Mrs. M and I made it back to Mondoville from Myrtle Beach this morning, having had to hurry back in time to return the rental car. There were moments of adventure, but the casualties were light.
The Spawn and her Main Squeeze were there, having come down from Terpville with the Squeeze’s family for a week, and we decided to meet up and hang with the girls for part of that. So Mrs. M and I headed out from the Mid-Century Mondohaus on Tuesday morning. We made a couple of brief stops along the way, including Mrs. M’s first visit to a Buc-ee’s, in Florence, SC, about 2/3 of the way to the beach. She was as impressed as I was, and while I got a couple of burritos for lunch, she got a bit of fudge. Clan Mondo spent a fair amount of time embracing our general lack of sophistication this trip, as further events will demonstrate, and I think Buc-ee’s was a nice start to the whole business.
The Squeezes are staying in North Myrtle Beach, an area less cheesily touristy than the one we chose, but it was still a delight to pick the girls up at about 2:30 that afternoon. We made our way down to our resort, on the southern part of the main drag. After getting unloaded, we had supper at a beach town bar and grille with surfside elements and a wide array of unusual alcohol delivery systems. Although we aren’t exactly the Jell-O shot crowd, we all agreed that the burgers and fries had much to recommend them, and the girls got a kick out of the early-21st-C. pop-punk soundtrack with occasional dashes of Nu-Metal along the way. It would appear that I may in fact be too old for the current nostalgia soundtracks, but as I said, the food was good.
Afterward, we ambled back to our suite and got caught up on goings-on here and up North. Wednesday, things got interesting.
Mrs. M decided to make a run to Krispy Kreme for our breakfast, within a few minutes, she sent me a picture on my phone. The passenger’s front tire had gone flat. She called Triple-A to get it changed, and from there, she took the car to a local tire dealership for repairs (a screw had found its way into the tread, but the tire was patchable.) During the delay, the girls were starting to rouse for the morning, but Mrs. M suggested that I go down to the beach — something I love to do. I put on some sandals I bought for the trip and got down to the surfline.
Please understand, I was dressed as I usually am — T-shirt, khaki shorts, phone and wallet in the pockets. I had no intention of doing any swimming, or even serious wading. I stepped into the surfline and stood where the water lapped just above my ankles, rarely making it to mid-shin.
I’m a big guy, and my sandaled feet sank into the sand beneath the water. As I tried to adjust my balance, my left sandal decided to shovel deeper into the sand and my right knee (as it is known to do from time to time) decided that it was going to betray the rest of me. Thud, or really, thumpf, as I was falling into wet sand and receding shallow water. I made a four-point landing — left hand and knee, right elbow and knee. I’m okay, just trying to scramble up, but again, the right knee is not the least bit interested in scrambling anywhere, and a larger wave than usual breaks into me, soaking me from about the bottom of the ribs down. I have now become (again not for the first time) either a very bad bodysurfer or flotsam.
God only knows what I must have looked like. Well, no, that isn’t true, as I can make a pretty good guess, based on the fact that four or five people (including the lifeguard and a vacationing nurse) rush over to help me. I’m thinking that if I can just stand up, I’ll be just — SPLASH! Another dousing. And now I’m surrounded by very nice people, and I don’t have room (or footing) to work my way back up.
“He just collapsed!” I heard the vacationing nurse say.
“Do you want me to get the ATV, sir?” the lifeguard asks me. Oh God, no. I’m already mortified enough.
“No, I’m okay, really,” but they insisted on helping me to my feet, which we managed, and then I realized that although I wasn’t dressed for a dip in the ocean, the ocean hadn’t cared, and that I now needed to get into some dry clothes, and maybe try to divest myself of the Continental Shelf bits that had found their way into my wardrobe. The nurse is adamant about walking me back to the hotel pool area, and offering me helpful advice, like telling me I should be wearing a hat in this heat. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I had been on the beach for a total of 3-5 minutes, and had only been in the water for about one of those. It’s just that I have a bad knee, and am incredibly clumsy.
“It’s not the heat,” I thought. “It’s the stupidity.” But I kept that to myself. Until now.
I thanked the nurse again, hosed some of the sand off myself, and discovered that I had managed to bark my right shin pretty well, so I’m bleeding a little, and…
Then I remembered my phone. Yep. Insult to injury. Admittedly, the phone was already a dinosaur — I think an iPhone 6? But it didn’t appreciate being sacrificed to Poseidon any more than my shin did. And of course my traitorous knee, while about as functional as it usually is, was paining me at more than the usual rate.
Still, I made my way back to the hotel room, walked in, and announced, “Well, that went poorly.” The Spawn and Squeeze rushed over and were properly concerned, but I waved them off, applied some Neosporin to my latest case of beach rash. Not long after that, Mrs. M showed up, driving the car with the minispare while the original tire was being patched. And she remembered the doughnuts.
Later, the Spawn said, “You know, Dad, every time I have a memory of you, you seem to have a scrape on your leg.” It’s true — I fall down or bump into things a lot, and am frequently scuffed. But I suppose there are worse things to be remembered for.
