Thursday, June 30, 2011

Charleston, Chewed - Part 10

Click Here to read this story from the beginning…

Now that we were back out on the street, I felt much better, especially since all of the folks around us seemed to be having a swell time simply being alive, and that’s a little too infectious to ignore. We did hit a few more stores, but it was more of the same, with people buying cute little knick-knacks that they would soon throw into a drawer, completely forget about, find years later in their senility, and somehow conclude that the trinket was proof-positive that their significant other DID TOO have that affair back in the day.

Eventually we made our way to the hotel, which we promptly ignored as we banged our way through the lobby and out onto the deck. Everybody was really happy over here, naturally, because the Tiki Hut was right there and refreshments could be obtained almost instantaneously. (And our favorite bartender-ette was still available, with her perkiness, speediness and charming ability to tell you to get out of the way of the next customer, without being offensive.)

So we settled in and chatted a bit. We had a new development now, what with the adjoining restaurant in full swing and some of that crowd spilling over into the outdoor tables shared with the Tiki Hut gang. It seems there may have even been some late-evening business dinners going on, as certain tables featured folks in fancy dress, their faces frozen into that expression of “I really hate working with you but I’m going to be sweet because I might need you to pass the salt”.

Naturally, because we knew it would be fun, we found it necessary to whoop it up a little more forcefully than needed, laughing and carrying on and making sure that the business people trapped at the tables would glare at us as they stabbed their salmon and nodded perfunctorily at something banal their boss was currently babbling about.

But even being obnoxious loses its charm after a bit, so following a few more trips to the Tiki bar, there was a unanimous decision to go explore the nearby pier, a very long, narrow structure jutting out into the water and the night. Accessories were gathered, we tromped down the little flight of stairs to the beach, and we began to make our way across the sand.

Now, a little background on this particular pier. First, it’s the only one in this area, since apparently there’s some very tight governance concerning who gets to build what where. Second, it’s the third version of this pier, the first two having burnt to the ground. Perhaps I’m being a tad simple, but how does something built over water, right at the surface of the water, mind you, burn to the ground? Could the bystanders not figure out where the water might be?

Finally and thirdly, this pier was way longer than one realizes when casually glancing at it whilst chugging a Pina Colada at a bar down the beach. We first begin to ascertain that something was amiss when we marched up to the land-end of the pier and were shocked to discover that we had to climb two flights of stairs to even get on the pier. Yes, we were aware that the pier was raised above the water, or things just simply wouldn’t have worked out when using the pier to walk on. We just hadn’t bothered to conceptualize getting from the sand to the pier.

Now we were faced with manual labor. This had not been in the brochure.

But climb the stairs we did, with three of us having to immediately pee the very second we reached the top landing, our bladders not accustomed to being jostled about so unexpectedly. Luckily, there were some nice facilities on this landing which allowed us to attend to our needs. In fact, there was also a little museum and a gift shop and other surprises. I decided that I was rather fond of this end of the pier. Little did I know that it would be several weeks before I saw it again.

So we start our journey to the other end of the long structure, and things are amazingly festive during this initial phase. There was a nice breeze tossing about, the lights spaced along the pier gave off a soft, golden glow, just enough that you could see where you were going but not so much that you could be blinded and plunge over the side of the pier. We had our beverages, of course, and we chatted amiably as we strolled. Very nice.

Then I began to notice that the building at the far end of the pier remained just that. A building at the far end of the pier. We did not seem to be making any progress. Or perhaps I was stuck in some groundhog-day loop where I kept re-walking the same thirty feet of pier. Hmm.

But still, the stars were out and there was the regular, lulling pattern of the waves. Tiffany was in the midst of sharing an anecdote about some adventure wherein she was forced to be nice to people she didn’t care for, and her voice sparkled over the soothing splash of the water below, buoyant crystals of humor.

That dang building, though. Still not any closer.

I was startled by sudden, labored grunting to my right. After a few seconds of uncertainty concerning our immediate future, I realized that a fisherman was standing in the shadows, and had apparently just snagged something of interest that did not want to be snagged, thus beginning a minor duel of forces.

Glancing about, I realized that there were several other fisher-people peppered along the pier, folks that we hadn’t realized would be here, although it made perfect sense. It was just a little discomfiting to realize that we were surrounded by men in the night, with their poles thrust into the air. (And yes, my mind delved a bit into lusty variations of this imagery before returning to more wholesome synaptic firing.)

Next up on the surprise tour were little stations with big metal sinks and working faucets. Interesting. What could possibly need washing out here over the water? Had the pier designer misunderstood exactly what type of plumbing would be needed to keep the bridge from burning down a third time? Fire hydrant, wash basin, I could see the confusion.

Now wait, that damn building still wasn’t any closer. I decided to turn around and see how far back the land-end of the pier was. (If the gift shop was still right there, then I was definitely trapped in a Fellini movie and at any moment a decadent prostitute was going to walk by, speaking Italian and solving the worlds problems by deciphering the gushing sounds coming from a bidet.)

The gift shop was now just a tiny speck. I whirled back around. Lo and behold, the ocean-end of the pier actually seemed to be closer than the little place where you could buy monogrammed tongue depressors made out of recycled volleyballs. (“I opened wide at Folly Beach!”) Hurray! I could do this after all.

Wait! I quickly checked my drink. I still had over half of it left. Yep, I should be able to make it. And there was always Plan B, which entailed shoving Tiffany over the side and snatching her beverage just before she disappeared, then looking at Terry, appalled that he would do something so rude to our little friend. One must always have contingency plans, I learned this in my LDA troop, Little Drinkers of America. (Earned every damn merit badge they had.)

With renewed energy and determination, I kept marching, passing other clumps of fisher-people and the sporadic dishwashing outposts. Eventually we thunked our way into the quest building, which turned out to be a surprisingly large, two-story, open air thing, with tables and vending machines and such. We could have us a real hoe-down out here.

Our clan scattered, peering over the railings and pointing at things with little squeals of discovery. I worked my way to a quiet corner and just sat, letting the wind rush past and feeling the very gentle sway of the building. This was my favorite part of the day, late evening, made even better by the current happenstance of where and how, just far enough away from everything to imagine being nowhere at all. The wind and the water. There was only one other thing I could possibly need.

I looked around for a phone so I could call room service…

To Be Continued…

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