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Photo: jeffgunn

Untangling reality from mythology to uncover place.

“SAVANNAHIANS ARE THE LUCKIEST people in the world,” declares interior design author Charles Faudree at the 2012 Savannah Book Festival. A year ago, evaluating like the tourist I was, I believed his statement. Now, a local myself, seated behind the blue bloods with the blue hair blocking the alabaster abs of Greek gods in the Telfair Sculpture Garden, I feel lost, not lucky.

My grandparents met and married here in the early 1950s before settling in Atlanta. I stare at my family’s sepia photo that bleeds Eisenhower-era stability into Savannah mythology. This mythology still exists in most travel articles about Savannah: in write-ups of St. Patrick’s Day, the 22 squares, the well-manicured gardens of the Victorian District. I read so much about this lore, I think I know where I’m headed when I get here.

I don’t.

Right away I get tangled in Savannah’s Spanish moss. When I get lost wandering off East Broad Street, I do a double take. The handcrafted white letters of the Black Holocaust Memorial showcase a papier-mâché African-American man in shackles upon a platform, paint peeling. I drive around for a second look.

Most evenings I skip downtown altogether because it often leads to an unplanned all-nighter. Like the time I agree to emcee a burlesque show at the Jinx only to wind up watching Cher’s Burlesque at the Wingmen Motorcycle Club until 7am.

Or the time my car gets trapped in a closed parking deck off Liberty Street. I wait it out with my poet friend, Dalton. We grab coffee at Parker’s, the gas station with the insides that resemble a Whole Foods more than a Texaco, and head across the street to McDonough’s Irish Pub. As we take a patio seat in the freezing November night, I stare at the empty Drayton Towers that eclipse the steeples of St. John the Baptist.

Once upon a visit, I spent a drunken night in those towers at a party. Our host, an Irish Catholic, was horrified when he walked in on me changing in front of the window facing the church, as if my nakedness were offending God.

“There are more Irish politics at McDonough’s than in the whole of Ireland,” I whisper to Dalton as a polished but drunken man approaches our table.

    “I don’t look like a bad person, do I?”

    “No,” I say uneasily.

    “Would you believe I killed two men in Ireland?”

I freeze in my corner against the brick.

    “I’m an ex-British army officer and I killed two men in Belfast,” he repeats and grips my arm.

An hour later I’m using pop psychology to placate his guilt and defuse my fear. Eventually, he stumbles back into the green glow of the bar light. Dalton and I grab our coats and make an escape, looking over our shoulders as we sprint down the broken cement, past the green pub, snaking around the drunk and the tipsy ones on the street. When we stop, my gaze veers up, up towards the Drayton Towers. Did I leave part of myself up there, still naked and offending God?

No. My feet are planted firmly on the crumbling Savannah sidewalk above the yellow-fever bodies buried here long ago. I am still lost, but lucky.

Narrative


 

About The Author

Blissom Booblé

What happens when an ordinary school teacher quits her job to become a burlesque performer, then moves to the Bible Belt to advocate for social change while writing it all down? She chooses to Be. More. Naked.

  • Harrison Long

    What?

  • Rosemary Daniell

    When I moved to Savannah in 1976 after reading that friend Pat Conroy had called it “the Paris of the United States.” I too was first drawn to the city not only for it’s imagery and beauty, but its sheer quirkiness, and the opportunity for random encounters. I still love it, Blissom — and you’ve captured why!

  • Joyce Lynne Crowder

    Yes! This is true savannah beyond the tourist traps.

Sure, I could have taken off the Ray-Bans and tried to blend in a little.
A group of strippers will be brought to sit next to you.
I stop taking the bus and insist on walking everywhere, trying to memorize every corner.
The police hurried toward us, shouting. Our hiking guides translated: “Run!”
It was the first time I heard the howl of coyotes, the first time I slept under the open...
It’s the sound of people having a great time.
Nibbling cautiously on the fish, predominantly bone and scale, I glance up at my new...
“Oh God. Does your boyfriend know about this?”
"Since you keep asking about the politics of Indian-Israelis…” He fell silent.
I thought she was crazy, but also something in me envied her.
I felt like I had failed my first real journalistic mission.
If you want to travel, go. If you want to write, pick up your pen.