If you are of a certain age like I am, you’ll remember Tinder Box.
In the 70s and 80s, you couldn’t miss the small stores with Tudor facades and tiny walk-in humidors and all sorts of briar pipes, tobaccos and collectibles throughout. It seemed that whatever mall you happened to enter, the probability that you would pass a Tinder Box franchise was very high.
The Cigar Boom in the late 1990s/Early 2000s changed the landscape. The humidors grew considerably larger.
I remember seeing such stores when I was younger – in places like Miami and in many locations in Southern California like the Mall of Orange, the Glendale Galleria and more.
Tinder Box was started in Los Angeles in 1928 by a tobacconist named Ed Koplin, Sr. Sadly, that store closed its doors for good in 2017. A ninety-year run is nothing if not astonishing.
The franchise opportunity became available in 1973, and [my twin brother] Chris’ father-in-law, Jim Cass, was one of the first on board – launching his first shop at the Hanes Mall in Winston-Salem, North Carolina – essentially opening up the Mid-Atlantic region.
Jim started that store as a hobby while he was engaged in his career with R.J. Reynolds. What began in Winston eventually became multiple stores in the Carolinas – and there was a location in Roanoke, Virginia for a time.
Jim, thankfully, is still around, and lives with wife Martha in Myrtle Beach – but Tinder Box of the Carolinas is now generational – headed up by Jim’s son, Craig Cass, in Charlotte. Craig’s sister (my sister-in-law), Betsy Yale, helms the Myrtle Beach location.
Our organization is renowned in the cigar industry, not only by virtue of the longevity of the business and the relationships forged and nurtured with key cigar families, but also due in no small part to Craig’s efforts within the industry, from taking on the Goliath of governmental regulatory overreach as well as his service within organizations such as the Premium Cigar Association (PCA), Cigar Rights of America (CRA) and more.
Exempting premium cigars from FDA regulation is a continuing fight that goes to the lifeblood of the industry, to say nothing of the mom-and-pop businesses that don’t enjoy the deep pockets of their monolithic corporate counterparts.
The cool thing about all of this is that, as with cigar producers, Tinder Box of the Carolinas is essentially a family business.
My experience with the organization began in 1996.
On October 3rd, The Sun News ran my story about Joe and the truck. You can read it by clicking HERE.
As with the travail of giving birth, most entrepreneurs go through labor pains of their own, and Joe is no exception. After a couple of false starts and the fact that he began this odyssey in the face of the COVID-19 situation with its inherent challenges, the man prevailed…
And Sunday’s event proved this beyond any shadow of doubt – and is a testimony to Joe’s tenacity.
Even under rainy conditions, the if-you-build-it-they-will-come paradigm proved to be correct. People did come – and lots of them.
Joe’s wife, Dawn, was handling orders at the window – while Joe handled the cooking with Anthony Novielli. The folks standing in line to order and those waiting for their orders seemed to be a friendly bunch, and I didn’t notice any drama from the ranks – although I noticed recently on Facebook that Joe received some feedback about ticket times and is working on of streamlining this process.
This reminded me of a music gig. It was showtime for NO FKS Given, and the downbeat had already happened. Keep playing.
We ordered the craft burgers – mine with cheddar, lettuce, tomato, and pickles – on a toasted potato roll. I also had freedom fries with sea salt and black pepper. Both items were piping hot and absolutely delicious. That potato roll, though – clearly fresh-baked and awesome.
Glad we got the chance to attend, and I wish the Czaplas the very best.
My firstborn twin, Wes, got hitched on September 26. Done deal.
I have gained a gorgeous daughter-in-law with a beauty that radiates from the inside out, and I am thrilled to death that I can now claim Leigh as such with impunity – and her parents and family are second to none.
What amazes me about major events like this is that time seems to compress the closer you get to the event – like what was 18 months away is now in the rear-view mirror.
Being the father of the groom is wonderful in itself, but I was also honored and humbled that Wes chose me as his best man and that the couple asked me to officiate. Does that count as a triple threat?
