Savannah is like Coldplay and San Antonio isn’t the same as black nail polish

Savannah is like Coldplay and San Antonio isn’t the same as black nail polish

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.

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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.

Taste Like Home

Taste Like Home

A few weeks ago, I toured the Ranger Creek Brewery and Distillery. During the tour, the guide introduced me to a concept that I’d never heard of before. It’s called terroir. It’s kind of a complex term, but the guide explained it well: when a beverage or cheese’s flavor is affected by its environment, it has terroir. Anything from soil makeup to water hardness can contribute to a product’s terroir. According to our tour guide, any food or drink created in San Antonio owes it’s unique taste to San Antonio, Texas if it was made with San Antonio water or food grown in its soil.

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I love this idea. The idea that tortillas made in San Antonio taste like San Antonio. But I don’t like to limit this idea to wine, cheese, and tortillas. Interestingly, many places in the States seem to have their signature twist on soda. Texas has Big Red. In Georgia and a large part of the south, we have Cheerwine and RC Cola. In Tennessee, they have Dr. Enuf.  Don’t forget the regional snacks, either. In Idaho they have a candy bar called the Iowa Spud. The south? We’ve got MoonPies.

What do you crave the most when you’re far away from home? Probably the one thing you can only get in your home state, of course. Maybe because it tastes like home. Recently, I stumbled upon a box of MoonPies in the Dollar Tree near my house in San Antonio. My heart leapt up!

When I think about Savannah, I think about the food and drink. Service Brewing Company beer, Back in the Day Bakery Cupcakes, and Wang’s II Chinese food. I associate these flavors with home and I can’t seem to recreate them in San Antonio. Sure, I can find local beer in San Antonio. I can get cupcakes and Chinese food. But it just isn’t the same. Fried rice from Wang’s II is home. Fried rice from a rando takeout place in San Antonio might be delicious, but it isn’t home. Home is the terroir.

This got me thinking about people too. Do people have terroir? Do we “taste” like where we come from? Would I be the same person if I had been raised in Iowa instead of Georgia? Are we the sum of our experiences? Are we what we eat? Or are we who we are because of what we eat?

Ticket to Texasland: Saxet Gun Show

Ticket to Texasland: Saxet Gun Show

“There’s a gun for everyone.” That’s what Nick assured me after he announced that we, along with a few friends from his class, would be attending a gun show.

I had reservations about going because guns aren’t exactly my thing. I didn’t share Nick’s sentiment. Unless by “everyone” he meant, “James Bond.” While Georgia is the South and maybe significantly more “conservative” than northern states, I come from a liberal part of the state. I went to art school. Moreover, my dad’s sister was killed in a gun-related accident. Guns make me uncomfortable. And Nick was asking me to willingly enter a warehouse filled with them. The fact that I went shows how much I trust this guy. But I also felt like I had to go. I told myself it was a Texas Cultural Event. Like The Rodeo or The Texas State Fair. Wasn’t it? I envisioned playing David Foster Wallace for the afternoon and then writing up some sort of essay about it. A brief foray with The Natives.  Yes, I think I would attend The Gun Show.

In my two months living here, no event we’ve attended has been all that crowded. Save for the Pearl’s Saturday Farmers Market.  Clearly, fresh vegetables weren’t the only hot ticket in this city. This Gun Show was packed. Or rather, the Saxet Trade Show was packed. Per the website, it’s a “one-stop shop” for guns, ammo, knifes and other weapon-related paraphernalia. Located in a large conference center off 410, the Saxet Gun Show must have attracted every gun enthusiast the county. Cars (mostly trucks, admittedly) were streaming into the complex. Some stopped at a red tent to pay for parking.

On the side of what I could only guess was the convention center, a yellow tarp with an inverted Texas logo and “Saxet Gun Show” stenciled across it rippled in the wind. It’s a stretch, but apparently when you draw Texas backwards it gives the vague impression of a gun holster. Convienent.

Next to the conference center an empty strip mall with a large sign read: “The Door”. Apparently, “The Door” led to some sort of Christian church or organization. The Door’s parking lot was carless, but many signs posted throughout the convention center complex warned, “Do not park at The Door.” Since we didn’t want to pay for parking, or get into trouble with The Door, we had to squeeze our Beetle between two F-250s and just inches away from a no parking sign. A few trucks sneaked into the nearby IHOP parking lot.

When we got to The Gun Show entrance, an NRA tent promised perks if you joined during the event. In the corridor of the conference center, a line had formed and shuffled forward as a blonde woman in a snug black t-shirt took up the $5 admission fee and stamped hands.

After a moment of standing in line, I realized that there were three lines. One for the stamp, one for the ATM, and another one.  Near the admission line where  Nick and I stood, a man in a denim jacket inspected a hunting rifle at a long folding table while other men stood waiting, rifles in hand. These men were checking in their rifles. My stomach tightened. They allow guns in the gun show. I don’t know why I was surprised. They allow pets in PetSmart, don’t they?

