Relaxing at the levee. Serious thoughts will have to wait.

Posted: August 8, 2010 in Uncategorized
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I was all set to lay down some serious thoughts about public spaces in West Virginia.  I have been brooding about them for some time.  One day last week my liberal correspondent Joseph Higginbotham seemed to be plugged into the same vibe when he penned his thoughts about what he misses about Lexington, where he lived for 20 years before recently returning to West Virginia.  Take my brooding, add some of Joseph’s thoughts, mix in a relaxing Friday night in Charleston, and guess what?  I’ve got an idea.  Actually, a pretty good idea, even if I do say so myself.  But it will have to wait.  First I want to tell you about last Friday night in Charleston.

Friday night at the levee...just a great evening.

A little context.  Like most of the country this year, we’ve been sweltering in oppressive heat and humidity, but Thursday night a cold front moved through.  (Why do weather people insist on calling a drop in temperature from 92 to 85 a cold front?  Yeah, its better but it’s not cold.)  So Friday, comparatively speaking, was very nice.  By the time evening rolled around, my wife and I were longing for a place to go to just hang out.  Someplace outdoors.  So after a quick dinner at Panera’s, we began looking for a place to go.  We were about to give up and head for home (under the cloud of my brooding about the dearth of good public spaces) when we saw the lights at the levee.  The Schoenbaum Stage at Haddad Riverfront Park to be more exact (and to give proper credit to two of Charleston’s most generous benefactors).  People my age still refer to it as the levee.

We pulled into the city garage and within minutes we were under the canopy of the amphitheater.  Now if you haven’t been to Charleston in a while, you might not know about the canopy.

Several years ago, the old levee was turned into a huge amphitheater to provide a more suitable venue for performances during the various festivals in Charleston.  One glaring problem was the sun.  Because the amphitheater is on the north side of the river facing south, it absolutely bakes in the afternoon sun.  The solution:  a giant canopy.  A smaller canopy, fashioned to resemble a sternwheel,  shelters the stage area.  A little to the west another canopy of sails will shelter a riverside overlook.   This nautical theme obviously reflects Charleston’s status as a river city.

As is my habit, I began to formulate opinions about the quality of the space.  What works, what could have been done differently.  Then something unusual happened.  I relaxed.

I began to enjoy the cool evening air.  I found my foot tapping to the bluegrass music coming from the stage.  From my perch high in the back, I could watch everybody.  Behind me, people were strolling, chatting, connecting with friends.  Kids were playing tag.  The sun was setting.  The lights were reflecting off the river.  It was just really nice.  (My apologies for the less than stellar photo.  I only had my camera phone Friday night.)

Afterwards, my wife and I were talking about how much we enjoyed the evening.  She added that it was even better because I wasn’t analyzing everything.  Hmmm.

She’s right.  Sometimes you just need to have a good time. So no serious thoughts today.  I’ll save my big idea for next week.  In the meantime, you should check out Live on the Levee this Friday.  And don’t analyze – just enjoy.


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