Sitting at my computer an ocean away from my friend, I am reminded how nearly 5 years ago, I reached out to the same community through which Mike and I met, when my mother found herself host to the unwanted tenant of metastatic breast cancer. She told me that she didn't mind dying; she'd lived a good life. Her big regret would be not being able to hear what people said about her at her funeral. I turned to the BookCrossing community, and to friends and family. In return, they flooded her with love. It meant a lot to her to know she'd touched so many lives. I looked down at my hands on the computer and knew that though I live an ocean away, maybe I can do something that makes Mike smile, or teases that fabulous brain of his. And so, I wrote him: "Mike, my friend, what are your favorite place memories from Charleston? Don't ask why. Just give me a few places. PS Tell that tumor to go to hell. I'm mad at it."
He responded with some of his favorite memories, and then I told him my idea: to take a special tour of Mike's Charleston for him, and to send him pictures and videos along the way.
Mike, that big hearted man, recognized that he'd be helping me, while I'd be amusing him. "I'd love that!" he wrote. "Can we ride in one of those horse buggies?"
"You betcha!", I replied. "Anything goes as long as it doesn't involve a strip club or drugs". And with that, I was on a mission: to show Mike the town he visited and loved. He thought Facebook would be a good place for the pictures, though I've put some in a BookCrossing book I had which he'd started travelling. (Sacre Bleu, if anyone's interested. The pictures there are not ones that have appeared on FaceBook.) So, I've been documenting on FB with the hashtag #chuckformike and #miketravels. Mike has let me renew the pact I made with my mother, to face the days ahead with courage, caring, laughter and love. I normally devote my June to mitzvahs in her honor; now her memory is in good company with Mike.
Now, on to Random Acts of Kindness. The other day, I went to the City Market to take pictures for Mike, and see about a carriage ride. As I got closer to the carriages, I thought about it: most of the fun for a local is seeing friends react to this beautiful city. Taking a carriage ride by myself, even with Mike in my mind, seemed like not as much fun, plus I couldn't be sure I'd hit a district he'd want to see. (For the uninitiated, the carriage tours are strictly regulated as to where they can go, how many can go to a certain area, etc. They're also regulated about temperatures and hydration for the horses and mules that pull the carriages. It's all pretty humane, for what it is.) Plus, my wallet was remarkably bare. I figured that I'd wait until my granddaughter was here at the end of the month, and get some footage then. But in the meantime, I had this idea that I'd document a carriage ride without actually going on one. First, I got a picture from the seat of a carriage of a horse named Montague, and of the poop catcher the horses are required to wear (though adventurous poop occasionally escapes the diaper, something with which any parent is familiar)
Then I told the ladies who do the lottery for which area carriages can go about Mike, and one of them volunteered to show the sorter for tour-route selection, as long as I promised not to show her face in the picture. I'm pretty sure she rigged it though, because the ball she is holding up is for the prized tour of South of Broad and The Battery:
I continued taking photos and walking in the market, planning the route I'd take for the pseudo tour route. As I walked, I realized I didn't have a picture of a carriage. Montague was out on tour, so I stopped at Old South Carriage Company on Anson St. and explained the situation to the tour guide, and asked if he could take a picture of his horse from the carriage view as well (a la the Montague picture). He not only welcomed a photograph, but invited me aboard.
Then he asked, "You got a video on that thing (my phone)? And a few minutes to spare?" When I replied yes, he invited me on a private tour around the Market, just for Mike! Wowzer! So, meet tour guide Shawn, horse Freddy, and an extremely grateful czukie, on a private carriage tour, just for my friend Mike. To paraphrase and rephrase Tennessee Williams, I am often overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers. Blogger is having trouble uploading the video, so I will try an alternate route. It's a'coming, Mike, two items from your list: the Market and a carriage tour! (edited to add it is up on Facebook now, though my settings are for friends only, though I can change that if needed.)
Shawn did let me take one more picture, that of the markers used for escaped poop and piddle, dropped at the scene of the crime, and radioed into the persons with the worst job in the city: the horse brigade, who go out to clean up the waste. Wouldn't you just love to ride around scraping up excrement when it's 90+ degrees F?
What Shawn wouldn't do was take any gratuity, but I got him back. I left a tip with a co-worker and am wrote a 5 star review on Yelp.
So Mike, know that not only your friends rooting for you, but strangers are, too. And you deserve it. Thank you, my friend, for travelling with me. Sit back and enjoy the ride!