Slow, No Wake in Charleston, SC


That night, it smelled like dead fish, salt, and sewage. Which is why I was hesitant to step from the stoop on Vendue Street, into water that should have been in the harbor. The water was not in the harbor. Instead, waves broke against the Griffon Pub as they would have against slate-gray rocks in New England. I would have drowned if I’d tried to get my car and go home (not to mention unknown damage to my vehicle), so that night, I stayed at the pub and had another pint, because shoot, downtown Charleston had been transformed into a preview of a flooded apocalypse, and we were all trapped together.

On Twitter yesterday morning: “Downtown Charleston, one of the few places in the US where ‘Slow, No Wake’ signs are needed on streets.” Laugh all you want, but Charleston, South Carolina may just be the next sinking city. I know it’s on a peninsula. I’m not afraid of it dropping into the sea like San Francisco. My concern is that one day, salty, stinky seawater will rise and never ebb. Standing on stoops and antique, wrought iron balconies, we will wait for low tide, and low tide will never come. As a city, we will embrace the water taxi and gondola. We will perpetually don raincoats and goulashes, not because we live in Seattle, but because we live in the sea.

When humidity hits 100 percent in July, there will be no need for rooftop swimming pools. We will be able to swim laps in the streets. Our clothing will never dry, and tube tops and platforms will be replaced by teeny bikinis and bare feet in bars. Status symbols will be replaced. No more “What kind of car do you drive?” More likely: “Do you live above the water line?” All of this because one day, the full moon brought the flood, and instead of God wiping out Charleston’s population, he will embrace us as His Lowcountry water babies.

This is what makes our city separate and more divine than other cities. They call us the Holy City because of our churches—because we build no higher than the steeple. I know there is more. I know it’s because every time it rains at high tide, God sends His flood to clean the streets and old beer from shoe bottoms. Then, every time, He parts our southern Dead Sea. The tides ebb, and life returns to normal on dry land. This is what makes us special. This is what makes us Charleston. Because as the surreal waters pound on our parked cars, stranding us for yet another pint, we have faith that the storm will pass. The streets will drain, and every one of us will find our ways home and happy to be here.

3 thoughts on “Slow, No Wake in Charleston, SC

  1. that was nothing. wait till we get some real rain. like a tropical storm or a hurricane. you will be swimming laps in the street. and all i got to say is welcome to charleston my dear.

    • HA. It’s either flood or tornado. You choose. Being from Ohio, I’m accustomed to the tornadoes. This flooding madness is just alien. Happy we all survived 🙂

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