Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Swampfest 2008 and Reeva Dubois Revisted Part 4 & 5…

Ok, so last weekend was Swampfest 2008, an annual gathering of my college friends for Roommate’s birthday, in Beaufort, SC. This was the third such gathering, and I’ve grown to count on these jaunts to get an entire year’s worth of debauchery and not-acting-my-age out of my system. This particular trip wasn’t drastically different from the previous ones, except I remembered to bring my camera. Unfortunately, I didn’t remember to bring it with me on most of the excursions. But at least I can finally post pictures of the fabulous house, nestled in the salt marshes of Cat Island. Ok, actually, I didn’t get any pictures of the house. What I did manage to capture is the backyard scape, which, to be honest, is my favorite part of the whole scene.

The house is actually on a golf course, but the course is set amongst the natural marshes and swamps characteristic of the area. While I’m sure some of the scenery is fabricated, I like to think most of it was there before the golf-carts and sandtraps took over. No matter what, it’s unbelievably pretty.

Unlucky for you, approximately three seconds before I took this photo, there were hundreds of sea-birds (egrets, I think) roosting on all those banks, but as I exited the porch area, I accidentally slammed the screen door, inciting a migration. Take my word for it, though – there were tons of them. Once you get over the racket they make and the overwhelming stink, it’s easy to get lost in their beauty. We even spotted a blue heron, a massive and intimidating bird up close.

There are alligators in these waters, but they’re rather tiny and inconspicuous. I’ve only seen one (last year), and I wasn’t impressed. If one tries hard enough (and waits patiently enough) one can eventually distinguish between the alligators and the bits of flotsam floating in the pond, but I find that sort of thing tedious.

Rather than bore you with the details of the rest of my activities, I’ll just do some bullet points.

- Gays aren’t afraid of Marines, especially if the Marines are drunk…
- Marines ARE afraid of gays, especially if the gays are drunk…
- Indoor beachball volleyball and indoor monkey-in-the-middle should be Olympic sports…
- You’re never too old to swing (and I don’t mean “swing” as in “partner-swap” but literally swing, like on a swing-set, or, in this case, a park swing clearly not designed for such things)…
- Cute waiters are great, but they rarely amount to anything…
- Cracker Barrel is still the best thing ever after a long weekend…
- No amount of heckling or teasing will make me ashamed of liking Ashlee Simpson…
- I will probably never get tired of talking with Roommate until the sun comes up…

After the jump, I revisit the Swampfests of old…

Reeva Dubois Revisted Part 4: Swampfest 2006

This was posted in my LiveJournal on July 19, 2006, and is entitled Sparkles in the Water

My trip to Beaufort, SC has come and gone. It was a good Vay-k and God knows I needed one. For the most part, it was chill. I arrived late (getting up early on day one of vacation was vetoed) so when i showed up at the beach house, Roommate and his friend were at the beach soaking up the sun. I had a hard enough time finding the house so i was a little scared (petrified) to venture out into the marshes on my own, so i grabbed a book and just chilled out. TWO hours later, my host arrived and we had a great dinner - surf and turf, ya'll. Anyway - we were sitting around making our evening plans and i made the suggestion that we go back to the beach. I love the beach at night for many reasons - the biggest one being that i can sit out and enjoy the beach without crisping like bacon in 5 minutes flat. The group was into it, so we packed the cooler and hopped in the car.

Upon arriving at the beach at about 10:00 pm, we began to hit some hurdles. Unbeknownst to me, the beach we were going to is not a public beach, but rather a National Park that charges a nominal fee. Well, they were closed. As we pulled up to the area, some dude in a beard was locking up the gates. I'm not one for useless confrontation so i figured that we were out of luck. Well, roommate and his friend weren't having it. After haggling with the guy for about 10 minutes, the outcome was, obviously, no beach for us. What a surprise. They got back in the car and i tried to make the best of it by suggesting some other beachy-type activities, namely boozing it out with the Vodka we purchased. Before the words were out of my mouth, Roommate was hatching a plan to sneak into the beach - or as I like to call it: Premeditating Felony Trespassing. FUN! Before I go further, I must describe this beach. Its a national park in a more-or-less undeveloped stretch of coast. After you enter the gate and pay the fee, you drive along a gravel road through a palm/pine forest. Its dark and dense with lots of creepy crawlies. I can tell you without a doubt that if I had known what we would be strolling through i would not have gone along with this little mission. I know that if we had been caught by 'scary bearded guy' he probably would have just laughed and told us to buzz off - but you never know with these southern crazies. I was not looking forward to spending the night in the Beaufort jail.

