Tuesday, August 11, 2009

In the Heat of the Night

"Now I know I'm ready. Pour the night into a glass. Can I sip it slow and make it last?"

-- Norah Jones, Above Ground

I get the impression that it's impossible to be ambivalent about Savannah.

I pulled into this town around sunset; I'm only now settling in for the evening. From what I've been told by the locals -- or at the very least an attractive bartender from Pittsburgh and her comic foil, a server from my hometown of Miami -- it's the hottest day and night of the year so far. It sure as hell feels like it. Having grown up in South Florida I figured I was pretty familiar with heat and humidity, but I've never experienced anything even remotely similar to the punishing, damn near overpowering sauna that is Savannah, Georgia in August. Every window I passed tonight -- each keeping out the oppressive wet air and keeping in the comforting chill of an overworked AC -- seemed to be crying condensation. It's an image that fits this place perfectly; the entire town feels as if it's in a state of beautiful, sensuous decay.

The trees drip moss. The primordial brick walls bleed color, as if the details had been freshly painted on and some unseen hand were now pouring water on the canvas from above. The cobblestones that make up the narrow gaslit roads and endless alleyways look like islands surrounded by glistening black moisture that seems to have appeared from nowhere.

It's as if everything is sweating -- your own body included.

To be uncharacteristically, although somehow appropriately, blunt -- Savannah makes you want to throw open the doors and windows, let the living, breathing night flood in, and fuck until there's nothing left inside of you. Maybe not even your soul.

It's Southern Gothic at it's most wonderous, dangerous and mysterious. There's a reason so much gorgeously malevolent poetry has been written here: It's literally, in the most exquisite and alluring way possible, a ghost town.

And as I look out over its dark, quiet streets from my hotel room window -- it strangely feels like home.


Paul said...

Ok, there's got to be a line or two worthy of submission to Bulwer-Lytton fiction contest in there somewhere.

Sr. Wrangler said...

Hope you enjoyed some time on River Street. The Bayou Blues Cafe is a particular favorite. The whole city breathes slow. One has to love a city where you can order a drink to go. Hopefully the paper mill smell wasn't blowing over the historic district.

Amy said...

I have always wanted to visit Savannah and the way you describe it just makes me want to be there even more. So sultry and sexy, just like a beautiful Southern town should be. Thank you taking us with you on the journey that is your life.

kanye said...

What a beautifully evocative piece of writing this is, Chez.

gina said...

yes, yes, and yes. that place has magic in its mortar. if you have time, go to St. Bonaventure (I'd recommend getting one of the bizarre tour guides to show you about, but you may melt)...the live oaks and square after square of pocketed beauty, all the work SCAD has done to preserve and renovate...fresh oysters and cold cold beer...*sigh*...I once found a keyhole to look through in an abandoned building and found murals of mother Mary peeking from under rubble. you may not be wearing seersucker, but i had a hunch part of your dark matter would find its reflection there.

Anonymous said...

Can't resist this one.

"keeping in the comforting chill of an overworked AC -- seemed to be crying condensation."

It's like this everyday in the shower @ CNN when Klein saunters in to get a looky at a nekkid Anderson Cooper. After much pushing, shoving and grunting you can just hear the faint crying of AC.

Che Grovera said...

And once you've fucked until there's nothing left inside of you, you'll probably be hungry. That's another thing they do quite well in Savannah -- eat. It's been long enough (about ten years) since I've been in Savannah that I feel hesitant to make restaurant recommendations, but a quick Google search revealed that Elizabeth on 37th is still open and is still fabulous (although the recent reviews are alarmingly inconsistent). If you have local connections in whom you have any faith whatsoever, you probably won't be unhappy with the restaurant they recommend. Bon appetit!

Alex and The Boys said...

One of our races led us there, I just remember leaving the bar to go to the ATM around the corner, and being drenched with sweat in literally seconds.
Savannah is gorgeous in every sense of the word, and I look forward to visiting it again, say, in January.

littlebitoffiesty said...

I fell in love with Savannah after watching Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. I have a weeks vacation next week and no plan. Maybe a road trip will do me some good, yes?

Elizabelly said...

@ Alex:

Savannah is *fantastic* in February, particularly if you live in, say, New York. Something about going from snowy 15 degree nastiness to soft, warm but not icky T-shirt weather just salves the soul.

Dona said...

I love Savannah! I was there last September and enjoyed the oversized old homes, the people, the shops.

P.S. I feel for your Dad right now. Ouch!

Christine said...

"beautiful, sensuous decay"


(that is all)

Chez said...

Evil, my dear. So evil.

Blenderab said...

2 words:

Mrs. Wilkes!

Lunch: 11A-2P

Cash only ($16)

107 West Jones St.

Sara said...

This is the first time I am leaving you a comment, but I have been following you for over a year. I just want to express how much I enjoy your style, the words you use to communicate your voice. It's beautiful. You were born with a gift.

Elessa said...

back in june 2004 i went on a road trip. drove from san diego to boca raton via santa fe, detroit, and savannah. returned via houston and new orleans.

i had to stop in that city for more than a day on my trek having lived in georgia as a kid. it is indeed mysterious and horrendously humid, but damn it has atmosphere and some damn fine food.

Anonymous said...

Savannah is old Southern charm at it's best, most alarming and steamiest! So glad you enjoyed my old home in the South. Got to love the Southern gentility, awesome.

a.j.g. said...

I've had three kisses in my life that took my breath away. One of them was in the rain under one of those old, moss-laden trees in Savannah. That was 12 years ago. I went back last fall and walked those streets again only to find them full of ghosts.