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Friday, May 31, 2013


I tend not to take many nature pictures.  I certainly have nothing against nature, I definitely enjoy the beautiful Mountains I live in.  I just feel like it is best observed in person, not through photographs.  Also, more importantly, taking pictures of nature is very hard.

I have talked before about my obsession with getting really close to wild Alligators.  Here in the Mountains , the go to dangerous animal to photograph is the Black Bear.

For some reason I was cursed with the inability to take a decent photo of a wild bear, but that hasn't stopped me from trying.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is known for its bears and a visit without seeing a bear is a giant disappointment.  When one of these bears shows its face it can brack up traffic for miles.

See!  All these people lining up to take horrible pictures of this little guy.

That thing in the middle that looks like a blob of nothing is actually a bear in a tree.

Disappointed in my inability to photograph the majestic and savage creatures, I took to instead taking pictures of the "Bearparratzi" instead.  Bears draw more gawking photographers then Paris Hilton.

The other aspect of Beartography is that getting close to bears is somewhat dangerous do to the fact that bears have been known to kill people.  There are of course some people that don't give bears the respect that is necessary.  Like these 60s kids I found on these vintage slides.

Of course people have not gotten smarter over the years.   Check out this man getting way to close to a bear in a field.

Standing behind me there was about a hundred people standing back talking about how freaking stupid this man was.  That said, he probably got alot better pictures then they did.  No word on if he survived this encounter.

I must admit that on a few occasions I have gotten a little to close to bears myself.  Part of my strategy is to make sure I am not the closest person to the bear, that way I just have to outrun the other person and not the bear.

I can't believe I risked my life to get that sucky picture.   I walked down the road by myself after that photo was taken waiting for my wife to pick me up and it turned out the bear was actually stalking me.

Of all the blurry, crappy, indistinguishable photos I have taken of bears, this is the best I have done.

All I had to do was chase a baby bear through the woods and hope that his mom didn't pop out from behind a tree and rip my face off.

Maybe its best to just stick to The Pits.

The Carpetbagger

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Monday, May 27, 2013

Decoration Day

While today we celebrate Memorial Day across the United States, down here in the South we celebrate a dual holiday.  Here in the South Memorial Day is celebrated as "Decoration Day".  Memorial day is a national holiday where we celebrate veterans that have died in the line of duty, often adorning their graves in remembrance.  However, Decoration day is a celebration of all the dead, regardless of military affiliation.  Southerners take this day to visit their deceased and decorate their graves.

Decoration day used to be the official name of Memorial day.  It was founded by freed slaves after the civil war.  The former slaves would use Decoration Day to honor those who died in order to end slavery.  As the holiday became more popular, it began to encompass all deceased military.  The South would hold onto the "Decoration Day" name and at some point it lost if military association that it holds in the rest of the country (Although no one is going to accuse the South of not honoring the military).

Of course another aspect of Decoration day, is that the large majority of flowers are plastic and will not biodegrade for a million years.  This makes quite a job for the cemetery keeper as he constantly is trying to keep the cemetery tidy.  Check out this trailer full of grave flowers.

Of course Decoration Day is like any proper Southern Holiday.  It is a time when you gather with your friends and loved one and eat enormous mounds of food.

Happy Decoration Day to All......and to all a good night

The Carpetbagger

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Friday, May 24, 2013

Tent Revival

At first I got excited because I thought there was a circus in town when I saw them erecting this huge tent.  It turns out to be a Tent Revival, which is a big baptist tradition here in the Mountains.  I asked my wife who grew up Southern Baptist what was the deal with this tradition.  She said it was church in a tent.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Joys of Getting Way Too Close to Alligators

I have been accused by some people close to me that I have an unhealthy obsession with Alligators.  I don't know what it is, I am completely fascinated with them.  When I see one I feel like a little kid seeing a real live dinosaurs.  Down here in the South there is a constant struggle between Alligators and humans.  We destroy their habitat and they bite off our legs and eat our dogs.  Will our two species ever truly find peace?  I have no idea.

