Sea Monsters and South Carolina

It’s completely appropriate that the week before going up to Indie Grits Film Festival in Columbia, SC where Zombie Dragonfly Discotheque is playing in the Dark Side Shorts program a sea monster washed up on the nearest beach to my place.


After listening to assumptions from fellow beach goers that it was a giant squid or a big chunk of spoiled meat that was thrown off of a cruise ship I went back to get my camera and my roommate who has a lot of fish cleaning experience. Clues that it wasn’t a squid or octopus included rough patches of skin that felt like sandpaper and ribs protruding out of it. What looked like a tentacle was mast likely a large intestine. I didn’t want to leave until I was certain what the creature was so despite how gross it was I decided to flip it over. The way it settled after the flip convinced me that I was looking at a significantly decayed ocean sunfish, especially since I’ve heard of sightings of live ones in the area.

Making the sea monster story even more uncanny is the fact that while attending Indie Grits I’m staying with Britt Hunt and artist Alejandro Garcia-Lemos who has a sea monster series. (click to see enlarged versions)


Some of them are biting political satire, some of them are nightmares, sometimes they are both. Britt and Alejandro’s home is filled with art (besides Alejandro’s), they host events frequently, and they’re on the board of directors of Palmetto Luna which is a group that brings Latino artists in residence to Columbia, SC among other things. You might say they’re artists’ favorite kind of people. Britt also has a garden that he’s extremely proud of that attracts a lot of birds. From what I’ve heard Indie Grits’ filmmaker hosts are generally incredible and it bears out in my experience staying with Britt and Alejandro.

If you’re the kind of person that would approach a decaying sea monster carcass intrigued by the mystery and nature of death as opposed to disgusted and squeamish you should check out Dark Side Shorts 6:30 PM this Friday (4/27) at the New Nick 1607 Main Street. The screening has slugs, dirty kitchens, creepy abandoned houses in the woods, giant termites, apocalyptic visions, zombies, with an occasional dose of humor. If you’re looking for a model for a fresh, vibrant creative scene in the Southeast you should check out Columbia, SC, especially during Indie Grits. I had a blast here in 2010, I regretted missing the festival in 2011 after hearing about events like the Toro y Moi show, and every bit of my excitement and anticipation for this year has been well met. This year has actually been a sort of atemporal experience in the Bruce Sterling sense, I’m staying in a house that survived the fire during Sherman’s invasion in 1865 while attending a festival whose programming runs the gamut from puppetry and live scored silent film all the way to the best in contemporary independent cinema.

I didn’t expect to find sea monsters in the middle of South Carolina, but I probably should have.

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