About a year ago, I happily gave a modest donation to the Charleston Horticultural Society with expectation that it would be used to “buy” a live oak, which would then be planted somewhere along Calhoun Street. But as Chairmen Anne Moise and Mayo Read recently explained in an open letter to contributors, there has been no visible sign of planting since the city initiated beautification efforts in 2009 by planting 15 live oaks along the south side of Calhoun from Courtenay Drive to Ashley Avenue. The planting stopped!
The S.C. Department of Transportation asked the city to stop planting for reasons that would take a six-page letter to explain.
A short (but incomplete) explanation is that SCDOT owns Calhoun Street and the adjacent sidewalks and wants certain terms and conditions met before allowing the city to complete the planting of 100 live oaks, which will reduce pollution, mitigate stormwater runoff into our marshes and waterways and add a more human and natural scale to a very harshly built environment of metal, concrete and asphalt.
“The city has been trying to negotiate with DOT for over two years, but so far to no avail. So we’re writing to ask for your patience and prayers.”
The letter further quotes Mayor Joe Riley as saying, “DOT has might on their side, but we have right on ours, and we will ultimately prevail.”
And I would further write that I hope he is right, because Lord knows there is no other thoroughfare in that part of town that has suffered greater architectural and historical loss over the years than Calhoun.
I can only imagine what an extended allee of oaks would do for it.
Maybe DOT is con- cerned about the shockingly bizarre possibility that people might start referring to it as the Department of Trees.
On a different matter, Ira Berendt enjoyed the story of my father’s encounter with George Gershwin.
It brought to mind a chance meeting his own parents had with the famous composer during his visit to Folly Beach in 1934.
“My Dad, Henry Berendt, a pianist and first violinist with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, happened to be renting a nearby beach house. Apparently due to my father’s musical background, my parents ended up attending a party hosted by Gershwin in which he dazzled his guests with his new compositions and piano artistry.
“As my folks were leaving the party, Gershwin stopped my mother on the back porch, pointed to his lit cigarette and flipped it into the sand.
“He asked her to stomp it out, explaining that one day she would relate this memorable experience to her grandchildren. (His legendary talent was exceeded only by his gigantic ego!)
“My greatest regret is never questioning my parents about more details of that special night. And, yes, through the years my mother did tell her grandchildren about her exciting experience ... ad infinitum.”
Well isn’t that interesting! I’m sure there are some other entertaining stories about Gershwin’s Folly Beach visit out there. One well-known gossipy tidbit I’ve heard over the years is that he became quite smitten with a married, upper-crust Charleston lady during his stay. (Maybe Julian Wiles introduced this theme into his play, “Gershwin at Folly”— can’t remember.) Regardless, it was unilateral and nothing happened, but who could blame the lady if she happened to have become somewhat pleased with herself?
Finally, my daughter, Catherine, a high school junior, came across some famous put-downs that are always amusing, even if you’ve read them before. Here are some morsels:
“He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.” — Winston Churchill
“I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure.” — Clarence Darrow
“He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.” — Faulkner on Hemingway
“Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?” — Hemingway on Faulkner
“I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it.”— Groucho Marx
“He is not only dull himself; he is the cause of dullness in others.” — Samuel Johnson
“He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of anyone I know.” — Abraham Lincoln
“Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go.” — Oscar Wilde
And with that I’ll say good-bye for now!
Edward M. Gilbreth is a Charleston physician. Reach him at edwardgilbreth@ comcast.net.