From the Office and Backyard to the Road, Boat, or Plane–Backstories and
Side Stories While on Assignment. Updates on Personal Projects, Too.

Archive for January, 2008



Miami Times


Hands-free volleyball

We’re in Miami for a few days, doing research for an upcoming story. Everywhere are women in high heels and looks-impossible-to-sit-down short skirts. Last night on Washington Ave. I saw a young woman grabbing tight to her boyfriend’s arm as she toddled painfully into a shoe store. Inside, she immediately plunked down on a bench and pointed to a rack of flat sandals.

Days, we’ve found Espanola Way, the beach at South Pointe and the secret patio gardens behind our hotel to be our favorite spots, away from the mad Lummus Park/Ocean Drive crowds (although the neon line-up there is pretty great at dusk). Instead of a car rental, we’ve been pedaling rented, fat-tired bicycles, which can often be a challenge in the sea of convertibles and buzzing scooters, many with cell phones at their ears. Best meals so far have been the coconut red curry lentils at Creek 28 and the cafe con leche and guava pastry at the Tropical Beach Cafe. We need to go back to Joe’s Stone Crabs for some claws… they’re kept on ice in the shiny stainless steel and glass cases, and once ordered, men in white aprons give each one a quick strike with a wooden mallet to prep the shells for ease of cracking into sweet claw meat.

claws3con leche3

– Sandy Lang, January 2008

Comments Closed

Food, Travel



This is an excerpt of a piece I just published about Marvin Grant, who I first met several years ago at the Pawleys Island Hammock Shops. He’s one of two hammock makers there for daily demonstrations. And while he guides the rope in a knitting-like technique, he gets to talking.

Raised in New York City, Marvin Grant says he first became interested in working with twine and rope when he served in the military in Charleston, South Carolina. There on the coast, the lanky soldier met a man who taught him the intricate craft of making and repairing cast nets. And later, a cousin from Plantersville (near Georgetown, S.C.) showed him what she knew about hammock-making. She’d been knitting the knot-free Pawleys Island hammocks for decades. “Making hammocks is definitely much easier than tying up a cast nest,” Marvin says. “There’s about 2,400 feet of twine in a cast net… it takes a long, long time. With hammocks, you’re working with just 800-1,400 feet.”

To watch and hear Marvin’s stories while he works, visitors become captivated. He describes what he’s doing, and when someone asks, he’ll tell stories about the hammock he made for his own yard in Georgetown, the one with nine colors of rope. The artisan’s favorite guests in the Weaver’s Shed are children. Whenever Marvin has scrap rope – shorter pieces that would usually be thrown away – he keeps them. And when he meets a child who looks interested, he’ll take a few feet of rope and show him or her how to make a hammock end-piece. “I take my time and show them exactly what to do,” he says. “Most tell me straight up that they won’t be able to do it… then about five minutes later, they’ve made it. And they can’t believe that they did.”

He says he always suggests to children that they use the crocheted rope as a souvenir of their trip to Pawleys Island by decorating it with seashells, beads or sharks teeth… or by attaching bells to create a wind chime. “I want them to have something you can’t buy in any store.”

– Sandy Lang, Jan. 2008

T.W. Graham’s

We spent the post-Christmas week in a 120-year-old house on Jeremy Creek in McClellanville, S.C. watching shrimp boats go by, the guys crabbing and oystering. T.W. Graham’s, the old general store there that’s been a restaurant for years now, is where Pete steams and fries up oysters collected from his oyster beds in Bulls Bay. “Very light breading,” he tells me, is the secret of his frying. You can still taste the salty-sweetness of the oysters.

On New Years Eve, a neighbor in the village invited us to an oyster roast – so, of course, we packed our knives, gloves and beer, showed up early and ate well. Then it was to T.W. Graham’s for the “customer appreciation” party with tables of food, an honor bar, and music by Joey Carter (guitarist with 69 songs in one book and at least a hundred more in another three-ring binder he keeps on bar stools near the mic… lots of James Taylor), and by Captain Froggy (a country-blues guitar player/singer and 30-year shrimper who also does home repair, wallpapering). Others in the audience took the microphone for a song or two, including a young blonde woman who belted out a powerful “Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz.” Then just before midnight, the 30 or so of us left walked or pedaled down to the cypress chapel and took turns pulling the rope to ring the bell in the yard. Nice weight to that church bell, gave a hearty clang under the old oak trees. Here’s to a Happy 2008.

– Sandy Lang, January 2008

Comments Closed

Lowcountry S.C./Charleston

Image 01 Image 02 Image 03 Image 04