Midweek SubscribeStar Exclusive: Sloshing through Lee State Park

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With the warm weather and sunshine this past weekend, my girlfriend and I decided to check out Lee State Park.  Lee State Park is just ten miles up the road from Lamar, and while I’ve driven on Lee State Park Road numerous times heading to the Interstate, I’d never visited the park.

Lee State Park was constructed in 1935 as a Civilian Conservation Corps project during the Great Depression.  It is bounded on the west by the Lynches River, and features a number of easy-to-moderate hiking trails, as well as several equestrian trails.  Most of the park’s 2839 acres is hardwood forest wetlands, and the park features four artesian wells that flow continually.

To get to the park, we loaded into my ancient, busted up 2006 Dodge Caravan—now with a fresh battery!—and buzzed up there with the windows down.  My girlfriend’s German shepherd seemed to enjoy the ride, and turned out to be a real trooper on what turned into an unexpectedly arduous adventure.

When we got to the park, we grabbed a trail map, and merrily headed into the forest, attempting to follow the white-labeled Floodplain Trail, a five-mile, moderate hike.  Unfortunately, the Floodplain Trail does not make a neat loop, and we headed towards the shorter end, which overlaps with the orange equestrian trail.

That decision would ultimately result in soggy, sloshing bit of amateur trailblazing through some of the muddiest terrain in Lee State Park.

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The Last Day of Freedom?

Here we are, 19 January 2021—the last day of basking in liberty before Biden the Usurper assumes the throne.  For all his personal foibles and occasional missed opportunities (while acknowledging, of course, his many achievements), President Trump at least fought to ensure that Americans could enjoy freedom and opportunity.  Under progressive rule, no such guarantees exist.

But rather than look about gloomily at what is to come, I’d like to offer some words of exhortation.  Times will not be easy for conservatives and Christians over the next four years, but I’m trying to embrace this new progressive era with some cautious, small-scale optimism.

For one, I think the whole sordid election fraud, as well as the bipartisan effort to impeach President Trump for—if we’re honest about it—discouraging violence and encouraging peaceful protest—has confirmed for many of us that the elites of both parties are against us.  As such, effecting change at the national level seems increasingly futile.

That might sound discouraging, but consider it from another angle:  if we can’t make much of a dent at the national level, then why waste the energy?  Instead, let’s focus our efforts locally.

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Mask Mandates Come for Lamar

I know, I know—everyone wants to read and talk about the storming of our metaphorical Bastille.  I’m going to cover that in-depth in this weekend’s SubscribeStar Saturday post, not because I know it is the event of the decade—and will therefore crassly milk it for subscribers—but because my own observations are so tantalizingly spicy, I have to hide them behind a paywall.  Believe it or not, $1 is apparently a major hurdle.

Instead, I’m going to focus on a bit local draconianism that I will hopefully soon be able to address head-on:  my small town of Lamar has adopted a mask ordinance.  Given our current Town Council, I’m surprised it took this long.

The ordinance, dated 14 December 2020 and effective 4 January 2021—but only received in water bills on 7 January 2021—is entitled “REQUIRING INDIVIDUALS TO WEAR FACE COVERINGS IN RETAIL AND FOODSERVICE ESTABLISHMENTS, AND MATTERS RELATED THERETO.”  It features a number of “WHEREAS” justifications, mostly the “recommendations of public health experts.”  It then lists the “Use of Face Coverings” in Section 1, detailing that face coverings must be worn indoors at stores and restaurants, etc., with plenty of opportunities to not wear a mask listed in Section 2, “Exemptions”—religious reasons, dental cleanings, etc.

The penalties for infractions—detailed in Sections 3 and 4—are $25 for individuals and $100 for businesses that fail to require employees to wear masks.  Section 3 seems laughably unenforceable in a town that has maybe three police officers—and just a recipe for another unpleasant interaction between otherwise law-abiding citizens and police.  Section 4 is particularly onerous, though, as it forces private companies to force their employees to wear masks, or face daily $100 fines.

Granted, most business establishments have already bent the knee and have bought into the mask hysteria.  In my mind, though, that makes the mask mandate even more unnecessary:  if Dollar General is making me wear a mask to buy a $1.26 loaf of bread-based loaf product anyway, why does the Town Council need to ladle an extra dollop of self-righteous scolding?

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The Virus and Live Music: The Story of The Roasting Room Lounge

Christmastime always puts me in a musical mood, as blog posts this week suggest.  Christmas is the perfect season to illustrate the power of music, as so much wonderful music has been written about Christ’s Birth.

In The Before Times, in the Long, Long Ago, before The Age of The Virus, it was also a lucrative season for musicians.  Other than wedding gigs (a market I haven’t managed to crack into yet), nothing pays better than a Christmas party.  They’re fun, full of free food, and they pay well.  The spirit of free-flowing generosity (and the generosity of free-flowing spirits) results in some warm winter paydays.

Of course, this year has been particularly tough for musicians, as I’ve detailed many, many times before.  Revenues from private lessons and gigs seem to be bouncing back (at least for me), and the struggles of The Virus brought forth a burst of generosity.  Bandcamp Fridays really helped inject some much-needed cash into the coffers of independent musicians (myself included).

