Pluff Mud Chronicles

By David Farrow and Charles W. Waring III 


“This will be the best year ever!” he whispers into her ear, year after year, over the spectacular fireworks.


“It would be if you’d just keep those darned New Year’s resolutions,” Agnes thought, the wry acceptance of “what is” fluttering in her head.

The lights have been turned on; the detritus of confetti and overturned champagne bottles expose the dying year like a trailer park down a leafless back road. The last drops of wine are trickling away. The last seconds of 2014 have been cleansed and somehow all the bad is swept away clean as the crew who handles these sorts of things unravels another New Year banner, with its artificial expectations, timelines and deadlines.

As the Mercury’s official curmudgeon emeritus (kind of like being the ship’s cat), I no longer make resolutions. As far as I’m concerned, resolutions are basically promises to take out the trash. Nice, but, despite imprecations to the contrary from certain quarters, the Earth will not go crashing into the sun if one or two trash days are missed.

Resolutions are promises made to ourselves and to others to improve certain traits that we, or others, find bothersome. This is unlike Lent, to which one pledges one’s troth (who does that anymore?) to stop behaviors the supplicant feels God finds offensive. This practice is fraught with all kinds open interpretations given that Justin Beiber and Miley Cyrus actually walk the earth.

No, resolutions are decisions that can be batted around like a cat would a mouse — the cat doesn’t actually eat the mouse, but it’s handy to have Mickey around just in case. A few mice I have kept available in that top drawer would be more in the “rules for living” department than the resolutions department, but then again, rules for living are but resolutions writ large.

There is not enough room to catalogue all the would-be improvements, so I list but one: Don’t be rude to Yankees. Being rude in general is a never a good thing, but by narrowing the focus on those from chillier climes, you are engaging in “hate etiquette.”

Yes, when some retired accountant from Chicago patiently explains the tides to you who grew up using pluff mud as a shampoo, one’s first inclination is to commit unspeakable acts of violence against that beacon of enlightenment. Admittedly, who better to enlighten us rubes about the rhythms of nature than a man who grew up surfing Lake Michigan, but perpetrating first-degree felonies just seems to enrage and disappoint so many people.

Let me just point out that we didn’t get to be America’s favorite tourist destination by joining the Fellowship of the Spree Killers of America. Being rude serves nothing and your Mom was right: Once you get a reputation …

Gosh, turn that frown upside down, kids. As Mom would say about our enlightened friends from off, “Bless their hearts.”


Resolutions can be a bear; however, I do keep a host of less formal internal directives. Someone might suggest I give up stress at deadlines and I would agree that is a good idea, but we might as well expect the flooding during big tides to end suddenly. No, I’ll quietly work on my own plans and laugh when the results are far beyond expectations. All wretches learn to laugh or drown in a sea of fool’s ink.

David, I would expand and take seriously your notion about not being rude to those “from off” or those to whom you refer as “Yankees.” I think the late Liz Young had it right in that she, as the city’s first female tour guide, modeled graciousness to all her clients who wanted to see Charleston. The hard part comes when the culture here or elsewhere produces bumps in the road — a hoard of unsophisticated visitors and a changing Charleston. We know an older Charleston and one that most will never experience; older generations can harken back even further. Unlike now, previous decades saw trickles of visitors looking for something special. Today, we have a flood of guests that equates to The Market in a thunderstorm at high tide; both are extremely difficult to manage, causing heartburn for locals and visitors alike.

How do you give something special to more and more without diminishing the product you offer? Many residents want small-scale tourism for the history-minded sorts, instead of the masses of pleasure-seekers. As I write, the crowds on King Street pulse with loud voices, crying children and rush of traffic; footsteps click as holiday shoppers move along our handsome corridor of commerce. I will put up with those walking on our sidewalks and crowding them; many of us have done the same in other cities and should at least be willing to accept the burst of pedestrians. Horse carriage, vehicular and service truck traffic is another matter.

We have an immediate opportunity to tackle this challenge. It is essential that we take seriously the recent report by Katharine “Kitty” Robinson’s Tourism Advisory Committee. The committee suggests, among other ideas in the report, finding ways to get visitors to park and take the bus or trolley. The public will have the chance to discuss final recommendations this January. This is the time for citizens to be well informed and avoid bloviating; comments on point will make waves and open ears. I’ll ask that all readers consider a resolution for 2015 to be a part of the solution: Our Holy City deserves nothing but our best efforts.

If you have a legend for us to uncover or a historical quirky point you wish for us to address, please send same to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Also, please email David Farrow at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Discover the real “southern charm”; join him at for a look at Charleston 25 years ago with updates and new interviews with Harlan Greene and Jane Thornhill as well as new stories. Visit his Facebook page “Dusk: Charleston in the 20th century.” This is a chance for you to tell tourists exactly what you think and a chance for tourists to do the same. Check it out: it’s really fun.


Mercury newspapers can be found at the following locations:


Buxton Books

Caviar & Bananas

The Meeting Street Inn (Rack)

Clair's Service Station, Folly Rd. (Rack)

Harris Teeter, Houston-Northcutt Blvd. (Rack)

Mt. Pleasant Library, Mathis Ferry Rd. (Rack)

Pitt St. Pharmacy

The Square Onion, I'On (Rack)