By Carol Antman for Island Connection
My parents raised me by example to not mind making a fool of myself, which was a big asset on a recent trip to Myrtle Beach. It was the off-season and the town’s garishness and crowds were dialed down. My girlfriend and I were not entirely disappointed to not being able to chomp on turkey legs while watching jousting horsemen, or hit a golf ball past dinosaurs at one of the dozens of miniature golf courses. They were all closed.
But because it was winter we could book an inexpensive 2-bedroom cabin complete with a little kitchen and a screened porch at the Myrtle Beach State Park without much notice. Horsemen were galloping their picturesque steeds through the waves, a winter privilege. There was no need for the assigned fishing spots on the pier and the pompano and whiting were still biting. The park bills itself as “The Last Stand on the Grand Strand.” Its 312 acres are the only undeveloped maritime forest left in the area. We rode bikes in the park’s extensive nature trails and strolled along its undeveloped beach.
While returning from a walk along the pier, our ears caught the piercing sound of a familiar but unexpected horn. “That sounds like a shofar!” I said. Previously I had only heard one during Jewish religious services. Following the sound, we came upon Steven Smith with a table full of different sizes of ram’s horns. “You called the Jews?” I asked. “Well here I am!” He was practicing for his Shofar Ministry and explained that the pattern he was sounding meant “Wake Up! Something major is underway. Make yourselves ready!” That was a good segue for our other Myrtle Beach experiences.
We woke up our taste buds at Redi-et Ethiopian Cuisine. The nearly empty dining room was simple and colorfully decorated. The menu required some translation: doro wat, ye beg wat, alicha, shire, atkilt… but the exotically spiced split peas, collards and chicken were all delicious. When I asked the beautiful Ethiopian waitress for a fork she kindly acquiesced but the injera, a flatbread, proved to be a better way to scoop up the morsels and eat with our hands.
You can’t go to Myrtle Beach and not do something cheesy. It’s a rule. Rich and Beth Wild’s “Wild for Hypnosis Comedy Show” sells out throughout the tourist season but the winter audience was much smaller. We sat next to a young woman with a “Bite Me” t-shirt and waited with expectation. “With hypnotism, we go into the mind to find what’s in there” Rich began. He used to be a cow foot doctor but began his two-year study to become a hypnotist over 18 years ago and has been performing ever since. “It’s kind of a truth serum” he explained. I didn’t need much encouragement to volunteer with about a dozen others and submit to Rich’s power of suggestion. Over the next hour or so I was convinced that a puppy had licked my face then messed in my lap, that I’d milked a miniature and then a giant cow; I danced enthusiastically, got extremely hot and then freezing cold, and held my nose when Beth sang because we’d been told she stank.
When Rich commanded “Sleep!” in between each bit, the young woman next to me collapsed into my lap. One woman catapulted out of her chair and sprawled onto the floor, still sleeping. A skimpily dressed teenage girl belted out “I Kissed a Girl” complete with choreography. Then Rich planted a post hypnotic suggestion that every time we heard a particular song in the future we were to jump out of our seats, slap our butts and yell, “Who’s your daddy?”
It was a mysterious experience. “The biggest thing is to see smiles on the people’s faces and know I did it,” Beth said.
Our spirits woke up again at the rollicking House of Blues Gospel Brunch. Fortified with our make-your-own Bloody Marys, we heartily sang with the grooving house band “I’ve Got a Feelin’ Everything’s Gonna Be Alright.” We so believed it. Even without rock ‘n roll shows or the abundant Sunday brunch it’s worth a visit here because of the 55,000 square feet of art that encrusts every surface. Isaac Tigrett built all 13 of the House of Blues venues before selling to Live Nation. His collection of outsider art rivals museums and includes Al Capone’s bar and a “God Wall” made by Andrew Wood that covers the ceiling with plaster casts of dozens of Blues legends.
Much of the building’s materials and art are reclaimed and found objects, like the bedazzled shoes that encircle the entry. “Praise the Lord and pass the biscuits” is a good start to Sundays in Myrtle Beach.
We’d received religious messages, eaten exotic food and made complete fools of ourselves, all within a couple hour drive.
Roadtrips Charleston! is a feature of Island Connection. Each month the column presents adventurous, interesting destinations within a few hours drive of Charleston. Carol Antman’s passion for outdoor and artistic experiences has led her to exotic and nearby destinations far and wide. For more photos or to make comments or suggestions, please see www.peaksandpotholes.blogspot.com.