Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Twas Three Days Before Christmas and I Didn't Send Cards

I didn’t send Christmas cards this year. Not a decision I made lightly. After all, I wrote a research paper in graduate school on the longevity of the greeting card, my thesis being that regardless of advances in technology, people still get that excited twinge when they receive a personal card in the mail. I do.

In fact, each year, as I pull down my Christmas ornaments (about ten seconds after Thanksgiving dinner concludes), I wade through my Christmas cards from the previous year. Oh yes, I keep them. This year as I read through the 2009 cards, it struck me that no one (except Grandma Noon) actually writes anything in their cards. Instead, I have pictures of all of my friend’s kids with their pre-printed family name at the bottom.

So this year my struggle was two-fold. First, do I schedule some pricey photo shoot so I can send a picture of me and … oh, I don’t know, the dog, to my friends and family? Or, do I skip the fanfare all together?

At about the same time I was lamenting, one of my Facebook friends posted the news that her annual Christmas newsletter was finally complete. I had to chuckle. (And privately message some other Facebook friends to share my snarky comments.) Now, I have never actually received a “Christmas Newsletter” from anyone, yet the stories associated with said newsletters often rival that of a fruit cake. Meaning, no one actually wants to receive one.

Anyway, that got me thinking. Isn’t the purpose of Christmas to send good tidings and cheer to others? So, how does reading about the mundane happenings of your family’s past 365 days bring the Christmas spirit to my house? And then … it hit me. Facebook may be the new Christmas Newsletter.

Just brushed your teeth? Status update! Just wet the bed? Status update! Just made a tuna sandwich? Status update!

Just put a piece of tinsel on the tree? Status update! Just bought extra tape? Status update! Just yelled at Lord & Taylor for cancelling your order instead of shipping your order (this actually happened, but you won’t see if on my Facebook page)? Status update!

But, I digress. Back to the Christmas cards. I scratched them from my to-do list and felt an immediate sense of relief. Right up until the first card arrived in my mailbox. And, ever since that first pang of guilt hit, I haven’t been able to stop obsessing about the year I didn’t send Christmas cards, as it will forever be known.

As any good obsessive compulsive should – I ensure that Christmas is a well-orchestrated machine. I make sure that all of my rolls of wrapping paper match, that all my ribbons match that wrapping paper, that my tags match my ribbon, that my gifts are themed (yes, I’m that person) and that every card includes a personal note – a connection with the recipient - which is exactly the reason why I skipped cards this year. I couldn’t muster the energy to write personal notes to my ever growing list. My worry over whether or not I would think of something clever to say overwhelmed me. And, now I feel like crap.

I realize that this is not your problem. However, I also realize that the majority of my Christmas card list is probably reading this right now. (Light bulb!) So, now that I have your attention, I wanted to let you know that my column today is dedicated to you. Yes you, my friend, who means so much.

Close your eyes. Well open them now silly, or you won’t be able to keep reading. Geesh. Picture a card. It’s a nice one -- weighty card stock, glitter, ribbons, foil lined envelope – only the best for my dear friend. And the message inside, pure poetry, courtesy of one of the world’s most recognized writers --

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow,
stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so?
It came without ribbons. It came without tags.
It came without packages, boxes or bags.
And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before.
What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store.
What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

You lift my spirit all year round, with laughter, smiles, silliness, emails and yes, status updates.

I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas.

Crossing the Line appears every other Wednesday. You can reach Courtney at

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Where Will You Find Christmas?

Bluffton Today column
December 8, 2010

I remember it like it was yesterday, when in fact it was nearly 1,500 days ago. After talking to the humbled father on the phone, to get an idea of what his children wanted or needed for Christmas, we agreed on a meeting place for the following Saturday.

When I pulled into the dirt parking lot with dust flying, one vehicle car sat off to the side. As I got out of my car and popped the hatch, the door on the lone white minivan slowly opened. A gentleman walked forward, hands in his pockets, head hung.

As he lifted his eyes to meet mine, I noticed the tears welling. He put out his hand, introduced himself and starting thanking me before I could even utter a word or show him what I had selected for his girls.

Once the gifts, that his daughter’s had been asking for from Santa, were loaded into his car, he thanked me again. And then he stood there. In silence. I’m sure I cocked my head to the side, as I do when I am questioning someone. He responded by holding out his arms and pulling me into a warm hug. As we embraced I could feel him holding back the sobs. He thanked me again, with a cracking voice, and he was off.

I don’t remember his name. I wouldn’t recognize him if I saw him again. A ghost of Christmas past, he reminded me the impact that one person can have on another.

That was four years ago when I “adopted” my first family from Bluffton Self Help. I wasn’t prepared for the impact the experience would have on me. And, as I type this column, I have just returned from Christmas shopping for my “Self Help family” this year.

I don’t have to tell you that this has been a rough year. People are hurting everywhere. And, a lot of folks are in need. But, before you send your holiday tidings off to an organization afar, I simply ask you to consider supporting those in our own community this year -- our neighbors, our friends, our colleagues.

Like year’s past, Bluffton Self Help will be collaborating with churches, communities, civic groups, clubs and families to provide toys to over 1,000 children during the upcoming holiday season. Imagine changing the lives of 1,000 children. That is a remarkable feat in our small town.

Self Help Executive Director, Jenny Haney, strongly believes that no child should be denied the joy of having gifts awaiting them on Christmas morning. I couldn’t agree more.

The specific need this year is gift items for boys and girls, ages eight to 12 years old. Haney’s suggestions include: arts and craft supplies, themed Lego’s, books, sports equipment, jewelry-making kits, and girl’s hair accessories.

So, while you are out and about doing your holiday shopping, think about slipping just one extra item in your shopping cart, and then deliver it to Bluffton Self Help (1264 May River Road) before next Monday, December 13th.

Do you remember the joy of waking up on Christmas morning? Pulling back the covers and rushing out of your room to see what was waiting under the tree?

Can you imagine if you had found nothing when you got there? Think about it.

Skip the Starbucks this morning and warm someone else’s heart.

“Remember, if Christmas isn't found in your heart, you won't find it under a tree." - Charlotte Carpenter

For more information:
Bluffton Self Help
1264 May River Road, Bluffton, SC

Crossing the Line appears every other Wednesday. Courtney Hampson can be reached at

Thursday, December 02, 2010

A Christmas Story

From the December issue of CH/CB2

Pictured: Me and my sister, Sharon (left), with Fritz (in the loving head-lock) circa 1978.

When I think about memorable holiday moments, it is hard to ignore the Christmas that my cousin Jimmy was in jail. My sister, brother-in-law, then-husband, and I, marched in from the cold, shook off the chill, and proceeded to take off our coats to reveal matching t-shirts that read “FREE JIMMY.” We got a pretty good laugh, but had little time to pat ourselves on the back because we had to quickly change before Jimmy’s side of the family arrived.

Truthfully though, one flip through the ol’ family photo album and all of my Christmas memories come flooding back. In hindsight, I now realize how fortunate I was to be the oldest cousin on my Mom’s side. Because every one of my Christmas Eve outfits saw three wears post-me. You can basically figure out what year every picture is taken just by doing some quick math. If I wore the red plaid dress in 1979, it is likely that my sister Sharon wore it in 1982, my cousin Kim in 1983, and finally my cousin Ali in 1987. The male cousins suffered the same fate. The powder-blue-three-piece suit that Michael wore, then Dan, then Jimmy (pre-jail) was a little hard on the eyes by the time 1985 rolled around.

Then, of course, there was the Christmas of my first year of college. In August I left for the #1 party school in the nation. By Christmas break, I was home in NJ with all of my belongings, and registered for the local community college. Apparently, straight-A Courtney and #1 party school did not mix.

So, when I arrived at our Christmas Eve destination, and was greeted by my cousin’s husband who said, “Merry Christmas, even though you’re a college drop out,” the holiday spirit was pretty much sucked from the room. If only I had known that years later his son would be in jail (yup, same Jimmy), I might have spoken my mind. And, if my cousin hadn’t divorced him a few years later, he would know that I went on to graduate with a 3.7 GPA, and had an even higher GPA in grad school. How’s that for merry, buster?

If you look at the picture of me from that very Christmas morning circa 1991, you’ll see me in my West Virginia University sweatshirt. That is the 18th such picture in that series. Me, turning the corner, at the bottom of the stairs to see what was under the tree.

The rule in our house was that you couldn’t go downstairs until Mom and Dad were awake. And, once they were awake, you had to wait for them to set up the cameras (including video) so they could capture that moment when we first saw all of the presents piled under the tree. Every year we played along. No matter how old I got, I still savored that moments.

Before we would head downstairs, we would “do our stockings,” which hung on the cardboard mantle. Oh, you read correctly. We didn’t have a fireplace in our house, so my parents purchased a three-dimensional cardboard fireplace, that they would lug out of the attic each year and affix to the wall, so we could hang our stocking by the chimney with care. I still don’t know how that thing survived more than a dozen Christmases with stockings weighing in at a combined thirty pounds easily. It truly is a Christmas miracle.

Now, while we had to wait to get near the tree on Christmas morning, our dog Fritz had the run of the house. Which is why when he peed on baby Jesus, in the manger, I wrote a story about it (career foreshadowing). My Mom reminded me, as I was writing this story, of the night nearly 32 years ago when she and my father went to my back school night, sat down at my little desk, and had the opportunity to read the Christmas story I wrote. Apparently, Fritz’s manger-peeing-extravaganza was the focal point. Hey, drama sells.

As I got older, and started buying Christmas presents (that you couldn’t find at the elementary school bookmobile), I truly began to appreciate the spirit of the season. I love to give. (I’m not 100% onboard with it’s better to give than receive, but I tip the scales on giving, if I do say so myself.)

