My Journey to Shangri-La
It’s surprising to me how my four-year enlistment in the USN Submarine Service has had a positive influence on my life for the successive forty-five years. I entered the Navy two years after leaving HS early having completed just tw
o months of the tenth grade. Then after finishing boot camp I volunteered for and was accepted into Basic Enlisted Submarine School in New London where I also had the opportunity to earn my state high school GED certificate. This happened on a mere whim only because I had been assigned to a work party cleaning and waxing barracks floors and happened upon a bulletin board posting with the heading “Get your H.S. GED.” And, so I inquired and then proceeded to take the five required tests over a two-day span, and I passed them. Then later, upon leaving the Navy, I earned my BA degree and also acquired a VA sponsored mortgage to purchase my first home. Too, I launched my writing career with LIBW with my first published story “Jam Dive” and many subsequent ones about my personal experiences, and Submarine Service history. And, more recently once again my connection to the submarine service has paid off for me immeasurably. In 2011 to 2013 I had sequentially suffered layoffs from two well-paying jobs as a TV cameraman in NYC. Then afterward, I struggled to continue working as a free-lance sports and live events cameraman, but after two years of that and being a senior citizen, I decided to accept my fate of being forced into early retirement. During that time, I had attended two reunions in Norfolk VA of my submarine crew from the Attack submarine USS Bluefish SSN-675 and they were very nice events, however, no surprises for me since our boat had been home ported there in the 70s. Then, in 2016 I received the invitation to again attend our semi-annual reunion, but in Myrtle Beach SC this time. Now, I had heard of MB, but hadn’t any plan or desire to ever visit there; since it was the sight of our gathering, what the heck, I thought. So, when the time came in April I boarded my flight from Newark to MB without having any expectations. However, upon landing at the airport and then venturing outside I was pleasantly surprised to see palm trees and then many more of them during my cab ride toward the beach location of the host hotel-resort. I was delighted when I saw the beach that closely resembled Florida’s and with a climate similar to but not as hot and having lower humidity. It was very pleasant there, with a constant cool southerly breeze blowing off the Atlantic. During the course of my four-day stay, I discovered that the water was warm enough to swim in and that summer there lasted through November usually followed by a mild winter of four-month duration. So, having lived in the Northeast my entire life I thought that this is for me. I and my crewmates had such a wonderful time that the site was again selected for our 2018 gathering, and I couldn’t wait to return because I fell in love with not only MB but the place of the reunion which offered a beautiful sand beach seventeen pools and hot tubs, two restaurants, a water park, and much more. Well, it was just a couple of months prior the 2018 reunion that I had decided to retire fully and I began thinking about MB. I had always envisioned two feasible scenarios for my retirement years; one being a live-a-board boat in some tropical location such as Florida or Aruba or living in a condo on a beach in a similar type of location. However, the loss of my jobs had seemed to put a kaput on that notion. But, as dreams die hard, I did some research and found that docking a boat in a marina in MB was much more inexpensive than it had been all those years that I had boated up north on the Hudson and the Atlantic Ocean. But of course, living-aboard and boats, in general, have their own particular drawbacks, especially as one ages. However, I continued to investigate selling my NJ home and purchasing a boat right up until reunion time. And, I planned on visiting some MB marinas during my stay So again, I landed in lovely MB and I was just as enthusiastic about my return as I had been on my initial visit. I checked into an oceanfront efficiency room having a partial view from the balcony of the sea and beach. And as I had on trips to other vacation sites thought that I could live in this room. After all, I’m just one guy living in a six-room Cape Cod house that’s way too large and expensive for me, especially since I’m retired now. How cool would it be to live in a resort, I imagined? So, after dinner on the concluding night of the reunion I was relaxing and reminiscing at a table with my shipmate retired CPO Baker and his lovely wife Sandy. And, we were conversing about how beautiful and well-kept the resort was and, I commented that yeah, I could live here. Then, Sandy replied that well, you can you know. And, when I questioned her further she said that that the rooms were hotel-condos owned by and rented out by private owners but the resort was operated by a management company, and that there was a resale office in the lobby. Well, that was all I needed to hear so I visited the realtor’s office the very next morning and discovered that a ninth-floor oceanfront efficiency condo was available for sale at a very attractive price, and when I was shown it I went gaga. The view was magnificent of the full beach and the glimmering pool below. And, it was completely furnished so I could move in immediately and be comfortable until my own furnishings arrived from NJ. So, I decided to extend my stay for a few days and to scrutinize the resort along with the surrounding areas as my potential new home. But, as luck would have it my existing room wasn’t available for rent so I had to move to an Oceanfront room; the room directly next door to the one that I was considering buying. So, that offered me an opportunity to experience exactly what it would be like to live in that setting. Well, it was delightful and so by the end of my stay I had negotiated a deal and put a deposit down to hold the unit until September while I put my house on the market. Then, I returned home to New Jersey and immediately put my home of thirty-one years up for sale. And, to my shock, I had a qualified buyer and a sealed deal within four days. Then, I notified the MB realtor that it was game-on. Next, I began the hectic process of selling off most of my furnishings and belongs and shipping my Jeep to MB while being involved in closing the two properties and coordinating my move. I purchased a one-way ticket to Myrtle Beach, and when the move date arrived I lived my fantasy of getting on a flight to a