After that, we headed to the boardwalk/touristy area, or at least the Spawn, Squeeze, and I did, while Mrs. M went to a teacher’s supply store. In keeping with our kitsch tourism theme, we started out at the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! “Odditorium.” The Main Squeeze had never visited a Ripley’s before, and the Spawn had only gone there once before as a little kid. I remembered many of the exhibits, optical illusions, and special effects, and also recollected the experience of going to its counterpart attraction in Gatlinburg when I was a kid.
The exhibits seem a bit less freak-showish than they did in my youth, and are longer now on celebrity paraphernalia (An Indiana Jones whip with an autograph from Harrison Ford! A portrait of Keanu Reeves done in ash!), but there were still the two-headed calf skulls, “medieval torture chamber”, and model roller coaster made from toothpicks that I remember from my youth. Another nifty bit is at the entrance, with a life-sized animatronic statue of Robert Wadlow. “Wadlow” is seated near the ticket window, but every once in a while rises to a standing pose, reminding us how startling a nearly nine-foot-tall human is, or was. And of course, it also reminds me of a famous joke from Spider Robinson.
[Side Note: One of the highlights of the Ripley’s museums when I was a kid was the chance to buy (or have my folks buy) paperback collections of the newspaper strips done by Robert Ripley and his successors. I didn’t see anything of the sort this time. Those books were a significant source of fuel for my youthful trivia obsessions, and it seems a shame if they’re gone. End Side Note.]
After the girls and I finished there, I treated them to lunch at a Myrtle Beach institution, the Peaches Corner restaurant. Again, this is vacation food, or the sort of eats one can find at a state fair, but it’s well executed and plentiful, and the music here was much more to my taste, including stuff like Dobie Gray’s “The In Crowd” and the Isley Brothers’ version of “Shout.” My double cheeseburger was exactly how it should be, and the Spawn and Squeeze enjoyed their meals as well. After that, we went to an arcade next door, where I watched the ladies try their luck at skee-ball and another couple of games. The arcade’s prize stash was not endangered by their efforts, but it was fun to watch them, and after a bit, Mrs. M caught back up with us, so we headed down the street to what might be the apotheosis of the tourist trap tchotchke shop: The Gay Dolphin. Dating from the 1940s, the store’s 35,000 square feet offer everything from shark tooth jewelry to whoopie cushions, and the place is almost precisely at the intersection of kitsch and camp.
In a truly stunning development, the store had a souvenir bicycle license plate with my name on it! (No, not Mondo — Warren!) You have to understand: I have spent my whole life seeing mass-produced “personalized” gewgaws for every Jason and Jennifer out there, from T-shirts to fridge magnets, and yes, the little metal license plates from Aaron to Zachary. Charity? Sure! Tiffani with an I? Yep! But Warren? Not a freaking chance. My brother, named Mike, was always in luck and in stock. Even in recent years, when we were looking in Toronto for fridge magnets, Emily and Debbie were easy to find. Mine just said Dad. But at last, my quest has ended. Apparently, the store used to offer a prize to people whose names couldn’t be found on the license plate rack, but that is no longer the case. All the same, I appreciate their effort, and will proudly display the plate in my office.
After a while, Mrs. M and I peeled away from the young people and got the repaired tire reinstalled on the car. We made it back to the hotel room and relaxed for a while until it was time to come back and fetch the kids. Later, at nightfall, the ladies went down to the beach with flashlights and walked around. I stayed in the room, watching the surf roll in from my seat on the balcony. I may be a slow learner, but I can be taught.
Yesterday was our last day with the girls, but the Spawn had to take care of some remote work for the Federal Reserve and Mrs. M had some professional training that required her virtual attendance. When that was taken care of, we went to a Barnes & Noble in a somewhat upscale shopping center. I found a collection of Joe Lansdale’s Hap and Leonard stories, so that became another of my souvenirs. After that, we went back to the room so the girls could pack up, and we delivered them safely back to the Squeeze family condo. It was wonderful seeing and goofing around with the girls, and I can hardly wait for our next opportunity, likely this fall.
Meanwhile, Mrs. M and I went to one of her favorite restaurants, known for its buffet and its selection of seafood. Mrs. M had a go at the crab legs, but because my dad and the Spawn both had/have shellfish allergies, I opted for several servings of an absolutely delightful pot roast and mashed potatoes, along with some terrific pecan pie for dessert. They didn’t quite have to roll me back to the car, but it was a near thing.
As I said earlier, we had a deadline for returning the rental car, so we made an early start. We refueled at Buc-ee’s again coming home, and this time I had a go at the breakfast burritos. Well worth it, and Mrs. M really liked her coffee, too. All in all, the trip was pleasant, and a great deal of fun, even in addition to the opportunity to hang out with the Spawn and Main Squeeze.
And Mrs. M has already taken care of ordering a fresh phone for me — it should arrive Monday. I’ll have to grow my own new skin, though.