From the Office and Backyard to the Road, Boat, or Plane–Backstories and
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Archive for the ‘In print/published’ Category



A year of STITCH

Happy Anniversary! Last summer, graphic designers Courtney Rowson and Amy Pastre opened STITCH, a terrific design firm in downtown Charleston. They recently asked me to write copy for their new, great-looking website. Check it out… the site’s professional, beautiful and a little bit quirky, just like them.


– Sandy Lang, July 2010

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Art, Craft, In print/published

When I stopped in to see photographer Jack Thompson one day this winter, he suggested we go for the buffet at Shoney’s in Myrtle Beach. While we ate, he told stories and I wrote up the interview for Grand Strand Magazine. The piece runs for 10 pages in the February-March 2010 issue, filled with Mr. Thompson’s images.  Here’s an excerpt…


A 1950s motel on the Boulevard, the night sky lit with fireworks over a dirt lot at the Pavilion’s amusement park, a sunny beach day in the 1960s.

Jack Thompson, 73, sorts through stacks of his black and white photographs – some framed, some loose or mounted on boards – in his storefront studio on Broadway Street. It’s his fifth location in as many decades, always in buildings within a sea breeze distance of the Myrtle Beach Pavilion. (Or nowadays, the empty grass lot and beach where the Pavilion once stood.)

In these blocks that are the historic heart of Myrtle Beach, Thompson and his photographs help remind people of the city’s beginnings, and particularly of the classic mid-century era. That was when, with two other teenaged boys from his hometown of Greenville, Thompson rode on the back of farmers’ truck beds and in un-airconditioned buses to get to Myrtle Beach. (The boyhood friends who joined him were Freddie Collins, who’d later become a millionaire in the business of poker machines and other amusements; and Carroll Campbell, who’d one day be Governor of South Carolina.)  The boys had heard stories from older friends back in Greenville of the sandy lifestyle – of the beach music, beer and beautiful girls to be found. After several days of often-misdirected travel on two-lane highways (including mistakenly catching a ride to Orangeburg, and then up to Society Hill where they slept one night under a church), Thompson says the three finally arrived in downtown Myrtle Beach, exhausted, hungry and broke.

He remembers that day well. Thompson says he could see the Pavilion from the bus stop, and walked directly to it. The year was 1951…


His legacy is a still-growing collection of beautiful prints. And it’s the black and whites that really grab you. They are striking and classic, even iconic, and look of a simpler past you could step into. When he talks of his work, Thompson is a mix of humble and proud. And he’s quick to say that the subjects are often “ordinary” scenes – ordinary for the happenings and scenery of the times.

“Now people say, ‘Jack, you must have been a damn genius.’ But if I was, I didn’t know it at the time. These pictures are of what was everyday… it was just the way it was.”

Perhaps it’s because more and more classic Myrtle Beach landmarks are disappearing, but there’s been a flurry of interest in recent years in Thompson’s collection of images. He has shown his work in solo exhibits at the Burroughs and Chapin Art Museum in Myrlte Beach and the Horry County Museum in Conway. And in 2003, he published a collection of his photographs in a coffee table book titled “Memories of Myrtle Beach.”  That book also includes a summary of the history of Myrtle Beach, a subject of keen interest to Thompson. In fact, he’s a board member and vice chairman of the Horry County Museum, and he’s been working on a longer book that will include his research and perspectives on the development of Myrtle Beach.


Historically, one of his most important and famous photographs is of the demolition of the grand Ocean Forest Hotel, which had opened to national fanfare in 1930 and was torn down in 1973 to make way for an oceanfront condominium development.  “When I was there that day, and I found myself setting up my camera on a strategic sand dune, I knew in my heart that the governor, the mayor, or the fire chief or somebody was going to come in and stop the demolition, because of what this hotel meant to this part of this state,” Thompson recalls. “Then I heard the first explosion, and I started crying… I had grown up in that hotel, photographing famous personalities and conventions night after night. I could not believe that men of vision did not step in and save it.”

