IT MAY sound corny, but it's probably not a total coincidence that the one-year anniversary of The Savannahian comes the week of Thanksgiving.
Somehow making this crazy venture work, with an ever-growing audience of subscribers, is certainly something I give thanks for every day.
In the tradition of hokey "What I'm Thankful For" holiday columns since FDR invented the modern Thanksgiving back in 1941, here's my distinctly Savannahian-style list of Stuff I'm Really Thankful For.
The Return of That Festival Life
I always knew Savannah’s many cultural festivals were the beating heart of our civic life. Savannah is blessed with a remarkable amount and diversity of festivals for a city of our relatively small population.
But I didn’t fully realize just how important our festivals were until they were gone during the pandemic.
And livestreaming festivals, while better than nothing, just didn’t cut it.
I felt viscerally the loss of St. Patrick’s Day for two years straight, but that is by no means the only loss. The Savannah Jazz Festival, the Savannah Music Festival, and many other annual fixtures were notable for their physical absence.
Is it a little fucked up that the pandemic seemed to miraculously disappear just in time for the SCAD Savannah Film Festival and the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon to happen this year? A bit.
That said, it’s a positive sign overall, and if the corporate/collegiate big boys are back in force, there’s no reason for the City to give a hard time to the grassroots festivals that really make this town come alive.
The successful staging of the Veterans Day Parade earlier this month is a sign that parades are back on, baby — from St. Patrick’s Day to MLK Day.
The Savannah Music Festival for its part is back with a series of off-season concerts at various venues next month, in addition to its usual event in spring 2022.
And what to say about Savannah Stopover? Kudos all around – they will be going all-outdoor in 2022, with a lineup to die for at the Georgia State Railroad Museum.
Ghost Pirates Set to Drop The Puck
Hey, Jim, aren’t you the same guy that went on and on about how terrible and dumb an idea the new Savannah Arena is, that it’s way too expensive and in the wrong location?
Yes. Yes I am indeed that guy.
And I still believe the new Arena and surrounding Canal District is a massive boondoggle. But that won’t stop me from being excited about the new hockey team that will play in the Arena beginning in Fall 2022.
I admit I’m not so enthused about their choice of name. The “Savannah Ghost Pirates” seems like it was coughed up from a combined Visit Savannah and Chamber of Commerce lunch meeting looking through old Trip Advisor posts.
But man! I’m so damn excited about hockey being played in Savannah that I could drop gloves, grab someone’s jersey and start punching them in the face! (Just kidding, not gonna do that at all.)
As a born-and-bred Savannahian and Southerner who grew up on a steady diet of SEC football, with a little bit of Braves baseball mixed in, the hockey bug bit me late in life. Specifically, at the college tournament at the “old” Civic Center, the Savannah Hockey Classic. (And to be fair to Visit Savannah, they did help create and organize that event.)
If you’ve never seen hockey played in person, you’ve missed literally the most exciting team sport to see live, by far.
And for those who pose the usual question, “Meh, who in the world is going to go see hockey in the South?” I can only respond:
Have you seen how many Yankees from hockey cities have moved here over the past ten years? This place is lousy with 'em! (I kid, I kid, my Northern friends. Please don’t buy up my whole block and kick me out.)
So what I’m saying is get your tickets now before the Ghost Pirates — or the Paula Deen Midnight Savannah Spirits, or the Kiss Me I’m Irish Shamrock Pirate’s House Bananas, or whatever the hell they’re called — sell out!
Live music events, especially at the club and grassroots level, have been few and far between for all the obvious reasons. Kudos to those promoters, performers, and venues who have put themselves out there to keep live music alive during a time when so many cultural options are in steep decline.
From Tim Walls’ AURA Fest shows at El-Rocko and The Bean, to Plant Riverside’s eclectic schedule of local and regional artists, to Southbound and Two Tides’ brewery-based concerts, to The Rail Pub’s shows in the yard…. rock on dudes!
Live Community Theatre Is Back Downtown
Let’s face it: live theatre has been off the front burner for quite awhile in Savannah, not just during the pandemic.
With gentrification forcing longstanding community theatre companies into ad hoc locations well outside the Historic District, this vital art form has been hurt both financially and in terms of audience growth by its ongoing marginalization.
(What about Savannah Theatre downtown, you say? They are doing a great job doing pro shows for a primarily non-local audience — but it’s not community theatre. Bay Street Theatre, working out of Club One, does excellent work but doesn’t have a regular season.)
All this is to say I’m thankful that Savannah Repertory Theatre, the city’s Equity company, announced a few days ago that its long-planned move downtown to Broughton Street is now official.
Live community theatre has returned to downtown Savannah.
As I reported back in August, Savannah Rep does in fact envision marketing to tourists — but really, that’s always been the case for theatre downtown.
Most importantly, as a union shop which will pay all its actors and craftspeople, Savannah Rep will lay the groundwork for a rebuilding of not only the audience base for theatre in Savannah, but in rebuilding the essential infrastructure of on and offstage talent to make it all work.
