The Charleston Journey - Part One

Here I am heading back to New York on Virgin Atlantic flight 45 from Heathrow. I just watched Lincoln (loved it but was fairly confusing at times and apparently filmed by the light of one single candle) and opened my computer to see if there is internet. Magic, there is not! What a blessing. Five more hours of ME time. 

Part of my ME time was to read my monthly Power Path reading. A friend of mine from Brazil suggested the Shamanic site to me and it has been a blessing for many months now. Below are excerpts from the July reading which I found so terribly profound. 

The entire week I was in London I had friends asking me what my life was like now that I am in Charleston and so much of it is in the Power Path pasted below. Charleston is my expansion, a huge discipline and full of magic.

If I were to sum up my Charleston existence so far these would be some highlights:
  • My morning ritual- Wake with Fergus, cuddle with Fergus, stretch with Fergus on the bedroom rug and then lighting incense, turning on Kundalini yoga chants, pouring an iced coffee and enjoying a little morning meditation in the living room as sizzling Southern sunlight beams through the blinds
  • Driving out to the beach with Fergus for a morning walk and noticing the vastly changing landscape of the sand/sea and vegetation
  • Driving to Lowes (which I have done innumerable times) and being transfixed by the great old oaks surrounding its entrance
  • My wonderful walks with Fergus exploring new streets, new plants, new blooms, peeping into unknown historic homes and laughing as the frogs begin their concert every night
  • Watching the sunset over so many dazzling low country landscapes
  • Brushing my teeth on my piazza every night and watching the moons place and size
  • Drunkenly riding bikes up Meeting Street after leaving a Spoleto party in a grand mansion and heading to Dudley’s for a drag show

Charleston has brought me back to a place I haven’t been to in ages. My nature loving side. The part of me who would run barefoot outside until mother called me into dinner. Now that I have a garden I am obsessed with what blooms when, what will work in the sun and shade and what will come back or fade away. 

The Holy City has also let me explore parts of me I didn’t know existed. How wonderful my morning paddle boards have been with Misty. How I adore the yoga, the laughs, the ripple of the water under my paddle and working out in Mother Nature’s finest gymnasium. What fun it has been to get to know a surfer, a water conservationist and a former soldier who calls me ‘bro’. What lessons I’ve learned from working with contractors and learning all about the innards of my home. I will fully admit the move, learning the ropes of trash nights, parking permits, getting a new license and dealing with a contractor who didn’t communicate nearly had me in the mad house. No amount of meditation, yoga or mantras could help. It was absolutely rotten, confusing and stressful. But I pray most of that is in my past now. 

I have met some wonderful people and am so thankful to be back in the same town with some old friends. And I have been saddened to meet a few people with, as Mame would say, “Braces on their brains,” but the time I most cherish is my time alone, at home, with   Fergus. I have been on that glorious, gilded hamster wheel of New York for 14 years now and I admit, much of my non-stop twirling is my own fault. That great and powerful FOMO (Fear of Missing Out!). Hell, even in Charleston for my first three months I was out nearly every night at an event. But I am a curious creature by nature and eager to explore. But I feel like I have an idea of what Charleston holds, and while some of it does fascinate, a night at home with candles lit, a good movie on and Fergus dashing around with his ball is held dear most of all. 

I’ve been meaning to write this for quite some time but besides my brimming dance card with Spoleto and other events, I also had 12 guests in three months. Quite a feat. Each of them was a total treat. What’s a better way to explore a new town than with old friends and family? But it wasn’t until Memorial Day that I had three full weeks alone. It was then that I finally felt at home. That I developed a routine, that I wasn’t stressed with deadlines so I could entertain someone for the weekend. I was just living, loving, admiring and enjoying. 

I’ve started to read more about Southern history, the Civil War, President Lincoln, Mary Boykin Chestnut and Francis Marion. Movies like Django and Lincoln ring more powerful than they may have if I wasn’t living back in the South. I have also began using social media as a way to truly check in on great friends in New York and see what everyone is up to. One thing I have learned is how much I love and miss my New York family. I only recently realized how much we know about each other, how far we have come and how much we understand one another. When Justin had a dinner party in April and invited some of our friends, I went to the bathroom and just hearing all of them explode into laughter (about something idiotic and mundane I’m sure), tears began to stream. These are my always and forevers. They are part of who I am. 

