Uncle Involved

Aunt Corinne passed along a recent news article about Uncle Mack, who has been volunteering to help out the Savannah prosecutor’s office, which is staggering under a crushing case load.  Although Uncle Mack’s legal career, pre-retirement at least, was entirely in the civil arena, he’s thrown himself into the project, studying criminal law and helping out the prosecutors wherever he can.  You can see the article here.

5806308_web1_sav_022418_mack-webnerUncle Mack is one of those people who has always been “involved.”  When he lived in Reston, Virginia, he was active in leadership positions with community organizations and was featured in a full-page news article.  (The article referred to Uncle Mack as a man in “triple focus,” because of his many activities, and had a three-exposure picture of him.  It was a very nice article, but the “triple-focus” description cracked me up and has always stuck with me.  Now, whenever I see UM, I try to work in a gratuitous “triple-focus” comment just for the heck of it.  Now I’ve been able to work it into this blog post, too.)

The desire to be “involved” has, if anything, seemingly intensified after Uncle Mack retired from a long and successful career as an intellectual property lawyer.  I’m not sure I’m even aware of all of his activities, but I know he’s been working on playing the sax in a jazz combo, he’s taken acting classes and acted in a few independent, locally produced films, and now he’s helping out the prosecutor’s office.  It’s impressive, and Grandma Webner would be proud.

The experts say that a key element of any successful retirement is having interests to pursue, so you stay mentally engaged and physically active.  Uncle Mack is a living demonstration of that concept.

My Aunt, The Author

Yesterday’s mail brought a welcome holiday gift: a book. Entitled Murder in the Village Library, the novel was co-authored by “Collett, Fogarty, and Webner.”

That’s Webner, as in my Aunt Corinne.

The back cover describes the plot as follows: “Vivid characters living in an idyllic gated community are confronted with greed, loss, and treachery in this action packed international thriller.” The book is focused on the library in the community where Aunt Corinne and Uncle Mack live, which admittedly is pretty darned idyllic. And the fact that the cover lists only the last names of the co-authors gives the book a hard-edged, two-fisted feel, like you might get in a Mickey Spillane Mike Hammer mystery.

I know from prior conversations with Uncle Mack that Aunt Corinne and her co-authors have worked hard on the book, and because Aunt Corinne is involved, you can bet your bottom dollar that the book is thoughtful, the plot is logical — and the prose is grammatically correct, carefully proofread, and properly punctuated down to the last semicolon.

Congratulations, Aunt Corinne! And if you’re interested in reading the book, I’d guess that copies are available from the Village Library itself.

The Family Weather Differential

It’s cold in Columbus this morning.  It’s not really cold by absolute standards — at 32 degrees, it’s just at freezing, and a mere chilly precursor of the truly icy days that inevitably are coming this winter — but it’s an arctic blast by relative measurements, since only a few days ago the temperature was pleasantly in the 60s.

ios_weather_icons_1xWhen I checked my weather app to see exactly what the temperature was, I noticed that it’s a heck of a lot warmer in San Antonio, where Richard and Julianne and their dog Pretty make their home.  Down there in south central Texas it’s a fine 66 degrees right now, and I can imagine walking out into the San Antonio surroundings, clad in t-shirt and shorts, and thinking that 66 degrees is a nice cool start to the day — good for a stroll on the Riverwalk or, in Richard’s case, a jog.  Up in Detroit, Russell’s waking up to 36 degrees and a forecast of snow flurries.  And if you add in siblings and uncles and aunts, we’ve got Heidi out in Huntington Beach, California where it’s 54 degrees and the forecast is for partly cloudy skies and a high of 67, and Aunt Corinne and Uncle Mack down in Savannah, Georgia, where its 50 degrees and the week ahead on the weather app features temperatures around 70 and lots of those bright, unclouded sun icons that you always like to see.

So, right now, Columbus is the coldest place in the family, a solid 34 degrees more frigid than San Antonio.  That’s why the weather app offers both the bitter and the sweet.  It’s not great to be here at the coldest location, but one advantage of having a trusty weather app and a a family that is spread out from coast to coast and from north to south is we can live vicariously through whoever is getting the best weather right now.  Later today, I think I’ll take an imaginary walk on Huntington Beach.

Sad Selfie Spot

  
Here’s another modern cultural development that falls squarely into  the “ugh” category:  the Savannah airport has a designated “selfie spot” where you can take a “selfie” in front of an autumnal display of hay bales, mums, and pumpkins.

