A Love Letter from Mackenzie Foster

Mackenzie:

“Why would anyone want to leave this wonderful city?” is a question I hear frequently from visiting friends and family.  They are always in awe of the warm sunshine, the diverse restaurant scene, and the abundance of things to do. While I don’t have good answer to their question, I can say that I was one of the ones who left. After four years at the College of Charleston, studying for midterms, lying on the grass at Marion Square, countless hours at the beach, and playing Ultimate Frisbee outdoors all year round, I graduated, packed up, and moved to Chicago. Cold, snowy, eight-months-of-winter, Chicago. My five years in the Windy City were filled new experiences, lots of fun, and many lessons learned, but I do have to admit that moving back to Charleston was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Luckily, the Lowcountry welcomed me back with open arms. My departure and return enabled me to see the Lowcountry in a whole new “rose colored glasses” kind of light. While sitting down to write this post I made a list of all the things that I love about the Lowcountry and what makes it unique (it was a little extensive…). There were many topics that have already been mentioned on Lowcountry Love Letters (including some of my faves- the beauty of brunch, the growing craft brewery scene, and of course the beach) so I narrowed my list to three.

1) People

There is nothing comparable to the people you meet in the Lowcountry. South Carolina’s “Smiling Faces, Beautiful Places” motto is spot on. Upon my return, I immediately appreciated the warm feeling of walking down the street and having complete strangers smile and say hello. While the rest of the country sometimes thinks this is strange, here Southern kindness reigns. I was very impressed by my neighbors who are always willing to lend a helping hand, my coworkers who understand that family comes first, and my friends who are always there when I need them. I get laughed at from my Chicago friends when I tell them I am baking a pie or a casserole to bring to a friend or that a friend is cooking me dinner, but this is just the way people in the Lowcountry treat each other.

Our annual Charleston family Easter took place yesterday, where of course, Mackenzie brought two grits dishes.

2) Pace

When I first moved to Chicago, I worked with a group of individuals from New York who were opening a Broadway musical in the Windy City. I was in the throws of learning the lifestyle differences between what I have always known and what I would need to quickly pick up. One instance stuck out in particular; while driving with a coworker, I was informed that my driving style could be described as “moseying” (he was a little terrified of the defensive drivers). While at the time I was extremely offended, I have now learned to appreciate the notion of “stopping to smell the roses”. Most of those that I have met upon my return to the Lowcountry have perfected the art of a work-life balance. They understand the beauty of sitting on the porch with a cold beverage, watching the world go by, or taking a long slow stroll down the beach while catching up with a friend.  In a city filled with such beauty, it seems as though the inhabitants ensure that they take in and appreciate all that the Lowcountry has to offer.

3) Culture
As someone who has a background in theatre and the arts, I understand the South is sometimes perceived as having limited options when it comes to the world of art. Luckily, Charleston does not follow suit. We have Spoleto Festival USA, (which is coming up quickly!) offering seventeen days of world-renowned artists who come in from all over the globe to present dance, theatre, opera, and music.  We have the French Quarter Art Walk happening four times a year, touring Broadway shows coming through the North Charleston Performing Arts Center (Phantom of the Opera going on now!), contemporary art centers like Redux and The Halsey Institute, Reggae Nights Summer concerts, improv at Theatre 99, dance projects like DanceFX, concerts at the Charleston Music Hall or the Music Farm and the list continues. There is always something new and fun to experience.

Bio (by Emily):
Mackenzie lives in Mt. Pleasant with her diva cat, Lucille. She spends her days running the world of set design and production for various projects that include Spoleto, President Obama's visit last year, Darius Rucker's surprise CMT concert on the Isle of Palms and more. Her evenings and weekends are filled with outdoor adventures, glorious first sips of champagne, and bad television with her best girlfriends.

Water Taxi Bridge Detour

Last night, I attended the Spoleto Finale at Middleton Place with some friends and colleagues. We had perfect weather, good tunes, lots of food, and man oh man, the views. Spoleto brings so much culture and entertainment to the Lowcountry every year and every year that I've lived here, I've been fortunate enough to attend at least a couple of events. Old Crow Medicine Show, Sarah Jarosz, Mavis Staples, lots of Chamber Music, and let us not forget the time my husband played in the orchestra for the raved about Piccolo event, Slammergirls.

Many people travel to Charleston for the Spoleto Festival and my father-in-law and his mother are no exception. When they were in town week before last, we had tickets to join them for the orchestra. My husband and I decided to make a date night of it and meet for dinner downtown at Minero beforehand. He works downtown and I had a home inspection in Mt. Pleasant, so I'd just head that way after I was done. Sounds simple, right?

Well, here comes a bridge problem.

Oh, peninsula life. You're so beautiful, yet so limited when the Cooper River Bridge shuts down. Madness ensues. People leave work, hop on the alternate routes, and then we all come to a big stand-still. Break out the picnic baskets, we're going to be here a while.

Until you realize one of the alternate routes is a water taxi. Wait, what? Yes, that's right. We have a boat that goes from Mt. Pleasant to downtown (and vice versa) several times a day for the low cost of $10 unlimited all day or $6 one way. All you have to do is get your car to the bottom of the bridge. So myself and a good mix of locals and tourists all took a 5 p.m. ride across the harbor, pleasantly chatting the entire way. Everyone was calm, happy to be on a boat, and enjoying the views. "Why don't we do this more often?", everyone was asking. When I got off the water taxi downtown, I ran into a friend going the other way. She was also happy to be getting home via boat in an otherwise dire situation. I was downtown and I was ready for my dinner date and the orchestra with my family.

That day, the one where it took me an hour and a half earlier in the day to get from downtown to my home inspection in Mt. Pleasant? Where thousands of people sat in traffic for hours? Where our local heroes spent hours cleaning up an oil spill (that was luckily successful and no one was injured)? Well it ended up being a really great day. All thanks to the staff at the water taxi, the friends I made on the boat, and the beautiful views our city has to offer. Every now and then, don't forget to catch your breath, take your time, and appreciate the journey you're taking to get to where you want to be.

Did I mention the local news did a story on all of those smart people joining me on the water taxi? 

My view from the water taxi

My view from the water taxi