I look forward to the journey in store on Spring Street, in The 118, and around the little town of Charleston. I know I have only scratched the fine porcelain surface of this rich city and I have no doubt it is only going to get better, more inspiring and produce fruits more exotic than one could ever imagine. 

The Power Path Reading for July:


This month we have a triad of themes all working together to provide an incredible opportunity for accelerated growth, change and evolution.

The themes may seem paradoxical and even contrary to each other but their cooperative alignment will support creativity and manifestation in ways you could never have imagined. This is finally the opportunity we have been waiting for, to break through the limitation of how our belief systems identify what is possible and what is not.

All three themes are equally as important this month and your challenge will be to dance with them in harmony and balance, while staying focused on the limitless potential of what is possible. It is extremely important that you not get lost in other peoples drama, suffering and chaos. And remember you can only help yourself and be the best example you can be.

Expansion always brings the potential for higher centered experiences of truth, love and energy. This includes great beauty, inspiration, and the heightening of all your senses and intuition. In order to tap into and experience the higher centers you will need to be available, which may mean eliminating your distractions and energy leaks. It may be time to break away from people and behaviors that have kept you living small. This is the opportunity for making a bid for power to live BIG if you are ready for it.

You must make time to just BE. Expansion is not action, pushing or effort to build something bigger. It is the process of allowing and receiving. It is opening the pores of your belief systems and energetic patterning. You become more porous in order to receive that which will expand you into the next level of vibration from which place you can create something new and magical. Expansion is the feminine counterpart to the masculine Discipline.

Expect the unexpected and always focus on the positive. Pray for amazing things and experiences and opportunities to show up in your day. Acknowledge the magic that already exists while you watch the colors of a sunset or listen to the song of a bird.
Create practices that allow for magical experiences such as taking time to listen to the message of a tree or a plant or a cloud.

In order for permanent and positive change and evolution to occur, the new expanded container and paradigm needs to be anchored. Magic helps with this. Experiences that seem magical and out of the ordinary will eventually be seen as "normal" as we evolve.

Become aware of your environment. Where is the magic? One way to bring magic in is to sing or talk to everything you come into contact with in your environment. When was the last time you sang a hello to your computer or your car, or your kitchen stove, or your office environment or your garden or your favorite place to walk? Try it and see what happens. This could become one of your disciplines.

Living with Julia at The 118

Yesterday I met a pile of people I have been wanting to discover since December when I bought The 118 in Charleston.

I went to the Tax Assessment office at the grand and handsome 101 Meeting Street to file for legal residence tax. While there I asked where I could find out more about my property. They sent me to the second floor to the R.M.C office (Register Mesne Conveyance) where a Della Reese look alike bellowed a big ole ‘Howdy Do’ and pointed me to the back of the office to find someone to help me. 

                                                                101 Meeting Street

I followed the halls back until I came upon a ‘lovely older woman’ named Nancy. She had the voice of a Mourning Dove: light, lifted but matter of fact. I told her I was interested to learn who has lived in my house and she kindly guided me through the Charleston County website and after several seconds she sweetly chirped, ‘Well here you go!” She had printed out a page with three names, Peter Walsh, Dexter Wilson and Marie Pelzer Fludd, the deed dates ranging from 2004-2005. I nervously looked at her and said, “Oh thank you for this but I mean the whole shebang since 1890.”

I think I must have said the magic word. Miss Nancy’s eyes began to sparkle and she removed her glasses and said, “Well then, we have some work to do.” And with that she took me on a journey through microfiche, piles of papers and finally to the treasure trove, the original Charleston County real estate books from the 19th century. 