These days, Thompson remains one of Myrtle Beach’s fondest admirers. And he knows the city has reputation for continually reinventing itself, yet he’s cautiously optimistic about the future. “Policy makers will have to keep a strong vision,” he advises. Thompson says he was disappointed at the recent closing and demolition of the centrally-located Myrtle Square Mall, and especially of the loss of the 11-acre Myrtle Beach Pavilion & Amusement Park  “The powers that be destroyed a magical place… it’s a heartbreak and a tragedy.” The big question is, he says, “how do you put the genie back in the bottle?”

– Sandy Lang, March 2010

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In print/published, People



Oyster note in T+L


Oysters make a nice valentine, I think. I had the chance to write up a few South Carolina oyster-eating places in Travel + Leisure’s cover-story round-up of romantic destinations. Here’s my blurb, on page 9o, titled “A Low-Country Drive.” You can also see it online in their list of “50 Best Romantic Getaways  2010.”


– Sandy Lang, February 2010


For a winter issue of Grand Strand magazine, I had the chance to write a cover story about a restaurant I’ve known since I was a teenager – the old Sea Captain’s House, oceanfront in Myrtle Beach.  The story and images filled nine pages in the magazine. Here’s a shorter version..

At one of the granddaddy restaurants of Myrtle Beach, the grandfather of 10 had just finished a shrimp po’ boy lunch when he leaned back in his chair and talked of his first years with the restaurant, nearly 50 years ago. Just over the dunes from the pine-paneled dining room at the Sea Captain’s House, the ocean was slate-gray and rising with waves from a sudden winter storm. But where Clay Brittain sat with his family, in the comforts of the restaurant’s “Chart Room,” all was snug and warm, with the smells of sweet fried hushpuppies still rising from woven baskets on the table. It’s the same room where Mr. Brittain, now officially retired, will celebrate his 80th birthday later this month. He and his uncle Steve Chapman founded the Sea Captain’s House in 1962.

‘Tis the season of cozier festivities for the Grand Strand, and notably for a classic gathering place like the Sea Captain’s House, at 30th Avenue North and Ocean Boulevard. Housed in a 1930s beachhouse and former guesthouse, the restaurant’s traditions of food and family fill the space year-round – a modest shingled cape set beside a towering line-up of the strand’s oceanfront hotels.

The core rooms of the original home have remained little-changed through the decades, set with upholstered furniture and game tables for checkers and dominoes. (I first ate at the Sea Captain’s House as a student in the 1980s, and felt the history immediately.) Even more so today, stepping inside the restaurant is like re-entering another era in Myrtle Beach – back when the Pavilion still drew crowds along a wooden boardwalk, and had bathers’ changing rooms, photo booths, and Skee-Ball machines.


History and family traditions are alive and well at the Sea Captain’s House, where the Brittain and Chapman names are still synonymous with the restaurant. It’s now operated by the next generation of Brittains – brothers David and Matthew Brittain and their wives, Ann and Marie-Claire. Steve Chapman, grandson of the co-founder, grew up at the restaurant, and his father, Bob Chapman, managed the restaurant for many years. Seven of the ten Brittain grandchildren – all in their teens and early 20s – worked in the dining room last summer.

The landmark restaurant still serves three meals each day – from grits and fried egg breakfasts, to lunches and dinners of house specialties like fresh-made crab cakes, chowders of chopped clams, and South Carolina oyster singles on ice served with a champagne mignonette. In a recent conversation with Phil Ratcliff, one of the chefs, he easily put his hands on an original menu for the restaurant, and pointed out many dishes that are still served. “The prices are pretty nice from when Mr. Brittain set this up,” he said, and started reading some of the list… $2.25 for the Seafood Platter, Shrimp Creole for  $1.75, and desserts for 25 cents each.

Mr. Brittain and his wife, Pat, recall those early days well, and the recipes they collected when the restaurant began serving food back in early 1960s. There’s the She Crab Soup with cream and sherry from a Charleston recipe; the Avocado Seafarer, made with lump crabmeat and avocado; and the Sea Island Shrimp, from a recipe shared with the Brittains by a home economics expert who was a frequent guest at the Chesterfield Inn, two miles south. “Now, that’s a great recipe,” Mr. Brittain said of the popular cold shrimp dish that’s marinated with capers and onions. “It comes from when the Sea Islands had no electricity, so they’d pickle the shrimp, even burying it underground to keep it cool.”


