Wedding day – the ultimate day a young girl dreams about from early childhood, until the glorious event arrives. A wedding day requires much preparation, planning the details, mailing invitations, ordering flowers, finding just the right cake, reception, and planning the honeymoon. The list of Things to Do seems endless. Exhausted, the bride starts losing sleep, she snaps at friends and family. She is described as having the wedding day blues, or maybe – she has cold feet. Bridal stress is common during this time. The bride strives to please everyone so the most special day of her life will be memorable, only to feel jittery and tearful when she recognizes everyone else is adding their viewpoints to the never-ending details. The latest trend for brides-to-be is a relaxing day at the spa. While there are a variety of spas available, many are targeting wedding events.
The Tides Inn
The Tides Inn, located in Irvington, Virginia, on the Chesapeake Bay at Carter’s Creek, is a secluded resort where privacy and relaxation are catered to everyone, especially for the bride before her big day. The Spa provides several retreat packages for the bride to be, including The Tides Indulgence Day Package, supplying an aromatherapy benefiting the body and mind. This 90-minute package includes an Essential Oil Massage with wrap, followed with a 60-minute Marine Herbal Facial and an Ultimate Pedicure.
The Shores Resort and Spa
The Shores Resort and Spa, located in Daytona Beach, Florida, offers bridal packages to ease the pre and post wedding day stresses. The bride will enjoy the Javanese Lulur Royal spa treatment, consisting of a Balinese massage with vital oils, an herbal exfoliation, leading to a refreshing body that glows for the special day, followed by a stimulating cool yogurt splash and a scented shower. Additional treatments include the Chocolate Raspberry Peppermint Delight Package, where the bride experiences a delicious, sensuous treatment of a chocolate and raspberry massage, followed with a peppermint pedicure. Another popular day spa treatment is the I Love You So “Berry” Much body wrap. This relaxing mask eases the tired, stressed muscles and purifies the body. Bridal pampering continues with the Bilberry Facial. The final indulgence for the bride includes the Chocolate Raspberry Hot Stone Pedicure. Imagine tired, aching feet soothing the stress of wedding day blues away by receiving a massage of warm stones on the feet and lower legs while your senses are tempted with the delicate aroma of chocolate raspberries.
Opulence Medi Spa
Opulence Medi Spa located in Daytona Beach, suggests unique spa treatments. Hosting bridal parties with massage and body wraps, skin services, waxing and make up tips, Opulence Medi Spa provides gift certificates, specialty gift bags and baskets, and services for the entire bridal party.
Practicing Spa Treatment Etiquette:
Spa treatments are a great way for the bridal party to relax prior to the wedding. Like many details of the wedding day, spa treatment etiquette should be practiced. For example, the bride and her bridal party should arrive for the scheduled appointment twenty minutes early. Many brides choose not to wear makeup to the spa treatment. Dress comfortably and be certain to leave all jewelry at home. If you carry a cell phone, please turn it off since the spa treatment is a place to meditate, relax and unwind, not chat on the telephone. Most day spas have age restrictions for guests, requiring those fifteen or younger to have parental consent. When booking a spa treatment for a child, inquire about age requirements and policies of the spa. Another consideration not to forget is the gratuity of 20%.
When arriving, check in with the desk early enough so the bridal party will have ample time to change into a robe and slippers. Introduce yourself to the front desk and relax. Focus on breathing and relaxation techniques while experiencing a little bit of Heaven as your body and mind exfoliates the stress of wedding day blues away. Now, you may dream about your special wedding day, knowing your body and mind will glow as you walk down the aisle to build a new life of wedding day bliss, not stress.
If You Go:
The Tides Inn Spa is located in Irvington, VA. Their web site is located at:
Barbie Perkins Cooper is a talented, award-winning writer of travel guides, screenplays, fiction, non-fiction, plays, and numerous articles for regional, trade and travel publications. She lives in Mt. Pleasant, SC.
Shawn Askinosie shares his passion for chocolate beans and the art of making chocolate
Photo credit: Barbie Perkins-Cooper, Editorial photojournalist
Shawn Askinosie, The Chocolate Maker of Springfield, is Raising the Bar for His Passion in Life as a Chocolatier
Stepping inside the aromatic setting of Askinosie Chocolate Factory tempts the taste buds of anyone who craves the tantalizing taste of chocolate. Located in a historical building built in 1894 in the commercial district of Springfield, Missouri, this chocolate factory makes chocolate artistry that snaps. Askinosie Chocolate Factory is the newfound passion of Shawn Askinosie, a former criminal attorney who chose to leave the hustle, bustle of the courtroom scene, for his newfound passion as a chocolatier. Discovering his passion for baking began a few years ago when he was searching to ease the stress of criminal law. He found therapeutic relief when baking cupcakes and pastries. Unbeknownst to former clients, his law degrees are now displayed in the men’s room of his factory while he pursues a passion he dreamed about and now lives, the love and euphoria of chocolate making.
As time progressed, he discovered he wanted to learn more about chocolate, especially the art of roasting cacao beans and the art of chocolate making. Researching his newfound passion, he chose to learn all he could about the chocolate industry. Traveling to meet with farmers in the Amazon rain forest, he found a new calling in life. Although the process of chocolate making is tedious, for Shawn tasting the raw beans in the pod, dealing with the farmers, and striving for the highest quality product he demands, Askinosie Chocolate Factory is raising the bar to a new standard for the artistry of chocolate making.
Changing his career to follow his dreams, Shawn Askinosie works diligently to create the best chocolate available, roasting chocolate beans, grinding and melting the chocolate until it meets his high standards. Askinosie is the first chocolate maker outside of Mexico to make chocolate. He travels internationally to Mexico, the Amazons, introducing himself to the farmers who grow chocolate trees. He has many farmers in each region and he shares the profits with the farmers.
He contributes an amazing percentage of the tour profits of Askinosie Chocolate Factory to cocoa educational programs, collaborating with universities. He is a wealth of information about chocolate, the history, and development, and the health benefits of dark chocolate.
Unlike the demands of criminal law, the artistry of making chocolate requires lots of time and patience. The process could best be described as intense and time-consuming, something Shawn is accustomed to practicing during his career as a lawyer. Cacao beans are stored in a climate-controlled environment. The beans are cleaned and roasted at a high temperature. The roasting process of cocoa is similar to the roasting procedure of coffee beans.