Musicians have also had to get creative.  That’s why I hosted my annual Spooktacular from my front porch.  Venues are constrained by various local and State laws (and sometimes dictatorial edicts) limiting their capacities, and many eateries have been slow to resume live shows.  That’s created real limitations on venues and artists, but it’s also opened up opportunities.  My Spooktacular was mildly profitable, but it also brought people together for desperately-needed fun and camaraderie (and put a few bucks into the pockets of the musicians involved).  I don’t know if that model will endure once The Virus is defeated, but it’s something for musicians to consider in this strange new world.

But for all I’ve written about the damage The Virus has caused to musicians’ finances, I haven’t looked at the impact on venues at all.  That’s an unfortunate oversight on my part, because a venues’ success or failure can directly impact that of an artist.  Many musically-inclined venues are coffee shops or small restaurants, so they largely cut live music as they went to take-out-only and delivery formats.

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Rule of Law Matters

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.  For a full rundown of everything your subscription gets, click here.

Also, the delayed Universal Studios post is now available to subscribers:  “Universal Studios Trip No. 3.”

During the recent incarnation of the domestic terror organization Black Lives Matter, a group of BLM organizers in Florence, South Carolina received permission to paint a “Black Lives Matter” mural on a section of street in downtown Florence.  The mural is meant to depict various scenes from African and African-American history, including some Egyptian elements.

The mural itself was a community effort, and took around three or four days to paint.  In all fairness, it was a peaceful project with the full support of the City of Florence, and seemed to be an expressive way for the black community to participate in a project that isn’t overtly destructive.  Creating art—even historically inaccurate, propagandist art—is generally preferable to looting stores.

However, the City of Florence has decided to remove the mural.  Naturally, it’s resulted in a lot of weeping and gnashing of teeth from blacks and gentry white liberals in Florence, who are accusing Mayor Wukela—a red-diaper baby and progressive Democrat—of racism, of suppressing black voices, and the usual litany of complaints.

Of course, that has nothing to do with why Florence City Council—which is overwhelming Democratic and heavily African-American—is removing the mural.

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Soda City Market

This week’s posts are going to be a bit more treacly than usual, as I’ll be out of town later in the week and am pressed for time (it’s the end of the quarter, which is always crunch time).  I will hopefully be able to cover the vice-presidential debate this week, but otherwise, I’ll be sticking to more lighthearted fare.

To that end, I thought I’d share about my visit Saturday to the Soda City Market, a weekly farmers and crafts market in the tradition of “European street markets,” per the market’s website.  It reminded me a great deal of Aiken’s Makin’, just in downtown Columbia:  lots of wood crafts and foods you’d only eat a festival.

I’ve missed festival season thanks to The Age of The Virus, so it was good to get out and see throngs of people buying wooden bric-a-brac and eating fair food.  Many festivals have been cancelled this year, or have seriously downsized (the Ridge Spring Harvest Festival, for example, just put on its “Battle for the Ridge” barbecue cook-off this year, and cancelled the other festival events) to comply with health and safety guidelines.

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TBT: The Joy of Autumn

It is—to use a Southern expression—hotter than blue blazes here in South Carolina, as it always is in early September.  Lately, the extreme heat and humidity have made any outdoor activities unbearable, at least for yours portly.  The air is thick and muggy.

But there is some relief in sight.  We’ve had some rainy days here and there that have given brief—fleetingly brief!—tastes of autumn.

Autumn is, by far, my favorite season.  After the brutal oppression of summer, autumn is a welcome relief.  Autumn in South Carolina is brief, but lovely—the days are warm, the nights crisp.  The season makes it stately arrival fashionably late, usually late in October or early in November (though Halloween always manages to be hot; just once I want an Indiana Halloween!).

The cooler weather brings with it better smells:  pumpkins and spices replace the persistent smell of cut grass and sweat.  Food tastes better in autumn, too.  There’s a reason candy apples are an autumnal fair food:  that thick, sugary, caramel coating wouldn’t last in the humidity of summer.  There’s also the pies:  pecan and pumpkin, of course, but also sweet potato.

Oh, and there’s college football.  The SEC hasn’t (yet) betrayed fans like the West Coast conferences.

So, here’s hoping autumn returns sooner rather than later to South Carolina this year.  With that hope—and prayer—in mind, whip out the pumpkin spice and enjoy November 2019’s “The Joy of Autumn“:

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RNC Night 1 Highlight: Tim Scott

The 2020 Republican National Convention kicked off last night, and I missed all of it.  However, while drifting off to sleep after a long day of mind-molding, my younger brother and dad were blowing up my phone about Senator Tim Scott’s speech.

Tim Scott is South Carolina’s junior Senator, and enjoys immense support here in the Palmetto State.  His story is inspiring:  the product of a single-parent household, he overcame bad grades and learned the value of hard work while working at Chick-Fil-A.  He came to understand that profits don’t hurt people, but create jobs and build communities.  He’s also the first black Republican Senator from the South since Reconstruction.

While I sometimes think Senator Scott is a bit hasty to take sides against law enforcement amid ginned up race controversies, his overall instincts are solidly conservative.  He’s affable and easy-going, as well as eloquent and measured.  It’s little wonder that he’s a rising star in the Republican Party.

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