Savannah Part 1

Please enjoy the most stereotypical picture of Savannah!

While on our Florida vacation my super amazing girlfriend and I decided to take a vacation from that vacation and headed up to Savannah, GA. We wanted to get as much travel in as possible, see the sights, and explore exciting new cultures (new for her, because she’s from New England. I, raised a Marylander, am technically from the South). It was, overall, a lovely time!

To start, I want to say is that Savannah is first and foremost a city comprised of historical markers. This is how it seemed to me anyways. As we walked around the city I started taking a picture of every one we passed, and this still only represents a small selection because I never dragged us too far out of the way to take a picture. My impression is that most of the signs were put up in the 50s and 60s, so I had to ponder who was trying to shape what narrative. There were also a number of signs put up more recently. Still, it seemed to me at some point the city decided it was now Historical (as an aside, the city was founded a lot later than I thought, only dating to 1733) and went about documenting it.

Picture taken by my super amazing girlfriend.

The very first thing we did in Savannah was stop by the Savannah Seafood Shack to tuck into a lowcountry boil. We ate a lot of good food in Savannah, with other highlights including Treylor Park for their PB&J wings and The Pirate’s House so we could mark off an Atlas Obscura sight (I dragged us to a lot of Atlas Obscura sights this trip, though my super amazing girlfriend has started tracking her sights as well!). I used to live in Charleston, SC, and my only regret during my time there is that I couldn’t go to more phenomenal brunch places, so tucking back into some southern cuisine was a particular treat. On the way back from Savannah we also stopped by a Cracker Barrel so we could really round out the list of stuff-I-have-talked-up-during-our-relationship, but I was a bit disappointed they didn’t have fried chicken gizzards on the menu.

But now into the metaphorical meat of the trip, instead of the literal. Having tucked ourselves into bed after tucking into that lowcountry boil, our first major destination the next day was the Bonaventure Cemetery. The reason you visit the Bonaventure Cemetery is for the vibes. This destination was suggested by my super amazing girlfriend but I am anyways a fan of walking around old cemeteries. This cemetery wasn’t all that old, being only from I think the 1850s or so, but giant oak trees and plenty of Spanish moss made it clear it wasn’t exactly new either. The site was also previously a plantation, and had some revolutionary war history attached to it.

Since the cemetery is a major tourist site for Savannah, it’s got a whole list of popular graves to see, like that of Gracie Watson above. Again, I dragged us around looking for the ones on Atlas Obscura. I’m trying to think of what I liked about the place without just repeating the vibes line I used in the last paragraph, but no yeah the cemetery is in a beautiful location (though, as a former plantation, with a dark history), with a “bluff” overlooking the river and nestled within trees providing shade. And maybe the best part is just walking around with someone you love, thinking about beauty and other philosophical thoughts. After we were done with that, we went to lunch.

A portrait of Juliette Gordon Low
My super amazing girlfriend plotting to steal Juliette Gordon Low’s spinning wheel to add to her collection.

We began the afternoon of our first full day in Savannah at the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace Museum. She founded the Girl Scouts, and the museum is now run by the organization. This was a pretty quick tour, but well done. Most of the museums we went to were having you do self-guided tours due to COVID of course. They typically had you scan a QR code on your phone which brought you to an audio tour you could walk yourself through with. The tour walked you through the house and focused on what inspired Juliette Gordon Low there to found the girl scouts. Besides her uplifting story of wanting to inspire girls of every race and class to better things, I also admired some very nice crown molding and some of her art collection.

After the museum, we wandered off through Savannah, looking at sights including Forsyth Park pictured at the top. We admired more signs, more graves, and a collection of hats before getting a drink at a rooftop bar and tucking into dinner. Afterwards we head back to our hotel, and in my notes about the day I wrote down “lovely showers.” I used to judge events by how nice the shower would feel afterwards. After a day of hiking around Savannah and getting to know the city those showers felt very nice, giving the day quite a high rank indeed.

