Sun., Savannah Morning News column
March 1, 2013
Once again, it’s the little things that make a weekend escape out of town worth the bother because there are moments when it really does seem like a lot of hassle finding someone to walk the dogs, straightening up a bit because someone is coming into the house to walk the dogs, getting together snacks for the road, remembering to charge your Sonicare, leaving just the right amount of lights on and getting your oil changed, all the while politely thanking the jiving technician for trying to tell you your battery is low and your tires are looking worn and driving this way is dangerous, and you really should do something about it, right now, at the dealership, even though you want to say to the double-talking salesman, “Really? I should do this here where it’s twice as expensive?”
But then you are on I-95, locked into cruise control, holding steady in your lane, facing south – in this case, heading for a book festival on Amelia Island, Florida’s northernmost barrier island (just south of Cumberland), where if you get a hankering for “old Florida” you can visit Fort Clinch State Park, a 1,427-acre wilderness park of massive dunes, salt marshes and bobcats. It’s billed as “the real Florida.” It’s easy to see why. The vegetation is thick and gnarly and it’s stunning. Except for the paved road this must have been what it was like when the Spanish, the English, the Native Americans, the Confederate soldiers and the Yankees all hunkered down either in the dunes or the rice fields.
If you can get past the cutesy factor of nearby Fernandina Beach, Florida’s northernmost city, there’s plenty of old Florida to see plus a nifty little restaurant on the inexpensive side called Timoti’s that offers a meaty local white fish called sheepshead. And if you time it right – which I did not – you can visit the American Beach Museum, commemorating one of the few residential beaches African-Americans could visit in the 1930’s and well into the 60’s. MaVynee Betsch spearheaded plans for the museum. She was known the “Beach Lady” or the woman with the 7-foot-length of hair. She was the great-granddaughter of Abraham Lincoln Lewis, president of the very successful Afro American Life Insurance Co. in Jacksonville, Fla., and sister of Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole, the first African American female president of Spelman College.
In less than two hours away from home, you wonder why you don’t do this more often. Even if you are staying in a generic, nondescript motel whose anonymity and secrecy lost its thrill for you decades ago (but there is that single remote control for the television; no confusion there). Even if you have forgotten that thanks to Smartphones there are no more secret hideaways; everyone can track you.
All of this happened the same week someone visiting from Brunswick clued me into Geocaching, a GPS-related scavenger detective game. Am I the only person on the planet who hasn’t heard of this hide-and-seek game played with apps on your phone where you hide a box with “treasures” inside which you take and then replace? Using the phone-as-Geiger counter, we tracked down said box under a random boxwood tree alongside an Enmark station on Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.
“Are you looking for something?” a man sitting in a car asked.
“It’s kind of hard to describe,” I answered as though I was not the only one to be in the proverbial dark. “But we’re OK. Nothing important.”
When we opened the box we found seven or eight folded pieces of paper, each containing a handwritten poem for Valentine’s Day. I chose a poem by Robert Burns. My friend Lynn left a key chain from some bank in Berryville, Ark. Then we replaced the box and went on our merry way.
All very peculiar. As it happens, at the book festival in Amelia Island, I set up next to a woman selling her book of poetry. To attract people to her display, this woman, Stephanie Andrews, put out a bowl of poems written on folded pieces of paper since “National Put a Poem in Your Pocket Day” is coming up. This is a “trick” authors well versed in marketing use to attract potential customers. That and good eye contact. Most people offer chocolate (very effective).
The first poem I chose was by Robert Burns. Two Burns’ poems in one week.
I would have preferred chocolate.