There are many steps to making chocolate and Shawn is proud that Askinosie Chocolate Factory performs all the steps to make the chocolate the proper consistency, gloss and snap. He wants to create the perfect, most delectable flavor he can to the chocolate beans and give them a creamy, smooth texture. There are many health benefits related to dark chocolate and the nibs have a nutty taste with anti-oxidants that are good for your health.
Tempering, a delicate procedure of melting the chocolate at just the right temperature, is one of the most difficult procedures. “If the temperature is one degree off, the batch of chocolate is ruined,” said Askinosie. “The art of making chocolate is a lot harder than baking cupcakes.” Askinosie Chocolate has a gloss and snap, one of the secret qualities of pure chocolate artistry.
Following His Passion:
Shawn Askinosie has lived an interesting life, including living in Japan for a while, and working with Vietnamese refugees. Reaching burn out from the demands of law, he felt blessed to find a new passion in baking and chocolate artistry. During school tours at Askinosie Chocolate Factory, he stresses the importance of education and goals to students, encouraging them to “Don’t do the same thing over and over in life. Follow your passion.”
Tours of Askinosie Chocolate Factory are held every Tuesday at 3pm. Excited to share his knowledge and expertise about the art of making chocolate, the factory shares 100% of money from the tours with partnerships with universities and cocoa educational programs.
After touring the immaculate factory, it is easy to understand why Shawn changed his lawyer suit threads for the passion he expresses so eloquently as a chocolatier. Believing in yourself, seeking your dreams and following your passion makes for a great recipe for success and happiness while enjoying the delicate taste of chocolate.
If You Go:
Visit Askinosie Chocolate Factory at 514 E. Commercial, Springfield, MO. Phone 417-862-9900. Visit the website: http://www.askinosie.com/ for additional information and to subscribe to the newsletter or order chocolates.
Barbie Perkins-Cooper is a travel writer, photojournalist specializing in hospitality, food and wine and photography. Residing in Charleston, South Carolina, Barbie is the author of “Career Diary of a Photographer,” and “Condition of Limbo.” In September 2007, she was chosen as an approved artist for literary arts with the SC Arts Commission Arts in Education Roster of Approved Artists.
A story I published in 2002 about the “Charleston Gatekeeper, Mr. Philip Simmons. Simmons was an amazing man to interview and meet. I still remember the passion held in his eyes. Now, we in the Charleston community remember him as a legacy. A tall, humble man with kind eyes and a pleasant voice. One of the most admirable characters I have ever met. Rest in peace, Philip Simmons!
The Charleston Gatekeeper
Hammering His Way into History
His eyes embrace a gentle, caring nature. When he speaks, his voice is soft and harmonious, demonstrating the pleasant, soft-spoken Southern gentleman named Philip Simmons, an internationally known blacksmith. Although he is almost 90 years old, he stands tall and upright, walking with a determined stride, passion dancing in his eyes.
Born on June 9, 1912 on Daniel Island, South Carolina, Simmons is truly an inspiration to others, a role model to the City of Charleston and the artistry he preserves.
He was just a small boy when he came to Charleston in 1920, with a gleam in his eyes, determination in his pace. Following the advice of his grandfather he moved from Daniel Island to Charleston to pursue his schooling.
Discovered His Passion
One day while walking in Charleston, he discovered a blacksmith shop. He entered the shop, watching the blacksmith while he worked. The blacksmith moved methodically hammering the iron into bits and pieces of works of art. Philip recognized he had discovered his life’s work. He told the blacksmith he wanted to learn the trade of a blacksmith, because he wanted a job. The blacksmith listened, encouraging the young lad to return when he was older.
When Simmons turned 13 in 1925, he returned to the blacksmith’s shop, working as an apprentice for Peter Simmons, a former slave, blacksmith, and mentor to Philip Simmons. Although not related, Peter Simmons saw something extraordinary in Philip Simmons and took him under his thumbs teaching Philip the artistry of blacksmithing.
Perceptive of the artistry of his protégé and friend, Peter Simmons, Philip Simmons strove to learn all that he could about iron working. He cleaned the shop, repaired items, and when the automobile era began, he found himself working on automobile metals, shaping iron objects into useful items for cars, and wagons. Continuing to expand his passion for his love of blacksmithing, in 1939 Simmons turned his infatuation with iron work into a lifetime career by repairing iron gates. Within a year or two he was making garden gates, stair banisters, balconies, and fences. Years later, Peter Simmons left him with a legacy and trade that would last Philip Simmons a lifetime.
The craftsmanship of a blacksmith dates back many centuries in history. Blacksmiths construct pieces of iron into objects by hammering the piece on an anvil. The metal is heated until it blazes with a burnt reddish shade of fire; then, the blacksmith welds the objects into shapes of his inspiration. The craftsmanship of a blacksmith can be a long, detailed process; nevertheless for Philip Simmons, the skill of blacksmithing is more than a job, or obligation. Blacksmithing is a part of his character, revealing the heart and soul of his personality. Working with irons, metals, hammers, tools, and fires reveals a visual portrait of the man he is. Excitement burns in his eyes, while his tall, lean muscular stature exemplifies the strapping sense of pride he has about the art form.
Simmons scribbles the inspiration for his designs on pieces of paper, or anything he can get his hands on when the ideas occur. Much of Simmons work reflects nature, because “I love to be outdoors,” he says with a grin. “Sometimes I look outside and see a bird, a leaf, a fish, or something close to nature, and I draw it on paper. I just love nature.”
Simmons Became a Family Man
During the 1930’s, Simmons lost his wife at a young age, leaving him with three small children. Fortunately, he found the strength to raise the children. “I didn’t find it too difficult. I had the good Lord watching over us, and I had two grown sisters who helped me with the children, chores, and myself.”
Living in a time of his life when most senior citizens are enjoying retirement, Simmons is still active at his shop. “I keep the shop open for the tourists, tour busses that drop by and for my cousin, Joseph Pringle,” he said. “Sometimes I go to teach blacksmithing with the South Carolina Blacksmith Association. Just a few weeks ago I went to Columbia to teach a class. I keep the shop open, and in some sense, I am still active. I no longer do the hard work of blacksmithing, but I do most of the drawings myself.”