The convention center smelled like spiced nuts. Probably from the stand selling red and white paper bags of the confectionary nuts for the hungry shoppers at $2.95 a pop. Maybe it was the smell, but the whole event reminded me of a state fair or a flea market. Why hadn’t they made a musical about a gun show yet?

The State Fair of Guns: endless rows of tables and booths. Only instead of local farmers selling honey and homemade candles, men and women dressed in camo and Levis were selling everything from Glocks to Civil War Era rifles. Occasionally, I spied a wife setting up a Scentsy booth or few teenage girls gathered around sterling silver necklaces laid out in black velvet trays. But it was mostly guns and knives.

And of course there were t-shirts and bumper stickers for gun enthusiasts. One t-shirt I saw said something about “Guns and Starbucks.” It had a knock-off Starbucks logo printed across the chest. Maybe it was a band? Like Guns ‘N’ Roses? I pictured a firing range where people shot Starbucks cups instead of cans. Someone in aviators jamming on the bass in the background.

Probably the most horrifying of them all was a bumper sticker sold at several of the booths. “I voted for Trump and I carry a gun.” I blinked hard and tried to imagine what that might mean. In another universe, I suppose it was meant be funny. A dark joke.

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Trump Sticker

I looked out at the rows of guns and patrons who moved like molasses through the aisles. Picking up guns. Turning them over. Feeling the weight of the unloaded weapon in their hands.  An older man shuffled past me. He wore a military-issue backpack with a makeshift yardstick sign sticking out of the back pocket. A piece of white paper listing the guns he was selling was taped to the stick. I imagined they were real bargains.

For everyone woman in leggings and a vest I spied in the crowd, I saw three men in cowboy hats. At one point Nick and I lost our friends in the crowd. “Do you see them?” Nick said, standing on his tiptoes.

I scanned the masses. I tried hard to look at faces. I did. But the only thing I remembered was that Nick’s friend was wearing a camo baseball cap. When I looked up, more than a dozen camo hats bobbed in the crowd—a funhouse mirror—it was impossible to tell who was who. I’d fallen down the rabbit hole. This was Texasland.

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The Gun Show was a fantasy world of extremes. Everyone there seemed to fit the “stereotypical” Texan I’d drawn up in my head. A man in a Stetson and cowboy boots with a gun on his hip. Teenagers who wore hunting gear to school.  Anyone who worshiped John Wayne, voted for Trump, and probably knew how to ride a horse. But the truth is, these extremes were something I rarely saw on San Antonio streets. Texas is too big to fit in a box.

But more than any other time since I got to San Antonio, I felt like a tourist. A true outsider. I didn’t understand The Gun Show. I didn’t understand people who liked guns enough to attend a festival like this. I couldn’t relate.

“Don’t you want a gun?” Nick whispered in my ear. He likes to heckle me.

I’d given up on looking for his friend. I shook my head; my eyes had landed on another booth selling the Trump sticker. “I’m not Lara Croft. No one is threatening my life on a regular basis,” I replied. “I don’t see the point.”

I thought about all the other things I’d rather be doing. A craft brew fest. A coffee convention. A performance art exhibition. What had I gotten myself into? I’d stumbled into this gun show the way a loud-mouthed tourist might stumble into sacred temple in Bali. I hadn’t realized the seriousness of what I’d come to see. I was out of my depth. In my head, I scoffed at Nick’s earlier declaration: “There’s a gun for everyone.”  Guns—this show wasn’t for me.

Turning away from the Trump booth, something caught my eye at another table. Something teal poking out from all the black, chrome, and camouflage that consumed the room.  If you know me, you know I’m obsessed with the color teal. All my electronics and appliances are teal.

At closer inspection, I realized that what I saw was a gun. It was small, chrome, and teal with pearl overlay on the handle. A Kimber Special Edition for about $695.  Nonetheless, it was the most beautiful gun I’d ever seen.

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The Teal Kimber

This gun knocked me on my ass (figuratively speaking, of course). Because I thought guns were supposed to be cold, gritty, and masculine.  Accessories for characters in action movies. But this Kimber was gorgeous. Something to place in a shadow box and blog about on Pinterest.  An exhibit piece in a vintage museum next to pastel 1950s refrigerators and mixers.

I couldn’t explain why. But I wanted this gun. Not to shoot cans or small animals. Just to have.

Don’t worry. This didn’t instantly transform me into a John Wayne-worshipping Trump supporter. But I did briefly entertain the fantasy of taking out a home intruder while mixing up a cake in the kitchen. When the window burst open, I’d whip my teal pistol from the pocket of my matching floral apron and shoot the intruder right in his nylon-stockinged face.

We left the gun show empty-handed and headed to lunch with our friends. But I couldn’t get the teal Kimber out of my head. Was it possible that no matter how lost I felt in the extremes of Texasland that I’d found some common ground? Something I could relate to, even if I didn’t agree with most of the gun show folks’ ideology? Before I saw the Kimber, I didn’t consider myself “the kind of person” who would appreciate a gun. And I’ll probably never be interested in using a gun. But Nick was right. There is a gun for everyone.