Thursday, October 21, 2010

Ryan White - Orangeburg

When I asked how to get to Orangeburg, SC from Augusta, a guy with a handlebar moustache told me to take the country roads instead of I-20. I think when a guy with a handlebar moustache tells you to do something, you do it. So I did it. And I regretted that philosophy three minutes later when I got stopped at a railroad crossing for the Longest. Train. Ever. I didn’t know how long these country roads would take, so I was stressed about how late it might make me. But once it passed, it was all smooth sailing after that. I passed lots of cotton fields and churches, and the radios played sermons so I listened to that. I passed through Beech Island where James Brown lived.

I arrived in Orangeburg and went to the IP Steinbeck Museum on South Carolina State University’s campus. There I met the museum’s staff, who have to be one of the nicest staffs ever in the history of staffs. When I asked where the screening would be, someone said, “In the planetarium.” I ducked around the corner and checked it out. So cool! The movie played on the curved ceiling where the stars normally play. Definitely the most unique venue we’ve ever (and probably will ever) play.

During the screening the head of the museum, Ellen Zisholtz, gave me a tour of the exhibits. They’re currently putting one together on Jim Crow and the Holocaust which looks amazing – apparently historically black colleges were some of the only places to hire Jewish professors who fled Europe during the Holocaust. Then Ellen took me to the museum vaults and surprised me with their previous exhibit, which is now in mechanized stacked shelves: James Brown’s wardrobe. When he died a few years ago his family donated his wardrobe to the museum, so there were just rows and rows of mink fur coats and bedazzled sombreros.

SCSU has some great students who stuck around after the screening to ask questions and chit chat during a taco reception. This museum is a really warm place, so I recommend going out of your way to find it if you’re passing through SC.