Around my 30th birthday, I mentioned that I wanted to try to do that "year in pictures" thing, but I had no idea how busy I'd be. From about the end of April until, well, now, I've been back and forth to South Carolina more times than I can count. It had its fun, memorable moments, its miserable moments, and it had some "what the f--k" moments, but overall, it was well worth it. This post will probably be long and boring, but I do want to recap for my own benefit.
As mentioned, in April, someone I'd done some freelance work for last year contacted me and asked if I'd like to do some more in SC. I agreed without hesitation. I knew it'd be a lot of work, but well worth it. Within a week, I had a hotel booked, my bags packed and I was driving down I-20, out of the ATL and into the great city of Columbia.
Now, despite the fact that I live in a neighboring state, I've never spent much time in SC. The summer after I was 18, a friend of mine and I spent a few days in Greenville, watching the Braves AA team play a series. And that's it. I honestly can't remember ever having a reason to go to South Carolina. Upon entering Columbia, I realized why I've never been there outside of that one outing. It's not called "the armpit" for nothing, folks. Now, in SC's defense, I was working in the absolute worst part of their capital city, but still...
After a week of staying in a hellhole of a hotel (I switched rooms 9 times, almost got jumped by a group of undocumented workers one night and rednecks the next, and spent several nights in a room that didn't lock), I came home. I wasn't quite finished with the job, but the threat of tornadoes was on the horizon, and the threat of me killing someone if I had to spend another minute there was also imminent. I didn't take any personal pictures while I was there. Let's face it, there isn't much to take pictures of. I did end up going back for the day to finish up on the following Sunday. And then I came home to make sense of all the info I'd gathered in Columbia, the interviews I did and the (work) pictures I'd taken. That took me a LONG time. I sat at my computer almost non-stop for two weeks. I stopped only for my birthday party.
And to make a Chick Fil A run or 20...
By the time I was finished, my house looked like this:
And this became my dogs' natural state:
But finally I was finished and it was the biggest relief! And then the person I was working for asked if I could go back and work in the neighboring area, which was much nicer, but still overlapped the horrible area. I agreed. The dogs were not amused. (Please excuse the sheet hanging over my sliding glass door - my curtain rod broke and it's a temporary fix.)
I wasn't thrilled about heading back to Columbia but the money would be good and it was something to do. Just two days before I was ready to leave, the GC called and asked if he could come along. He'd just lost his job and offered to be my assistant. What is it they say, misery loves company? Why not let someone else face the hell that is Columbia, SC with me?
And off we went, back down I-20. Here's a picture from the rest stop we always stop at so the GC can smoke. Pretty moss in the trees, a promise that SC will be a beautiful state - we joked that it was the only reason people didn't sit here at the state line and head back.
I'd made the executive decision not to stay in Columbia that week. I chose a cheap hotel that was way out of the way, but hopefully, not in an area where I'd fear for my life on a regular basis. When we drove up and saw this, I just had to shake my head. A sign of times to come?
One night, we stopped by O'Charley's for dinner and were greeted with a double rainbow. This has nothing to do with the story, but it was in my camera roll.
We also saw this at a church we had to visit and thought it was cute. Again, not really part of the story
That week wasn't quite as bad as the previous one I'd endured, but it wasn't exactly fun. Add to it the fact that the non-stop sitting from the last job had killed my back and the fact that I could literally not get out of the car some days AND the fact that I'd left my medication for said problem at home - let's just say I was so glad I had the GC with me.
He and I did the same thing I'd done the week before - went back the next Sunday, just for a day, to finish up - and I settled in once again to work my butt off to get finished. This time, I had an added incentive though; if I got finished in reasonable time, I would be working in Charleston next. I was so excited.
Now, you'd think after last summer's Tale of 5 Laptops, I would have learned my lesson about backing things up. And I did to some extent, but after a little dispute with my mom over a memory card I'd borrowed from her, I deleted all the photos from it (about 1,000) and gave it back to her, thinking it wouldn't matter.
If I could go back to one point in time and do something different, it would probably be that moment.
