The Gentrification of Folly Beach

In the halcyon days of the early century, when people asked me how long I’d lived on Folly, and I’d reply ten or fifteen – depending on the year –they’d inevitably respond, “Wow, you must have seen lots of changes.”

“Actually, not all that much on the East Side where I live,” I’d say. “There’s no sewage, so you can’t build a beach McMansion on a lot that doesn’t perk, or barely perks.”

Alas, however, that assessment predated the proliferation of Airbnbs that are popping up all over the island like irritating internet ads, infiltrating not only the commercial district but residential neighborhoods as well. The unpaved lane where our home stands, once the site of an idyllic neighborhood of mostly unmarried senior citizens, has been transformed into Little Fort Lauderdale. Houses that were zoned for one or two bedrooms now hold as many as fifteen to twenty defecators straining the unseen septic tanks over which they park their vehicles on lawns of well-tended rye. 

And, when night/ Darkens the streets, then wander forth the sons /Of Belial, flown with insolence and wine.[1]

Why rent your quaint beach cottage to a struggling musician or food and beverage worker when you can make more in three days than you would in a month by renting to bachelor party attendants or untanned wanna-be beachcombers rolling up in their exhaust-spewing Pathfinders?

I walk to the post office every weekday morning, and I’d guess seventy percent of the traffic consists of the white pick-up trucks of subcontractors, the plastic surgeons of construction, engaged in the soul-crushing transformation of gentrification.

However, it’s not really the funky real estate that makes Folly Folly; rather, it’s the long-term renters, the bartenders, cooks, and waitresses, the painters, the musicians, eking out their livings in a soulful setting.

The population of residents of Folly is in decline. Leave it to Springsteen to nail it:

Because there’s just different people coming down here now and they see things in different ways
And soon everything we’ve known will just be swept away.[2]

But look, there’s a conga line of bachelorette party weekenders! Hubbub-hubbub-bubba, swish boom Bah!


art by Wesley Moore III


[1] Paradise Lost, 1.500-3. Perhaps I should have titled this piece “Paradise Lost.”

[2] “Independence Day

Bachelor Party at Chico Feo’s: An Anthropological Study

chico bachelor party

 

Last Saturday, I had the opportunity as an anthropologist to observe a late afternoon bachelor’s party at Folly Beach’s little corner of the Caribbean, Chico Feo.

By the way, bachelor parties for centuries have been traditional components of mating and marriage rituals in the West. Whether you’re bidding “farewell to bachelorhood” in Munich at a Junggesellenabschied or in Arles marking the “burial of the life of a boy” at an enterrement de vie de jeune fill, you can be assured of one commonality: the Junges and garçons are gonna get shit-faced just like the lads in Liverpool and the dudes of Malibu.

 

Berlin Junggesellenabschied

Berlin Junggesellenabschied

Indeed, even though it was merely four in the afternoon at Chico Feo, a few of the entourage exhibited telltale signs of intoxication — sleepy, glazed eyes; mouths that hung open; wobbly legs. The first reveler in this condition I encountered kept bumping into the vacant bar stool adjacent to me.  Charlie, Chico’s world-class bartender, informed me with a scowl that these fellows were part of a bachelor’s party. It appeared that Charlie had already cut this fellow off.

I’d estimate these young men to be from the Northeastern United States, a section of the country in which good-natured mockery seems to be an ubiquitous social custom (see Tolerating Middle Class Northerners for Dummies). The bros bantered about slinging insults, ordering beer after beer, and slurping down in one swallow Chico’s delicious tacos as if they were oysters.

Most of these young men were large in stature, and even if they weren’t, they sported over-sized biceps and an array of body art ranging from rustic gunmetal blue barbed-wire wraparounds to high-end multicolored patterns that screamed Gauguin. It seemed, though, that some had acquired their muscular upper arms a while ago because now their abs resembled not so much washboards as loads of laundry.

It was interesting to try to determine who reigned as alphas of the cartload. One “dude” particularly seemed in charge, a vociferous twenty-something who looked as if his ancestors may have entered Ellis Island from Brindisi. He had an olive completion, aquiline beak, and jet-black short-shorn hair covered by a baseball cap worn backwards. He was conversing with some female patrons, boasting of the Adonis-like beauty of one of his friends, Paul, a ridiculously good-looking and fit fellow whose sandy hair fluttered in the on-shore breeze. Paul was sitting at the bar but looking in the opposite direction at the bacchanal taking place beneath the overarching trees that provide shade for Chico’s tables and chairs.

“These chicks want you to take off your shirt, Paul,” the alpha shouted in an accent that I’d place somewhere close to Newark.

Paul sat there passively grinning.

“C’mon Paul.   Show ‘em what you got.”

The females nodded their heads, and the ringmaster shouted, “C’mon, Paul, take off your shirt. Now! Show us your tits,” and a chant began “Show us your tits, show us your tits,” to which bartender Charlie, the real alpha, put an immediate stop. The ringleader opened his mouth and raised his arm as if he were going to continue, but Charlie’s stare short-circuited the bravado, and the erstwhile alpha dropped his hand and benignly smiled what I would call (removing my pith helmet of anthropological professionalism for a second) a stupid, shit-eating grin.

“Hey, which one’s getting married?” I asked Charlie.

“I don’t care,” he said shaking his head.

Unlike Dian Fossey or Jane Goodall, I didn’t ingratiate myself my this cartload[1] of not-so-fun-folks to follow them to their next destination, the Tides Hotel where they were wisely staying, eliminating even the need of Uber for their locomotion. However, I suspect that before the evening came to its inevitable end, these celebrants would witness some form of burlesque for hire, i.e., a stripper performing that age-old ritual.

I’ll leave you with this from Wikipedia:

In Israel, the bachelor party is called מסיבת רווקים. Such parties often feature heavy drinking and sometimes the presence of strippers.

Israeli מסיבת רווקים

Israeli מסיבת רווקים

Seems like a pattern, huh.


 

[1] Did you know you call a group of chimps a “cartload?” It’s a troop of gorillas and baboons, a barrel of monkeys, but a cartload of chimps. Go figure.