Since I was knee high to a grasshopper, I’ve loved little more than roaming Grand Strand beaches and finding sharks’ teeth. A lot of sharks’ teeth. And nothing thrills me more than stumbling upon a nice great white shark tooth. Well, almost nothing.

The bottom row of teeth are from great white sharks' lower jaws. The biggest tooth here is 2 1/4 inches...

The bottom row of teeth are from great white sharks’ lower jaws. The biggest tooth here is 2 1/4 inches…

Finding a big or perfect specimen here is nearly as rare as unethical practices among influential chamber of commerce members, city hall staying mum regarding the empty Myrtle Square Mall property, catching a round flounder.

If someone were to ask me what my favorite shark is, I’d waver between answering either great whites or makos. They’re both awe-inspiring apex predators and marauders of the big pond. Beautiful creatures, really. For purposes of this piece. I’ll give a slight nod to great whites.

“Mr. Vaughn, what we are dealing with here is a perfect engine, an eating machine. It’s really a miracle of evolution. All this machine does is swim and eat and make little sharks…,” Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) said to Mayor Vaughn in JAWS.

That about sums it up. One of the characteristics I like most about great white sharks’ fangs are the serrations down the sides. Perfect for tearing into seals or dead whales. Those serrations remind me of the cutting edge of a steak knife. To this day it amazes me that you can still see them on fossil finds even though the teeth have been buried beneath Poseidon’s realm for millions of years.

...but size doesn't always matter. These babies are darn near perfect.

…but size doesn’t always matter. These babies are darn near perfect. Unlike my photography skills.

Having collected many more fossilized great white sharks’ teeth than mako teeth on the sands of time, I’d surmise that makos haven’t marauded in these parts as much as great whites have over the last tens of millions of years.

Garnering a nice great white tooth is about being in the right place at the right time. I can’t help it if I’m lucky out on the beach a lot. Otherwise, I’d be harrassing food mart clerks or ruining my liver. I’d get so bored I’d be praying that Mormons stop by the bungalow to pedal fiction.

“Good morning,” they said with bothersome grins, “we’re on a mission from God and we thought we’d stop by in matching white shirts and Blues Brothers ties to convince you that our religion’s founder was sane.” “No thanks, fellas,” I answered. “I just ordered my sneakers from heavensgate.com and I’m waiting for the next comet. I’m just too busy right now. The Rev. Jim Jones’ kin are stopping in later to sell me some Kool-Aid.”

Lord, help me. And no. I’m not going outside the next time there are storm clouds in the area. Death-by-lightning isn’t my cup of tea.

I have, however, pushed the limit in that regard more than a few times. It’s difficult dragging my carcass off the beach when the shell beds are thick — thunder boomers overhead or not.

The photos here depict some of the best teeth in my collection. More can be found in “On Display” under the Dharma Beach Bum banner.

Smile!

(Bum raps: When I satirically wrote of Mormonism, I was alluding to Joseph Smith. Smith was kicked out of most states to which he meandered and he was murdered by a mob while imprisoned in Illinois. I don’t dig religious persecution, but I disdain people coming to my door pushing anything. Time to change my tune. Flounder are flat, stealthy fish that attack prey from the bed of the sea. The Myrtle Square Mall was demolished in 2006 and its huge parking lot along Highway 17 Business in Myrtle Beach has since been sitting empty. The land on which the mall sat is owned by Burroughs $ Chapin (B$C). B$C opened a new mall, Coastal Grand, in March 2004. Pavin’ paradise and leavin’ parking lots.)

Posted by: dharmabeachbum | January 8, 2014

Sand dollars among most cool of bottom feeders

May 5th of this past year I was walking the beach chuckling while recalling a politically incorrect joke told to me by an acquaintance a decade or so ago. I’m somewhat gullible and I fell for it hook, line and sinker. Twice, I think.

As I recall, it was chilly for early spring along the grandest of strands. I was wearing a sweatshirt beneath my favorite hoodie, which has since been stolen from the beach. The hoodie drew more than a little suspicion when I wore it. Imagine that.

The box is 6 inches long and 8 inches wide. That gives you a better idea how big this sand dollar is. You know what else I like about the box: there's a sticker on the bottom of it that says, "Made in U.S.A."

The petal-like pattern atop sand dollars are five paired rows of pores. Podia project through the perforations for purposes of gas exchange.

“Did you know,” the acquaintance had asked, “that a cargo ship carrying Duke’s Mayonnaise into port near Georgetown sank in Winyah Bay back in the ’60s?”

