Sunday, May 3, 2015

The City Built on the Dead

My birthday was Saturday, and to help me cope with the number of candles on the cake*, Ms. Brugger and I made a long weekend of it in Savannah, GA. I'd visited that town a couple of times in years past, first during in my college days (where I had my introduction to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, an experience I'm not likely to ever forget), and then again in 2009, which was the last trip Mrs. Death and I took before our permanent parting of the ways. Ms. B. had never been, and I've enjoyed my experiences there, so we settled on Savannah for a brief but invigorating Spring trip together. We headed down on Friday morning, naturally laying claim to a few interesting geocaches on the drive, and rolled into town early in the evening. We had made a reservation for a fairly late birthday dinner at Alligator Soul in the historic district, so we trucked down there from our hotel in Pooler, making a first stop at the nearby Jazz'd tapas and wine bar for a couple of glasses of vino. Both locations proved satisfying and then some. Alligator Soul is anything but inexpensive, but that is why we have really nice girlfriends. (Heavens, though — mine has an upcoming birthday too, so there will be fair turnabout.) When I saw that Alligator Soul had bison hanger steak on their menu, that pretty much sewed up my choice. The steak was perfectly prepared and presented, our server first-rate, and I don't think I could have been happier with a birthday dinner. Ms. B. was equally taken with the vegetarian fare she ordered (I don't even know). We spent the rest of the evening wandering about the historic district and grabbing a few caches. This part of Savannah is gorgeous at any time of day, but it is especially appealing by night. It's the ghosts, don't you know. More on that shortly.

*Hell no, there was no cake, and thus no actual candles.
On a nighttime walkabout in Savannah's historical district — near one of the caches I hunted.
Yesterday, the actual day of the dreaded birthday event, we left the hotel early and booked over to Bonaventure Cemetery, which is huge, a lot older than I am, and quite picturesque. We spent a good hour and half exploring its graves, crypts, and haunted corners, then headed back to the historical district, where we found a fair lunch at The Flying Monk Noodle Bar. I had a dish of spicy red noodles and calamari, while Ms. B. opted for spicy noodles with tofu. Service was a little spotty here, but the food was satisfactory. Then we wandered and cached, cached and wandered, and wandered yet some more. Our friends Terry and Beth from Winston-Salem had been on a Caribbean cruise and were heading through Savannah on their way back, so, early in the evening, we met them for drinks and dinner. Since Kimberly and I had enjoyed the atmosphere at Jazz'd and also found their tapas menu rather alluring, we decided to go back and give them a go for dinner. What a great choice this turned out to be. We had several different small plates, including shrimp spring rolls, chicken lettuce rolls, fried mushrooms, lasagne with goat cheese, and asparagus & prosciutto flatbread. Good food, good service, and good friends made for an unexpectedly fine second birthday dinner. From there, we headed over to In Vino Veritas wine bar, which offered an excellent selection of wines — all with a smile from our congenial server who than took better-than-good care of of us. Another Savannah winner, this. I'd go back just to get the grenache they served straight from the keg. Lovely stuff.

Finally, though the evening was wearing down, part of it was really just beginning. Ms. B. had booked us a late-night ghost tour of the historical district, and though we were starting to feel the effects of walking many miles over the course of the day, we perked up and trekked over to Colonial Park Cemetery, the oldest in Savannah — interestingly, also where Nathanael Greene, for whom Greensboro is named, is buried. Colonial Park is also filled with corpses of victims of Yellow Fever, which plagued Savannah just after the War Between the States. Back then, it was not common knowledge, as it is today, that malaria is carried by mosquitoes, and lying amid the marshes as it does, Savannah has more than its fair share (not to mention stinging sand gnats, which assailed us mercilessly over the weekend). With countless casualties of both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars also buried in areas that are now part of the historical district, Savannah truly is a city built atop the bodies of the dead — a fact that, according to our ghost tour guide — accounts for its plentiful hauntings. No, I'm not a believer in such things, but I do find the history and many of the decidedly grim stories of life and death from the past most intriguing.

One thing I did miss from my past trips to Savannah was the giant spider invasion, which occurs in late summer and early fall. Massive numbers of huge nephilim spiders invade the city and spin webs amid the buildings and trees, sometimes three or more stories high. I recall in 2009 seeing entire building facades covered by webs and these huge red and gold spiders, with leg spans up to five inches, hanging in their midst. I also recall, in no uncertain terms, hunting for a cache on the ground, standing upright, and finding myself face to face with one of the spiders, hanging just inches away. Now, I'm nowhere near as arachnophobic as I was in my younger days, but while these huge creatures are fascinating, they can also be a tad unnerving. Next time we go back, it's gotta be in the fall.

This morning, I made an intriguing discovery at our hotel. As I was returning to my room from the lobby area with a cup of fresh coffee, I heard a demonic child caterwauling. I know it was a demonic child because it had a really gruff, deep voice — gah-wooh-gah-wooh-oooh — and it was coming from behind a hotel room door that was padlocked from the outside. Really, honestly, I don't know what gives here, but given the town's character, this just seemed so Savannah. I'm sure there was a perfectly rational explanation for it; maybe the kid I heard was actually out in the courtyard beyond that room's window so it only sounded like the crying was coming from inside. Whatever, I don't know. Agreeably unnerving, that's what it was.

Finally, after a brief stop at the National Museum of the Mighty 8th Air Force, both to get a cache and to satisfy this old military aviation fanatic, we hit the road again for Greensboro. It seemed a very long return trip; I did stop for a handful of caches, as usual, but our forward progress was twice impeded by very long, very slow funeral processions, which dragged on no end. I gotta tell you... it's one thing to show respect for the dead, but it's a whole 'nuther to stop the world so they can parade on by. Me, I want no such thing. When I go, get me cremated, put my ashes in a travel bug so I can see the world by way of geocaches, and fuck the funeral procession. I won't have it.

Despite it being just another day in the forward progress toward that funeral procession I refuse, it was a damned fine birthday. A bit different, I think, than what Kimberly and I had expected — whatever we might have expected — but I reckon that's just one of the great things about living, don't you think?
Beth, Terry, Ms. B., and old dude at In Vino Veritas
Old Rodan with F4C Phantom at the National Museum of the Mighty 8th Air Force

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