Southeastern Bound

Southeastern Bound

Why Ride When You Can Glide

by James Byous on 09/19/12

Today I had the opportunity to glide around our beautiful city on a Segway tour from Segway of Savannah. Fantastic!  After a short safety video three novices - two young ladies from Delaware and me - climbed aboard.  Wobbly at first, it soon became second nature to glide, turn, stop and roll along the cobbled streets of Savannah. 

Our tour guide, Kathie, was knowledgeable on our city's history and made the day enjoyable.  Currently SoS is providing 1.5 hour tours of downtown along with a tour of Bonaventure Cemetery which is just outside of the Historic District.  Talk is they will be adding other tours in the future after moving to their new location at West Boundary Street and Oglethorpe.

At right, Kathie, our guide. 

The Box

by James Byous on 02/06/12

Today Becky (Rebecca Harrison Byous) and I had the opportunity to visit a friend here in Savannah who allowed us to view a family heirloom that has been passed down through four previous generations. It was a small leather-covered box about 12 inches by 9 inches by 4.5 inches deep. A small medallion highlighted the lid with an eagle and an inscription, "E Pluribus Unum." The box served as a desk secretary for General Robert E. Lee and was carried by him through his early career and during the years he served and commanded troops during the War Between The States. It was a gift from his mother upon his graduation from West Point. I'd had the honor of viewing it once before late last year and was able to touch and handle it. But today it was an extra thrill for me to watch Georgia-girl, Becky as she was able to see, touch and feel history. For an Okie cowboy who grew up in history-sparse North Central California, living here in Savannah has been exceptional and exciting experience... being the history nerd that I am. But watching others discover history is an equally fantastic event. Here, each footstep and conversation treads on and teaches of things historical. How cool is that?

Someday In Savannah

by James Byous on 12/19/11

Capt. Jennifer McKay (ANG) tries her free wedding gown during Weddings For Warriors Project "try-on's" at the Charles H. Morris Center in Savannah, Georgia in front of cameras for WJCL-TV and WTOC-TV

      Boy did things pop!  It was supposed to be a small event.  In 2009 The Savannah Wedding Tourism Council (SWTC) launched the project entitled Weddings for Warriors.  It was to provided free wedding ceremonies and vow renewals to active US Military personnel.  The Council thought, "Maybe five or ten couples in Savannah's Forsyth Park, some punch, a cake and some music." 

     When folks of Savannah and the Southeast found out about the cause, volunteer businesses and individuals swarmed the web site to sigh up.  The event grew to provide ceremonies to forty couples.  Companies volunteered free flowers from Florida made into bouquets by florist from Georgia and South Carolina.  Free professional photographers from as far away as Atlanta and North Carolina called to participate with twenty-five from Savannah. 

     Free Alfred Angelo designer wedding gowns from Operation Homefront, Georgia were given and a free reception by the Savannah Riverboat Company took the couples on a river cruise on the Savannah River.  Locations, stringed instrumentalist, tuxedos from Men's Wearhouse, ceremony officiants, hotel and B&B rooms and just about everything else to do with weddings were gifted to military couples. 

     One need that was found was for vow renewals.  A great number of military couples marry at the court house, sometimes in jeans and a T-shirt because deployment is eminent and paperwork needs to be turned in... no family, no wedding gown, no celebration.  Some participants have waited from eighteen and twenty-four years.  They have told each other, someday they would have a real wedding... their someday keep getting pushed farther and farther ahead with each child born and each new deployment.  Now, thanks to the people of the Southeast and especially Savannah, a few finally have their "someday".  Each will finally have an individual ceremony and afterward can attend a group reception. 

     The SWTC estimates that in the first year alone just under $400 thousand in products and services were given to the forty participating couples.  Four Weddings For Warriors Projects have now taken place in three cities across the USA, Savannah and Tybee Island, Georgia and Colorado Springs, Colorado.  More cities are lining up to see what they can do as well.  

     This year everything is on schedule but volunteers are still needed as are a few plus-size wedding gowns.  So if you want to serve the troops and their families, here’s your opportunity to say, "Thanks" to our fighting men and women and their families. 

