Lost in Time: Savannah, Georgia; Tybee Island; Kevin Barry’s Irish Pub; You Can’t Go Home Again.

Leaving Rome, Georgia at 6:30am I found myself rushing. Not going too fast but thinking: “Ok, better not stop for breakfast – the traffic is going to be terrible the later I get to Atlanta.” I realized that once again I was leaving the present moment, projecting myself into the future, imagining what something might be like instead of BEING HERE NOW. That brought me back to the present and I began to relax and settle into just enjoying the ride. The sun was starting to rise in a blue/gray sky, the mist still blanketed the hills, I was on Big Red, my Harley and all was right with the road.

I-75 south through Atlanta, despite morning rush time, was easy, especially using the HOV lane.  I stopped for gas, Dunkin Doughnuts and coffee in Morrow, Georgia and memories flooded back. When I was a fresh, young philosophy graduate from the University of Georgia back in 1976 I managed to get my first real job and it was here in Morrow. I was hired as a child protection worker. I know, a philosophy major doing child protection work doesn’t make sense. I did the best that I could but I was still immature, under-trained, naïve to the realities of what parents could do to their children, and inexperienced in professional work. I saw some terrible things, worked some rough cases and did the best I could with 40+ families (the recommended load is 20). Still, I could have done much better. Driving around brought back memories of families I had worked with and children I had placed into care. I lasted a year and a half there before going to work at a psychiatric hospital.

I stopped in Macon, Georgia and visited with my oldest friend Joe. We met in our first year in high school and have stayed in touch over the years. He even visited me when I lived in Ireland.

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I-16 from Macon to Savannah is a long, let’s just say uneventful road. Pine trees, oaks, mimosa, and crepe myrtle, repeat for about 160 miles. The only exciting thing for me is to try and figure how far the Spanish moss has crept northwards since my last trip. The farthest north I’ve spotted it so far is exit 49 in Dublin and then its sporadic until closer to Savannah.

After three hours I entered the incredibly beautiful city of Savannah. Google it to see better photos than I could make (also because my camera, though packed at the time, was damaged in the dust storm I had been in over in Arizona a month earlier). I stayed at my favorite place, 1790, an old inn in the historic district. My great grandfather had built part of the house and lived there for a while. I highly recommend the place.

I did my usual things in Savannah – walking and sitting in the squares – they always mesmerize me with their huge canopies of live oak trees and swaying Spanish moss, and especially when the moss hangs on the crepe myrtle trees – the pink flowers, the grey moss, the green leaves, the peeling grey and brown bark.  I walked the cobblestone streets, shook my head at the beauty of the old colonial and gingerbread architecture and sat by the river. I ambled down the river walk to Kevin Barry’s Irish Pub. I had been coming there since the 1980’s. It has an ‘old world’ European feel about it and it has Harp beer on draught. It also has good Irish music 7 nights a week. When I lived in Ireland for 17 years it was hard to find it even one night a week.

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My grandparent’s house.

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The path by the Savannah River

An excellent musician, Carroll Brown, was playing at Kevin Barry’s. He took requests and surprised me by playing some of my favorite old tunes, like “The Mountains of Mourne” and “The Town I Loved So Well.”  Before I realized it, I was crying. Crying because of the Troubles Ireland had endured and because of my troubles there, my divorce, which caused me to leave the country that had been my second home. Twenty-two years was a long time to be married to someone.

Walking the streets of Savannah other memories came to me: of when as a teenager I had delivered calendars to the clients of my dad’s insurance business, C.F. Powers; of when I worked after high school as a lineman for Southern Bell Telephone Company and lastly, in the 1990’s, when I managed a child protection unit and did foster and adoptive home studies. A swirl of memories and emotions.

The next day I had breakfast at Clary’s and then rode my 2004 Harley Road King down to Tybee. The marsh road was just as I had remembered it. The cordgrass – green, gold and brown. The tide was out, and you could see the driftwood, mud and oysters. The oleanders were blooming, the sky was blue, and the breeze carried the scent of memory, freedom, and possibility.