Philip Simmons is internationally known for his blacksmith talents. Charleston residents, the Historic Charleston Foundation, and South Carolina State Museum, located in Columbia are only a few of the commissioned ornamental works by Philip Simmons. In 1982, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded Simmons the National Heritage Fellowship. In 1994 he was recognized by the State of South Carolina, inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Fame in Myrtle Beach, SC. The Smithsonian Museum has some of his work, along with an ornamental gazebo located at Charleston International Airport. In 1996, Simmons created a wrought iron gate for the Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia.
“Years back I did not do anything to distinguish my signature, but later, I used a stamp, putting my name and signature on the pieces,” he whispers.
Deeply religious, Simmons takes little credit for his accomplishments, preferring to give all the recognition to “the Lord, customers, and the children.”
Simmons is still active in the City of Charleston. “I’m a member of the YMCA, Boys Club and active in my church. I like being involved with kids, and I do all I can to provide deserving students a chance.”
Simmons lives on the East side of Charleston because he wants to preserve the site and his shop for future generations. “This place has four generations of blacksmiths here, starting with Peter Simmons, Guy Simmons, myself, and my cousin, Joseph Pringle. I hope this site is preserved. I lived a long time here,” he said with a smile.
When tourists arrive to see his shop and samples of his ornamental iron art work, he welcomes them. “They just want to meet a man who still does blacksmith work. They probably heard about me somewhere and just want to see the blacksmith shop.”
Walking in his shop, works of iron are remembrances of earlier times in America. “Some old ways were the best ways,” he grins. “I’ve been blessed by the good Lord,” he says, “So, I provide deserving kids a chance by teaching them how to blacksmith and to help them get an education. I tell them to work hard. I talk to the kids, deserving kids, and I do all I can to help them. When they come by to thank me, I am rewarded. Almost every day some kid will stop by to thank me for what I did, and that is my reward.”
Although Philip Simmons is a bit modest, stating that all he wanted to pursue in blacksmithing was a job; now, he has become an icon to the City of Charleston and the history and preservation of blacksmith artistry.
“Sometimes the old methods still work. I have to give all the credit to the Lord. I had to work hard to please the customers, because if you don’t have customers, you don’t have work. And if you don’t have work, you don’t have food on the table. I built things on quality, not quantity, respecting others while I worked. I’ve been blessed, so I try to bless others.”
With a passionate twinkle in his eyes, Philip Simmons, his name, artistry, and his love for blacksmith creations will remain as a hallmark to all who admire the works of a blacksmith. Hammering his way to preserve the tools of a trade no longer in demand as it was in the past, Philip Simmons is honored to be the Charleston Gatekeeper.
Texas is a proud, lone star state where Southern hospitality and opportunities abound. Beaumont and Port Arthur Texas are known for oil, The Neches River, Cajun cuisine, and Texas style fun. Surprising to many, the two cities serve as natural gems filled with history, Zydeco music, and culture galore. Located within a 24-mile driving range along US-287, there is so much to do at Beaumont and Port Arthur; you’ll have to juggle time to make your selections.
Described as “Texas with a little something extra,” Beaumont is a booming city where the economy is strong and the city has more to offer than oil, music, shopping, and Cajun cuisine. Interstate 10 serves as a major highway for the area, but if you exit, you will discover Beaumont is the proud home to many famous country music celebrities, including George Jones, Tracy Byrd, and Mark Chesnutt. Sports enthusiasts might catch a glimpse of Duriel L. Harris of the Miami Dolphins and Dallas Cowboys fame at Rao’s Bakery. Cajun culture and cuisine is everywhere. Start your morning off by stopping by one of the five locations of Rao’s Bakery where you are certain to meet locals and celebrities enjoying a great cup of coffee, fellowship, and fresh desserts. Established in 1941, Rao’s Bakery prides itself in cakes, especially the infamous King Cake. Cakes are baked on site, and shipped internationally. My favorite delicacy was the Red Velvet Crumb Cake. In the summer Rao’s Bakery offers a Kid’s Bakery Camp. This is the perfect opportunity for children to step into the kitchen to bake cookies or decorate a cake.
Downtown Beaumont provides city sidewalks where you can enjoy a variety of activities, including the Fire Museum of Texas, located on Walnut Street, where you can see (and photograph) the world’s largest Dalmatian spotted fire hydrant. Standing 24 feet tall, the hydrant leads to the entrance of the Fire Museum of Texas. The building was formerly the Beaumont Fire Department Headquarters and it has an amazing collection of fire engines and equipment.
If arts and history are something you love, visit the Jefferson Theatre while walking around the renovated downtown district. The Jefferson Theatre is located on Fannin Street and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It opened in 1927 and for decades served as the stunning showplace for entertainment in the community. Built with Old Spanish architecture with sculptures, rich fabrics and eloquence, the setting was romantic. The theatre included a stunning Robert Morton Wonder Organ, complete with 778 pipes, built on a platform that rose from the orchestra pit to stage level. In 1972, the theater closed. Today, the restored Jefferson Theatre serves as a cultural and performing arts center, providing opportunities for artists to perform on a graceful, preserved professional stage that surpasses modern concert halls.
When Spindletop gushes 120 feet into the air, it is a sight not to be missed. Spindletop contains authentic clapboard buildings and artifacts. Located at Highway 69 at University Drive, Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum and the Texas Energy Museum enlighten everyone to the amazing world of petroleum, energy, and science, and discoveries made in the beginning of the twentieth century. Texas Energy Museum is located on Main Street, 4.7 miles from Spindletop. Beaumont is known as “The Museum Capital of Texas,” including the Art Museum of Southeast Texas, State Fire Museum of Texas, The Edison Museum, and Texas Energy Museum.
The Art Museum of Southeast Texas has an interesting exhibit of the Voodoo Man of Beaumont. Felix Fox Harris created totem pole artwork, collecting junk and sculpting it into his expressions of art. An amazing man who communicated best by ‘making something out of nothing,’ he created inspirations from life, fashioned from the ideas in his mind. His sculptures speak volumes about the creativity of self-expression. Described as a ‘visionary’ Felix Fox Harris is considered a legend in Beaumont.