     This season's the event will take place on January 18, 2012 at the Charles H. Morris Center at Trustees Garden, 10 East Broad Street, Savannah, GA.  Contact Becky at 912-656-6541 or email Becky@WeddingsForWarriors.com.

 

Saltire over Savannah, GA. Contrails In The Sky

by James Byous on 12/17/11

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     Those of Scottish ancestry readily recognize the Saltire, even if they aren't familiar with the flag's name.  The "X" on the Scottish flag marks the oldest national flag to fly anywhere on the globe.  It's quite well known here in the South where heritage hangs like moss in the oaks and Scots (even those separated from their ancestral homeland by multiple-generations) abound.  That's why we all call each other "Cuz".  'Cuz we are... cousins, that is.

     That X represents the cross of Saint Andrew, the first person called by Jesus to discipleship.  His bones, or at least selected specimens were... shall we say, "borrowed" and taken to what is now St. Andrews, Scotland and thus became the patron saint of the northern British isle.  The place that is now know for Golf... note the capital "G"... and for being the land of St. Palmer, St. Nicklaus, St. Hagen, St. Tiger and many more of that Ilk.  Not to forget St. Bobby Jones, nay!

     It is said the Angus MacFergus, the Pictish King of Alba and Eochaidh, the King of Dalriada, were fighting against forces from the south - yes, the English - over land in East Lothian near Haddington.  The night before the battle Angus had a vision in which St. Andrew came to him and said his army would be victorious.  The next day - just in time for the battle - clouds in the sky formed and X, the shape of St. Andrew's Cross.  The Picts and Scotti were encouraged, the Northumberland army ran.  The battle was won.  And, so they say, the rest is history.

     This photo, however, was of the sky over Savannah, Georgia, a place where airlines cross paths as they slip through the thick Southern air. Some carry Yankees to Florida... and back again.  Others turn to head for Atlanta and places East.  Interesting feature it is, though no battle is planned....  At least not with the English... not today anyway. 

     And, no, it was not Photoshopped.

A new light

by James Byous on 12/16/11

    

 

     Finally, I have it on paper and screen.  Recently I've developed my own personal philosophy on photography - on portraits in general.  I knew it, but couldn't express it.  Now I have it.

 

     When young, as a photojournalist, I captured the bluntness of life.  Portraiture demanded hard-lines, wrinkles, pores, blemishes; elements recorded in silver salts and metallic silver much like the "art" photography that is prevalent today.  Harsh side-lighting to accent the contours of skin, contrast printing pulled the mid-tones.  Divergent light brought extremes to a maximum, intense tone upon intense tone like sharp, stratified rock in hard-edged planes.  The unadorned face became ugly.  The common features became harsh.  That was "cool" and "in".  That was the emerging style for young news photographers..

      Older, I now search for the beauty in each face - character, wisdom, the glint and gleam in an aged and dimming eye; the light, softness and clarity in the young.  Now I strive for the full range of tones, the optimum light.  Each flash of the shutter is an attempt to create an image that compliments the full range of life in the individual and the personhood of the individual and the humanness of the individual... there on the other side of the lens.  An objective, non-exploitative, without self-indulgent, ego-driven-shock-and-awe, for-the-sake-of-art starkness... just-damn-good portraits of age-old friends or new-found friends or non-friend-persons on the street that pass my camera lens and never cross my path again. 

     A fine portrait is a sign of respect.  It comes down to that.

 

     When young I believed that respect was an attribute to be earned.

 

     Older, I realize that respect is an attribute to be given until circumstance removes.

First The Wedding 1/1/11 Then Clary's for Breakfast

by James Byous on 01/01/11

The new year started out great with Kim and Matt's 1/1/11 elopement.  We met at Calhoun Square for the ceremony.  A few yards away tour trolleys inched past at a slower-than-usual speed so folks from parts-beyond could snap and click pictures on their ipod cameras.  In the past we've had trolleys stop for folks to give small presents to a bride and groom; free tickets, special coins, a flashlight "so they won't get lost in the dark." 