Our friend Aly caught the groom’s reaction as he first catches sight of the bride. Pure love.
THE BACHELOR GETAWAY
Wes didn’t want a traditional bachelor party, per se. He wanted to get away with me and Xavier, his best friend since middle school. The plan was to see KISS in Raleigh earlier in September, but the COVID-19 situation had other plans, and the show was postponed until next year. I am holding on to the tickets.
As an option, Wes chose an overnight trip to the Fayetteville area in North Carolina. The “three amigos” spent the first day shooting at an outdoor range called 37 PSR Gun Club. Wes, once-a-Marine-always-a-Marine, was in hog heaven – and I felt good being with him. He was methodical in making sure Xavier and I handled our weapons properly. Somehow, shooting with a Marine makes you want to shine.
But we were there to have fun, and we did. Afterwards, we checked in to the Hampton Inn Spring Lake and headed out to eat Mexican food at a great place called El Cazador.
The next day found us engaged in airsoft battles with maybe ten young people at a place called Black Ops Paintball. For me, this was much more fun. Shooting downrange is OK, but after a while it gets old. Airsoft battles in teams was more the ticket for me. I reconnected with that inner kid who used to play guns in the neighborhood.
We’ll likely do this again at the outfit’s Myrtle Beach location. The kid at the counter talked us into way too much ammo. Sorry, Xavier.
One caveat: Airsoft ain’t soft.
THE REHEARSAL DINNER
My girlfriend, Brenda, graciously offered to handle all aspects of the rehearsal dinner – from planning to execution.
Early on, we chose the historic Myrtle Beach Train Depot for the event. I have written about this place before. It’s a cool old brick building that is now rented out by the City of Myrtle Beach for all sorts of functions. Problem is, because of COVID-19, the maximum attendance was reduced to 21 people.
Because family was coming in from out of town, there was no way that would work…
Before we had the chance to fret about this too much, Leigh contacted Brenda and offered the use of the soon-to-be newlyweds’ backyard.
Plans were put in place for tables, chairs, dishes, linens and flatware. Brenda set up the catering with Fiesta Mexicana, a favorite local eatery – and began putting together ancillary items like votive candles, floral plans, photo booth balloons and much more.
But a potential shit show was looming. Rain – and lots of it – started showing up on the weather apps.
We ordered a 15×15 open tent, ostensibly to cover the food – but mother nature peppered us with rain all day and into the evening. I will forever be grateful for the time and effort Brenda put into this event – and thankful for the help of the friends who rolled up their sleeves and jumped into the fray…and transformed the newlyweds’ home into a dining showplace. We couldn’t have done this without them.
That night, I made my speech – a combination of best man and father of the groom – and I almost made it through without choking up. I said almost, didn’t I?
During dinner, things began to clear up enough for folks to head outside – some to eat under the tent, some to mingle, play cornhole, throw axes and listen to Wes’ awesome playlist.
THE BIG DAY
I gladly accept the rain the night before – because the wedding day was absolutely gorgeous.
The guys got together at the newlyweds’ place – to get into our tuxes and have some pre-wedding photos done, coincidentally, by my friend Scott Smallin, whom I first met and worked with in our Weekly Surge days. I was pleasantly surprised when I found out Scott would be handling the wedding photography. I think he took like two million photos.
The wedding? Stunning – from start to finish.
Kudos to Leigh’s parents, Michael and Cathy, for putting together such a wonderful day. Michael might tell you that all he had to do was show up, but he and Cathy are straight-up doers. While other people talk, they take action. I can learn a lot from them.
I can’t imagine the depth of planning that goes into a wedding like this – but everything seemed to go off without a hitch – in the serene and beautiful setting that is Pine Lakes.
The bride was a vision of beauty – absolutely flawless. And my son the groom, gorgeous. Together, they took my breath away as they stood in front of me for the vows. The honor of joining these two beautiful young people in holy matrimony is something I don’t take lightly, and I will never forget it.