If gourmet or Cajun cuisine is more your style, Texas is famous for barbeque and Beaumont has Fat Mac’s Smokehouse. Located on Calder Avenue, this award winning barbecue is slow cooked and melts in your mouth. If fine dining is more your style, Suga’s is located downtown in a historic and renovated building with fine dining ambience, culinary cuisine at its finest, atmosphere galore, and a jazz bar. Suga’s is a great place to unwind after a busy day. If dancing and mouth watering Cajun cuisine tempts your taste buds, you’ve got to shake your booty at Larry’s French Market located on Atlantic Highway.
Described as a city where ‘oil and water mix beautifully,’ Port Arthur is filled with family attractions and festivals galore. Museum of the Gulf Coast is located on Procter Street and offers something for everyone. If you are interested in learning about Zydeco music, sports, and the culture of the Gulf Coast, you might spend the entire day. A great way to get a taste of the flavors in Port Arthur is to visit Golden Triangle Veterans Memorial Park, Queen of Peace Shrine, Buu Mon Buddhist Temple, Pleasure Island, Gator Country. Port Arthur has an abundance of restaurants including Cajun, Mexican, Vietnamese, Chinese, family and home style cafeterias. Regardless what you are looking for, Beaumont and Port Arthur Texas define Cajun Texas, at its best.
I awoke to the morning news — breaking news about a fire in Downtown Georgetown, SC, along Front Street. Reportedly, several buildings are completely destroyed. Many of these buildings were historical, some dating back to the early Twentieth Century. There is a historical clock standing, The Clock Tower, and reportedly, it is still standing. Every time I have toured Georgetown, I always look for this tower. It is a great landmark, making for interesting photography and a few good memories.
Details of the fire are a bit sketchy now but I thought my readers might like to know my thoughts about Georgetown, SC.
I toured Georgetown for the first time after marrying my husband. Walking along the sidewalks of downtown, I inhaled a strange odor – a combination of odors so strong I could not describe. When I asked about the odor, my husband laughed. “Oh, that’s the Georgetown Steel Mill and the Paper Mill. Smells great, doesn’t it.”
“Hardly. It stinks!”
Continuing our walk, I found Georgetown to be unique with wide sidewalks, but not much business, at that time. Holding hands and laughing, my husband shared a few memories of his childhood in Georgetown. As a writer, I’ve written about Georgetown numerous times and I have toured the area, falling in love with the waterfront, the quaint, quirky downtown area, especially the many local shops offering unique items. One particular area I love is the Strand Theater on Front Street and there are many restaurants around. Georgetown is a nice little place to make a day trip to, especially if you are within Myrtle Beach or Charleston; however, after hearing about the fire, it might not be a good idea to visit downtown Georgetown at the moment [September 25, 2013].
I will keep you posted about the fire in Georgetown. My thoughts and prayers are with the many merchants, and the locals within Georgetown. My husband has family that live nearby, so I am hoping they are fine. For now, let us pray for safety for the firefighters, merchants, residents, and all within the sweet little town that some people describe as a smelly town. Years ago, it did have a significant odor, due to pollution from the factories, but now, the smell isn’t as pungent.
I suppose I will have to make a day trip — to Georgetown real soon — just to take photographs and reminisce about this quaint little sea-side town with smells, foods, and residents that love Georgetown. Today, history is being made – along with much of the history that is destroyed from the fires. It is such a shame that during an important time of revitalization, a fire is quickly destroying the history of this sweet little fishing community known as Georgetown, SC.
Let us hope the fire will not destroy the revitalization and charm of Georgetown, a city reminiscent and charming, filled with Southern hospitality and most of the time, a pleasant scent.
Today, while allowing my silly right knee to rest, I’ve decided to write on my blog again. The subject today is about traveling. Flying the friendly skies, next to a stranger.
As a travel writer, I have journeyed to many exciting, beautiful destinations within the Southern and Southeast region with a stranger sitting next to me. Once, I sat next to a flight assistant traveling to a close friend’s wedding. We discussed our lives, sharing information from our professions. She inquired as to what destinations I would recommend for a girlfriend’s getaway vacation.
“Gosh, there are so many,” I said. “Gatlinburg, Tennessee has so many great cabins where girlfriends can play together. The cabins are amazing, filled with so many luxuries we are accustomed to in our lives. Another location is Rosemary Beach, Florida.”
She interrupted me, grabbing her handbag to get a pen and paper.
Jotting notes quickly, I mentioned additional destinations. Memphis, Tennessee, not just Elvis or Graceland country. Hot Springs, Arkansas. Beaumont, and Port Arthur, Texas. Daytona Beach. Of course, Charleston, South Carolina, but since I live there, I don’t consider it a destination, but I do write about Charleston a lot. Myrtle Beach, SC is another fun destination with much to do. My mind rushed with ideas and she continued writing, excited that I was sharing so much. Sitting next to her, our trip was nice. I do believe this young, vibrant and beautiful woman was one of the most pleasant people I’ve sat next to while flying.
On one occasion, flying to a destination I will keep to myself, a rather large, older gentleman sat next to me. At first, I thought he was a gentleman. Later, I decided, he did not even comprehend the definition of a gentleman. Removing his jacket, he placed it by his knees. He was such a large man that a lap did not exist! My nose sniffed a disgusting aroma. Body odor. I turned my head away. Squashing his large body into the aisle seat, he nodded hello, struggled to buckle his seat belt, sucking and pushing deep into his belly, and when he accomplished that ordeal, he chose to get comfy. A little too comfy. His right shoulder pushed me — almost into the window!
Moments later, his head rested on my shoulder. I tapped him. He ignored me. I moved my shoulder, hoping his head would fall to the other side. It did not. He moved closer.
“Please,” I said. “Do you mind?”
He ignored me. I was thankful our flight time was a short distance. I continued to push him away, but his body insisted on getting closer. I stretched my head to see if any seats were vacant. They were not. Our plane was one of those puddle jumper types, so moving to another seat was not an option. The flight attendant walked by. She stopped when she noticed I was hovering by the window.
“You shouldn’t sit so close to the window,” she said.
