No, not Mexico, I’m talking about The Tackiest Place On Earth, good old S.O.B., located right on the border of North and South Carolina. To the uninitiated, this may seem like an odd comparison to make, but someone who’s driven the stretch of I-95 between Virginia and Georgia might just get it.
Why, you ask? Well, somewhere after crossing into North or South Carolina from those states, you’ll begin seeing billboards like this:
And, yes, they are all just as tacky and silly as the one in the picture (On a side note, an article published today on Roadside America says that all the “Mexican-speak” signs are gone. That’s probably a good thing, as they were more than a little offensive with text like, “Pedro No Shoot Ze Bool!”). And, the closer you get to S.O.B., the frequency of the signs increases to the point that you’re seeing multiple signs per mile. In my twisted mind, there’s a pretty good parallel to Advent in there.
To understand why I think that, we’ll need to go back to my childhood in the mid to late 1960’s. That’s when my family began vacationing in Myrtle Beach. I couldn’t tell you much about the actual vacation, but I vividly remember those signs. They began an hour or so into the journey and the further we traveled, the more billboards we saw and the more the anticipation built. It reached a crescendo with the last sign which occurred less than a mile before South of the Border, all its tacky glory, came into view. Let me tell you, seeing that giant neon Pedro was like Christmas morning after that.
If you’re wondering how this could possibly be anything like Advent, you have obviously haven’t driven through southeastern North Carolina. It can be a rather desolate place, without much scenery to break things up, making the perfect setting for the expectant waiting that is Advent. Flatlands and pine trees can get pretty tedious after a couple of hours and leave you begging for any break in the monotony, even something as simple as a sign for Kickapoo Joy Juice. When those S.O.B. billboards start appearing, they are a balm to the soul and you begin to anxiously anticipate the next one, and the next one, and the next one…, well, you get the picture. And, when you get there? It’s a glorious explosion of wonderfulness. Tacky wonderfulness, to be sure. But, it’s still pretty great.
Sadly, after a couple of years, we quit going that way. My dad always said he found a better, quicker route to Myrtle Beach, but I think he got tired of my brother and I begging him to stop (he did once, but that’s a story for another day). In the intervening years, I all but forgot about South Of The Border. That changed a few years ago when Diana and I made the first of our biannual trips to Florida. As we made our way down I-95, I began seeing the signs and that familiar anticipation began to well up once again. By the time the Sombrero Tower came into view, I felt like I was 8 years old again. It was almost as glorious as it was all those years ago.
Is this a stupid and trivial treatment of a beloved church season? Probably. But, stupid and trivial is what I’m good at and I believe one should always play to their strengths. That means you get one of the weirder takes on Advent this year. You’re welcome, beloved.