Before seniors leave Yale for good to begin their lives in the real world, they got a week to play hard and play “dead,” a welcome break after a long four years and an even longer senior essay semester.
For many seniors, playing dead consisted of intense partying at the beach, bookended by roadtrips with the friends they would soon be leaving.
Robert Mutter ’02 let his inhibitions go and headed to Myrtle Beach for his break.
“More than anything,” he said before he left, “I’m just looking forward to that trip and the next few weeks in general to spend quality time with friends and to catch up with others that I haven’t seen as much because of the Yale grind.”
With the Confederate flag controversy in South Carolina two years ago, the Black Student Alliance at Yale encouraged alternatives to the traditional Myrtle Beach pilgrimage. Despite continued sanctions by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the controversy has died down. While there are many alternatives to Myrtle Beach, the South Carolina spot remained a steady favorite for graduating Bulldogs, despite its many oddities.
May Days in Myrtle
At Myrtle, it was beach by day and clubs by night. With golf, movie theaters, Hooters, strip clubs and even a Krispy Kreme Doughnuts shop, Myrtle possessed something for every Yalie. And if the evening partying and morning hangovers got boring, there were, shockingly, other ways that seniors passed the time on Myrtle Beach’s Grand Strand.
Thousands of Myrtle locals along with seniors flocked to the Blue Crab Festival in mid to late May. More than 135 arts-and-crafts booths competed for prizes while food booths boasted everything from steamed crabs to grilled tenderloin to pizza. Aside from the food, the festival offered a variety of live musical performances including jazz, country, bluegrass and gospel.
For parade lovers, the Omar Shrine Temple Parade held on Kings Highway provided a chance to see adult men, dressed strikingly similarly to circus clowns, ride around in miniature cars. The ceremonial mid-May parade included 50 to 60 Shriner units that delighted the crowds with go-carts, clowns, floats and motorcycles.
In the same area, there was Art in the Park, a mini-festival held three times during the summer months in Chapin Park. Local artisans presented and sold fine art pieces and handmade crafts. Food and beverages were always available, and admission for the art show was free. The children’s playground was a best bet for those who could wrestle a swing away from the five-year-old grandchildren of retirees.
Some lucky seniors made it in time for National Harley Davidson Bike Week.
“We decided to go parasailing, and we got stuck in horrendous traffic because there were thousands of bikes on the road,” said Barclay Satterfield ’02.
Radhika Natarajan ’02 said dead week at Myrtle had a relaxing effect.
“What I enjoyed most about Myrtle was that there were so many Yale seniors there and you could enjoy their company, relax and feel like a real person again.”
In South Carolina, it is both Prohibition and the Civil War at the same time. Due to some temperance-loving liquor laws that make it illegal not to finish a bottle of alcohol at a bar after it has been opened, all drinking establishments are stocked solely with tiny bottles fearful of harming even Gary Coleman’s liver. Also, by law, hard liquor and beer must be sold in separate locations. For beach-going Yalies, beer was the way to go, and it was much cheaper.
Two years ago, the NAACP began economic sanctions against South Carolina after the state legislature refused to remove the Confederate flag from a position of sovereignty on public grounds — a flag the NAACP considered the vestige of a regime that took up arms against the U.S. government to preserve slavery. While the flag is still flying, many Yalies did not debate over whether or not to visit the lovely South Carolina coast. For students in the Class of ’02, dead week was all about the trouble of getting drunk among people who still think it is 1863.
For some seniors, dead week was still too soon to say goodbye to New Haven. That’s right — chilling at good old Yale sounded mighty fine to some. The Yale Glee Club, for example, remained at Yale, and is still planning a month-long trip to Africa. They leave the day after graduation and head to Senegal, Morocco, Namibia, South Africa and Mauritius.
Olivia Wang ’02 spent the time before Commencement testing the old adage and seeing whether all roads do lead to Rome.
“My friends and I are going to Rome, Italy for senior week,” Wang said beforehand. “We’re going to de-stress by eating lots of yummy Italian food, shopping ’til our wallets are empty and our credit cards are maxed out, and soaking up the sights and sounds of Rome.”
But there’s still no place like home. Amanda Farris ’02 practically hugged Canada when she traveled to Acadia National Park in Maine with a group of friends. While road-tripping, sightseeing at Thunder Hole and Cadillac Mountain, hiking, cooking, and relaxing, Farris and her friends did “stuff that’s hard to do around Yale or Myrtle Beach.”
But for most seniors, whether or not they went to Myrtle, dead week was a last chance to enjoy the company of good friends.
Ellen Moskowitz ’02 returned from a week at the beach grateful to have one remaining week, senior week, to cherish with her friends.
“I met some new people at Myrtle,” Moskowitz said. “My best memory was lying on the beach, looking around me, and seeing the beautiful water and lots of people that I’m lucky to know.”
–Staff reporter Janine Hum contributed to this article.