Kim & Matt 1/1/11

Kim and Matt were from out of town too, like most of our brides and grooms.  It was just the four of us, them, Becky and me.  Quite intimate and, though visitors watched at a distance, private as well.  Destination weddings represent about ninety-five percent of our work.  Great folks as usual, having a great time. 

After the ceremony we walked around the square taking in the made-to-order backdrops that make great photos.  The late-1800's homes at the intersections of Abercorn and Wayne Streets are ready-made props for a photographer.  I suppose that's why so many movie companies have chosen the city for a location.  Forrest Gump, The General's Daughter, Bagger Vance and others have selected our town for shoots.

Another film was John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil starring Kevin Spacey and John Cusack.  It was directed by Clint Eastwood.  While they filmed the movie Eastwood stayed in a town house just one square to the west.  And speaking of the movie, after the wedding Becky and I walked a short half-block north to Clary's Cafe. 

It was featured in the movie.... The guy with the flies tied on strings.... Luther Driggers, he's sitting at Clary's lunch counter.  Based on a real Savannah character I'm told by folks in town.  And again, "speaking of," if you read the book you know who Emma Kelly was... a piano player called "the lady of a thousand songs."  Most of which, I believe, were Johnny Mercer ditties.  She used to date Becky's uncle many years back.  But you had to read the book.  Seems Emma didn't make it past Eastwood's cutting room.  Somewhere on the floor I suppose.

Clary's is great food.  We go there all the time.  But, I don't know what to call it; American, Southern, Jewish.  I guess it's a cosmopolitan blend of down-home-cookin' style with a bit of what I call neuvo-greasy-spoon.  No telling who you'll see sitting in the two-room facility, or maybe outside at their al-fresco tables.  A photo of Clint Eastwood and the mayor hangs on one of the dining area's back walls along with rows of work from local artisans.

Clary's from the inside.

John Berendt and I rubbed elbows there once.  Not on purpose, the hallway to the restrooms is quite narrow.  He's a facebook friend, however.... along with several thousand others he also doesn't know.  Popular guy he is.  The book that he wrote will go down in Savannah's history with major bullet points.  Tourism boomed after the book came out.  In fact folks simply refer to the book as "The Book".  They also refer to the movie about "The Book" as "The movie about The Book." 

You'll hear, "Did you read The Book?"

"Why yes.  My cousin was mentioned in The Book."

"Did you see the movie about The Book?"

"Oh, certainly, dahlin'.  I was IN the movie about The Book.  Watch the scene in the Hamilton-Turner House.  That's my right foot in the second row, forty-five minutes and ten seconds into it." 

Makes me think I was the only resident who didn't make the casting call. 

Years ago, long before Clary's moved from their other location a few blocks down Abercorn, the two-roomed building housed William Harley's grocery store.  He had a couple of stores in Savannah.  If you are old enough to remember Coca-Cola's seventy-fifth anniversary you may have seen his photo.  He was part of their advertising campaign that included an aged photo of a Coke delivery wagon, two young men in the driving seat below a parasol shade wth Harley posing front-and-center. 

William Harley and his Coca Cola delivery wagon.

Arms crossed and stately, Harley stands beside row-line cases of the bottled, soon-to-be-world-dominating drink.  Billboards, posters and belt buckles were a few of the promotion items that carried his likeness.  He, of course, was long gone before all of the Madison-Avenue fuss.  Nope, no royalties.

We still do have horse-drawn vehicles here.  Mostly they carry tourists through the city to show off our architecture and history.  Come on down and take a look.  Maybe take a ghost tour.  Watch for Harley.  He may wave as you go by Clary's.

- Jim

Customer, Cane and Catch-up at Clary's Cafe in Chatham County.

