South Carolina – Days 1-3: A Beach Town and My Newest Love

Brittany Swanson   December 14, 2015   Comments Off on South Carolina – Days 1-3: A Beach Town and My Newest Love

My first night in South Carolina was super chill. My host had dinner waiting when I arrived and then we chatted and played a game called Ticket to Ride before calling it a night.

When I woke up the next morning it was raining. I’ve spent quite a few days wandering around in the rain, but Myrtle Beach is, well, a beach town, so I figured there would be even less to do on a rainy day. Luckily, I was in desperate need of a work day, so that’s what I did instead.

My host was a professor at a local university and as such was gone for most of the day. He had a break between the end of his regular day and the study session he had that night and was open to showing me around if I wanted him to. When he got home I was ready for a break, so we ventured to the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk. We started at the Fun Plaza Arcade where my host paid for us to play arcade games. It was the best kind of arcade too. The kind where you get tickets as you play and then you get to exchange the tickets for prizes when you’re done. After about twenty minutes of playing games, including a round of skee-ball where I broke the high score… we had 103 tickets. My host graciously let me keep all our tickets and pick my prize(s). I chose: a mini deck of cards, a laffy taffy, an Air head, and this eye patch:

Went to Myrtle Beach...became a pirate, Fun Park Arcade, Myrtle Beach, SC.

Went to Myrtle Beach…became a pirate, Fun Plaza Arcade, Myrtle Beach, SC.

Next we wandered over to the SkyWheel (ferris wheel), and went for a ride. SkyWheel was probably the safest most secure ferris wheel I’ve ever been on. The compartments were fully enclosed and felt more like being in a mini subway car than being on a ski lift type ferris wheel. I’m pretty sure we were the only ones on the thing, but that was fine by me because then it was more of a continuous ride, and less of the stopping and waiting for people to get on and off. The city lights were pretty from up high, though they didn’t photograph well. 

The SkyWheel in Myrtle Beach, SC.

The SkyWheel in Myrtle Beach, SC.

After the SkyWheel ride my host asked if I’d like to go to a “fancy schmancy” place. I said sure. As soon as we entered I remembered I was wearing a t-shirt under my coat. Oops. Not so classy. To be fair, I think it was fine. The place was a bar/restaurant called The Chemist and while classy, we definitely could have gone somewhere where my t-shirt would have actually offended people. The Chemist, as you may have guessed, was science themed. I LOVED it! Our water and drinks came in beakers, the coasters and tables had periodic table elements on them, and even the decor felt like a science lab:

The Chemist, Myrtle Beach, SC.

The Chemist, Myrtle Beach, SC.

My host and I split an order of Liquid Nitrogen Truffles. The truffles were filled with a cheesecake-like cream filling, and there was homemade whipped cream and strawberries on the sides. The truffle chocolate was so rich it was A-Mazing! The best part about The Chemist was our waitress, Taylor. Apparently she had recently moved to South Carolina but is originally from, wait for it… Minnesota! She was super excited because I was her first Minnesotan patron since she moved to South Carolina. Then it turned out she was from Anoka, MN the town right next to Blaine, where I graduated high school. Small world. Oh, and in keeping with the theme, the waitresses wore lab coats. Did I mention this place is awesome?!

Taylor, originally from Anoka, MN, waitress at The Chemist, Myrtle Beach, SC.

Taylor, originally from Anoka, MN, waitress at The Chemist, Myrtle Beach, SC.

The next day I went back to check out the Boardwalk in the day time. It was more of the same, though a few more people were out and about. As I was about to leave I remembered I was due for another oil change, so I found the nearest Jiffy Lube before heading out. I figured since Jiffy Lube already had all my information it would be quicker than going anywhere else, and, in theory, they wouldn’t try to convince me to get services I’d already done, because they’d have a list. Since I’m pretty much living in my car and its getting up there in miles (over 160,000) I did all the recommended maintenance things (tire rotation, fuel system cleaning, etc.). That way if something happens I’ll know I did everything I could to prevent it.

Generally, I enjoy getting oil changes. No, really: I once got an oil change on my birthday when I was in high school because I like them so much. I’m not entirely sure what it is about mechanics, but they’re super friendly and nice and usually open the door for me when its time for me to be on my way, so I just love getting my oil changed. Anyway, this particular oil change was especially awesome because the lady high-fived me when I explained why my last oil change was in Rhode Island and kept telling me how awesome she thought I was. It got even better when it was time for me to leave and the guy who walked me out to my car literally rolled out a red carpet for me. I laughed. Day made!

By the time I headed to Charleston it was getting dark so I ended up going straight to my host’s house. When I arrived, my host and I hung out and had a beer together, but I was exhausted, probably still recovering from my night in Raleigh, so I went to bed early.

Oh. My. That was hands down the Most. Comfortable. Bed. I’ve ever slept in! I literally could not force myself to get out of bed the next morning. I woke up at 6:30 or 7:00 a.m. but I’m pretty sure I didn’t get out of bed until well after 9:00 a.m. and I didn’t fall back to sleep either. I just remember waking up and in my half-asleep stupor thinking, Oh my. This is lovely. It’s like… It’s like I’m in a nest. This is what a nest must feel like. This is so nice. I love my nest. I never want to leave my nest. And then I proceeded to lay there for the next two hours. It was marvelous.

Eventually, I convinced myself that it’d be worth it to get out of bed and go explore Charleston and I’m so glad I did. I didn’t know I was looking for anything until I found it in Charleston. Charleston was the first city that felt different from all the other cities I’ve been to. The architecture was different. The trees were different. It was so freaking nice out and it was December, so the weather was different. I fell in love. I haven’t fallen in love with a city like this since the first time I went to New York so many years ago. Though I’ve technically been in the South for five states already, Charleston was the first place that truly felt Southern.