I remember the first time I saw an Alligator up close in the wild.  It was Merle's Inlet near Myrtle Beach South Carolina, me and my family were on a nature and history tour.   Our tour guide pointed him out basking on the side of a freshwater swamp.  I took this picture of him, without any form of zoom lens.

I was enamored.  Taking a picture wasn't enough.  I wanted to pet him.  I wanted to be able to tell my yet unborn grandchildren that I had petted an alligator.  I figured if I petted the end of his tail, he probably wouldn't care.  If he did care, I would have time to turn and haul ass in the other direction.  And if he bit me, that was something I could also tell my grandchildren.

As I edged closer my wife told me I was being stupid.  As I ignored her pleas for sanity, the tour guide cut me off and told me not to get any closer.  Held down by the man again.

In retrospect, they were both probably way smarter then me in this situation.

Fast forward a few years and I would find myself plunged head first into Alligator heaven.  We went on a swamp tour with Cajun Pride Tours.

I want to give the Carpetbagger's full endorsement to this tour company, because it was awesome.

Now, it was what not I was expecting.  They don't take you out very far.  The swamp is not all the amazing or gothic, but they do more then make up for it in pure Alligatorocity.

The first thing I saw when arrived was a man after my own heart, getting way to close to an alligator.

This was obviously no kill joy, like the man in Merle's inlet.  He treated the alligator like a puppy and handed out marshmallows to tourists so they could feed him.  The fact that Alligators like marshmellows somehow takes away some of their mystique.

Luckily, this wasn't just some crazy guy wondering around the swamp, he was our tour guide!  His name was Captain Coyote and he was awesome.

While waiting for the tour to began I was able to beat out my previous record and get significantly closer to an alligator then I had before.

As soon as we set sail the boat was swarmed by wild alligators, including this 13 foot monster Coyote had dubbed "Crawford".

The highlight of the tour was of course when Coyote went out to the edge of the boat and begin feeding the swarm of alligators chicken necks by hand!

It was totally insane!

Then, in another bit of wish fullfillment Coyote passed around a baby alligator named "Elvis".  I finally got to hold an alligator, even if he was a little tiny.

 Captain Coyote told a story of when he was actually bit on the hand by an Alligator.  Now Alligators have dirty mouths full of rotting flesh and therefore when you get bit the injury is guaranteed to get infected.  It took months for Coyote's hand to heal, but he made a full recovery.  Out of curiosity he later checked his life insurance and found out that had his hand been lost he would have received a million dollars.  This story has haunted me for years.  Would I be willing to stick my hand in a an alligator's mouth for a million dollars?  Yeah, probably.

As awesome as this experience was, it would not quell my gator lust.  When we went to my sister's wedding in Cancun, I set out on the resorts golf course to locate the Alligators most deadly cousin: The Crocodile.

Like any place where there are crocodillians there are people who are there to ruin your fun.  There were signs everywhere telling me not to molestar the alligators.  (Whatever that means.)

I hope "Molestar" does not include using a papya to trick to Crocodile near shore to get a better picture.

The Carpetbagger

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North Carolina Giant Furniture Tour

Of the several things North Carolina is famous for one of them is furniture production.  One would think that this industry provides nothing to the tourist, but they would be wrong.

Somehow North Carolinians turned something as boring as furniture into something fun and exciting to tourists.  How do you make something fun and exciting.  You make it ridiculously big.

Check out the World's Largest High Boy Chest in High Point, NC.

Also in High Point we have the World's Largest Chest of Drawers

It was undergoing some repairs while I was there, there is actually a pair of socks hanging out behind that orange tarp.  As you can also see from the signs at the bottom, the chest of drawers is for sale.  There is actually a hidden door in the back.  The whole thing is actually a windowless building.

Finally over in Thomasville right in the middle of Main St, we have the World's Largest Duncan Phyfe Chair.  Its kind of a specific title, but its cool none the less.  Sadly, the chair is to big to sit in.

