Savannah is a cool town. The farmer’s market is thumping this morning in Forsyth Park. There are food wagons, peanut vendors, farmers, growers, butchers, artists, buskers, hipsters, and tourists crawling all over, hawking their wares.

This little market is located within the heart of the oldest planned city in the U.S., beneath the canopies of mossy oaks, and you can feel that heart beating today.

There are lots of families here. There are children running around with ice-cream smears on their cheeks. There are sleep-deprived parents, sipping coffee from paper cups, pushing strollers that are the size of Honda Civics. There are golden retrievers wearing Atlanta Braves jerseys. There are Midwesterner tourists clad in T-shirts which read: “I’m Not Being Rude, I’m From Minnesota.”

I meet an old man who sits on a bench, braiding a crucifix from a palmetto frond, humming to himself.

“Yo, dude,” he says as I walk by. “Here you go.”

He presents me with the crucifix.

And since this isn’t my first visit to Savannah, I reach into my wallet and give the man a twenty.

“Thanks, dog,” he says, fumbling a cigarette into the corner of his lip. “You got a light?”

“Nope, sorry.”

He smiles and shrugs. “Don’t apologize, dude. Don’t ever apologize for things you can’t control.”

Philosophy lessons are free here in Savannah.

Savannah is one of my favorite cities. I’ve traveled a lot. I’ve been to New York City; it gave me panic attacks. I’ve been to Philly, Newark, D.C., Vegas, L.A., and once I almost died of hypothermia in Chicago while waiting for the El train. You can keep your major cities.

I prefer Savannah. Maybe what I love is the history, or maybe it’s the way the sunlight hits the cobblestones. Or perhaps it’s that everyone here always seems like they’re in a great mood. I don’t know.

Either way, this is the town that birthed American hospitality. This is a city that has survived America’s first epidemics, yellow fever, wars, Depressions, and the horrors of real estate development.

This is the hometown of Johnny Mercer. Sadly, a lot of kids have never even heard the name Mercer. Which is a minor tragedy.

In public schools, we now have progressive music classes that teach our children about the artistic achievements of Madonna, Sting, Usher, and Lady Gaga. But for some reason we leave out names like Joplin, Gershwin, Ellington, Armstrong, and Johnny Mercer.

Savannah is also the birthplace of the Girl Scouts. Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of the Scouts, was way ahead of her time.

Oh, and you know how everyone nowadays is talking about inclusion, equality, and eliminating racial divisions? Yeah, well, the Girl Scouts have been practicing such things since 1912. Look it up. These are among the many things you can learn in Savannah when talking to men on park benches, braiding palmetto fronds.

After I spend the morning browsing the farmer’s market, I find myself wandering back in the direction from whence I came. I am admiring the beards of Spanish moss in the trees overhead. I am taking in the Gothic Revival architecture, listening to the sounds of a quintessential Southeastern city.

When I see my old-man friend again, the man is still busy braiding palmetto fronds, and his cigarette remains unlit.

The old man is approached by a little boy—a kid who is apparently smitten with the old man’s craftsmanship. The old man immediately becomes more animated now that he has an audience.

The boy says he wants to learn how to braid a rose from a palm leaf.

The old timer obliges. He pats the ground beside him. “Have a seat, dog. I’ll teach you how.”

And he does. The elderly man patiently teaches the child how to braid a palmetto rose while the kid’s dad videos the whole thing with a smartphone.

The man’s leathery hands guide the young boy’s little hands, and soon the kid is weaving a beautiful piece of art.

The elderly man is pleased with himself. I can tell by the way he smiles his tooth at the kid.

“Hey, dog,” the old man says. “You’re pretty good at this. I better be careful or you gonna take my job.”

When the kid finishes his rose, he presents it to the old man as a gift.

The old man seems taken aback by this simple gesture.

“For me?” the old salt says. “Ain’t you wanna keep it?”

The kid shakes his head. “I want you to have it.”

The man clutches the rose against his chest. “Thank you, dog.”

I’m telling you. This really is a cool town.


  1. Lisa - October 24, 2021 2:50 am

    Juliet Gordon Low!

    • Virginia Russell - October 24, 2021 10:02 am


    • Page Leftwich - October 27, 2021 11:49 pm

      Love this one, Sean.

  2. Joan Moore - October 24, 2021 2:53 am

    Grab some Byrd cookies for me!