“No, I’ve never heard that.”

“Yeah, to this day it’s mourned as Sinko de Mayo Day.”

Since May the 5th is Cinco de Mayo, observed in the United States as a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride, one would think that I would have seen the punchline coming. “Nada” chance.

Political correctness isn’t really my bag and, admittedly, I’ve laughed every time someone has repeated that joke since. We need to be able to laugh at ourselves. So, there I was, walking the sands of time near the 63rd Avenue North beach access and laughing like a hyena. Luckily, both tourists and locals steered clear of me. They usually do.

The sea was angry that day, my friends, and Neptune tossed a fossilized sand dollar at my feet. Stunned, I lost control of my legs for a moment. It was as if I were doing the Mad Hatter chilliwack.

“Holy shit!” I’m not going to sugar coat it. Those words slipped out of my mouth before the indecency of it all registered in my mind. Two, maybe three times. I sounded like Bluto when he realized that he, Flounder and D-Day had managed to kill Dean Wormer’s horse in “Animal House.” I’d walked the beach 4,000 days without finding a sand dollar-turned-to-stone. I wasn’t about to suck on soap as punishment for a little slip of the tongue.

Still grinning like a Cheshire cat while wiping sand and silt from that beautiful echinoderm, I continued my stroll while staring at the fossil. People scampered away from me as if I were Godzilla walking out of the sea. Perhaps they assumed I was packing a semi-automatic weapon.

Just three years earlier I’d found the only other fossilized sand dollar in my collection while ditch digging along the Intracoastal Waterway. My friend, Mike Viderman, and I had only been there 15 minutes, scraping away at the banks with spades and pocket knives, when I unearthed that spectacular specimen. He found a smaller one later. Neither of us has had any luck finding sand dollars in subsequent trips to the waterway.

The box is 6 inches long and 8 inches wide. That gives you a better idea how big this sand dollar is. You know what else I like about the box: there's a sticker on the bottom of it that says, "Made in U.S.A."

The box is 6 inches long and 8 inches wide. That gives you a better idea how big this sand dollar is. You know what else I like about the box: there’s a sticker on the bottom of it that says, “Made in U.S.A.”

I relate well to echinoderms. We’re fellow bottom feeders. They’re just more respectable about it. They slowly move across the ocean floor, often submerging just beneath the sand, and eat microscopic organisms and organic particles. Hundreds of tiny legs push prey and dead stuff to a feeding cavity, located in the center of the sand dollar’s underside.

Live sand dollars are covered with small hairs called cilia. It’s pretty cool to feel those velvety spines moving in the palm of your hand, but I don’t mess with them much anymore. I put them back where they belong. Sayonara, Cilia.

Nearly all of the sand dollars we find along the Grand Strand are dead. Our discoveries are the bleached skeletal remains of a most fascinating creature.

I’m not holding my breath while anticipating the next fossilized sand dollar find, but I promise to bite my tongue if Mother Nature graces me again.

Dig it?

Sources: echinoblog.com, ask.com, IMDb.com

Posted by: dharmabeachbum | January 6, 2014

Living in a lunar spell, bum finds his heaven

When writing I often personify the sun and the moon, referring to them as Ra and Luna respectively.

I grin whenever I see Smiley Luna. The moon, on the other hand, makes me want to howl in admiration

I grin whenever I see Smiley Luna. The moon, on the other hand, leaves me howling in admiration.

Like most everyone else, I’m a fan of heavenly bodies, including the ones in space. So I jumped at the chance when someone offered to give me Smiley Luna, the moniker I bestowed upon the crescent-shaped vessel. Just seeing her made me want to bark at the moon.

Smiley Luna is home to 1,500 fossil sharks’ teeth. It’s a shame those teeth aren’t a little bigger, but all teeth are gems to me. Luna’s content includes some beautiful great white and mako specimens.

She also holds one of the nicest, extinct tiger shark teeth that I’ve ever found. I stumbled upon it while hunting fossils in front of what used to be The Cherry Tree Inn on the north end of Myrtle Beach.¬†Strangely enough, I saved the tooth from Poseidon’s grasp nearly two years ago while hunting fossils at night.

Over the years, I’ve gone beach nightstalking with a flashlight about 100 times, but I don’t do it much any more. Too many lycanthropes with bad intentions out there to risk going it alone.

The moonlight still hounds me, but I’ve got Smiley Luna to remind me of the good ol’ days.

