Durham has become uninspiring (lately). The quirks of its character have become commonplace or (completely) washed away completely. Perhaps I’ve been here too long. Without RUNAWAY, I am not as plugged in as I used to be.
A couple years ago, Granddad and Grandmama bought a townhouse in downtown Savannah. I escaped to Georgia last weekend to spend time with the two people who inspired me to write in the first place and observe a place that wasn’t Durham. What I needed might just be perspective.
There are two things in Savannah: bachelorette parties and ghost tours. If you’re out past 7pm, you belong to one of those groups. No exception. Thankfully, you can drink openly anywhere in the city to seek refuge. If you believe in either institution, marriage and/or ghosts, you probably won't afterward.
On our first night out, we wandered through town after dinner and stopped at The Coffee Fox. The clerk asked if I wanted my IPA to-go. She could smell the tourist on me as I grinned and shook my head in conformation. You would think that such a liberal drinking law would encourage behavior that resembles the zombie apocalypse. Remarkably, downtown Savannah was no more rowdy than a night on Rigsbee Street. The fact that people could drink at 10am didn’t incite everyone to have Frosé with their eggs and bacon. It makes you wonder why we don’t have more “drink where you please” destinations across America, particularly here in Durham. I’m looking at you, Steve. Don’t think this won’t come up during our next Town Hall.
There’s a third group that walks amongst the people of Savannah: SCAD students. Their existence is an odd juxtaposition, much more than Duke students to the townees here. I would need more time to fully understand the relationship but from what I was told, SCAD, like Duke, has played a significant role in the revitalization, claiming real estate all over the city. Eliza and I were fortunate to be there during the last couple weeks of classes. Two different parties hosted by the school happened over the weekend. The Sidewalk Arts Festival on Saturday was hosted in Forsyth Park, a 30-acre green space smack in the middle of the city.
To put things in perspective, Durham Central Park is 5 acres and too close to residential areas to do anything fun past dark, and while Duke Gardens is almost double at 55 acres, it’s privately-owned property which also comes with its own limitations. As I marveled to Granddad about how incredible an asset Forsyth Park was to Savannah, he said it was “democracy at its finest.” Grandmama mentioned that they recently won their own battle in Portland, Maine over protecting communal green space inside the city. Maybe we’re just not fighting hard enough here in the Bull City. If these things are important to us, we can’t make so many concessions for developers. Once you develop land, rarely, if ever, is it turned back into green space. What does that say for the future of this city and others?
Savannah has a rich (albeit confederate) history, a prestigious school, fun quirks, it’s great for biking (the entire city is a flat grid) and yet, it left me wanting. Every bar scene felt like Shooter’s, a place that I’ve stepped into once and I’m pretty sure it was against my will.
Under orders from Granddad and my friend John, I’ve vaulted Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil to the top of my reading list after Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. With a little more time in Savannah, perhaps the southern charm would have won me over the way it’s captured my grandparents affection. I look forward to having the chance.