Edison & Ford Estates

Edison’s house and also my super amazing girlfriend.

While on our Florida vacation my super amazing girlfriend and I took the trip down to Fort Myers to visit the Edison and Ford Winter Estates. The two industrialists were classic snowbirds, and sensibly made the trip down to Florida to escape the harsh and grueling winters of Michigan and New Jersey, which is a notion I fully support. Since they were such buxom friends they got estates right next to each other so they could hang out and stuff. I went there once when I was a kid and I mostly remembered a very large banyan tree which I admired. I am happy to report the banyan tree is still there, still large, and that I still admire it!

The latex laboratory.

When you arrive, the Estates have two major parts. The first is the museum which tells the overall history of both Edison and Ford (with more emphasis on Edison). It’s got a variety of artifacts and man if you are into gramophones it is the place to go. This side was originally also a botanical research center from when Edison was trying to figure out a new source of rubber that didn’t involve the Amazon. I like that they keep the theme growing by selling plants, including fruit trees and a variety of decorative plants. This side also has the laboratory where they analyzed plants for their ability to produce latex. Across the street are the estates themselves, with the preserved buildings you can peer into.

Not a gramophone, but Edison’s last breath instead.

We started with the museum and I think overall it is pretty okay. Like I just said I think it winds up more skewed towards Edison, but that actually makes sense with the site. Although Ford gets top billing in the name of the site, it was Edison that moved down here first with Ford buying his neighbor’s estate when the neighbor moved out. Edison also had a whole research facility here, so it’s mostly actually the Edison estate with Ford the next-door neighbor. They have a lot of artifacts, including many dynamos, many more gramophones, and a number of cars. They got a whole display too about Edison’s fishing hobby, and in three different locations around the site they tell the same fish story about him catching a small tarpon.

The biggest weakness of the museum is that I don’t think they put a lot of effort into contextualizing the men. The most glaring omission, based on my knowledge of the men, is any discussion that I could find about Ford’s rampant anti-Semitism. My super amazing girlfriend spotted that they did sell the book Henry Ford and the Jews: The Mass Production of Hate in the gift shop, so that’s something I guess. In one of the kitchens in the houses, the site is also eager to talk about Queenie Adams, the Edison’s long-time cook. I didn’t know these people, but the site is eager to make her and the Edisons sound like dear friends. Mrs. Edison chartered a Pullman car to take her home when she was dying, which isn’t nothing, but this sounds like a relationship ripe for a historical re-evaluation. Being more critical in analyzing these men would vastly improve the site.

Moonlight garden, looking at Edison’s Study. It’d be cool to have a study with a moonlight garden.

The estates themselves though I gotta say are pretty darn beautiful. Edison picked a good spot. They are right on the water and the grounds are planted with fruit trees and other plants. I really wanted to take a mango. Edison had a “Moonlight Garden” designed by Ellen Biddle Shipman which was gorgeous, and there was a pond next to the swimming pool that was being admired by a family of ducks while we were there. They had a riverside walk that was lovely to stroll by. The houses themselves were also pretty great, large but much smaller than mansions and Edison’s especially felt airy and comfortable and we were peering in from the porch. I would have very much enjoyed hanging out in the library overlooking the river through the coconut trees, I think.

An excellent if immature grove.

One of the funnier bits too was the orange grove planted over on the Ford Estate. Back when Ford was in residence there as a large citrus grove, and in recent years they have planted a new grove to represent the old one. The trees are still small but are interspersed with signs sponsored by Florida Juice that are downright bombastic about Florida Oranges. They really want you to know how juicy Florida oranges are. How juicy? Really juicy. Not like those California oranges, no. It would take way more than 1.7 California oranges to make a glass of orange juice. Pretty, despite the bombast, and since my dearest dream perhaps is to have a grove of tropical fruit trees it inspired both admiration and jealousy.