Luna was a goddess in ancient Roman mythology. So, in Smiley’s honor, I’m going to use the name Sol when referring to the sun in my blog for awhile. If it was good enough for the Romans, it’s good enough for me.

Bum’s Rap: It occurred to me while wrapping up this piece that I wrote of Pliny the Elder’s take on sharks’ teeth in my first blog 1 1/2 years ago. Pliny was a Roman naturalist and philosopher. That blog includes a brief explanation about how sharks’ teeth turn to fossils. (http://dharmabeachbum.com/2012/06/04/sharks-teeth/)

Posted by: dharmabeachbum | January 5, 2014

I’m just a dreamer and sharks’ teeth are just a dream

People always ask me what I do with my fossil sharks’ teeth.

“Look at them. Feel them,” I answer.

The lamp on the right has been used. I picked it up at a yard sale and tried my best to clean it.

The lamp on the right has been used. I picked it up at a yard sale and tried my best to clean it.

“Well, where do you put them?”

“In the strangest places possible.”

Yeah, I’m weird. But I try to look at it from the bright side. If I were rich, I’d be considered eccentric.

Living in an area susceptible to tropical storms and hurricanes, it’s rather silly of me to fill the only two hurricane lamps I own with sharks’ teeth. What can I say? Using common sense isn’t my forte. So I’m weird and nonsensical. Great. That explains why I count shadows on the walls and why I have gargoyle bookends.

There are 2,000 sharks’ teeth in one of my lamps and over 1,600 in the other. I categorize my fossil finds according to condition and size and place them into vessels of all kinds.

The teeth in these lamps are what I’ve long called “shamers.” As in: “It’s a shame this tooth has a chip in it,” or, “It’s a shame that tooth is so worn.” These “shamers” range in size from three-eighths of an inch to 2 inches.

Posted by: dharmabeachbum | January 1, 2014

Sky is the limit in 2014

There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.

Truth be known, I was kind of bummed out on my return trip to Myrtle Beach. I’d just enjoyed ten days in my old stompin’ grounds, central Pennsyltucky, attending the wedding of my brother, Brad, and Laurie Spriggle Hufnagle, hanging out with my mother, Linda, and seeing kinfolk and friends that I hadn’t seen in too many years.

Lookin' down from the heavens on a heavenly sight.

Lookin’ down from the heavens on a heavenly sight, the Springmaid Pier.

Bummed about returning to my beloved adopted home in South Carolina? That’s quite an admission for someone who’s only been back to The Key-Stone-Age State twice in nine years. No offense meant to those still living there. I only referred to PA that way because buckles and potholes on roadways through Penn’s Woods are even more common than roadkills splattered along them. Long stretches of major Pennsylvania highways are eternally lined with traffic cones and heavy equipment. That machinery is seemingly as dormant as Mount Rainier in Washington. Yet, Pennsylvania Turnpike tolls have risen four straight years and will continue to rise as steadily and surely as ocean levels.

Nevertheless, I left PA behind with some regret this time. I’ve never stopped thinking about her unique countryside – hills and valleys and the Susquehanna River — since my defection from her. And I was thinking about those folks previously mentioned throughout the first leg of the flight back to Myrtle Beach.

After a short layover in Charlotte, my mindset improved. The flat terrain below was increasingly sliced and diced by waterways and marshes. Ocean breezes escorted promise of a homecoming toward the jet on which I was hitchin’ a ride. Then I saw the Atlantic’s serene greenery.

I did everything but click my heels as the jet banked over Mother Ocean and descended upon Myrtle Beach International Airport at 3:30 p.m. Dec. 31. I’m surprised I wasn’t sacked for suspicious behavior by my otherwise docile fellow passengers.

Oh snap! Whoa! How cool is the view of Springmaid Pier from above ol’ Neptune? I dig it, man. Far..freakin’..out!

Ruh roh! Just broke my New Year’s resolution and the sun dial had barely marked a new calendar year. I had sworn that I was going to adopt a more conventional writing style in 2014. That’s what I get for swearing.

The smoke from celebratory fireworks hadn’t yet dissipated with the changing of the calendar year and I’d strayed — managing to best my record when I vowed to lay off oat sodas as long as I could into 2013. Forty-seven minutes after midnight one year ago I opened the fridge and spotted a lone Yuengling. Had to put the poor thing out of its misery.

Oh, well. It’s like Mark Spitz said (probably just after listening to “Disco Duck”), “Records are meant to be broken.”