Today, the restaurant regularly serves hundreds of customers each day, with two longtime chefs – Ratcliff and Andrew Gardo – leading the busy kitchen and creating daily specials with each day’s delivery of fresh seafood. New seating areas have been added over time, but other changes have been few. The biggest the family can point to are how in the 1980s, beer and wine was added to the menu, and two years ago, live music on the patio was added for the first time. And whenever they make any changes, the family says, rumors often follow that the restaurant might be torn down, as has happened with so many other buildings of old Myrtle Beach.

At the weekly lunch meeting with his family, when Mr. Brittain talked of the history of the well-worn restaurant, the mention of such rumors brought a teasing twinkle to his eye. Running the restaurant was never intended to be long-term proposition. “It’s still temporary!” he declared. His wife, sons and daughters-in-law smiled. Then, as sure as a shrimp boat chugged past the ocean-facing windows and the hum of conversations filtered in from other dining rooms, they all talked of plans for another holiday season and the new year.

– February 2010, Sandy Lang (images by Peter Frank Edwards)



Life by tides

This is so cool. A dozen writers were asked to write odes to the Lowcountry for this month’s issue of Charleston Magazine. (The other writers included Josephine Humphreys, William Baldwin, Marjory Wentworth, Roger Pinckney, Jonathan Sanchez and more who I’ve read and admired for years.) My ode is below. In the print version, it was paired with a beautiful painting by Mickey Williams.


On a sailboat we called the Eel Pye, we’d drifted right up to a dozen or more dolphins that were in a swirl, almost a frenzy, of fishing. It was a summer afternoon on the Fort Johnson side of the harbor, where the water was mixing with a changing tide. It was one of those scenes that gets seared in memory, a little movie to be played later—the dolphins’ slippery gray backs rising over and over, twisting in water that popped with a school of silvery fish.

Tides come and go, and things happen. On that old 22-foot Eel Pye, we’d let the rush of the changing tide pull us. The boat was moored in Wappoo Creek, a channel that connects the Ashley River end of the harbor with the Stono River. The currents there are famously strong, and we decided to make the most of it. I’d strap on flippers and jump in, swimming against the flow, and then turn around and let the water pull me back to the boat. It was such easy floating. And whenever I dunked under, I would hear so much life. Unlike freshwater lakes, where all you hear is your own splashes, the riverbed offered up a constant clicking (of crabs? oysters?) and bubbles rising. The creek water on my lips tasted salty and thick, like a tea of pluff mud and decaying marsh grass.

I loved to swim from that boat, until she was sold, but there are other stories of tides and boats and dolphins. One summer evening, on a swim around the pools and sandbars that build and fade with the tides on Sullivan’s Island, two dolphins surfaced so near and so many times I thought I’d get to touch one. I watched and called to them as the sun lowered, and they eventually swam off.

Back over near James Island, the currents and tides once brought in a beautiful wooden yacht that stretched at least 30 feet, with CONTESSA lettered in gold paint across her transom. We were out on a fall afternoon ride in the johnboat when we first saw her, stranded and abandoned in a creek off the Stono. For the next few weeks, we kept checking on the once-elegant boat, passing near.

Before long, the Contessa started a slow tilt in the low tides, and the lean got more exaggerated each day. We’d motor up sometimes and touch the wooden hull, and, when the tide was good for getting there, we ferried a few friends out for their own close-up look. Everyone made up stories about the impressive boat’s past—where she had come from, who owned her and left her, and why. But we never knew the real story, only what we could imagine. Then one day, the Contessa was gone. In my mind, I pictured the tides and mud had finally swallowed her.

Yesterday afternoon on a run over the Stono River Bridge, I looked down at the same swelling water and wondered what’s next. Around here, that six feet or so of ocean is always coming and going—mixing things up and adding a little mystery. Just the way I like it.

