IT DOESN'T SEEM LIKE A very good time to give thanks.
Since my last column, a 2-year-old, a 6-year-old, and a 12-year-old were shot in Savannah, two of them fatally.
This community is clearly at a major decision point, and our actions as a community from this time forward, good or bad, will take on extra gravity.
Meanwhile, Ferguson is in ashes, along with much of the nation's collective psyche.
But... these problems are decades in forming, and we won't solve them in a week.
There will be plenty of time for more critical columns and stories about what's not going right in Savannah. Believe you me.
Instead, in the spirit of the season I want to write this week not about the latest local controversy, but instead about a few things for which I'm deeply grateful about Savannah—if only as a reminder of some of the things at stake that are worth fighting for:
1. Young Business Owners—Local small businesses aren't only the heart of Connect Savannah's support, they are what's going to save this city in the long run.
Sure, another big-box hotel creating another few dozen $8 an hour jobs catering to tourists is just dreamy. Another million tons of Chinese goods moving through the Port of Savannah is just peachy. If you don't love that, the terrorists win, etc., etc.
But small business builds community.
Because the profits stay here.
And even more importantly where Savannah's concerned, a small business built by a young person who just moved here or graduated here—investing not only their money but their life—is a true change agent.
2. To-Go Cups—I'm so Savannah, when I go to another town and suddenly remember I can't roll out onto the street with a drink in my hand, I get downright indignant.
It's not as trivial as it seems. To-go cups aren't a sign of out-of-control hedonism or a colorful Southern quirk, but an indicator of civilization, enlightenment, and honest-to-goodness American liberty. Not to mention vitally important to our local identity.
It makes zero sense that 99.9 percent of the rest of the country trusts an adult of age to drink alcohol inside a bar, but not one foot outside that bar.
It's a breath of fresh air, in this increasingly hyper-regulated surveillance nation/nanny state we live in, to be trusted to do something on your own as a fully functioning and responsible adult, even if it's something as basic as enjoying a beer.
3. Local Brewers—Speaking of beer and local business, the addition of Southbound Brewing Co., Service Brewing, and Coastal Empire Beer Co. to good ol' Moon River Brewing Co. means Savannah has built a bona fide craft beer community.
The instantaneously popular reaction to Southbound's tasting tours shows a robust and, um, untapped market, literally. Service Brewing's name sponsorship of the Savannah Film Festival was also a welcome sight.
While the Prohibition Cocktail trend didn't quite explode here as elsewhere (Temperance on Broughton, anyone?), it's a sign of Savannah's cultural renaissance that we now have a legit craft brew scene, which will no doubt spur further investment.
4. Savannah Philharmonic —It's by no means a given that any city in America would enjoy a top-level symphony orchestra the quality of the Savannah Philharmonic, much less a market as small as Savannah.
The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra only recently resolved a tense standoff which nearly resulted in its demise—in a city of five and half million people and galactically more financial resources than Savannah.
The Charleston Symphony Orchestra —in the home of Spoleto!—routinely goes through extreme financial distress which threatens its seasons on a regular basis.
But under the baton of the great Peter Shannon, the executive direction of David Pratt—and also thanks to the tireless efforts of Mary Catherine Mousourakis and the rest of the staff—the Savannah Philharmonic is kicking ass and selling out venues all over town, including last week's Thursday night performance by Irish tenor Anthony Kearns at the Lucas.
5. Rock 'n' Roll—For years one of the biting and continuing criticisms of Savannah is that while it's had awesome grassroots venues such as The Jinx and Hang Fire, it had no clearly identifiable music scene other than quirkily individualistic anomalies like GAM or City of Lindas and a lot of dudes covering "Margaritaville" for tourists.
That's all changing not only in an explosion of kickass homegrown bands, but an increase in really smart, sharp bookings of touring acts—the latter mostly courtesy of Kayne Lanahan at Savannah Stopover/MusicFile Productions and Peter and Blake Mavrogeorgis at Dollhouse Productions.
The beauty of what's going on—and the linchpin in creating a genuinely holistic music scene on par with Athens—is that Savannah is finally building a mutual support network of musicians, promoters, and club owners who work together to find the right venue for the right bands.
Speaking of Savannah Stopover, that event continues to be one of the bright shining new lights in the local cultural scene—all the more important in that it appeals to a younger demographic than the majority of existing local festivals.
6. Completed Truman Parkway—Hey, I'm as sorry about the screwed-up wetlands as anyone. But there's no denying that the finished Truman is a huge game-changer and a spur to economic development. From my house I can get downtown in 7 minutes and way Southside in under 15. Maybe one day the Truman Linear Park Trail can also be finished? A man can dream....
7. Our Readers—Media outlets all over America find themselves in a similar predicament: As the issues facing the world grow ever more pressing and complex, news organizations are decreasing the amount of funding, staff, and resources we can bring to bear on covering those issues.
While Connect Savannah is in some ways ahead of the curve—as an alt-weekly we're long accustomed to doing things on a frugal budget and lean staff—we're no more immune to this trend than any other news organization in the country.
What makes the uphill struggle worthwhile for me are the times when readers—most of whom I 've never met, but who may know my face from the photo on this page—come up to me in a public space and thank me profusely for the work I do and our staff does for the community.
I'm deeply grateful and humbled to say that not a week goes by that this doesn't happen. I may not see it in my paycheck, but it's quite a blessing, and it's what we live for as journalists—to know that our work has a real, lasting, and personal impact on the communities where we live. cs