Sunday, August 10, 2008

Myrtle Beach

"The Atlantic Ocean was really something in those days. " Burt Lancaster, "Atlantic City"


The east coast beach experience is different than the west coast. My family spends most of its beach time (loosly defined since we seldom set foot on the beach itself) in Southern California.We also spend a little time in Maui and so our ocean of choice is the blue Pacific. A real ocean ! The biggest and deepest ocean in the world.

Through a series of events and miscalculations, too numerous and embarrasing to explain herein, we find ourselves vactioning this week in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.A different ocean, a different world.We are supposed to be in Maui, then again, I am supposed to weigh 180 pounds and be quite handsome. Things don't always work out as they are supposed to.

I don't want to appear too uppity about this whole beach experience. The beach of my childhood was the Gulf of Mexico, not even an ocean. In Texas the beach experience is to drive your car right up to the high tide mark, pull out your cooler and drink beer until you get in the mood to dive into water, which is about the same temperature as a hot bath at your home. You dodge jelly fish and the red tide until you lose track of where your car is and then you go crawl out of the gulf and start the half mile walk back to the part of the beach where you started. If you are particularly flush, you might eat lunch a a local fish shack before driving home, covered in sand.

There is no "beach experience"n Texas. There is only the beach.This Myrtle Beach is the damndest thing that I have ever seen. From viewing sites on the web, I thought that it was going to be a sleepy town with a lot of the kind of crap that you see in Anaheim or San Antonio. I was wrong. This place is Anaheim on speed. You have never in your life seen the amount of schlock that can be packed into a town. There must be 50 seafood buffets under roofs covering about 10,000 square feet, and with (according to their billboards) 120 items to savor. There are enormous dinner experiences like " Medieval Times" with its two hour tournament spectacular and the Dolly Parton Dixie Stampede, a civil war version of the Medieval Times ("Now featuring minature horses !"). There is something called a Carolina Opry, which according to the billboard is rated "Must See" by the Ft Worth Star-Telegram (now there's an endorsement).But to top it all off there are the 36 different putt-putt golf courses.

Now I know aht you are thinking. who gives a damn about putt-putt golf ? Well let me tell you, someboday does. These are not the pitt-putt courses of yur youth, with the frustrating embankments and the gentle Dutch windmills. These are putt-putts built by Steve Winn and costing almost as much as one of his casinos. I am talking giant volcanoes spitting lava, enormous king kong type apes roaring at you, pirate ships firing broad sides at each other.All of this as you wind your way up the mountains that they have built up to place the greens on. It is intimidating just to look at a two hundred foot fire breathing dragon, much less to try to putt a little orange golf ball into its mouth and hope that it drops in a hole on the other side. These damn things honestly have to be seen to be believed. What possible business model they could find to make these things profitable escapes me,unless they are charging greens fees of about the same weight as those at Augusta National.

All of this is presided over by what appear to be half a million southern folks on their best behavior. Lots of little toe headed and buzz cut 8 year olds getting into the car to make a trip to the NASCAR theme park. No one here appears to have daughters. Or maybe they leave them at home.Or maybe they won't leave the hotel room. Yesterday we went to some enormous fishing/hunting supply place where they hand you a shopping cart on the way in and advise you that "the ammo is on aisle six".And we bought stuff ! My daughter is walking around town with a $2.95 gimmie cap on her head ("when in Rome").

This will be continued tomorrow.

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