We left really early this morning for a day trip to Myrtle Beach, on “Future Interstate 73”, which is basically the same collection of back roads (most of them two-lane) I used to take during that unfortunate summer of 1986 when I lived there.
This was my first trip back to the Grand Strand since about 1987. It’s changed, and it’s really creepy to think I lived in this unnatural, surreal environment, even if only for three or four months. I guess it will always hold memories for me as the first place I lived away from home. My old 2-bedroom townhouse with dishwaher is still there, renting for $525 now. The surf/skate shop I managed has been bulldozed.
I have a long histoy with Myrtle Beach. In addition to living there, it was also the first place I went for a booze-soaked road trip without Mom and Dad in 1981. The next year on my post-graduation trip, it became the site where I came out to a guy I had a major crush on.
The “strip” and the area around the Pavilion seem pretty intact in all their seedy charms, although the crowds were nowhere to be seen, given that it was a foggy December day with a temperature of about 45F (7C). The Gay Dolphin Gift Cove (no…not THAT kind of “gay”…) was open and fully stocked with T-shirts, license plates, and postcards datng to the mid 1970s. A few of the arcades were even open.
Aside from the summer mix of high school kids, where rednecks, preppies, and stoners co-exist with relative ease, Myrtle Beach now also attracts the older crowd with golf, outlet stores, and lots of strip malls. There’s even a Hard Rock Cafe and a Planet Hollywood. And, of course, a Kinko’s. I was really a little creeped out by the theme malls. And I’ve decided that outlet malls are really ugly and completely without any bargains to speak of. I don’t get it.
It’s gotten pretty intense since I left. We hit traffic jams. In December. Odd…
We left Myrtle Beach about 5. By 6:30, we’d hit the magical place known as South of the Border. This place is classic roadside, opened in the early 1950s near Dillon SC, just south of the North Carolina border with a semi-Mexican theme. It’s known worldwide for its billboards and their bad puns (“Pedro’s Weather Forecast: Chili Today, Hot Tamale”).
The place just gets bigger and bigger. There are motels, coffee shops, and various kitsch emporiums. This was my first night visit. I’d expected neon, but jeez…