Leave Allendale and drive to Savannah – a place that has oft been recommended to visit. Walk around the town squares and circles, shaded in green, the river walk. Get a call from a friend and team member who is contributing music to the project – he kindly offers that we spend the night at his parents’ place, near Hilton Head.
We drive over the causeway into the gated golfing community as a beautiful sun sets in. K and J Roller greet us warmly.
“Come on, relax, you’re here to rest,” says Joe, snapping some beers open. Our arrival, however unplanned, hasn’t prevented K from piecing a nice meal up: call it a jumbo, some shrimp, hot-dogs, fish and such. The house is beautiful and cozy, Redrik and I are happy to be here. The parents look just like the kids, spread the same warmth – or is it the reverse?
Work in the morning, still sleeping poorly. Get to work on videos. Later, shooting some pictures outside, an older man in a wheelchair, who’d been fishing nearby, ‘pulls up’.
Jere’s a Go for the movie, wants to give us the “Old Man and the Sea” introduction: in a few minutes we learn that he’s a son of a stone mason, a Marxist (though he lives unscrupulously, and acknowledges this, in this kind of proprietary gated community), he fires away a dozen names of Big Money and Big-ish money locals, mentions film festivals, a congresswoman he goes to Hispanic Mass with – Jere’s a talker. He’s been a professor, is used to lecturing, to being listened to.
I’m interested in the possibility of interviewing the congresswoman – this could be a break for the project. Jere invites us over, offers us a beer, shows us his wife’s quiltwork (telling us a thousand and one stories along the way). We sit on the deck sipping the beer and munching some chips.
He reads us a poem, then some of his poetry. It’s good (surprisingly good?). His intonation and oratory skills help. We plan to meet tonight in order to go to the Hispanic Mass, hopefully the congresswoman will be there.
Return to K and J’s, we’re supposed to interview J’s mother, the matriarch of the family, a woman of character – one who in her teens saw no trouble getting hired as a cook aboard a cruise ship touring the world. She didn’t know how to cook, but learned she did. Nearing her nineties but still blade-sharp. A blue gaze to be reckoned with. She’s not at the bridge club though. Perhaps she forgot.
Decline K’s gracious invitation to spend another night – although we both know that we could well use it. Have lunch at beaufort – beautiful, but we don’t really get to see it, must return to meet Jere. It’s been another tiring day, which took an unexpected turn of events, full of people and stories.
We drive back into the gated community. Jere wants to drives us there. With assured recklessness. I don’t think he’s used to being able to share these experiences with new folk, especially younger ones, which may also be a cause for his excitement.
He’s also trying to be helpful, giving us the tour of the sites and plantations: “Slaves came from Africa, not because of their color, but because of their knowledge… of rice and indigo.” If only that were true(r). Rice takes 6 to 8 weeks ‘marinating’ under water, till the green shoots sprout. We pass by the Marshall plantation, one of the first in the area, once a whopping 18,000 acres.
“The idea that we had dumb blacks come over here is all bullshit.”
(Here I must add – as this account of our hours with Jere is shortened to a few notes – that our guide and professor is deeply concerned with human rights, civil rights and equality, values passed down by his father, and that he is one of the few – Caucasian – people we meet to tell us categorically that the South, that South Carolina and Georgia, are still plagued by racism, especially when dealing with law enforcement.)
Sit through Mass, get some shots, trying to be respectful of people’s reverence – “Reverential” as Jere commends afterwards. We’re nearing Easter. After Mass, interview some of the people there, inside the church. I’m on the prowl for the congresswoman, ask Jere if he could introduce us. Affirmative, he wheels away. A bit concerned for his health too as he huffs and puffs manically with his wheelchair, grazing cars and slaloming through people.
Something happens though, and despite Jere’s affirmations, the alleged congresswoman disappears into a nearby office for a meeting. We have to leave. I’m slightly bitter. Had gotten some hopes up that this could be a real opportunity for the movie. Can’t help but feel that perhaps Jere led us on a bit too.
He brings us to John Hayward’s grave on the way back. Drive through a grove of venerable Live Oaks. It’s a full moon, or close.
“You guys scared?”
“Scared of what? People aren’t a problem.”
“Oh yeah, it’s the spooks.”
Drive back, both Redrik and I are quiet. Tired. At the very end, as he drops us off, Jere says:
“I’m sorry I didn’t get to hear more of your stories.”
I smile. I guess he realized he’d done most of the talking.
“We learned. Thanks for teaching us.”
We return to K and J’s for the night (K had texted me during the afternoon to reiterate her invitation and we ended up accepting.) They’re not home yet – despite their Ohana-style hospitality, it feels a bit weird to go in. We finally do.
Look up the alleged congresswoman and find out she’s “only” a local council woman, respected and popular. I do feel less disappointment. Perhaps I should be ashamed.
K and J drive in a few minutes later. J doesn’t seem in a good mood, quickly hits the sack. Could it be to find two relative strangers sitting in his living room? He apologizes in the morning, had a few beers in him. Relieved to hear that, certainly didn’t want to overstay our welcome.
