Tuesday, June 22, 2010

savannah on my mind.

Listening To: This End of the Telescope by Jacob Dylan
Line Obsession: "Anyone can speak Troll. All you have to do is point and grunt." - Fred Weasley, from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Hey lovelies! My singular unfortunate event (not to be confused with a series of unfortunate events) didn't occur last week so I might be MIA for awhile. I'm not trying to be mysterious and vague. I'm having some oral surgery soon, which doesn't make for interesting blog chatter. Unless I blog post-surgery. Last time I had oral surgery, I ended up trying to talk to the nurse about my ACT's while I still had gauze in my mouth (this was approximately ten years after I'd taken my ACT's). Also, I watched The Barefoot Contessa while heavily medicated and, if you'd asked me that day, I would have said watching Ina Gartan make creme brulee was more exciting than the car chase in The Bourne Identity. So I might blog then. That might be fun.

I checked the blog while I was in Savannah and ... wow. I wish I could hug you. And make you brownies. I cannot thank you enough for your kind comments on my last post. Sharing what I write with other people is always terrifying and, undoubtedly, a total rush. It's strange how (sometimes) I'm a little bit more vulnerable with fiction than non-fiction. Thanks so much for letting me know what the story meant to you and how you connected with it. You made my weekend :)

My niece (who happens to be a.) gorgeous and b.) hilarious) is hanging out with me this week. We're having Harry Potter marathons and shopping for shoes. You should be jealous. (I'm trying to find a pair of flats in a bright color that aren't shiny - such a shoe seems to be a myth). I'm most excited about hanging out with Erin. I love it when she's here.

It's high time, however, that I chat with you about the whirlwind that was my Savannah Vacation. I'll be breaking this post into two days so you don't get tired of reading. Here's the short version:

Savannah stole my heart.

Here's the slightly longer version:

Several months ago, my brother mentioned The Avett Brothers were going to be playing in Savannah, which peaked my interest because...

1.) I like the Avett Brothers a lot. It's rare that I start liking a band before they gain a following, but I've followed the Avett's for years now. My friend Aaron is to blame. He heard them play several years ago and mailed me one of their CD's with a note that said, "You'll love these guys." (The note probably also said, "Grizzly Bears eat cheese and wear plaid." Or something. Because he always attached random notes like that.)

And 2.) Savannah is a city I've always wanted to explore.

After The Rogue Accountant and I joked about taking a roadtrip for all of five minutes we finally decided ... why not go? I'm so glad we did. The weekend was incredible. I never, ever regret travel. Sometimes traveling on a tight budget makes the whole experience even more fun, yes? Here are my tips for having a whirlwind weekend in Savannah:

1. Play car games.
On the five hour drive, we mostly talked. But eventually we knew we needed something else to pass the time. I couldn't find my Kokology book (a fun staple for long car drives) and, much to Chase's delight, I also forgot to print out gameboards for License Plate Bingo (like I did last Thanksgiving). So we played an old favorite car game, which I hereby dub iPod Prophet. This game is similar to that meme that floats around where you randomly shuffle your iPod, and then use the songs to answer a list of questions. (Although I'm convinced people cheat like crazy on that game - have you noticed it's always the hipster songs that make the cut? Does nobody else have The Judds on their iPod?!)

iPod Prophet is similar to that game - except this time you call out some big life event and then the next song on shuffle will be the song playing when that event happens. Like, "This song will be playing when you meet the person you're going to marry." Or, "This song will be playing when you walk through the gates of Dukefest and meet John Schneider." (Don't judge me for my life goals.)

According to this trip's game, the song that will play when I walk down the aisle is ... "Jolene" by The White Stripes. Win! The game is fun with Chase's iPod. The game is more fun with my iPod. Chase's iPod consists mostly hipster bands that are all very talented (not a Judds song in the mix). My iPod has some of that. Also, my iPod has Vanilla Ice. So according to my iPod, Chase's bride will walk down the aisle to that timeless wedding classic, "Ice Ice Baby." (Confession: I would take that over Butterfly Kisses any day.)

2. Stay somewhere downtown. Savannah has great, affordable lodging smack-dab in the heart of the historic district.
We didn't actually do this. We didn't know anything about Savannah (or know anybody who lived there) so we ended up picking a Hampton Inn somewhere outside the historic district. Which was fine. We only had a ten minute drive into town and we were across from a Starbucks (home sweet home!). But. If I could re-plan lodging, I would stay in the historic district. Hotels there were just as affordable -- and safe -- as staying further out. Be sure you check on parking fees if you do that, however. That aspect was what swayed us toward staying further out - most hotels in the h.d. had additional parking fees (one was $30 a day). If you're going to be walking around a great deal, it might equal out by the end. Either way, there are some very affordable options. I even found some weekend long rentals (condos people only used certain times during the year) that were as affordable as hotels.