Here are some great photos from my friend Brendan Wright:
Did I mention that the JAVA Band was off the hook? I did now. Unbelievably so!
Friends, family. New friends, new family. That’s what it’s all about.
The following day, many of us got together for brunch and go-cart racing at Broadway Grand Prix in Myrtle Beach. This, from what I understand, is a family tradition.
What was 18 months away is now a reality. May God richly bless the bride and groom, and may their love know no bounds.
AJ Case is a man of many hats, but those hats dovetail: He’s a Myrtle Beach-based singer/songwriter, musician, rapper and entrepreneur. Depending upon whom you ask, you might get different answers. Perhaps it’s somebody who laid down tracks at his now shuttered iT Recording & Mastering Studios in Surfside Beach, a venue owner who booked him for a solo acoustic gig or a tourist who got up to sing at one of his karaoke promotions in the area. Or it could be a music industry type drilling down on Case’s songwriting, recording, deejaying or vocal skills.
In every case, though, you will likely hear about the kind of guy he is – soft-spoken, sincere and always professional.
He recently released his third album. “Running In Place” (or “R.I.P.”), an acoustic guitar-driven live band hip-hop project.
In addition to the live band approach, Case covers his struggle with depression brought on by divorce and the loss of key people in his life in rapid succession – in what he called the worst week of his life.
But this album has proven cathartic for him. Much of is an ode to the woman he loves, Ruth Ann Millar, something he says goes against the grain of traditional rap.
He started writing this album years ago – and much of it was first presented in 2012’s “Dead at 32.” But he had no idea what he was in for personally and emotionally.
“At that time, I didn’t realize that I was writing my current situation. I feel like a reeled myself into it all,” he said.
The past two years have been an emotional roller coaster, beginning with what he calls “the week from hell.” He lost his mother, an uncle and an aunt – plus he went through a divorce.
Case fell into a deep depression.
Things got so bad that he wouldn’t even answer the door to his studio to let people come in and record.
“I’d never been to a point in my life where I was that low,” he said. “I hit rock bottom and pulled out a damn shovel.”
Picking up a pen was the last thing on his mind, but one day out of sheer desperation he started writing a song about his mother – and although he didn’t finish that actual song, this gave him the impetus to keep going. After he got started again in earnest, the process took about a year.
The finished product stands at eight tracks, including a duet with his friend Adam Wittenburg on “Halfway Home.”
Some live performance audio was spliced into a new version of “Lifted.”
“We took actual audio footage from shows like Bayfest and Summer Jam – just basically hung mics out over the audience – and I didn’t want it to sound like the original version. We wanted to do this with a live band, but I wasn’t used to recording guitars yet because I was just a pure rapper at that point.”
But the acoustic live band concept gelled for “Running In Place”
Long before this, Case played out live as a solo artist – on an acoustic guitar – so that he could showcase his material and travel light.
But Case said the material on “RIP” – including “Waiting on You” – goes against the grain of traditional rap.
“It’s kind of weird to explain. I hear some of the stuff that everybody else is rapping about, and it’s pretty much the same thing everybody has been rapping about: cars, women, money, how good I am or ‘listen to my lyrical skills’ – and I feel disappointed sometimes because I’m not talking about any of that shit. I’m mostly talking about one woman that I love. That’s it.”
Case contends that in the rap world in general, it’s not really cool to be in love with one woman.
“It’s not really cool to write a whole album about one woman. It’s a different type of world – and that’s where I felt like I was, man – I don’t know if I actually fit in here anymore. I think I’ve grown out of it.”
We mentioned that Case’s uncle taught him about the music business, but it was his late sister who made it fun.
In the song, “Nothing,” Case memorializes his sister.
“I had a guitar in my room when I was younger, but I never really messed with it. She would come in and say, ‘Oh – pick up the guitar. Let’s play…”
Those moments got Case to the point where he wanted to play music with his uncle and learn more.
