Ahh...summer in Dixie.
It gets hotter than the hinges of Hell during a Southern summer. It doesn’t help that the humidity makes you sopping wet the very second you step outside. Yes, when I’m driving around running errands on one of those 100 degree/100 percent humidity days, I marvel at how our ancestors avoided dropping like flies with heat stroke. It wasn’t even all that long ago when ice wasn’t an option for your beverage of choice.
Of course, technology has evolved to make Southern summers a bit more tolerable, but that doesn’t mean that we’ve cast tradition into the wind, either. No, there are certain signs a person can spot to know that summer has officially gotten underway—and I’m not talking about the brick-kiln heat, either.
First of all, the locals dress even skimpier than usual. Yes, during the winter I wonder about how they manage to avoid frost bite with their barely there attire and—if you can believe it—the clothes are even less there during the summer months. A very popular trend around some of our...more casual...beaches is the fabulous Confederate Flag Bikini. Google it and witness its fabulousity for yourself.
Yes, the Confederate Flag Bikini (or CFB as we like to call it) has been around for as long as I can remember. The first time I ever actually registered the CFB, I thought it was Dukes of Hazzard swag—it was back in the early 80’s after all. Eventually I caught on to the actual meaning. It was at that point of realization that I became unsure as to whether scantily clothing one’s bosoms with a Confederate Flag—or the Stars and Stripes or the Union Jack, for that matter—honors the flag or mocks it. I guess it depends on your point of view. Nevertheless, my brother and I decided a very long time ago that the first sighting of the CFB of the season makes the official beginning of the North Carolina Summer...kinda like Groundhog Day for the winter, but with more eye candy. (By the way, I have yet to lay eyes upon a one piece Confederate Flag bathing suit. Ponder that.)
Of course, one doesn’t have to go 100% Confederate Rebel to have a Dixie Summer. There is a very interesting contrast down here between the men and the women enjoying the beach. Our redneck brothers act as they want to induce a heat stroke: I never have and never will understand the appeal of frolicking around in the surf and sand in blue jeans. They could at least wear cut-offs if they feel that strongly about their denim, but their logic seems to be reliance on their wife beater t-shirts to keep them cool.
The women on the other hand...well, the women look like they pine for the beaches of Rio and the South of France. They wouldn’t wear a stitch if they could get away with it and their “attire” appears to be nothing more than pasties and string. Yes, I’ve wrestled with the urge to cover the innocent eyes of my Baby Belles when some of the real stripper wannabes come strolling along the sand.
Another sign of the commencement of Southern Summer is when those horribly tacky Wings/Eagles/Bargain Beachwear stores on EVERY SINGLE CORNER open back up for the season. Yes, they turn on the full power of their billions of neon lights to the point that I wonder about airplanes and space shuttles being too blinded to land. I managed to make it thirty-seven years without setting foot in one of those joints, but I had to break my streak when I took Baby Belle 1 to Myrtle Beach last week and forgot her all-important flip-flops. It was as bad as you would expect: The place was a ghost town (there’s such a glut of them I don’t know how any of them get enough business to stay open) and there were three employees sitting at the check-out counter twiddling their thumbs. On the plus side, if you want salt and pepper shakers in the shape of boobs, the fourteenth Eagles on your right traveling into Myrtle Beach is the place to go.
The next super fun thing about a summer in Dixie is the amazing technological strides made in adult beverage transport and concealment. The rules are constantly changing with regard to what you can and can’t drink on the beach and whether it can or can’t be in a certain type of container. I hate to say it, but the best way to hedge your bets it is to hide your hooch rather than decipher the latest ordinances.
In my line of work, I have the privilege of seeing the latest and greatest alcohol containment and concealment contraptions and let me tell you that I get more and more impressed every summer. I have seen coolers with false sides, bottoms and tops. For the beaches where vehicles are allowed, I’ve seen booze in tires (blech!) and—more boringly—under seats, in glove compartments and dashboards. I have seen beers and brown liquors passed off as apple or prune juice in bottles and sippy cups and—although it wasn’t alcohol—I feel obligated to tell you about the bikini with the put stuffed where the breast padding should have been. A hair extension was used to mask a flask, but that turned out to be a poorly conceived plan because the wearer rather stupidly went swimming.
Of course, there’s one tried and true method that folks can always fall back on when trying to smuggle spirits onto the sand: Take one watermelon and one bottle of vodka (the crappier the better—rednecks don’t go for the good stuff), stand the watermelon on one end and cut a hole in the top. Pour the bottle into the hole and let it sit a while. Cut, eat and stagger.
Summers on the Carolina Coast are magical. They are so amazing that countless music legends have written odes to their greatness. It’s a privilege to stick your toes in the sand of North and South Carolina and all of the Southern sights are just the cherry on the cake of the experience.