Saturday, April 23, 2011

Springtime in New Jersey

I have returned to my house in New Jersey, possibly the most unglamorous state in the Union.  It has none of the cachet of “Savannah.”

But one good thing:  spring has not yet sprung here, and New Jersey, the Garden State, is truly grand in the spring.  Homeowners have planted flowering trees and bushes since forever, and they’ve done well in the moderate climate. I’m back in New Jersey in time to watch the entire show, from crocuses and forsythia on.  

The Best Breakfast Ever

The Georgia Queen, a paddlewheeler berthed
along River Street, near Huey's.
I need to tell you about Huey’s in Savannah. I was famished after eating peanuts and yogurt most of the trip South. I hadn’t planned portable meals for the road properly. When I got to Savannah Friday night at 1:30 a.m., I asked the taxi driver to swing through a McDonald’s, the only place open, on the way to the hotel. I was desperate for nourishment. The late-night server kept me waiting while the meter ticked, then told me the grill was broken and gave me a refund. I was glad to see a can of Chef-Boy-R-Dee spaghettios on a shelf in the hotel.

So Saturday morning I was depleted, and I was looking for a restorative breakfast. Since I got to bed at 3 a.m., it was now noon, and it was a challenge to find a place still serving breakfast. Finally Huey’s loomed in my sights on River Street, the busiest tourist street in Savannah. The only seat open was at the bar. I was long-term hungry and weary, and I grabbed it.

The bar was a cool cave, with ancient bricks on the walls and floor, and dark beams crisscrossing the low ceiling. It was in a former cotton warehouse, one of a long row built in the 1700s and lining the historic riverfront. The doors were flung open, and outside on the warm, sunny street, people ambled back and forth.

I didn't get to see it operate, even though I hoped a lot.
The waitress brought a plump omelette with three small triangles of andouille sausage perched on top. When I saw the sausage garnish, I knew that I was in the hands of a cook knew what he was doing. The grits with cheese on top was also restorative. The coffee was great.

I was cool and had the Holy Grail in front of me; the tourists were out in the Southern sun looking, looking. Beyond the crowds lay the wharf, where slaves had come in and cotton had gone out. Tied to the wharf were two steel riverboats painted white with red trim, one of them with a red paddle wheel on the stern. Beyond them tugboats and huge cargo ships plied the river.

Everywhere I felt the feel of the hot, lazy, hazy South. You need to finish 20 tasks on your Northerner To-Do list? Sit down in this-a-heah rocker and have a bourbon and watch the Spanish moss dangle from the live oaks in the square.
Another view of the paddlewheel river boat, with smokestacks that
remind me of river gamblers in embroidered vests.

Economic Recovery

We had a one-hour stop in Fayetteville, North Carolina, so I went in search of hot soup. In daylight, I covered the same ground I had at night on Friday during the street fair. Without the crowds and the fire-eater to distract me, I noticed that 50% of the storefronts were empty.

We have a long way to go to economic recovery. And do we want to return to being a nation that uses credit cards to buy ever more stuff?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Why Spy? Five-Minute Video of the First Chapter of My Novel

This is not much related to my trip to Savannah, but it's related to adventure, the adventure I'm taking with writing.  I wrote the script and my friend Robert Duncan advised me on it, and he filmed it and I was the production assistant, which means I fed everybody and held an umbrella over the camera when it drizzled for five minutes.