I woke up the next morning and my computer did this.
And it kept doing that and it kept doing that and it wouldn't do anything else. I did everything I could think of to fix it before heading out into the world, wallet in hand, willing to pay hundreds of dollars to save those pictures. I even forced myself to talk to people I'd gone to high school with. They all had the same answer: your hard drive is fried beyond the point of data recovery. After a few days, it was obvious that the pictures were gone. I bought a new laptop, and the GC reluctantly agreed to accompany me on another trip to Columbia to retake as much of the pictures as we could.
That day, it was 96 degrees. We barely got out of the car all day, got sunburned, I developed a migraine and we both came dangerously close to having heat strokes. But we were getting everything done in a timely manner. That is, until we ran into Officer Barney Fife and his sidekick. Without going into too much detail, the GC got out of the car in a shopping center to take a picture of said shopping center. He got back in and we drove on to the next place. Well, there just happened to be two police officers in said shopping center having lunch and those two police officers decided it'd be fun to pull us over and ask why he'd taken a picture. I explained. He said, and I quote, "Looked like terrorism to me."
Never mind the fact that I didn't even have my seatbelt buckled, two white kids in a Honda in some shitty part of South Carolina have suddenly become terrorists because they took a picture of a freaking Piggly Wiggly.
The nice officer carried on and on about why he stopped us, almost to the point of apologizing once I proved to him we'd done absolutely nothing wrong. We remained stopped for about an hour over this. At one point during this, uh, terrorism check?, the sidekick, who had been silent until this point asked my cousin what "that little brown thing" was on a piece of paper he'd pulled from my glove compartment. When he showed him that it was a small piece of a dead leaf and not some kind of drugs, he went back to their car while Officer Fife continued to explain to me the importance of police officers in BFE being on the watch for the next September 11.
When they finally let us go, we realized how hot and miserable we were (we'd been in the car for 14 hours) and how much time we wasted being suspected terrorists, so we stopped at a gas station and got drinks and let my poor little car have a break. After that, I made the executive decision to go home. We still had 100 - 200 pictures to take, but agreed it'd be worth the time and gas to make another trip in the near future.
After this, I came home and took a cold bath while enjoying some of this:
I also managed to get in my first swim of the year! Woohoo!
And I came home and saw my first on of these of the year:
And at some point right after I came home, my TV died, so I went out and got a nice big new one (not sure if you can tell because it's dark, but I put it on an end table in front of my old TV due to my lack of time).
Anyway, I came home and worked and worked and begged the person whom I'm working for to still let me go to Charleston. I've never been before and at this point, I was going to miss my already planned beach vacation, so I figured it'd be nice to at least get to see the ocean while I was working. She agreed, and I worked my butt off that week.
By Sunday, I was packed and ready to head to back to South Carolina for a week.
I also realized how old I'm getting based on the things I packed:
Long story short, South Carolina quickly redeemed itself. We arrived on Sunday night (the GC came along), grabbed some take-out from the restaurant next to our hotel (and it was a nice hotel - my aunt managed to snag 3 free nights for us) and went to sleep, anxious about our day on the town. We decided to take a day to get to know the area before doing any real work - something that would have served me well in Columbia. We also wanted to do a little site-seeing and hit the beach.
On Monday, we slept late and got up in time to intersect a package from the boss. Then it was on to downtown Charleston. O. M. G. That is the most beautiful place. All the buildings look like this. I was in love. The GC was in love. By that night, he decided he wanted to move there.
After driving around downtown, we decided to visit the beach. We drove through Mount Pleasant to Isle of Palm, which several of my friends had suggested and paid $5 to walk out on the beach. (We made two trips back to the beach and didn't realize until the last one that you could park for free on side of the road... I've never been to the beach without actually staying on the beach, so this whole "paying to park" thing was a concept lost on me anyway.)
Then we drove to the area where we'd be working to check it out and get started.
