What’s happened in your life over the past five years? Quite a lot, I’d venture.
Well, same here. Five years ago, one of the intrepid reporters for this very publication tracked me down at home at the North Pole. Normally, I would have ducked him and directed my PR elf, Manny, to call him back or just issue a press release. I get enough publicity every December when I zip around the world dropping off Christmas presents to each and every kid who’s been nice and not naughty over the past year. But the caller was from Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, and I’d developed a soft spot in my heart for that booming little town by the sea.
I told that inquiring newshawk that my experiences during my visits to Mount P. had always been positive, and I even suggested that if I were planning a vacation, the town would be pretty high on my list of potential getaway stops.
Now that suggestion has become reality, and in a way that I never would have envisioned. Let me explain.
First, don’t forget that living and working at the North Pole isn’t exactly a walk on the beach – pretty good analogy, don’t you think? By the time I set off on my annual world tour, the Pole – I like to call it Memorial Waterfront Park North – is dark 24 hours a day. By June, of course, the sun never sets, but try working on your tan when an Arctic heat wave staggers up to only around 60 degrees.
But I digress. Truth to tell, once my yearly Christmas journey is completed, I’m at loose ends for at least a few months. Technology has arrived at the Pole, and, thanks to high-speed computing, robotics and 3-D printing, most of my elves have moved into supervisory positions. I’m more or less like the CEO who spends much of his time on the golf course, except that the permafrost where I live makes it kind of hard to grow a green or dig a cup. Mrs. Claus likes our new arrangement because it frees her up to knit, bake and watch reality shows on our satellite TV. (She’s lobbying for “Real Housewives of the Arctic Circle.”) So the wife is happy at the North Pole, but she’s not opposed to the occasional vacation elsewhere.
Long story short, last year I decided to turn over a new palmetto frond, so to speak. I’d make an unannounced visit to Mount Pleasant and see if it was as inviting as I’d said it was when I was asked five years ago.
Getting there wasn’t as easy as it was when I simply hopped into my sleigh, snapped a brisk command to my eight tiny reindeer (plus Rudolph, of course) and cleared myself for takeoff. We had to slip into Fairbanks unnoticed to catch the first of four flights that would carry me to Dixie. Lucky we’d had all that experience dropping off toys without being spotted!
By the way, that’s one thing that would make Mount Pleasant even more popular – a few direct flights from far-flung cities into Charleston International Airport. Or maybe it’s best that it’s tough to get there – keeps the riffraff away!
I’d booked myself a room at the Holiday Inn down by the Ravenel Bridge so I could wake up every morning and look out to see that shimmering span framing the entrance to the busy harbor. Tired from my trip, I slept in and wandered down to the lobby around noon.
I was astonished to see 100 or more men and women lined up to enter the dining room. They were all at the hotel for something called the Mount Pleasant Business Association. Non-members were welcomed, so I plunked down my admission fee and joined the chow line. My plate piled high with a tasty meal, I settled in to enjoy a guest speaker and maybe make a few new friends.
I was enjoying a pleasant conversation with an attractive woman at my table – I believe she was an actuary – when a gregarious gentleman across from me called out, “Hey there. You in the whiskers. You’re new around here, aren’t you?”
Cautious about revealing my identity, I quickly made up a story.
“The beard’s for the annual Ernest Hemingway look-alike competition in Key West. I thought I’d take a few days off en route to see what your town is like.”
Next thing I knew, this fellow – his name was Bill – had rearranged the seating and pulled up alongside me, talking a mile a minute. I didn’t catch his line of work, but he sure knew a lot about Mount Pleasant.
Between the main course and dessert, he’d set me up with David Kent, a Realtor® who only works with buyers, and a broker from The Mortgage Network to find me a “getaway” home I could enjoy as a “sandbird.” I didn’t dare tell him how spot-on that label was!
This Bill guy was a real cheerleader for Mount Pleasant, but, when it came down to the nuts and bolts of setting myself up as a warm weather resident, his colleague Denise was a treasure trove of information. Denise offered to walk me to my car, which was slightly embarrassing because I didn’t have one. I’d taken Uber from the airport.
“No problem,” she said, steering me to Enterprise to rent some wheels.
Then she started to reel off a list of “the best of ” in Mount Pleasant, from doctors to lawyers to skate stores to a veterinarian – but I’ll bet that doc doesn’t treat too many caribou cousins in his practice. Bill phoned her while we drove, eagerly urging Denise, “Don’t forget Bricco Bracco or Okra Grill. The guy’s gotta eat. He’d love sunset on the deck at Red’s Ice House, the tequila assortment at SOL and just about everything at Tavern & Table.”
Well, I know I’m a pretty hefty guy, but I hadn’t traveled 4,000 miles just to escape Mrs. Claus’ cuisine. I suggested that as an amateur oenophile, I’d like to find a selection of good wines. Then “as dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,” like we say back home, I was driven up Coleman Boulevard where I found an excellent merlot and a very nice chardonnay at Bottles Beverage Superstore. Along the way, my two guides regaled me with tales of how great their town had become and how many new attractions it offered.
I’ll admit I was impressed. I’d always been fond of their historic town East of the Cooper, but, during my Christmas Eve visits, I’d never had time to catch up on how much it had changed for the better.
By the time they’d dropped me off back at the Holiday Inn, I had six pages of scribbled notes on my pad and a ton of great ideas about how to enjoy Mount Pleasant. There was golf at RiverTowne Country Club, kayaking with knowledgeable guides at Nature Adventures Outfitters and so much more. And forget about doctors and dentists. If I develop any issues, Mount Pleasant’s top drawer health care professionals will have the answers.
Before the sun set that evening – and, believe me, South Carolina sunsets are a real treat for a guy from the North Pole – I was convinced. Mount Pleasant was the place for me to spend those lazy, crazy days of summer I’d missed during all those long, dreary years in the frigid North.
I bought myself a nice place – exactly where, I’d prefer to keep secret, although I’ll hint that it’s south of Awendaw and west of Sullivan’s Island. I added a hot tub from Atkinson Pools and Spas so I can unwind and called in C&C Myers to tune up my air conditioning unit.
I’m really happy to have found a “sandbird” home away from home right here in Mount Pleasant. But I often wonder about the two people who helped make it all possible. I never got their full names when they zipped off to do whatever they do for a living. They didn’t leave anything behind except a copy of Mount Pleasant Magazine. Not even a little Christmas gift. Or a silver bullet. Oh – they did leave me a brochure for the Mount Pleasant Senior Center. I guess my youthful rosy cheeks and hearty “Ho, ho, ho” didn’t fool them at all.