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Beautiful Chaos in Charleston

Friday, January 31, 2014

Just the thought of the task of writing about last weekend has been a daunting one. Not for any other reason than I don't know how I can ever do it justice. Of all my travels, couchsurfing, meeting randoms, and partying, this trip was the most ridiculous, interesting, and unique experience I've had. Besides maybe milking cows in Switzerland. But in a very different way.

I decided to take a quick trip to Charleston when my travel bug returned. I was mainly debating between two hosts: One guy that mentioned a pot luck and other fun sounding events, and a girl in a very unique sounding house full of musicians, that was nude friendly, has chickens, a snake, and dog, and lives an alternative lifestyle.
In counting pros and cons with the Roomie, who of course, went with the safer sounding option, I, of course, went with the more intriguing one.

So, off I went last Sunday morning to meet my host. The trip started with a not so out of the ordinary afternoon meeting at the Boon Hall Plantation for an oyster festival. I tried steamed oysters which rectified my formerly bad opinion of them due to the raw type, and thoroughly enjoyed the delicious, southern goodness of shrimp, grits, and hush puppies.

From here, we headed to a trunk show where they had a friend selling jewelry. It was at a warehouse called Tivoli, that normally housed several art studios. Very cool. I felt I fit in more when I too, put on my raggedy beanie. Brianne, her pup and I sat and enjoyed this show in the back before heading to her house.

In her backyard, she housed 3 roosters, 9 hens, and 2 bunnies. Walking inside, I was even more amazed than I prepared myself for... All the walls were covered with awesome paintings, graffiti, quotes, and notes from other couchsurfers. Brianne said she's probably hosted over 150 surfers! Even the ceilings, windowsills, and cabinets had paintings on them. The window above the sink had a myriad of plant life hanging around. They had two cats and a snake named Wayne. The bed I slept on was in the kitchen, but that surprisingly wasn't a problem. Even the cleanliness of the place wasn't a problem. Though my roommate could attest to the fact I like my apartment with clean floors, the dishes done, and things generally in order, I adapted and dealt. It was kind of a "do as the Romans do" weekend... or as much as I could while still keeping my job.

The thing that made this weekend so unreal and what words basically can't describe was the people. My host had about 4 official roommates. Along with these roommates, they often have people crashing there, and friends that come in and out whenever. Their doors are always open. As are their couches on the porch.

Let me just tell you about the people. First, there's Brianne. She'll be graduating with 5 bachelors, worked at a grilled cheese restaurant, is bilingual and teaches Spanish, plays dulcimer and another instrument I can't even remember, and is just overall awesome.

Then there's Quill. The gypsy in the group. Grew up in Indiana, traveled all over the States, survived 2 weeks in the woods at 14years old, by himself, with next to nothing to kick a bad habit. He has a tattoo with his "squatter's rights" to a house, and his "gypsy rights" tattoo on his back. Five rings found on the rim of his hat stood for milestones in his life... Learning to Hunt, Survive, Squat, Fight, Hitchhike, and for getting his first $100 tip from busking. I learned that gypsies aren't too fond of medicine and hospitals, so they're often born in random places... Quill in the woods and his dad in a canyon.

Now... Monk, who I was about to write was one of my favorites but I don't think that's possible to distinguish in this group. My first impression of him was way off. Intimidating at first, I quickly saw the funny, interesting person he is. With his long hair, tattoo on his forehead, and bones in his shoes, he takes the cake for one of the most interesting I've met. He "liked sleeping under the kitchen table," and during one of the rare times music wasn't being played, said, "I think I need to be playing some kind of instrument right about now." It was like he was in withdrawal of music. All of their passions for music was inspiring. I also can't wait for him to publish his book. And his raps.  
Monk AKA Davie Bonefoot 
Monk's self portrait in the kitchen 
Next is John. A super friendly, philosophical, busking, history buff, "stoner" type. When at a pizza restaurant, him and the worker started talking about soda. Quill and I started talking about something else and like two minutes later, I overheard John and the worker now talking about some deep philosophical concept. It happened so quickly with him! One of the things I loved about him the most, was how sincerely he greeted both friends, neighbors, and strangers on the street. I've only met a few people with this same contagious spirit, Katie Fleming being one of them, and I love that about them. Also, his use of the term "sad boys," no matter what the gender or number of people he was referring to. 
"Don't be sad boys!"
His PDA for Jesus song (about the people shouting the gospel on the sidewalks and college campuses) was also quite entertaining. His girlfriend, Ellie was a sweetheart too.