We parked the car on the shoulder of the highway about 20 feet away from the entrance. We had a cooler, two packs of towels and other beach supplies, and of course, ourselves. At first, roommate and his friend weren't too concerned about the success of this mission, and were talking and giggling and carryin' on. Of course, I'm having fits. We didn't get our first scare until we had jumped across the barricade (the one that bearded guy was closing). We were walking down the gravel road (I was trying not to scream every time something touched me - I'm talking palm fronds to the face, spider-webs, and whatever else was running around that we coudn't see) and we saw headlights coming towards us. Every gay gene in my body screamed as Roommate literally pushed me headlong into nature - it was very Lord of the Rings Frodo hiding from the Ringwraiths (including the bugs). The car (no doubt the bearded guy who was really starting to get on my nerves) passes by. At this point all bets are off - we turn off our flashlights and take off our flipflops because we are passing little security posts and various buildings and we didn't want to risk being seen or heard. Roommate and Friend start sprinting barefoot down the gravel - and i'm about to puke my heart out through my stomach because A) I don't run, B) I can't see a GODDAMN! thing, C) I'm just pissed.

The rest of the journey is sort of a blur, but i do know that i did eventually make it to the beach. At this point, i was trying to keep my shit together and not go carnival freak crazy on Roommate. Once I sat down on the sand and got my heartbeat back down to normal levels - i started to think. This little escapade was the exact type of thing i thrived on in high school and college. We weren't really breaking any important laws and it was sorta fun to be bad. So why was i about to have a coronary? After putting things in perspective, i was able to enjoy what turned out to be a GORGEOUS beach in the middle of the night. The stars were, God, everywhere. More stars that I have ever seen. You couldn't even find the constellations because of the sheer volume of light up there. We saw some shooting stars and made appropriate wishes, and it seemed like a lucky night because we saw no less than 12 shooting stars. I was happy that i remembered to wish for a Lottery win, which is the one i tend to forget cuz i'm too busy wishing for a man, thinness, and World Peace.

After much consternation and frustrated heckling from Roommate, I was finally convinced to go for a midnight swim - which is something i had never done. I dunno, maybe the opening scene of Jaws is burned into my pysche. I refused to go out farther than waist-deep and I insisted on carrying the flashlight with me. Roommate and his friend were much more adventurous. It was while I was having yet another panic attack (they were out sooo far and i was not interesting in pulling a Baywatch rescue) that i noticed that little lights were following them around. The water was literally lighting up as they swam through it. The water wasn't doing that for me and i felt slighted so i forced myself to move out farther. Once I was about neck deep - i witnessed the phenomena for myself. We were swimming with Bioluminescent plankton. Ya'll it was amazing. Everytime your skin touched the water the plankton would flash and sparkle. You could literally see your entire body under the surface as you swam. If you dunked your head underwater, they would attach themselves to your hair, and upon resurfacing, your entire head would glow for about 5 seconds. I was in awe. Somehow, we managed to play with the plankton for about 2 hours. I felt like a little kid and i loved every minute.

My joy was short-lived. Since it was now nearing 2 in the morning - we decided we should probably head back (Cue the Mission Impossible theme song). Luckily, we made it through without incident. Of course, i totally forgot where we parked and for a moment i thought we had been towed (Fourth panic attack of the evening commences). But no. The car was still there.

The rest of the Vay-K was spent drinking but not getting drunk, sun-bathing but not getting burned, eating but not getting super Fat. So except for the Beach subterfuge - i managed to have a mature and adult-like vacation. Cheers.

Speaking of adulthood- its back to the grind tomorrow.