Our tour was briefly interrupted by a thunderstorm which forced us to seek shelter in the next-door restaurant. We consoled ourselves with oysters, crab Rangoon, and sangria. We were back at it though soon enough and got to admire the rest of the grounds at our leisure. Even if it could use a bit (a lot) more contextualizing of both Ford and Edison instead of just hagiography, the estates are lovely and an interesting place to read about turn of the century invention and industrialization and also fish stories. I’m excited to install a riverwalk and fruit tree grove whenever I get around to having an estate.

Leffis Key Preserve

Reading this week:

  • the joy and terror are both in the swallowing by Christine Shan Shan Hou

Look, by the time you read this I am going to be like a solid half week into a brand new career and I gotta build up a backlog of entries so I can do all the new-career things like figuring out where to get coffee and where the bathrooms are and also like, how to do the job. So that’ll be exciting! And also with that said, while on our Florida vacation my super amazing girlfriend and I visited the Leffis Key Preserve.

I have been going to the Leffis Key Preserve for years when I visited my grandma and it is one of my favorites. It’s just this tiny little park that was built as a sorta artificial ecology center, that is they built up some islands (or I guess actually dug out some canals) and made a small hill and planted a bunch of mangroves and stuff and just watched as the ecosystem rolled in. Despite it being across from a usually rather crowded public beach, it typically has around zero people in it, so you can have the various trails and boardwalks all to your lonesome.

The biggest draw for me personally is the mangroves. I’m a big fan of mangroves. I’m not a fan of Crossing the Mangrove, which I had to read for a French class with an absolutely atrocious teacher, though maybe if I re-read it I would enjoy it a lot more, but the trees themselves I like both for being extremely friendly for the environment or whatever and also being cool and stuff what with all the fiddler crabs and stuff you get running around their roots. When in the preserve I mostly like just hanging out on the boardwalks they got going through the mangrove uh, groves and taking in feeling of it all.

While my super amazing girlfriend and I were visiting the preserve we also got to see a lot of wildlife. She spotted a little crab in a tree, which is I think typically not where crabs go but just goes to show the beauty and wonder of nature. There were also just a whole butt-ton of fiddler crabs, though I wondered why they all went for the fiddle instead of some branching out to electric guitar or the drums or something. Based on the two pictures above we also got to see some birds. I think (based on a sign we saw) that the top one is a Black-crowned Night Heron (though looking at that webpage maybe not?) while the bottom one is an ibis. We actually see a lot of ibises around here, eating I guess worms or something out of people’s lawns, but this one was special for eating in something that I assume is closer to its natural habitat.

So anyways if you’re in the area you should go to the Leffis Key Preserve. It’s a beautiful little spot and I wish there were more spots like that, except maybe bigger and taking up the entire coastline so we could restore mangrove ecosystems and also prevent seaside erosion. Carbon capture too? Things to think about. The boardwalks are well-maintained and get you real close to nature and stuff, as well as provide gorgeous views of the channel between the islands and the mainland. Plus you can see fish. What’s not to love?

Orioles vs. Rays

Reading this week:

  • Footsteps by Pramoedya Ananta Toer

Back on June 12th, I went to a baseball game along with my dad and my super amazing girlfriend. The location was Tropicana Field in Tampa. The game was between the Rays and the Orioles (you can watch the highlights here; the Orioles hit a grand slam!). The occasion was Father’s Day. This is that story.

Look I gotta say I’m not all that into sports. I resent every single football game I was forced to go to as a Midshipman. I just can’t get all that into the action on the field. I usually reason this is because I have absolutely no effect on the outcome and thus can’t get involved in the drama, but then again I enjoy books, movies, and TV shows, so maybe that’s not it. There are some exceptions. I will watch the Army-Navy game when there are other people around. I am also an enthusiastic attendee of the Annapolis Cup when I can go, but I will also say I have been several times and I don’t think I ever managed to actually witness any croquet. Also Rowing Blazers sponsors the cup now???

