A blurb on the back cover of Ken Burger's new book says:
"Born and raised in Allendale, S.C., Burger graduated dead last in his class at the University of Georgia, has been married five times, is a gratefully recovering alcoholic, a cancer survivor, and a happy man."
That's pretty good for someone raised downstream and downwind of the Bomb Plant, was 12 before he saw a town bigger than Walterboro, and writes of his formative years at Ed Mixson's Carolina Diner:
"On summer nights we would sit outside on the hoods of cars, underage, understimulated and underwhelmed by the life we yearned to leave."
When Burger escaped the "Pine Curtain" of the Lowcountry, he ended up in newspapers. In the scorching capitol city, he wrote for The State and the late and lamented afternoon paper, The Record.
He slid back into the Lowcountry after his first divorce, writing sports columns for 21 years at The Post and Courier in Charleston. He won every award we have to give, including Journalist of the Year. He finished his 40-year run in the clatter of a newsroom last July, retiring on his own terms at 62 after a three-year gig as metro columnist.
Burger has written two novels, "Swallow Savannah" and "Sister Santee," with "Salkehatchie Soup" on the way. But his newest book from Evening Post Publishing Co. in Charleston is a collection of columns celebrating the South. It has a wonderful name, "Baptized in Sweet Tea." And it has wonderful photographs by retired College of Charleston psychology professor David Gentry.
It's about being raised by a hundred mothers. It's about front porches, seersucker suits and beaches. It's about coming home for funerals. It's about old Weejuns, church, manners and going down the river. It's about the poetry of football. He describes surviving the era of muscle cars roaring down narrow black roads as "a miracle that can only be explained by God's soft spot for fools."
Burger still sits at the keyboard. He blogs at www.kenburgerblog.com. He also writes stories for a local hospital about the lives it touches, as it did his when he had prostate cancer.
His avoids corn pone descriptions of the South because he's lived it. He knows South Carolina as a collection of familiar small places where you might hear a remark like, "Well, I didn't know him, but his brother from Spartanburg was good friends with my uncle from Cross Anchor who married one of those twins from Andrews who turned out to be first cousins with my sister's maid of honor in her first wedding to a guy named Bubba from Bamberg who ended up going to jail for shooting a shrimper from Frogmore because he didn't pay up on a bet that he could hypnotize a chicken.
"Truth is, if you can diagram that sentence, for better or worse, you're a genuine South Carolinian."
Pass the sweet tea, please.
Follow columnist David Lauderdale at twitter.com/ThatsLauderdale.