“What choice do I have?” I asked, nodding my head in his direction.
She struggled to awaken him, but he ignored her. She motioned, ‘I’m sorry,’ and I nodded, while my mind ticked the minutes of this flight away.
Undoubtedly, that flight was one of the worst flights of my life. After that ordeal, I was hesitant to acknowledge those who sat next to me. If they spoke first, I nodded, and if they wanted to chat, I opened a book.
Last year, I sat next to a College of Charleston student. He was young, blonde, tall, handsome and friendly, wearing jeans and a College of Charleston T-shirt. When he sat down, he introduced himself as Richard, telling me he was a college student and this was his first flight. He was headed to San Diego. My destination — Hawaii. Our flight together ended at Dallas. During our time together, never did we stop talking. I truly hated to see our flight end. He would graduate this year. His major was Political Science. My mind drifted for a minute, picturing him running for office in the future — taking a step forward to lead our nation into changes that are so needed. He mentioned that he was gay and wanted to help educate the public about gay leadership and how narrow-minded some people can be about someone ‘coming out.’
I shared a story with him about a friend I had in high school. Charles and I dated for about six months. He bought a beautiful Camaro convertible and together, we rode along the back roads of Georgia, talking about future dreams and adventures we wanted to share. We were young. Free. Innocent. The future was ours! On one Saturday night, dreams ended for Charles, when he drove his car into a tree. He was killed instantly. At the funeral, his ‘partner’ — commonly referred to as ‘his Uncle Don’ revealed that Charles was ‘dealing with demons inside his head. He had a secret that he never wanted to share. Charles was gay, and that is why he drove his car into a tree. He did not want to ‘come out of the closet and admit he was gay.’ Uncle Don choked up a bit while speaking about Charles. “We were partners,” he said. “Charles was afraid no one would understand.”
I was sixteen at the time. Young. Innocent. Not able to understand, but my eyes opened wide after the funeral. I missed Charles so much. He was a great friend. Funny. Trusting. Kind. One of my best friends. His death was such a tragedy, but during those years, gay freedom was unacceptable, at least, in the Deep South. I made a vow to myself that I would never ridicule the gay community, and I would embrace them with my respect and love. The loss of Charles left me with a new respect for what it is like to be gay. Some of my dearest friends have been gay and I love them as a close member of my family.
When our flight landed, I tapped Richard on the shoulder. “Be proud of yourself, and what and who you are…Never be afraid to make change. America needs you! Think of Charles and the tragedy of his loss, and teach America about how wonderful the gay community is…Be proud. I slipped him my business card and hugged him.
He smiled. “You remind me of my mom. At first, she was hesitant to accept that I’m gay, but now, she accepts me and loves me.”
“And she should. You have the future in your hands. Make the most of it for America.”
I’ve thought about Richard and Charles a lot since that day. Remembering Charles and how reserved he could be at times. During my high school days, the gay community was a hushed, ‘closet’ community. People were afraid to admit what was inside their hearts. Now, America is changing. I cannot help being curious as to what Charles might have accomplished if he had lived. And I cannot help but think about his future. Such a loss. Such a tragedy.
After meeting Richard on a jet, headed to Dallas, I am hopeful that my next flight I will be blessed to sit next to someone who is so excited about his future, and I pray that I never sit next to another ‘gentleman’ again! His coziness was a bit too close for me, and I did not appreciate him sleeping and snoring on my shoulder. Let’s don’t even discuss his ‘body odor!’
Some things are just left better unsaid, but I hope I never sit next to another ‘stranger’ again!
May your journeys and flights be enjoyable. As for myself, my ‘adventures’ always give me something to write about. The ‘pros’ and the ‘cons,’ and I do get to meet some ‘interesting’ characters, along with some amazing people, such as Richard!
Going to Myrtle Beach this year??? If so, plan to attend the Carolina Opry for a grand show of talent galore! This is truly a must see and do while in Myrtle Beach! Don’t miss it!!!
For Immediate Release
Director of Marketing
LaToya London of American Idol to Join Carolina Opry Cast
LaToya London, American Idol Finalist, to join the cast of The Carolina Opry and Good Vibrations. Featured in this season’s American Idol show as one of “The Three Divas,” LaToya was grouped with the likes of Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson and R&B powerhouse Fantasia Barrino. LaToya will add a dynamic element to the stage of The Calvin Gilmore Theater for the summer season 2013.
An American Idol finalist and a multiple award winner, London’s undeniable presence and amazing vocals managed to silence the razor-sharp tongue of American Idol’s most infamous judge, Simon Cowell. Following American Idol, London signed with Peak records to release her debut album, Love and Life, which landed in the Billboard top 100 and spawned three successful singles, including the 40 hit, State of My Heart. After touring the talk show circuit on shows such as Letterman and Ellen DeGeneres, London entered the world of live theater in the Oprah Winfrey tour of The Color Purple with fellow Idol and close friend Fantasia Barrino. London later joined the Los Angeles production and was awarded the 2013 Ovation Award for “Best Featured Actress in a Musical.”
London will perform with the award-winning cast of both The Carolina Opry and Good Vibrations June 3 through September 7, 2013. Shows nightly at 7:30 pm at The Calvin Gilmore Theater, closed Sundays. Call for full schedule and to book, 800-843-6779 or visit TheCarolinaOpry.com
More About The Carolina Opry
Gilmore Entertainment has long been the leader of musical variety show entertainment in the Southeast, with the classic Carolina Opry show and their newest hit, Good Vibrations. Gilmore and his Carolina Opry have been featured by USA Today, ABC Nightly News, Southern Living Magazine, Variety, and a host of other newspapers and television shows. It is the only Myrtle Beach show to receive the coveted South Carolina Governor’s Cup, as well as being voted South Carolina’s Most Outstanding Attraction. In recent years, Gilmore has performed regularly on the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, and he is designated as South Carolina’s Official Country Music Ambassador.