  3. chris - October 24, 2021 3:00 am

    Sean, Juliette LOW. Great column otherwise 🙂

  4. Susan Marler - October 24, 2021 3:05 am

    Um, Juliette Gordon Low. I love Savannah too.

  5. Linda J Hendrix - October 24, 2021 3:20 am

    Savannah IS cool! I agree. 😁

  6. B Epting - October 24, 2021 3:24 am

    LOW – Juliette Gordon Low (not Stowe)!
    We love your words anyway despite an occasional misspell!

  7. Linda J Hendrix - October 24, 2021 3:24 am

    PS Did you see Forrest?

  8. Alan Poling - October 24, 2021 3:36 am

    Yep, we love our city!! Come back anytime, stop by and we’ll feed you some good, southern cooking.

  9. Lisa - October 24, 2021 3:54 am

    Uh….that would be Juliette Gordon Low not Stowe….

  10. Christina - October 24, 2021 4:22 am

    What a moving moment! Thanks for sharing

  11. Happy Home - October 24, 2021 4:32 am

    Sort of my town – Savannah. My parents retired there, and couldn’t afford it, so I scraped up money from my military pay and bought the house for them off Abercorn. My mother passed away after a long decline with dementia – my father is still there. Amtrak serves Savannah, making it relatively easy to visit from the northeast. Thank you for taking me “home”.

  12. wfsuga - October 24, 2021 4:50 am

    Johnny Mercer. The best. Period. Thanks my Huckleberry Friend.

  13. Nancy T Bucy - October 24, 2021 6:03 am

    Typo – Juliette Gordon Lowe

  14. Steve Winfield (Lifer) - October 24, 2021 7:40 am

    Thanks Dog! You took me there.

  15. Virginia Russell - October 24, 2021 10:05 am

    Just don’t keep making it sound too good. Atlanta used to have a lot of people in good moods, too. Until so many in bad moods moved there.

  16. Kyra bowman - October 24, 2021 10:41 am

    I lived in Savannah for 5 years back in the 70’s. First child was born there. The town is truly the definition of southern hospitality and gentility. Visited with my son just before covid and nothing much had changed. As wonderful as ever!
    (By the way, the founder of the Girl Scouts was Juliette Gordon Low, not Stowe.)

  17. Te - October 24, 2021 10:42 am

    Know that old timer. He was on River Street doing roses last time I was there. Lived there once, in an apartment close to a railroad track. Some cities retain that European flavor no matter how we try to ruin it. Love walking cities, and S’vannah is one of the best. Humidity will kill you.

  18. Elaine Walizer - October 24, 2021 10:54 am

    Sean, LOWE, not STOWE. You are mixing up Harriet Beecher with Juliette Gordon!

  19. Michelle Luster - October 24, 2021 11:27 am

    Thanks for writing about simple, beautiful things.

    As a lifetime member of Girl Scouts it’s nice to see and read the appreciation for what our founder )and a native of Savannah) accomplished more than 100 years ago. As a note her last name was Low – she was married to Willie Low also of Savannah. I’m writing this to you from Camp Edith Macy, also founded by Juliette as a training and gathering center for Girl Scouts since 1926 in the Hudson River Valley.

    Congratulations on your Atlanta Braves. As a Giants fan I guess I’m rooting for your team now.

    Best regards
    Michelle Luster

  20. Cindy Clayton Livings - October 24, 2021 11:47 am

    Low, not Stowe. Juliette Gordon Low. I was a Girl Scout for 8 years and sold at least 100,000 boxes of cookies–enough to go to camp for FREE for at least 5 years. I mean, a REAL Girl Scout.

    Nevertheless, you got the spirit of Savannah perfectly–I live in JAX, FL–only 2 hours from SAV–and I have adult kids living in SAV. Therefore, I get to visit quite often. I am blessed beyond measure.

    Love your writing. Sean. I too grew up in Alabama–my mama still lives in Montgomery–and I now live in Florida. I get the feeling that you and your wife pass me on the highway quite often.

    Stay safe and stay well.

    Cindy Livings

    P.S. Be sure to treat your wife to lunch at the Olde Pink House.

  21. Suellen - October 24, 2021 1:03 pm

    Alas I only spent a couple of hours there on the way back from Florida once. Just enough to say I’ve been there. We should have factored in more time there and savored it.

  22. Dave - October 24, 2021 1:05 pm

    Some cats got it and some cats ain’t …dog.