So, for my first grown-up Christmas, I was excited to buy gifts for the members of my extended family. I picked out a really luxurious pair of satin pajamas for my Grandmother. When she opened the box she appeared surprised. She slowly pulled the pants and the top from their wrapping, and looked at me and said, “This is beautiful Cour, but I don’t know where I would wear it.” I looked right back at her and said, “How about … to bed.” That is one moment I wish we had captured on film.

In a time when our photo albums are posted on Facebook, I miss the days when a picture wasn’t taken from a phone, when you only saved the good ones, when you wrote the event and date on the back, and cherished the picture until the edges were tattered.

Today, as I flip through our old family photos albums, I realize that no matter what year the picture was taken, the story and the characters are the same. I know that … In the dining room there is a green Jell-O mold with maraschino cherries courtesy of Aunt Madeleine. One of the men of the family is in a bedroom somewhere struggling into the decades old Santa suit. The older cousins might be playing drinking games. And, everyone else is gathered around the tree, singing carols awaiting Santa’s arrival.

Christmas is a season of tradition. Quirks and all, every family has a story -- of family traditions that you should never let go.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Are We There Yet?

Bluffton Today column
November 24, 2010

How do you know if you are in a relationship? Well, that answer smacked me in the face a couple Sundays ago. Let me tell you how it all went down. As I settled into his truck to head out for breakfast I looked down at my bare knees and said, “Geez, I missed my knees shaving.” He responded with, “You want a razor?” as he reached back, pulled a Target bag from the backseat and gave me a brand new razor.

I promptly cracked the plastic, and got to work on my knees. It wasn’t until he said, “I guess this is how we know we are in a relationship,” that the wheels started turning and I began to wonder, what is that pivotal moment when you know?

Now, clearly I “knew” long before I decided to perform my personal hygiene in his car. It might have been the moment when he said, “I adore you.” Or the afternoon he spent hanging a new screen door for me. Or the days he let my dog out, when I was held up at work. Or even more likely, the five hours he spent with the cable guy trying to get new cable run throughout my house. That, my friends, is love.

Nevertheless, a quick poll of my friends yielded some interesting stories on the same subject. Many of them revolved around bathroom-related incidents, which made my leg shaving extravaganza, appear utterly minute. My Mom (who really should start getting some money on the side for all of the fodder she adds to this column!) said, “When I started folding his underwear.” I am not sure if she was referring to my Dad or my Step-Dad and it is probably best not to ask that question. The romantics in my friend list all pointed to the moment when one of them was ready to move away, was begged to stay, and lived happily after.

Relationships become even more complicated around the holidays. Especially when you are preparing for your first holiday together. Whose family do you spend time with? How do you combine your traditions? How do you convince him that chocolate mousse is indeed an appropriate Thanksgiving dessert?

My rules are simple. I host Thanksgiving. I have been using the same recipes for the last seven years. And, I have the day (ok, the week) planned down to the moment. So, by now he knows that obsessive-compulsive-Martha-Stewartesque-detail-oriented-Courtney is going to come out to play. Heck, he’s seen previews of the persona, and he is still hanging around, so I tip my hat to him.

Last night we grocery shopped. Today, we’ll begin our food prep – the stuffing, chocolate mousse, stuffed mushrooms, and soup will all get crossed off the list today. And, our turkey will begin his transformation as we brine him with sweet tea.

Tonight, we’ll test my Thanksgiving Eve tradition and see if it is up to par according to his radar. I am hoping for a chill in the air, so we can make a fire. While prepping the shrimp for appetizers tomorrow, I will squirrel away a pound and make shrimp salad sandwiches for dinner. We’ll pop Home for the Holidays, into the DVD player, and watch this hilarious film that tackles the topic of torturous holiday snafus among family.

If the weathermen are right and temperatures are going to top 80, we’ll launch a new tradition tomorrow – appetizers, margaritas, and corn hole in the back yard, before the big feast.

Finally, when we all gather around the table, we’ll decide if his cheesy biscuits do indeed make the cut. I bet I’ll adore them.
Happy Thanksgiving Bluffton. Here’s hoping your traditions go off without a hitch.

Crossing the Line appears every other Wednesday. Courtney Hampson can be reached at

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Who Are Your People?

Bluffton Today column
November 3, 2010

Eleven years ago I was rushed to the hospital and scheduled for immediate surgery. I was bleeding internally due to an ectopic pregnancy. In an effort to avoid coming to terms with what was happening with me, I focused instead on what was going on around me. Shortly after I was brought into the emergency room, a gentleman was wheeled in, his children by his side. Hushed voices escalated to raised voices and it was clear that this man was fighting for his life. While they prepped me for surgery in the next room (created only by curtains), I concentrated the best I could on his prognosis and it was grim. He too was being prepared for surgery.

I was told later that after I woke in the ICU, the first thing I said was, “How is the man who came in after me?” I was happy to learn that he survived after suffering an aneurysm.

Fast forward about a year and my Mom’s washer and dryer go on the fritz. As she stood in the garage chatting with the repairman – as only she can – he became comfortable enough to reveal that just a year earlier he almost died. You see where I am going with this, right?

Yes, the repairman was the man who lay next to me in the hospital.

I was recalling this story not long ago, after a friend and I were talking about Mitch Albom’s book The Five People You Meet in Heaven. The book recounts the life and death of Eddie, an amusement park maintenance man who dies in an accident at work. After dying, Eddie finds himself in heaven where he encounters five people who have significantly affected his life, whether he realized that at the time or not.

And, of course, that got me wondering, who are my five people? I suspect that Mom’s washer/dryer repairman is one of them. He probably doesn’t know that my being a bystander to his trauma certainly put into perspective my own trauma that day. And oddly, 11 years later I still think about him and that day often.

As my conversation continued with my friend, he was really only able to identify one of his five possible “people.” Interestingly, his connection also revolves around a chance meeting, in the hallway of a hospital, on what was one of the most marked days of his life.

So, as I was processing all of the above, it made me think of the people who pass in and out of your life every day, that you likely never acknowledge, or never spend the time getting to know. And then, there are those who make such a huge impact in your life, that when they are gone, the void is deep.

Two weeks ago, my boss, mentor, counselor and pseudo-father-figure retired. As he choked up during his announcement, the tears streamed down my face. I even let a very unprofessional sob escape. Over the course of five years, Bill was my go-to guy. He was a brilliant manager, always calm under pressure, inspiring at all the right moments, and always willing to let me fall into a chair in his office “just to talk.”

For the next seven days, I cried. (Another example of my innate professionalism.) Until suddenly I realized that everything Bill had taught me in five years was suddenly being put to the test. And because he taught me to be better than I think I am I needed to snap the heck out of it.

Is Bill one of my five, or is that too obvious a suggestion?

This past Saturday, I played in the Wayne Hamby Memorial Golf Tournament at Pinecrest Golf Club. Wayne was a part of my Mom’s group of friends and golf comrades here in Bluffton. Knowing my Mom’s love for Wayne and his wife Vicki, I wanted to play, despite the fact that my clubs had 3 years of no-action-accumulated-dust on them.

As the opening announcements for the tournament unfolded, I learned that friends of Wayne’s had driven in from hundreds of miles and multiple states to be a part of the fitting tribute. That was the impact Wayne made. On Saturday he graced us with perfect weather – and he must have been listening to me as I begged for someone to help me to hit the ball straight off the tee.

It made me wonder, how many people at the tournament would say that Wayne was one of their five, and who Wayne might have met when he made it to heaven.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Strung Out: The Story of Bob Benedetto

CH2, November 2010

Tucked into a non-descript warehouse, on the south side of Savannah, sits Benedetto Guitars. Wood dust, the scent of varnish, and the strains of string guitar waft into the air. Artisans work diligently on the next masterpiece. And Benedetto President Howard Paul is just wrapping up a more than two hour tour (and a phenomenal education on the history of the jazz guitar) when he nonchalantly quips, “Hey Bob, we’re coming through …”

After a collective gasp and sideways glances, among the C2 team, we realized that we were standing in the same room as master luthier Bob Benedetto. The legend to whom Paul had been referring for hours.

Admittedly, I didn’t ask the question, “Is Bob here?” I wrongly assumed he wouldn’t be toiling in the factory with the rest of his team. But, there he was, head tucked, hands in motion as he slowly sculpted a small body acoustic archtop from a piece of Sitka spruce, salvaged from a salt water bay, where a mollusk had his way with the wood, creating a stunning gift from nature.

But the story begins long before that. Decades before, in fact.

Born into a family of artists, cabinet makers and musicians (his grandfather made the legs on Steinway pianos), Benedetto made his first archtop guitar in 1968, with tools passed down from his grandfather and others that he made himself.

His reputation grew as he crafted guitars for noted players Bucky Pizzarelli, Chuck Wayne, Joe Diorio and Cal Collins. Later he added Johnny Smith, Jack Wilkins, Ron Eschete, Martin Taylor, Howard Alden, John Pizzarelli, Andy Summers, Jimmy Bruno and Kenny Burrell to the list of “The Benedetto Players. ” Pictures of all of them line the walls of the Savannah factory, many with a handwritten note documenting the day and place the moment was captured. The photographic history of Benedetto has been captured over decades by Bob’s wife Cindy, a photographer. (They met at a wedding, she the photographer and Bob in the band.)

As his name grew, so did the demand. From 1999-2006, Benedetto had a licensing agreement with Fender Musical Instruments to produce his models in a small, controlled manufacturing environment. But, for a man who nurtures a love affair with his craft, Benedetto was anxious to be back on his own.