“Until then, that guitar was just a brick in the corner of my bedroom.”
But “Nothing” is poignant and can really tug at your heart strings.
“My sister was a drug addict, and she was aware that she had problems and issues. She would always tell me that she felt like she never did anything with her life – like, she would go to her grave having literally done nothing but drugs. I wrote that song sitting beside her hospital bed before she died.”
He will always remember his sister’s silly way of dancing (she was not good at it) – and he regrets not getting up on the floor when she wanted to dance with him in public.
The COVID-19 lockdown helped to put thus project into high gear.
“Either make something of yourself – figure out a way to make something of yourself in this – or let it swallow you whole, you know?”
But the COVID-19 situation threw the proverbial spanner in the works.
Things to do with the rehearsal dinner have been modified. With our group, I figured the venue was more than big enough for social distancing.
We plan on having food catered in, along with beverages…
I just got word that the maximum attendance has been reduced, which would mean slashing attendees to the bare minimum – to include only the wedding party, parents and key family members.
If we don’t do this, we’ll have to consider other options for this event.
Thing is, nobody knows what’s coming down the pike as far as COVID-19 in September. For all we know, the city (Myrtle Beach) could shut down again – or things could improve. If things get worse, this means that restaurants could close – or at the very least, they might also adopt maximum capacity guidelines. They might be forced to go back to curbside service, which opens up another Pandora’s box: Could caterers be shut down?
Such is the uncertain nature of our world at the moment.
My guy at the Train Depot has canceled events for a good chunk of September – but each of those parties expected 100 or more people to attend. He has held off on canceling us outright but will likely be forced to do so if we stay at our projected attendance.
The son of dear friends got married in Pittsburgh in April. We watched the livestream. Empty church except for essential people. I am not sure what they did about the rehearsal and other related pre-wedding parties or the reception – but I can bet that they didn’t see this coming when they set the date.
My son served in the US Marine Corps. There is a saying he taught me: “Semper Gumby…”
… “always flexible.”
Well paint me orange and call me Pokey. I had better start stretching – and stop overthinking.
NOTE: I wrote this post on July 23. As of July 24 – we are moving all rehearsal dinner festivities to an outdoor location perfectly suitable for the event, thank God. It was the perfect solution – and one we wouldn’t have thought about until the bride-to-be messaged us about the possibility.
Gratitude. Cleansing breaths…
And since there are no coincidences, I read an article today in Success Magazine that featured an Icelandic saying – and by God I needed to see that:
Þetta reddast… everything is going to work out, or something like that.
The twins talk about the importance of capturing ideas when they show up, Chris' stamp collection, practicing music in vacant rooms at The Magic Hotel (now Magic Castle Hotel) in the 70s, questioning authority and much more – including another original song from the archive… And what did Uncle Roger do with his verkykers… Above: Yale Brothers at Magic Hotel Front Desk SHOW NOTES: 0:00 – "Camelia" by Chris Yale 3:04 – About the song 4:14 – Capturing ideas / Roger's blog post, "Embrace the Flashes" Edirol R-09 ZOOM H1n Verkykers – Afrikaans for "Binoculars" 6:40 – Dad and Uncle Rog used to tell secrets in Afrikaans so we couldn't understand – and more about their accents. How many of our relatives in South Africa remain who knew Dad and Uncle Roger – or are the original Yale Brothers anecdotal now… 9:00 – 1934 half-dollar / Texas Centennial 9:47 – Chris' stamp collection / "Philatelist" sounds nasty 13:44 – Magic shows with Chris Gillette, son of Anita Gillette 14:20 – Roger's ventriloquist dummy, "Corky" 15:05 – Roger's comics – Marvel KISS Super Special 15:55 – Purification 16:51 – Playing music in vacant rooms at the Magic Hotel (Now Magic Castle Hotel) in Hollywood – and more 17:58 – Ron Flynt from 20/20 18:29 – Bla Bla Cafe 19:28 – Can we borrow a reel-to-real player? 20:36 – "Aud calls" at Hollywood Professional School 21:35 – Messing up songs at gigs and learning songs 23:41- Allergies 24:52 – Prescription drug names sound so stupid. 25:30 – Street drugs should have disclaimers. 25:59 – COVID-19 Vaccines 28:30 – Question authority – always and everywhere / sovereign citizen / Real ID 31:51 – Splintering churches, protestantism and more 32:41 – Steve Jobs getting canned at Apple 33:15 – LuLu's North Myrtle Beach / Tinder Box Myrtle Beach
The first time we tried this, embarrassingly enough, was in 2008, when podcasts were still gaining steam and long before they became ubiquitous. Over a period of a years, we made several more stabs at this – and then we just stopped.
