I spent last week in Myrtle Beach, and I didn’t get shot.
As poorly as I played golf all six mornings, perhaps I should have been shot.
But my experience in the land of today’s headlines — “8 people injured in 3 shootings in tourist areas of Myrtle Beach” or “ ‘Myrtle Beach is turning into a dumpster fire’: After weekend shootings, these tourists say they’re done with SC beach destination” — was not whether to live or die.
It was the choice of eating out at Frank’s or Bistro 217 in Pawleys Island.
It was a choice of dozing in a beach chair, or strolling down to the Pirateland Family Camping Resort where it buzzed with kids trying to net ghost crabs or slide down sand dunes on boogie boards.
A small plane battled the winds overhead to tell us Crabby Mike’s has more than 120 items on its seafood buffet.
Actually, our family gathering was in Surfside Beach, “The Family Beach.”
The shootings took place a few miles north, in town, where for generations South Carolinians had a love affair with a campy Pavilion full of games, wacky mirrors and photo booths.
Since the pavilion closed, we seem to hear more about biker weeks than beach music.
And now this.
Shortly after we left town, Myrtle Beach was home to a nighttime shooting melee that left a number of people injured at a busy intersection on Ocean Boulevard. And it was recorded live on Facebook. Quickly, the ugly scene was shared 1 million times online.
That makes the problem seem much worse than it is.
Myrtle Beach is going to deal with it. It might start with a greater police presence.
But this is not a Myrtle Beach problem as much as it is a society problem.
Here on Hilton Head Island, we’ve tried to be the anti-Myrtle Beach.
The oldest line on Hilton Head is a dire warning:
“You’re going to become another Myrtle Beach.”
It’s the only thing we’ve pulled out more often than a corkscrew.
Pioneer Hilton Head developer Charles E. Fraser said he thought Hilton Head was “just too attractive to let it go the way of all typical United States beach developments, which have a way of becoming a hodgepodge of conflicting uses, a joy and delight to all maniac builders and hot dog stand operators, but a nightmare to anyone with reasonable aesthetic standards.”
And before the ink had dried on his often-quoted words, the wailing was underway.
We were going to become another Myrtle Beach with the first bike paths, condominiums, timeshares, waterslide, McDonald’s, Red Roof Inn and Starvin’ Marvin, to name a few.
Islanders always saw a slippery slope to streets lined with large signs hawking “Live Sharks. Live Iguanas. Henna Tattoos. Free Piercing. HH Hoodies. Buy 1 Get 1 Free.”
And Hilton Head became the “Land of No.” No internally-lit signs. No neon. No billboards. No signs that anyone can read. No caricatures on signs. No ugly parking lots. No cruising strip parallel to the sea. No pavilion. No pier. No beach towels hanging on the railings. No bright lights. No giant T-shirt shops with doors shaped like the gaping jaws of a shark.
We think it has helped to say no to “maniac builders and hot dog stand operators.”
But still you hear warnings in other places that if they don’t watch out, they’ll become “another Hilton Head.”
Add a booming mainland, where every community claims to be steps from the beach, and we, too, could see the problems that come with congestion: too many people, locked and loaded, with ammo and cell phone cameras.