It was all a bit of a blur since clearly she has done this for so many other historic home fanatics. As soon as we would adjust the zoom on a microfiche she would read an RMC number from the page, hit print, and move on the the next book. She kept saying, “My, you are lucky all of this is typed out! It makes it so much easier.” But once we got to 1926 it was fill-in-the-blanks and of course by 1892 it was all hand written. At this point she said, “Well this just wont do anymore on microfiche, we need to see the real thing.” And with that she glided through rooms, hallways, security systems until we finally arrived in a freezing room full of those books that just make my eye’s go all spirally. 

There they were, those grand old ancient books filled with quill ink and the answers to my questions, we hoped.  As soon as she opened the book in question (it was so huge I had to carry it with both hands for her) we are accosted by the glare of Vreeland Red psychedelic marbleizing on the front page. Those wild Edwardians! We then carefully peeled back the pages to 169 and there we found them, Julia M. M. Graves.

                                                                   That RED! 

From what we can gather she sold the house in 1892 (it was built in 1890) to a mister John N. Graman who I later discovered was a prominent doctor in Charleston. I find it amusing that they mentioned ‘The Sixth Day of October in the year of Our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and Ninety Two on the One Hundred and Seventeenth Day of the Sovereignty and the Independence of the United States of America.”

If that wasn’t riveting enough, we glanced at the deed above mine and it was to the Countess de Choiseul for property on East Bay Street! The Duke de Choiseul (possibly her grandfather?) helped arrange the marriage of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI. The Count and Countess mentioned were French consul to Charleston. 

Countess de Choiseul's Document!

Now for the historical run down of my little abode:

Julia M. Graves (possibly widowed and with much more property than what is now included, we gather)- occupied from 1890-1892

Sold for $5,000.00 to

John H. Graman and Alice M. Graman - occupied from 1892- 1926

Sold for $4,000 to

Mary Polhemus - occupied from March 3, 1926- July 29th 1926 

Sold for $2,600.00 to

Gustave J. Knobeloch- occupied from 1926- 1936

Sold for $2,505.00 to

J.N. Peeksen- occupied from  1936-1941

Sold for $1,541.67 to

William F. Peeksen- occupied from 1941-1961

Sold for $7,000.00 to

Edna W. Peeksen- occupied from 1961- 1975

Sold for $13,000.00 to

Marie Pelzer Fludd - occupied from 1975-2004

Sold for $100,000 to

Decatur Wilson II - renovated the home and flipped it 2004-2005

Sold for $420,000 to

Peter Walsh -occupied from 2005 -2012 (bought for his daughter while in college, later rented out to stinky college dudes and girls)

Sold to ME December 1st, 2012

I feel a huge comfort in knowing who has lived here, loved here, planted, cooked, mourned and laughed in these very rooms over the past 123 years. I hope to discover more about each of them (especially Julia!). I have done some quick googling and managed to find some of their graves located not too far from here on upper Meeting Street. 

And one final note on Miss Nancy. When we started this process she said rather sternly, ‘Now you do know each copy is .50 cents?” I did not but was happy to pay. In the end we had printed countless copies and when I was leaving I asked where I went to pay. She slid those glasses back on and whispered, “You don’t owe a thing honey, you just enjoy what we found, ya hear?” I hear, so does Julia and Mary and John and....

Buying The 118

I still feel like I am in a foggy dream. I think reality will soak in when I wake up in Harlem tomorrow morning. I bought a home in Charleston. A true dream come true. Last New Year’s Eve I wrote a wish and put it in the annual NYE resolution jar at Claire’s house. It read, ‘Two Years Till Charleston.’ Who knew it would happen only 11 months later?

I came down to Charleston in September to spend 12 days and to see if I truly wanted to live there part time. To feel out the neighborhoods, people, energy. To sum it up, I teared up every day with sheer happiness. 

-Riding my bike down cobble stone streets with a pink sunset guiding my way - magic. 

-Watching Fergus run wild in the dog park with friendly dogs, nice neighbors and cool breezes - so special. 

-Sitting at Nick’s dining room table and writing, working, emailing as wind chimes gonged and the sweet smell of Coastal Carolina wafted through the house - I was home.

