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.
How 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.
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.
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.