Flying in an airplane gives you a lot of perspective on things. Like exactly just how many people own swimming pools. From the air, it seems like quite a few people do. My flight(s) from Savannah to Austin took place at that magical twilight hour. The clouds were those puffy cotton candy clouds that seem like Bob Ross might have painted them. And the sunset was a dreamy lavender color. Like pastel bakery frosting. It would have been easy to pretend I was riding on the back of a Pegasus instead of inside a 747.
But the reality of the situation was that I was on an ill-advised redeye trip back to Texas after spending a week in my hometown. Never again will I try to save money. Direct flights are always best. The $50 cheaper tickets always seem like a good idea when you’re snuggled in bed and booking the trip on your fully-charged laptop. They will become a horrible mistake when you’re waiting to exit an overheated airplane, and the flight attendant is scolding your fellow passengers for “dilly-dallying.” When you’re watching your iPhone slowly and inexplicably drain as you gallop across the Dallas airport to make your 4th and final connection of the evening. Your mind will suddenly go to dark places. Like what would happen if your phone dies and you can’t remember your husband’s phone number? Or worse, he’s died on the way to pick you up, and the people at the hospital can’t reach you? Or what would happen if your phone died and you couldn’t use the Starbuck’s app to pay for your drink?
If all those terrifying possibilities don’t convince you of the err of your penny-pinching ways…Trust me, you’ll know in your heart that the extra $50 wasn’t worth it when finding yourself seated at Charlotte’s “authentic” airport “cantina” and the drink prices aren’t listed on the menu. You will wonder if the Mango Colada Margarita is indeed an authentic Mexican beverage and therefore actually worth anywhere between $9-$19 it inevitably costs. Plus a tip, mind you. You’ll know in your heart that wouldn’t need to purchase this Mexican beverage of questionable authenticity at an undetermined but surely unreasonable price point if you’d simply splurged on the direct flight.
Four airports later, I finally landed in Austin. I was weary with regret. It was 11:30. I wanted a hotel room and Whataburger. What at least an hour’s drive back to San Antonio. The hotel and fast food would certainly cost more than the $50 I saved on the ticket. All those months ago, I had thought I was booking an inexpensive trip to Savannah. What I had gotten was a cross-country tour of American airports.
And was it all worth it for a Savannah/Christen reunion? I love Savannah, y’all. I love the trees that drip with Spanish moss. The sound of cicadas and smell of freshly cut grass. I spent so much of my trip walking around my parent’s neighborhood just sniffing the air and admiring how southern it all was. The landscape is just so different from Texas. So is the landscaping. I’m pretty sure they don’t have magenta azaleas in Texas.
When I returned to Savannah, I thought it would feel different. I thought it would feel like I had been gone for a long time. Honestly, it didn’t feel like I had been gone at all. I was expecting this dramatic “reunion feeling.” But it just felt like I had been transported back to my old life. Like San Antonio was a mystical fairytale city where time didn’t exist. Like I had fallen asleep and woke up Rip Van Winkle style. Had I actually been gone for 6 months? I felt like I had just returned from a short vacation.
I’d spent 17 years of my life in Savannah. The city had been as much as a friend to me as any of my close friends. I had spent many a night in City Market grabbing drinks with friends. Or wandering alone with my earbuds in, blasting Deathcab on rainy fall evenings. I had met my husband in the Broughton Street World of Beer. Savannah was the city of first kisses and first heart breaks. It was college and grad school. So many of my favorite memories took place in downtown Savannah.
I dragged my sister downtown on one of the last nights of my visit. Or rather, she played Uber for the evening. I was car-less, but I wanted to go see my old haunts before I flew back to San Antonio indefinitely. As my sister navigated the grid of the city, I felt myself longing to drive. I knew the way. She didn’t. She kept asking me where to turn. Or where Coffee Fox was located. That’s when I realized that she didn’t know Savannah like I knew Savannah. It was like when a friend decides to start watching your favorite TV show in the middle of the season, and they keep asking all these questions.
Downtown Savannah is my Savannah. It’s my favorite show. My sister didn’t love it liked I love it. Cue The Yeah Yeahs Yeahs song. Maaaappps, wait. They don’t love you like I love you….
She just didn’t understand.
Over the past 10 years, I’ve memorized the city. Flaws and all. As I walked down Broughton Street (Savannah’s main drag for local shops) with my sister last week, I noticed that a few of the local shops had closed on Broughton Street. And they’d added a few more commercial ones to the mix of existing local businesses. After they had opened, McDonald’s, followed by the Victoria’s Secret on Broughton Street a while back, a part of me had died inside. I knew at the time that Savannah was changing, but not in a good way. I liked her for the quirky local spots. The places that actually felt like a secret. The new Ben and Jerry’s I spotted was proof that the city hadn’t stopped changing in my absence. I can’t say I was surprised. The Savannah I loved was Coldplay’s Parachutes album. This changing Savannah was a weird new duet with Rihanna. More commercial. More top 40/stadium anthem, and less mixtape/record store gem.
Sure, I think part of me will always be an angsty teenage fangirl for Savannah. Telling all my friends that I liked it before it was cool. Before Victoria’s Secret, H&M, and Blick swooped in and replaced the funkier local shops. I was one of Foxy Loxy’s first customers!
But I think I was right to start seeing other cities. Since I left Savannah in October, I think I’ve been telling myself that San Antonio is a fling. Like my misguided foray into black nail polish in 2008, San Antonio is something new. Something surprising. Something a little dangerous. I keep telling myself I’ll return to safer colors like blue and pink. Safer southern cities like Savannah or Charleston. But I’m beginning to think that San Antonio isn’t a fling. Maybe I like it as something more. Did this bit of perspective make my airport nightmare worth it? You bet it did.