Savannah Fanna Fo Fanna

SAVANNAH—It’s hard not to love this town. The scenery is easy on the eyes, colorful, historic, and there are flowers everywhere. There are also sweaty tourists out and about on foot, exploring Georgia’s oldest city on a sunny afternoon. And everyone is playing on their phones.

Have you ever noticed how many phones you see in public these days? They are in nearly every hand.

My wife and I take a city stroll, and I’ve learned a lot about Savannah on our walk. The first thing I learn is that the historic downtown is hotter than the fires of hell. It is 102 degrees outside. My boot rubber is softening. I’ve sweat through my shirt.

Which is actually a valuable lesson because this heat reminds me of how artificial modern life can be. We high-tech Americans pamper ourselves with air conditioning, streaming digital entertainment, prepackaged food, and round-the-clock Walmarts where you can buy Fritos at any odd hour of the night. But that’s not real life.

Early Americans’ lives were filled with nature, agriculture, back-cracking work, and their phones didn’t even shoot good video. They cooked over wood fires; we modern folks stand in front of microwaves and shout, “HURRY UP!”

In other words, I’m spoiled.

My wife and I walk over to Oglethorpe Square for a look around. The place is filled with dozens of tourists, many seated on benches. I notice most of them are playing on smartphones.

We walk to Flannery O’Connor’s childhood home, I count four young persons sitting nearby, also playing on phones.

Next we hike to the Juliette Gordon Low Museum—the first Girl Scout headquarters. There, fourteen people are mindlessly scrolling on phones. Fifteen if you count me.

Over by the famous in the Bonaventure Cemetery, I see a guy giving a well-rehearsed spiel to a small crowd. He, too, is using his phone to reference his lecture notes. But as it happens, nobody is listening very intently to his monologue. They’re all thumbing away on glowing screens. Just like me.

I overhear the tour guide say something I didn’t know. He says Savannah is where our country’s first crops were tested. A little patch of local dirt named Trustees’ Garden was once lush with our nation’s first strains of cotton, peaches, rice, grapes, mulberry trees, and olives.

“Savannah’s soil,” says the tour guide, “was ground zero for American agriculture. This is where American farming began, folks.”

I can’t explain why, but after hearing his moving speech, I’m gazing at this beautifully American city and I’m suddenly overcome with an overwhelming urge to send some more text messages.

After a full day of exploring, my wife and I rest our feet and grab coffee in a little café. It’s a nice joint with free Wi-Fi. Inside, everyone is laughing, most people are loud, young, and rowdy.

I see families, kids chasing each other, and toddlers knocking over napkin dispensers. And I’m hit with the realization that this scene feels so strikingly normal.

One year ago I came to Savannah during the height of the pandemic and everything felt abnormal. It was like being in a sci-fi zombie movie. I got so depressed I wanted to leave. But it’s not like that now. People are doing many of the things they used to do. This it gives me a stiff shot of joy.

My wife and I tour the rest of the pretty city, walking until we develop blistered feet. And even though it’s almost suppertime the ambient temperature is still 102. We are pouring sweat. It’s not impossible to figure out how this town got its name.

We hit the River District. The alleys are paved with stones that arrived from England in the 1730s. I pick up a history book in a nearby bookshop which explains that Savannah had its share of heartache.

The town nearly burnt to the ground twice. And immediately after the fire of 1820, yellow fever tried to kill half the population.

And when we walk around Colonial Park Cemetery we see the ancient headstones that mark all the yellow fever fatalities and infant deaths. The tombstones are nothing short of sobering. It’s hard not to connect the dots and recall the last 450 days in America.

By the evening, we are wandering toward the river again, watching distant boats on the sunswept horizon. I meet an older man dressed in rags, seated on a bench. He smells like gin and he’s braiding decorative roses from palmetto fronds, humming to himself.

He hands me a palm leaf rose for no apparent reason. I am caught off guard by his gesture. I offer to pay him for his work, but he says he doesn’t want money. Which surprises me.

“Don’t need no money just to be nice, man,” he says. “People in this world got to start being nice for free, start loving each other again.”

So I took a picture of him with my phone.


  1. Kay Williams - June 21, 2021 8:52 am

    Loved the tour of Savannah, especially the palmetto frond- braider. My prayers to keep him safe. He’s right, the world surely does need more folks to start being nice to each other whether free or not. (Or is it palmetto-frond braider? A hyphen belongs in there someplace)

  2. Melanie - June 21, 2021 9:30 am

    A palm leaf. A rose with no thorns. A message of love for all of us. He would have been my favorite part of the whole trip. ❤️🙏🏻

  3. Steve McCaleb - June 21, 2021 10:17 am

    Many years from now (or next Thursday…choose one) when civilization as we know it collapses, the cell phone will be the root cause. We will be intelligent, well informed and up date to a fault. We will also be oblivious to other humans, unable to communicate, raise children who swear our heads have only have one side and we may well glow in the dark. Other than that, everything is just peachy in our techno-saturated world.
    AND…….oh never mind, I’m getting a text from from my attention deficit support group.