Their new home, in the old Acura dealership at 402 E. Broughton St., was repurposed with the able talents of local architect and sound engineer par excellence Kevin F. Rose.
I’m thankful! Break legs, y'all!
Tame Intown Traffic and More Traffic Calming
Wait! Hear me out.
The simple truth is that traffic congestion in downtown and midtown Savannah is objectively light compared to many other cities. Emphasis on compared.
Been to the Pooler area lately? Depending on the time of day it’s like some parts of Atlanta. And now with Costco open, fuggedaboutit.
It can quite frankly be a culture shock going to parts of West Chatham from Savannah proper, where our biggest traffic worry is usually trying to steer clear of a tourist cluelessly trying to follow a Google Maps route. (Apparently there’s no such thing as one-way streets back in Ohio, who knew?)
It’s funny, because one of the most “charming,” and also annoying, things about Savannahians is how we bitch and moan about pretty much any drive longer than 15 minutes. This transportation parochialism is true for recent arrivals as well as for old-timers.
Many is the time I’ve heard someone who lives in, say, Ardsley Park decide that they just didn’t feel like going out because the drive was “too long” — meaning it was maybe it was a 20-minute drive to the other end of the county. This is roughly equivalent to traveling two or three city blocks in midtown Atlanta rush-hour traffic.
Many's the time I've heard a local speak of "heavy traffic" on the Truman Parkway – which even at its most congested is a near-deserted stretch of Mad Max concrete compared to, say, I-285 at 3 or 4 in the morning.
There’s just something about Savannah that encourages both the best and worst of small-town thinking.
I’m especially thankful for more conversation about traffic-calming measures throughout Savannah, whether more bike lanes or roundabouts or speed bumps. It seems we are finally on our way to living up to our hype as a truly pedestrian and bike-friendly community, and that is due to efforts by all kinds of local activists, such as the fine folks at Bike Walk Savannah.
New Publishing Platforms
Trust in mainstream media has never been lower. Between the constant gaslighting, the manufacturing of consent for continued imperialism and corporate oligarchy, and the relentless politicizing of every story along strictly partisan lines, it’s little wonder.
Throw in the growing irrelevance and unusability of many social media platforms — cough, Facebook, cough — and there has never been a time more ripe for innovation in media publishing.
Luckily those citizens looking for other, less compromised sources of information — either as consumers or content creators themselves — now have serious and practical options for self-publishing.
Substack gets most of the attention these days, and predictably has been the target of hilariously hysterical ire from the mainstream media as it realizes a continued ratings freefall, and predictably blames independent media for their own increasing irrelevance.
Here at The Savannahian, we use a distinct but similar newsletter platform called Ghost.
Whichever platform one uses, the fact that these resources are available, reasonably priced, and so far not subject to the absurd political litmus tests which have so degraded the public standing of U.S. mainstream media is absolutely something to be thankful for.
Best of all, we don’t have AI robots that put stupid disclaimers on our content!
Obamacare/The Affordable Care Act
Yeah, I know, the Affordable Care Act began as an essentially Republican idea. It’s a deeply flawed giveaway to insurance companies that basically guarantees we’ll never get what we really need in this country, i.e. actual universal healthcare. And red state governors have deliberately screwed it up as much as possible, mostly out of sheer spite for low-income people.
But then I left my job at Connect Savannah. And my ever more expensive but still-thorough employer-provided insurance went away. What to do? This is America, after all, where you’re shackled to a company by a system specifically designed to limit your ability to switch jobs or careers.
Boy oh boy am I thankful to now be able to be on Obamacare, however imperfect as it surely is in Georgia!
Yes, the website is confusing as hell, the network is very limited, and concrete information is hard to come by. But it’s affordable, and it’s care, and it’s there!
Triumph of the To-Go Cup
Savannah isn’t usually known for being ahead of any curve. But during the pandemic our liberal open-container laws were suddenly admired and emulated in many other cities as a way to keep restaurants and bars open for business while limiting indoor capacity.
Myself, I have long advocated for to-go cups in general, and our particular style of open-container law. What could be more civilized than trusting individual citizens to be responsible adults and encourage the enjoyment of our plentiful public spaces?
And more to the point, why does it make sense to allow someone to drink a beer inside, but not allow them to drink the same beer a few feet outside on the sidewalk? So dumb.
While to-go cups are becoming more popular in other places, they still remain a powerful signature of Savannah’s ability to charm and seduce.
Colleagues and Contributors
This first year of The Savannahian has been such a joy and validation for me in so many ways, mostly because of my continuing vibrant professional relationship with cofounders Rachael Flora and Sean Kelly.
I’m especially thankful for the host of contributors who have made The Savannahian more than just a trio.
Whether it’s a one-time contributor or a veteran journalist and very frequent contributor such as the great John R. Bennett — who also worked closely with us at our former employer — it’s these other, diverse voices who are the true heart and soul of what we’re trying to accomplish at The Savannahian, over the course of our inaugural year as well as continuing into 2022 and beyond.
Sorry, I don't really like turkey!