I’m using up my 2014 mulligan if y’all don’t mind. My new New Year’s resolution is to go to the beach as often as possible. That’s a promise I know I can keep. I also vow to write about the sands of time, the ocean and life along the grandest of strands with the same confessional style of my literary and classic rock heroes. That’s the way I roll. I like writing from my heart and with as much honesty as I can muster.

...and looking south over Myrtle Beach State Park and its pier.

…and looking south over Myrtle Beach State Park and its pier. Have a great 2014!

This past year was rather turbulent for me, but I rode things out until I found some clean air. I learned that I had it within myself to endure. To overcome. We all have that in us. It’s human nature to survive. To thrive.

“If you will it, it is no dream.” said John Goodman’s character Walter Sobchak in my favorite movie, “The Big Lebowski.” Walter didn’t let much faze him.

My wish for family and friends in 2014 is for y’all to make the most of every day and to have as much fun as possible while doing it.

Happy New Year everyone!

(Bum raps: According to the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, it’s raising tolls Jan. 5 so it “can continue making ongoing annual payments to PennDOT for road, bridge and transit projects around the Commonwealth as required by law in Act 44 of 2007, while still maintaining and repairing the turnpike system.” On a lighter note, Walter Sobchak cited Austrian Jewish journalist Theodor Herzl while talking to The Dude (Jeff Bridges) in “The Big Lebowski.” Herzl actually wrote the quote in German. “Wenn ihr wollt, ist es kein M√§rchen.”)

Sources: Wikipedia and paturnpike.com

Posted by: dharmabeachbum | December 26, 2013

Stone cold crab delights and excites

Mollusks, crustaceans and carrion are among a stone crab’s favorite meals, but the sizable specimen about which I’m writing has eaten its last supper, washing ashore from the surf off the north end of Myrtle Beach.

The body of this stone crab was at least six-inches across. It's among the biggest crabs of its kind that I've seen in many years of beachcombing.

The body of this stone crab was at least six-inches across. It’s among the biggest crabs of its kind that I’ve seen in many years of beachcombing.

Having supplemented its last meal with a veggie, sea grass, the crab succumbed to time or the elements last week. It was cool for me to have seen the Menippe Mercenaria while hunting fossils on one of several successive mornings during which temperatures dropped to the low 30s. Menippe Mercenaria. I hope I got that right. One must almost be a genius to distinguish among the genus, phylum, family, class and kingdom of critters.

I’m a beach bum. Not a scientist.

Crabaceous Humongous lay on the damp foreshore with its claws in front of its face as if it were ready to defend itself. Stone Crabs’ claws are asymmetrical. The larger of the two claws is the crusher claw while the other is the pincer claw. The crabs’ predators include conchs, grouper, sea turtles, cobia and octopi.

Stone crabs are dependent on coastal nursery grounds. That makes us their biggest enemy. We need to do a better job of caring for the coast. That way beach bums will be able to enjoy them for a long, long time.

Sources: Wikipedia, sc.dnr.gov/

Posted by: dharmabeachbum | December 20, 2013

Aristotle fascinated by sea urchins, bum gets the point

Only the bum could manage to get spiked by a dead sea urchin.

Sea uchin shells are fragile, but they make for nice decorative pieces if you’re into the Jacques Cousteau school of interior design. So, I pick ’em up every once in awhile, take ’em home and boil ’em to extract the critter that lives within the shell. Don’t forget to dump in a little bleach if you’re going to try this at home.

I think this is a purple-spined sea urchin. It sits as I found it – the poor critter’s final resting place. Well, not counting my pad anyway.

From what I understand, you can eat them, too, but fortunately I haven’t gotten that hungry yet. If you’re daring enough to try it, I recommend leaving out the bleach. Certain species are considered delicacies around our pale blue dot. Maybe I would to if I were marooned on an island.

Two sea urchins washed ashore within yards of each other when I was out pickin’ and grinnin’ on the sands of time this past week. Bein’ Christmas and all I figured they were gifts from Poseidon and I didn’t want to tee off the geezer so I took them back to the bungalow. Oops. Too late. I meant “young man.” Honest, I did.

That morn was brisk so I kept switching the sea urchins from hand-to-hand as numbness set into my digits. When blood started cirulating in my right hand again, I pulled it and a strange looking mixture of sand and lint from my pocket. My palm and parts of my fingers were rust colored. They resembled the handprint on Wilson, Chuck Noland’s (Tom Hanks) volleyball buddy in the great, Robert Zemeckis flick “Cast Away.”

