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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Savannah: A City with Character

Whew! That was a bit of a walk but the scenery on Bull Street makes it bearable and, believe me, Forsyth Park is worth the trek! The park is 30 acres of bliss, and one of my favorite places to hang out. The center piece of Forsyth is the fountain, added in 1858, it has two ‘twin’ siblings; one in the Place de la Concorde in Paris and the other resides in Cuzco, Peru. Every year, a couple of weeks before St. Patrick’s Day, the Hibernian Society, (Irish ancestry club), hold the Greening of the Fountains Ceremony. They play Celtic music, dress in Green velvet jackets, and take turns pouring green vegetable die into the Forsyth fountain; I know it sounds silly, but it is actually quite a sight to see!

The Park has one main avenue, lined with the most glorious Live Oaks I’ve ever seen, and a multitude of paths leading off from it. On any given day, you’ll see college kids playing Frisbee or sunning themselves, tennis and basketball games, and families with their kids at the play grounds, and even chess, played with giant pieces straight out of Alice in Wonderland!

I love hanging out in the park but yesterday was a particularly fun time. I’d went down to get pictures for the blog post, but while I was snapping shots of the fountain, I struck up a conversation with KC.

KC is an artist who makes and sells palm roses to tourists in Forysth Park and along River Street. I’ve been fascinated by these palm roses for a while so hearing about their construction was the high point of my day. The roses are made with strips from the core, or heart, of the palm. The artists have to climb the palms and remove the new growth. They can only take so much at a time and they must make the cut at an angle so they don’t kill the trees. They then wind the strips into these beautiful works of art. I actually purchased three and will be giving them away during my St. Patrick’s Day Blog Party so be sure and stop by!

Like TC of Sweet Melissa’s Pizza, I think KC is an ambassador of Savannah. He is passionate and knowledgeable about the city’s history, (he’s studying to become a registered tour guide), and he loves to interact with the people passing by. When I went to find an ATM I talked to a couple visiting from Rhode Island and during our conversation I mentioned that I had to hurry back to the park because I was buying some palm roses from a vendor and they immediately said, “Oh, you mean KC?” I had to laugh. They’d ran into him earlier and had an enjoyable discussion about the city; he’d obviously left an impression!

That is one of the things I find most compelling about Savannah; it’s people. There is a vibe in Savannah that I’ve never experienced before; and I’ve lived in quite a few cities. People aren’t just friendly; they are interested in making their community a better place to live. One of those people is my friend, Jim Reed. I want to tell you all about him, but I’m thinking a steaming cup of coffee, (or Earl Grey tea for me), would hit the spot right about now; you game? I know the perfect place; The Sentient Bean. The Bean is a regular hang out for downtown locals and Jim is definitely a regular!

The Bean is located on Park Ave. directly across from the tennis courts at Forysth Park. It was one of the first places I discovered when I moved to Savannah so it’s no surprise that it inspired the Cosmic CafĂ© in Ring of Lies. That Savannah vibe I mentioned earlier? This is where I feel it most and I think it is because of people like Jim and The Bean’s owner, Kristin.

More than just a coffee house, The Bean is dedicated to giving back to the community. They do that by serving fair trade and organic products but also by hosting and promoting indie art in various forms; which brings me back to Jim Reed. I’ve known Jim for about a year but never really got to talk to him; he plays drums in a local band that I love, The Magic Rocks, and drums are not conducive to conversation! I knew that he was involved with community events,(my husband says if you want to know what’s happening in Savannah, just ask Jim), but I didn’t know the details until I sat down, at The Bean, to ‘interview’ him.

Besides playing drums in The Magic Rocks, The Eight Tracks, and Superhorse ,(did I mention that he’s BUSY?), Jim is the founder and director of the Psychotronic Film Society of Savannah. This is one cool society and it was born from the desire of a man who was tired of missing great films!

Their stated goal is to “present unique motion pictures which most folks in the greater Savannah, GA area would likely never have the chance to see in a public setting.” And I love this, “We proudly show "really good" movies and "really bad" ones and strive to avoid mediocrity in our selection process.”

On any given night, you could see campy stuff like the ‘snake-ploitation’ film, Stanley, to thought provoking masterpieces like the holocaust documentary, A Film Unfinished. The Sentient Bean hosts the PFS of Savannah every Wednesday and The Muse Arts Warehouse has weekend showings.

The Muse also offers theater groups a place to perform; I saw a fantastic performance of Eve Ensler’s, The Good Body, this past Thursday; things like that aren’t coming to our larger theaters, and if they do, the tickets will be a great deal more. That’s the beauty of places like The Bean and The Muse and groups like PFS of Savannah; they are committed to bringing art and culture here to enrich the community and keeping it affordable. These groups, along with SUGA, Savannah Urban Garden Association, and Savannah Food Co-op are run by people that care about improving the quality of life for residents and I think it is groups and people like this that make Savannah unique.

I really hope you’ve enjoyed the whirlwind tour today. There are so many things I didn’t have time to talk about … I didn’t even mention our gorgeous beach at Tybee Island or the many historic homes and museums that encompass the Historic District, and I can’t believe I didn’t tell ya’ll about our ghosts!

Savannah is considered America’s Most Haunted City and ghost tours abound. The best, in my opinion, are run by Cobblestone Tours and if you ever visit be sure and look them up. I happen to love the ghost stories of Savannah, not so much for the paranormal aspect but because they involve our history.