– Sandy Lang, January 2010


Sideshow Press

Presses stop me. When I worked at a newspaper, on breaks I used to go down to the press room and watch the huge rolls whir through. My favorite is the sights and sounds of letterpressing – the hands-on spinning of wheels, the metal plates and the wet ink, the impressions in the paper.

In Charleston, Courtney Rowson, Amy Pastre and Virginia Gregory of Sideshow Press create pieces one by one, designed with all sorts of graphics and type – of insects, antlers, flora, dress patterns, topo maps, tool guides, and more. They’ve got a new website, and I’m so pleased that they included some of my copy:

The idea is simple – to press type into paper.   The machinery is outdated, replaced in the mid-20th century by offset – and eventually digital – presses.  But for design purists, no other machine gives artwork and letters such a distinct tactile quality, mechanically pushing metal plates into the fibers of each sheet.  You can feel the type.

In the last decade or so, there’s been new interest in the old machines across the country, with vintage letterpress equipment put back to use by designers looking for creativity away from the computer.  In Charleston it took three women to bring one of the iron and steel contraptions to town, to figure out how to use it, ink it up, and start printing. Together they are Sideshow Press.

– Sandy Lang, December 2009

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Art, Craft, In print/published

Greenville1-2 Charleston Magazine Dec. 2009

Just out in the December issue of Charleston Magazine, I’ve got a travel story about leafy Greenville, South Carolina. A few paragraphs…

After an almost four-hour drive and nearly 1,000-foot rise in elevation, I had my nose in a long-stemmed glass of Bordeaux. Actually I’d get to seven glasses. It was a tasting, so there was an arc of wines around me and the 35 or so other sippers and swirlers, each glass with a tasting pour of French red. The setting was a room lined with racks and crates of wine in the 118-year-old, brick “Trolley Barn” in Greenville, now home to Northampton Wine, with its tasting room, bar, and café. There on a recent Friday, it was a heady start to a couple days in the Upstate city for an informal eat-around in the leafy downtown and nearby.

You could say the trip was a bit of a drink-around, too. Several hours earlier and about 20 miles south of downtown, we’d stopped at the Happy Cow Creamery and tossed back shots of fresh milk in tiny plastic cups. The big excitement at the farm that week was the debut of their strawberry milk, a new addition to their offerings of whole milk, chocolate, and buttermilk. I bought a bottle for the road. The cashier thanked me, adding, “Don’t forget to shake it before you drink it—get that cream mixed in real good.”

Yes ma’am, I did. That rich milk was gone before we’d see downtown Greenville’s mix of modern and historic buildings through the windshield – the Blue Ridge Mountains just beyond. I was ready to get to back to this city at the top of the Palmetto state. There’s been a growing buzz in recent years about the food scene, about Atlantans driving the 150 miles for a day-trip or dinner, and Charlestonians extending business trips, or getting to town early just to catch a meal before concerts at the Bi-Lo Center or the Peace Center for the Performing Arts. National media have been checking out Greenville, too. In last month’s issue of Esquire magazine, the chef at The Lazy Goat, Victoria Ann Moore, was named one of their “Four Breakout Chefs to Watch.”  The city’s food and wine festival, now called Euphoria and held in September, draws thousands of food followers and celeb-chefs like Tyler Florence and Frank Stitt. Personally, on previous trips I’ve had top-notch sushi at Murasaki on Main Street, tasted the melty-comforting, “48-hour Short Ribs” at Devereaux’s, and drunk tall glasses of hard-to-find Dutch beers in the cozy, Euro-feel Addy’s Dutch Café. I was ready to taste more…

The full piece is in the December 2009 issue.

– Sandy Lang, December 2009 (images by Peter Frank Edwards)

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Food, In print/published, Travel, Wine


In the annual “Food & Wine” issue of Charleston Magazine that’s out this month, I’ve got a piece on the single oysters that some of the oystermen are cultivating around here. Here’s a bit more than could fit in print:

Fresh salties by the bushel

As sure as it’s December, on low tides up on the oyster beds of Bulls Bay, in the creeks around Wadmalaw, and over on the Folly River, oystermen are pulling wild oysters from tide-washed banks.

