Thursday and Friday of this past week were Mondoville’s Fall Break, and I’m back in the classroom tomorrow. This afternoon, however, I’m in my office, and just finished re-reading Book I of Gulliver’s Travels in preparation for discussing it with my class on Tuesday. I can take a little time to get caught up, though.
Yesterday marked the 28th anniversary of my wedding to Mrs. M., and the rough coincidence of Fall Break and the anniversary inspired the two of us to get out of town for the long weekend. In particular, we decided to head to Myrtle Beach, a community now considered to be in the league of other tourist-trap towns as Gatlinburg, TN, and Branson, MO.
Some of the people we know locally seem to consider Myrtle to be something declasse, an example of the sort of “Redneck Riviera” vibe, compared to more genteel locales like Edisto. I can understand it — the feel of the place is loud and sometimes even a bit vulgar. It’s hotels and motels, rather than vacation houses; mini-golf rather than craft museums; outlet malls rather than wine shops. But as I grew up, even a cheap motel was luxury compared to the usual tent, and I like the touristy cheesiness of the surroundings, even if I’m more inclined to go to a bookstore than a T-shirt shop.
Our hotel was pleasant enough — I’ve stayed in accommodations both more and less fine over the years, but it had an oceanfront balcony, comfortable furniture, and a refrigerator, so our needs were sufficiently met. The hotel restaurant was closed — a casualty of pandemic issues (whether related to customer space or staffing, I don’t know), and so we grabbed Thursday lunch (having skipped breakfast) at a nearby sub shop. Pulling into the parking garage, we noticed several vehicles with Kentucky license plates — since both Mrs. M and I lived there for much of our lives, we always seem to be on the lookout for them, and for indications that the cars might be from our particular regions of the Commonwealth. (These days, since the Spawn has moved to Terpville, we also look for Maryland plates, and we’ve had a game about spotting Ontario plates for years.)
While Mrs. M relaxed a bit on Thursday afternoon, I went down to the hotel pool. I started at the hotel’s outdoor pool, but after feeling enough sun to remind me that I’m a former redhead, I decided to adjourn to the indoor pool. But while I was reddening, an extended family showed up, with several generations in evidence, and lots of a very familiar accent. I asked one of the ladies where they were from.
“Kentucky,” she said. Glasgow, to be exact, near Bowling Green. We chatted a bit, and then I headed to the indoor pool, where I proceeded to make it an official trip by doing my traditional plummet. This time, my left foot slipped out from under me as I descended the steps into the pool, and my bum right knee took the opportunity to remind me that it needs replacement sooner rather than later by buckling. I was holding the rail with my right hand, but it wasn’t enough to keep my right leg from doubling into a full squat while my left leg extended straight ahead of me as if I were a dancing Cossack. Because my right knee hurts even under ordinary conditions, the abrupt full bend was. . . unpleasant, but I managed to keep from exposing any of the passersby to the darker regions of my vocabulary. Instead, I sat on the steps, unkinked my right leg, and satisfied myself that I could actually stand up and make my way around the pool. My right shoulder and elbow didn’t start complaining until that night, and have already settled for mere grumbles.
After I made my way back upstairs and stretched out for a bit, Mrs. M and I decided to go to one of her favorite local restaurants for dinner. Mrs. M had a go at the assorted seafood, but because shellfish allergies run in my family and I don’t want to suddenly discover that inheritance, I stuck with prime rib and such. As usual, the fare was quite good, and our server was pleasant and attentive. We — okay, mainly Mrs. M, but sometimes Your Genial Host as well — have a knack for striking up conversation with strangers. After all, other people are interesting, and why not find out about them? By the end of dinner, we got to see pictures of the server’s little girl (she’s a real cutie) and to get “to go” drinks as we left. From there, we got back to our room and watched the surf from our balcony.
Meanwhile, we noticed some cats patrolling the area around the swimming pools. Because Mrs. M is a first-grade teacher, and therefore equipped for every potential situation, she pulled a small but potent LED flashlight from one of our bags and spotlighted the cats from our position nine floors up. A few moments later, someone from another building produced their own light, and we wound up playing flashlight tag on the beach below. After some of that, we just sat and listened to the waves rolling in.
The next day, after we hit a breakfast bar at an understaffed Shoney’s and got acquainted with another server (this one a new mom of twins), Mrs. M dropped me off at the Barnes & Noble of the local upscale shopping center.
[Side note: My fondness for Shoney’s restaurants is another relic of my working-class youth. There are far fewer of then than there once were, but a parallel claim could be made about my youth as well. Even so, I’m a sucker for a breakfast buffet, and so there we were. Alas, once again the general shortage in staffing took its toll. While our tabletop was visually clean, it was as sticky as a frat-house floor, and for that matter, so was the restaurant’s floor, with my shoes making tearaway sounds with each step. But it’s hard to screw up bacon, eggs, and fried potatoes, and Mrs M and I seem to have survived. End of side note.]
I browsed around for a while, and swung by the magazines to find something to look at while I patronized the store’s frappuccino reserve. The first thing I saw was a copy of my favorite music magazine, but then I ran across a mag that mentioned not one, but two folks I count as friends. One even was the cover model.
The issue had a nice piece on Shawn’s work (including his recent best-seller, Razorblade Tears), and an excerpt from LB’s memoir (some of which was written right here in Mondoville). Moments like this remind me that I never expected to live a life where I knew people who are profiled in magazines — and that it’s cool that I have a life like that.
In commemoration of the event, I picked up a paperback copy of Shawn’s previous book, Blacktop Wasteland, which is now sitting a few feet away on my office desk. (Shawn, I’ll let you buy me a coke at the next B’con.) After a while, Mrs. M showed up and we went back to the hotel where we sent out for a pizza. Once again, we opened our balcony door to catch the breeze and listen to the surf. However, this particular sea breeze was laden with a scent I recognized from every metal show I attended in the 1980s. Apparently one of our neighbors decided that his or her stay at the seaside was best accompanied by herbal jazz cigarettes. That’s no big deal to me — just like us, that person was on vacation. But it didn’t take long for this particular secondhand skunkweed to make my throat scratchy, and we closed the door for a while. Maybe the dope in Edisto is higher quality, but I don’t know.
Mrs. M opened it again later, and stepped out on the balcony while I stretched out on the bed. She came back in after a couple of minutes and said, “I think I just saw a drug deal.”
“Yeah — these two guys on the beach walked up to each other and high-fived. One of them immediately put a hand in his back pocket, and the other guy stuffed his hand in his front pocket, Then they just walked away.”
“Hm.” I paused. “You might not want to bust out the tactical flashlight tonight, then.”
Yesterday was our actual anniversary, and while it might have been nice to spend one more day there, we decided we’d benefit more from getting home and using today to rest and prep for the work week. Again, that was Mrs. M’s idea, and further proof that she’s the brains of the outfit. The drive home was uneventful, and we made it in plenty of time for me to watch my beloved Kentucky Wildcats thump LSU in football. It was a good day, and the trip was a good way to mark 28 years of marriage. I’m looking forward to the next trip — and to the years to come.
So we’re caught up, but what would a potpourri be without some music? As it happens, I heard Sinatra’s version of this while I was at the bookstore, but in keeping with my own quirks and the recent beach locale, I thought I’d go with this version, by Toronto-based surf/instro band Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet. Here’s “Summer Wind.”
See you soon!