Just to feel out the real estate I reached out to Claire and Abigail’s real estate agent, Nancy Rehm at Century 21. We set a date to meet at Starbucks and open dialogue on what I was looking for. If you ever buy in Charleston, buy from Nancy. First of all she is an absolute Southern hoot. The things that fell out of her mouth had me exploding internally from hysterical laughter. And God help you if she turns on the windshield wipers instead of the turn signal- it’s an apocalyptic hissy fit and I loved every minute of it.

She is also damn smart, savvy and held my hand through every aspect of this buy. The next day she handed me a folder of houses to look at and the first one was 118 Spring Street between Rutledge and Ashley. We drove over, parked next to a church and took a look around. Built in 1890 the home is a traditional ‘Charleston Single’. Three bedrooms, two piazzas (they aren’t called porches or balconies in old world Charleston) and lots of doors. Apparently there used to be a tax on the number of doors facing the street, so everyone built their houses long ways with one door on the front and the rest on the side. 

The bay window has two panels of color blocked stained glass and the door was painted purple. I was in love although we walked into Armageddon. The home was bought by a family for their daughter to live in while going to College of Charleston but once she graduated it turned into a college kid fantasy land with four people bunking in, one in the living room turned bedroom, complete with Jameson bottles on the mantle and a rebel flag on the wall.

Student life never ceases to amaze me. In the dining room turned living room there was a mini bar fridge next to the sofa so stoners wouldn’t have to get up and go in the kitchen (the next room) to get a beer.  Above the mantle in that room was a list of ‘Top Ten Quotes to Get Laid’. I kind of wish I kept it.  The bathroom toilets were black with scum (that was the girls room mind you) and the garden was piled sky high with beer and wine bottles. But we saw through all that to the bones, the light, the great Magnolia seen from the back bedroom and the amazing location. 

Next door is Black Bean, one of my favorite health food restaurants, across the street is Octo Batchi, an udon noodle bar, one block away is Xiao Bao Biscuit, a brand new hip Chinese restaurant opened by a couple from Brooklyn, one street away is my favorite restaurant in the world, Hominy Grill and next door to that is a Mexican bar and restaurant called Fuel, located in an old gas station. 

On the west side of the house is a church. Bingo. No rowdy frat boys living next door keeping me up. And I love a tambourine shaking on a Sunday morning. This also leaves me with great views from the top floor piazza. I was hooked.

We looked at five or six more places. One old Victorian on Charlotte Street had 20 foot ceilings and ornate fireplaces in every room, but it needed so much work and was so far away from everything that it didn’t seem worth it. We looked at a couple of duplexes in old houses but for my first home I don’t want to hear heels clicking above me and to have to share a yard with who knows what. 

We visited 118 again, this time Claire came too. She did a thorough inspection and was surprised at its space, condition and location. I had found my home.

I will spare you the next two months of closing procedures. They were relatively painless (Thank You SunTrust!) minus a really horrid situation with my now fired tax accountant who wouldn’t send us some paper work because ‘I am on vacation, I don’t need your money, don’t call my office again.’ Gladly! 

I flew back down Thursday November 29th to close on Friday. I went to dinner with a friend at Hominy and walked by the house. Although the kids got keys to their new home four days ago they were moving out the night before I closed. It was a spin out but one of them saw us looking at the house and asked if I bought it. He was kind enough to let us come in and much to my chagrin nothing was packed or moved! 

I went to bed with a bit of a yank in my stomach and woke up the day of the closing at 8am and took Fergus for a walk back over there, hiding behind a flower shop so I didn’t look like I was stalking them. Sure enough the kids were still pouring beds and sofas out of the house. The cleaning crew arrived and there was no way they could clean with so much still in there so they would come in on Saturday. But the house was glowing in the morning sun and I saw it from a new angle and with new love. Teary eyed again. 

