Dedicated this Valentine’s day to my wife, Marleny Hucks. You are my light, my love and my North star. Thanks for saying yes. I am truly lucky in love because I, under the oddest of circumstances, was able to pull off winning the wife lottery.
This week, witnessing live footage of a city council meeting where a pastor, that I highly respect, publicly confronted our Mayor in response to Myrtle Beach’s ongoing denial about local crime, I was so reminded of what it means to be in relationship with friends, enemies and strangers as well. When we think about engaging in any new connection, we only consider its upside. We soon learn that pain is an honest part of any lasting relationship. On this week, however, a few related snapshots of events in Myrtle Beach summed up all of my years collectively as to my hate of this city, my love for this city, its people, my wife, my family, my friends. Especially on this valentine’s weekend, as I thawed out emotionally, a clear picture of our city came completely and wholly together in the context of love and other four letter words.
Myrtle Beach has been best described to me as “a sunny place for shady people.” I didn’t come up with that quote, but I wish I had. That wisdom comes to us straight from Peter L. Warburton of Newport, R.I. He has visited here for the last 40 years and that is his take on it.
Myrtle Beach is the very pretty girl you always wanted to date in high school, but never had the courage to ask out. She was the cheerleader that only the most fit, most cool, and most manly men could ever be seen with. But then, on one magical day, you found the nerve and to your surprise she said yes. Two years later, you realize this girl is a head case and a drama queen as well. She keeps you spiraling from one emotional episode to the next. You find yourself being drawn to her incredible beauty only moments later to be swept up into some ridiculous drama that is petty, time consuming and soul sucking. This girl is an emotional vampire, consuming the very most precious parts of your soul.
One city administrator summed it up best for me this past Thursday. She said, and I quote, “That is just the cost of doing business in Myrtle Beach.”
Love and other four letter words
My family has loved this area since 1767 when my great, great, great grandfather moved our family here from Surrey, Virginia. At the end of the last century, when the internet came of age, I loved this town so much, I hocked everything I owned and bought the name(s). The day I bought Myrtle-Beach.com and MyrtleBeachSC.com were two of the happiest days of my life. Owning those names has also brought me lawsuits, envy, problems with the city, and problems with a few local corporations that run the city behind the scenes, however.
Owning the names has also allowed me to connect with tons of local residents (that I dearly love), millions of tourists that read us weekly, small business owners that respect what we write, and even mid-level city government employees who privately champion our work.
Would I do it all again? When I commit to a thing, I make it a point to never ask that question.
Hate is a very strong word, but I have to admit that there are times that I have hated the enmeshment that is a small corporate click of locals who run city government and our state through manipulations inside of the powerful Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce. These select few are often clever and seldom wise. While all of the schemes and deals they have pulled off (through not for profits like Golf Holiday and the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce) have worked well for them, it has left us all with a run down Ocean Boulevard and a lack of small business diversity inside of the city.
Because of the high crime rate, downtown homelessness, and the ongoing drama that is city government, many potential high profile businesses work to locate just outside of the city limits of Myrtle Beach. Some time back, I confess that I really did resent that.
To continue to hate those people responsible, however, is to only bond with them, give them power, and poison your own soul. In the wisdom that comes with time, I learned the power of forgiveness. It is a gift I give myself daily.
Cash has truly been the god that has destroyed Myrtle Beach’s best potential. The love of cash above relationship and community, especially lately, has sabotaged opportunity after opportunity. The most powerful in our town falsely still believe that if the numbers work, that makes everything okay.
As a child, growing up here, all of my family worked for others. As an example, my uncle worked for an insurance firm. He put in his 40 hours, cut his grass on the weekend, went fishing and then to church on Sunday. He retired and now mostly plays golf. While that is typical of everyone in my family, it does not even begin to example the life my choices of loving this city has created for me.
No one enjoys being sued, but acquiring the brand names of Myrtle Beach has cost my family dearly. I have been sued 5 times. These suits run the gamete. I was sued once by the city, as the city falsely claimed I was a “travel agent” in the hopes of getting local jurisdiction in a suit they filed against Hotels.com. I was released by the city from that suit as I never was a travel agent. I got caught up in a suit where the city and the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber successfully had my Facebook page briefly shut down on the claims I impersonated the city. We won that one too. I have been sued twice by a local business owner (connected to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber Board members) accusing me of “slander”. We won that suit. And finally we were sued by the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce who claimed they owned the rights to one of our small family business names “Myrtle Beach Hotels.” After spending over $350,000.00 in legal fees, we simply walked on that trademark suit as staying in it continued to eat up all of my time and my attention. It also rapidly depleted my family’s retirement and savings.
The point here is that lawsuits lead to endless non paying work. I have put in tens of thousands of non revenue generating, petty work over the last decade for drama that was completely unnecessary and amounted to much ado about nothing.
Love is so expensive. To remain in any long lasting, all consuming romance, is to die to almost every life convenience.
Amazing! Love is the thing that makes us never quit. Of all of the many things that have come and gone in my life, two loves remain…. my wife and Myrtle Beach. When the city and the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber came at us full brute, I often wondered if Marleny would get tired of it all, pack it in and say enough. She never even had that thought. As the financial squeeze was put upon us by endless lawsuits and powerful business corporate alliances whispering to “not do business with this guy” in the community, I wondered at times if I would just pack it in as well. Still here, getting stronger every day.
Another of my favorite four letter words. Perhaps healing comes best at the last dying gasps of self. In giving up any hope in my ability to control or manage the drama that has been this city and a few unhealthy “city fathers”, I have certainly found a path to peace and healing. My surrender is just now opening doors for God to operate as he always has over the history of what is man from empire to empire.
Not the imaginings of a small child, caught on the whims of the wind, all that has been this love affair has caused me to place my hope in those few things that are solid… the love of God and the love of one true woman.
My most favorite four letter word. I believe our “Spirit” is wiser than we are, and when we only give it permission, it will always take us home. Home is the very place where we feel safe and loved. Home is the place where our talents are realized and expressed. Home is the place, that when we find it, we say “this is me.” Home is a place inside of us that God molds the world around us to fit. Home for me is to write. It is a wife, a beach and a city named Myrtle. Home is a God that holds me, lives inside and is all around all the time.
Love, hurt, joy, pain, perseverance, disappointment, adversity, attacks, and unexpected favor… all of these and more are Holy. Completeness and Holiness are beautiful to live out and experience.
AND FINALLY LIVE
Happy Valentine’s Day to my two true loves. May you learn to live together, not compete with one another.
To my wife: Thanks for bringing an increase of the presence of God into every space you occupy. One special place you do occupy is my heart. The second sacred space you occupy is this city. May God’s light in you continue to bring light into our city.
To Myrtle Beach: You are a city set apart by God himself. Despite your zealous love for this god called “cash”, our true God is just now wooing you, through the pain of your own choices, back to his truest heart. While the days just before you will witness changes you have greatly feared, those very changes will bring about a city that will draw an entire nation to admire, love and visit you. You will be a city of true love, diversity, and inclusion freed from the imprisonment imposed by a few corporate landlords.