From September 26-29, 2013 Greenville’s most celebrated chefs will intermix with the following guest chefs:
Dale Talde – TALDE in Brooklyn, NY
Jeff McGinnis – Yardbird in Miami
James Boyce – Cotton Row in Huntsville, AL
Anthony Lamas – Seviche in Louisville
Ryan Smith – Empire State South in Atlanta
Rob Newton – Seersucker in Brooklyn
Mike Lata- FIG
José Gutierrez of River Oaks Restaurant in Memphis
Here’s a highlight of the new events this year:
Swine and Dine: A whole-hog roast in NOMA Square kicks off the euphoria weekend with a combination that is second to none. Craft beer from Sierra Nevada, craft spirits from Six & Twenty Distillery, delectable wines and tasty bites from Roost! It’s a soil to city party that sets the scene for a lively 2013 festival season. And yes, of course there will be live music..it’s euphoria, y’all!
Traffic Jam: A traffic jam you’ll want to get stuck in! Come get gridlocked with us in an evening full of live music, craft beer & spirits, and an array of delicious food truck cuisine from Greenville and Atlanta. Don’t miss the chance to jam out at our first annual Traffic Jam!
Wine Auction/Reserve Tasting at Soby’s: euphoria for sale! Reserve tastings from Schug Winery with host Axel Schug, as well as Justin Vineyards, and an array of large format bottles and one-of-a-kind experiences that a true wine lover won’t want to miss. Enjoy tasty bites from Soby’s Chef, Shaun Garcia, and commemorative Riedel glassware to the first 100 guests.
A Night in Paris at Passerelle Bistro: Say “bonjour” to a progressive dinner with action stations, butler passed food and an evening that is tres magnificent! Featuring Chef Teryi Youngblood and Guest Chef Jose Gutierrez from River Oaks Restaurant in Memphis, TN with perfectly paired wines from Joseph Drouhin.
Musical Talent features:
Adam Craig Band
You can see the full event schedule at http://www.euphoriagreenville.com
Monday, August 20, 2012 – Sorry for the delay in sharing my astonishing dreams about Hawaii. I’ve been just a bit busy lately with several assignments to do, rehearsals for a show at the Charleston Elks Lodge, more assignments – unexpected, but so welcome, and of course, getting all the photographs I took of Hawaii printed. I had over 503++ photographs to print and I must say, my new camera certainly performed well. When Phil looked at some of the photographs, he actually complimented my photography skills. How nice!
Additional events that have kept me busy lately:
A few weeks ago I was selected as a ‘qualifier’ for the Lowcountry Karaoke Idol Contest in Charleston. For this part of the competition I sang, “At Last.” The club finals for Manhattan’s Bar & Grill were Friday, August 17, 2012. I’ve practiced my song [“I Who Have Nothing”] to make certain I knew it and could hit the notes. Piece of cake! Tom Jones is one of my favorites and I sing his songs all the time! At the competition, I was as calm as a cucumber, but I did check out the competition! Four guys, three girls will compete, and I knew one of them! I was a bit concerned because she and I are great friends and I will do nothing to jeopardize our friendship! After all, great friends (especially women!) are so hard to find. The clock was ticking…10pm and the competition begins! I listened and watched the singers, paying attention to see if they were getting into the performance. Many of them looked at the monitor – silly, don’t you know you are SUPPOSED to lose points IF you look at the monitor! Several singers were not too bad! Finally, my name was called. I grabbed the microphone, and turned away from the monitor! I confess, when I’m singing, it is a performance and I am totally focused on what I am doing. I did not notice if I had the attention of the crowd or not. I just belted out my tune, moving and grooving with the audience. Much to my surprise, I was selected for second place. The score was 66-64 and if the first place finalist is unable to represent Manhattan’s for the City Finals, then I will perform. C’est la vie! Story of my life! I suppose second place isn’t too bad – after all, it’s karaoke – except I love performing!!!
An additional surprise occurred while jet lag was refusing to leave me. Early one morning, I checked e-mail, receiving an invitation to attend a press trip to Aruba. I read the itinerary and invitation well, letting it rest on my desk while I debated about it. The press trip was less than two weeks away. Not enough time for me to query publications about story ideas. Since I’ve never been to Aruba, I declined the invitation, requesting a rain check. My rule is to at least have query letters out to publications before attending a trip. Gosh, how I wanted to go!
BACK TO HAWAII
Today, our discussions will include additional events on Phil’s birthday – July 8, 2012 — evening events, walking to International Market Place, along with the characters we met, the street performers, and other interesting characters.
We had a nice day traveling around Honolulu, admiring the breathtaking beauty and views, the coastal highway, searching for whales, which we never found, and the amazement of Blow Hole. How I wanted to sneak a rock, shell, or something unique that I could stash in my suitcase, but I was fearful that I would get caught, so when I found something, I simply let it slip through my hands. No lava rocks to take home. No sea shells. Nothing from within the lava foundations, the sea, or within the depth of the ocean. After all, I remember that silly form I signed before departing the American Airlines plane to enter beautiful Hawaii. I suppose I am just a bit too honest for my own good. If someone asked me if I am carrying something I shouldn’t, my eyes would give me away. I suppose I will never be a good liar! Besides, according to some of the legends of Hawaii, if you remove a lava rock, you are destined for bad luck – and I’ve had more than my share of bad life in my lifetime!
Lava rocks and the mountains are truly amazing to look at while riding along the coast. To the left, your eyes admire the unique shape of the mountains. To the right, your eyes stare at the glittering iridescent blue ocean, the white caps slapping gently on the beaches and coastline. While I’ve always had an incredible passion for oceans, nothing compares or equals the turquoise waters I admire as we travel along the coast. I pinch myself. Please God, if I’m dreaming, never let this dream end.
A few hours later we head back to the hotel. We are tired now, ready to relax and walk along Kalakaua Avenue. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VyyHaVPWj0k The sun is setting now as we walk. I am amazed at the wide sidewalks on Waikiki Beach. There are hundreds of people walking, but no one bumps into Phil or me and no one has a cell phone glued to their ears. In Charleston, people appear not to be able to walk unless a cell phone dangles from their ears, and they shout their supposedly private conversations into their phones, so the entire world can hear the latest one-sided gossip. Who cares!
INTERNATIONAL MARKET PLACE
International Market Place is only a three block walk from our hotel. Dressed in shorts and a Hawaiian print shirt, with my Shape-Ups on my feet, I am ready for the business of shopping. I admit it. I hate shopping. Rarely do I find anything I want and I am a bargain hunter. Working in retail establishments for many years, I know how much items are marked up for profit, so I tell myself to look for bargains, or appear not to love an item too much. I want to barter!
