Tuesday, July 11, 2017

...recitations of ambiance in Savannah...



Nearly a month ago, I started writing about my Savannah vacation but I have not had much time to sit down and reflect because almost immediately I headed off to Chicago for a work conference (where I took an excursion to Graceland Cemetery), and then to our Colonial Williamsburg family (my fella and me!) vacation. While I’m working on research for a marketing course in Public History, I thought I would take a moment to reflect upon my Savannah trip.

As I wrote in the previous post, I needed a good gothy vacation. This is my first real summer break in years, and while I’m continuing to work on academic publications and projects, it has been so nice to get away from the day- to-day grind.

Our tour guide explained the symbolism of the cemetery gate including the "bats" design to represent hell!
I began my trip like any good English professor/ tourist traveling to Savannah. I watched and re-read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. As soon as I arrived, I attended The Beyond Good and Evil Tour at 10pm, which I discussed previously. Even after driving seven hours south from Richmond, I knew that I would be wired.

The next morning, I skipped breakfast at the Amethyst Garden Inn because they only served breakfast from 9-10am and who has time to sit around waiting for breakfast!?! It was a lovely B&B but I would not return, especially since mid-trip I had to change inns, which worked out better for me in the end. That will probably be noted in the next post.

My first morning excursion was to Bonaventure Cemetery for a tour. The place is breathtaking. There are multi-meanings to that. It was both gorgeous and OHMYWORD the humidity had me huffing and puffing. Mind you, it was fifteen degrees hotter in Virginia but even in 80°F I was dripping in sweat (I know, gross!) within minutes of stepping outdoors. The gnats are also brutal! If you can tolerate all of that, you’ll find a gorgeous cemetery with some pretty strict rules about stepping in family plots (as in, it’s a No-No and I actually saw a few visitors get fussed out!) My pictures ended up being longshots because I had to stand somewhat far away but it isn’t the individual markers that give Bonaventure its beauty; it’s the overwhelming ambiance of the Spanish moss hanging from the trees that makes you feel like you’re getting a big ol’ fat sweaty hug from your Southern great aunt while simultaneously feeling a bit uncanny like, “is this really my big ol’ fat sweaty great aunt?”

Just a quick aside, Spanish moss is basically an air plant, which absorbs water and nutrients through its leaves from the air. It rarely kills the tree that it grows upon but because it can become so dense it sometimes offers too much shade to the tree's leaves, which can lower the tree’s growth rate.
At Bonaventure, I also found a buddy! During the Bonaventure tour, a woman named Janet and I realized that we had also been on the The Beyond Good and Evil Tour together. We discovered that we both have a thing for vampires; we’re both language-educators; we’re both taphophiles; and, we were both women traveling solo, which I think is awesome. I am often asked if I get lonely—nope; if I get scared—not really; and, if I feel uncomfortable dining alone—not one bit.

After the tour, I stuck around Bonaventure a bit longer to look around. I was so grateful to my former-self for bringing some crackers and a large Honey Crisp apple to hold me over. Even though Savannah is known for being a city with amazing food, and in my experience that is true, I had a hard time pulling myself away from activities.

That afternoon, I headed to the Jepson Center for the Arts to see the infamous Bird Girl statue that was featured on the front cover of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Unfortunately, because of the book’s popularity, the statue had to be removed from Bonaventure Cemetery to help with crowd control.

Awkwardly placed in a narrow hallway surrounded by windows
 
















The statue was designed by the Chicago sculptor Sylvia Shaw Judson in 1936. Based on her design, the statue was intended to hold food and water for birds, not to symbolize the balance between good and evil.

Picture taken in bathroom. My dress has a thistle print!
That evening, I had reservations at the Historic Olde Pink House. As a solo traveler, I think some of the staff pitied me until they realized I was there by choice. Then they became envious. They were great conversationalists. The restaurant is gorgeous and all of the staff seem willing to chat about the legends of the location being haunted. I did not see any ghosts but I'm pretty sure the tablecloth was haunted. 


There was a hostess who walked throughout the restaurant and every now and then would belt out a song. It was a great evening and the food was amazing. The waiter even brought me my own candlestick to add to the ambiance. 

Sunday, July 9, 2017

...a devil, a snake, a tongue-twisting hippo, and a funeral procession: American folk art at its best...




Devil Bootjack 1850-1875
Part of our Colonial Williamsburg experience was attending the art museums. Before I mention that, Ms. Misantropia asked why I continually write “Colonial Williamsburg” instead of simply “Williamsburg.” Having grown up in the region, I sometimes forget to spell out exactly what I mean when writing about places that are so familiar to me.
Colonial Williamsburg is a living-history museum that includes recreated colonial houses, taverns, and buildings based on what the colonial city looked like. It is filled with interpreters dressed in colonial attire. It is a privately funded and actually came about with one of the reverends of Bruton Parish Church working with the Rockefeller family in the 1920s.  


 

While strolling through the town, a visitor can learn about the historic homes, some of which are from the colonial era with others being recreations; one can learn about the trades of the time. My fella always says that he wants to go watch shoes be made. The coffin picture from my last post was part of the cabinetmaker shop where you can watch interpreters who are also experts in designing furniture using colonial era tools and practices. Here is an interactive map for those who are a bit more curious about the place.

Mourning ring
Colonial Williamsburg is a popular destination for school trips; and, growing up so close to the location, I can recall several middle school trips there and to the surrounding historical locations. The coffin actually fits right into this discussion because while many visitors go to large tourist spots like Colonial Williamsburg, there is always a bit of dark tourism to be had.

This was the first time my fella and I have made a plan to attend the Colonial Williamsburg Art Museums. We’ve attended them before but usually do not get very far because we have gone on the last day when it is pretty much time for us to head home. Honestly, we had no idea how amazing the museums would be. We thought Colonial Williamsburg was more about the outdoor museum and had no idea what artifacts would be inside.

Catholic Funeral Procession CA. 1910
Vermont
Unidentified artist
The museums are made up of a folk art museum and a decorative arts museum. I love folk art, especially signage and outdoor fixtures. One exhibit in the folk art museum included “Sidewalks to Rooftops: Outdoor Folk Art” and this delighted me because there was a collection of whirligigs and weathervanes. There was also a carousel in the middle of the exhibit.

Catholic Funeral Procession CA. 1910
Vermont
Unidentified artist





When you enter the museums, you actually enter in what once was the public hospital that treated the mentally ill.  The "Public Hospital for Persons of Insane and Disordered Minds" was the first building in North America exclusively devoted to the treatment of those with mental illness with the first patient being admitted on October 12, 1773. Unfortunately, it was raining when we headed to the museums so I did not take a picture of the building but this is the very location that I have written about in a previous post on Patrick Henry’s wife, who ended up living in the family basement since the hospital conditions were so poor.

When you enter the building, there is an exhibit interpreting the mental hospital with haunting voices of past inhabitants crying out for help. The exhibit included diary pages and doctor logs of the patients. In another room, it included artifacts from the period associated with helping those become well including a coffin-shaped cage where inmates patients would be contained if they were violent.

 










Our American history includes some very interesting and strange pieces. 

In this post, I have included some of my favorites from the folk art section which is much more lively than the exhibit.



The hippo record player. The video shows that when it plays, the tongue moves.
video