“Don’t worry Wilson, I’ll do all the paddling. You just hang on.”

Hanks is such a great actor he had me believing that Wilson was alive. I relate well to his character. I talk to seagulls. I’m a bit worried, though, that one of them talks back. Come to think of it, Noland has conversations with Wilson throughout his four-year stay on an a South Pacific isle.

“We might just make it. Did that thought ever cross your brain? Well, regardless, I would rather take my chance out there on the ocean than to stay here and die on this shithole island, spending the rest of my life talking (yells angrily) to a g*#@$#m volleyball!”

Chill, Chuck. Young sea urchins might be listening and, trust me, you don’t want to get them riled up. Urchins of the sea are so ornery they come back from the dead and inflict injury. Two full days have gone by since I pricked myself and I can still feel the points of entry. I cleansed my punctures with hydrogen peroxide, but I’m still feeling a little woozy. Actually, I live with wooziness 24/7 365 days a year so I can’t distinguish one “woozy” from another.

Sea urchins’ spines serve as defense against predators. Put up your dukes, pal. Like other echinoderms they move by means of hundreds of transparent, adhesive tube feet. They eat algae and other tiny critters using a chewing apparatus known as Aristotle’s lantern. Sea urchins fascinated the Greek philospher.

Ari, who shared platters with Plato, had a lot of time to think. I reckon I do as well.

Sources: Wikipedia, IMDb

Posted by: dharmabeachbum | December 18, 2013

Myrtle Beach magical, mystical and, for some, mythical

It’s really cool to walk the streets of Myrtle Beach this time of year. Exchanging salutations with locals as you pass their properties. Talking with early-arriving snowbirds upon meeting them on the beach. And just hoofing it along the streets without too much traffic in town.

After spending most of the past week and a half ridding my computer of a virus and a browser hijacker, Nation Zoom, and recovering lost computer programs and music files, I decided to spend a day chilling, making the five-mile jaunt downtown with little more than a digital camera, identification and keys in the pockets of my shorts.

Splendid isolation. I don't really care to spend most of my time alone, but being all by my lonesome on Tuesday was most enjoyable. This photo was taken at 9:45 a.m.

Splendid isolation. I don’t necessarily care to spend most of my time alone, but Tuesday was a most enjoyable experience. This photo was taken at 9:45 a.m.

The beach has virtually been desolate the last two months with few others hunting sharks’ teeth. So, I incorporated fossil hunting into my itinerary and sauntered to my destination. My only mission: to take a few photos of the boardwalk, signs that I find interesting, a landmark or two, and a mural.

Tuesday was a perfect day for a good hike, which I made wearing two sweatshirts. The skies were clear. The temperature reached the mid to upper-50s. And the city prepped for the arrival of the many snowbirds who come here for Christmas. Gov’ment employees beautified the streets and made minor repairs on boardwalk fixtures. Contractors worked on several hotels.

I found 13 small and smaller sharks’ teeth and a nice piece of fossilized coral on the first-leg of the journey, leaving the beach for a few minutes to get two photos of the Sea Captain’s House restaurant at 3002 North Ocean Boulevard, returning to the white sands and then leaving them again 11 blocks later to get some shots of the mural on the side of Lulu’s Cafe. Those mural photos, which capture the essence of the beach here very well, will be published soon.

I was quite thirsty before admiring the art. It was too early for happy hour so I stopped at a convenience market for a Coke. The clerk was a little dry when it comes to social graces and I’ll leave it at that. While cutting through Chapin Park to get to the boardwalk, a derelict shouted, “Hey. Hey,” as I meandered along a walkway about 40 yards from him. He raised his hand to his face, gesturing that he needed a cigarette.

He would have been in luck a little over a fortnight ago, but I shook my head, turning down his request. Yeah, I know. I promised my readers a while back – swore on my name, in fact – that I was done with that nasty habit, but it took the ordering of E-Cigs, the help of sedatives and a heavy dose of willpower to finally quit an eight-month stint of smoking a half pack of cigarettes a day. As if breaking that promise isn’t bad enough, I’d also sworn to my mother that I was done with legal butts. Aye-yigh-yigh. I still carry my E-Cig with me like Linus carries his blanket. Eventually I’ll outgrow it.

Another thought or two on Chapin Park and the homeless dude and I’ll wrap up this chapter. Myrtle Beach is magical, mystical and mythical. To a poor person, especially one not in the know, it might seem to be a great place to set up shop. A lot of transients pass through this city after discovering that it’s not the paradise that they perceived it to be. They aren’t the first people to have thought that paradise is someplace down the road and they won’t be the last. So many of those transients end up hanging out in Chapin Park sooner or later and, sometimes, often.