Robby sported leather pants, an interesting hair-do I'd describe as a mix between a mohawk and mullet, and had sweet jewelry making talents. 
Dorothea was a more mysterious one, with awesome dreads and threads, coming in and out of the house, playing some music, and not talking much. She did need some assistance (and provided us with a laugh) when she couldn't figure out how to heat up some (dumpster dived) bread in the oven. Most of the people I met don't have typical jobs. One stocks shelves, one mans a parking lot, and almost all of them busk. 

So the happenings...
A very entertaining bonfire the first night. At one point, I looked to my right to see a seemingly homeless guy walk down the steps to join us, wearing overalls, long hair, a nose ring, and his pup in tow. I wasn't sure if he was friends with the group, but come to find he was. Either way, I'm sure he would've been welcomed. One of the first things I heard from him was his excitement that a friend he'd presumed dead after 7 years of absence is in fact alive! Good news. Then, I learned that he recently came to Charleston to reconnect with his brother he hadn't seen in ten years. He was actually a drifter, came from California, jumps trains... the whole bit. Near the end of the night, he invited me to jump trains with him and live a drifter life. I think I was relatively close to at least trying it for a couple days, but I fortunately told him I had a job, loans, and a mom that would have a heart attack, so I couldn't join him.

Throughout this night, as with every moment of this trip, music was being played, were blessed with a "silly dance"/interpretive dance by the brother of the drifter... A theater dude who "joined theater to be somebody else."

Monday was the day for exploring the city. Quill, John, and I headed to town after getting some coffee at Wild Flour Cafe. We chilled at this cool cafe/bar, King Duskos for a little bit before hitting Marion Square, the battery, the Circular Church, Market Street, King Street, and Rainbow Row. This whole day of wandering was accompanied by Quill and John playing the guitar. 

They also provided me with many interesting facts about the city, history, politics, mythology, and more. I do remember the fact that the masons made this church circular because they believed the devil hides in corners. 

We ate some delicious pizza, experienced Charleston Chew (candy), did a couple Charleston Shuffles (tripping on the old sidewalks), and headed back home. 
King Duskos 
The patio in the back of Duskos 

Circular church 
That night was spent naming the chickens things like Beaky Smalls, Count Chickula, Beakasaurus Claws, and Benedict to accompany their already geniously named Chickovsky and other punny chicken names. Enjoyed more music, I attempted a crazy flute I couldn't even get to make a sound, and went to an open mic at Duskos. Monk and Quill attempted to play, and did good while it lasted, but both weren't quite feeling it this night. So we just hung out out back where I met several new people, including a girl that made music with a saw and a violin bow. I don't think there were any that didn't have some sort of artistic talent.

I was welcomed from the beginning into this group of loving, awesome characters. It was like a little family. Everyone had their talents and interests, and they were all completely accepted, encouraged, and supported.

I've just been in awe the last week, still trying to process everything. I've been so intrigued by the lifestyle they live. It doesn't really get more free-spirited than them. Playing music on the streets not only to survive, but for the pure joy of entertaining and sharing music. Their love and advocacy even for originality and creativity inspired me to challenge my creativity and musical talents. As Monk said, 
"If you don't pick up an instrument, you'll regret it. That's what I tell everybody." 
They've challenged me to rethink what I think is necessary, to live simpler, and share the loving, creative, simple, passionate spirit they have.

I hope to, and imagine I will see some of these characters again. If not before summer, I hope to be there for the "Spaghetti/Spalatte Festival."   

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