 

The Rose of Savannah On Parade

by James Byous on 12/30/10

Hey Y'all!  Watch out Pasadena!  Savannah's own Paula Deen is the Grand Marshal in this year's Tournament of Roses Parade.  Those of you who are not versed in Deendome, Miss Paula is a local legend that went from bag-lunch-lady to mega-star on the Food Network in short order.  She is without a doubt one of the greatest ambassadors that Savannah has produced over the years, working out of Lady and Sons Restaurant on the corner of Congress and Whitaker Street 

 Personally Paula Deen wouldn't know me if I ran my muscle car through the front gate of her Wilmington Island home.  But, I have met her.... Nice lady.  Seems many of my friends and acquaintances know her.  Years ago, in the old Lady and Sons one could see her talking with diners in the packed-tight, belly-to-bumper, standing-room-only eatery that had only, as I remember, about ten tables.  Then one day someone from Hollywood wrapped his or her lips around a piece of Paula's famous fried chicken or peach cobbler....  Well, the rest is history. 

Now she and the boys, Jamie and Bobby, have three floors and a basement just down Congress Street that immediately gained the same standing-room-only state.  My wife Becky and I have brides that insist on having their wedding receptions in the brick-lined basement just downstairs from the bustle and hum in the street level dining room.  It's for small groups only and in a photographer's opinion, dark as hell, but one taste of the collard greens and green beans and the ambience matters not.

Paula Deen and me backstage at the Lucus Theater. 

Miss Paula did have her picture made with me once.  It was backstage at the Lucas Theater during a fundraiser for a local women's shelter.  She and local dynamo-talent Kim Michael Polote were the main event for the show that drew in folks from as far away as San Diego, California.  Pretty good draw for a girl from Albany, GA. Looking back at the photo I realize that I resemble a re-enactment of the P.W. Herman's bellhop character in Pee Wee's Big Adventure.  Becky had her photo made with her too.  She looks pretty good as does Miss Paula - Two Southern belles.  Nay, Southern babes. 

Becky with Paula Deen.  Two Southern Belles.

 Another Savannah legend, Ice Cream entrepreneur and movie producer, Statton Leopold, will honor Paula with a fundraiser on New Years Day.  His shop on Broughton Street will donate the proceeds from sales of their Rose Petal ice cream - that's right... Rose Petal ice cream - to the Summer Reading Program of Savannah's Live Oak Public Libraries.  Becky and I discovered the flavor a few years ago on Valentines Day.  The Beckster asked for a sample, which was quickly delivered by my friend Joe Ryan. 

"What," I asked," is the Rose Petal Ice Cream made of."

Rose PETALS," Joe quipped with a bright-eyed smile. 

Yep, real roses, real petals.  As 60's wild-food icon, Euell Gibbons would say, "They are edible."  And I will add, quite tasty when spooned up on a sugar cone.

Joe was filling in temporarily as manager for the establishment back then.  He had the experience because in the 1950's he had worked as a young soda jerk at the old store on Habersham and Gwinnett Streets.  There he served up Tutti-Frutti to most folks from the city including a famous lyricist-gone-Hollywood, Johnny Mercer, who lived just down the block.  But, that's another story that is coming to this site in the near future.

So, New Year's Day is set; wake up in the morning, three tablespoons of Tabasco sauce, one egg - raw, four teaspoons of mustard, mix well in -ounce glass of skim milk, drink quickly.  It won't help the hangover but after you watch the Rose Parade and drop by Leopold's it will make Rose Petal ice cream taste fantastic.  Tell them that I sent you.  In fact, I may see you there.

- Jim

Kim Michael Polote cuts a rug with Stratton and Mary Leopold.

'Twas The Day After Christmas, Brrrrrr!

by James Byous on 12/27/10

'Twas the Day after Christmas,

And all through the town,

Not a local was stirring,

'Twas too cold to get 'round...

Except for the tourists, they are sticking it out... skin, that is.  Thicker blood I suppose.  This is Speedo weather in Buffalo.  But to the locals, it's cold.  And, the day after Christmas should be... at least in most places.  But this is Savannah, Georgia.  Cold days?  Yep.  Snow flurries?  Nope. That ain't Savannah, y'all.  I want, nay, need to write a blog, so I pick out my long-johns du jour, bundle up, hop in the car and head downtown to check out the effect the cold has wreaked on tourism.  Seems there are a few more parking spots, but not extensive. 