The harvest is mostly of our Lowcountry clusters, but there should also be some new singles on the scene. Bill Anderson of the SC Department of Natural Resources says that thanks to the labor-intensive experimenting by longtime oystermen like Bill Livingston at Livingston’s Bulls Bay Seafood up in McClellanville, the local catch also now includes cultured single oysters – also known as single selects, Charleston Cups or Carolina Cups. It’s the same oyster, but is manually kept from clustering, and often grows horizontally and sometimes sub-tidally.

The results are single oysters that can have more of a cupped bottom, instead of the longer and narrower “knife blade” shape of cluster oysters that grow vertically. DNR gave a handful of grants back in 2006 to help South Carolina oystermen get single cultivation started, since the singles fetch a higher price than clusters. Livingston’s work with singles was part of that cooperative research grant program. South of Charleston, Tony Geisman got involved too. He built a platform on a creek off of the North Edisto River near Wadmalaw Island, and had some good success last year.

The holidays are a peak season for oysters, with clusters and singles at seafood purveyors like Stella Maris Seafood, a longtime wholesaler that also sells to the public. Chaz Green, who works with Stella Maris, describes the local “cups” as being more flavorful and rare than the ubiquitous oysters from the Gulf.  They’re also big, but not too big. “They’re like that one good-sized one you’ll get on a cluster,” he says. “A perfect bite.”

– Sandy Lang, December 2009

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Food, In print/published, Oysters, Travel

I’ve been back on the underground supper club beat again, and wrote a profile of jimihatt for the new “people” issue of Charleston Magazine, just out. Here’s an excerpt:


Meeting at James Island’s Zia Taqueria over tacos and beer, “jimihatt” arrives wearing camo pants and a T-shirt, his Burmese python tattoo snaking down his left arm to his wrist. “I once lived in a house with at least a dozen reptiles,” he says and then adds, “all non-venomous.”

jimihatt 2009, photo by Jonathan Stout

His real name is Jimi Cooper—but the lowercase “jimihatt,” a kitchen nickname, is how he’s known to most. He’s the dinner-party-throwing, art- and music-loving, charity-supporting, conversation-starting, back-yard-hen-raising, local-produce-buying cofounder of Guerrilla Cuisine, the underground supper club that celebrates its second anniversary this month…

He’s worked in kitchens for most of his professional life, and he’s got stories. Like the night chef Sean Brock called to say David Chang (chef-owner of NYC’s Momofuku) was in town and wanted to meet “the Guerrilla Cuisine guy.” They ended up having a late night at The Griffon on Vendue Range. Years earlier, Jimi got his start in the kitchen with stints at Capt. Don’s Hot Fish Shop on Savannah Highway and the original Med Deli in South Windermere, “both back when I was a hippie kid with dreadlocks”…

You can read the complete piece here. (Image by Jonathan Stout.)

– Sandy Lang, November 2009


The new mybikelaw website is now online, and I had a great time being part of this launch. To develop the copy, I worked with Charleston-based lawyer Peter Wilborn, a cycling advocate and founder of mybikelaw. HOOK created the logo, and Blue Ion put together the site design.

Just before launching, mybikelaw hosted a party in the warehouse-sized space of a former furniture store on upper King Street in Charleston. Everyone rode bikes in big loops around the space that night, while Peter Frank Edwards made portraits of every cyclist. His shots became the key art on the home page. Very cool. Here’s another, with the opening copy:


Tooled for anyone who rides a bicycle, mybikelaw is dedicated to promoting and protecting the rights of cyclists in the Carolinas, and beyond.

Road cyclists. Commuters. Weekend riders. Randonneurs. Urban fixies. Student pedallers. Cycle tourists. Neighborhood cruisers. Teams. Cycle chic-sters. Triathletes. Club riders… all our wheels are round.

The bike lawyers of mybikelaw are advocates for bicycle safety, and we stand up for cyclists’ rights on the roads and in court. Like you, we ride.


– Sandy Lang, October 2009

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In print/published

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