September 9, 2014

My Life In Savannah (Part 4)

4. The Beautiful South 

Looking back, I found that the days I spent down River Street was extremely precious, because the passion I witnessed there was not something I could see in my everyday life. Whenever I recall my life in Savannah, what jump into my mind first are not always beautiful gardens or houses, eloquent professors or kind classmates, but also the heartfelt laughter down River Street,the beautiful bar waitress who brought me free beer on the hot night, or the handsome young man who sitting beside me playing guitar, even the drunk homeless man who crashed my chair, while a couple of “coarse” southern women wrestling together in the middle of the street…

Many friends of mine back then were not so fond of Savannah, or “deep south” like I was. They looked down on its monotone culture and sluggish economy. They said the reason that I liked Savannah this much was because I had not yet seen other cities in the country, had not visited those multicultural places. However, after all these years, after being lived from place to place, Savannah remains as my favorite.

There is an old Chinese saying: different water and soil nurture different people (一方山水养一方人). Maybe some people would not take these words seriously, but I found it inspiring.I even think it reflects some evolutionary truth. I found, no matter where you go, southern cultures are usually more friendly or more human than those in north. For instance, comparing with art in northern Europe, art in Southern Europe are usually more passionate and romantic; ancient Chinese art had “southern style” painting and poetry, which were more sentimental than northern style; and my favorite South America music, full of passion, is also down south, under the warm climate.

Due to its historical contexts, the South of USA had its share of negative cultural traits, such as racial prejudice, fundamental religious ideology, etc. However, after being nurtured almost 300 years by the bright southern Sun, the southern culture has become much more tolerant than before, and I was able to feel that earthy warmness there much more than I did in the North.

It was in Savannah, down River Street that I fell in love with African-American music, especially Blues and Jazz. I cannot imagine an America without these music. Their fast paced rhythm and undulated melody always inspire me with a free spirit, sometime happy, cheerful, sometime melancholic, or contemplating. Every time when I hear these type of music, especially Blues, my memory would instantly fly back to Savannah, back to that crimson oil painting of southern landscape.

Savannah is hot and humid, but also colorful and passionate. Savannah in my memory, will always be that “beautiful woman with dirty face”, and through her joyful eyes, I will always see the rich history hidden behind those exquisite architectures, the mysterious swaps stretched beyond oaks, the sweaty yet smiling faces under the Sun, and Jazz, Blues that drifted in the hot Summer night...

While rivers running through swamps
Blues, wandered along streets
softened sweaty shadow of oaks 

Storm came and went
Oh Georgia
as humid a southern rain
my memory vaporized
like Jazz
hovering above Savannah

(The end)


  1. Memory of the laughter down the street... Truly, Yun, that one sentence is the spirit of your soulful memoir. There is a lot to pick up from your beautiful piece and I am grateful for that. Perhaps, every time I'll listen to 'Georgia on my mind' now on, I will think of a painter doing portraits on River Street next to Jazz and blues music.

    1. Thanks Uma for your following my memoir, and my emotional journey back to my early life in America. It's a best reward for an amateur writer like me. :-)

  2. yunyi, I can certainly appreciate your nostalgia for those colorful, gregarious days you spent on River Street. Sort of reminds me how I felt about the late 60s and early 70s in the US. So many warm and friendly people one could almost believe a new renaissance of humanity had begun.

    1. Marty, Savannah was the first place I lived in US, and my street artist "profession" opened a huge window for me to this country and this culture. I think the reason my overall positive image of American culture, my hope to this country, heavily due to my positive experience down the streets. Yes, like you said, "a new renaissance of humanity", that's exactly what I felt there.