Reeva Dubois Revisted Part 5: Swampfest 2007

This was posted in my LiveJournal on July 2, 2007, and entitled Ghost Stories, Hoedowns, and Adventures with Alcohol

I didn’t mean to, but I’ve managed to schedule a summer vacation that occurs in fits and starts. It probably has more to do with the crazy schedules of all my friends than my own disorganization, but I have a feeling that by the end of the summer I will be quite tired, not to mention destitute. While it would probably be far more relaxing and financially sound to have one long vacation, I will take three, in three different places with three entirely different groups of people.

Phase 1 took place this past weekend in Beaufort, SC with former Roommate, two of my best friends from college, and their guests. BEAUfort is (quite appropriately) a BEAUtiful city, full of history and quaint southern charm. It’s also hot as hell, humid with lots and lots of very large bugs. We thought their city motto should be, “Beaufort, SC: Muggy and Buggy.”

The house is absolutely beautiful, with traditional Old South patios overlooking the swamp, which teems with giant frogs, sea birds, and alligators. The inside is decorated in leather and dark woods, with billiards in one corner and a card table in another. Bizarrely, the other family that shares the house chose to decorate the entire inside with roosters. There are literally hundreds of roosters all the over the place… it tends to be overwhelming. That’s a lot of cocks – and not the good kind (ZING!).

I arrived last on Friday night (thanks to my boss’s bitchery) and once I was settled, the whole crew (4 gays and two girls) went to downtown Beaufort to rustle up some grub, booze, and boys. Over the course of dinner, it became apparent that we were the first gays this town had seen in quite some time, if at all. Clearly, the rules of southern hospitality do not extend to staring, pointing or otherwise gesticulating wildly at the homos. We were perplexed, of course, and couldn’t quite figure out what had tipped the locals off. We weren’t dressed in any particularly gay way, nor were we doing Pride Cheers at our table. We went around the group and tried to pinpoint who exactly among us was “acting” so overt that everyone just knew we were “special”. The conclusion ended up being, “Well, we’re all pretty gay.”

After dinner, we strayed into a couple of the bars along the battery and, luckily, the locals seemed to have calmed down a little, probably because everyone was completely wasted. People are so much nicer to the gays when they’re drunk, aren’t they? That didn’t mean our problems were over, though. The two girls hanging with us were getting restless and uneasy because no one was offering them drinks or hitting on them, which is sooo not right because they’re total hotties. Once again, we huddled to discuss the strange behavior of the people in Beaufort. Finally, a gentleman came up to my friend Mary and started talking to her and in the course of their conversation he was able to shed some light on this current mystery. He and his buddies had been eyeing Mary and her girlfriend for quite some time, but weren’t sure about us. Were we boyfriends? Brothers? Parole Officers? In the interest of full disclosure, Mary went ahead and introduced us as her gay entourage. He seemed relieved, but that didn’t mean he wanted to hang out with us or anything.

I will say in defense of Beaufort - that even though the locals didn’t exactly welcome us with open arms, they also didn’t chase us out of town with pitchforks and torches, and in South Carolina… that’s saying something. We left the girls to do their dirty work in the bar, and the four gays took a stroll along the battery under the full moon, catching up on old times, and you know, talking about Madonna and Britney Spears… like we do.

The next day, we returned to the same beach that was the scene of Beach Subterfuge 2006. The beach was really crowded, which everyone else moaned about, but for which I was thrilled. I love to people watch and people who share that trait with me know that the two best places to people watch are airports and beaches. I only went in the water for a short time and spent the rest of the time hiding underneath my beach umbrella, protecting my sensitive skin from the ravages of the evil, evil sun.

One of the perks of my friends and I getting older is I can finally insist that we do educational things and not be accused of being “dorky.” Secretly, I’ve always been one of those people that dislikes the big party scenes with tons of people and lots of hormones. I prefer to go to museums, or shopping, or sight-seeing. So I was floored when my suggestion of a walking tour of Beaufort before dinner was met with enthusiasm. We chose to go on a “Ghost Tour,” which covered the supernatural folk-tales and legends of the city.