In 2006, he joined forces with Howard Paul to take the Benedetto Guitar brand worldwide. The two have been making music and some rather stunning works of art ever since.

The process of crafting a Benedetto Guitar is long, and tedious, and requires the skilled hands of masters. The precision and personal attention to each instrument is what makes each Benedetto guitar special. The perfect piece of wood is selected from the 103 degree “wood room,” where Benedetto stores unique finds from all over the world (and where we spent 10 minutes sweating along with the story). Once the piece of wood is selected, it is carved diligently by hand to create the top and back of this hollow-bodied instrument. Every tree is different hence, every Benedetto guitar is unique. Master finisher Matt Eady hand sands and applies the color stain to each perfectly crafted body, in painstaking, repetitious manner. Such care is taken that only one instrument a day gets Eady’s attention. Master luthier Damon Mailand works on the final elements, adding the strings and finger plate, which “floats” magically above the body.

Don’t be mistaken – even though Benedetto receives worldwide acclaim, Bob personally signs and packs every instrument. Nothing leaves the factory without his approval. That is probably why Bob Benedetto is acknowledged as today’s foremost maker of archtop guitars. Over a prolific four-decade career, he has personally handcrafted nearly 800 instruments, including 500 archtops.

Today, Benedetto guitars appear on countless recordings, TV and film soundtracks, in videos, books, magazines, concerts, and museums, including the Smithsonian Institution who said, “I can think of no two people in the history of lutherie who have done more to increase appreciation for the archtop guitar than Bob and Cindy Benedetto.”

While the artists are at work, President Howard Paul oversees the day to day operations and handles 100% of sales for the company. While describing his crazy schedule, his phone rang and he rolled his eyes with an exaggerated smirk. “I’m also the secretary,” he chuckled as he covered the receiver with his hand.

Paul is a busy man and a talented jazz musician in his own right. When we sat down he had just played a dozen gigs, in ten days, while also moonlighting as one of the chief volunteers responsible for organizing the Savannah Jazz Festival. This year’s Festival poster features a portrait of him. And as the Festival had just wrapped its week-long schedule of performances, Paul looked exhausted, yet proud.

No rest for the weary, but at Benedetto, Paul is able to combine all of his loves since he admittedly has a hard time saying, “No.”

Paul has always been surrounded by music. He started playing guitar at four, jazz guitar at 10, and was playing professionally by the time he became a teenager. At 21, he was teaching guitar at the college level. Living in Atlantic City, NJ, there were plenty of gigs available for Paul, but he soon learned that the bar scene – “booze, drugs, and loose women,” he says – was a bad environment. So he went to college, graduated from the University of North Carolina and was soon back in Atlantic City. Again with the booze, the drugs, and those darn women.

So, his next escape was the Army, where he spent 10 years as a logistics officer. After the Army, Paul spent 10 years as a logistics executive for Chatham Steel. But, he “gigged the whole time. I never stopped playing,” he says.

Finally, in 1996 he was ready for his first Benedetto guitar. With a 3 ½ year wait on his hands (as if you needed anymore proof that these are truly custom works of art), Paul had plenty of time to become friends with the Bob Benedetto. Their friendship grew and a decade later their partnership was sealed.

Now four years into the journey, the duet crosses paths each day in the Savannah factory, where a tireless crew works to ensure that the artistry of jazz is as present in the instrument as it is the musician.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Voter Apathy and the Missing Blufftonians

Bluffton Today column
October 20, 2010

With Election Day just a couple weeks away, I thought it only appropriate that we brace ourselves for that mysterious time of year when 75% of Bluffton residents disappear. And by disappear, I mean sit on their behinds and choose not to vote. Voter apathy in Bluffton is an epidemic. I’ve written about it before. No one ever listens to me. Alas, I will give it one more try …

I get that you are busy, and that your time is valuable, but it will only take 15 minutes to vote. I promise. So, omit one little part of your daily routine and you’ll have made up the time … don’t shave your legs, or skip the trip to Starbucks, or eliminate one Facebook login, maybe even trade in your daily workout and walk to your polling place instead.

With our Gubernatorial and US Senate seats up for grabs, I hope you will move to action (you can find those ballots at And, if nothing else, direct your attention locally ( Don’t just sit back and watch the world go by, and let other people make decisions for you. When you do, you eliminate your voice, literally and figuratively. Meaning, if you aren’t going to vote, then for crying out loud, don’t complain. You haven’t earned that right. (I have earned that right, by the way, which is why I am going to continue down this path, just in case you were wondering.)

Now comes the twist. Locally, with the exception of the County Treasurer, every other seat that Blufftonians have the opportunity to decide, is an unopposed race. So, what is worse – folks not voting, or folks not running for office?

Whilst we are talking about the County Treasurer’s race, allow me to say this to the incumbent, Joy Logan. You ma’am, have some balls. I applaud your bravado (commence eye rolling) as you forge ahead in an attempt to continue to serve as an elected office, despite the public flogging that you have received, of late. I mean, the County Council has passed a resolution asking for your resignation. (Pay no attention to the fact that it is actually the voters who should be doing that, since we elected her.) And who cares that one of her former employees, the Clerk of Court, was indicted on federal charges of conversion of public funds. (Everyone makes a mistake now and then, right?)

Let me just point out that this time around, Joy Logan has an opponent.

His name is Douglas Henderson.

Now, I’m not going to tell you how to vote, but for the love of Pete (or Doug), would you do me the favor and at least do some research? If nothing else, could we ensure that Mr. Henderson has never let $200,000 of public funds disappear under his leadership? That’s all I ask.

Ok, now you’ve gotten me all riled up.

Since we are talking about the Treasurer’s Office, might this be the appropriate time to ask why in the world we are instructed to make the check out to Joy Logan when we pay our personal property taxes (car, boat, etc.)? Let’s ignore the obvious, and focus solely on the fact that my tax check shouldn’t be made out to a person. If these are county taxes, I’d prefer to pay the county. So, this begs the question, when I pay my property taxes online (I refuse to write a check to Logan) is it deposited into an account in Logan’s name (and, in essence funding her retirement, or legal bills for that matter)?

Now, my dear friends, if you decide to take my advice, and walk, jog, or bike to your polling place (doing good for your health and the health of our community, bonus!) then maybe you will be able to answer one more question for me. Why, oh why, when we have miles and miles of bike paths in Bluffton do the bikers insist on riding in the road? When they do this they put themselves and the rest of us in harm’s way. I mean, if I am driving in the right lane, and have to avoid a biker riding down the shoulder, but there is car in the left lane, whose life do I decide to save?

Now I am all worked up, and out of breathe, from agitation. I might ride my bike on Buckwalter Parkway this afternoon, just because I can. Or, maybe I should run for town council next time around. Just sayin’ …

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

There's A Hole in my Bucket

Bluffton Today column
October 6, 2010

Last weekend, I was preparing to spend the afternoon on the boat when I remembered that I threw out my “beer bucket” after my last outing on the high seas. “Beer bucket” is the nickname (yes, even buckets have nicknames in my life) for the garbage can on the boat. After three years of extensive use, “beer bucket” needed to meet his maker. So, to the landfill he went.

I called my co-captain for the day, let’s call him Lanky, and asked him to grab a bucket on his way. As we piled all of our gear – including new beer bucket - into the car, Lanky told me about the great deal he got on the bucket saying, “They gave me a discount because it has a hole in it.”

(If you’re not laughing now, you should never read my column again. Seriously, throw away the paper and never read another word of Courtney again.)

I was consumed by laughter.

Shoulders shaking.

Chest heaving.

Pee-your-pants laughter.

So much so that I couldn’t even eek out a reply.

When I finally composed myself, I had to ask, “So Lanky, who do you think really made out in this situation? I mean, the sole purpose of a bucket is to hold things. A bucket with a hole is no longer able to serve his purpose. So, did you really get a deal? Or is the guy at the store laughing all the way to the bank with the two bucks that you spent on an item that was no longer sell-able?”

Lanky was less than amused. I may have even hurt his feelings a little bit. Hey, maybe I’m crazy. Maybe the joy in receiving a good bargain far outweighs the fact that said bargain may suffer an early demise.
But nonetheless, we installed new beer bucket, who we’ll call “busted bottom,” and enjoyed the day on the boat.

Perception being everything, this bucket blunder made me wonder … if the bucket salesman was telling the story, what would his perspective be? And that got me thinking even more – when two people witness the same thing – how likely is it that both will recap the event in the same way?

I ask because, well, the bucket blunder didn’t end there.

After docking on Saturday, we cleaned the boat and brought “busted bottom” off the boat to dump his contents. Then, we threw him in the back of the car with the rest of the boating paraphernalia. So, on Sunday, when I was at Target and opened the back door of my SUV, “busted bottom” took a tumble. He rolled right under the car. I couldn’t grab him in time and he was soon safely stuck beneath my vehicle.

What to do? What to do?

I looked around to see who was watching before I determined my next move. And, as luck would have it the cart guy was in my parking aisle, and stopped to watch the show.

Now, I had to think quick.

My gut reaction was to just drive away. “Busted bottom” wasn’t worth the struggle, I mean he was already injured so why not just put him out of his misery? Honestly, what I wanted to do was utter a phrase that rhymes with bucket. However, upon further reflection I realized that based on how he was positioned under the car, it was more likely that I would back up and end up dragging him all the way home.

Another quick look over my shoulder revealed that cart guy was still watching so I really had no choice but to rescue “busted bottom.”

