The Georgia church sign read: “There are many choices in life but only two for eternal life. Which do you choose?” Maybe the ghosts of Savannah didn’t get the memo…. Or maybe Savannah was their choice.
Minus the humidity, Savannah is kind of heavenly with its giant fountains constantly bubbling and spraying water, its little square parks surrounded by beautiful old homes, its Spanish moss and cobblestone streets and waterways.
Alex and I took the 4-hour drive from north Atlanta, through Macon and southwest to the sea. I’m not sure if this is the route that Sherman burned with his infamous march to the sea, but the 160-some-odd-miles from Macon to Savannah were pretty desolate. If Sherman had to rely on AT&T for communication back then, he’d have been SOL here.
We pulled into the Bohemian Hotel on the Savannah River and were greeted by a deluge of rain. We settled into our high-floor room with a view of the river below to wait it out. As we were getting our suitcases opened, Alex gasped as she looked out the window: A cargo ship bigger and taller than our hotel was slowly floating by. It almost looked like it took a wrong turn and ended up on a river smaller than it could maneuver through. People gathered under porches on the main drag below to gawk and take pictures.
“This is the 4th busiest port in the country,” I said, trying not to sound too much like Cliff Clavin. “That explains all the big trucks we passed getting here,” said Alex. She hated passing trucks, and I hated sitting behind them, so our drives were often a little edgy. We grabbed a drink on the rooftop deck to take the edge off. The big ship was gone, but its wake was still roiling the river.
We looked across the other side of the hotel toward town, and saw old rooftops and spires of churches popping out of giant moss-covered oaks. The squares created a nice symmetry to it all.
“Look, a hearse,” Alex said, pointing to the street below us. And then into the hearse climbed a group of people with giant drinks in their hands like from a Mardi Gras parade. When the hearse pulled out of its spot we saw a painted sign on its door that read: “Ghost Tours.”
We weren’t particularly ghost people, so we didn’t do the tour, but we couldn’t get away from the spiritual around Savannah if we wanted to. That night, at dinner in what was an old house, our friendly waiter told us of the spirit that looked over the place. She was known to be in the upper story window looking out from time to time. Doors would shut without provocation, and even things in the kitchen would go missing. I’d worked in a few restaurants myself, so the fact that things went missing only spoke to the strictness or looseness of the employee alcohol policy. By the “happiness” of our waiter, I guessed this place was pretty loose.
The next day we went to the Bonaventure Cemetery, made famous in the movie “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” It was set on a quiet promontory on the water. Gravel and dirt paths went from one site to the next. The breeze from the water made the sun dance through lacey green-gray Spanish moss overhead. A bench sat alone with the best view of the water. The statues here were as pretty as any I’d seen in Paris or Rome, and the setting sublime and serene.
Alex was taking pictures while I came across the gravesite for Johnny Mercer. It was a little square unto itself, that had a marble bench etched with his silhouette and some of his famous songs. One of them got to me for some reason: “Accentuate the Positive.” I sat there and had a spiritual moment; feeling the breeze, humming the song and reflecting on life and death. Alex approached; “It’s getting kind of humid isn’t it?”
On the drive home I passed a giant truck, probably stuffed with Chinese-made goods from the port. Alex winced. Trying to take her mind off the road, I waxed poetic: “If there are ghosts, I could see why they would choose Savannah.” Her reply: “And if you were a ghost, you probably wouldn’t feel the humidity!”
As Johnny Mercer sang, “You’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative, don’t mess with Mr. In-Between.”