Like jumping off the high board into the deep end of the pool, escaping the Gothic limits of my world was made easier by the help of the Methodist Church, unintentional as it was. At eighteen, and waiting to matriculate into a small, staid and historic prep school, with a Confederate Cemetery down in the woods behind the school chapel, they gave me a summer job on the Golden Isles of Georgia's Atlantic Coast. First, as a camp counsellor, and later as summer youth director in one of Savannah's iconic steepled Colonial churches on an oak shaded park downtown. This late season 'promotion' was due to my organ playing ability and my success at 'organ'ising the youth into a choir.
A lot of things happened that summer. Being thrown into this decadence soup, in the organ loft, on the beach at Tybee Island, beside the historic intensity of the moss draped history of Savannah's brick streets and neatly tended parks, Paris Island Marine Base and Hunter Army Airfield, and rooms with opulent plastered ceilings, then shabby with bare light bulbs and wooden floors creaky and unchanged since Sherman's visit -- all to the voice of God's own instrument - the tubular organ, I luxuriated .
And as the summer passed, too soon and too intensely, with late nights at the Pirate's House Bar and learning to water ski within the back river estuaries behind the islands, work and pleasure mixed and frothed into that sweet & sour blender cocktail of hormones and lunatic youth.
Grasp at comets ! Kick at stars! Laugh, fight, dare.
Besides the sexual marketplace of Savannah's streets, frequently co-mingling with 'cathedral tunes', there was a guilty pleasure of spending too much time in the company of historic settings, architectural masterpieces, and richly ornamented 'old houses'.
The Owens-Thomas House was the brightest gem, but there were others -- I knew that the Telfair Academy building with little black children playing in the yard was a classical masterpiece but didn't yet understand why I knew that.
And so, minus the late night bar scene, and the impetuousness of youth, I made a trip to Savannah, with the memory of a negro piano player and the strains of 'Poinciana' in my head.
This, my own photo of a balustrade of the Owens-Thomas House, begins this memoir with colors and details of the classical entablature which has enriched my entire life. Casa Mexilio, one of the most romantic hotels in Merida, began here.
Park side front portico of the Owens-Thomas House in Savannah, GA.