So there I was, lying on my side, in the Target parking lot, head beneath my car, arm outstretched, trying to fish “busted bottom” out from under the car with an umbrella. And, wouldn’t you know it … if it wasn’t for that hole, I never would have been able to capture the bucket.

I can only image that when cart guy got home that night he told the story of the crazy lady, lying down in the parking lot, with her head under her car, trying to grab a bucket. I wonder how his version ended?

Now, according to Lanky, his $2 was well spent because Bluffton - if not the world - got at least four stories out of it.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Interview With A Vampire

C2 EXCLUSIVE: Candice Accola - Interview With A Vampire

“No doesn’t mean never, it just means not yet.” Wise words uttered by Candice Accola’s father, and the inspiration she needed to continue auditioning, hoping for the perfect role. It worked.

In grade school, scary movies were an essential element of any slumber party for Accola. She grew up shrieking to the “Scream” and “I Know What You Did Last Summer” thrillogies. So, it is only natural that once she determined that acting was her career path, she would land her breakout role on the hit television series “Vampire Diaries.”

For Accola, her role is proof that dreams do come true. For the rest of us, it is the realization that at some point over the last few years the vampire genre has become a pop-culture phenomenon. It’s saucy, sexy, and fraught with innuendo. Oh, and there’s blood (corn syrup and Jello) and fangs if you’re into that kind of thing.

On the Vampire Diaries, Accola plays “Caroline Forbes,” who in the first season was of the non-vampire persuasion (we thought!), yet a selfish, bitchy, "frenemy" who was always out to win the popularity contest. According to Accola, “As the season progressed, I think the writers gave the character the opportunity to be so much more than any stereotype. The audience got to see that all of her external characteristics were really just a front for her insecurities and her constant need to just feel loved.” The writers may have also seen the spark in Accola, who has made this role her own.

At the end of season one “Caroline” was in a car crash and her fate was unknown. However, just days after the premier of season two – fans where in a tizzy and the internet was all a buzz with the revelation that Caroline survived the crash and in a dramatic twist is indeed a vampire. The plot thickens.

As a fan of the genre, it is clear that Accola isn’t spooked easily. She admits to an adventurous spirit, but very little scares her. “I’m pretty adventurous person but I've never ridden on a motorcycle,” she says. “The thought of not controlling the situation is what scares me more than being on a motorcycle. For instance, I love driving jet skis but if I have to ride on the back of one, I'm a pain in the ass for whoever's driving it!”

Ah, so it is control she seeks.

She has it. At a mere 23 years of age she is on her own in Atlanta, where the series films, and completely in control of her future. Raised in Orlando by her surgeon father and engineer mother, Accola remarks that it was “quite a curve ball” to her parents when she decided to pursue acting. Yet, her parents are her biggest fans and together with her brother Kree, they tune in each week to watch Vampire Diaries. And, Accola admits that it warms her heart when she sees Kree’s Facebook updates telling all of his friends to tune it and watch his big sister on TV.

While she is not one to get ahead of herself, and appreciates all that she has today, Accola continues to dream big. Her dream role? “A biopic seems like it would present the kind of role that would scare me the most and create the most challenges. When things are uncomfortable and scary, that's when you find out how capable and strong you really are,” she says.

And, she thinks a lot about the kind of career she wants to have. When asked if there is an actor’s career that she wants to emulate, Accola hesitates and says, “I think about this question a lot. Then I feel overwhelmed by this pressure to live up to somebody else's achievements according to their timeline. I respect so many actors’ paths and choices. But if I keep paying attention to what they're doing, I lose focus on where I'm at in my own journey. I'm focused on where I want my own career to go. Anything is possible in this business.”

When she isn’t dodging vampires on set in Atlanta, you’ll find Accola at the DeKalb Farmers Market, taking guitar lessons, riding her bike, seeing a movie or reading. (Specifically, she’s just convinced the other ladies on set to start a book club in their down time, and they’ll be tackling the Stieg Larsson “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” series first.) Luckily, Accola also set aside some time to indulge CH2 in a little Inside the Actor’s Studio- like Q&A.

Here, we get a little more insight into her persona, a la Proust and James Lipton. I think you’ll agree - she has her head and her heart in the right place.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A hammock, on a beach, with the one I love, after a Sunday BBQ with family and friends.

What is your greatest fear?
Fear itself. That quote's an oldie but goodie.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
My inner monologue when it becomes plagued by fear.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Close mindedness.

What is your greatest extravagance?
Dinners and dinner parties. And vintage jackets that are ridiculous to wear in L.A. or Georgia.

What is your current state of mind?

What do you dislike most about your appearance?
Everyone has insecurities about their appearance. Rather than single those out I’d rather embrace mine in a positive way. They're what make me, me.

Which living person do you most despise?
It takes a lot of time and energy to despise someone. I focus my energy on the people I love.

What is it that you most dislike?
Questions that ask you to pinpoint negative things in your life. (Touché! Love this girl.)

What do you most value in your friends?
An unconditional love without judgment, a willingness to agree to disagree, an ability to go with the flow.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Life itself.

When and where were you happiest?
Whenever I’m laughing with friends, loves or family. A glass of wine in hand is the cherry on top!

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I'm in my twenties. I change constantly as it is.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Thus far, my greatest achievements have been signing a record deal, being a part of the record breaking Miley Cyrus “Best of Both Worlds” tour and booking the job of Caroline on “The Vampire Diaries.”

Where would you like to live?

What is your favorite word?
“Oh-my-goodness.” When I say it, it's one word.

What is your most treasured possession?
A purple trunk of my childhood memories at my parents’ house.

What is your most marked characteristic?
My ability to find true excitement in life's mundane things.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Benjamin Franklin.

On what occasion do you lie?
When I'm asked, "which historical figure I most Identify with?"

What is your motto?
It always works out.

Puppy Love

C2 October issue
Gimme Shelter - Pal's New Home Provides Hope For Adoptable Pets

Four to five thousand unwanted and homeless cats and dogs are euthanized each year in Beaufort County. That is not a typo. Four to five thousand every year. It is a heartbreaking statistic.

Amy Campanini, Executive Director of Palmetto Animal League (PAL) witnesses that heartbreak every day. It is the reason she has dedicated the better half of this decade to being a part of the solution.

Palmetto Animal League (formerly Beaufort Humane Association) is a thirty-year young non-profit organization dedicated to being the voice for animals in need in the Lowcountry. PAL works tirelessly promoting pet adoptions, providing rescue, educating people about the humane treatment of all animals and ending pet overpopulation through low cost spay/neuter services.

In 2002, PAL launched a foster care program and in the eight years since they have helped over 5,000 animals through rescue, foster care and adoption. What is most remarkable is that they did all of this with no place to call home. PAL has no physical building, simply an extensive foster care network and a dedicate corps of volunteers.

However, this is all about to change.

On October 30th, PAL will open their new Adoption Center in Riverwalk Business Park. There, they are creating a home-like atmosphere for the cats and dogs that need a home away from their forever home. “It is a halfway house,” says Campanini with a chuckle, “they are halfway home.”

And what a home it will be. Cage-less kitty condos will be available for the feline population. Puppies will room with their littermates and in some cases with Mom too. A dozen kennels will allow dogs to live communally according to their pack profile – their personality types and dispositions will determine who their roommate is. The Lifestyle Room will feel like your family room at home - featuring couches and TV – and offering a spot for the animals, and their human volunteers to horse around or simply relax. Socialization is key for the animals, to prepare them for their new families. The dual benefit for humans isn’t to be ignored either … in fact, Campanini mused about singles’ activities at PAL. Hmmm, she may be on to something here.

Campanini’s goal is to make the Adoption Center people-friendly too, “We want people to come in, feel comfortable and spend time here. And more importantly, we want them to return.”

After all, the success of PAL has been built on the backs of their volunteers. PAL has more than 100 active volunteers who bathe, groom, socialize, and train the animals. Campanini also encourages volunteers to have a doggie date. Take a road trip to Petco or Petsmart. Walk on the beach. Visit an outdoor café. Play fetch at the dog park. (A date who doesn’t talk your ear off. Or pick his teeth during dinner. Or belch the alphabet. Score!)

“The mantra at PAL is that we work hard, but we also have fun,” says Campanini. Her warm and engaging personality supports that theory. Her eyes smiled as she reminisced about a woman visiting the PAL booth at Mayfest this past spring. There, she happened upon two dogs humping and commented, “Wow. PAL really does have fun!”

The work is fun. But, their goals are lofty. The Adoption Center has room for 120 adoption-ready cats and dogs and Campanini hopes to adopt out 500 pets in the first year. They can’t do it alone.

And sadly she says, “We won’t adopt our way out of the problem that exists.” But we can change the perception of this problem, which Campanini indicates is the underlying cause. The negative stigma of shelter cats and dogs prevents many from making a shelter animal a member of their family. People hear “shelter” and they picture hundreds of skinny dogs, behind bars, with sad eyes. And then they are reluctant to pick just one, they feel guilt over leaving the other animals behind. So, folks avoid shelters. And, as a result six to eight million cats and dogs will die this year in the United States.

But the bottom line is these animals are not damaged goods. They are sweet, innocent, unique personalities … each hoping for a place to call home. And we – YOU – should give them a chance.

Visit the new PAL Adoption Center. Volunteer. Laugh. Learn. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll meet the four-legged love of your life.

Palmetto Animal League Adoption Center Grand Opening
Saturday, October 30th
Come dressed to celebrate “Howl-o-ween” and bring a treat for our furry friends. The Center appreciates donations of dog and cat food and treats, toys, and cat litter. Visit for more details. Woof!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

All Charged Up

Bluffton Today column
September 22, 2010

Last week my car battery died. So, what’s a single girl to do? Call her mother, of course! Seriously, I’m 37 years old and still called my Mom. I chalk it up to the genre of the problem. I am just not comfortable dealing with car issues. (Or cable TV, landscaping, or exterminating, just in case anyone is taking notes.)

