Sitting in the passenger seat of a lime green Mustang, driving out of the historic center of Savannah, I started to wonder what I’d gotten myself into. A guy in a black suit was taking me, well, somewhere.
I asked where we were headed. “Bonaventure,” said Shannon, as he started describing one of the biggest cemeteries in the area and the funerary traditions of Georgia’s generations past. I was going to tour a graveyard with a stranger I’d just met, and it was a perfectly Savannahian moment.
My friend Rob and I arrived in Savannah with little more than a vague notion that it’s filled with lots of public squares. And it certainly is: one of the most impressive planned cities in the United States, along with Washington, D.C., there’s seemingly a live oak-shaded place to stop every time you turn a corner. But we didn’t want to spend our stay hiking in the 100-degree heat.
We had little idea of what to see or do, so Rob and I headed for the hotel bar, which usually leads to an adventure of one sort or another. We met Becki, the bartender, yes, but also an ambassador to the city who seems to know everything and everyone in town. In minutes, Rob and I had a table for dinner and a pedicab waiting to take us there. (A caution: Pedicabs are just as touristy in Savannah as they are everywhere else.)
At Sapphire Grill, we sat at the bar, sampling appetizer after appetizer while drawing recommendations of what to do out of the staff. They kept coming. A guy sitting at the other end of the bar spoke up, with a dream quote. “Savannah is the kind of place where you start drilling down and you find more and more.”
Later, Becki told us to call her friend Shannon Scott, an expert on Savannah’s history, which tends toward the eerie. We made plans to do a tour in the morning, but I don’t remember agreeing on cemetery sightseeing. No matter: that’s where we were headed, to see the graveyard featured in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, where a number of Savannah’s best (and most tragic) tales should be told.
Shannon’s tour took us past noteworthy graves of Johnny Mercer, Gracie Watkins, Corinne Elliot Lawton and Noble Wimberly Jones, a founding patriot and delegate to the Continental Congress. Shannon’s insights lent helpful historical context and he told stories we wouldn’t have heard had we visited without a guide. A couple of turned-around tourists we bumped into seemed positively overwhelmed; in Shannon’s charge, we were free to simply enjoy the visit, the monumental sculpture and the history.
After the walk, our guide invited us to lunch. We decided on Blowin’ Smoke, where the pulled pork rated as some of the best I’d ever had. Oh, and our waiter? Shannon had met him recently at a party. Just another Savannah coincidence.