Some earlier attempts went up on SoundCloud, sort-of complete but not quite actual episodes. But we had stories to tell…
And we still do. Stories about growing up in Hollywood in the late 1970s and early 1980s – a period when the town was what my brother called “beautifully grungy” – well before a Build-A-Bear Workshop appeared across from the Chinese Theater.
We lived at the foot of the Hollywood Hills at Franklin Avenue and Orange Drive, in an apartment building wedged directly in between the fabled Magic Castle and a 40-unit hotel our father managed called The Magic Hotel. The hotel is now called The Magic Castle Hotel.
At that time, not only the names of the buildings were magic. Our young lives were as magical as could be.
This podcast will be cathartic for us, and I hope the stories of twin boomers coming of age in lotus land will strike a chord with those curious enough to have a listen.
But we’re not just about looking back. Expect to hear original music in each episode and updates on what’s going on with us now in Myrtle Beach.
Last week, I had the opportunity to play a very interesting and
serendipitous show with my brother at a really cool venue in the heart of Myrtle
The Historic Myrtle Beach Train Depot is a landmark brick structure that was built in 1937 and for 30 years welcomed both passenger and freight trains to the area. It later belonged to a beverage distributor and almost fell victim to the wrecking ball until the community went ballistic. After painstaking restoration, it opened in its current beautiful state in 2004 and is now rented out for events.
I officiated a wedding there not long ago, and was also on hand for the inaugural CreateSouth conference there more than a decade ago. I also played a fundraiser there with Sick Stooges, a cover band that I co-founded and played in for ten years.
This wonderful setting is also home to the South by Southeast Music Feast – a regular gathering hosted by a nonprofit called South by Southeast (SXSE), which provides assistance and support to local music education programs. The organization is all about helping young people offset the costs associated with this – and as their website says – “to help young people in their pursuit of all the joys of music.”
South by Southeast was founded by Jeff Roberts, a guy I was happy to meet when I moved here. Sadly, he passed away in 2009. Ask anybody who came into contact with him, Jeff was the fountainhead from which a torrent of musical knowledge sprung. He owned a couple of longstanding independent record shops here, and one of his isms was, “You gotta hear this…” He was irreplaceable.
Roberts’ son, Hunter, was at the event. That was a full-circle situation if ever there was one.
Jeff invited us to play an opening slot at the music feast on the bill with Dangermuffin years ago – and we did 30 minutes of Chris’ original music – much like we did this time.
In October, The Yale Brothers did a fundraiser called Wicked Wishes at the Wicked Tuna in Murrells Inlet to benefit Make-A-Wish South Carolina. We were glad to see that our old friend Seth Funderburk was running sound for the event. Seth is an entrepreneur in his own right, with several businesses in operation as I type this. He’s also an organizer for the Waccamaw Getaway Festival and the IrieSun Reggae Festival. He’s also been involved with SXSE for as long as I have known him.
Fun fact: Funderburk and Roberts went way back – and Funderburk worked in
his youth for Roberts at his first shop, Sounds Familiar Records.
When we finished our set at Wicked Wished, Seth invited us to play the
SXSE show. We were excited about the prospect.