Call number two was to AAA, who assured me that someone would be at my house in 45 minutes to an hour. Five minutes later there was a knock on the door and Carolina Towing was ready to get to work. Five minutes! You have to love Bluffton.

Brian from Carolina Towing concurred with my dead battery diagnosis and then he shocked the hell out of me. He installed a new battery, right there, in my driveway. Hello! Now that is service.

Remember the old days, when you used to have to have your car towed to the garage. Drop your keys in the drop box. (Because don’t batteries always die after the end of the business day?) Get a ride to work the next morning. Call the garage when you got to work, explaining that you are the dope who dropped your car off in the middle of the night. Then, listen to them tell you how long it would take for them to “get to it.” You catch my drift.

As Brian toiled under the hood, my Mom swung by just to make sure all was well. (And, that Brian was not an ax-murderer.) To keep him on his toes, she drilled him with car repair questions and complimented him on the nice “wrap” on his truck. Oh yes, even going so far as to ask where he got it done. Um Mom, are you planning to get your 2005 Chevy Malibu wrapped with your personal logo?

Once the work was done, in less than the time AAA thought it would take for them to even arrive, Mom reminded me of another AAA escapade more than a dozen years ago. This would be the episode where I locked my keys in my car, three times in one week.

Back then, I would go out for a morning run, and stick my keys under the car mat, while I was gone. In hindsight, not my wisest move ever. I realize now that not only was I giving a potential unsavory character access to steal the car, but they could also unlock the front door of the house. Anyway, on one particular morning (and two subsequent, but who’s counting?), I somehow managed to lock the keys in the car, so I called AAA.

Now it is important to note that my car at the time was a Kia Sephia. Basically the first Kia model ever introduced to the world. Hey, I was a recent college graduate and making peanuts, give me a break.

So, I called AAA and explained that I locked my keys in the car. The very helpful (insert sarcasm here) customer service representative began her line of questioning. Name? Membership number? Address? Car make and model?

“It’s a Kia.”

“A what?”

“A Kia. A Kia Sephia.”

“I’m sorry, a what?”

“Kia. K-I-A. Kia.” (Exasperated sigh.)

“That isn’t a car. There is no Kia in my database.”

“Oh, I assure you, it is a car.” (Volume increases and a special accent is placed on the word “car.”)


“Yes, A KIA!” (Shouting now!)

Mumbling almost inaudibly, “I’ve never heard of a Kia.”

“How about this … it is THE ONLY CAR IN THE DRIVEWAY! Think you’ll be able to find it?”

“Ok, someone will there shortly.”

Miracle of all miracles, the AAA guy did find the only car in the driveway.

Fast forward one third of my life and you can now see why my delight regarding good service – signed, sealed and delivered in under an hour – has me pretty giddy. (Thank goodness I drive a more recognizable vehicle these days.)

Now, if only we could get the DIRECTV customer service reps to employ that same level of service. Mom, will you call DIRECTV for me?

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

What's In a Name?

Bluffton Today column
September 8, 2010


Old Blue Eyes.

Tricky Dick.

Big Papi.


These are the nicknames of legends - Walter Payton, Frank Sinatra, Richard Nixon, David Ortiz, and my Mom, respectively.

I want a nickname. I’ve always wanted a nickname.

The acquisition of a nickname however is serious business. Some nicknames make you cool. Some make you a laughing stock. Others prevent you from garnering votes. And then there are those that force you into a hermit-like lifestyle. I’d prefer the first -- a nickname that indicates my cool factor. One that sticks. One that defines me.

In high school, my best friend’s father, who was also a teacher, nicknamed me “Pita.” Translation: pain in the ass. When I sat three rows back in his Algebra II class, he called me Pita for 180 long days. You can imagine how well that was received. Luckily, Pita never caught on at home or elsewhere and it diminished along with my big hair at the end of high school.

My parents and sister call me “Cour.” Friends in high school called me “Court” (and still do today), but I don’t know that dropping a few letters constitutes a nickname, does it?

Why the fascination with a nickname?

Well, my first name is my father’s middle name. My middle name is my mother’s first name. My first name is also my paternal grandmother’s maiden name. So, it is only natural that my obsession with names came at an early age.

And, what a tangled web it wove.

You see it all started when my paternal grandmother died when my father was quite young. In tribute to her, my father always planned to name a daughter Courtney. A year before I was born my aunt gave birth to her third daughter, whom she named Mary, middle name Courtney. The family called her Mary.

That is, until I came along. Then Mary became Mary Courtney. Fast forward a few more years and suddenly Mary Courtney is just Courtney. And out of nowhere that branch of the family tree started calling me Courtney Eileen.

Whoa. Wait a minute now. Isn’t the first name-middle name combination reserved for ticked off parents wanting to make a strong statement yelling down the block for their child to come home? As in, “Courtney Eileen, get your butt in this house right now!”

Once the Mary vs. Courtney smack down came to light, I made a decision. People will call me what I want them to call me. No exceptions.

So, you can imagine my surprise the year that Aunt Madeleine and Uncle Al decided to make personalized ornaments for everyone for Christmas, and mine read “Corey.” Um, who? There must be some mistake here. Either, Aunt M and Uncle A have misunderstood my real name for oh, twelve years, or they were running short on yarn. For crying out loud, no one had ever (and has never since) called my Corey because well, it’s not my name!

Twenty something years later and I am still seeking that bonafide nickname.

It is important for all of the men reading to note that “Babe” is not a nickname. It is a feeble attempt at showing the woman you are with that you have some affection toward her. However, it may be perceived in the negative. Correction. It will be perceived in the negative by moi. Think Danny Zucko. He was so much cooler when he wasn’t trying so hard.

I was actually jealous when in her early teens my sister Sharon was dubbed “Sharnee” by a girl she babysat. It stuck, and she is still Sharnee today.

When my nieces began to talk, I knew I would get a nickname out of it – Courtney isn’t exactly easy to annunciate when you are a toddler. And, I did. I have been dubbed “Nortney” and “Ninny.” But outside the family circle, they really don’t see much play. However, let it be known that I dread the day that Erin or EmmaKate says, “Courtney.”

But, I still long for a nickname.

Do I have to do something memorable? Lead the league in tackles or homeruns? Croon ‘til folks swoon? Resign the Presidency?

Or simply, be me?

Like Phreenie has. Her nickname happened upon her in the most generic way. Young girls acting silly, making rhymes, and suddenly Eileen becomes Phreenie. We don’t remember exactly when or how it happened, but she is Phreenie. And, today is Phreenie’s birthday.

Maybe for my next birthday, I’ll get a nickname. Until then, I’ll wish Phreenie the happiest of birthdays. And hope that Sharnee, Peanut and Monkey continue to call me Nortney. After all, a nickname born of love is better than no nickname at all.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Midway Blue

CH2 September 2010: The boys of Midway Blue rolled into town and I got the interview.

On a road somewhere between Florence and Myrtle Beach sits an old, rundown motel. A diner-esque sign flashes its name – “Midway” - in blue.

That sign defines the character of the country cool quintet, Midway Blue. It was lead singer Warren Stone who named the band while traversing the state headed to a gig. He was halfway to his destination when he paused for a minute and said, “wait, we don’t even have a name.” His wife looked out the car window and pointed to the Midway sign. The rest is history.

I caught up with Stone as he was once again, in the car, negotiating a state highway -- his manager talking in one ear, and me in the other. Stone wouldn’t have it any other way. He acknowledges that sometimes flying by the seat of your pants is the best way to arrive at your destination. In fact, he does it each night on stage noting, “Every night we make up lyrics.” It seems the lyrics don’t always come to him when he needs them. Stone admits that, “Sometimes on stage I just get side-tracked, I get caught up in the drummer’s energy or someone else bopping around. Heck, sometimes I even forget the lyrics to songs I wrote.” He is nothing, if not honest.

But, his band mates know him well enough to know that when he turns to them with that questioning look, he is searching for the next line. They nod, feed it to him, and the band plays on.

If truth be told, the band is often in sync like that, more so that you would expect since the five of them have been playing together for a mere two years. But sometimes things just click.

Stone believes that. In fact, his father has been telling him that for years, “Life is 110% luck, its being in the right place at the right time.” And that is really how Midways Blue’s story unfolded five years ago when Stone walked into Shuckers Grill and Raw Bar (where they are now the house band) and was mesmerized by the “kid” on the drums.

That kid was Parker Dewitt, then just 17 years old. The two hit it off immediately and eventually combined sounds with guitarist Tyler Roberts to form the trio “Stone and Friends.” In 2008, the three decided to cut a full length album as Midway Blue. In search of a new sound - to add a little edge - they invited bassist Liv McBride and mandolin player Jeff Springs into the studio. They grit their teeth and hoped for a little magic. They got it. Their self-titled inaugural album debuted last November.

Stone says it is also luck that landed them on “Fast Track to Fame,” which he likened to American Idol for NASCAR fans. Hosted by the Speed Channel, “Fast Track to Fame” was staged at eight racetracks around the country. 10,000 bands submitted audition tapes. Midway Blue quickly advanced and was dubbed “the band to beat.” Their 90 second final performance, a stellar rendition of the Marshall Tucker Band’s “Can You See,” made them the band that no one could beat, and they emerged the winner. I don’t know if this was pure luck, and chances are if you listen to them play, you might agree. There is a heck of a lot of talent in this band. And twice as much mutual respect.

