I’ve only been here for a day, and already I’m completely in love with Charleston. It all started when Stanley Feldman came to New Orleans way back before Katrina. He was from Charleston and had gone to Tulane, as had others in his family. His son Aaron went to Tulane and played baseball for the Green Wave. Stanley got in touch with me because he read my blog and wanted to meet when he came to town. He bought me lunch at Martin Wine Cellar introduced me to his friend Roger Young, a judge from Charleston. We had a great lunch and I really enjoyed meeting Judge Young and his son Hank. Little did I know that I would find my way to Charleston.
A few months later Katrina came and I wandered about while blogging my
adventures. I got a nice email from Judge Young who had started
reading my blog. He told me that Charleston had endured great turmoil
after Hurricane Hugo in 1989, and offered an encouraging perspective
about the possibility for change. But he was circumspect. After all,
he noted, his region had much stronger leadership than Louisiana’s
Governor Blano and New Orleans’ Mayor Nagin.
Flash forward to last month when I asked my daughter Bridget if she wanted to go look at colleges during her Mardi Gras break. She said yes and listed College of Charleston as one of her choices. Fine with me, so I emailed Stanley and let him know I was coming. Last night I met Stanley and he walked me around downtown and told me about the city. He spoke highly of the wonderful Mayor of Charleston, Joe Riley. He was first elected mayor in 1975 and has been reelected eight times. Clearly, he is a beloved figure for most people here in this city.
This morning I went down to get breakfast and saw U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham in the lobby of the hotel. He was without entourage, just meeting someone for a morning chat. I was struck by how low-key he was and how people took his presence without any great fanfare.
After breakfast Bridget and her friend Maddie and I walked over to the College of Charleston. On the way I saw a man in a suit standing on a corner talking to a man and woman. I didn’t recognize him, but somehow he seemed important or purposeful in some way. Just down the side street I spotted a hot dog vendor and walked over to get a diet coke. The hot dog guy was talking to a cop, and as I approached they looked at me and asked if I had seen Mayor Riley.
I told them I had seen someone on the corner but didn’t recognize him. They looked at me strangely, and so I explained I was from New Orleans. They smiled and then observed as how Charleston and New Orleans were similar, except that Charleston had a great mayor and New Orleans had a pathetic one. I smiled and nodded in agreement.
Tonight I had dinner with Judge Young, his wife Janice and and his two children. Judge Young’s daughter is a sophomore at the College of Charleston; his son Hank has been accepted to Tulane (among other schools) and wants to study psychology. Bridget said she was interested in psychology as well, and she admitted that she really liked the College of Charleston.
Wouldn’t it be strangely wonderful if Hank came to New Orleans and Bridget wound up in Charleston? Well, no matter where they wind up I know that I’ll definitely come back to here again soon. This may be my favorite American city after New Orleans. It’s charmingly quaint and picturesque, with effusively friendly people and colorful shops and fabulous restaurants. Not to mention they have a great leader who doesn’t ride around in a motorcade with flashing lights, but instead greets his constituents as he walks along King Street.