While walking I notice the designer shops. Many of them I’ve never heard of. I live on a budget so these shops look wonderful and oh so tempting, but I would probably be flabbergasted by the price tags. I choose not to go inside.
We approach the entrance of International Market Place. Merchants are everywhere. Pleasant to the shoppers, the culture of Hawaii has taught the merchants how to charm and approach them. They nod their heads to everyone, speaking to a few, probably in hopes of making a big sale. I stop at several jewelry booths. OK, I admit it…I am a jewelry fanatic! I admire the coral, shells, the beautiful lei’s. All the jewelry is so beautiful. I honestly do not know where to start!
International Market Place has changed dramatically since I visited it during our R&R. There are many specialty shops now. No matter what you are looking for in Hawaii, you will find it along Kalakaua Avenue. One thing to remember is to ask for a better price at the Market Place. Almost every merchant I approached was willing to negotiate with me. There was one shop where the shopkeeper said, “If you don’t like that price on the sticker, you will not find a better price around Kalakaua Avenue.” I left her shop without purchasing anything.
I can truly say, International Market Place is one of my favorite places to shop, because I can negotiate. After all, my trip to Hawaii was planned in less than twenty-four hours and I had no time to get to the bank for additional funds. Thank goodness. I could’ve spent a small fortune.
Headed back to Hyatt Regency Waikiki, the street vendors and entertainers are out. I snap a few shots of an Elvis wanna be, a man dressed in newspaper, another guy dressed in gold lame, and an interesting floral archway where a woman was inside with only her beautiful face exposed.
By now the streets are filled with pedestrians. Much to my surprise, everyone moves without pushing or shoving, and everyone uses crosswalks. While we walked across the street onto an area filled with additional hotels, we stop at a park, pet a dog and decide we will cross the street in the middle of the roadway. A police officer sees us standing along the middle of the sidewalk. I reach for Phil’s hand as cars rush by. I have a phobia of crossing busy streets, reminding Phil he must hold my hand tightly if we cross here. [I was hit by a drunk driver when I was nine-years-old, suffering a severe concussion.] I’ve never been able to cross busy streets without shaking since then.
The police officer has stopped, watching us. “That’s not a cross walk,” he shouts in our direction. I jerk my hand from Phil. “We can’t cross here. There must be a cross walk somewhere.”
We thank the police officer and move towards the traffic light. After we cross, the police officer nods to us. No doubt he was ready and waiting to give us a jaywalking ticket, but we followed his advice. After all, I really did not want to spend a night in the jail! Can you imagine – Phil and I arrested for jaywalking and spending the night in a jail? How dreadful!
After we get back to the hotel, we hop in the car headed to Ala Moana Shopping Center.
ALA MOANA SHOPPING CENTER
Years ago, we spent lots of money at Ala Moana Shopping Center. We were so young and carefree and our time in Hawaii was ticking away quickly. In two days, he would catch a flight back to Vietnam. When a lovely lady at the hotel we stayed at suggested shopping at Ala Moana, we spent a day there, looking at shops, admiring all the merchandise. Phil found a double-breasted jacket [yes, they were the style back then]. I took him inside, and we bought it. I didn’t care if he didn’t get to wear it very much. He wanted it. Money wasn’t an object. I wanted his memories of our first trip to Hawaii – our honeymoon – to be something to remember!
Now, Ala Moana Shopping Center is filled with all sorts of specialty shops and restaurants. Many of these shops are designer shops. If you are looking for something unique and special, Ala Moana is the place to find it! http://www.alamoanacenter.com/Center-Information/Hours-Directions.aspx I found three pairs of shoes. Just how I would get them home was a concern, but I could not pass them up! Shoes are my weakness!
Exhausted from a full day, we decided to dine at Blazin Steaks http://www.blazinwaikiki.com/ After dinner, we rush back to our room to watch a movie. My time in Hawaii is slowly ticking away and I am so sad to see it ending. Please, if I am dreaming, Never let me awaken from this dream!
Sunday, July 8, 2012 — Phil’s birthday. Today, he is taking the day off so we can play tourist in Hawaii. We have plans to drive to Diamond Head, and travel on the coastal highways to find Nakalele Point Blowhole, not only in search of Blow Hole, but whales!
The morning started like all the mornings have since I arrived on Thursday afternoon. Overcast, gray clouds, bursting into circles of radiant sun peeping through the circles, teasing the skyline with morning. Every morning I rush to the balcony while Phil snores. I open the balcony door with my camera ready to capture the breaking morning sunshine and clouds. I didn’t buy Phil a birthday card after I arrived, thinking his birthday card that I mailed on Monday would make it for his birthday. It is Sunday and still it hasn’t arrived. I suppose mail is just a bit slow here. Maybe I should’ve sent him an electronic birthday card via e-mail. Oh well. All that matters is the fact that we are together on his birthday.
Last night at Paradise Cove his birthday was mentioned – not personally, but a group “Happy Birthday” to all in attendance celebrating birthdays.
I rush around, getting dressed for our first full day together since I arrived. After I am dressed, hair styled, makeup on, I awaken Phil. He moans. Silly guy. The older he gets, the more (and later) he sleeps. At home, he will sleep until noon. If he does that here, he’ll find himself all alone. I simply am not spending the entire morning in a hotel room! There’s too much to do, and if I have to walk, no problem. I am accustomed to walking!
Finally, I persuade Phil to get up. He appears to be in a grumpy mood. No surprise…he can certainly be a ‘grumpy ole man’ when he wants to be!
After he is dressed he inquires as to what we are doing today. I mention Diamond Head and I remind him that we need to set the GPS for BlowHole and other coastal locations. To be honest, my GPS (TomTom version 2.8) does not work well here in Hawaii! When I typed in Wal-Mart, it could not find it. Other locations I searched for, Mr. TomTom simply did not locate. This created a bit of stress with Phil and I so now, I will go down to the concierge’s desk to get directions. I do not wish to fight on my Paradise vacation! If Phil gets on my nerves, I’ll simply escape and go on my own!