I found a place to park the car and started my wanderings at Waterfront Park. Like I said, the weather was gorgeous and my heart was bursting with love. I came upon two fountains, and unlike other places I’ve been, Charleston allowed you to swim/play in them. Charleston for the win.

Fountains you're allowed to wade in?! Waterfront Park in Charleston, SC for the win!

Fountains you’re allowed to wade in?! Yes! Waterfront Park in Charleston, SC for the win!

I sat along the waterfront for a bit and just soaked in the awesome. The awesome architecture. The awesome weather. The awesome feeling of overwhelming love in my heart. I just sat and soaked in all the awesome. Then I wandered some more and came to Rainbow Row, the historic colorful row houses.

Rainbow Row, historic row houses in Charleston, SC.

Rainbow Row, historic row houses in Charleston, SC.

I kept wandering and eventually stumbled upon the Charleston City Market, which I’d been planning to find later anyway. I went through the first building and was like, oh, that was cool. Then I walked along the street and realized there were like four more buildings of the market. Crazy. Crazy awesome. I really enjoyed wandering through and seeing all the hand crafted things for sale and I especially liked watching the ladies make the sweet grass baskets.

Charleston City Market, it just keeps going and going... Charleston, SC.

Charleston City Market, it just keeps going and going… Charleston, SC.

Next I walked up King Street, and quickly found myself in the midst of Louis Vuitton shops and Mercedes Benz cars on the street. What. Just. Happened? I looked around me and realized I had wandered into the 1%’s shopping district. I turned around and walked the other way. I noted that as soon as I hit the Forever 21 all the bustle died down. Apparently, average people work on weekdays and rich people don’t go to Forever 21. Go figure.

As I was walking along another street I noticed a couple coming out of a semi-wooded area between two buildings. Curious, I looked in and saw a sign saying “Welcome to the Churchyard of the Unitarian Church in Charleston.” So I ducked between the buildings to check it out. Coolest. Graveyard. Ever. Seriously; all the gravestones were covered with plant life. It was organic and natural and happy. Yes, happy. I’ve never felt happy in a graveyard before, but there were animals playing and trees growing and life was continuing rather than stopping in the graves. It was beautiful.

Churchyard of the Unitarian Church in Charleston, SC.

Churchyard of the Unitarian Church in Charleston, SC.

The place where I parked had a two hour limit, so I went back and moved my car. Then I was overcome with sudden exhaustion, so I took a little cat nap and then walked to Battery and White Point Gardens, another park along the waterfront. I sat by the water and read a bit of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and then a bit of The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappearedthe new (super great) book I started reading the other day and then I moved the car again and headed to the Old Slave Mart Museum.

Slave Mart Museum, Charleston, SC.

Slave Mart Museum, Charleston, SC.

The most powerful part of the museum was overhearing one of the workers explain to a group that arrived just after me that she was the third generation born free in her family. Only the third generation. Her great-grandparents were born slaves. For as much as we like to ignore our racist history in this country and pretend everything happened long ago and is out of our control and irrelevant today, it sure felt relevant and poignant in that moment.

Unfortunately, the rest of the museum left me unsatisfied. The voices of slaves, the ones I was most interested in hearing from, were nearly non-existent. While not entirely unsurprising, this really bothered me. I felt a museum housed in the place people were once bought and sold should focus on telling those peoples’ stories. Instead, the museum felt very much created by white people, for white people. Telling them only what they want to hear, so they don’t have to feel guilty about being white. It seemed to say, hey this thing (slavery) happened, and we admit that, but that’s just how things were, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Except there is and there is something much worse about ignoring the atrocities and resulting ramifications of slavery and glossing over our sordid past. In fact, it is precisely this lack of ownership of slavery and failure to fully comprehend the effects of Jim Crow that has us trapped in a system of institutionalized racism while we are completely blind to it.

In case you feel I am overreacting, or something, allow me to leave you with a few examples. One of only four direct accounts from slaves in the museum was a letter from a slave girl to her former owner. In the letter the girl asks her mistress to buy her back and promises to do whatever is asked of her. She goes on to explain that she is doing well, and to send her love and regards to her family and friends. While this letter is prominently displayed in the museum, the facts that most slaves could neither read nor write and that in many places it was illegal to teach them were merely a footnote. Furthermore, the display of this romanticized view of slavery, especially as one of very few accounts presented, only furthers ideas that a. slavery wasn’t that bad, and b. slaves were treated well by and liked their masters. The exhibit that really got my blood boiling though, was the one titled: “How to Trade a Human Being.” How to Trade a Human Being… Are you serious?! Did I read that correctly? Yep. How to Trade a Human Being. I don’t need a how to guide. How to guides are what I use when I need to know how to fix my broken washing machine. How to guides have no place in a museum about slavery, especially how to guides about how to trade humans in a place where humans were once actually traded. How to Trade a Human Being: Are you freaking kidding me?! How about “How Human Beings were Traded” that gets the same point across without being so blatantly racist and insensitive. I can’t even…

When I left the museum I was pretty upset. Though I had managed to siphon off some of my frustration when I found the guestbook upstairs. I wrote a nice long page explaining my issues with the museum and suggestions for improvement, including the ones listed above. However, upon returning to the outside world and catching sight of the sky my anger abated. The sky looked amazing, the clouds were once again bright warm colors silhouetted against a brilliant blueish sky. I quickly headed back to Battery and White Point Gardens to see if I could catch the last of the sunset over the water, unobstructed by trees or buildings. I saw it, but didn’t quite manage to capture a picture, though if what I did catch is any indication, it was a pretty spectacular sunset:

Sunset viewed from Battery and White Point Gardens, Charleston, SC.

Sunset viewed from Battery and White Point Gardens, Charleston, SC.