All this Joe Wilson news has sent my nostalgia gears into overdrive! I’ve been wrested out of my always frantic, rainy, gray Brooklyn bubble to remember those long, hot summer and fall days in Beaufort County, South Carolina, where I spent four years working for The Island Packet, sharing an occassional boat ride with our formerly innocuous congressman or dodging the all-too-common bison stampede or raging alligator attack.
I just booked my first flight down to Hilton Head since leaving for the wedding of some good friends from the paper, who also informed me this week that they, along with just about everyone else I knew at the paper, is quitting and going elsewhere, partly due to the terribly depressing situation that is this specific iteration of the industry’s death throes.
So for Friday happy this week (yes, I know it’s way past Friday), I’ve complied an all-star list of Second Congressional District related items, as an homage to the friends, talented writers and unique personalities I encountered down there, and because it’s the only time that district has made national news for a political, non-missing persons-related story in many years.
First, Joe Wilson (real name Addison)! The memories we had together! The days spent on the phone, the thumbs ups he gave to constituents at public meetings, where — make no mistake — the people loved him. His reelection is not in doubt, and, in all likelihood, is even more assured after his outburst (just mire through the comments on this AP story the Packet ran if you need proof)
So here are two of our favorite Joe Wilson pictures of all time. Credit goes to Jay Karr/Island Packet.
Joe Wilson! Who knew we’d be hearing from you outraged side all these years later? During our time together, Joe was a consummate incumbent campaigner — shaking hands, dispatching thumbs ups like periods on his sentences to nail in his points, nodding freely when listening to angry sentiments from voters, calling people by their first names, always returning reporters’ phone calls, stopping once to give out his card and shake the hand of the gate guard at Palmetto Bluff, informing the man to call his office should he ever need assistance. For a low-key conservative place like the coast of Carolina trying to vent its frustrations about a perceived influx of illegal immigrants, he was a hero, a guy who during his time in the statehouse championed a bill to make English the official language of SC.
And then there’s my favorite Joe Wilson story from my Packet tenure:
Wilson invites DeLay as guest
By Tim Donnelly
The Island Packet
Aug. 17, 2005
U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson is holding a campaign fundraiser Friday on Hilton Head Island that features House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, the embattled Texas Republican who has been investigated and criticized for several charges of ethics violations.
But despite the negative publicity that has surrounded DeLay for the past year, Wilson said Tuesday that he thought DeLay’s presence at his event, a golf tournament, will be a lightning rod for support, not criticism.
“The name recognition of Tom DeLay has increased over the last year,” Wilson said Tuesday, speaking in a phone interview from the route of his bus tour of the congressional district. “It would be my view that among Republicans, the name recognition has really increased in (a) positive way. Among other people, there’s been an increase, but it hasn’t been positive. Overall, people have been very appreciative of his effectiveness.”
DeLay has taken heat for trips that may have been paid for by lobbyists or outside groups, for using campaign funds to pay family members and specifically for his ties to Jack Abramoff, a lobbyist recently indicted on charges of fraud. DeLay has denied any wrongdoing.
For Wilson, a congressman who has served the Lowcountry area, including Beaufort County, since 2001, this will be his third golf fundraiser on the island and the second featuring DeLay. The first year’s guest was Rep. Ernie Istook, R-Oklahoma.
Wilson said DeLay asked to be invited back to this year’s event. There was no discussion about replacing him with another guest due to the controversy.
Next! From The Guide, the Island Packet/Beaufort Gazette’s tragically overwritten, underappreciated, much-maligned, fatted-with-Simpsons-references, Ted-Leo-biased entertainment publication (voted best in the state — eat it, Aiken Standard), only somehow still in operation due to chief Jeff Vrabel’s ability to glamour the paper’s executive editor into thinking the weekly tab is nothing but a list of choral society performances and columns talking about how much we love tourists.
Beatles day got the Page 3 funny business treatment, with one of the best headline puns of all time:
“Beatles: Rock Band” – Bigger Than Mario, or, All You Need Is $249.99
Ladies and gentlemen: The Beatles. This week, one of rock’s best-ever bands (yeah, that’s right, we said it, Scorpions), made the move to the world of multimedia nerd-ery with the release of “The Beatles: Rock Band.” And yet, we are saddened to have to report these…
Reasons ‘The Beatles: Rock Band’ is disappointing
• Lacks option to be the walrus
• Perpetuates the myth that Paul is alive.
• Is consistently less fun than its predecessor, Ringo Kong
• Sneak preview for “Rock Band: Wings” is a letdown.
• Lyrics to “Paperback Gamer” don’t actually make any sense.
• Have to play game backwards to decipher secret messages telling you how to defeat Zombie Paul in “Resident Evil.”
• By level 64, you’re sort of done with it.
• Only unlockable feature is a commentary by your mother telling you about how she doesn’t understand where popular music went so wrong.
• Ringo Mode: Four hours of bonus gameplay featuring the drummer sitting on a couch from 1970-1999.
• At the end of the game, Michael Jackson purchases all of your high scores and leases them to Nike.
• Lacks a Poor Choice in Wives mode.
• You can’t win without a little help from your friends.
For all its political flubs and hilarious hijinx, South Carolina is no doubt a beautiful place with friendly people. And the Packet, in its heyday before the … unpleasantness … was a dead ass good paper.
See you soon, Beaufort County. I can’t wait to give the thumbs up to some boiled peanuts.
RELATED: Slate says Thank God for South Carolina: Wilson does other politically challenged states a favor
Don’t forget about the time his “thumb gauge” as I liked to call it, turned wayyy down after a constituent began criticizing him and the Iraq War. IT was fantastic, because Jumpin’ Joe had the “thumb way up” prepped, but began turning it down as the tense conversation continued.
Paul McCartney is probably rolling in his grave.
I could say similar things about Beaufort in retrospect. Particularly considering I regularly meet Atlantans who vacation where I used to live.