Pluff Mud Chronicles

By David Farrow and Charles W. Waring III

Well, here we are: May, magnolias, gardenias and graduation; the latter has taken a personal turn this year at Chez Farrow on the Ashley. My girlfriend’s best friend’s daughter is graduating from the College O’Knowledge in mere days. I bring this up not because I am eager to hear the speaker (Couldn’t tell you who it is if you put a gun to my head), but because I have been charged to find an extra ticket for that blessed event. They are rare as hen’s teeth. Apparently, I am on a very short list. If that fails, then it’s off to Craig’s List where they are flying off the shelves at $250 a clip.

There are actually three graduation ceremonies this year. That’s thousands of people. Although, I have long accepted the growth of the college and, indeed, the area intellectually, I don’t always accept it emotionally. There were roughly 800 people in my graduation in 1978; the number of folks graduating in the middle of this May exceeds the populations of Georgetown or Beaufort.

When I first matriculated at my beloved alma mater and walked through the gatehouse into the Cistern in 1973, there were 800 students in the whole college. That’s got that whole exponential thing going. Again, I am simply observing — not qualifying. Well, there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of rental units. Everyone should be fine. … Until they aren’t. No matter — I will not be within three miles of it.

Charles, this entire discussion comes from when you and I languished — as we always do — over a very long Marina Variety Store lunch. When we came to the point when we discussed the subject of our column, you asked me to reflect on what possible graduation speech inspired me to go out in the world eager to kick ass and take names — chest and ego puffed up, stiff upper lip ready to take on the slings and arrows of misfortune. After all, what words made me still slap my forehead in revelation, in that what-the-hell-have-I-been-thinking-kind of way?

Really, dude? I’m afraid that if the Inside Straight Grow-‘Til-You-Blow Gang held me from the top of the People’s Building and threatened to kill you and your whole family, I’d have to bid us all adieu. I neither carry any statements with me that have propelled me on to greatness nor can I tell you who the speakers were.

Instead, I’ll tell a quick story about my pal, the late Bill Moore. After a year’s hiatus whereupon I was dead-set on dropping out of college, I returned to the college in 1977. One of the courses I took upon my revisit was Dr. Moore’s “Southern Politics.”

When I began his mid-term, I found I knew nothing. However, the exam was made up of two essay questions. For the next hour, I remembered enough to throw a couple of key words together and wrote essays that would have been positively brilliant had I any idea of what I was discussing.

Bill saw right through it, but he was trapped because I wrote enough to sound like I had knowledge of the subject. On the outside of the blue book, he wrote: “A-. If you ever do this again, I will flunk you and throw you out of my class.”

I never did. Although we were political opposites, Bill Moore and I became good friends and collaborated on stuff down through the years. He was a good man. I miss him.

The point? That experience made me realize, instinctively, that I knew how to fill the empty space on a piece of paper to the point that I can engage a reader with absolutely nothing. Nonetheless, I can also promise youngsters that you will not remember much about your graduation speaker when your hair is gray.

Charles

David, I would agree with you that most students awaiting the sheepskin will find eventually that their speakers will fall somewhere below their best bowling score in terms of important memories. Also, I like that you remembered Professor Bill Moore. I interviewed Bill 20-plus years ago when I was writing about the 1994 race for governor of South Carolina. He was already seeing how the Upstate-Lowcountry divide was blurring due to large business interests connecting the two; we need more engaged minds such as Bill’s.

Returning to your topic, I would extend your admonition to suggest to graduates that they should never say their speaker was “amazing”; I bet every dude stroking his goatee will utter that word a dozen times a day. Because the word is used so often, it has just about lost its true meaning; one should avoid using it at all costs — perhaps, other than when singing it next to the word grace. It seems one finds young ladies are the most determined in their Valley Girl-esque use of the A-word to describe everything to do with weddings. It is — like, yah know — enough to get a fellow thinking. That is enough about graduations; let’s touch on how we consider weddings.

How did we go from the first miracle being at a wedding in Cana of Galilee to the celebrations of today? What is the problem, you wretch? It is hard to believe that we might find much lasting substance in the how-tall-is-your-wedding-cake mentality. Persons of all walks get a queasy feeling when they gander at that glossy-phonebook-as-magazine-is-your-entitled-life type of vision, which is different from simply having a large wedding. Is there anything inherently wrong with a grand celebration? If the couple desires such a wedding, it is their right — absolutely. I always enjoy a festive wedding — mine or another couple’s.

I plead guilty to having been a part of the hoopla twice. I do understand how families and large circles of friends can be the momentum toward lots of fuss and fury. I can also report that I had a grand old time with the simple ceremony at which I experienced a renewal of my wedding vows at Cana of Galilee during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 2013. Turning water to wine is the ultimate kindness from a guest (not an ordinary one, of course) and Christians point to this miracle and its importance of being associated with a wedding. Jesus performed his first miracle at a wedding? Wow. How amaz … (Come, self control.) If you can swing that for an anniversary trip, it is mighty special — which is supposed to be the entire point of the wedding.

Again, a festive marriage is amaz … no, grand and glorious; it is what we hope for all who enter into that sacred bond. If you want to rattle your preconceived wedding vision, recall some of the Holocaust films when the Jewish couples are married while on the run from the Nazis; everyone participates and the ceremony is simple and all about a lasting love. Seems a valuable notion that every “hitching” makes you want to say the A-word and not because of the glamor but because of what the couple represent to each other and the public in a religious and legal bond.

This is the wedding season and it is nifty to think of what we can do to encourage others in maintaining healthy marriages. After all, staying married is usually a good thing — no matter if you were hitched in a country praise house or St. Paul’s Cathedral — our disposable society needs all the help it can get. Still married after several decades? Now, that is truly amazing!

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 duskamagicalhistorytour.com 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 newspaper racks are located at the following locations:

The Meeting Street Inn

Clair's Service Station at 334 Folly Rd.

Harris Teeter on Houston-Northcutt Blvd.

The Square Onion in I'On

Mt. Pleasant Library on Mathis Ferry Rd.