Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Georgia on my mind...

I thought I was going to fall in love with Savannah, which would have been a bit inconvenient as I’d then want to find a spare month each year to live here as a local. Luckily, I’ve liked it enough to enjoy my week as a southern belle, but not so much that I feel the need to return.

It’s a small town if you discount 90% of the city where it’s not safe to stay as a na├»ve visitor from out of town. Gun violence is a real problem. Just in the past week there have been three shootings that have left two kids dead and one injured.

It’s suggested that visitors confine themselves basically to the area between Forsyth Park (in the centre of the Google map below) and the Savannah River, with a side visit to Bonaventure Cemetery. You want to be a NOG, which stands for "north of Gaston", the street that runs from west to east across the top of the park.

My friend Sarah and I were booked into two cottages in a lane near the bottom of the park, where we felt a bit exposed and vulnerable. After two days we cut our losses and moved to an inn near the river. We then started ticking attractions off the must-do list for tourists. Once you’ve done that, there’s not much to do other than eat and shop.

We saw two vintage Gregory Peck films (“To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Roman Holiday”) at the wonderful old Lucas Theater, which actor Kevin Spacey helped rescue. I think it’s a shame the theatre doesn’t have regular screenings of “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”, as I would love to have seen it again here. A high percentage of visitors to the historic part of town have read the book or seen the film, and it’s become Savannah’s “brand”.

We visited the art museum, a mansion-turned-gallery and Bonaventure cemetery. A Sunday morning service at First African Baptist Church was a highlight for me. I loved the music and singing, the physical worship and dancing, the sense of community and the very warm welcome we received as visitors from Canada and “Down Under” (as the pastor called Oz). We pedalled our way around the historic streets for an hour in a pedal-powered vehicle with a bucks party from Florida, and we walked the grid that encompasses about 20 city squares complete with live oak trees and Spanish moss.

As I’m not on holiday, I also worked each day from early morning and during some of each afternoon.

Prior to arriving in Savannah we spent a couple of days travelling from New York by train through North Carolina, where I caught up with Dead Runner friend Rietta and my much-missed New York friend Brigitte, and South Carolina, where I regret I didn’t have time to visit Charleston.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Where did those two months go?

My time in New York has just whizzed by. At the end of this week I'm heading south for a fortnight with an old friend from our Hong Kong years and to meet up with Aussie friends for Thanksgiving. Di and Frannie, running pals from Albury, were here for the New York City Marathon. We did some fun things while they were here, including a run in Central Park with former Australian world champion marathoner Rob de Castella and his mob of young indigenous runners.

Me, Rob de Castella, Di and Frannie at the Beacon Hotel, Broadway

We also ran the 5K race that ends at the marathon finish line. I was 55 seconds slower than last year, and two places down in my age group (5th out of 106). Not too shabby, given I didn't run for the first half of the year while my arm healed. It was only my third race for the year; the half marathons in Kuching and Budapest were more like long runs, rather than races. Next year is looking like a more normal year, with a marathon in Pennsylvania in October instead of doing NYC for a second time.

I've gone to see films with Pat and Steve, whom I met last year; and caught up with Ingrid, who was visiting from Santiago; and with Josephine, whom I met at a bus stop last month and who has a Dachshund called Emma. I had a long talk over lunch with CY, who has been a friend since 1986 when we worked together in Hong Kong; and caught up with Selma and Murray, who are in their nineties and still very full of beans. We met in Chile in early 2012.

My Aussie drag queen/performer friend Glace Chase, whose mum's house was next-door to mine in Albury, previewed a new tour called "The Real Bitches of New York", for which I was happy to be a guinea pig. She was a sight to behold on Madison Avenue in heels higher than I would ever dare to wear.

Glace Chase

Runner friend Sun and I checked out the High Line on a gorgeous day just before she started her new job and had to give up being a lady who lunches.


Maria, as always, has been an absolutely reliable morning running partner; more reliable than I have been. It's taking me a little longer than I'd expected to get back in peak form. Next year is shaping up to be a focused one for training, so I'm hoping to achieve some new goals. Other (ir)regulars are Lissy, Sarah, Heather, Joe, Sun, Andrea, Stephen, John and (this year) Darleen. I don't get to see Joanne or Marie unless I run on Saturdays, which hasn't happened much during this visit. Maria organised a brunch yesterday, which was fun.

My film-going dropped off over the last few weeks as my workload increased. I expect to be juggling a very heavy workload while doing quite a bit of travelling over the next few months. I'm not complaining!!!