Myrtle Beach was always magical, a carnival town, now billboard cluttered, strip-mall-crowded, neon-glowing, the so called “Redneck Riviera”. My hometown. People say, “Boy, you must have seen some changes in this place in the last fifty years.” But I don’t see it at all. The Beach is forever a carnival; it hasn’t changed one bit, the fun just got bigger.
At The Beach common reality tends to bend, like the images of yourself in the crazy mirrors, long ago at the big Pavilion.
The behavior of people on vacation is rarely the same as the habits of home. Inhibitions of all sorts falter and fail at The Beach. All day long the sunburned peaches, female fruit of the Bible Belt, parade in stylized underwear called bathing suits. The boys hatch plots for sundown. Strangers fall in love overnight, sometimes for life, more often for a long weekend. The days evolve in cocoons of heat, the nights die the miniature deaths of butterflies.
Anywhere the oceans of the Earth touch the edge of the risen land, human beings feel the primal urge to return to the deep, whence all life came. We crave to lie beside our mother, dozing to the murmur of her undulations, cooled by the breath of the waves. We see things differently staring into the pale blue yonder of twilight on a liquid horizon.
Myrtle Beach is different, maybe just because the unbroken edge of white sand is longer than any beach I have ever seen. The more astonishing these days, with tall buildings variegating the shore, where in the old days, the beach and treeline disappeared in the haze a few miles distant. Now the entire run of Long Bay obtrudes, all forty miles of the Grand Strand, aptly named. Let the rednecks be served by a proper riviera, one to put Monico in the shade. Let the Charleston dowagers sniff and chortle, give me the bright lights and the big wheel flashing.
The Beach is magical, a carnival town grown up where the Gullah, chained and bound, used to say The Flying Place existed. Where if a slave could but escape, and run to the edge of the ocean, there to stand with both arms raised at sunrise, a child of perfect faith would grow black wings, to soar across the sea and home again. Maybe that is why to work all year, and save and save, and escape to The Beach when the sun gets hot, where to gaze upon forty miles of white sand and the big blue ocean feels like being lifted.