It’s bad enough that we have to put up with people taking “selfies” at every opportunity.  Now we’re encouraging them to do so on airport concourses?

Savannah’s String Of Pearls

 
I’ve got to give credit to the planners who designed Savannah’s historic district.  Every few blocks, running parallel to the Savannah River, are pretty little squares — like a string of pearls running through town.

  
Each square is a little patch of peacefulness, with its own distinctive features.  Some have fountains, some have statues, some have huge live oak trees — and one has a basketball court and another is a concrete slab.  I like the green, shady, mossy ones best.

  
If you lived in the old town part of Savannah, I expect you would have a favorite square — one where you might go to drink a cup of coffee and read a book and do some people-watching on a warm spring day.  You would enjoy the deep shade and the wet smell of the earth and appreciate the far-sighted city planners who graced Savannah with its lovely squares in the first place.  

  
Has there ever been any city dweller, in the history of the world, who has been heard to complain that their city has too many parks or green spaces?  I’d love it if sprawling Columbus had more of Savannah’s squares.

  

Ghost Hunting

  
Halloween is nearly upon us, and Savannah is a town with a rich ghostly past.  So, the choice was clear:  take a haunted house tour in hopes of seeing a spectre or two.

In our case, the destination was the Sorrel Weed house, which has been featured on those ghost-hunting shows where every scene shows guys in dim red lighting overreacting to sounds and smells and chills.  It’s a creep old house, all right, with a creepy past.  It’s built on the location of an old British fort, and remains of soldiers have been found beneath its basement.  A doctor performed unsuccessful surgeries in the basement before the Civil War.  Children died there, and a love triangle involving husband, wife, and servant ended with the wife throwing herself off a third-floor balcony to land head first onto the slate courtyard and the servant hanging herself from the rafters of the carriage house.

Alas, the apparitions were quiet last night. 

 We watched a video of the house’s history and appearances on the ghost-hunting shows, saw a few of the upstairs rooms, were trained on using EMF devices that are supposed to detect paranormal activity, and then were set free to roam the basement and the upper floor of the carriage house in search of spooks.  It actually was pretty hilarious to see people crowding into dark rooms, carefully holding their Ghostbusters-like devices and wondering if they would get a reading or feel a chill.  Then, they would be momentarily blinded when one of the true believers on the tour took a flash photograph.

And there were some true believers in our tour group, earnestly speaking to the air or insisting they had captured “energy spheres” on their cell phone cameras.  They seemed thrilled by their ghost-hunting adventure.  Me?  I thought the house was interesting.

  

(Not) Selling Savannah

Savannah, Georgia is supposed to be a really vibrant and interesting city, and a fun place to call home.  I was there for a brief visit once and liked it.

IMG_2873How do you find out about a city and what it is like to live there?  If you type “Savannah Georgia” into Google, one of the top options is the official website for the city.  With all due respect, it must rank among the lamest websites for any municipality in the developed world.

If you go to the website, you’ll see an odd array of buttons and links.  The six “popular links”  are “Mayor & Council,” “City Ordinances,” “Agendas & Minutes,” “City Employment,” “City Purchasing,” and “Flood Protection Information.”  Are those links really popular?  If you just wanted to find out about a city, would you ever want to go to those links?  And if you were trying to market Savannah as a place for outsiders to visit, would you seriously put any mention of “flood protection” on your home page?

The “News and Announcements” section doesn’t exactly show off Savannah as a place of fun and excitement, either.  For example, one bit of “news” is that 2013 city sanitation refrigerator magnets will be delivered next week.  You wouldn’t think the delivery of a refrigerator magnet would be a front-page news item, but in Savannah it is.  One can only imagine Savannah residents maintaining a state of cat-like readiness and waiting expectantly for that crucial refrigerator magnet delivery.  Do they dance in the streets when those magnets arrive?  And in case you’ve still got an appetite for news after learning about that bombshell, here’s two other, similarly thrilling front-page items:  “Tourism Advisory Committee to make recommendations” and “City crews respond to minor sewage spill.”

I’m not on the “Tourism Advisory Committee,” but I’ve got a recommendation — if you want to attract tourists, get rid of the hilariously bad website you’ve got now, with its mentions of floods, sewage spills, and sanitation refrigerator magnets, and develop an “official website” that depicts Savannah as the lovely, friendly, and entertaining place that it seems to be.