Chase says our hotel was amazing, for reasons I shall now discuss.

We pulled into Savannah around 5 and checked into our hotel, where they were having regional tryouts for America's Next Top Model. My brother says it was the most amazing vacation of his life. Admittedly, I was kind of excited too. My plan was to go hang out in the lobby, hide behind fake plants and stuff, and try to take pictures of Ms. Jay and Tyra but I didn't have time. And Chase says they weren't there anyway. I'm not even sure if it was a real Top Model thing or some regional version of "Top Model." But there were plenty of gorgeous, willowy girls walking around in very high heels. They were in the zone. The girls I shared an elevator with did not smile and didn't seem thrilled that I was on the elevator with them. I think they could smell the calories in my Starbucks. Those girls were fierce.

(This is a good time to point out that my bro is not even a little bit shallow. He's far more likely to notice sweet, sarcastic girls who are cool and normal than modely-types. He's just, ya know. A boy.)

3. Eat somewhere you've never eaten before.
Savannah isn't just beautiful and historic, it is packed with delicious eateries. Chase and I ate at a restaurant one of his friends recommended, called Bubba's Oyster Bar. They have more than oysters, btw. I can't do oysters. I did almost get wild and crazy and try a low country boil but opted against it. I'm not much of a seafood eater anyway and I wasn't sure it that would settle well after five hours of car time. We ended up splitting a super yummy entree, but my favorite thing at Uncle Bubbas ...
The fried pickles. Get a basket of fried pickles if you go to Uncle Bubba's. The batter is crisp and a little bit spicy and the pickle is still yummy and crunchy. It's a weirdly addictive pairing. Also, I highly recommend eating outside. The outdoor eating area is covered, and the ceiling is lined with big fans so it's not too hot. You can see the marshes and the boat docks. You feel the warm breezes that roll in off the river. It makes you feel like you're on vacation. It was wonderful.

Uncle Bubba is Paula Dean's brother. Most people recommend going to The Lady & Sons if you go to Savannah but, for this trip, we decided to skip it. I like Paula Dean; I think she's crazy and therefore I wish she was my friend. But eating at her restaurant wasn't really a big deal to me. Also, I get sick if I stand in hot summer sunlight too long. And throwing up all over the sidewalk seems to irk people. I would stand in line for John Schneider. Not fried chicken. (There's your inspirational quote of the day.) (Note: My sister went to The Lady & Sons a week later and she was really impressed!)

4. Walk through a moss-covered graveyard.
(How gorgeous are the colors in this pic? I didn't even tweak them.)

My favorite opening sequence in any novel, ever, is found in Great Expectations. Pip is visiting his parents' grave and determines, based on the way the letters are carved into the stone, that his father was mean and detached and his mother was "freckled and sickly." (Note: why the french toast is "freckled" always paired with "sickly" in these old novels?) I love that so much. If you lived before pictures existed, if you never knew your parents, what would your perception look like? What would shape your perception? The fact that it was a headstone for Pip breaks my heart. I think we do the same thing now too - judge people for one mistake they made for the rest of their lives. Perception is a crazy thing. But that's a post for another time.

My favorite thing about old graveyards is that people seemed desperate to leave behind more than just names. They tried to share little bits of their stories too - even if it was just a tiny bit. They carve out the city and state where they were born. They write some attribute of the person's character. The carve the words of a poem or a passage of scripture so people will know, hundreds of years later, that person was adored and cherished. And deeply missed. Walking through an old graveyard is like walking through thousands of stories and I always get so introspective. There's a graveyard in my hometown I used to walk through sometimes - so old the names and stories were carved on small, jagged pieces of rock. Some of the letters were backward. Some of the designs they'd drawn were off kilter; not refined or fancy. I think it's the sweetest thing.

When you go to Savannah, take a walk through Bonaventure or Laurel Grove. Go early when the tourists are all shopping and the humidity is still bearable. Watch sparrows swoop through the moss trees. Wonder around and read as many stories as you can. Note how many times you see the word sacred.

I saw it everywhere. I think sacred is a lovely word. If the letters are barely inverted, the word reads scared. But sacred isn't scary. Sacred sounds like a warm breeze, like a promise whispered through mossy trees. It reminds me that death is nothing to be afraid of. It reminds me that this day I'm in is sacred too.

5. See the squares.
I didn't know what people meant when they said the city was built around "squares." They are stunning, surrounded by centuries old homes and moss trees. If you don't know what it means either ... you're in for such a treat.
6. Tour the First African Baptist Church.

