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Thursday, January 11, 2018

Charleston with Reedus and Chappelle

I have to be honest, I don't watch that much TV.  So if I'm jumping into the second season of Ride with Norman Reedus a little late, don't hate me for it.

I was inspired to write this for a few reasons.  1)  I already did a review of the first season, and it seems if someone took notes over at AMC.  Although I'm only commenting on this one show, it's improved.

2)  I used to live in Charleston, SC for a brief time and I know Savannah, GA pretty well.  Charleston speaks to my soul and there is just something about that city that says "I'm home."  I have friends in Charleston today that I've known for close to twenty or thirty years.

3)  When I lived in the area I often took the same route that Reedus, and his riding partner - Dave Chappelle - did.  They crossed the same bridges that I crossed, rode the same roads.  Although they obviously didn't drink in the same bars or go to the same haunts that I did in my early 20's.

In other words I'm feeling a bit nostalgic.

Even way back in the early 90's the two cities were completely different.  Charleston was a painted lady of a bygone era, full of old money and a feeling that the world could carry on around it.  That nothing was going to change it.

The last time I was there it felt that the city was, begrudgingly, entering the 20th century.  

Savannah on the other hand felt like it was out of place a bit.  It seemed a place that would accept the odd and unusual.  The artist, the musician...and a young man still trying to figure out his place in the world.   When I read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil the events portrayed in that book were still fresh in the cities collective memory...but instead of being an open wound, were seen as scars of pride.

Savannah, with it's one way streets and near impossible ability to get anywhere directly also adds to it's mysterious atmosphere.  It's been nearly 20 years since I last stepped foot in Savannah, and based on what little I saw of it with Reddus...nothing has changed.

Depending on the route it would only take about 2.5 hours hours to get from one city to the other, separated by about 110 miles.  Due to the wonder of television however, it takes our brave travelers two days.  OK, I'll grant they just getting up and going would be boring and a very quick show, plus, the most interesting stuff I've always found is off the highway and on the back roads.

They started in Charleston, riding the flat and boring route 17.  This would be, or was the last time I was there, scrub lands.  Swampy ground broken up for the most part by long barren stretches of pine forest.  The road is a nice two lane highway but the challenge for the rider is to stay awake.

While I'm sure I've traveled on State Route 21 through South Carolina at one time or another, I can't tell you much about it.   It travels deep into the salt marshes and winds it way through Beaufort.  If memory serves it's full of some wonderful wildlife and some beautiful sunsets, but I only had brief adventures in places like Saint Helena Island.

In a way, I'm glad they stopped in Saint Helena.   When I lived in Charleston I was introduced to Low Country cooking, which can best be described as a mix of seafood, fresh veg, African spices and rice with a little bit of French thrown in.  It's not quite Cajun, but not that dissimilar.  Trust me, you haven't eaten till you had authentic low country, and both Chappelle and Reedus do.  Plus a history lesson about one of the first majority black communities in the United States.  Reedus and Chappelle treat this place with the gravity it deserves and, unlike the first season, it doesn't come off as "jokey" or lightly touched upon.  "Gullah" history, traditions and language are unique to the American experience...and they treat it with honor.

Finally, in a way Reedus and Chappelle find a kindred spirit in each other.  They don't spend a lot of time talking about bikes, although there is a running joke about Chappelle leaving his blinker on.  They talk a little bit about the creative process, about family, about the pressures of being on something successful that then gets out of your control (which is a veiled comment about the never ending Walking Dead I'm sure).  Chappelle in particular seems to have built up a myth about him, intentionally or not, which questions why someone would leave a successful career to simply disappear for a bit.

There is no ground shaking revelations, no laugh out loud moments, Chappelle plays it mostly straight and Reedus; wisely, lets him.  In the end what you got is something closer to the original Bourdian "No Reservations" show that "Ride" is based on.  It's good to see, and enough for me to want to watch a little more...and get back to Charleston and Savannah soon.

In the end it ends on a positive note..."We will ride again.".   I hope so too.

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