The idea of playing only originals was appealing, and the serendipitous part of this was the fact that we would be opening for a duo called Admiral Radio, made up of Becca Smith and Coty Hoover – both of whom attended College of Charleston and both of whom know my daughter, Taylor, through our friend Clyde Moser, who studied there as well. Admiral Radio recently played a series of shows in New York – and Taylor and Clyde saw them there. This in itself is cool, but the fact that we randomly got invited to play with them here is proof that this is indeed a very small world.
The vibe at a SXSE event is refreshing; the people come to actually listen to the music offered – and this coupled with a preshow potluck and New South Brewing‘s Chris Barnes set up at the back of the room with beer and wine makes for a welcoming experience for the musicians as well as the audience.
WAVE 104.1 radio personality and program director Scott Mann, our brother from another mother, introduced us in a way that solidified that point – and off we went. It was gratifying to feel the love from the folks in attendance, who responded enthusiastically to each song.
Admiral Radio delivered a great first set with originals and thoughtful covers. Their harmonies were ethereal and stirring. These two are seasoned pros, and it was an honor to share the bill with them. I am sure their second set was great, too.
It’s always nice to play a show in the presence of like-minded people,
to reconnect with friends and to make new ones.
I first learned about The Hulk from Andre
Pope, an irreplaceable friend we lost recently.
I know what you’re thinking: “You are a man in your fifties
who didn’t know about The Hulk?”
Not so fast. The Incredible Hulk was my go-to comic book hero, and in fact prompted my Marvel mania and comic book collecting when I was eight years old. That collecting went on until the early 1990s until I sold the whole enchilada to a dealer for fast cash – and got screwed, of course. But to my eternal regret, I took the money anyway.
I hadn’t thought about The Hulk for a few years, but lately
my girlfriend has had the urge to head outside to an area that might at least
be construed as woods (she is a mountain girl, after all), and it occurred to
me that this spot might, well, hit the spot.
We had already had a nice outing to Vereen
Memorial Gardens – but it was time to get out again, and the Hulk was only
a few miles away.
Despite a bit of a warning from the SC Trails website about potentially being
mowed down by herds of bicyclists, we found the place refreshing – a different
world, but right in our own back yard – and we set off on the trail marked “run.”
Along the way – I think we must have walked more than three
miles – we encountered a few groups of cyclists, but Brenda heard them coming before
I did – and they whizzed right by us, giving us polite but businesslike nods as
we quickly stepped aside.
We spent a couple of hours there – and Brenda stopped frequently to admire the greenery and to educate me a little about the local vegetation. Ever since I have known her, she has always cautioned me about poison ivy – and with my lack of focus, that likely saved me a lot of grief.
It’s nice to know that pockets of tranquility like The Hulk
still exist in an area where the most recognized bird is the (construction)
What made these three gigs special for us – besides doing
our part for a great cause on Saturday – was that we got the chance to see old
friends, meet new ones and hang out with other members of the music community. Gigs
don’t usually happen that way.
Thursday’s stint at House of Blues was the first of our fall restaurant shows there. We’ll be doing every Thursday through December fifth in the early evening. We enjoy the positive vibe and the camaraderie from House of Blues staff, and we’re happy to call many of them our friends. And it’s always a bonus to see our brother for life, sound man Bill Allen. Fortunately, he was mixing on the deck for the Rich Johnson Band. Met Rich for the first time – and said hello to Mark Billings – another House of Blues sound man and friend, who was on the other side of things, playing drums for Rich.
It’s always great to return to LuLu’s for many reasons, not least of which is the fact that the venue has its own PA in place – so it’s frontline-only at this colorful and happy spot on the Intracoastal Waterway. Over our engagement, we met some really wonderful and positive people – and reconnected with our friend Travis Ladd, who runs the retail side there. LuLu’s is in the process of building out an expanded retail space, which will benefit the business in a couple of ways; more room for merch and additional dining space.