The park rests in the same two block stretch as Chapin Memorial Library — from 14th to 16th avenues north. The homeless use both the park and the library for respite. Having purposely walked among the homeless for more than a month, holding many conversations and giving them smokes, I’ve concluded that the vast majority are without a roof over their heads by choice. These people aren’t among the unfortunate people roaming the avenues of America who suddenly lost gainful employment through no fault of their own. Most of the homeless here choose alcohol and drugs over shelter and I have sympathy for them. Addiction, as I know well, is difficult to overcome. Nearly impossible without significant help.

After be-bopping briefly on the boardwalk, I headed back via the sands of time to the hobo hacienda, raking in another 12 ancient relics and meeting a friendly couple from northeastern Tennessee. They, too, were hunting fossil sharks’ teeth and the gentleman told me they were having some luck finding smaller ones. We agreed that sharks’ teeth are gems regardless of size and that it’s great just being out on the beach.

...and looking north around one in the afternoon. As you can see by the shell beds, business was booming for me.

…and looking north around one in the afternoon. As you can see by the shell beds, business was booming for me.

Arriving back at the bungalow five hours after leaving, it was time for some rest. My spirit soared, but my legs ached. Then I got back to writing. Something I hadn’t done much of in days. Something I like doing every bit as much as I like combing the beach and communing with nature.

Living a dream. That’s what I’m doing here. That was part of the plan when I sought shelter from the storm on the Grand Strand. She’s turned out to be every bit the paradise I thought she was. But Eden isn’t necessarily elsewhere. Earthly paradise isn’t a place. It’s a thought. The realization that wherever you go there you are. It took me a long time to accept that concept. Even longer to make the most of that with which I’ve been blessed.

I can’t wait to wake up tomorrow and do it all over again.

Posted by: dharmabeachbum | December 13, 2013

Scandal and shams not good for city’s image, tourism

It’s been over a month since Jon Seagull last spoke with me. It’s hard to tell when that old bird is going to show up to talk about us and to remind me of what’s running through the recesses of our muddled-down minds. The last thing he said was pretty powerful stuff. That’s why I like when he visits. He said Nov. 6, the day after local elections, that it could be awhile until we see each other. He was going out to practice his flying techniques with the elders — far beyond the horizon.

“I don’t know when we’re going to see each other again. Heck, I can’t say for sure if we’re ever going to see each other again,” as he put it.

He caught me off guard that day with the sincerity of his greeting. To be blunt, it isn’t usually like him to be nice. He can be downright condescending, even arrogant at times. He’s the type of ol’ bird who will say what’s on his mind and he says it right to your face and not behind your back. I respect him for that. Our conversation that day was comforting. He was quiet and kind when he saw me shaking my head as I combed through shell beds.

“What’s going on, bum? I thought we were at peace with ourselves now days.”

“Oh, not much. And I am..we are at peace with ourselves. I was havin’ a good time finding sharks’ teeth and not thinkin’ about much of anything when local politics crossed..”

“Oh, cripes! The election. That made me sick, too. The ‘nice guys’ got re-elected. Nice guys my…”

“They are nice guys, Jon. Especially when it comes to being nice to people who further their business interests. Yeah, it gets tiresome knowing that voters seem to be happy being force fed garbage. Comfortable with status quo..”

“Election day,” Jon said. “Reminded me of when Marco Polo Sanford was elected to his seat down in the low country. It hasn’t been that long since he scampered off to South America to be with his sweetheart when he was supposed to be running The Palmetto State.”

“Come to think of it. You’re right. It was sort of like that. I can’t see where..”

“Remember when the editorial page editor, the Golden One, Danny Boy, at the Pablum Puke Pioneer wouldn’t publish your blog about Sanford because it was too ‘expository’.” (Sanford blog link: http://dharmabeachbum.com/2013/04/08/take-a-hike-mr-sanford/)

“Don’t rub it in, Jon. I did make the mistake, as he pointed out via email, of writing Sanford represented our district in that piece. Thankful he did. It took me all of one minute to fix. I don’t like making factual errors in my stuff.”

“The Pablum Puking Pioneer might as well change its name to something like, ‘The Sunny Not News.’ Very little newsworthy to read. Except for that guy who does some good investigative reporting. What’s his name? Come on. You know. His last name sounds like that of a bird.”

