Savannah Morning News
April 2, 2017
A few years ago a Savannah transplant from San Francisco was telling me about what it was like to live in the west coast city we all dream about inhabiting.
“And you moved here?” I said, somewhat puzzled.
“Let’s just say in San Francisco if you’re driving and you find a parking space you take it,” she said. “And then you figure out how to get home – bus, taxi, whatever.”
That’s how I felt last weekend in Savannah when I ventured downtown to a few of the dozens of activities going on – once to an art show for the talented and lovely Christine Sajecki at Roots Up Gallery, another to a tour of Clermont Lee’s gardens, a third time to the wacky and wonderful Flannery O’Connor birthday party and parade in Lafayette Square, more parade than birthday party but cake nonetheless. Three wildly different women.
But it was the same drill each time: find a parking place. Then proceed to squeeze in and head for designated activity. Then remember where you parked – was it near the fire station? Or was that yesterday? Was it on Liberty or Oglethorpe? I credit 10 years of living in Chicago for learning how to parallel park as good or better than any of the girls who go to St. Vincent’s Academy, where they practically earn a minor in maneuvering their vehicle every morning between two stationery cars.
But that’s downtown. Heading a little further south, not much, have you tried to park near Brighter Day or the Sentient Bean lately? Very challenging. When I first heard the city was talking about putting meters in the spaces by the tennis courts and/or on the north side of Park Street, I thought, hmmpf. Ridiculous. How can they do that? We’ve never had meters there before. That’s not how we do things. Now I’m not so sure, especially when I hear about people who perch their vehicle by the courts for most of the day and walk to their workplace. At this point I’m thinking put in the meters for heaven’s sake. I’m willing to carry around a boatload of quarters. We had to learn to do that for Tybee (for the newbies: Tybee used to remove the top half of the parking meters during the winter, which made parking free); we can do the same thing in Savannah. At least then there’s a fighting chance for a spot.
What’s happening to our city? a friend asked rhetorically.
It’s popular. That’s what’s happening. Especially in March, with people heading to any number of dance/jazz/string band Savannah Music Festival concerts – and tours of historic homes and gardens – all while meandering into the streets, eyes glued to maps and cell phones, dazzled by the beauty, immune to real world issues.
That was me during the tour of Clermont Lee’s gardens. You’re supposed to be following a leader, keeping up, looking at the person in front of you, but you’re also listening to conversations from other people on the tour and trying to decide how to offer corrections without being rude, intrusive or offensive.
“Have you gone to the murder house yet?” Uh, we don’t call what happened at Jim Williams’ house, where Danny Hansford was killed, a murder; it was a shooting in self-defense. Or, “Who’s this Flannery O’Connor anyway? Was he a writer or something?” Um, earth to tourist: Flannery O’Connor was a she and yes, she was a writer.
You’re doing your best to keep up on the walking tour all the while admiring the King Charles or the poodle on the end of the leash of a local who looks familiar and not paying a whit of attention to the cars/buses/trolleys/bicyclists circling the squares, or the drivers inside the cars who are fighting road rage. They simply want to find a parking space.
The night before this madness you go looking for a restaurant without a 20-minute wait or a line out the door and you start to wonder about mission creep, just exactly what that means. That’s when you visualize the greedy goose that laid the golden egg and you ask, just exactly how much is too much?
Fortunately, there are other geographic beauties to Savannah, starting with Old Fort Jackson, a 19th-century brick fortification on the Savannah River. (Note: “Old” is always in the title). It sounds familiar but you can’t quite picture it, right? You know it, sort of. You’ve seen the sign on President Street on the way to Tybee and you think, “I need to go there someday.” But you never quite get around to making the trip. I put the question to as many people as I could last weekend – “How many of you have ever been out here?” We were gathering for a wedding between two fine fellows in marching white jackets in a grand open green space with plenty of breeze (not so many gnats), container ships creeping by looking so close it feels as if you could reach out and touch them, and the piece de resistance, a booming shot from a cannon. Only one or two answered yes, they had been there before.
Isn’t that strange?
And all that parking, too. A great location for a concert. Or a wedding.