The Carpetbagger

Please feel free to e-mail me at
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Thursday, May 16, 2013

More things to Love about Charleston, SC

Recently, here on the Carpetbagger I talked about two of my favorite cemeteries in the City of Charleston, SC and the legends buried beneath.  I really love this city and wanted to take time to point out some more awesome things about Charleston.


Not my picture
The city of Charleston was once under the control of one of the most infamous and ruthless men in world History:  Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard.   Blackbeard was famous for bringing pro-wrestling style theatrics to piracy in order to build a larger then life persona.  The man was crazy enough to light his damn beard on fire in order to scare the hell out of people.  In later life, like many modern day northerners, Blackbeard had a quite retirement in North Carolina.  Well, until the governor of Virginia sent a militia to chop his head off.  However, in his prime, Blackbeard blocked off the historic port of Charleston creating an embargo and taking a handful of high profile captives.  Blackbeard would call off his blockade in exchange for medical supplies.  Some would have to wonder if Blackbeard did this sort of thing for the sheer fun of it.  Oh yeah, he also had the coolest pirate flag of all time.

Image property of Blackbeard the Pirate


There is a very special intersection in Charleston.  At the corner of Meeting and Broad St Federal the four different types of law merge.
On one corner sits the South Carolina Federal Court House (Federal Law), The Charleston City Hall (County Law), The Original South Carolina Capital Building (State Law), and St. Micheal's Church (God's Law).  According to the notorious Robert Ripley it is the only place in the world where all four types of law merge.  


Just ask any tour guide in Charleston and they will tell you that Charleston is the SECOND most haunted City in all of America.  They will concede that only Savannah, GA is home to more ghosts.  Ghost stories arn't exactly my thing, so I will not go into detail.  Regardless, going on a ghost tour is a required activity in Charleston.  Of course this constant search for ghosts in the streets and cemeteries of Charleston, SC has irritated some of the local churches.



There are alot of nice trees in the world, but there can only be one king.  To all of you who think you have seem amazing trees I say "You call THAT a tree?"  Check this out.

The Angel Oak is a ridiculously massive Live Oak that is alleged to be the oldest living organism in the Eastern United States.  The simple girth of its branches is unbelievable.

 The Angel Oak sits on John's Island, just outside of Charleston, but show up early, because the tree is closed at night (seriously).


This may not count, because it doesn't technically exist.  Back in 2010 a local goverment committee discussed ideas to draw tourists to its Patriot's Point area near Fort Sumter.  A man by the name of Rodney Cook showed up and proposed the most awesome idea ever.  Cook proposed that since Charleston was the cradle of Southern Culture, much like New York City is the cradle of Northern Culture that it deserved a monument that echoed New Yorks most famous statue.  Cook proposed that the city of Charleston erect a male counterpart to the Statue of Liberty.

Not my image
Lady Liberties counterpart was set to have the same dimensions as her.  The committee's answer to Cook was a simple "Wow".  Still no sign of the monolith, but we can all dream.

The Carpetbagger

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Raise Your Glass: Welcome to Florida

Florida is a state that knows how to treat its guests.  It is a family tradition to stop at the Florida welcome center and partake in the ritual of drinking a complimentary sample of Orange Juice.

The welcoming gift gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling and gears me up to take in the tourist paradise that is Florida.

Why can't other states be so welcoming?

The Georgia welcome center does something similar and gives you a free dixie cup of Coca-Cola.  This is of course is only at the welcome center when you are leaving Florida, so they are clearly trying to compete with Florida's long standing tradition.

The Georgia welcome center also has a display celebrating the freakish wonderland that is Babyland General.  The other curious thing about Georgia's welcome center is that they have outdoor speakers that are blasting a mixtape of musicians from Georgia.  When I entered they were playing "Jump" by nineties rap group "Kris Kross", as I exited they were playing "Closer to Fine" by female folk duo "The Indigo Girls."  I really wish I would have stayed to listen to the whole mixtape.

I wonder why other states don't give tourists the red carpet treatment.  There are no free cigarettes at the North Carolina welcome center. 