I won't go into great detail about that week. It was still boring with work, but at least we were bored in Charleston, the greatest city on earth. We met lots of wonderful people, found lots of wonderful local places that we'd continue to shop at if we were go to back, etc. We both just fell in love with that city. It's everything I love about the South mixed with everything I love about the coast. The perfect town. As my cousin said, "Where else will you find magnolia trees next to palm trees?" All of my beach experience has been in Florida or California, and there is nothing like that in either of those places.
There are so many cute little shops owned by nice people. And even the chain stores were nicer. I mean, the Publix was in a beach house:
We did some shopping while we were there. I bought this little tray at a gift shop among other things:
We also discovered these yummy key lime cookies.
Above all, our favorite place was Amelia Claire's, a small bakery that we did have to visit for work purposes. Otherwise, we never would have found it.
Best (OK, the only) key lime cupcakes I've ever had:
We even went back a second time and stocked up on junk. Key lime everything, benewafers, which I didn't get a picture of but they were yummy, and this replica of Prince William's chocolate groom's cake.
I just knew we'd both gain 100 pounds while we were there, but we swam a lot and walked a lot, so I guess that evened things out.
We walked around the battery one night and I took a boatload of pictures. I won't upload them all here, but I have a few.
We saw so many "Don't Tread on Me" flags that we decided the town was full of good, smart people - just one more reason to love it there.
A few more battery pictures:
Overall, it was a good week. We stayed in 3 different hotels - the first was a nicer one near the airport, the second was in Mount Pleasant (I love that area), the third was a last minute decision to spend one extra night there, so we ended up in some awful place in North Charleston. But, we agreed that even the most awful place wasn't as bad as Columbia.
On days we had to switch hotels, we made good use of our time. We saw the Hangover II and we found a Barnes & Noble to hang out in. I got a lot of work done in this Barnes and Noble, and I bought some books.
This picture is from Barnes & Noble, and I post it because it pretty much describes my diet over the last two months. Red Bull and pizza. Not so healthy, but it kept me awake .
We left unfinished with the work, but since we were going to go back to Columbia anyway, we decided we'd make a weekend of it. I came home and worked for another week and took care of some housekeeping I'd been neglecting since the travel started. I got new teal sheets:
And I got new living room furniture - dark green leather. It wasn't my first choice, but as everyone in the free world knows, I was in desperate need of a new sofa and my cousin was selling this set for super cheap. I figured it'd work until I decide what my dwelling plans are for the future. Also, please note that at the moment, I've got two sets of furniture in my living room, that's why that is so awkwardly placed with the table in the background and the bicycle in front of it.
As you can tell, Sadie has been enjoying the new stuff more than I have.
I also stopped to get caught up on laundry. As you can see, I was quite behind:
But I still had tons of work to do this last week and the dogs finally gave up on ever getting anymore attention.
After a week of sleepless nights, storms that left me without power on numerous occasions and an evening spent chasing this stupid lizard I have finished my Charleston work... a little later than I should have.
I'm about to start trying to finish up the Columbia work too. I gave up any idea of having a fun 4th of July week, but I suppose it'll be worth it in the end. Last night, I took a break to go out to dinner and finally watched Cedar Rapids, which I'll post about later.
I don't know if I'll be traveling for this job anymore, though I'd like to. I don't know if there is anymore opportunity to do so. I don't even know if the woman in charge is ready to ditch me or not because of how long it took after I failed to back up the pictures. I do know that I enjoyed it - it was a fun experience that was very financially rewarding and couldn't have come at a better time for me for so many reasons. I do know that if I do it again, I've learned so much from these few trips that it shouldn't take me nearly as long.
I also know that if I don't travel anymore, I'll be OK with that too. While I'd love to make some more money and see more places I've never been, I'm ready to figure out what's next for my life. Will I go back to school? Will I get my book finished and sold? Will I just continue into the wild world of freelance writing/journalism? I have no idea, but this has definitely been a turning point.
If I don't travel anymore, my plans for the rest of the summer are this: to swim as much as possible, to read as much as possible and to write as much as possible (for me, not other people). I'm already ready for that. Here are all the books I've put in my "to read" stack so far.
And with that... I better get back to work!