Our docent was a crackpot of a lady that we adored once we got used to her. I imagine it takes a special kind of person to do something like that… you know, tell ghost stories in period dress in front of complete strangers? Well, she was fabulous and we had a fantastic time. Some highlights? The Gray Man is a very popular ghost story from South Carolina, and it was interesting to hear Beaufort’s version of his legend. If you don’t know, the Gray Man is a spectral man dressed in gray (well, obviously) that appears on the beach before a hurricane. He appears all over the Carolina coast, but mostly in Charleston. It makes sense that South Carolina would have a spirit guarding her shores, thanks to some seriously bad storms over the centuries. Every time a major storm hits, the Gray Man stories resurface, thanks to multiple sightings right before the hurricane’s landfall. I didn’t know about the Gray Man until after Hurricane Hugo in 1989. Parts of our coastline were decimated by the Category 5 winds and storm surge, and Charleston took a particularly bad hit. Our newspapers were riddled with stories of centuries old buildings washed away, historical markers destroyed, new landmarks damaged, and lives lost. In between all of them were first hand accounts of seeing the Gray Man.

The story goes that a beautiful young woman from Pawley’s Island was married to a sailor only days before he would have to leave by ship for some reason or the other. The seas were particularly rough that year and their parting was one of worry and anxiety, having only been together for a brief time. Around the time he was supposed to return from his journey, a storm descended upon the island, and the young woman refused to leave her home, despite the warnings from her family. Instead, she kept a steady vigil up along the Widow’s Walk of her house, fretting and watching for her true love’s return. When the storm hit, it battered the house to oblivion, leaving nothing but the foundation’s footprint. The young woman was lost forever. When the sailor returned and saw what had happened to his home and his wife, he was so stricken with grief, he drowned himself in the same waters that took his love. So, if you’re ever at the beach in the Low country of South Carolina, and you see a man dressed in gray rise out of the sand dunes and walk slowly along the breakers until he disappears into the mist and surf, then you should high-tail it back to your beach house, pack up your stuff and hit the road. If you heed his warning, you’ll find that when you return after the storm, your home will be undamaged and your property untouched.

She told us this story next to the battery at dusk, with the wind wailing and the waves crashing. The chills going up and down my spine were exquisite.

Beaufort is also famous for its historical churches and graveyards. Since the founding, this city has survived Native American guerilla-style warfare, and occupation by the Spanish, French, British AND the Yankees. It is therefore no surprise that the city is also full of graveyards and cemeteries. Most of the ghost stories we heard were focused on specific graves along the route of our walk and one in particular was really sort of spooky. Apparently, back in the day, doctors weren’t very good at pronouncing people dead, especially when the patient lapsed into a coma. I’ve heard that as recent as 75 years ago, it was very common to discover upon exhumation that the person was buried alive. You can tell by the marks on the top of the coffin. *shudders*

She told us of a little girl named Isabelle who lived in Beaufort right before the War Between the States. She was the daughter of a wealthy and powerful man, who had fittingly just purchased a beautiful marble mausoleum in the cemetery of the largest church in town. When she came down with a vicious case of diphtheria and “died”, the entire community was consumed with sadness. They buried her in the family mausoleum, and everyone was touched and saddened that she would be the first to rest in it. It was about 30 years before the grave would be reopened on the day of her father’s funeral, and when the marble doors were opened, the family was stunned to see a perfectly preserved skeleton of a little girl dressed in lace laying at the foot of the mausoleum, instead of in her crypt. The family rededicated her body and reburied her, taking solace that at last she could rest in peace in the company of her father.

A few months later, an aunt came to visit the gravesite with fresh flowers and found the marble doors open and gaping. She raised almighty hell on the caretaker, going as far as to beat him soundly with the ivory handle of her fan. He assured her that he checked the doors on his rounds three times a day and had never seen them open. The aunt watched as the doors were closed and locked and reminded the caretaker that she would be watching him from now on. Over the course of the next decade or so, various family members would come to the cemetery and find the marble doors ajar, and each and every caretaker was just as confused as the next. They tried cement, chains, padlocks, extra hinges… but every time, the cement would crack, the chains would split, the locks would break, and the hinges would unhinge. Finally, almost a century later, a member of the family decided to just give up, and the marble doors were officially removed. One was put in the ground in front of the steps of the tomb and inscribed with Isabelle’s name and that of her father. The other is leaning upright against the side of the tomb, so that all can examine the twisted metal of its hinges and the strange marks etched into the stone.