The point is that although I don’t follow any teams or watch any sports on television, and probably wouldn’t ever buy a ticket on my own, I do kinda enjoy going to baseball games. The pace of action is just about right for my tastes. Football is too staccato. Soccer looks tiring. But baseball! Baseball is just right.

It might also be that once upon a time I had a dream of becoming a baseball star. This dream never made it very far, stalling in little league. The root cause is that I wasn’t very good at it. I don’t think I ever hit the ball when I was at-bat, mostly because I was petrified of being hit by it. I wanna say here that with the quality of the little league pitchers this wasn’t unfounded. I also never found a groove on the field. I long harbored dreams of being a pitcher. After many weeks of practicing I was finally given my big chance and I was pulled before I got through one batter. I had brief promise as a catcher, with an ability to sit in a squat, but please note several sentences ago when I said I was petrified of being hit by the ball which meant I took a dive on every single pitch. I was eventually relegated to the outfield, which given the quality of little league batters rarely got any action. I viewed this is a good thing.

I do remember the one moment that I was truly great. It was the last game of the season, and to I think the mutual benefit of all parties, I had decided to not return to little league the following year. In the final half of the final inning, our team was on the field and I wasn’t. I was giddy about this. No more practice! No more balls being thrown at me! No more baseball! But THEN: a crisis. Our catcher was injured. Taken right out of the game. He needed to be replaced. Who would step up to the plate, in this case literally what with this being a baseball scenario? I was the only option so I was chosen. I dressed in that dreaded catcher’s gear but for once I didn’t care; the giddiness had already taken over completely and wouldn’t be undone. So for this one inning, I was actually a good catcher. I wasn’t afraid! I think I caught the ball regularly even, and then threw it back and mostly got it back to the pitcher’s mound! It was a feeling of sports euphoria I wouldn’t re-achieve for a long time, if ever. It was great.

Nonetheless, my little league career was over. I was still, however, a baseball fan. I think maybe I was mostly a Cal Ripken fan. My childhood was his era, man. I remember the “Got Milk?” posters vividly, displayed in our elementary school gym. Of course the Orioles were our hometown team, since I grew up a bit south of Baltimore (a bit north of Annapolis, really). One time I insisted that my parents buy me a whole kid-sized Orioles uniform and then was too embarrassed to actually wear it to the game. The Orioles were my dad’s team, too. Now dad, dad is actually a baseball fan. He listens to games on the radio. He falls asleep in front on games on the television. He knows who the players are. He is a fan! Which is why we went to the Orioles vs. Rays game for father’s day. He asked for the tickets, my mom bought them for him, and my big responsibility was to go. My super amazing girlfriend gamely came along too, to her very first major league baseball game, despite being even less of a sports fan than I am. I think we all had a good time! She was particularly amused that they actually sold Cracker Jacks at the ole’ ball game.

I think we all had a pretty good time. We showed up a bit early and walked around. The groundskeepers provided some amusement. I couldn’t decide if the notion of them watering fake grass or them watering dirt was funnier. I realize why they water the dirt. The amount of effort that goes into dirt when it comes to baseball is stunning when you think about it, really. In the other part of the photo above, they’re smoothing out the dirt. The little bag behind the pitcher contains very special dirt. Dirt! Exciting stuff.

I took the above photos to comment on the COVID precautions in the game. There weren’t really any, except that the umpires and coaches went through a whole elaborate fist bump routine I assume in order to minimize human contact while still pretending like it’s a thing. All well and good until I noticed Mansolino just up and shake hands with the third baseman there. Double standards!

And, uh, and that’s all I really have to say about the game. It was as entertaining as baseball ever is. We snacked on peanuts (no Cracker Jacks) and my super amazing girlfriend even had a hotdog. If only we had baked an apple pie when we got home, it would have truly been an all-American day. (I realize now this will be published on the 4th of July. ‘Merica.)