Later, I ate shrimp and grits, and crab stew at the Pink House while listening to the piano player play the standards and joke with the crowd. I couldn’t face another evening at Kevin Barry’s, so I walked around the city. I remembered the last time I had brought my father to town. He was 94 years old but still wanted to make it to one last Savannah St Patrick’s Day celebration. We walked the streets one last time together and he was so happy. He died a few months later. Tonight, I just enjoyed the salty breeze and the fragrance of night blooming flowers and looked for more traces of ghosts I once knew.

Thomas Wolfe wrote “You cant go home again” and he was right. Home changes the moment we leave it. It’s never the same when we return and, thank God, neither are we. But in Savannah things change much more slowly and the city always leaves a piece of what was, behind, in the old colonial and gingerbread architecture, the cobblestone streets leading down to the river, the blooming azaleas and the scent of jasmine, all left as a path to follow into the doorway of memories.

 

Savannah, Georgia, 1790 Inn, Ghosts, Sauntering through History, Craic, and Mindfulness on a Motorcycle Sojourn, Pascal.

I had a couple of days off for Fall break and so I decided to head to Savannah. Savannah is featured in my last two and latest book – The Adventures of Sid- novels and I wanted to make the scene locations as accurate and vivid as possible. You can check out all of my novels here: https://www.genepowers.org/ . The biggest anticipatory problem with driving to Savannah from Rome, Georgia is that it’s pretty much 330 miles and you have to go through downtown Atlanta. But it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Big Red, my 2004 Harley Road King cruised along beautifully, except for the red warning light about my battery that appeared and disappeared at random. I figured it was the regulator. I also figured that on a Sunday morning there wasn’t much I could do about it other than keep riding. After meeting with my buddy Joe and his family at Starbucks in Macon the battery light went to sleep for the rest of the trip.

I decided to stay at the 1790 Inn again because it’s in the center of town, where I can walk everywhere and because part of it was built by my great grandfather who lived there with his family for years. Supposedly there are ghosts there, but there’s no extra charge for that. The hospitality is always wonderful at the Inn which is probably why the ghosts like to hang around.

Not much I can say about Savannah that hasn’t been said before. My favorite bar is Kevin Barry’s Irish Pub and I have been visiting there for over thirty years. Irish beer on tap, Irish music seven night a week and no televisions or gaming machines. In 2016 it was voted the Most Authentic Irish Pub in the World, even beating out entries from Ireland, which is bizarre when you think about it. Some of my favorite places to eat are the Crystal Beer Parlor, Hilliards, the Pink House, and the Pirate’s House, which even gets a mention in the book Treasure Island!

But what I love most is simply walking around the historic district, through the squares filled with majestic live oak trees and swaying Spanish moss. And traipsing down the cobblestone ramps to River Street.

The historic area is not a great place to ride a motorcycle in, because of all of the stop and go traffic, the blind spots, pedestrian walkways, and the cobblestone roads down to River Street. Better to park the bike and walk. Save your riding for the beautiful trip along the marsh, palm trees and oleanders down to Tybee Island.

Before I headed home I spent a couple of hours in the Inn’s bar. Nice comfy place with a lot of folks I could tell were regulars. However, every 15 minutes or so a wave of people flooded the place, having been dropped off for a drink by one of the Ghost Tour Operators. It was fun talking with some of them and hearing their thoughts on Savannah and on whether they’d seen any ghosts. None had so far and they didn’t seem to care. They were just enjoying the craic, as they would say in Ireland, the fun of it all.

I spent about six hours each way on the bike and although it was all interstate I enjoyed it. Personally, I don’t listen to music. One of my favorite philosophers, Pascal, once said: “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” I just enjoy thinking and meditating, riding with awareness, mindfulness and gratitude, especially gratitude. Pascal also said: “In difficult carry something beautiful in your heart.”