Weekend in the Garden of Good and EvilTue, 6th Sep '11, 12:54 am::
Juliet and I went to Savannah, Georgia this Labor Day Weekend with our friend Sandra and her daughter (our goddaughter) and here are the photos. I had visited Savannah twice before to see my friend Vu but it wasn't until this weekend that I took the time to fully appreciate the city's cultural and socio-political origins.
After a wonderful walk through the Oatland Island Wildlife Center on Sunday, the girls went shopping around Ellis Square while I decided to read some short stories and poetry by the fountains. I came across one of the most haunting poems I've ever read - Seven Twilights by Conrad Aiken and felt compelled to dig deeper into his life. He was born in Savannah in 1889 and when he was a small boy, his father killed his mother and committed suicide himself. This tragedy had a profound impact on his development and writings. Saturday night we took a "ghost tour" around the city during which our guide told us about numerous Savannah residents who had tragically died of malaria or spousal-abuse centuries ago and haunt the old houses to this day. The Aiken name was missing from the roster, though the writing thoroughly conveyed the message.
With a huge immigrant population of Haitians and Irish during the 18th and 19th centuries, Savannah developed its own flavor of Americana literature, art, and architecture, much like New Orleans in Louisiana and St. Augustine in Florida. The city was founded in 1733 by Gen. Oglethorpe and laid out around four open squares intended to provide space for military exercises. The layout was also a reaction against the cramped conditions that fueled the Great Fire of London in 1666. By 1851 there were twenty four squares in the city.
The house we rented was next to Forsyth Park, which was featured heavily in the bestselling book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Sunday evening we watched the haunting movie version, starring Kevin Spacey, John Cusack, and Jude Law. The story was set against a backdrop of the traditional Southern social elites in the early 1980s and portrayed elements from voodoo beliefs and alternative lifestyles that are as much a part of Savannah's culture as the ghost tours and historic church congregations.
While there is no single incident during the entire trip that I can point out as haunting, I left the city with a feeling of tragic nostalgia. It didn't matter that the city today is a vibrant port-city or is just one of the many cities around the country with a rich history. In the course of a few days, I had witnessed the birth and death of generations. Time had either wiped clean or set in stone the dreams and nightmares of men and beasts alike. As I reflected upon my own mortality and unfulfilled dreams by the fountains of Ellis Square, Juliet walked up to me and gave me a tight hug. She said "I missed you" and I replied "I missed you too. Now let's go home."