To tell those stories I’ve created a fictional reporter for the Paranormal Post, Paige Stewart. Each week through April, Paige and I will be guests at a different author’s blog. Paige will have another close encounter of the supernatural kind while she conducts research for her Spectral Savannah series and I will be offering the occasional prize. If you’d like to watch Paige struggle with her cynicism and learn more about Savannah’s history at the same time, visit my blog. On the right is a column with links to the Paige Stewart stories.

I’ve got to run, or I’ll never be ready before the sitter arrives, but I’ll leave you with a little taste of Paige’s first adventure …

Paige Stewart shivered. A line of thick grey clouds streaked across the sky, hiding most of the full moon and casting eerie shadows across the old graveyard. Perfect, a brewing storm to usher in her solitary slumber party in Colonial Park Cemetery! Her editor couldn't have asked for a better atmosphere to accompany the jaunt had he planned it himself, and knowing Clayton Moore, he’d tried.

She rolled her eyes. Clayton Moore was a pain in the rear. The man lived and breathed solely for the sake of the Paranormal Post. It never ceased to amaze her how anyone that good looking could be so gullible. For Paige, researching and writing about ghost stories and paranormal experiences was just a job; a way to pay the bills without relying on her trust fund. She no more believed in the stuff than she believed the porcine population would take to the sky.

She stretched her legs out across the blanket and then scooped up the file that had been awaiting her arrival at the inn. Bold, two inch high letters spelled out ‘Confidential’ across the top of the fax cover sheet. Paige shook her head. What must the hotel staff be thinking?

The Seventeen Hundred and Ninety Inn was the oldest inn in Savannah and promoted itself as having several resident ghosts and a haunted guest room. With people waiting months to stay in the room, it was safe to assume they were used to seeing odd characters in their establishment. Paige snorted. She was staying the night in a cemetery with the hopes of catching a glimpse of reputed paranormal activity so what did that make her?

Paige glanced at the thickening clouds, resigned herself to getting wet at some point during the night, and then clicked on her pen light. She flipped open the folder and skimmed the history of Colonial Park Cemetery. Her own research had revealed basic facts like the cemetery was Savannah’s oldest, established in 1750, and that Union soldiers had used the graveyard as their camp when Sherman occupied the city. She’d also read how the Yankees had opened the strange bed shaped crypts, thrown out the bodies, and used them for makeshift tents and that they’d defiled the headstones to alleviate boredom. According to the file, she’d find a row of broken headstones hanging along the cemetery’s back wall and all of them had altered engravings, courtesy of the Yankees.
Nothing paranormal to report and not many options for pictures; how scary could a picture of a headstone claiming a man lived for seventeen hundred years be?
Paige lowered the file and peered into the growing darkness. Nestled beneath a stand of cedar trees dripping with Spanish moss, she could just make out a group of crypts. That’d make a decent shot, if it weren’t so dark.

She pursed her lips and debated. With so little light she’d need to set up the tripod and keep the shutter open longer, but … She sighed. The effort would have to be made because it was highly doubtful any ghosts would volunteer to pose, for posterity or the Paranormal Post’s article.
She assembled the tri-pod, set the shutter speed, and then gave the dossier one last look. Please let there be something paranormal worth writing about. Seven hundred people were interred during the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1820, several duels were fought on the grounds …
Oh yeah, that’ll make a great article. She continued reading, desperate for something, anything, remotely ‘ghostly’ to write about.
She rolled her eyes at the story of frugal colonial Savannahians disinterring their relatives to avoid the cost of another grave. Great! The custom of stacking bodies like cord wood inside a single crypt was old news.
She continued reading and then frowned. Now this was new. Citizens had opened coffins and found deep gouge marks. They assumed someone had been buried alive, or come back …. Perhaps she could ‘spin’ the facts. Hmmm, Zombies walk in old Savannah or Colonial Savannah inhabited by Vampires.
Read the rest here!

Oh! Don’t forget to visit my blog and FB FanPage ; I’ll be handing out Savannah goodies to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day!


desitheblonde said...

i like the pic and to bad the ghost was not there they are great pic and wish i could visit

Di said...

I've always wanted to visist Savannah!

sallans d at yahoo dot com

Maria Zannini said...

I love this tour. I've never been to Savannah, but I feel like I know it now. :)

Jean P said...

You have given us a wonderful peak into the wonders of Savannah, it really makes me want to visit more and more.

skpetal at hotmail dot com

Virginia said...

I have never been to Savannah, but would love to go there now. You make it sound so wonderful.


lisagk said...

I love visiting Savannah.

Jana Richards said...

Savannah sounds like a wonderful, and unique city. Thanks for the tour.

LuAnn said...

I love how some areas of the deep south still have that 1800s feel.

reading_frenzy at yahoo dot com

Beth Caudill said...

Wow. Great pictures. Thanks for the tour.

P.I. Barrington said...

Yes, beautiful pictures and I'm going to sound like a self-absorbed egomaniac but my birthday is St. Patrick's Day!!

Angelina Rain said...

I've always wanted to visit Savannah. Beautiful pics.

SherryGLoag said...

For those confused by 'info dump' and weaving facts within the story' shuld read this, you've woven the facts of Savannah into your story in such a way that if I were not 'across the pond' I'd make put it on my list of places to visit.
Thoroughly enjoyed your excerpt.

Isabelle said...

Love Savannah. It's one of my favorite cities in the US to visit.

doxymom said...

Thanks for the peek at Savannah. I've never been there.

doxisrcool at

Joyce said...

Savannah sounds like a great place to visit. I'm going to have to think about visiting there soon.