Just across the way is the Crooked Hammock Brewery Stage – an open-air spot boasting a rotating lineup of local bands. Competitive spirit aside (we have a running gag that LuLu’s should turn their sound up to 11 to overpower what’s coming from across the street), it was a real treat to discover that Sunburst Radio was that night’s offering.
Sunburst Radio is made up of guitarist Ed Dennis (a longtime
friend and Chris’ former bandmate), Ken Thomas (another longtime friend and
drummer), Kim DeCosta (keyboards) and Terry Cohen (bass). The band plays a mindful selection of FM radio
hits with some surprises along the way – including a great rendition of Split Enz’s “I Got You,” which the band reprised in
their last set because he knew Chris loved the tune.
We scurried back and forth from our spot to their spot to try to catch a song, and vice-versa. In the midst of this frenetic activity, we also caught up with more friends.
The Myrtle Beach area is funny that way. Despite the
millions of tourists coming to visit during “the season,” you’re bound to run
into people you know – especially out and about in the fall and winter.
On Tuesday, the world lost a real gem – Andre Pope.
I met Pope with my brother on the same day we met veteran podcaster Dave Slusher, whom Chris had arranged to meet after listening to his podcast and discovering that he lived in Conway. I had agreed to tag along that day probably 12 years ago. We got together at Bummz Beach Café in Myrtle Beach.
I knew nothing about both of those guys, except for the fact that my
brother always mentioned Slusher when he talked about podcasts. I was still
relatively new to the Grand Strand, having moved here in 2005.
Andre must have been like 27 then, although I perceived him to be
younger than that. He was cordial and kind – and as I would find out would be a
through-line in our friendship, always willing to help.
He told me that he was then a partner in an outfit called 803 labs. We talked about blogging, podcasting and social media – and it wasn’t long before the subject of tech meetups came up – and how cool it would be to launch an event in Myrtle Beach.
I’ll be damned if those guys and others didn’t put together an event called CreateSouth, which took place for several years. My brother and I provided the entertainment for two of these. Another friend, Paul Reynolds, helped me get set up with my first Blogspot blog.
Andre leaves behind a wonderful wife, Heidi, and two awesome kids –
Memphis and Ryder.
I’d have to say that Pope was a renaissance man, and somebody else recently referred to him on Facebook as a doer. He was a major proponent for cycling in our area, an expert pit master, entrepreneur, designer and family man. He taught graphic design at Horry-Georgetown Technical College and was creative director at a graphic design/marketing/advertising firm called Design Cypher.
Early on, he invited me to lunch at Magnolia’s at 26th, a southern-inspired buffet here in Myrtle Beach. The man genuinely loved meeting and getting to know people, which is why I wasn’t surprised that he was also involved with a coworking space called Cowork MYR. He was a consummate connector.
Andre was one of my go-to sources for stories, especially during my time writing for Weekly Surge, a McClatchy product and local alt-weekly under the umbrella of The Sun News – and this covered a variety of subjects from tech to social media to cycling and more. He was a busy guy, to be sure, but never once did he turn down an interview request. He provided credibility to whatever piece I was working on, was always patient and never failed to teach me something.
For a while, he would look slightly different every time we saw him – perhaps with low sideburns at one time or a totally different getup the next – so much so that my girlfriend always told him that she was never sure if it was him. That was a trip – and I wonder if anybody else noticed that over the years.
He was also a part of a group that I call the “yeah, man” guys – meaning that this was his way of saying “you’re welcome.” I loved that.
When I last saw him, he was resting in a camper outside The Boathouse in Myrtle Beach, where a packed benefit was going on in his honor. My brother, his wife and my girlfriend and I only visited him for a few moments. I gave him a hug and a peck on the top of the head and told him I loved him.
I swear to God, the man said to let us know if there was anything he could do for us.
That was Pope for you.
My heart goes out to his sweet family. Andre leaves a void that can never be filled. I will miss his intellect, his humility and his “yeah, man.”