Welcome to Savannah, incoming freshies! Along with your astounding tuition bill, you probably received a student handbook designed to inform you about your new school—and leave you completely unprepared for life in one of the South’s most weird and wonderful cities. Allow us to fill in some gaps:
• When it comes to street signs, forget what you know about Hooked on Phonics. “Habersham” doesn’t rhyme with the creepy old lady from Dickens’ Great Expectations — it’s pronounced “HAB-er–shum.”
Also, Houston Street has nothing to do with Texas and instead sounds like “mouse fun.”
If you’re on the southside, take note that the major thoroughfare is the singular Montgomery Cross Road — not “crossroads” — no matter how many times blues legend Robert Johnson rolls over in his grave.
And whether you give a whit or not, locals will snicker behind your back if you announce you’re heading to “White”–marsh Island for some barbecue.
• Speaking of barbecue, you’re probably feeling pressure to sample one of the main Southern food groups. We wouldn’t dare endorse any single purveyor for fear of starting a gangland war, so you’ll have to do your own research.
You’ll find most places serve up our regional sweet, tomato–based sauce as opposed to the vinegar– and/or mayo–based sauces served up north.
We recommend going whole hog and accompany your meal with coleslaw and a slice of red velvet cake as soon as possible so you know where to turn for comfort food during mid–terms.
(If you roll vegan–style, find nourishment at Brighter Day Natural Foods at the southern end of Forsyth Park or Thrive on the aforementioned Whitemarsh Island, where you can sip kombucha and nosh on tempeh salad to your hippie heart’s content.)
• Once you’re fueled up, it’s time to party. We know you simply had no inkling of Savannah’s reputation for inebriation and that you chose to come to school here because you’re really, really into Southern Gothic architecture, so let’s be clear:
If you’re under 21, it’s illegal for you to possess or imbibe alcohol. It’s also a terrible idea to try and swipe it from someone else’s liquor cabinet, try to get into The Jinx with that crap fake ID or stand outside Habersham Beverage asking strangers to buy you beer like a little alkie match girl.
• When it comes to live music, those under 21 are banned from the “hybrid” establishments (those that operate as restaurants by day but become bars after 10 p.m.), so your options are limited to the always–eclectic line–up at the Sentient Bean, our (growing) underground art scene and a few all–ages shows.
All of which beat spending the night with the unsympathetic po–po and the unsavory clientele of the Chatham County Jail. Our advice: Make friends with coffee. Or kombucha.
• However, if you’re 21 and above, Savannah wants you sauced to the gills: You are more than welcome to traipse around downtown with a plastic or styrofoam cup full of alcoholic beverage as long as your behavior remains civilized. For the repercussions of uncivilized behavior in Savannah, search YouTube.
The to–go cup fabulousness only applies in the area bordered by River and Jones Streets from the north to south (extending to the south end of Forsyth Park during sanctioned festivals, when entire squares are taken over by revelry), by the Talmadge Bridge to the west and the railroad tracks to the east (trust us, you don’t want to be wandering around wasted off the beaten path anyway.)
It should go without saying that you may not drive a car with your to–go cup no matter where you are.
• In spite of the lax attitudes towards the hooch, the local climate has recently become tyrannical towards tobacco. Smoking’s a no–no inside any public building within Savannah city limits.
Including bars. Really.
You’ll have to step outside to partake, but make sure you’re far enough away from the door (at least 10 feet) so that fumes don’t blow back inside.
On a related note, weed is still illegal for everyone everywhere.
• How are you planning to get around? Savannah is touted as one of the finest walking cities in the country, so your own two feet will do just fine in many cases.
State law dictates that vehicles must stop for pedestrians in crosswalks, but since your mom isn’t here, we’ll remind you to always look both ways and keep your wits about you.
• Biking is very much encouraged in Savannah thanks to efforts of the Savannah Bicycle Campaign. John Bennett of the Campaign has the scoop on two–wheeled safety and adventure on page 16. Oh, and riding on Abercorn south of Victory is suicidal, so don’t.
• If you’re looking for an inexpensive, air–conditioned ride, we’ve got an excellent public transit system called CAT (Chatham Area Transit).
Catch a CAT from Bay Street to Armstrong Center all the way out to the islands for $1.50 a trip; other perks include free transfers, discounted monthly passes and the best people–watching around (if you see the guy in the gold sequined pants on the 4, tell him we say hey.)
• Other random pieces of vital information for Savannah newbies:
All that pretty Spanish moss isn’t really moss (it’s actually in the bromeliad family) but when it’s on the ground it does harbor real biting mites known as redbugs.
Folks will tell you Savannah is “America’s Most Haunted City” but we cannot confirm or deny. The scariest thing we’ve seen after dark are the zombies that converge on Sweet Melissa’s at 2 a.m. early Sundays.
The best resource to the city’s music, art, food and community happenings is right here in your hot little hands. You may feel like a stranger in a strange land right now, but pick up Connect Savannah every week and you’ll be in the know in no time.