Monday, February 12, 2007

Southern Circuit tour day seven - Karl Staven

Southern Circuit tour day seven. This is my only day off on the tour, meaning that this is the only day of the tour that I don’t present in the evening. Orangeburg, South Carolina is reached after a drive on back roads up from the coast. Along the way I pass several abandoned buildings along the side of the road and finally stop to investigate one to find that the interior of the concrete block structure is covered with graffiti and empty mud wasp nests.

Arriving in Orangeburg around 5:30pm I am met outside my target house by Ellen Z. who welcomes me into her home. Carol C. is also on the scene, called up for duty from Columbia, SC to help greet the latest filmmaker passing through. I get a tour of her house, choose one of the two spare bedrooms as my own for the next two nights, and then greet Robert G. from the South Carolina State University’s music department who arrives with sausages for the grill. While Ellen and Carol are cutting up vegetable in the kitchen, Robert and I head outside to the grill to begin the meat burning process. As we are sussing out the situation, Steven C. from the visual art department arrives and provides a sarcastic or humourous remark to accompany every action and statement. Because Robert brought the sausages he is elected as the grilling expert, despite his protestations.

Tiring of the burden of being Mr. Chef (and called away to pick up a guest in town who is lost), Robert abandons the grill to Steven and myself. Steven quickly heads inside to check up on his Czech wife, Esther, and I’m left outside to flip burgers and turn sausages. Although I haven’t eaten red meat or fowl for more than 20 years, I think back to my high school days working at Burger King for guidance (I was chosen Employee of the Month at one point). This does absolutely no good since all I did there was toss frozen circles of meat onto a conveyer belt, but I manage not to burn anything by the time Robert returns to bail me out. I also manage not to actually cook anything.

Heading inside I gather some food from the central table then smile and shake hands as a steady stream of people arrive through the evening. Rosemarie D. arrives with her multilingual skills in check. Diann C. shows up from Beaufort, having seen my presentation there the night before. Marvin M. asks me questions to figure out how he will introduce me tomorrow and I talk to Mark D., who will be running the projection system, about what to expect. Eddie M. and Brian W. stride in and we discuss how it can be difficult to introduce a major or a minor as a parttime teacher (dance, in their case). After the SCSU basketball loses in overtime some more folks arrive at the house. Delvina W. describes Prince’s concert in South Carolina with exuberance despite a voice rough from screaming at the b-ball game. Tolu F. makes the rounds and Ingrid talks about the family dynamics around a recurring bible study meeting. Finally, around midnight, master seamstress Teresa and Delvina are the last to leave. Diann has brought in her two dogs from the car and is already asleep in the other spare bedroom. Ellen heads to her master bedroom to sleep and I finally crawl under my covers.

A wonderful mix of people who are outgoing, friendly, and a pleasure to spend time with.

Karl