Our docent admitted that it is very possible that the whole thing is an elaborate, decades-long hoax… but she likes to think Isabelle simply refused to allow the family to bury anyone else in that tomb, and if they did, she wasn’t about to let anyone else die scared and alone and in the dark.

While I was refreshed by these stimulating and historical goodies, the rest of my crew was getting antsy - eager to recommence boozing and cruising. Before that, though, we had a fabulous dinner at a waterfront restaurant called Panini’s. I had lump crab lasagna, which tasted a lot better than it sounds, trust me (I tend to avoid any foods that contain the word 'lump'). It was during our meal that we encountered the individual that would hence be known as “the only gay man in Beaufort.” He was a manager at the restaurant and made a point to walk by our table every frikkin’ minute. At first, we weren’t sure whether he was cruising us or if he was about to ask us to leave because other guests were complaining. You never know. It wasn’t until we realized that he was ignoring our hags and making eyes with all of us gays in turn that we figured everything out.

The girls were desperate to have a better night of whoring so they abandoned us again, leaving us to our own devices at a bar filled with drunk frat boys and scantily clad college girls. We grabbed a table in a corner and gabbed the night away. Throughout the evening, drunk girls would fall into us and tell us how cool it was that we were there, and how they so wished more gay people would come to Beaufort. This happened so often, we started to feel a little bit like celebrities. I bought Roommate a drink to congratulate him on landing the only gay man in Beaufort… literally.

When we got home, we put Roommate and his new boy out on the porch to make out or whatever, and the three of us leftover had a dance party in the living room. We found a CD in the stereo system that was just perfect…Hoe-Down music. We turned it up really loud and square-danced and doo-si-doed, except because of all the alcohol in our blood, there was a little bit more head-butting and falling down than actual dancing. We found out later that Roommate was sufficiently humiliated by our antics, to which we said, “Mission: Accomplished!”

Speaking of humiliated, right about the time our hoe-down was just heating up was when our girls arrived, with straight boys on their arms. The looks on their faces!!! I think the girls may have told them they were staying with four guys, but I have a feeling they left out the part about us being raging homosexuals. We were informed that we were in the presence of two Marines, and fairly high-ranking ones at that, so that merited several jokes at their expense, such as, “You didn’t ask, but I’m telling you…” and, “Hey, need any new Privates?” To their credit, the marines were so drunk that they’re awkwardness was pretty short-lived.

Soon after, I turned in. I just can’t keep up with these kids anymore, but it was all good, considering everyone else was… busy.

When I got up the next morning, the marines were gone and the house was quiet… and Tee-rashed! My girl, Mary, was awake and her code of ethics was still intact, so instead of driving to the drug store for a bottle of Advil and a pregnancy test, we started to clean up. Gradually, the rest of the house got up. Roommate’s boy had to do the walk of shame, but hey, that’s the price you pay. As they said good-bye to each other outside, the rest of us took bets as to whether or not we’d ever see him again. I’d say the odds are… not.

So what do gay people do on Sunday morning? That’s right, brunch. The South isn’t really big on brunch, you know, because of church, so we had to do quite a bit of research online before we found a place to go. We ended up at a cozy little café that served excellent omelets and amazing coffee. Of course, we were brutally rebuffed on one brunch staple. When we tried to order Mimosas (and seriously, what is brunch without a Mimosa?) we were told that alcohol was not available on Sundays. South Carolina Blue Laws strike again. I swear, it’s like we’re in Amish Country. Or anywhere in Utah.

After that it was time to go back to our normal lives. I love those guys so much, even if they still act like they’re 22 at Spring Break. Maybe I am acting too old for my age? You know what? It doesn’t matter. I can always count on Roommate to treat me to a good time, and let’s face it… there will always be good stories.

1 comment:

Erin G said...

you are such a good storyetller! I love reading these stories - but no details for this year's trip?

don't ever apologize for loving ashlee. or cracker barrel. mmmm.