Isle of Wight: a state of mind
There’s more! For an extended story on Isle of Wight culture, the lifestyles of longtime residents and more photos, pick up the March issue of Liberty Life magazine.
Every Wednesday night, it is guys’ night out on the Isle of Wight.
"This is a really neat place," resident Paul Parker said of the area. "We’ve had a lot of good times down here."
Parker hosts a weekly dinner in a metal structure with a white tin sign that reads "the old man’s garage" and invites men from all up and down the gravel road to come over for a good time.
Sometimes, the men take turns and cook whatever they feel like during the weekly rendezvous.
Just a skip and a hop off of I-95 is a road that has one way in and one way out, a little piece of serenity that residents like to keep to themselves. Parker claims the tradition was started by a buddy who no longer lives on the coastal hammock.
Wednesday night’s gathering was held at Hugh McNair’s house, on the screened-in porch that kept pesky mosquitoes and salty marsh air from clinging to the chattering group of men who tell tales as high as cathedral ceilings.
"We’ve been known to tell a story or two every now and again," Parker confessed as he watched neighbors shuffle in and walk straight to the cooler to fix themselves beer cocktails called "black velvet."
Larry Johnson, a school bus driver, brought out loaves of fresh onion, dill and cheese bread and cinnamon swirl raisin bread that he baked himself. He sliced it slowly while jabbing back and forth at the others.
"I do tell a lot of stories, but not as bad as Buster," he said of his friend Buster Davis, an avid Georgia bulldog fan. "Free bread doesn’t have any calories," he told one guest, while serving the bread up on decorative paper plates. "Didn’t you know that?"
Across the island, on the same night, a group of women who call themselves the Marsh Hens gather to gossip, dance and eat. They blare Lady Gaga and the Black Eyed Peas while drinking sparkling pink wine. Some of their husbands are off partying with the men at McNair’s, some are working or at home. Although the parties are less frequent — only once a month — rumor has it they know how to have a good time, Parker said.
As the men fry freshly caught trout and flounder and deep fry homemade hush puppies, the women dine on tossed salad with pecans, strawberries dipped in chocolate and cheesecake covered in chocolate morsels.
The men aren’t invited, but hear the women get crazy with dressing up, Parker said.
"You know how the women folk get," he remarked.
The island parties — or "gatherings" as residents call them — aren’t something that they think of as unique or special. It is just something that they do to catch up over good Southern food.
"We eat good here on the poor man’s island," Parker said. "It’s a good time; it’s nothing but a good time."