Outside temp gauge on the van rearview mirror reads 37 degrees.  Methinks it's optimistic.  I know that it can't take in wind chill.  If it did the rearview digital display would flash, "Bare butt cold!  Stay in car!"  Once outside the air stings my flesh.  Old song lyrics play in my head, "Jack Frost nipping at my nose," and, I add, ears and hands...  and a few other body part not ready for prime time.  Adjust scarf, snug on tam and zip-up jacket.  Layers against the weather.  Admiral Byrd would have scoffed, "It's time for an enduring spirit, time for courage.  Trudge on my boy!"  I would rebuff, "Admiral, Sir, I'm freezin' my...  Yes Sir."  One does not argue with an admiral, expecially a dead one.  Anyway, my arms won't go all the way down.   I feel like Randy in A Christmas Story.

 

Down the bluff by the Cotton Exchange Tavern two homeless, street-vendors are hunkered between news boxes and below wind-blocking awnings.  Noses and eyes are all that bare from between the crinkled, lace-tightened hoodies on their worn, matted parkas.  They offer woven-palm-leaf roses to passersby - Southern roses to northerners, Secession or Confederate roses to those from the South who know the real name.   No takers.  It's too cold to pull one's hands from belly-warmed jacket pockets, count out three dollars and refold the balance. 

Self Portrait Jim

A frosty Self-portrait in a window of the Cotton Exchange Restaurant.

Business is slow, the two men tell me, but, "Things look good between now and New Years."  Optimists they are.  Their tactics shift with the market and they walk a few feet down the street to the corner where the siren smell of hot crab chowder and coffee sucks foot traffic into the front door of the Exchange.  Me too.  I follow the line inside the building that was once one of the "King's Stores" before the American Revolution. 

Stepping in to the warmth I'm greeted by server Harold Moye. I can't tell him I'm non-paying and here to thaw.  So I ask questions.  He's friendly, as is always the experience here. Moye says business is doing well despite the cold.  He has a secret weapon - note the afore-mentioned chowder.  Seems warm food cuts the cold with it's sit-at-your - table-and-watch-others-shiver kind of embrace.  The tables and booths afford great views of others as they explore cobblestones and shops along the water-lined and water-chilled lane.

River Street in the Cold

Visitors brave the cold to visit Savannah's historic River Street.

 Down the street people have their arms filled with packages and bags.  Seems they are bearing the cold for a look at things, and might I say - buying.  I duck in to Gallery 209 to warm again.  Artist Mary Ingalls mans the anteroom from behind a redoubt of glass-enveloped jewelry and crafts.  She would disagree somewhat on sales volume.  The cold has caused business to slow for the artist who shares a section of the historic warehouse.  She is seeing some repeat business over the past days, but the snow flurries today has a deflecting effect on large wrapped art pieces.

 

Ingalls works in stained glass.  One of her pieces hangs in the window of the gallery.  It's made from an old wood-frame window sash.  Her glass work forms an abstract scene not unlike a bubble-laden, sub-surface scene.  Ingalls is a west-coast transplant as am I.  Many artist, photographers come to the city to show their work.  Some come to study.  Many stay.  Savannah's an artsy town.

 I grab a few more photos of sightseers and shoppers braving the brisk breeze.  I am neither - not shopper nor sightseer.  So, the business prognosis for the day - it's the best of times, it's the worst of times.  But in my opinion, it's going home time.  See y'all on another day.  It's cold.

 

Mary Ingalls' glasswork highlights the window in Gallery 209.

Cold or no cold. Families brave the weather on River Street, Savannah.

 

 

 

Savannah Christmas

by James Byous on 12/23/10

Christmas is here and Savannah is ready.  The weather is unusually frigid for the South, enough to make our Northern visitors tote their duck-down and faux-fur coats up and down and around City Market and the worn slate steps to River Street.  In both locations they are rewarded with great food and history and the wafting of fresh pralines and crab chowder along the lane of concrete curbs and cobblestones.
    
