I'm a Southerner
I moved to South Carolina in 2010. It is one of the best decisions I ever made.
Actually, the decision was made for me. I was working in New York City at the time, running The Daily Dirtnap out of an office on 3rd Avenue in Hedge Fund Alley, and my wife was teaching at Princeton. She wasn’t tenured, though. She was on a 5-year post-doc, so at the end of that 5-year term, she had to go someplace else. The job market wasn’t great at the time, and the best option she had was Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina.
I had never been to Myrtle Beach before. But we made the call. Let’s do it—sight unseen.
The first time we went down there was in December of 2009. The weather was cold and rainy, pretty shitty by Myrtle Beach standards. Our real estate agent Kenny had an insanely thick South Carolina accent which he acquired from somewhere up in the hills in the upstate. We unwisely decided to live in the vicinity of the university, so he gave us a whirlwind tour of houses in Conway. We settled on a 4-bedroom, 2600 square foot house, new build, for $240,000. I paid cash.
I say “unwisely” because Conway is vastly culturally different than Myrtle Beach. Myrtle Beach is “the city,” and Conway is decidedly country. In order to commute to my office, I had to drive about 10 miles on two lane roads, where the speed limit was 45. Inevitably, I’d get stuck behind a car that was going 15, at 7am on a Tuesday morning. It was nearly impossible to pass on that road, so I’d be stuck going fifteen miles an hour for miles. Then, the car would slow even further, to ten miles an hour, then five, and then would come to a dead stop in the middle of the road, turn the wheels to the right, and accelerate slowly into a driveway.
So keep in mind that I’m still in New York mode, and extremely high-strung, so I’m flipping out and yelling and dropping F-bombs at the car in front of me. I’d be so furious I’d be literally shaking and cutting people off the rest of the way to work. Then, of course, I’d pull up to a stop light behind a car, the light would turn green, and the car wouldn’t go. I’d lean on the horn and the car would begrudgingly rumble through the intersection.
That’s not how you do it in hashtag The South.
What you’re supposed to do in that situation is sit there quietly and not honk the horn, and wait for the person in front of you to wake up. Sometimes the light turns green, the car never moves, and then it turns red again. Meanwhile, there’s a whole line of cars behind them who never honk. They’ll just wait until it turns green again. Nobody is in any particular hurry.
There is a lot of wisdom in that. After a while, you start to learn that you’re really not that important, nothing you need to do is particularly urgent, and maybe the extra two minutes that you get to sit and reflect on things is actually good for you. It’s ego deflation. New Yorkers will never get this. Ever been in line at a Starbucks in New York? Starbucks employees in NYC are by and large very fast and efficient, but every once in a while, things aren’t moving too quickly and the woman in front of you will become increasingly agitated. She’ll shift her weight, she’ll wring her hands, she’ll sigh, she’ll stand on her tiptoes to see what is going on, and occasionally she’ll head to the front of the line to give the poor barista a piece of her mind. That would never happen in the South. You could wait for a half an hour in line at Starbucks and nobody would blink an eye.
New Yorkers don’t want to hear this, but that is the correct way to live your life. New York is full of fucking crazy people. Figuratively and literally. Anxiety is through the roof. There are 8,200 psychotherapists in New York. And crucially, nobody is particularly happy. Everyone is serious as a heart attack. Everything in New York is a competition. Getting a cab is a competition. Getting on the subway is a competition. Taking a piss is a competition. And lack of sunlight is a real thing. Myrtle Beach gets an incredible amount of sunlight—218 days a year. New York gets 107.
The one nice thing about New York? You get plenty of exercise. The average person walks 5-10 miles a day, up and down stairs, burning thousands of calories. You don’t see too many fat fuckers in New York. Since I moved to South Carolina, I’ve put on 50 pounds. I probably walk 800 steps a day. I hit the drive-thru for Chick Fil-A and Cook Out. And there’s not really a culture of working out here. It’s becoming more common to see someone running nowadays, given all the Northerners that have moved in, but when I moved here, you never saw anyone running on the side of the road. Obesity in the South is a real thing. And occasionally some entrepreneur will open a salad place down here and it won’t last three months. Virtually all restaurants have nothing vegetarian on the menu.
But there is no amount of money that you could pay me to move back to New York. And yes, New York is more expensive, and taxes are higher, and my money goes much further down here, but it is not really about that. People are happy down here. Maybe dumb and happy, but that counts. There are too many guns here for my taste, especially in cars, so I’m not in the habit of flipping people off on the road, but maybe that is a good thing. Since everyone is armed, there is civility. And speaking of which, one of the things that used to bug me when I moved down here was that people are unfailingly polite. Isn’t polite a good thing? Not always—with New Yorkers, you always know where you stand. You can get in a fuck you screaming match with someone and then go out for a beer afterwards and have some laughs. Just because people are polite here, doesn’t mean there is no hostility. It just happens behind your back.
The weather here is fucking awesome. 6 months out of the year, it’s California weather, in the spring and the fall. In fact, Myrtle Beach is approximately the same latitude as Los Angeles. In the winter, it’s in the 50s. Maybe the 40s in a cold snap. The summer is hot and miserable, and this place is overrun with annoying tourists. If I’m outside, I’m in my pool. It’s hard to understate the humidity. It is oppressive. When I was in New York, I was one of those fat guys who started getting sweaty and cranky when the temperature got up to 78. Now, I go back to New York in August, and it feels cool. And more importantly, people take showers down here. Sometimes two a day. When I get off the plane in LaGuardia, the first thing that hits my nose is B.O. People walk 10 miles a day, stand in subway stations hotter than the gates of hell, sweat down their asscrack, and at the end of the day, they smell like shit warmed over.
We have homeless in Myrtle Beach, but you generally don’t see them—they live in the woods. As for the crime, there is a fair bit of property crime down here, and there are some places that you just don’t go. I don’t go to bars in Myrtle Beach. Once a week, you’ll be watching the news, and you’ll get the “man shot in bar” segment. Dudes go into bars packing, get loaded, and start shooting. It’s like Tombstone. If it doesn’t have a restaurant attached to it, I don’t go inside. It happened here last week. Some dude got shot in the stomach in the parking lot of Klockers at 2:30am and when the cops showed up, he didn’t even want to press charges.
I’ve lived here for 12 years, and I’m not moving. It’s good living. If you can deal with the jorts and the mopeds and the Trump stickers, it’s the best place in the world. And I bring up the Trump stickers for a reason, because there is a class of people who wouldn’t be able to handle it, living amongst people they disagree with politically, which is fucking stupid. Besides, this state is slowly getting more Democratic. Henry McMaster won re-election as governor in 2018 by a slim 54-46 margin, against a weak opponent. He’s going to have his hands full this year with Joe Cunningham. And this place is becoming increasingly diverse. For a while, I was a fixture at Myrtle Beach’s only gay club, mostly because I was angling for a DJ gig. It was actually the best nightlife in town.
And I am still the only guy in Myrtle Beach with a Bloomberg terminal, and I want to keep it that way.
Go fuck yourself,
Music Recommendation: Joris Voorn – Too Little Too Late (feat. Underworld). Joris Voorn and Underworld? Take my money! This is an amazing track, and Karl Hyde is the best poet of our generation. My only complaint as a DJ is that it’s at 128bpm. Slow the beat down.
P.S. We’re Gonna Get Those Bastards will always be free. Please forward to whoever you like.