“You’re talking about David. And ‘good’ my butt. He’s exceptional. What a journalist should be.”

“Yeah, but without him and a couple others who work the cop shop that rag would be nothing more than public relations.”

“Can’t disagree with you there. Back to local politics..”

“That boy…”

“What boy? I thought we were talking about David. Let’s get back to politics.”

“Sorry, bum. My mind skips now and then. I meant the Golden One. He needs a suppository. A seven-point suppository like Clint mentioned in ‘The Enforcer’.”

“Are you going to let me finish now or are you going to keep interrupting?”

“Geesh, Dharma. Usually I’m the crabby one. You know I’ve been manic for months and I can’t stop from squawking. Go ahead.”

“Gee, thanks. We just had two people re-elected who should have done the community a favor and not run at all. A pretentious mayor who says nothing publicly about either the gigantic, gaping sore in the middle of town where the Myrtle Square Mall once stood or the former Pavilion site where the skeleton-like frames for the zipline stand. Temporarily, that is. ‘Duh, golly gee, I have nothin’ else better to do, so I thought I might as well run again. Somebody has to show up for the photo ops.’ Burroughs $ Chapin owns both properties…”

Jon cut me off. “…and just sits on them. Not to mention, they whined about the slow economy when razing the Myrtle Square Mall and The Pavilion then turned around and provided land for the new mall and land for the new development west of Bypass 17 up where we live. But we both know, bum, property owners can do what they want with their digs for the most part without government intervention. Well, at least property owners with a lot of clout.”

I gave Jon a glare that he recognized immediately and he expressed his sorrow. “Go ahead. It’s a bad habit, Dharma. You know we suffer from diarrhea of the mouth sometimes. Can’t keep from spoutin’ off to save our lives. Go ahead. Keep going. You were on a roll.”

“Sure, they can do what they want, Jon. That doesn’t mean they have to do it at the expense of the city’s image. That’s not the point anyway. A decent mayor would be speaking for his constituency, not just standing for the same people who get him elected time-and-time again. Then we have the councilman linked to a stolen document scandal through, if nothing else, association. Image is everything when it comes to attracting tourists. So what does he do? He stays in the race instead of bowing out gracefully and saving the city from more shame.”

“What happened? What did he do? What did he do?” Jon knew very well the details of the scandal of which I was speaking. He just wanted to hear it from me. He feeds on drama. That and sand fleas.

“As I was saying. He probably did nothing. Nothing! But someone acting in his best interests sure did. The missing documents were taken from the Horry County courthouse and they’re a huge part in a probate court case in which the councilman was accused of mishandling a widow and her childrens’ estate.”

“I bet she sure as hell was surprised. Go. Go. Tell me more. More!”

“Surprised probably doesn’t begin to cover what she’s feeling. There really isn’t much more to say at this point, Jon. As far as I know, the theft of the documents is still being ‘investigated’ and the outcome of the probate case is up in the air.”

“Up in the air. A space cadet. Like me,” the bird said while laughing.

That one gave me a much-needed chuckle. “I mean. What kind of unethical puppets would vote for these self-serving schmucks.”

“Well-to-do unethical ones, Dharma. People with business interests. You know what Dylan said. ‘Power, greed and corruptible seed seem to be all that there is.'”

I nodded in agreement and smiled at my friend. Jon gave me one last look with his beady eyes and flew away.

Bum raps: This blog is Part X of the Seagull Saga series. Most likely the last in the storyline. Even if that’s the case, I’m sure I’ll be mentioning him from time-to-time. He and I are birds of a feather. Besides, Master Po has been begging for column space. He’s a peaceful personality, much more so than Jon, but he likes playing devil’s advocate. Like Jon.

Posted by: dharmabeachbum | December 9, 2013

Macabre master’s musings come rapping at bungalow door

Sometimes the articles or books you read seem to drift your way across a cosmic web of destiny. Or via a simple twist of fate. Particularly specific passages from the masterpieces of literature.

My eyes aren’t what they used to be. While I can still find the tiniest of sharks’ teeth amidst light shell beds, the printed word is getting more difficult to read with each passing month. Yeah, it’s well past time for me to get glasses and I should consider myself fortunate that my vision has served me well for 52 years.

I happened upon a book from the Great Illustrated Classics series, “Tales of Mystery and Terror,” while looking through racks of used books at Chapin Memorial Library on 14th Avenue North in Myrtle Beach. The series offers easy-to-read adaptations targeted at children, featuring large print. Perfect. I’m still a child at heart, probably always will be, and the large fonts fit my needs.