At the Olympic Cafe, Nick Pappas mans the register, barking orders to the counter and kitchen help.  The menu above his head reads cheeseburgers, fries, gyros and baklavas - true Greek-American fare.  The walls are frescoed with Hellenic beauties; grapes and vines, wine bottles.  Framed travel photos of ancient-Greek-ruins hang beside back-lit menus; "Gyros $8, with fries 75 cents."  
    
Above the back-bar are dozens of mini-flags signifying countries from around the world.  They highlight the long list of domestic and imported beers. Passing the door is a constant stream of ball caps, tee-shirts and tennis shoes; year-round wear for the mostly-moderate Savannah climate. 
    
On the street pigeons peck the ground and dodge the occasional size-ten while searching for morsels and crumbs among the children, cobbles and curbs.  Visitors from Ohio, New York and other points north search for undiscovered history, happiness-for-the-day and a few treasures - a tee-shirt for Dad, "The Book" for Mom, or an extra snow globe for Aunt Edna, or the boss, or the grandkids, or whoever they've forgotten during the course of their travels. 
    
It is a typical day, however cold, on Savannah's famous River Street, the short, busy route that hugs the waters of the Savannah River.  Now a tourist area, it was once the commercial heart that pumped supplies and necessities of Colonial and antebellum life to the region.  It still does.  Not through shipments of lumber or pine-tar, or cotton, but through tourism dollars that help form the number-two industry in the city.
    
River Street has more than enough daytime excitement and night-life for most.  Humming among the centuries-old buildings, tourism reigns supreme.  Hotels, souvenir shops, restaurants and bars are busy most of the year.  But the crowds can be crushing during St. Patrick's Day festivities to the point that some business owners have considered closing down for the celebration.  River Street's St. Pat's is usually taboo for kids, though the rest of the year the street is totally family friendly.  
   
Kevin Barry's Pub is a landmark to tourists and locals alike.  Kevin Gerard Barry was an Irish patriot, an eighteen-year-old revolutionary who had the misfortune during a rebel street skirmish of having his gun jam while hiding under a truck.  A passerby who actually supported the rebels thought he had been run over by said truck, so he summoned the police... bad move.  Barry was executed.
    
His execution was the lynchpin that kicked the Irish Revolution into its "Bloody" phase.  It was accented by his young age and his refusal to break under interrogation and torture.  So, the pub is in his honor. And the Irish do stop by - oh yeah - they do stop by.  So do others who enjoy a pint from time to time - or two - as well as a wee bit o' the live Irish music. 

Barry's is the main watering hole on the northern stretch of River Street cobbles just before it fizzles out into the former red-light district in the Indian Street wharf and warehouse section of town.
    
If you're driving along I-95, stop in and tell them, "hello" before you wander down to shop.

Welcome to the South, Y'All!

by James Byous on 12/21/10

     I love the Southeast, the people, places and the sparkling cultural facets that make it unique.  Vacations, travel and destination wedding spots in the Southeast are the best; best climate, best views, best prices, best people.  In this blog we will explore Southern life, the people and the businesses that work to create the mood and the opportunity so many others admire and may I impart - envy. 

     As President of the Savannah Wedding Tourism Council I want everyone to see what the South has to offer.  We will discuss all things Southern and especially all things Savannah, from tourism, to weddings, to art, to bagpipes in the square. All the reasons to visit the most beautiful city in the USA.

     We will look at places to experience and talk about the people and history that make them interesting.  From vacations to weddings, chow dives to dining fine, from touristy trappings to behind the scenes stories.  The who, what, when, where, sometimes why - and anything else with a "W" that we can slip into the story - will be open for consideration.

     Our first destination is Savannah, Georgia, the Hostess City of the South.  Over the past twenty year it has moved in stature from a princess with a dirty face, to reigning queen of romantic cities.  In our ramblings we'll find deals on places to stay, tours, dining and what's hot in the arts.

     Stay tuned.  We are Southeastern Bound.

 

 

Cara of Carriage Tours of Savannah driving down the lane at Wormsloe State Park

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