do the math).

My best friend from graduate school, Patrick, and I would always meet before class at the T.G.I. Fridays in Eatontown. It was nothing special, but it was our place. And despite a close knit group of fellow graduate students, we never let them be a part of our ritual. We ordered the same appetizers each week, practiced our presentations for our class that evening, and every once in awhile we would add a drink to our repertoire – it seemed that a drink would calm our nerves a bit before we had to stare into 25 sets of eyes and practice our public speaking skills. Those were the days.

Now, I know the suspense is killing you … and I am willing to share (courtesy of my new Southern hospitality attitude) the new place that Joe and I discovered. It is “211 Park” on the Island. The décor and menu remind us so much of our beloved Metro Café, we just felt at home there the second we stepped through the door.

Add to that, the food is phenomenal – “an eclectic menu with fusion cuisine”. Try the goat cheese casserole served with crusty bread – it is to die for. The tuna, tuna, tuna appetizer is phenomenal – sushi grade tuna bites, encrusted in spices and served with shaved ginger, wasabi and teriyaki. Yum. The cedar planked salmon melts in your mouth, as do the mashed potatoes. The wine list is impressive and they serve Guinness, which makes Joe a happy customer. Perhaps my favorite part is Kathy P., the waitress who has served us the last two times we have gone. She has a remarkable Midwestern accent with a little Southern twang and tons of energy. She makes dining there fun.

Now, I’ve showed you mine, will you show me yours?

Courtney Naughton is a Jersey Shore native who moved to Bluffton. She shares well with others. Thank her mom for that. Email Courtney at

Monday, February 12, 2007

Have a Heart

Bluffton Today column, February 9, 2007

Hi my name is Courtney and I am addicted to Beverly Hills 90210 re-runs. (Hi Courtney!) Yes, it is true. Everyday after work I settle in on the couch for back to back episodes of 90210. Yes, I’ve seen them all a dozen times, but for some reason I can’t turn away.

Most recently Brenda was waiting for Dylan to pick her up for her surprise Valentine’s Day date. Brenda was in a tizzy because Dylan wouldn’t give her any hints as to where they were going. After 40 minutes of drama it was revealed that the big date was to donate blood. And, that got me thinking …

As we embark on Valentine’s week, we will undoubtedly be bombarded by advertisers suggesting that they know the best gift to give our loved ones - chocolates, romantic dinners, jewelry, flowers, homemade coupon books (always a favorite) - the options are endless.

But, what if you were asked to consider giving a gift to a stranger who you had never met but needs your help regardless?

According to the American Red Cross, every two seconds someone in America needs blood. In areas were populations are increasing by leaps and bounds (like the Lowcountry) the need for blood is even greater because as our population grows the number of blood donors do not necessarily follow the same trend.

Have I piqued your interest? Will you have a heart and consider giving blood?

To give blood to another person, you must:
Be healthy. "Healthy" means that you feel well and can perform normal activities. If you have a chronic condition such as diabetes or high blood pressure, "healthy" also means that you are being treated and the condition is under control.
Be at least 17 years old
Weigh at least 110 pounds (no problem here)
Not have donated blood in the last 8 weeks (56 days)

Your health history will also be discussed as part of the donation process before any blood is collected and a medical professional will have your temperature, iron level, blood pressure and pulse checked in order to ensure your well being.

Then comes the prickly part, your arm will be cleaned and a needle will be inserted to draw the blood. Then, you sit back and relax for 7 to 10 minutes until approximately a pint of blood has been collected.

Not convinced yet? You get refreshments when you are done in order to help your body adjust to the loss of fluid.

It sounds easy enough - 7 to 10 minutes of your life in order to save another.

There are a few options for giving blood as your gift to a stranger for Valentine’s Day. You can make an appointment at the Savannah Donor Center (25 Tibbet Avenue, Savannah) today, tomorrow, or any day next week or stop by one of these two community events:

Saturday, February 10, 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM
Southern Women’s Show
Savannah International Trade & Convention Center
One International Drive
Savannah, GA

Monday, February 12, 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM
Saturn National Donor Day at Café SCAD
Savannah College of Art & Design – West Boundary Street
Savannah, GA

For more details visit:

Go forth and donate!

Courtney Naughton is a Jersey Shore native who moved to Bluffton. Despite some local rumors to the contrary, she does indeed have a heart. Contact Courtney at

Clean up in aisle two

Bluffton Today column, February 2, 2007

I popped into one of our local food stores on Saturday for a few items. Prepare yourself. I am getting ready to complain and I know that some of you go berserk when I name names so I figured we could play elimination. Said food store is not Piggly Wiggly, Publix, or Food Lion.

Anyway, in an effort to get in and out quickly, Joe and I chose the self checkout lane. Every time we attempt to self-check we hit a stumbling block. This time was no different. We had only two items left to scan and I thought we were going to be home free and then it happened. The light lit up, the screen flashed “ask for cashier help” and we were stuck. “Ask for cashier help” would be an easy enough task, except that said cashier sits up on a stool like a lifeguard. He watches the action but I never see him jump in the pool, he doesn’t react to anyone who needs help.

Another woman trapped at the self-checkout next to ours exchanged some choice words with the cashier and that got me thinking …

What price do we pay for customer service these days? If I am paying good money in the food store and I have even elected to do the scanning and bagging myself, do you think it is too much to ask for a little customer service when my lane lights up and the screen starts flashing like an amusement park ride? I think not.

Now you know that I am not one to keep my mouth shut, so in a more than conversational tone I pointed out the problems with the self-checkout lanes. Of course, no one who worked there was listening, so my only conclusion was to write about it.

Sunday morning we headed out again to run some errands. This time, Neighbors Gas Station and Car Wash was on the agenda – the “almost spring” weather that arrived a few weeks ago had dusted my car with a good coat of pollen and it was a little embarrassing.

Talk about a customer service 180, this place is awesome (did I really just use that word?). A young man took our “order” for the super-duper wash and from that point forward there were no less than three employees working on our car, vacuuming, dusting, window washing. This was customer service at its best. The employees all appeared to be teenagers and they were kind, considerate and smiling the whole time. And it was frigid on Sunday - not the ideal weather for a car wash.

We tipped them well and as we pulled away Joe and I talked about how this great experience was such a contradiction to the previous day’s checkout debacle.

So, why is customer service such a hard concept to grasp these days?

Interestingly a few days before these events, I was in a meeting with the CEO of the company I work for. He mentioned that he doesn’t like when people reply to a request with, “No problem.” I did a quick scan of my brain to calculate how many times I had said that to him as he continued, “By saying ‘no problem’, we imply that there could be a problem, but we will attempt to avoid it.”

He makes a lot of sense (probably why he is the CEO) and as I replayed that conversation in my head I realized that perhaps customer service is lacking because we anticipate the worst. Instead we should anticipate the best and make customer service “our pleasure.”

Geesh, the Southern way is rubbing off on me, bless my heart.