The only "must do" on my list was the First African Baptist Church. It was an underground railroad stop and a congregation still worships there. The church gives tours and, on the tour, you get to see the holes drilled into the walls so that people in hiding could breathe. Just the thought of it makes me teary. I think it's one thing to defy injustice when everybody jumps in with you, and fights with you, and everybody agrees that it's wrong. But what about times in history (then and now) when people interpret God's Word to mean something it does not mean? One of my favorite Martin Luther King Jr. writings is when he addresses pastors, congregations, church people and says - you, more than anybody else, should be fighting for freedom for every person.

Somebody got it right. I love that faith means freedom to me, not oppression. I'm sure there are lots of churches that pump out messages of hate, but this one is a crazy-powerful symbol of love. And hope.

Sadly, the tour isn't open on Saturday. :(

We still drove past so I could see it. And we're planning on going back sometime (maybe in the Fall, when it's cooler) to do the full tour. Let me know what it's like if you've been!

7. Go see The Avett Brothers
So this might be more difficult ;) But taking in a live show while on vacation? Was brilliant. The concert set the tone for the whole weekend: laid back, easy, introspective. The frantic energy at an Avett Brothers concert will blow you away. While The Swell Season remains my favorite concert experience, I've never had more fun than I had with the Avett's. There was no talking in between songs. No sharing what the song meant when they wrote it, or how I was supposed to interpret it. They just played. Then they tuned. Then they played again. And when they played, they were fully invested in every second of the song. The same energy they have on stage pulsed through the whole room. Somebody recorded a piece of the Savannah concert.

I want to write like Scott Avett plays banjo. (Check around the 20 second mark...)

When I saw people tail-gating in the parking lot of the venue, I knew it would be a fun show. It was. There was so much dancing. And YES I danced. Everybody danced. There was no sitting down for this one. One guy in my section even had a tiny banjo strapped to his back so he could swing it around and play along every now and then. I barely heard the band because the crowd was singing along so loud. I was so impressed, so excited to be part of such a fun show. Get to know the Avett's. Then go see them in concert.

8. Keep your camera ready for impromptu moments like this. This might be the coolest pic I've ever taken on vacation. Shall I point out that the little dog is wearing goggles?

9. Buy a pack of coconut M&M's. Trust me.

10 Drive to the beach while you listen to Alexi Murdoch.
I'll tell you about the beach part later. Cliffy ending: I got in a fight with the ocean because the ocean stole my ...

There are other things I had on my Maybe List that we didn't have time for. I hear Leopold's has the best ice cream in the city. The antique stores were quirky and fun looking. My college roommates said the ghost tours are great ways to hear about the city's history. Savannah seems like a great city to spend time in. But my favorite part was hanging out with my brother. He's one of those young urban business types who works like a billion hours a week, and he's studying for his CPA exam on top of that, so it was nice to hang out with him all weekend. And I love that we actually went, that we didn't just keep tossing around "what if's" until we talked ourselves out of going.

Someday, when I'm walking down the aisle, and Jolene stars pumping through the church speakers - I'll think of Savannah. And I'll smile. :)

How's your summer going?


  1. awesome post, I'm so glad you had a good time. You really make me want to go. I was born in Georgia but I never got to go to Savannah.

  2. I have had that song "Swept Away" in my head every since your last post, and I'm getting ready to buy it on iTunes. What are some more of the Avett Brothers' songs that you recommend?

    The pictures are beautiful...now I want to visit Savannah even more. And can I say that the motorcycle picture made my day? =) Wow.

    Great post. It sounds like you had a lovely time. =)


  3. Totally love the iPod game. It's so fun and can often be hilarious!!
    I also love old graveyards. There's just something about them that makes you feel like your breathing in a part of history. Like your experiencing the past of someone who was just like you.
    My summer's going pretty good! Enjoying the warm weather and just having fun!! :) I did two weeks of VBS at my church recently and my Aunt's coming to visit in July. Also really enjoying what God's teaching me :)
    Hope your summer has been wonderful thus far and that it continues to get better!

  4. Sounds like a great trip! Avett Brothers are definitely on my list of bands to see. My main question: were the fried pickles spears or chips? I prefer the spears but it seems like most places use the chips when they fry their pickles.

  5. LF, you'll love Savannah. I'm excited to go back and see all the places I missed the first time around.

    Kristin, I'm so glad you enjoy the Avetts! I'll get you a list of songs soon. My problem with the Avett's (and most every band) is that I always mess up the song titles. Let me make sure I know the titles to the songs I like, and I'll post a list on here ;) There are so many classy antique stores in Savannah - very vintage/Old South. You would swoon.

