Savannah Pros & Cons: A Summer Snapshot
Upon returning to Savannah after spending time outside of my regular altitude (and attitude) last week, I found myself in a familiar state of mind, which is to say, conflicted:
It was great to be home. And also, terrible.
Most readers understand that my much-fettered fealty to our storied city includes routine gimlet-eyed surveys of how much it can sometimes sucketh, starting with stepping out into the open-mouthed beast of July in the swamp.
But then my skin plumped up after so many days of dry, collagen-shriveling mountain air, and I remembered: Living around here means accepting the charm with the ugly, the humidity with the gardenias; paradox is just a hot, sweaty fact, dahlin’. So I decided to make a small list of this week’s in-my-face contradictions:
Pro: Savannah Hilton Head International Airport keeps it classy. While Condé Nast’s bestowal of the title “No. 1 Airport in U.S.” feels a little dubious (l mean, Denver’s has an ice-skating rink), there’s something to be said for the simplicity of a single terminal. Also, it’s worth it to fly in your good Frye boots even in summer just to have them buffed by Mr. Willie’s Shoeshine.
Con: You’re probably going to die getting there. The $317M I-16/95 improvement project that broke ground in 2016 continues at its glacial pace, marked by a labyrinth of reflective orange barrels that often appear to lead into oncoming traffic or a nearby pine forest. The Dept. of Transportation teases it *might* be finished in 2023, but until then enjoy that hidden off-ramp from I-16 to onto the I-95 gauntlet.
Pro: The Ogeechee River has lost its biggest polluter. The textile factory responsible for the notorious 2011 fishkill that fouled 77 miles of one of the country’s last free-flowing blackwater rivers has closed, thanks to the unflagging advocacy of the Ogeechee Riverkeeper. South Carolina-based Milliken & Company, which has owned the Longleaf facility since 2014 and has no plans to give up the prime river real estate, couldn’t keep it open after being denied its ask for lower pollution standards in 2020 (the chutzpah!). ORK executive director Damon Mullis avows a continued level of vigilance as the site is decommissioned of its chemical soup.
Con: The same level of advocacy can’t get one lil’ ol’ Savannah square renamed. After two years of hoop-jumping and community support for the Center for Jubilee, Reconciliation and Healing’s effort to rid Calhoun Square of its racist namesake remains stalled. According to the current ordinance, the power to replace the square’s legacy with true Savannah hero Susie King Taylor lies with a handful of recalcitrant neighbors—though there’s nothing stopping City Council from employing their discretionary powers to place it on the City Agenda.
Pro: City Council passed a resolution on July 14 to treat abortion law violations as ‘the lowest possible priority.’ Echoing the language of a similar declaration recently adopted in Atlanta, the resolution introduced by Mayor Van Johnson and championed by District 3 dynamo alderperson Linda Wilder Bryan also limits the use of city funds to investigate such violations. It passed unanimously—which if you’ve been paying any attention to city council meetings you know is a damn miracle—and follows the lead of Chatham County DA Shalena Cook Jones, who has announced her office will not prosecute any abortion-related offenses that stem from Georgia’s six-week abortion ban currently making its way through the courts.
Bonus Pro: Shouts and bows to the artists of the Savannah tattoo community who raised more than $20,000 for reproductive justice last Thursday! Maybe they’ll revive this fundraiser as we continue the long slog back towards bodily autonomy—I’m saving a spot for a Ruth Bader Ginsberg collar by @nutriciass.
Con: The Savannah Bananas hosted a fundraiser for fake pregnancy crisis center Thrive Express on June 17, a week before Roe v. Wade was overturned. How ya gonna root for the home team when they’re enabling this absolutely-not-a-medical facility and its gross neon bus? I called the Bananas to clarify their fundraiser policy, and a representative explained that they sell discounted group tickets to any group with non-profit status regardless of political or religious affiliation (maybe there’s a local chapter of The Church of Satan willing to step up to prove a point?) It was heartening to learn that featured non-profits do not benefit from the entire proceeds of the game, only from the tickets they sell themselves. The kind young woman on the phone estimated less than 75 went towards Thrive’s radical fundamentalist anti-woman agenda.
Pro: Downtown Savannah still gives a good time. Who’s still mad about Plant Riverside and its fun, flashy, and often free entertainment? The vibe was surprisingly chill last Friday evening as the sequined street circus prepared their high-flying show on the riverwalk, and the burritos suizas at Savannah Tequila Co. remain excellent. We saw lots of locals laughing at the soft opening of B!G Comedy Network at District Live—check out America’s Got Talent winner Gina Brillon Aug. 4-6 for easy chuckles and excellent cocktails. My hot date and I also happened upon the freaky fellas of Xuluprophet at Molly MacPherson’s on Congress Street— where else in this world are ya gonna dance the night away to funky psychedelic swamp rock in a Scottish pub? Per the band: “Wel-come to Sa-van-nah!” Paradoxes, y’all.
Bonus pro: The resurrection of The Jinx?! Two years to the day after Savannah’s gnarliest, maddest music venue shut its doors, a new lease was announced on its Facebook page. See y’all in the pit, moshers!
Con: So. Many. Fucking. Guns. Last month’s shootings in City Market and the killing of Saudi Lee by police after he displayed his permit to carry a weapon are just two of the eleventy million reasons gun reform is imperative in our city and nationwide. Downtown curfews are still on the table to bring down the intensity, but who’s going to enforce them without a police chief?
Bouncing between the opposites and oxymorons was fun for a minute, but I’ve got a sneaky suspicion that dissolving duality is the only path to peace. That’s my takeaway from Maggie Hayes’ latest mind-melding installation, radiating at Rule of Three Gallery on Montgomery Street through Sept. 2.
“Nowhere to Go: Infinite Horror, Infinite Beauty” sprung from a week-long meditation and fast that the multi-dimensional artist, yogini, and blistering DJ undertook last year, and sitting in silence distilled these bright new canvases of juxtaposed elements along with Maggie’s ever-refining, non-dualistic state of mind. Her artist statement reveals a bodhisattva-esque fortitude for not falling into judgment of self or others, but rather to “focus on being aware, skillful, and responsive.”
“I am not here to save you or save the world, but to be here with you in all of the grief of its horrors and of the splendor of its beauty…so that we may lovingly tend what needs tending,” she writes.
That struck me straight in my tangled-up heart, and I remembered that while Savannah may be a place of contradictions and missing pieces, only we can make it whole.
And the only way to do that is accept Savannah as it is, in all its infinite horror and infinite beauty.
Home is where your dogs are ~ JLL
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