The closing went smoothly and once it was over Nancy dropped me off at the house to putter around. It was finally empty and finally mine. I walked back to Nick’s house, picked up Fergus and brought him back to explore. He is enamored with the second floor piazza where he can bask in the sun yet still hold watch over the street. I went across the street to the deli and met the owner, Charlie. He is a sweet older man and he welcomed me to the area. I bought the essentials: soap, Solo cups and beer. I was having some friends over that night to celebrate and had zero. Rodrigo came over and we cleared the trash from the front yard and sides, raked the back (with a borrowed rake from Abigail) and had a couple of beers until Abigail and Claire arrived. Abigail brought me my own rake, a tool box and a poinsettia as house warming gifts. Claire followed with champagne and wine glasses. 

It was so special to spend the first evening in my first home with some of my oldest friends who I met in Charleston back in 1994. Full circle. We then went to Xiao Bao Biscuit for dinner, had a little too much to drink and then weaved back to our respective homes. My mattress would be delivered in the morning so I had to wait one night to spend the night in the new home.

Saturday was a little fuzzy but Claire and I did serious TCB. We headed out to Marshall’s home goods store and went through our list we made on a soy sauce stained napkin the previous night of everything from trash cans, comforters, pillows, bottle openers to scrub brushes, cleaning supplies and a coffee maker. We then zizzed home for the mattress delivery and darted back out to Lowe’s for ladders, light bulbs and yard bags. Once we were done I washed those sheets as fast as I could before plopping down on my new bed and taking a nap with Fergus. 

That night I had dinner with Li, Punchy and Wade at Fleet’s Landing and caught a glimpse of the holiday boat parade.  I can’t wait to be a part of that next year on Abigail’s boat. We then came back to 118 and broke open some bottles of wine and enjoyed a warm winter night on the piazza, my new drinking spot. 

Sunday was another whirlwind. My contractor, Anthony, and his cousin Damond met me at the house at 10:30am and we dropped Fergus off at Abigail’s for a puppy play date then headed to Home Depot to figure everything out for the renovation. It is so difficult to pick out everything you need and want in such a short period of time for a place that you hope to be in for a very long time, but we did it. New sinks, faucets, tiles, lighting, gas range, paint colors (this place is going to be poppin’ with color!) and cabinets. Both Anthony and Damond are very good at what they do and had great ideas that helped narrow down choices and make the best decisions. 

Once we were done with that gargantuan task we were starving. I offered to take them to lunch and they asked what I wanted. “Soul Food please”. “Anthony turned around from the drivers seat and peered over his glasses, “Oh you want soul food? I got you covered Mister Cator.” And with that he drove us to his uncle’s house where he left us waiting in the car only to return with a plastic bag for each of us filled with home cooked fried chicken, collards, dirty rice with sausage, sweet potato pie and the best damn crab cakes I have ever tasted. You show me a contractor in New York that will take you down the river of family cooked soul food.

I inhaled the crab cakes in the car and saved the rest for later where I could get nasty with it all alone. We then stopped by his dad’s restaurant where he offered us jumbo cups of sweet iced tea and sat down and discussed the renovations with us. He is a contractor too and had some very good ideas. He was such a lovely man, truly caring and his Gullah patois was delicious to listen to. 

On that note Anthony drove me home where I sat in my kitchen and dug my fingers deep in that juicy, greasy chicken, fried to perfection. Tears of joy welled up again. How blessed have I been on this journey? 

That night was the first I had all to myself in the house. I picked up Fergus from Abigail's and helped her decorate her tree then walked home, sat in bed and worked for several hours before passing out with one big deep breath of gratitude before falling fast asleep after such a busy day and a belly full of home cooking.

Monday was busy just picking up last minute things for the house, locks, batteries, etc. and biking around Charleston learning where I am in the city and trying to remember street names and directions. It was my first morning to wake up and lay out my yoga mat and meditate on my piazza. The sun was intense at 8am and Fergus joined me in stretches. Having that time with him really sealed in the joy of owning this home.

This morning we moved the yoga mat to the soon-to-be master bedroom and laid on the floor together and gazed at the great Magnolia. I can’t wait until that is my morning view next spring when it is in full bloom. 

I am now back in New York, settled into 202. Fergus is passed out since he gets nervous flying, and the sun is setting over Harlem. It’s such a wonderful feeling knowing that 118 is down there, locked up, ready to be spruced up and to be the setting for the next great chapter of my life.