To hear Stone talk about his band mates, it appears almost too good to be true. They all grew up in and around Florence, SC. They are small town boys. They love each other. They are a family. And like in any family, they each have a role to play. As the oldest member, at a whopping 29, Stone sees himself as the papa bear, always on the move handling the business of being a band.

When asked, Stone was more than happy to offer a little insight to his band of brothers. Tyler Roberts … “Well he is the class clown,” and Stone admits it is actually difficult to describe Roberts with just words.

If Stone is the hare, then Parker Dewitt is the tortoise – contemplative, he takes his time, with his music and with his thoughts. Liv McBride is the opinionated one, “you’ll never have to guess what he is thinking,” says Stone. And finally he says Jeff Springs is “pure musical genius.”

You might get a better of understanding of just who Warren Stone is by watching him on stage. He plays every show with a lit cigarette in his mouth. Yes, he is the lead singer and yes, he’s swallowed a cig or two over the course of his short career. And with a smirk he’ll tell you that, “I have worked very hard to be able to do both in tandem.”

In a recent appearance on WHHI’s Talk of the Town, the Midway Blue compatriots were dubbed “good old country boys.” But what exactly does that mean, I had to ask. Well, according to this five-some it means they like to drive big trucks, wear plaid shirts, sit on a tailgate, drink beer, and talk about good times … and they are proud of it. Frankly, they don’t care if you disagree.

They put 110% into each lyric, each recording session, and each live show. They keep pushing, because they can’t stop. Music is in their blood, coursing through their veins, it’s a passion, an addiction. “It doesn’t matter if we are playing for one person or 1,000 – someone is listening to us and that is a real good feeling,” Stone says.

The nerves are still there each time they get up to perform says Stone. And before each show you can usually find him puking in a bucket somewhere. Really. But, that’s alright because according to his mentor, the late Bill Pinkney of the Drifters (also a South Carolina boy), “The day you get up and you’re not nervous, quit. Put your guitar in its case and the case in the closet. Find something else to do.”

For now, they do it for the love of the music. They do it for their fans, “the best fans.” And they do it to pay homage to the small South Carolina towns where they come from.

Stone sums it up best -- “I was country before country was cool. I was plaid before plaid was cool. I’ll never outgrow my roots.”

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Music to Your Mouth

This month in CH2, I got to write about one of my true loves, the Music to Your Mouth event at Palmetto Bluff. And, they even took our picture!

Just a couple of weeks ago I woke in a cold sweat. However, once I realized that it was indeed just a dream that our event headliner (Gail Simmons, from Bravo TV’s Top Chef) didn’t show, I was able to relax a little.

Palmetto Bluff’s Music to Your Mouth event series is a lot of work. I won’t lie. I lose sleep thinking about all of the details. In fact, once I have my first Music to Your Mouth related nightmare, I know we must be within the 90-day mark. The good news is that as we near the fourth year of the event, I have come to expect the sleepless nights.

The better news is that I share the stresses and the successes with three other members of the Palmetto Bluff team—Sommelier Jason Carlen, Executive Chef Kirk Gilbert, and Food and Beverage Director Jeremy Walton.

Our blooper reel is quite comprehensive. Together we’ve battled frigid temperatures. Yes, when the mercury dips below 20, shrimp will freeze on a buffet. We’ve learned that pulling all the power from one source will indeed trip the circuit and result in pure mayhem, especially when it is merely 10 minutes before the start of an event, and the band is shooting daggers from their place on the darkened stage. We’ve felt the panic associated with the “what do you mean the toilets won’t flush” moment (also 10 minutes before the start of an event). And we’ve watched while the sprinkler system blasted the interior of the 10,000-square-foot main tent, soaking everything in its wake (stage, sound system, lights and all), leaving a spectacular ice coating, due to aforementioned frigid temperatures.

We’ve also watched a two-day event that started just four years ago grow into a year-long food and wine series with more than 40 events and some of the most noted chefs and winemakers in the country. I think it is fair to say that we are quite proud of what we have created. As a team, we are a force to reckoned with. We work hard. And we are hard on each other. In the end, however, we truly enjoy the camaraderie and have fun. But that wasn’t always the case.

Flashback to October 2007. We were just 45 days out from the first ever Music to Your Mouth event. Jeremy had recently joined Palmetto Bluff and was walking into the event planning mid-stream. So we got together for the first time to tackle all of the looming logistics.

All was well until we came upon the topic of glassware. I was adamant that we need glassware for our block party. Jeremy was concerned (and rightly so, I’ll admit in retrospect) that if someone dropped a glass on the “block” (i.e. street), it would shatter and someone could get hurt. The debate was on. As I think back to it now, I can picture everyone else in the room shrinking back in their chairs as Jeremy and I jousted for dominance. That first duel was a draw, but he eventually won the bout (however, our acrylic-ware was of the highest quality!). We learned later that we both walked away from that first meeting muttering, “Geez, what a bleep he/she is.”

We still have our battles, but we’re smarter now. We know each other’s personalities well enough to guess where we will each land on a topic, and we certainly play our hand accordingly—sometimes we gang up on each other; other times we accept defeat.

Picture a square. Now try putting the four of us in that square. We would each exist in a totally different corner. We’re that different. But in the end, despite our differences—and our never-ending debate—the whole of the team is certainly greater than the sum of our parts. Meet the players:

“FOOD FEST COURTNEY” —The guys call me “Food Fest Courtney.” On the rare (cue laugh track) occasion that I get a little persnickety, I apparently morph into this alter ego. Food Fest Courtney has a little more sass (read: attitude) and an agonizingly infinite attention to detail. I can often be heard saying, “No, move the table to the left, another inch, now back, to the left again, a little bit more, no, no, no!” They won’t let me in the kitchen, so instead I handle the organizational aspects. I maintain the look, balance the books, book the travel, coordinate the vendors, court the sponsors, tout the event. And I move tables back and forth, and back and forth again, to ensure that our vision is achieved.

JOLLY JUICE DIRECTOR —Jason. He makes magic. He is a certified sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers, but we prefer to call him the director of jolly juice. People get sauced on his good drink. He’s concocting cocktails and toiling away in his wine cellar, seeking the best and brightest stars of the wine world, enticing them all to Palmetto Bluff. And, if he can’t find exactly what he is looking for, he’ll travel to Napa to blend his own. (He unveiled Palmetto Bluff’s first Pinot Noir just a couple months ago.) Persuasion is a tool that Jason has mastered. Celebrated winemakers with standout collections travel from as far as Germany to be a part of Music to Your Mouth. He’s that good.

CHEF KIRK —I picture the culinary team standing behind the line saluting Chef Kirk. He commands attention. Almost stoic, he is all business. He takes his job quite seriously, which is probably why his résumé includes a Mobile Four Star rating and a guest chef stint at the James Beard House. During Music to Your Mouth, Kirk and his team provide support for nearly 30 guest chefs, no small feat. As the newest member of the team, Kirk had to elbow his way into a pretty tight trio. We’ve found that when the work is done, his quick wit keeps us all on our toes. He’s a perfect fit.

SOUTHERN COMFORTER —Jeremy is the lone southerner in the group, and he works to ensure that the traditions of the South maintain a presence at Music to Your Mouth, and on Palmetto Bluff’s menus and tables year-round. Jeremy works with our culinary team and guest chefs to coordinate the tastes of 17 event menus. But he isn’t just in the kitchen; he dives into all aspects of planning and helps build the events from soup to nuts. We’ve seen him carry tables on his back, de-lint linens, tap a keg, and polish wine glasses. He may talk a little slower than the rest of us, but he moves twice as fast. He gets the job done.

We’d like to think that we put together the finest nibbles and nectars to ever tickle a taste bud. And when people ask what we want this event to become, we actually provide the unorthodox answer. We could make this the biggest food and wine event in the Southeast—heck, in the country. But believe it or not, we don’t want to. For us, it is about creating connections. You’re not just going to taste the food; you are going to talk to the chef who prepared it. The winemaker himself is often filling your glass. The farmer is explaining why his food is best for your table. All of these elements come together to create an experience that can only be described as … Music to Your Mouth.

We invite you to join us at our table and become a part of our tradition. And we’ll try to make sure the bathrooms are working, the power is on, the food is not frozen, and the tent is dry. It’s the least we can do. Cheers!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Our Right is All Wrong

Bluffton Today column
August 26, 2010

August 26, 1920 – women finally gain the right to vote.

Fast forward 90 years.

August 26, 2010 - we’ve come along a long way baby.

Or not.

Communication theorists still argue that gender differences are due to inequalities in social power. For example, Janet Holmes suggests that because of women’s lesser social power, they are more apt to communicate with greater deference and politeness than are men. Further, Deborah Tannen illustrates that while women tend to use “rapport talk,” in an attempt to build a common bond while communicating, men use “report talk,” meaning they state the facts and just the facts, with little time for niceties.

Why is it acceptable that women are deemed to be sugar, spice, and everything nice? Due to these perceived inequalities, one could argue (and I will) that a woman who speaks her mind is labeled as pushy, obnoxious, and speaking out of turn. However a man who pushes his opinions on others and acts aggressively will be viewed as a fine leader, if folks are following.

Is this misnomer the reason why women have a harder time ascending to leadership positions?

Consider these statistics. Presently, a mere 28 women hold Chief Executive Officer positions in Fortune 1000 companies. That’s a piddly 2.8%. In fact, the first woman CEO of a Fortune 500 company (Katherine Graham of the Washington Post Co.) wasn’t even appointed until 1972. An even more interesting tidbit is that the first minority woman to hold a CEO post didn’t come along until 1999. She was Andrea Jung, the first ever female CEO of Avon. Pretty ironic since women have been selling Avon since 1886 (34 years before we won the right to vote), yet men led the charge for the company’s first 113 years.