“…but the whole island, with the exception of this western point, and a line of hard, white beach on the seacoast, is covered with a dense undergrowth of the sweet myrtle, so much prized by the horticulturists of England. The shrub here often attains the height of fifteen or twenty feet, and forms an almost impenetrable coppice, burthening the air with its fragrance.”

Did anyone else know – or could you have guessed — that this passage was written by Edgar Allan Poe and excerpted from one of his marvelous works? Well, it was. It’s one of the lead paragraphs of his story, “The Gold-Bug.” And here I always imagined Poe sitting in a dark, subterranean pad somewhere in Baltimore, writing and drinking himself to death while living with the horrors of melancholia as a mysterious raven rapped at his door. Don’t get any ideas, Jon Seagull VIII.

Here’s the first half of that paragraph: “This Island is a very singular one. It consists of little else than the sea sand, and is about three miles long. Its breadth at no point exceeds a quarter of a mile. It is separated from the main land by a scarcely perceptible creek, oozing its way through a wilderness of reeds and slime, a favorite resort of the marsh-hen. The vegetation, as might be supposed, is scant, or at least dwarfish. No trees of any magnitude are to be seen. Near the western extremity, where Fort Moultrie stands, and where are some miserable frame buildings, tenanted, during summer, by the fugitives from Charleston dust and fever, may be found, indeed, the bristly palmetto; but…”

Poe was describing Sullivan’s Island, located at the entrance of Charleston Harbor. He had to have passed through there sometime prior to “The Gold-Bug’s” publication in 1843.

White beach on the seacoast? Dense undergrowth of the sweet myrtle? Wilderness of reeds and slime? Bristly palmetto? The original master of the macabre might just as easily have been documenting the Grand Strand’s appearance in the same era. For that matter, the description would have been accurate for the grandest of strands until the turn of the 20th century. Without the use of horses and mules on sandy or mucky paths and of ferries across various waterways, our hamlet by the sea would have been virtually impossible to reach. It wasn’t until Burroughs & Collins (now Burroughs & Chapin) opened a railway from Conway to New Town (now Myrtle Beach) in 1900 that our coast became more easily accessible.

Poe had me from the tale’s beginning in more ways than one. The author caught me in a web spun with great storytelling and I fell for his deception like a fly to a spider’s “net.” I spent two-thirds of the story trying to figure out how and why a golden object would bite William LeGrand, a pauper who came from a once-wealthy, New Orleans family. At that point, I gave up, deciding to quit playing detective and enjoy the rest of the story.

Admittedly, I’ve read very little of Edgar Allan Poe’s writing. Other than The Raven, I hadn’t picked up any of his work for decades. I can only recall having perused “The Raven,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Fall of the House of Usher” and “The Cask of Amontilido.” I loved each of those works, so I re-read them after “Tales of Mystery and Terror” seemingly found me. The collection also included “The Gold-Bug,” which I might very well have scanned long ago. My memory is headed the same direction as my eyesight. The price of “Tales of Mystery:” 50 cents. Talk about a bargain!

Speaking of bargains. “The Gold-Bug” hints at the supernatural thoughout — a theme shared in Poe’s most popular poems and stories — but the story is actually an early form of the detective fiction genre, as LeGrand, after claiming to have been bitten by a scarab-like bug, goes to great lengths to find a treasure chest buried by Captain Kidd. Showing his brilliance, Poe intentionally misleads the reader from the beginning to focus on “The Gold-Bug” and it’s unknown origins. In the end, “The Gold-Bug” has very little significance. How grand is that?

Poe took an interest in secret writing and cryptography a few years prior to writing the “The Gold-Bug.” In including a cryptogram in the story, he challenged his readers to test his skills as a code-breaker. Fittingly, Poe’s death remains a mystery. Speculation as to the cause of his demise is wide-ranging, including the possibility that he was murdered because of his political beliefs. He was found delirious, incoherent and reportedly wearing clothes that weren’t his in Baltimore on Oct. 3, 1949. Poe died four days later.

After publishing this and upon finding the time, I’m going to do more research to make sure he wasn’t wearing a rucksack. Laughing out loud.

Will I ever cast aside Poe’s genius by virtually ignoring his writing for another two or three decades? Nevermore!

(Bum raps: The next blog will be published Friday. The return of Jon Seagull VIII, whose strange life is documented here under the category, Seagull Saga.)

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