  23. Lydia - October 24, 2021 1:27 pm

    I love Savannah,too! Correction- the Girl Scouts were started in America by Juliet Gordon LOW

    • Lydia - October 24, 2021 1:30 pm


  24. Karen Snyder - October 24, 2021 2:02 pm

    If for no other reason, Sean, your nod to Johnny Mercer makes this a terrific post! The rest is simply icing on the cake.❤️ Think I will find a YouTube playlist and have a little Mercer medley this afternoon!

  25. anne - October 24, 2021 3:14 pm

    Great story and wisdom. And I was a Girl Scout, back in the day Johnny was popular.

  26. Dawnie B - October 24, 2021 3:42 pm

    Savannah sounds wonderful, but the heart of your story is the loving-kindness between the little boy and the old man ❤

  27. Linda Moon - October 24, 2021 5:03 pm

    There are no inherently smart phones. Smart human brains invented them….let’s give credit to those people, not the object which contains no LIFE itself. The old man braiding Palmetto fronds is smarter and more beautifully creative than a device can ever be. The teaching and learning and braiding with actual hands, both little and old, is brilliant. And Savannah, there in the low country, is so very beautiful, too. Thank you for telling me…makes me want to go back there!

  28. Anne C. - October 25, 2021 12:04 am

    Enjoyed seeing your show Friday night on Tybee. Enjoyed your singing even more! Who knew? This has been a difficult year for me and for an hour or so, I got lost. I appreciate it. I needed it.

  29. Blake Van Hoy - October 25, 2021 3:51 am

    My wife was from Savannah. Made our last trip to the area during the super moon. She instantly felt at home. She passed Wednesday night from ALS. GLAD we made the effort to get her “home” one last time. Thanks fir the memories

    • Suellen - October 25, 2021 12:33 pm

      Blake: praying for comfort for you as you mourn your wife’s passing.

  30. LauraD - October 25, 2021 12:49 pm

    I must agree with you regarding Savannah, one of my favorite cities to visits. My niece and her family live there and subsequently my BIL & SIL moved to Savannah. The city is lovely to walk, filled with history and great food.

  31. Stephen Herchak - October 25, 2021 1:13 pm

    Charleston — more than 70 years older than Savannah — actually is the first planned city in the colonies. The Grande Model (there are various spellings) specifies the plan for a city laid out on a grid of north-south and east-west streets meeting at 90 degree corners, the main N-S and E-W (Meeting and Broad) a full surveyor’s chain in width, the other streets being a half chain and quarter chain alleys between that.

    The founders of Philadelphia — a dozen years after Charleston — note this earlier use of the street plan they adopt there.

    Savannah is gorgeous and Oglethorpe’s plan of squares a site/sight to behold admired by one and all. The mystery is, why was it never implemented in any other city of consequence? A pity for many a new city!

    (no slight to the folks living there, but a quick online search turns up only these minor locations: notable vestiges of the Oglethorpe Plan can be found in the land use pattern surrounding Savannah; in the cities of Darien, Georgia; Brunswick, Georgia; and at Fort Frederica National Monument on St. Simons Island, Georgia.)

    Stephen P. Herchak
    Past president, Charleston Tour Association

  32. Mark Daigle - October 25, 2021 6:44 pm

    The Grammer Police are alive and well

  33. Mary Coley - October 25, 2021 7:51 pm

    My favorite place on earth. Heaven on earth to me. You can make a story out of anything. Never underestimate your talent. So thankful.

  34. Linda Sparks - October 26, 2021 10:23 am

    I agree. Savannah is a one of s kind city! I love it too!

  35. Sharon Highsmith - October 27, 2021 11:11 am

    Love your stories—-but it is Juliette Gordon LOW

  36. Jonathan Copeland - October 29, 2021 3:12 pm

    I live in Savannah and have for 27 years. Before that I was a Yankee.

    You’ve captured what I perceive to be the soul of this wonderful city.

    Thank you very much!!!

    Jonathan Copeland

  37. Bob Rogers - November 7, 2021 2:11 am

    Sean, your statement “whence I came” are you perhaps a brother traveling man?

  38. DonnaE - November 7, 2021 4:31 am

    I lived in Savannah a few years, until my career took me away, and all these years and many cities later, Savannah is still my favorite place I’ve ever lived. And since you mentioned Johnny Mercer – I lived on Johnny Mercer Boulevard!


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