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For six years, Tom worked as a scriptwriter and cinematographer, working primarily along the South Carolina Lowcountry and its barrier islands. While filming on a primitive barrier island one evening, fog rolled in trapping him overnight. That experience led to his novel, Forbidden Island, and the mythical Georgialina. Currently, he’s working on two nonfiction books.
A Lincolnton, Georgia, native and University of Georgia graduate, he lives in Columbia, South Carolina. Read more at www.TomPoland.net.
Favorite Quotes On Writing and Creativity:
"Writing is a kind of smoke, seized and put on paper. "— James Salter
"I never wanted to be well rounded, and I do not admire well-rounded people nor their work. So far as I can see, nothing good in the world has ever been done by well-rounded people. The good work is done by people with jagged, broken edges, because those edges cut things and leave an imprint, a design." — Harry Crews
Number of posts: 172
Email address: email
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Posts by Tom Poland:
Who We Come From … What We Truthfully Remember
A Note To Baby Boomers: My daughter, Beth, is building a family tree using Ancestry.com in part. The other part involves questions to family members and independent research. She seeks to better know family members from the past. Her work will be of great worth to those who follow. She emailed me. “Can you tell me the birth dates, full names, and death dates of your grandparents?
Lake Waters Bury An Unparalleled Political Record
Growing up I watched old cowboy movies about ghost towns out West and even went to Ghost Town in the Sky up in Maggie Valley, North Carolina. Tumbleweeds rolling through Dodge City kept me glued to the television. Well, I was a clueless lad. Little did I know that if you grew up in Lincoln County you lived in an area with ghost towns nearby and they were real, and what politics and history once lived there.
The young daydream of exotic careers. Something far from the ordinary. A calling that perchance will elevate them above the masses. For me that career would have been that of a photographer. I can’t say what started this desire to capture images but I can tell you it never materialized. My good fortune, however, was that life kept throwing me around people who are photographers, and I would learn to appreciate a photo’s ability to tell a story.
About two weeks ago in a macho moment I told a friend that in a way I enjoy getting the flu. I explained that the flu is about the only time I hit the bed for days on end and sleep, that otherwise I go full speed day after day. I went on, too, to brag that I had made it through 2012 without having to see a doctor. The problem was 2012 had two weeks to go. Well be careful what you wish for and never brag about good health. The flu found me. I missed Christmas with my family and have been flat on my back since Christmas Eve.
North v. South
The Song That Started A Feud
It’s one of the more popular Christmas songs. It’s also a song that lends itself to all sorts of versions and lyrics. Back in my boyhood school days, classmate Carl Ivey would sing “Jingle Bells” come Christmas time. He’d alter the lyrics to go “Jingle bells, shotgun shells,” and from there memory fails me. Carl, however, was not the first fellow in Georgia to experiment with the words of this popular Christmas song.
Sunday afternoon I had the pleasure of joining eleven authors at a holiday book signing the Preservation Society of Charleston hosted. The Society’s bookstore and gift shop sits at the corner of King and Queen Streets, a royal location. There we convened from 1 P.M. until four to sign books and meet people.
The event coincided with “Second Sunday,” an event where the city cordons off King Street for blocks and people fill the streets. Musicians do their thing and restaurants set tables in the streets so people can dine with views of the Holy City’s steeples.
Ecologists love remnant habitat: places where time has yet to ruin what nature so carefully assembles. Generally we can thank isolation for pockets of remnant habitat. The self-centered modern world builds highways far beyond them and then forgets they exist. Here and there you can also find remnant habitat for man: communities of the past. Danburg is such a place. Glance at the map and you clearly see that Danburg sits off the beaten path. If you pass through the community of Danburg you are lost or you come there for a reason.
In elementary school, Mrs. Murray Norman praised me one day for my ability to keep up with current events. As a kid I watched the Today show. I watched the Huntley-Brinkley Report. I watched local news on Augusta’s WJBF and WRDW. I knew what was going on and I could answer Mrs. Norman’s current event quizzes.
I no longer watch the news. The news lost me by taking a long slow slide into a big puddle of ineptness. Never have we had so many ways to be informed but never have we had such a clueless bunch of faux journalists. Maybe the news has lost you too.
Back in the 1980s when I was the managing editor of South Carolina Wildlife magazine a lean, tall drunk staggered into my office one afternoon. He wore a big cowboy hat, fancy boots, and a string tie adorned by a silver and turquoise clasp. He looked like a Texan, an older version of Josey Wales. He was sun-and liquor-burnt and burning mad.
“You got to do something about folks killing snakes,” he said, red-eyed, agitated, and smelling of Jim Beam. He had just seen a car swerve across a country lane to deliberately run over a rattler.
Never Ceases to Amaze
My earliest memories of Charleston, South Carolina, go back to the mid 1960s when I would spend two weeks with my Aunt Vivian and Uncle Joe in Summerville. We’d make daily trips to Folly Beach and Charleston, and those trips made for memorable times. We’d hit the beach, crab in the marshes and creeks, and sometimes tour Fort Sumter and the Charleston Museum.