Sadly, in 2010, only 92 of the 535 members of Congress are women. However, according to the US Census Bureau, in the 2008 elections 54% of the 131 million who voted were women. That doesn’t seem equitable, does it?

If we look further at our government, we’ll find that Madeleine Albright, the first woman Secretary of State and highest ranking woman in the U.S. government didn’t come along until 1997 (that was only 13 years ago people!). The first female executive chef of the White House didn’t get cooking until 2005. And, it was only three years ago that Nancy Pelosi became the first woman Speaker of the House. What is wrong with this picture?

The media doesn’t help our plight.

Michele Obama’s wardrobe is more often a headline than the work she does. In fact, the first time she was photographed in shorts there was uproar. Political analysts (and I used that term loosely) debated whether shorts were appropriate attire for the First Lady? Um, do y’all remember the miniscule running shorts that Bill Clinton used to wear? He didn’t leave much to the imagination, jogging around Washington DC as if he were smuggling grapes. Perhaps that is why the interns were all a flutter?

Speaking of Clinton and interns. He had sex in the White House, got a slap on the wrist and remains revered. Don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of Bill Clinton. But, for arguments sake, if a female elected official was caught having sex in the White House she would be branded a whore. Not collecting $1 million per public appearance.

Now, say our former President wanted to be sure that no first babies were a result of his dalliances with wanna-be-first ladies -- he might opt for a vasectomy. And, because most insurance companies cover a vasectomy, the President would pay a minimal co-pay and, after the swelling subsided, he would resume his oval office activities.

However, female infertility, which affects one in every 10 women, remains treatable, only for those of means because of the great expense. Currently, only 15 states throughout the country require or encourage some type of infertility treatment. Yet, I am pretty sure that women live in every state in the US, no? Infertility is a medically recognized disease that affects men (yup, men too!) and women equally. Still, many insurance companies do not provide coverage for treatment to overcome this disease, but single out infertility for exclusion. Anyone care to tackle this debate?

On the 90th anniversary of our right to vote, I have to ask what exactly are we celebrating?
Only 72% of female US citizens over age 18 are even registered to vote. And, only 65% of those voted in the 2008 elections.

Why are we celebrating a right that 69,715,750 women don’t even exercise? Frankly, we should be embarrassed.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I Say Tomato

Bluffton Today Column
August 11, 2010

Apparently I have an accent. A New Jersey accent it would seem. Frankly, this is news to me. As far as I am concerned, I don’t have an accent. But geez, you certainly do. Have you heard yourself?

I bring this up because last weekend I was at a restaurant with my sister and we experienced a little communication breakdown. We ordered drinks and something to eat, and as the waitress turned to walk away I said, “And can we get water too.” She spun back around and looked at me like I had two heads, “waters,” I repeated in exasperation. Yeah, still nothing. I gave it one more shot and enunciated as best I could, “waah-ter?” Bingo! “Of course,” she responded with a smile.

It was at that moment that I finally had to admit that I do indeed have an accent. But, only on some words … like “warder,” which is apparently how I pronounce water. I suspect that the waitress thought I was asking to order (rhymes with warder), which we had just done so that certainly explains her you-have-two-heads look.

While I am at it, I might as well fess-up to “cawfee,” you know that caffeine loaded goodness you start your day with? And “wawlk,” which is what I do when I put one foot in front of the other.

So, basically the more I think about it I realize that if I was to narrate my first hour of each day, no one would understand me. I get up in the morning and I go for a wawlk. I come back and I simultaneously drink some warder while making my cawfee. Hmph, what are the chances?

After the warder episode of 2010 my sister and I started talking about some of the other linguistic challenges we have encountered since migrating south. For example, when I need food I go to the food store. People always laugh at me when I say “food store.” Apparently, it is the “grocery store.” I beg to differ … if I buy I liquor at the liquor store, why can’t I get my food at the food store?

Once at the food store (fine! the grocery store) I take items off the shelf and put them in my cart, which is another misnomer. Groceries (read: not food) go in a buggy. Buggy? As in horse and …? When I think of a buggy, I picture the Ingalls family (Ma, Pa, Laura, Mary, the whole crew) headed into town to Olsen’s Mercantile. After Laura and Nellie pull each other’s pig tails (which happened in every episode) they buy their necessities for the next 60 days, load them into their buggy, which is pulled by their horse, and head back down the dusty road to their farm, where everyone slept in one room. I’m just saying …

Speaking of Pa, I don’t drink pop, I drink soda. Actually I don’t really even really like soda. I have, however, become the number one fan of sweet tea. If I was to go back to Jersey and order a sweet tea, I am pretty certain the waitress would give me a tea, toss some sugar packets on the table and mutter under her breathe that I should sweeten my own damn tea. Yeah, they don’t really sweeten anything up north. (Including moi.)

Now, if it turns out that I need cash before I grab a sweet tea, I will stop at the “MAC.” The what? You know that machine at the bank that spits money out at you, after you enter your four-digit code. Ah yes, you’re probably thinking that machine is called the ATM. And, for 99.9% of the world it is. Somehow however, when the ATM was unveiled in New Jersey, we decided to call it the MAC machine. In our defense, “MAC” was one of the interbank networks similar to the Cirrus and PLUS networks today, the logos for which you see on machines. Apparently in the garden state, we haven’t been able to let go of the MAC label. But at least now you know what the heck .01% are talking about.

So in homage to the “garden state” that heavily influenced my vernacular and pronunciation, I guess we can only come to one conclusion. I say tomato, you say tomahto, let’s work the whole thing out. Or, we can just keep making fun of each other, which is certainly my preference.

PS – this one is for you Jack!

Courtney Hampson says either, you say eyether. She says neither and you say nyther. If you’d like to communicate with her sans accent, email is best. Contact her at

Death Penalty Certified

August 2010 issue

“My first death penalty case was back in 1990. My client was the first person in South Carolina to be executed by lethal injection, after the demise of the use of electric chair. Oddly enough, I spent the last few hours with him in his cell. They put a TV nearby and let you watch anything you want, and they let you call anywhere in the world. We watched John Wayne war movies and he spoke to his young relatives asking them not to follow his path. We ate popcorn shrimp from Bojangles’ until his time was up. His name was Michael Elkins.” – Dudley Bradstreet Ruffalo

282 people have been executed by the state of South Carolina since 1912. Just two of the dead are women. Sadly the count includes a 14 year old boy. An additional 54 sit on Death Row in South Carolina today.

234 of the 282 executions occurred prior to 1960.

A federal moratorium on executions was enacted in 1962, even though state statutes remained in effect. According to the South Carolina Department of Corrections, for a number of years, South Carolina’s death penalty statute was “fairly typical” and “provided for the ultimate penalty for a number of crimes including, but not limited to, murder, rape and kidnapping.” The statute predicated that the death penalty may be imposed in “those situations where the jury made a final finding of guilt without an affirmative recommendation of mercy.”

In 1972, the US Supreme Court declared that most death penalty statutes, including South Carolina’s was unconstitutional. So, South Carolina changed the statute. But then in 1976, the Supreme Court ruled that while the death penalty was not unconstitutional, “each case should be considered upon its merit,” but the 8th amendment (cruel and unusual punishment) could not be violated.

By the time this all shook out in 1976, the court reasoned that if the prosecution wanted to pursue the death penalty, a number of things must happen. First, there would be a two-phase hearing – part one would determine guilt or innocence. And in the case of a guilty verdict a second phase specific to sentencing would commence. The sentencing phase allows for mitigating circumstances to be entered into record. Next, the death penalty can be sought in murder cases, but only if the murder was accompanied by one or more aggravating circumstances (rape, torture, kidnapping). Finally, the defendant is appointed two attorneys and has a mandatory appeal process (to make sure the law was applied correctly).

Interestingly, it is extremely rare for a person facing the death penalty to pull out the yellow pages and start calling lawyers. The cost to defend a death penalty case runs in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Thus, once the prosecutor decides he is going for the death penalty (the prosecutor alone makes that call), a judge is assigned to the case, and that judge immediately begins to seek counsel and co-counsel for the defendant.

It seems odd, but the judge truly picks up the phone and starts calling the best criminal defense attorneys in the county where the crime was committed. In Beaufort County that means one of three guys is getting the call.

Enter the realist, the historian, the humanist. Three men who march into a courtroom and defend the rights of someone accused of a heinous crime. Why?

The realist
Sam Bauer is rather matter of fact. He has been involved in four death penalty cases (and an additional 25 homicide cases). “No one takes these cases,” he says. “But,” he continued, “When the court puts that much faith in you … you step up.”

Bauer was put in the criminal defense chair right out of college. Literally. He graduated and was waiting for his new job to start, when a family friend called. That “friend” was the federal circuit court judge in Mobile, Alabama. He invited Bauer to “come watch.” And before he knew it, Bauer was appointed as the defense attorney. “I knew the second I walked into that courtroom that this was what I wanted to do.”

The perception of a defense attorney can be quite negative. And you have to ask (and I did), how they do it. For Bauer, he knows that his role is to protect his client, to make sure that the evidence is trustworthy and value, to afford his client the right to a fair trial, to ensure that the government is not corrupt, and most importantly than an innocent person is not convicted and sentenced to death. It’s a matter of fact.

The historian
Dudley Bradstreet Ruffalo comes from generations of attorneys however his interest in law goes back much further. As a student of ancient history, he offers interesting perspective on crime and punishment.