After getting directions, off we go. Phil has a rental car – a SMALL Volkswagen that is uncomfortable! Nevertheless, we must use the car today. I struggle to buckle the passenger seatbelt. I have an extremely weak left wrist that does not flex easily so it is a battle to buckle and I have to use my right hand. Finally buckled, we are off. Perhaps I should write an automobile review about this car. On second thought, perhaps not! It is not comfortable! Yes, it has lots of get up and go, but comfort I don’t think the engineers considered, at least not for the passenger. The parking garages in this hotel, Hyatt Regency Waikiki, are a tight squeeze. Mirrors are placed in the corners so we can see approaching cars. I hold my breath in anticipation, fearful that some fruitcake in a hurry might hit us as we approach the exit. One thing I have noticed in the bit of time I’ve been in Hawaii – people do not appear to be in such a hurry, like they are in Charleston!
Phil and I have lived in Charleston since the early 1970’s. We’ve watched the growth in the areas, especially in Mt. Pleasant. A population of 10,000 when we moved to Mt. Pleasant, now the city has over 60,000+ residents. To say we are overcrowded is an understatement. I’ve seen many people lose their tempers in traffic. Road rage! Now, as I think about drivers in Charleston, I remind myself that I am in Honolulu, where people appear to be much nicer! Just maybe we will not have an accident inside a garage!
Right on cue, a car approaches. He stops. Waves to us. This would not happen in Charleston! Drivers would show the index finger, instead! I spoke with my pet sitter earlier, recognizing when it is 8am here, it is 2pm in Charleston. Sandy has reassured me the pups are fine and Shadow, my newest and youngest is rebelling by shredding the puppy papers on the floor! He’s also attempted to shred a rug on the breakfast room floor. Suppose I’ll need to trash it when I get home. Shadow is less than a year old so he is full of energy. He leaps like a deer, or a leap frog, jumping high into the air. He’s bumped my nose many times, and when he does, my entire head feels like it will burst. I must remember to block him and use the water bottle more often, just to make him realize he must behave. Puppies are a barrel of fun, along with a barrel of trouble!
We exit the garage. Mister TomTom directs our way, along with the print out from the concierge’s office. I do not trust TomTom. He’s disappointed me many times previously! When I get back to Charleston, I will upgrade it to get the latest roads and highways. Such a pain! Normally when I travel, I have a printed Google map with me, to compare the directions, but after attempting without success to locate Wal-Mart in Honolulu, I realize my GPS is almost an antique!
I watch the highways while Phil drives, reading the signs, attempting to pronounce the roads, without much success! We make a turn, finding the Honolulu Elks Lodge. “We need to come back and drop by the Elks Lodge before we leave,” I tell Phil. He grumbles. I’m certain we’ll never drop by. Phil doesn’t like going to places where he doesn’t know anyone. Just how we connected so many years ago is beyond me. I am gregarious and love making a statement when I enter a room. Phil loves to blend in. We are such opposites! Maybe I was a bit desperate at the time.
We are headed to Diamond Head. Now I really regret how I forgot to pack my “Things to Do in Honolulu” print out that is still resting on my printer – at home! I struggled to login to my computer at the hotel, but it would not allow me. I reminded Phil to do a print out from the list and he of course will “do it later.” Funny! Later never arrives. He is the king of procrastination, not to mention a pain___! So off we go, without a plan, with exception of the printed directions we have from the concierge’s desk. Oh well. My prayers are that we do not snap at each other while struggling to find our way. I’ve concluded Mr. Tom Tom does not like me, and neither does the other GPS I had but tossed away!
Now, we’re following a path where gorgeous homes within beautiful gates are on the roadway. I do believe you must be rich to live in Hawaii! These homes make me so envious, but when I go back to reality, I’ll be thankful for what I have. At least, I hope!
We continue our route, I am the navigator. Phil is the driver. Thank goodness he is not using that stupid I-phone GPS again. I think I’d grab it from his hand and toss it out the window if he pulled that stunt again. Before long, we hit the highway. I see mountains in the distance with lava rock. Diamond Head is just ahead. We pull over at an observation area and I step out to photograph the view. Words cannot describe all that I see, but it is truly a blessing just to inhale the fresh air, the gusty winds and to be thankful that I am having the opportunity to make another dream come true – another dream back to Hawaii and I am enjoying every moment. The mountains, and there are many! Take Diamond Head for instance. Considered one of the younger mountains of Honolulu, history states that it erupted quickly. The view from Diamond Head is gorgeous, although we turned back due to traffic. Regretting it now, I have made a promise to myself that the next time we go to Honolulu, one of the mountains we will visit is Diamond Head. I simply cannot wait to take pictures on Diamond Head. Silly me. Just why did I suggest that we turn around and head to Blow Hole? Sometimes I can be such a dummy!
Blow Hole has a special meaning to Phil and I. We saw it on our first tour of Honolulu, when we were newlyweds. Much to my surprise, I do not remember the beautiful scenic highway leading to Blow Hole that we are traveling on now. There are several observation points to stop and take photographs and we are hopping in and out of the car. On one observation point, I decided to get a bit gutsy and hike a bit. Phil discouraged me, but he knows me well. I simply would not listen to him. So off I go, clicking photographs, looking for whales, hoping that we will see one. Stopping to admire the view, I squeal – probably like a teenager. In the distance I see a lighthouse. Of course I had to get closer.
“Be careful,” Phil shouts. “You know how clumsy you are.”
“Ah-hush. Today I wore the proper shoes – my shapeups!”
I continued my hike until I came to an area that was forbidden. There I stood, taking several shots of the lighthouse. How I wanted to cross the path and get closer, but Phil would come after me. Fussing and grumbling!
Back in the car, we continue looking for Blow Hole. The view along the coastal drive to Blow Hole is truly amazing. It’s like I am traveling along the route to Heaven, and I’ve never been to Heaven. Not yet! Lava rocks are on the mountains. The pictures I am taking truly speak for themselves, so I suppose I’ll have to stop blogging and let my readers admire the beauty. Now, if only I could see a whale.
My next blog will discuss our evening events, walking to International Market Place, along with the characters we met, the street vendors and singers. How I wanted to join them in a tune!