Being a landlocked kid the chance to go to the beach excited me to no end. And crabbing was fun but filled with fears that the claws of a blue crab would nip me. The museum I remember as a dark musty place filled with oddities none of which I recall with detail. What was important however was that I remembered the overall experience.
Notes From The Grave
You read where there was a forty-year celebration of the movie Deliverance this spring up in Clayton, Georgia, and Longcreek, South Carolina. It wasn’t all fun and games. Some folks didn’t appreciate the festival dredging up bad blood. Deliverance casts a long shadow along the banks of the Chattooga.
If someone wrote a novel depicting the people of your county as toothless, murderous rednecks would you take it in stride?
The Old-Fashioned Way
Some folks were talking presidential politics last Tuesday, that ugly subject that’s the new pornography. The economy and jobless rate came up, of course, and one fellow commented on the sorry state of affairs we have these days. “Americans themselves, as individuals,” he added emphatically, “don’t make useful stuff anymore. We got folks sitting around doing nothing.”
He went on to say that the Chinese and big companies manufacture way too many things people used to make themselves.
With A Little Help From The Jukebox
I went to high school in Lincoln County, Georgia, during the dwindling days of the Jim Crow era. I’m too young to remember Jim Crow’s salad days, that strange time of strange laws separating the races. I do recall that Elijah Clarke State Park was for whites and Keg Creek State Park was for blacks. I don’t recall separate water fountains and restrooms, and the only bus I rode was a yellow schoolbus, segregated until my last year of high school. No one cared who rode in the back. In fact it was cool to ride in the back. We wanted to ride in the back.
We had our Jim Crow moments though…
Teasing the Eyes
For five months I’ve been the first person to see the magnificent photographs Robert Clark is taking for our fourth book on South Carolina. Each day is long but good. For about nine hours a day, with breaks of course, I sort and evaluate images and place the ones with most potential in the appropriate chapter, Lowcountry, Upcountry, Pee Dee, and so forth.
From the moment you’re born you begin to die. So the saying goes. It’s true in a way but life sure holds promise when you’re young. Everything is in front of you. And then the calendars come and go, each year passing faster than the year before. One day you look in the mirror and you’ve aged.
How long must a person live to say they had a good run? How long is too long? Studies indicate we are living longer and longer but just how long do you want to live? It comes down to three words: “quality of life.”
Rock of Ages
When I was a boy back home one thing that caught my eye was a pile of crushed blue granite, kindly deposited by the highway department along the shoulder of the road. Cone-shaped, the critical angle of repose at work, the pile of blue-white stones glittered like diamonds. I’d get a bag and load up on the smaller rocks, the ones that worked best in my slingshot. Then it was target time in the woods back home.
Knowledge Comes In Unexpected Ways
My old girlfriend, Linda, emailed me recently. She had heard I’d written a book about the shag. “I am totally shocked that you of all people wrote about the shag and beach music. I just cannot believe it!”
She had reason to be astounded. In the early 1980s when she and I hung out, the shag was beginning its comeback from the infamous Dark Ages and she and I mocked the older shaggers as they twirled, dipped, and slid across the dance floor. We had no idea how they had suffered and how they fought to rescue their dance. It was part of the story I would write.
Recollection & Personal History
A woman acquaintance said something one afternoon that struck me in a bad way. I was giving her a ride to pick up her car. As we drove up to the shop, two mechanics were outside looking beneath a hood. Casually and icily she said, “I’ve got no interest in any man whose work requires him to wear a shirt with his name on it.” Had she known me better she would have kept her mouth shut, but she knew little except that I write for a living.
A Southern Classic
Fourth of July brings picnics and lake outings aplenty, and it means fried chicken, all the fixings, and gallons of iced tea, a southern tradition. Before we proceed with this exposition on tea let’s take care of a slightly irritating matter. I hear this great beverage referred to as “ice tea” and “iced tea.” Which is correct?
I prefer “iced tea.” After all it’s the ice clinking in the glass that chills tea, giving it the cool, refreshing taste we love so much on a summer day. “
Southern Aurora Borealis
In the pantheon of great night-sky spectacles, you’re sure to find meteor showers, lunar eclipses, the Aurora Borealis, mysterious fireballs, and the uncommon comet. Lattices of lightning make my list too, but there’s one conspicuous absence, absent possibly because this show clings to the horizon and many miss it. Out of sight, out of mind as they say.
One of the unsung joys of summer is a star-filled evening softly underlain by heat lightning.
Before Toilet Paper
It stood a strategic ways from the house and no home could do without one. People loved using it when the time was right. This staple of life never failed to make people feel better. In a way it was a luxury. About now young folks reading this are shaking their head. “What’s he talking about? The pool?” Hardly. I’d wager most young folks have never seen an outhouse, much less used one unless they live in the deepest recesses of Appalachia. I have and I bet a good many of you veteran readers have too. I recall the outhouse at my granddad’s place. It sat a calculated ways back on a slope between his home and store. (How far away you placed your outhouse had to be carefully planned, as you’ll see.) That old outhouse served people well. It had a smell of course but the truth is it […]
Over here across the Savannah there’s an old road that makes for a great Sunday drive. In no time at all, you can see historic sites, get the feeling you are in the mountains, and yet feel you are at the coast, all at the same time. More than that you’ll come across the ghosts of historic characters, some of whom will surprise you.