Ruffalo can roll back the clock and cite historical references dating back to the Ancient World and Hammurabi’s Code – the ol’ eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth theory, to the Roman Empire, the Middle Ages, modern European times, and finally the United States legal system.

I’d peg Ruffalo as a “social historian” – his evaluation of the complex systems of rules, over centuries, all boil down to the effect on society. And he studies the historical elements, for better understanding of the role he plays today.

SIDEBAR: Did you know that when you raise your hand in a court of law and swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, that is actually a throw-back to a practice that started in Roman times and continued into the Middles Ages? Back when, if you committed a crime, that crime was branded on the palm of your hand?

Yes, this means that Hester Prynne actually got off easy when they simply sewed the scarlet letter on her frock.

If your hand was marked, you were a felon and your testimony would not be taken.

Ruffalo has participated in eight death penalty cases - four for the defense and four as the prosecutor.

He’s seen both sides of the courtroom and admits that he questions the merit of the death penalty all the time, mainly because he says, “What scares me most is that innocent people have been convicted.”

In fact, Ruffalo introduced me to the Innocence Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to exonerating the innocent. Shockingly, there have been 255 post-conviction DNA exonerations in United States history. Seventeen people have been proven innocent and exonerated by DNA testing in the United States after serving time on death row. They were convicted in 11 states and served a combined 209 years in prison – including 187 years on death row – for crimes they didn’t commit.

I’d say that is certainly enough evidence to warrant taking your job seriously and Ruffalo does.

He’s been the prosecutor, served as municipal judge for Hilton Head, was director of a legal clinic, and today has his own practice as a criminal defense attorney. It’s safe to say Ruffalo has seen it all, and yet he keeps coming back for more.

The humanist
“They all have a story to tell and need someone to listen,” says attorney Donald Colongeli, who struck me as a man with intense passion for what he does. It is clear the moment you start talking to him that he shoots from the hip and tells it like it is. It is even more evident that he uses that approach to build a rapport with his clients.

Admittedly, he has to go to a pretty dark place to try to understand a client charged with murder. “I shut the door, I lay out all of the evidence, I look at gruesome pictures, I listen to the 911 tape -- all in an effort to understand,” Colongeli says. He likens his role to that of a surgeon saying, “The prognosis is not good, but I still have to give my client a fair shot. I still have nightmares about some of the things I have seen.”

Interestingly, Colongeli started law school as a staunch republican. But, as his education progressed, so did his thought process and he divulges that he became more and more liberal as time passed because of those cases where the defendant may indeed be innocent.

He does what he does because he gets, “a certain satisfaction from upholding the law of the state and the country.” It all boils down to applying the law. There is a checks and balances in the criminal justice system. And Colongeli notes that it is his job to protect the rights of his client … even if he thinks he is guilty.

“It never gets easier. I still get the shakes and vomit before a case. I’m human too… and I love it.”

A realist, a historian, a humanist -- three very different men with very different backgrounds, personalities, and passions.

Men who aren’t saying they don’t believe in the death penalty, but do believe that no innocent man should lose his life.

And, based on the statistics, we should all share that worry.

Writer’s Note: This year I have penned a story about Beaufort County Sheriff PJ Tanner, Beaufort County Sheriff’s Investigator Bob Bromage, and the County Crime Lab. Each of those stories, interviews, and experiences weighed heavily in my mind as I tackled this topic. I’d received such a complete education on the prosecution and investigative side of things that I felt like my mind was partially closed when it came to the defendant. However, I have to give credit to Sam, Dudley, and Don; they opened and may have actually changed my conservative mind.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Art of the Break-Up

Bluffton Today column
July 28, 2010

Warning: intense humor and sarcasm to follow.

Mom is always right. Admittedly, it takes about thirty years of mistakes to come to this realization. And once you finally do concede that your mother will eternally be correct, you begin to flip back through that ol’ rolodex in your mind and wonder if there is anything valid that you have missed.

Mom has certainly had some gems over the years, and the more I think about her advice the more I appreciate it. Having recently re-entered the dating world after a decade hiatus, I have been tapping into some of her most prolific mom-isms. Namely, never date a guy whose legs are skinnier than yours. (Check.) And the spin-off of that rule, never date a guy who weighs less than you do. (Check mate.)

After a twenty-plus year career in education, Mom had compiled a mental list of all of the pain in the-you-know-what students over the years. And when she retired, my sister and I inherited a rather long list of names we should never use were we to provide her with grandchildren. Said logic was also to be applied when choosing a mate. Bottom line, Mom had a lot of bad students named Jacob over the years – so we avoid Jacobs (among others) at all costs.

With a Mom like ours, it is only natural that my sister and I have also become rather adept at creating some “rules” (i.e. pushing our ideas on others). As such, my sister has a very strict keep your nails and hair trimmed at all times credo, which luckily her husband follows to a tee. I have since adopted this rule as well, and send out an early warning to any future callers. Let’s keep the personal hygiene in check, why don’t we. However, as a side note, over-zealous “manscaping” can be perceived in a negative fashion. It’s a thin (hair) line to walk, so be careful. Ok? Thanks.

A recent quandary had me scouring the Mom and sister database for wisdom, and I’ve come up empty. So, alas I turn to you as I ponder the rules of the break-up. Since I haven’t dated or had to deal with a break up since, well, cell phones were the size of Volkswagons, I need a little help.

Consider this. You are dating someone and buy them a rather generous birthday present, let’s say for arguments sake, two tickets to an NFL game. Now, the plan when you bought the tickets (because everything lasts forever, not!) is to attend the game together, in a city six hours away, in late September.

You still with me?

Ok. If you break up in June, are you still bound by the birthday gift contract? Meaning, can I re-sell the tickets, in a non-scalper way, pocket the $350 and buy myself something fabulous? I say yes.

Whoa Nelly! Slow down. Before you make a judgment, I would like to enter some additional evidence in the case. A very generous Christmas present to the aforementioned “break-up” and one additional birthday present are also both still at my house, despite attempts to arrange for a pick-up. I say, if he doesn’t want them after 30 days, then I keep them too.

Hold on. If you don’t yet agree with me, I have one final piece of evidence. If, hypothetically speaking, the “break-up” was the one who determined that breaking up was indeed the correct course of action then I might argue that all of the above is moot. All aforementioned presents are mine, and after this column I will likely never have another date again.

Yes, he broke up with me, can you believe it? Of course, I simply contend that he jumped in line and did the deed before I had the chance. This is called self-preservation.

This dating thing is for the birds! Send me your best break-up stories and I may even throw in a prize. Say, two tickets to see the Jets play the Dolphins in Miami on September 26th …

Courtney Hampson will most likely be single for the rest of her life and she’s ok with that. Send her your break-up story at

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Facebook = Free Therapy

Bluffton Today column
July 14, 2010

Last Saturday I swayed in the hammock. Cold beer. Nice breeze. Blackberry in hand. I know that final component almost ruins it, but in truth, I get a heck of a lot of entertainment value via my Blackberry. So she (yes, she’s a girl, I call her Betty) is always close by.

On this particular afternoon I was perusing Facebook and pondering the perfunctoriness of the phenomenon. My friend Natalie has just shattered two bottles of red wine and was dealing with a grape-flavored river running through her kitchen. My sister’s American flag had been stolen from off of her house (Happy 4th of July!). My college crony Cari was back at home in Washington DC for the holiday weekend. And my three-decade-pal Lisa was demonstrating the Slip n’ Slide for her kids, and hoping the neighbors weren’t watching.

After getting all the news fit to Facebook, I headed in for a refill on the Corona. My dog, Darby, emerged from somewhere in the shade and followed me inside. I opened the door to the refrigerator and looked down at my panting pup only to find that one side of his face was swollen beyond recognition.

I panicked. Darby has a penchant for sticking his snout where it doesn’t belong and has had an angry bee or two stick it to him. So I grabbed the Benadryl, mashed up half a pill, and put it in some peanut butter … but Darby wouldn’t bite. I knew something was really wrong now. Peanut butter is the secret elixir in our house and if Darby didn’t start spinning in excited circles, I knew my next step was to get the vet on the phone, pronto.

At 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, a holiday weekend no less, I called the emergency vet line and waited for the call back. I sat on the cool kitchen tile, with Darby’s ever-swelling mouth, face, and neck in my lap. Tears rolled down my cheeks and onto his.

Dr. Nance called me back in record time. His guess was a snake bite and he told me to meet him at the office in fifteen minutes. I was there in five and pacing the parking lot when he arrived in bathing suit and crocs, straight from his July 4th celebration, I’m sure.

As we walked in the front door, the vet tech came in the back door, and I was comforted by the fact that they both made Darby their priority (much love to Bluffton Veterinary Hospital!). They assessed the damage, concurred on a snake bite to the shnoz, and as I waited for a prognosis I did the natural thing …

I grabbed Betty and updated my Facebook status: Courtney Hampson is at the vet. Snake bite. The dog. Not me.

Why did I feel the need to share this with Facebook? Well, because I was alone and scared. Darby is my best friend. He is the one I wake up to each morning, the one who greets me at the door each afternoon, and the one who lay beside me each night. (Yes, I need a life, but focus people.)

And my Facebook friends didn’t disappoint. As Dr. Nance got Darby patched up (and drugged up – in a responsible doctor way), messages of support started rolling in and instantly made me feel better.

I guess I could have picked up the phone and talked to someone, but cognizant of the fact that it was a holiday, I didn’t want to burden anyone with my current emergency. Instead I turned to Facebook where oddly, someone is always listening.

Courtney Hampson is obsessed with Facebook, ChapStick, and sweet little Darby. Friend her if you “like” this. She can be reached at