    Ashley, you said it so much better than I did about graveyards. I think the overwhelming part, for me, is seeing a snippet of a story for someone who died 100 years ago and realizing they had the same worries, frustrations, joys, and fears that I have. I don't think technology had changed all those innate desires we have. Also, love that you're leaning into God this summer. It sounds like you are busy!! :)

    Leigh, these fried pickles were chips. Can you believe I've never had spears? The pickle chips were thick though, which I believe helps them maintain some delicious crunch. I think fried pickles are so addictive.

  6. Natalie,

    I am so glad to hear that you had fun on your trip. I am aching to get out of Oklahoma. Although, I did get a nice break when I went to Falls Creek, a So-Bap camp in Davis, OK. It was phenomenally amazing. Afshin Ziafat, (don't know if you know who he is, but if you don't, google him. he is a fantastic speaker. And he is from Texas :)

    My summer is going well, but I have had summer classes. Which aren't too bad, but not the way I like spending my summer. It will be over soon though, and then I am off to Florida for about ten days to see family and go to HP theme park!! :)

    Have a good week! Praying for the surgery.


  7. I am SO GLAD that Im not the only one who says "This song will play when..." LOL! DUKEFEST! Wow. I wanna drag my Momma to that LOL! We were talking about John (Gotta love him) the other day LOL and how my baby brother (He's 14 but he's still a baby to me LOL) would look like him if he grew out his hair... he didnt buy it sadly but he TOTALLY would LOL! =D

    Oh wow those pics are so kewl! Love the biker LOL It's so funny to see a manly man with the tiny little dogs... little scary too LOL! I always have my camera ready so maybe Ill find something like that and send it to ya! LOL

    My summer.. well, VBS starts tomorrow and its theme is "Way out East to West" Like the verse. This VBS was MADE for my family! Cause we southern Y'all! LOL! It'll be funny to her my pastor say 'Y'all" because he's from Seattle and he was trying to get everyone to say "w'all" as in 'we all'.... yeah.. he's weird LOL!

    My family (as in MOST of my family) is going to St James Island in South Carolina! YAY! Im going to take SO MANY pictures LOL People on my blog will DIE looking at themLOL! I already take so many LOL but hey, its going to be one of my jobs LOL besides writing LOL =D

    i also plan to get back at my best friend Caleb. He gave me a swollen black lip (see blog for pics) and I plan to get revenge! Any ideas???

  8. I will do all of those things except buy the new M&M's. No amount of money will make this happen.

    Glad you had a good time friend. I listened to Rhonda Vincent's version of Jolene this morning. She should duet with the White Stripes!

  9. Natalie,

    How wonderful! Savannah is one of those places I have always wanted to go!

    My summer has been absolutely wonderful! I am in Juneau, Alaska with Campus Crusade - so not only am I in one of the most beautiful places ever, but I am also getting to tell people about Jesus and be challenged in my walk with the Lord. I have gotten to have some really unique experiences (catching/gutting/filleting halibut, going crabbing, hiking to glaciers) and some really unique conversations. And just sit and stare at the mountains and wonder why there aren't any in Arkansas.

  10. Steffanie, I actually do know who Afshin Ziafat is b/c I used to subscribe to a podcast for a church in Texas where he randomly spoke one Sunday. I enjoyed that sermon. I need to listen to more of his stuff! I'm so glad your classes are almost over. Glad you'll have time to ENJOY summer (which I could never, ever do when I had classes ... :). Have I mentioned how jealous I am that you're going to the Harry Potter themepark? Because I so am.

    Haylie, it makes my day that you and your mom appreciate all that is John Schneider ;) That's too funny! I've never been to the coastal part of SC but I hear it's gorgeous! As for revenge on your friend Caleb ... I'm out of practice. My brother and I are only five years apart. Back in the day, I felt like I had to constantly be prepared for his pranks. My skills have grown rusty over the years :) I'll be interested to hear what you do though! Hope you have a great vacation!

    Aaron, I've never heard Rhonda Vincent's version. But I think that song is pretty fantastic :) I wish you and Kim could have seen the Avett's with us!

    Samantha, I have been following your blog for awhile but this summer, especially, your posts have been making my heart happy. Love how candid those posts are. Love that you're sharing what you're learning. I'm so excited for you as you embark on this big, huge adventure. I hope Alaska steals your heart (it sounds like it already is).

  11. two things:

    1. i loved your graveyard pics and short story! i love old graveyards but i never really go to them or mention that i love them so that people won't think i'm a tad strange. glad to see you love them too!

    2. i laughed out loud at your dog motorcycle picture, way to be ready with the camera!