July 26, 2008
I was sixteen and had sculpted a few things and put them in a show at high school. Some of the work was chosen to go to the Savannah College of Art and Design, in, of course, Savannah Georgia. Members of the Art club were going down to visit the college, participate in some classes, and attend the show that was featuring work from various high school students around the country. I had not planned on going on the trip since I wasn't a member of the club, but one of the teachers approached me the Friday they were to leave and started trying to get me to go since I had pieces in the show. I thought about it and decided to give it a whirl. As I had made no arrangements I began to plan out the rest of the day. I had the most useless class in educational history that year, sixth period study hall. I had not attended the class all year, spending those hours working on various projects in the art dungeon. It was the last period of the day... I mean who in their right mind would bother to show up to sit in the cafeteria for an hour before you go home? I had my mind set that I would leave school after fifth period, go home and pack, and be back at the school by 4:30, the assigned time of departure, a simple, reasonable plan by any standards. I had never signed out of school early before, I always just left when I wanted to. The teacher in charge of the trip was going to have no part of this and demanded that I do everything by the book. (her ass was on the line since she was responsible for 10 - 15 kids, so I understood)
Off I went to the office at the appointed time to be a good minion and do as I was told. When I entered the office I told the head bureaucrat what I was doing and she began to recite the handbook to me... "In order for you to attend an extracurricular activity, you must put in a full days attendance the day prior to said activity" So I began to earnestly explain the situation, and the fact that all I was going to miss was study hall. The she devil was having no part of it. She spoke over me constantly... I maintained my composure and began again each time from the place she interrupted me. She had far too much authority and was so important to the functionality of this particular educational consortium that she was determined to make me follow the rules to the letter, less the entire system come crashing to a halt. With twenty five years of real life experience since that moment I now label this syndrome as either "justifying your position by sly use of pure bullshit" or more commonly "stupid arrogance laced with massive self importance." In other words, she was a useless meat sack. As we all know meat sacks permeate this world on all levels, they always show up at the most inopportune moments and tend to make our existence a bit harder so they can feel good about themselves while maintaining absolute control over their lives by exhibiting a false sense of control over our lives. Most times its best to just ignore them and let them exist in their piles of pitiful lies because they actually come to believe that their versions of reality are actually, well, real... and that scares me. Other times it becomes necessary to simply step on them and put them out of your misery... She finally called out the assistant Principal to slice me to pieces, the woman actually had a look of triumphant indignation on her face as she crossed her arms and waited for the final authority to enter the battle of wills...
He came out of his office followed by a cloud of cigarette smoke and yelped his arrival, standing directly behind the acid tongued she devil, who sat on her throne of control. The spider witch glared her look of devastating power over me as her enforcer began to recite the same passages from the handbook she had just thrown down as a challenge to my brazen effrontery. I was demolished and would go to the table in the cafeteria to wait my hour; her absolute control of this building would remain in tact. The end of my world was upon me, and she had brought it down with her mighty boobs of justice..... I really hate people who overestimate their importance in the world. I mean let's face it... most people's opinions and guidelines who reside in self appointed middle management in corporate or social America really mean very little to those of us who actually have something to do.
Unknown to my self appointed overlord, as Mr. final word was parroting the official stance for tugboat's benefit he was giving me the nod and hand motions to just take off and keep quiet about it. I made a mental note to thank him at church next Sunday...
I steamed and cussed all the way home about people who thought they had control over me, packed my stuff and headed back to school, stopping by my mother's office to inform her of my absence for the weekend. I had never been to Savannah and was looking forward to the trip, the teacher in charge had some tourist info and I spent the ungodly ride down there (if you've ever made the ride from Macon to Savannah you know what utter desolation lies between the two cities, although the bathrooms at the Dublin exit are very clean) reading up on the history and mysticism of the place. I became curious. My only knowledge of the place was several stories of past school trips classmates had been on. My favorite of these was the one where Eric was taking a group picture of all the girls that went on the trip... He kept getting them to "take a couple more steps this way".. It wasn't until they got the pictures back that the teachers realized that he was positioning them under a sign that read "two for a dollar"... classic... What followed was a spectacle of illicit substances, under aged drinking, naked bodies, hung over workshops and a hot dazed multiple hour ride home with agitating sunburn. In other words, a typical trip to Savannah. Yet the seed was planted in my psyche. The city was in my blood and will forever have a home there. Indeed, when I make the turn from the Islands expressway onto US eighty toward Tybee, the windows always go down so the horrible smell of the salt marsh is allowed to free flow over my person, I breath it in deep and feel as if I am at last at home. The pre civil war slave embedded voodoo and humid eroticism of that city could turn even the most straight laced among us into a sweat covered whore determined to experience every vice known to human kind within the span of a single weekend. The history there is as alive as the very salt marshes that have laid claim to my soul. I was fortunate enough, years later, to go on a tour given by an extraordinary gentleman that drove a carriage, it was unofficial and lasted all day. He told me about things that you couldn't find written in most places, like the unmarked spot on River Street that the city will never develop, letting it stand untouched as a silent reminder... It was the spot of the slave block, where people were taken off ships from the river, only yards away and made to stand while they were sold into bondage. I've stood on that spot and watched people go in and out of tourist shops and actually felt the fear and uncertainty of thousands that stood there over a hundred fifty years ago. I have been afforded the privilege of traversing the tunnel that was used to send people who had been kidnapped into lives of harsh labor when they awakened aboard a ship at sea only to realize what had happened when it was too late. I have sat in the room where Edward Teach used to get drunk and bed whores before he returned to terrorize the Caribbean. I've gotten to lay down on a couch where Sherman napped after burning and raping his way across this state. I have eaten food prepared in ways that are long forgotten and will make you really know what its like to be sated. I have watched countless sunrises from a beach that the very hand of God touched with wisdom and grace. I have sat and talked for hours with a man who makes a living playing a saxophone from his wheel chair, who has seen more in his lifetime than most history professors have read about. I have walked in awe, hand in hand with my family around hallowed ground where blood was spilled defending against an enemy that slaughtered all who stood in their way. I have sat on a balcony and watched an entire fireworks display at such a distance away that the entire show took place in an area no bigger than my thumbnail. I have stood amongst live oaks, hanging with moss at midnight and listened to the dead speak. Not a bad way to spend a weekend at all.
The Monday morning after my first trip there I made damn sure to stop by the office at the high school and hand deliver the coffee mug from the gift shop at the Days Inn on Bay Street to the mountain goat who tried to keep me away from one of the greatest cities on earth.