Of two grown boys and the long road
Early awake, again. As he sits in the car outside, in the wee hours, Redrik hears the roar of what seems like a boat engine revving. Big Al? We’ve heard that a ten-foot wide alligator nests in one of the nearby ponds. A wonder there are no more accidents. Perhaps it’s a good thing we don’t actually see Big Al.
We leave early morning with the Rollers, in order to get an interview of the parents. As we are warned, by my friend and by his parents, they are politically conservative. Extremely. The father especially.
We talk of various things: they share their ‘old-school’ ethic (hard work, don’t ask for favors, tug along), in that respect, they are also ‘good people’. The father rants about the state of so-called higher education, the heavy hand of banks and the crushing national debt.
The mother tells of a time when she was sunbathing on a sailboat with a friend, just as a Navy ship full of sanguine young men returned from a long trek through the Atlantic. This resulted in hundreds of lads stomping to the deck in order to watch the spectacle, and the Navy ship very nearly keeled over.
Some good footage. It’s also a way to get some of the family’s memories on camera.
Drive off. Finally… although the stay was enjoyable, during the last four days it seems like we’ve been on some sort of a schedule in order to meet people. Of course all these encounters were pleasant and valuable experiences, but one of the points of this kind of ‘no-return’ road-trip is also not to have a schedule of any kind.
The mix of work and play… this is to be the crux of this trip. More on that later, and throughout.
Have to stop by Savannah, however briefly, to get some shots. Redrik remains in the car. Storm through Savannah’s river side, get some interviews, an Iraq vet, an Occupy anti-war protester, a tattooed waitress in a coffee shop…
As I return to the car and into the driver’s seat, a Pontiac or other 80s American make, briskly pulls in front of us. There’s a good 12 feet of space – when the car begins to rear at a confident speed. Redrik and I wave frantically at the driver, who’s looking straight at us through his rear window, before he rears into us for a smashing fender bender.
I’m almost positive this was intentional. Ooa gets craaaa-zy. Jump out of the car and begin screaming at the jerk, who’s a good half-foot taller. He begins to be scared. Perhaps not so much by the physical threat, but that he picked the wrong (mad) person to deal with.
Way to go promoting peace and better understanding.
After taking his information down and threatening to follow him to his job, let the guy go. The license plate plastic holder is cracked. That’s about it. Never was question of calling insurance, or anything serious, rather of deciding the guy’s intent. Was it intentional? I still do not know.
We drive off in the heat and on empty stomachs. Are both exhausted and nerve-wracked by the time we get to Fernandina, near Amelia Island, prompted to visit the area by Jere.
Redrik has taken off. I am of course in part to blame. The ‘argument’ was the following, one which in its brevity and insignificance many people may relate to: I was in the midst of working in a coffee shop, biting on a 7$ chocolate cake (thumbs up to the surfer girl cashier for luring me into it, and the coffee shop’s acute lack of price tags – remind me never to do that again), when Redrik came in asking me to help him unplug his computer’s power cord. I jeered him off.
A minute later he was gone, and we were both unhappy.
As I write this a few minutes after the fact, I simply hope that he will not use his newfound driving privileges to put the depression he has in him to an effect. For this reason, I should and shall call him. But I think it’s also important to give him, and us, time to ponder what’s going on beneath the surface, and will take the – low – chance of seeing him leave now, dangerously at that.
He walks in half an hour later. I wish he’d apologize. I don’t either though.
On a lighter note, I think the battle of GPS / paperback Atlas is now beginning to tilt in my favor.
Now, the deeper issue at stake is the following and I’m fortunately – also unfortunately – writing this in retrospect, which will hopefully help to phrase it adequately.
Redrik’s story is not mine to tell, and I had hoped till now that he would contribute and share it, and that his involvement in this trip and project would be a way to work past his troubles.
The story of Redrik and I is, however, an integral component of the story of this trip (part 2), the dynamics of which are entirely changed and shaped by this combination. So this has to some extent become a part of the story of the second road-trip, and, like it or not, may be more present in future posts. It is a fine line to be trod upon, writing about this.
At this point in the story (Fernandina), I have been increasingly discomforted – and as a poor result become increasingly discomforting – by Redrik’s passivity with the project (and generally), in contrast with my own pugnacious commitment to it. I’ve spent over a year, mostly alone, developing this. I care greatly about it, and work in general, and will see to it that it gets done.
However dedicated I am to this work though, there is no excuse for letting it blind me to the other (more) important things in life. Friendship should, does, and will prevail. Period.
How will this work? Will Redrik make it? Will I? Will we?
Later that night we get a beer, pour some hearts. Redrik is down. Can’t say I’m up. Seeking some meaning in life – haven’t we all, and the downside of love is the most cupid bearer of the sword of meaninglessness.
Justine comes to distract us. Is with some friends. We meet them at the bar next door. It seems she’s into me. Later, looks like she can take me along with her to her place. Redrik’s ‘alright’.
Justine drives around, we stop by at the gas station. I try to kiss her. No? So it’s been less than five minutes and I give Redrik a call. He meets us there.
We all go sit down by the beach, moonlit waves. Interview Justine, she gets to talking. Redrik promptly falls asleep. Justine tells me about an alien base on the hidden face of the Moon, and government spy planes circling above her home.