“The day has never dawned that I couldn’t find something to laugh at.”
“Not since she married me anyways,” Claude said with a comical straight face.
Everybody laughed except for the girl and the white-trash.
—“Revelation” by Flannery O’Connor
To this day, road crews and utility companies occasionally exhume the bodies of the city’s earliest settlers. Savannah is truly a city built upon its dead.
—Haunted Georgia, by Alan Brown
Since Savannah is full of polite people I’ll say this as politely as I can: some folks in Savannah need to get the facts straight about where old Oglethorpe pitched his tent on the Yamacraw bluff while he was getting things rolling.
We took the scholars to the Savannah History Museum this morning and like all good museums they start you off with cinema. A pleasant sounding narrator, who said he was James Oglethorpe, said he pitched his tent where the Cotton Exchange Building is today.
Okay. But the Georgia Society of Colonial Dames of America put a stone and marble bench just off the sidewalk on Bay Street a long time ago … a good stretch from where the Cotton Exchange Building is.
The kids weren’t devastated and none of them called their parents to come pick them up … but still.
I was wondering when we’d do the truly tourist thing … and today was the day we took them to a buffet lunch at the Pirate’s House on East Broad Street. If the place really wasn’t haunted before today, as they’ve been claiming for two hundred or so years, then it was haunted the moment we busted in. There was a guy dressed up just like a pirate standing at the maître d desk. He wasn’t embarrassed at all. I poked him in the arm to check if he was real and not a ghost. And then I asked him do dumb rednecks like me walk in here and poke him like that, too.
The pirate said the Yankees do.
While we were eating our buffet lunch our waitress said that the pirate gives private tours of the restaurant and all the haunted parts if you’d like him to.
I said sure. I asked her what his name was.
She said she didn’t know.
I asked her was the tour with the pirate part of the meal charge or did we need to tip him.
She said the pirate loves tips.
Underneath all his pirate get-up the pirate looked like a hippy. He was a really nice hippy and he had real long brown hair and a little beard on his chin and his teeth had not been cared for in real life one bit. His teeth were long and pointed and there were a few gaps.
I remember the waitress said the pirate also drives tourists around Savannah at night in a hearse.
Right before the pirate started his tour I asked him what his name was.
He said his name.
I asked him to spell it.
As it turned out the pirate’s name was Phineas Boggins.
I looked at the boys. They seemed pleased. This was some real history here ... hosted by a pirate named Phineas Boggins.
For the next twenty minutes Phineas told us things about ghosts that were hard to believe, but I was respectfully giving him my most willing suspension of disbelief like crazy. The most fascinating bit of information Phineas told us was that one time he was in the rum cellar with his camera down there attempting to take pictures of ghosts. He said on the other side of a brick wall down there he heard a voice from the other side of the wall say, We don’t want you here now.
We were standing at the steps to the old rum cellar they won’t let you go see because some old woman fell down the steps and broke her wrist a while back. That part’s true.
Then Phineas said he just kept snapping pictures because he wasn’t afraid of ghosts at all … and that he actually invites ghosts into his life to communicate with him and then Phineas said in the rum cellar he was shoved real hard in the back.
The boys were star struck at this point with Phineas. You should have seen the look on their faces. I felt for a moment that Gary and I were not their heroes any more.
I figure Phineas really did get shoved real hard one time down there in the dark rum cellar in the famous Pirates’ House restaurant in Savannah, Georgia … but probably by a live waitress he lured down there in an effort to give her some of his green-toothed pirate love.
A couple of hours later on our way west real fast, Gary all of a sudden pulls the bus onto the side of the road and jumps out and trots across the road and walks into a field and picks some cotton. This was somewhere between Abbeville and Rochelle.
We all clapped for Gary when he got back into the bus. Then we start hauling ass again … and then a debate began. We wondered aloud if Gary had stolen the cotton. The farmer had lots of it and probably wouldn’t have missed it, but somehow we had to justify the trotting across Highway 280 for the taking with us of some cotton. It was then further discussed that why not we assume that Gary has borrowed the cotton and that on the way back through here next year if Lurlene lets us do this trip again that we knock on the farmhouse door, introduce ourselves, and give the farmer his cotton back.
So that’s what we decided to do on that particular situation if we can remember to do it a year from now if we get to come back. I had wondered what our drive through south Georgia was going to be like.
Next Entry ... January 14: Dispatch From Columbus