Savannah Music Festival

Every March/April Savannah holds a Music Festival.  For seventeen days there are concerts, often three or four and sometimes more each day.  One of the highlights of the series in our view, is something they call Swing Central Jazz.  It comprises a number of high school jazz bands who come to Savannah for several days and are tutored by some of the name professionals who are here to appear in the music festival.  This year there were twelve bands that were invited to participate.  The professionals who tutored the kids included jazz pianist Marcus Roberts, saxophonist Jeff Clayton, trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, trumpeter Jon Faddis and drummer Jason Marsalis, to name a few.  Some of these professionals also travel to the high schools during the year to provide instruction in playing jazz.  The week culminates for these kids in a competition for a first, second and third place money prize on Friday.   The bands compete during the day, each playing the same three pieces that had been identified last Fall, allowing each to make their own arrangement of the pieces and how they would be presented.   Then the three top bands are announced and they perform again in the evening after which  the winning order is announced.  Following the kids performances the professionals play a concert of their own.

I went all day last Friday to hear these bands compete and my wife and I went to the evening performance as well.  The kids are terrific !  It amazes me that people so young can play so well.  To my ear, they are all professional level performers.  I don’t know how the judges are able to pick the winners.  One band from Fort Lauderdale,Florida – Dillard Cente rfor the Arts Jazz Ensemble – had won the last two years and this year it tied for first with a band from Agoura Hills,California.  I guessed that the Dillard group would be finalists again as they had a unique presentation.  As to the others, I really couldn’t pick one or two as standing far above the rest.

Some of the band directors, in thanking the festival organizers, parents of the kids and their school administrators for the support of the program mentioned that these kids met three or more times a week as early as six a.m. to get their practices in while attending their normal classes.   So often we hear of the early and difficult practices for the various athletic teams in high schools and even have them highlighted on the local evening news, but we seldom think about and virtually never see what the arts majors are doing to reach their potentials.  What is really troubling is to hear that the band, or art classes, choir or drama activities have to be cut from the public school curricula for budgetary reasons.

As an end note, it was amusing to see the kids, who are so professional when they are on the stage performing, sitting together in the audience before and after they perform, acting like teenagers.  I know that is what they are, but when they are performing it is hard to remember that their hormones are raging and that they are at that time of life when they are trying to devise their own personalities and independence.  These young folks are great ambassadors for their contemporaries.  When one wants to despair over “today’s youth” they need only see what thee kids are doing.

Barhopping in Savannah

Last Friday mom, Amy and I arrived at Savannah airport around five and took a cab to the downtown Marriott Courtyard. After we got settled in our rooms we asked the front desk for a dinner recommendation and we decided on The Distillery which was a short walk across the street.

The Distillery had a huge selection of beers and ales to choose from, Amy ordered a wheat beer and I had a pumpkin ale which were both good. Mom ordered up appetizers which were all tasty, but Amy hit a home run by ordering alligator tails for dinner which can sometimes be chewy, but these were the most tender I have ever had. I had some crab soup the next day that was out of this world. We would highly recommend this place.

After we finished dinner we dropped mom off at the hotel and Amy and I set off on a fifteen minute walk to the Savannah River district which I had read about. On our way there we came upon the city square that had quite a bit of activity so we decided to stop at The Rooftop Tavern which was an open and airy upstairs bar with black light art and a huge balcony that overlooked one of the busy streets below. It was a beautiful evening so we relaxed awhile at one the balcony tables. The picture above is an example some of the art work that decorated the walls on the walk up to the bar.

When we got tired of the Rooftop the door guy recommended another bar close by called The Rail. The Rail is an old southern house that had previously been a boarding house/brothel converted into a bar. It’s rumored that the place is haunted. The music at this bar was real good and by the time we decided to leave the place was packed with lots of young people.

While at The Rail I told Amy I wanted a chocolate martini for my nightcap so Amy befriended some guys at The Rail who led us to Jen and Friends Martini’s a couple of blocks away. Jen’s was a small place, but packed and the martini’s were delicious and reasonably priced (only $7). Jen’s signature chocolate martini included a large chocolate bar laid over the top of the glass.

Overall our short stay in Savannah was terrific. The city was very clean and the next day Amy and mom enjoyed some of the many shops in the downtown area. Each of us would definitely go back to Savannah for another visit so if you have never been there give it a try – you won’t be disappointed.