There were columns at the front of it and in between each column there was an eyeless stone woman holding a pot on her head. A concrete band was over the columns and the letters, MVSEVM, were cut into it. Enoch was afraid to pronounce the word again.
—Wise Blood, by Flannery O’Connor
You might expect a cemetery with such a diverse population of people to contain a really interesting number of ghosts. According to local residents, it does.
—Haunted Georgia, by Alan Brown
The Shirt of Happiness … check. None of the scholars ripped their rooms apart or snuck out last night and roamed the ancient streets as far as Gary and I know and we really don’t want to know … check. Sunny, blue sky morning in the city of live oaks and lots of dead people … check.
I have always known this but now I will profess my belief that Savannah, Georgia is the most beautiful and intriguing city in America. It’s all historic. Every inch of it. There are Georgia historical markers every two or three feet. There are historical markers about historical markers.
This hideous bus we’re using might go fast, but it’s too big for the parking deck underneath the hotel, so I had to park it in an open lot last night three blocks down Bay Street. On the way to the bus this morning we walk by the spot where Oglethorpe had pitched his field tent while he made Savannah and Georgia. Now there’s a stone and marble bench marking the spot. The bench has been there itself for over one hundred years. You wouldn’t notice it unless you knew about it. Now we know about it. We look at each other. We look around. Here’s where Georgia began. It’s a wonderful moment. Students and teachers. The students trust us to make sure they don’t miss anything. They’re interested.
Trucks rumble by on Bay Street. Cars zip past. Horns honk. Scooter horns chirp and beep. You can hear the alien automated voice of a cross walk safety system counting down … thirteen, twelve, eleven, ten …
I lose count of the historical markers we see in three blocks. I think the scholars are getting it. They’re starting to understand where we are. In a special city in a state where they live. Maybe where they were born. Do you think it’s pretty cool, I ask.
History’s close and around us.
We go to Wright Square and pay tribute to Oglethorpe’s buddy, Tomo-chi-chi, who’s buried under a granite boulder. Sunlight streams through the Spanish moss and the leaves and limbs of the square’s live oaks. It’s blinding. Nearby, a couple of locals sitting on a bench are smoking cigarettes and the bright white smoke wafts up and around and filters the light every puff. The only thing I’m wondering is how long do you stand there and contemplate and pay tribute and wonder what the man was like and what he looked like.
As long as you want.
I’m discovering the scholars are in no hurry. Their attention span is getting longer … maybe to fifteen to twenty minutes a site. They’re better in museums because Gary and I hang back and take our time. Gary and I love museums, too. There’s so much to look at, but I’m wondering how much the boys retain and what means the most to them. They won’t say … they won’t get sentimental … unless you ask them. As I gaze at the boulder and the ground under it the only thing I hear is the sound of a jackhammer.
We took them to Fort Jackson, just down the Savannah River from the city. I have to admit it’s a stirring place, but the most interesting thing about it is how the latrines used to work. When it’s high tide the latrines get flushed. The scholars were really intrigued with the cannons at first but once they read all the business about the latrines … for the officers and another few holes for the enlisted men … they really couldn’t stop contemplating out loud, a lot, about the how the latrines work.
We walked back into the gift shop and the site manager was nice to ask us if we had any questions.
I thanked him for asking and then I asked him if there were ever any battles waged here at ol’ Fort Jackson.
He said not really.
I bought a fake Confederate soldier’s cap.
Elmo and Hap buy brass bugles. Which they began blowing as much as possible as soon as they walked out of the gift shop.
We went to the Colonial Park Cemetery. The history is all very dead, but overwhelming. You can’t take it all in.
Boog asked why can’t Atlanta be this pretty.
We walk over to Chippewa Square to see the statue of Oglethorpe. When we walk up to the base, Elmo screams … He’s on the cover of our textbook!
Elmo’s right. A photograph of Oglethorpe’s bronze head is on the cover of our textbook, but not this bronze head. The bronze Oglethorpe head photograph on our textbook is from a statue of him in Augusta. But I don’t say a word. I’m just glad they know who the fellow is.
Hap and Elmo blow their bugles at the statue of James Oglethorpe.
There’s a coffee shop on the corner of the street. Gary and I almost say at the same time … Let’s go get a cup of coffee. But Gary said it first.
Inside we all sit in some deep leather chairs next to a fireplace. A cup of strong Turkish coffee is trying to bring me back to life. Through the window I have a direct view of the head and shoulders of John Oglethorpe. I look at the kids and ask them have they had enough history today. I was ready for more. All we had to do was step out the door and back on any sidewalk.
They said they were having fun … but what are we really doing next?
I could tell they wanted a change of pace. In their own quirky way, they were being polite. Gary and I huddled on an idea. We took them to the airplane museum over in Pooler.
Next Entry ... January 13: Dispatch From Americus