Old SC State Route 261, birthed by an Indian path and widened by public act in 1753 became “The Great Charleston Road.” What feet have trod this path that connected Charleston with Camden. Festooned with old churches and plantations this passage hosted a Civil War diarist, governors, Revolutionary and Confederate generals, and just off its path a man rests eternally, a man we should think of come Christmas.
Julie wouldn’t look me in the eye. She tore off bits of paper napkin and rolled them into little balls. Every few seconds she’d glance at her girlfriend pleading for help. She was trying to explain what happened to her marriage. And then she broke down. Tears welled up in her eyes and she put her head on my shoulder. Her girlfriend reached out and stroked her blonde hair.
Julie’s 41 with two teenagers and she’s alone and scared, not to mention devastated. A neighbor ended up with her husband. The road to love and happiness: what a brutal road.
I can’t speak for crooks, drifters, and others standing before a judge, but law-abiding Georgians love their courthouses and well they should. Georgia has one of America’s great collections of courthouses. The buildings range from Greek Revival to International Style. In fact, just about every architectural style imaginable can be found in Georgia’s 159 counties.
What’s interesting is that although Georgia is the twentieth largest state, it is second in number of courthouses. Only Texas has more. Without doubt, Georgia has a reputation for having some of the more beautiful and historic courthouses in the country.
The Good, Bad, & Ugly
How often we drive along giving no thought to the road we travel. And more often than that we give no thought to how the road got its name. In my case, I’m often forced to learn why or how a road got its name. Generally it makes for interesting reading. Over the years I’ve profiled several highways for magazines. Some of these profiles have worked their way into books. All the roads you’ll note have numeric names: Highway 378, Highway 17 the coastal byway, and Highway 76 a road that crosses South Carolina from the Peach State to the Tarheel State.
Simpler Good Times
Despite the high price of gasoline the summer vacation lives on. A lot of families will vacation at the beach this summer. Over here, across the Savannah, that usually means a trip to Myrtle Beach, Pawley’s Island, Charleston, or Edisto. When I was a boy, it meant a trip to Florida. I recall Silver Springs, Daytona, and much later tours of Cape Canaveral and days at a house near the sea in Ormond Beach.
What have man wrought? Well let’s start with iron, wrought iron. Favored for ornamental fences and gates it’s an aspect of the South that’s as southern as biscuits and molasses, as southern as sunshine and magnolias.
For a long time I thought wrought iron had one purpose: to give cemeteries a secure and attractive enclosure. My earliest memories of wrought iron fences go back to the cemeteries in Lincoln County. I saw enough of these stately fences around cemeteries to get that notion firmly in my head. And I well remember a wrought iron fence up at Lincoln County’s Beulah Baptist church because my cousin, Larry Walker, gashed his leg climbing over that fence when he was a boy.
Worthy of Comment
Also on the Dew
Early Sunday I walked outside to dump the compost and ran smack dab into one of those perfect December mornings—the world awash in new yellow light, deep blue sky through leafless branches. My anxious mind was reassured: It’s still here. I can still touch it. I poured myself a cup of coffee and settled down with my e-paper, only to read that America’s nuttiest nutbar, Wayne LaPierre, is still on the loose. Talk about transcendencekill. Not to blame the messenger, but it was the AJC’s Alan Judd who took the opportunity—two years after the Newtown shootings—to analyze the NRA’s confusing attitude toward the mentally Read on →
When he gasped to take a breath and to stop swearing in his fractured English, he told her he had a “fucking shit life” and that she was a filthy whore who would die a horrid death. Spitting out more vitriol with each breath, he finished his rant by saying, “You will lose this war.” Perhaps time will, if it hasn’t already, prove him right. Certitude rang out from this Algerian jihadist who had been captured by Afghanistan’s tribal Northern Alliance shortly after the American onslaught following 9/11 . At this point, however, the “interview” was concluded when she said, “That may be, but your Read on →
Have you noticed lately that menus aren’t just menus anymore? They are adjective-laden exercises in literary carnage. Pretentious descriptions of food so florid I’m not sure what I’m ordering. It seems the goal of a restaurant, aside from separating me from the contents of my wallet, is to make me feel good about what I’m eating, or self-conscious, I’m not quite sure which. Thus the word sustainable creeps into every menu I read. Sustainable, as in sustainable agriculture or sustainable fish … what I really want is whatever is being served to “sustain me,” not the other way around. I’ve collected a few culinary terms currently in vogue a Read on →
I arrived in Beijing on an old Boeing 707 China Air flight in November 1978 after a week in Japan. The entry formalities at Beijing Airport were slow but considerably quicker than the Shenzhen Railway Station where I had previously entered China from Hong Kong. I caught a taxi from the airport to the Beijing Hotel on Dongchangan Jie. Taxis were a new experience for me in China, previously it was the “foreigners bus”. The Beijing Hotel had a long and fascinating history. It was built as a five-story brick building in 1915 and two years later a seven-story French sty Read on →