beautiful destination, and just never coming back home again. So again, I landed in MB and checked into the resort only this time knowing that it was my home now and I will never have to leave again. I was filled with joy and anticipation of living in and exploring Myrtle Beach and all of South Carolina, and it was a wondrous feeling to be in a new place that was unfamiliar with and so everything was new to me; every road, the beaches the surrounding towns and neighborhoods too. I had to use my GPS every day just to run simple errands to the post office, the supermarket, pharmacy or whatever. And, I was having a lot of fun doing it. Myrtle Beach is renowned to be the golf capital of the world and so golf carts are seen on the streets everywhere one goes. They are rented out to the sight-seeing tourists for daily use along with mopeds and other recreational vehicles. However, MB is not tourist-trappy and although it’s a resort area its attractions are spread out and they are mostly family entertainment oriented. The beaches are glorious and are reminiscent of those in South Jersey having brownish coarse sand rather than the sugary white sand that is characteristic of Florida or Caribbean beaches. And, they are wide at around 100 yards at low tide and so don’t seem crowded to me even in high season. Too, they are free beaches and offer public access by law, even around the hotels and condo complexes. And, if they are unable of providing outside access, then they must have provisions for the public to transit through their ground floors to access the beach. Also, the beach rules are stringent concerning litter, and glass containers are banned form use. There’s a picturesque beach walk that extends for miles where families can leisurely stroll day or evening while enjoying the cool sea-breeze and scenic ocean views, or while clicking cell-cams pics. Of course, there are serious photographers too using high-end digital cameras to pursue their passion. Nighttime is enormously popular on the beach with families using a cell phone or flashlights to search for sand crabs or shells in the shallow ocean waters or to discover mullet either for viewing or netting and transferring into buckets for fish bait or for the little one’s discovery and entertainment. And, occasionally, one might catch a glimpse of sea trout jumping from the surf, their scales glittering in the moonlight as they dodge a predator fish. Nights along the beach seem spiritual with hordes of people young and old, large or small roaming the sand and just being happy while seemingly worshipping the sea and its gifts. The atmosphere is reminiscent of the scene in the movie Cocoon where all the seniors have expressions of hope and happiness on their faces in anticipation of the arrival of the alien spaceship. Or, on a more humorous note “Night of the Living Dead.” Two of my favorite spots along Myrtle Beach are the 14nd Street Pier and a place south of there where an inland stream intersects the beach and empties into the ocean. It’s a great place to bathe because the cooler water from the stream and the warmer water of the ocean caress one’s body in a spa-like and therapeutic swirl of foam and tide. Also, it a good place to prospect for seashells as the ocean tide washes them into the stream by the thousands. I’ve sat there for hours waist deep in the water digging for shells and playing in the sand just as I did as a child back at the Jersey shore; it evokes fond memories of family times with my parents. The fishing pier extends out into the ocean for a couple of hundred yards from a three-story seaside building that houses a bait and tackle shop, a restaurant, and an open-air bar on the top floor that provides dazzling views of the beach and the South Carolina coast as it curves out toward the sea. The admission price to the pier for sight-seeing is $2.00 for all day, and if you hold on to your stub you may leave and return as many times as you like. The price to fish is $10.00 with the same criteria and a two-pole limit. And, I can’t recall many things in the NYC/NJ area that I could do for two or ten dollars all day, except pay a traffic toll; but not very entertaining is that. As well, there are three other fishing piers along the coastline that I alternately walk and swim to while taking photographs along the way, and this has turned into one of my favorite pass-times. Myrtle Beach also features a boardwalk offering games of chance, restraints, taverns, Henna tattoo shops for the kids and teens, and a multitude of other attractions and rides of thrill. The most visible and popular is the huge Ferris wheel that can be seen from miles around along the beach. Myrtle Beach is located in Horry County, South Carolina and is situated on the center of a large and continuous 60-mile stretch of beach known as “The Grand Strand” in northeastern South Carolina. It’s ranked as the second fastest-growing metropolitan area in the country and is one of the major centers of tourism in South Carolina and the United States. It’s warm subtropical climate and extensive beaches, attract an estimated fourteen million visitors each year. However, as of the 2010 census, the residential population of the city was just 27,109, and in 2016 the estimated population was 32,240. As I continue to enjoy and explore my new home of Myrtle Beach I’m impressed with its diversity and I would describe it as a combination of New Jersey and Florida. As along the coast, it has palm treed beaches, yet just a few blocks inland from the beach the countryside features a variety a bark trees as well as an occasional palm. As well, there are two lane country, curb-less roads and state highways and is dotted with small houses and mobile home parks as well as middle and upscale condo complexes. Therefore, the area is reminiscent of western New Jersey to me. However, its climate is much like Florida, but less steamy. But, the real gold of MB is its people who are friendly and cordial. Most will greet you on the street with a good morning or good afternoon and are respectful to each other. Too, driving on the roads is a whole new experience compared to my road-rage days in the northeast as people generally obey the speed signs, don’t tail-gate, cut-off others, or flip them the bird. And, the store employees are genuinely helpful and will not just tell you where to find a requested item; rather they will show you and ensure that it’s what you are looking for. I have painted Myrtle Beach as being a Shangri-La. And, to me it is and I will never leave here again. Because I love it so. As I do the Navy which has been a constant positive influence in my life.