Wednesday, August 1, 2012


Lately, I've been really wanting to go the beach. We went last year and the year before to Avon, N.C. which is where we usually go with our friends and family. It's more fun to go with a group because there's always someone to talk to on the beach. Prior to that, it had been two years since we'd been there. But for some reason, all summer long, I've been thinking about going to the beach. I see cars loaded for a trip and assume that's where they're headed, especially if they have an OBX sticker on the window.

Growing up, beach trips were always the high point of my summers. Even though the Carolinas (where we usually went) weren't far away, it was always so exciting to watch the landscape change as we got closer to the coast. One of my earliest memories is being at Myrtle Beach, S.C. with my parents and my mom's cousin's family. I got salt water up my nose for possibly the first, but not the last time on that trip. I was probably three, maybe four years old. 

At some point, my dad decided that Myrtle Beach was too commercial. So he decided we would go instead to Holden Beach, N.C. about 50 miles north of Myrtle. Dad liked it because it was quiet, you could fish or be on the beach and not be surrounded by millions of people. The bad part part for me was there was nothing else to do. If it rained, there was not a shopping plaza nearby. There were no amusement parks. Nothing. Then one year, he picked a house with no TV. So I couldn't even pass the time that way. The next time we went there, we had a house with a TV at least, so that was good for nights and during times when we couldn't go out to the beach. Holden Beach is a small island and our house was on the Inland Waterway which cuts the island off from the mainland. We had a dock and a little private sand area where I spent hours chasing Fiddler Crabs. 

Meanwhile, Dad's sister had her own beach house in Myrtle Beach. You might think that would translate to our using it frequently or even sometimes. You would be wrong about that. I don't know if my parents felt awkward asking or if it simply wasn't available. Whatever the reason, we only visited twice. One time, we went down and found out there was a hurricane warning for the area. This was before the days of iPhone weather apps or live radar maps on the Internet. I don't know how much the weather forecast was looking at Myrtle Beach as the hurricane point, but we arrived on a Friday night. My mom got so worked up about the hurricane that by morning, she was practically in hysterics. It was already raining and she wanted to get the heck out of there. For some reason, Dad gave up and we left that morning. My brother and I were beyond disappointed. Our vacation had originally been planned for one week at the beach and one week visiting family in West Virginia. Given mom's mini breakdown, we spending the entire vacation in West Virginia. To add insult to injury, we saw a weather report on TV that confirmed the storm had indeed amounted to nothing and sunny skies were expected for the week.

The only good thing that came from our 24 hours at the beach was fireworks. In Virginia and West Virginia, you couldn't get real fireworks. But as a consolation prize for our aborted trip, my dad let us stop at one of the fireworks stores in South Carolina. This was unlike anyplace I'd ever seen at the time. It was like a massive supermarket filled with fireworks of every kind. I bought bottle rockets, Roman Candles and these little mini rockets called "Zizzz Birds." They were so named because of the "zizzzz" sound they made when they took off. We shot them all off in my grandmother's yard when we got to West Virginia. One of the Zizzz Birds took a strange turn and headed straight for the porch where the grownups were watching, much to all the kids' amusement. 

There was one other high point of that trip. As we were driving, Dad tuned to a radio station playing a Beatles retrospective with interviews and live clips. For a Beatle-head like me, it was close to heaven. We kept listening as long as the station's signal allowed. It was also on that trip that I heard the band Queen on the radio for the first time. It was Killer Queen and I thought it was beyond amazing.

The next time we went to the aunt's beach house, we went with our cousins. These weren't the cousins who owned the house. This was my dad's other sister. Their kids were the same age as me and Doug, except they had a third son who was doomed to be left our and/or picked on his entire childhood. I was super excited because hanging out with my cousin Steve was second only to Christmas and my birthday on my internal kid calendar. We planned all the cool stuff we were going to do without the nosy supervision of our parents. I spoiled it all by walking in front of a car on the street on the first day we got there. My uncle Edgar pulled me out of the way just in time, but Dad was so mad at me that I was grounded for the rest of the trip. This meant no bike ride expeditions through Myrtle Beach. No trips to the arcade or beach without adult supervision. Nothing. 

Meanwhile my stupid brother Doug and my older cousin Randy were permitted to come and go as the pleased. They tortured us with stories of their (likely invented) adventures around Myrtle Beach. 

Beach Photo
Steve, Mark and I on one of our expeditions.
Note my hand full of Polaroids.
Steve and I were just starting to really notice girls and I had a new camera. We spent a lot of time trying to surreptitiously snap shots of the women sunbathing. Unfortunately, the camera was a Polaroid. It was one of those noisy ones which spit the picture out immediately and you could watch it develop, so there was no real way to be sneaky about it. I think I still have the photos somewhere too. If you squint, you might see a bikini.

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