. C()HRi:spoM)i:( i: |nLetter from Hilton Head Island: Enjoy & Reflectnby E. Stake SalisburynDinah…nIs there anyone finernIn the State of Carolinan—An old standardnAn obscure and inexorably forgottennCanadian author by the name of Curwoodnonce wrote a short story entitled “GreatnWhite Silence”; it was about snowcoverednexpanses in Alaska, or somewherenaround the North Pole. The nounn”silence” stood, of course, for somethingnmenacing and deadly. It doesn’t connotenthat anymore in the minds of big-citynand suburbia dwellers. Actually, it isncloser to words like “bliss” or “paradise,”nif we consider the amount of sufferingsninflicted upon us just by the sound ofnpower mowers. One of the few ineptitudesnof the U.S. travel industry is its disregardnfor the riches that can be mined fromnplaces that may offer silence in conjunctionnwith sun, beach, ocean, and nativendishes. Hilton Head Island, a resort offnthe South Carolina coast, does not invokenthis attraction in its advertising either.nYet, divided into well-guarded and carefiillynseparated “plantations,” it markets,nif semiconsciously, a sort of lush, greennsilence. This kind of serenity could benpromoted, of course, as antebellum silence,na description not easily defensiblenand vulnerable to a variety of modish reproachesnfrom the updated part of thencontemporary Yankee mentality. Thus,neven as style—tourism’s Holy Grail—nmay actually prove to be the island’s mostnattractive merchandise, the antebellumnfactor is rarely, and only in the most tactftilnway, mentioned.nThe Yankee trek to Hilton Head hasnan intriguing historical dimension. Asnearly as November 1861, the island wasnin the North’s hands: 13,000 Union troopsnlanded there, routed the Confederatenforces, and established their presencenfor the duration of the Civil War. Thencurrent Yankee presence has swollen ton48inChronicles of Culturensome half a million visitors per year. ThenUnion soldiers built a stronghold callednFort Mitchell, where today we may findnone of the best restaurants in the area, anpowerful rampart of what’s most refinednin Low Country cuisine, a telling symbolnof what the North never conquered innthat fatefial confrontation of cultures ancentury ago. There are countless examplesnof successM reconciliation betweennthe then-implacable enemies, andnits contemporaneity seems to be purifiednof that long-ago hatred. Hardly a morenmagnanimous and soothing revengencould be imagined than a superb Confederateneatery erected on the site of thenUnion bastion of arms, in which descendantsnof the Northern invaders now paynenthusiastic tribute to the Caroliniannway of preparing soft-shell crab.nHilton Head’s significance for culturalncontentions goes deeper andniiirther. If there is a battleground (suchnterminology may not be the best wordnto describe a conglomerate of subtropicalncharms, beguiling greenery, and somenof the best seafood in this hemisphere)nwhere a palpable conflict between modernnAmerica’s flavors, tastes, and sensitivitiesnis right now taking place—that’snwhere it is. Novdiere, perhaps, is the contestnof styles so comfortably observablenas here. It goes beyond mere extemalties,ntouching the profiindities of personifiednAmericanism, and defines men andnwomen in thefr midUfe term who arenreasonably prosperous, middle-class,nand eager to participate in the formationnof the very current American image. Thisnis a tag-of-war between preppiness andnthe idealism of joggers—^nicely genteel,nsuffused with smiles and morning greetings.nOf course, it is cultural in substance.nObfuscations are inevitable; some preppiesnjog for health reasons, and most playntennis as a matter of honor. There’s amplenevidence, however, that jogging has becomena subculture with all its consequences.nIt has created a sweaty, puflingnnnmodel of a human being, one who pursuesnan ideal of infinite and ultimatenperspiration. The jogger is mostiy (butnnot always, so help me God!) overweightnand has a beard—^this is the stereotype,nstadded admittedly with innumerablenexamples to the contrary of svelte,nbeautifully athletic runners of bothngenders. Actually, my generalizationsnare beside the point, for what the joggernof the last 15 years has finally come tonsymboli2e, mostly in big cities, is the discordnbetween the lanky and decendynclad American and the obese and disrobednAmerican. The former, as he wasnvisualized by Hollywood movies of then1930’s through 50’s, announced to thenworld his tidy lankiness overlaid withnBrooks Brothers charisma, which succeedednin ingraining itseff in the world’snconsciousness as a victorious Americannemblem. The latter displays to the worldnhis hairy armpits and the pimples on hisnchest and declares them maiufestationsnof humaimess and health, both physicalnand mental. Let’s be honest—preppinessnin itseff is not the complete moral stancen(in spite of posing as such) that its followersnare eager to affect at each step.nThe preppy sports have long since lostntheir aura of pure chivalry and unconditionalnvirtue. One muscular juvenile, devotednto preppy faith, told me once thatngoff is the easiest way to make moneynfor anyone with both a hefty torso andnpreference for personal nattiness.nHilton Head Island, looked upon as ancultural encounter, offers some insightninto the vibrations and the nature of thenstrtfe. The atmosphere of cautiously delineated,npleasant middle-class snobberynis so pervasive, but at the same time sonweU-detached from the shaUowness ofnthe big-time, superwealthy snobbism,nthat it is more rewarding than amusing.nThere are traditions for this propitiousndifferentiation in the region. A Caroliniannscholar told me a beautiful story about anlitde island, St. Helen, in the Beaufortn