    • Kay Williams - June 21, 2021 10:27 am


  4. Alison Crosby - June 21, 2021 10:29 am

    Hi Sean! Is your Mother in Law ok? I was worried about her when I read about the storms in BREWTON!

  5. Alison Crosby - June 21, 2021 10:31 am

    Ps…. Your art work is stellar.

  6. Camilla Stambaugh - June 21, 2021 10:35 am

    Try walking on Main St in Micanopy, FL. I was thinking about moving there (quiet, charming area) but when I asked a salesgirl “is it always this hot?” she said “everyone asks that.” Closed my Zillow app right then.

    I’ve been to Savannah a zillion times and have loved the breezes off the water there, have never even had moist skin, although I know a southerly tropical front approaching might change that…your appreciation for life before modern life is touching. I always wonder if young people are knowledgeable about all the struggles of our forefathers/mothers. Then I Google my question, right there in the middle of the street.

  7. Marianne Bryan - June 21, 2021 11:03 am

    Loved being in Savannah. History galore👍

  8. Bar - June 21, 2021 11:19 am

    “Don’t need no money just to be nice, man,” he says. “People in this world got to start being nice for free, start loving each other again.” Amen, brother … Amen!

  9. Karen Holderman - June 21, 2021 11:24 am

    I look forward to your writing every morning. 🤗

  10. Mike - June 21, 2021 11:37 am


    Reading today’s column reminded me just how tough my grandparents were. They were sharecroppers whose first home as newlyweds had no
    electricity or indoor plumbing. They moved to the city to work in a cotton mill and I grew up in a cotton mill village. As a kid I wondered why
    all the houses in my neighborhood were the same shape and lot size. We were called “lint heads” – but I am thankful for the work ethic and
    moral code my grandparents taught me.

  11. Shelton A. - June 21, 2021 11:40 am

    The man on the bench was so right. Thanks for his message. Now that you’ve spread his message, maybe more people will listen. God bless you and Jamie (and your hat eating dogs!).

  12. Ann Robbins Phillips - June 21, 2021 11:50 am

    Start being nIce for free!! I love that!!!!

  13. Nancy Crews - June 21, 2021 12:16 pm

    ❤your writing. I have just deleted Facebook. Spent too much time on it. So now I will be following you here and reading your stories.
    Keep them coming.

  14. Susan - June 21, 2021 12:37 pm

    Heartwarming laughter. Thank you, Sean.

  15. Jo Ann - June 21, 2021 12:38 pm

    Savannah is such a beautiful city. I’ve visited twice, the first time when the azaleas were in bloom- I had never seen anything so gorgeous. I’m glad to hear that the tourists are back, even if they might miss a lot while on their phones. “Start being nice for free.” Great idea-start living again. Thanks, Sean, for reminding me of beauty & niceness.

  16. Debbie g - June 21, 2021 12:39 pm

    Free nice. Amen sounds like your fellow brother Sean Love May we all strive to be there

  17. Southern Girl - June 21, 2021 1:11 pm

    The man on the bench was/is an angel sent by God with a message to our country. Thanks for passing his words on to us.❣

    • Stacey Wallace - June 25, 2021 4:15 pm

      Southern Girl is absolutely correct. Sean, I am a retired English teacher. You get an A++ for your writing. Thank you!

  18. Te - June 21, 2021 1:12 pm

    I was given a palmetto rose by that same man several years ago . One of my favorite cities. It’s not so much hot as humid. Like being wrapped in a wet wool blanket.

  19. Stephen Paul Herchak - June 21, 2021 1:26 pm

    Sean, don’t believe tour guides to the south! Charles Town in Carolina was established in 1670 (Savannah later to act as a bulwark for it against the many attacks coming from St Augustine) and one of the first things they did when they arrived in the spring was to begin test gardens, including plants you specifically mentioned. They may have added new ones to try but by the time the Enlish arrived in GA they had learned in SC what would grow in this part of the country and what wouldn’t (I see your guide’s list didn’t include oranges. They tried them in Charleston, they got off to a good start, but were killed by a frost here. Yet they were around long enough that there’s still Orange Street on the west side of the city that had been the original suburbs and when I grew up in the present suburbs I was 2 miles from Orange Grove Road). By the way, the guides in Faux Fanna are so bogus the one who styles himself Mr Savannah parades around wearing seersucker in FEBRUARY. People in the Holy City know that jus haint done here in the Sowlth. Y’all come see us. Would be my pleasure to take you and your wife on a comp tour of America’s Most Historic City.
    Stephen Paul Herchak
    Past president, Charleston Tour Association

  20. Marilyn Mason - June 21, 2021 2:15 pm

    This brought back memories of our passing through Savanna many years ago. We got our and walked the river district for a little while. It was as though we were in another place in time. Old, rotting, distinct and somehow beautiful. I’ve always wanted to return for a longer visit. Thanks, Sean.