The Carpetbagger

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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Cemetaries of Charleston, SC: The Kingdom by the Sea

Charleston, SC is one of my favorite cities in the South.  While at first it seems like a really stodgy old money kind of town, it has a wonderfully dark and sinister history and folklore to it.

Now New Orleans, LA has some of the most beautiful and Gothic cemeteries in the South.  Call me crazy, but I personally prefer Charleston's graveyards. 

Let's take a look at the "Circular Church" Cemetery.   The Circular Church, of course is named after its circular shape.  The church has a circular shape, of course, because the devil "hides in corners".

The Cemetery has some of the most amazingly Gothic tombstones you could ever hope to see.

Those are "angels" portrayed on the stones.  If those are not creepy enough for you check out these interesting interpretations of "angels".

The Circular Church cemetery also has this amazing set of family graves made to look like chess pieces.

The Circular Church also has the oldest marked grave in Charleston, which dates back to 1729.  Of course at this point it looks like nothing but a lump of stone and since its right next to the walkway, it probably gets stepped on and kicked every single day.

As impressive as the Circular Church is, its not my favorite Cemetery in Charleston.  That honor goes to the Unitarian Cemetery. 

The Unitarian Cemetery is unique in that flowers and plants are allowed to grow wild across the graveyard.  It is simply one of the most beautiful spots in the South.

Of course what lies in the unmarked graves is equally as fascinating.  There are two legendary women allegedly buried on these grounds.

The first of these women is Lavinia Fisher, notorious for being the first female serial killer in United States History.  Lavinia and her husband John owned a boarding house on the outskirts of Charleston.  They had a bad habit of murdering their guests and taking all their money and valuables.  The method of murder varies depending on the version of the story.  They range from poisoning, axe murdering and some even claimed that the Fisher's rigged a trap door under their guest beds and dumped their victims into a spiked pit.   One of their attempted victims caught them in the act and escaped.  When the authorities arrived they found a mess of dead bodies buried on the Fisher's property. 

The Fisher's were imprisoned in the Charleston jail, which is still around today, looking creepy as hell.

Both John and Lavinia were sentenced to hang.  John Fisher found religion in jail and begin to beg for mercy.  Lavinia however wanted nothing to do with the jailhouse preacher and became more and more defiant and antagonistic.   Lavinia attempted to get out of her death sentence by pointing out that by South Carolina law, a married woman could not be hanged.  The courts got around this with the simple loop hole of hanging John first, as there was no law against hanging a widow.

To add to what had already developed into quite a spectacle, Lavinia chose to wear her wedding dress to the hanging.   Moments before her death Lavinia shouted to the crowd with her legendary last words, "If anyone has a message for the devil, let me know, because I will be dining with him tonight."

Now most churches would frown on burying a psychotic serial killer on their grounds.  The Unitarian's however made a habit of allowing the "unwanted" buried in their cemetery.  They would often take in local prostitutes.  The only catch was, the graves of the unwanted could not be marked.

The other legendary woman buried here is none other then "Annabel Lee".  You may have heard of her.

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of ANNABEL LEE;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea;
But we loved with a love that was more than love-
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me-
Yes!- that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we-
Of many far wiser than we-
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.

For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling- my darling- my life and my bride,
In the sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.

 Annabel Lee, the mysterious lost lover of Edgar Allan Poe is allegedly buried in the Unitarian Church Cemetery.

The story begins with Edgar being stationed at the local Fort Moltrie under a fake name, which he was using to hide from his debtors.  This we actually know, is true.  While living in Charleston Poe fell in love with Annabel, but her father did not approve of the scruffy New Englander.  Sadly, Anabel Lee would fall ill and die of yellow fever.  Her cruel father disliked Poe so much that he buried her in an unmarked grave in the Unitarian Cemetery, just so Poe would not know where she was buried.  Charleston, SC is said to be the "Kingdom by the Sea" mentioned in the poem.

The Carpetbagger

P.S. While making this post I looked through all my pictures from the many wax museums I have been to and realized that I have never seen a Wax Edgar Allan Poe, this seems almost criminal!

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