  21. beachdreamer1 - June 21, 2021 2:27 pm

    I used to visit there quite often, never tho in the heat of summer! It is a beautiful city…the architecture, the huge moss filled trees and wonderful real Southern food! The last time I went they were filming ‘The Garden of Good and Evil.’ That was exciting. Thanks Sean, for painting that picture of Savannah for me to see once again. God bless that old man who makes the roses for free! He’s learned what life’s all about.
    And God bless you and Jamie. Thank you for sharing your adventures, especially with those of us who can’t get out and about much anymore. ❤️

  22. Rhonda Hooks - June 21, 2021 3:23 pm

    Thank you

  23. The Red Haired Lass - June 21, 2021 3:46 pm

    We lived in Savannah for a few years and it is still my favorite place, so I was excited to read this post. Those familiar names brought back wonderful memories. But, the Bird Girl was moved out of Bonaventure many years ago because people were doing terrible things to that beautiful statue (like stealing her nose!)

  24. Chasity Davis Ritter - June 21, 2021 4:28 pm

    I gotta admit Thats me with my phone a constant companion. It’s my alarm in the morning and throughout the day. My camera. My connection to everything. My weather reports. All of it. I used to take a book everywhere with me. Sometimes I do but mostly they sit at home and I’m reading my phone. I read you in it everyday. And then I share what you wrote with it. And when we go anywhere we all have one. Mom, my hubs, me my daughter. I laughed at my grandkids on Mother’s Day. We all sat in the living room. Even each grandchild youngest only 2 all on electronic devises. I marked the moment by taking a picture of it with my phone. We did play outside for hours though the electronics came after we ate and before we left at least. It’s my GPS too. And my photo album as well And I guess this is my digital confession for today Pretty nice info about Savannah You can sure miss a lot playing on a phone too. Thanks Sean

  25. Marianna Parker - June 21, 2021 5:04 pm

    Amen to “being nice for free”!

  26. Lynn Carol Owen - June 21, 2021 5:31 pm

    Great story, as usual.

  27. Mike Bone - June 21, 2021 8:14 pm

    While you are in Savannah, could you convince my cousin to get vaccinated. She “isn’t sure” about the Covid vaccines.

  28. Anne Arthur - June 21, 2021 8:31 pm

    I don’t know how you do it but you pull the truth out, every. single. time. I enjoy reading your daily 800 words.

  29. Stacey Wallace - June 21, 2021 8:44 pm

    Dear Sean,

    My husband and I love Savannah, too; it’s our favorite city in Georgia. For awhile there, I thought you were going to tell people to put down those blasted cell phones, talk to their children, and enjoy the city’s beauty. My husband and I taught for 30 years at two middle schools in LaGrange, Georgia. We fought cell phone battles a lot; when we began teaching in 1990, it was great; there were no cell phones! How about writing a column telling parents to talk to their children and have them put up those annoying cell phones? I’m so glad I was born in 1962; I grew up without cell phones–thank the Good Lord! I love your column; please keep writing.

    Best wishes,
    Stacey Patton Wallace
    Retired English Teacher
    and Restaurant Reviewer for the Opelika Observer

  30. Linda Moon - June 21, 2021 9:08 pm

    You had me at the title and I couldn’t get the Name Game song out of my head. It was hard to concentrate on reading and hearing that song at the same time, but I managed to read to the end. Shoot…I’m just happy and singing along because you’ve written more of those 2,345,402 words you promised to us about a year ago. And I add one daily to ensure that more will come so that you can NEVER quit writing. So, by my count you owe us approximately 2,345,721 words. I loved all of today’s, especially “Flannery O’Connor’s childhood home”. Next time you’re travelling, go to Andalusia Farms in Milledgeville, Georgia. And come back to my neck of the woods again soon because I love the writer of this column and his wife!

  31. Judy Jeremias - June 21, 2021 10:19 pm

    I have one of those palm frond roses. It was humbling to receive such a gift from perhaps the same gentleman. I’ve kept it on my dresser for a couple of years. Just a reminder of unexpected generosity and beauty. Like your words. I appreciate them. The roses and the words.

  32. Craig Johnson - June 25, 2021 2:50 pm

    I’ve been trying for years to condition my kids, if I don’t pick up my phone, don’t worry I’m not dead! More times than not I leave the phone in the house. Sometimes you just got to get away!

  33. Bill Harris - June 30, 2021 1:23 am

    Thank you Sean


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