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May 16, 2002
Bonaventure, which means good fortunes, is probably best known for its part in the book and movie, In the Garden of Good and Evil.
In addition to being the final resting place of two of the main characters in the book, the cemetery is also where Putlizer-prize winning poet Conrad Aiken and songwriter Johnny Mercer are buried.
From journal Savannah in the Spring
June 22, 2004
From journal Rosh Hashana
by Armed With Passport
Miromar Lakes, Florida
March 19, 2002
MARCH 16, 2002
SATURDAY NIGHT 11:15 p.m.
We continued on Bull, then through Madison Square. It was here that Toni and I decided to part ways. She went into a Christmas shop to get a Savannah X-mas ornament and then she was going to rest in the room. I decided to embark on a monumental journey.
I was going to see the "Bird Girl" in the Bonaventure Cemetery. In "The Book" it said that it was only three or four miles away.
"The Book" never said what the cemetery was three of four miles away from. This walk/run took forever and left me exhausted.
I decided to go to the Visitor's Center and see if I could figure out how to get there. All I had was a lousy Savannah promotional guide that showed the cemetery as a red dot southeast of the city. The visitor center was located at MLK, Jr. Drive and Liberty at the western end of the historic district. As I waited at a pedestrian crossing that was taking over five minutes at MLK, Jr. Drive I decided that I would just turn around and head into the general direction of the cemetery and ask from there.
I headed due south on Montgomery Street. As I walked I noticed the old town charm leaving, an absence of tourists, and broken down or boarded up Victorian homes badly in need of paint. I wasn't scared, but I definitely wasn't comfortable.
I headed south still more and picked a relatively safe street with lots of traffic to walk down. I forget the name. Still more dilapidated poverty. The funny thing was that these houses were structurally stunning and had a lot of potential.
I walked for what seemed like forty minutes east, going down the most commercial and trafficked streets. I crossed some railroad tracks at 37th Street.
From there I spoke with a large black lady who asked me if the "food prices was expensive down by the river." I told her they were charging a little more for Saint Patrick's Day. She said, "That's it, were going to Golden Corral." I said, "Good luck," and kept walking.
Feeling that I overshot the cemetery to the south, I headed north a bit. I retrieved a loose ball from a pick up basketball game on a run-down hoop in someone's driveway.
I saw a road that looked like a good through route so I took it. It was a residential, but poor neighborhood. Some kids said, "Happy Saint Patrick's Day" to me when they saw my green clothes and beads and I said, "Same to you." The kids then got into a fight as to whether today was Saint Patrick's Day or not. I told them that it was actually tommorrow.
I kept on, finally finding an elderly white man watering his azaleas. He gave me some unintelligible directions, but pointed me in the right direction. I was heading toward an underpass as it said on my rudimentary map.
Next thing I knew I was lost in the cul-de-sacs and roundabouts of a posh community. The streets ceased to run in blocks so I knew I was in trouble. However, I was lucky enough to run into a cheery postman (actually postwoman) who gave me perfect directions. That was the good news. The bad news was that I still was about a mile and a half away.
I began to jog as it was getting to be late. It was about 5:15.
I got out of the community and headed south onto Pennsylvania Road. After fifteen minutes, I found Bonaventure Street. So I must be near, right?
Wrong. This street twisted through a little residential area. Around every bend, I anticipated a cemetery, but only found more road. After fifteen more minutes I was there.
The Bonaventure Cemetery. Closed after five. It was 5:30.
I had come too far to be denied now. I walked down a side road for about a half mile, came to a secluded spot and shimmy-ed over the five foot chicken wire. I landed right next to a head stone. Cool.
As the light was fading quickly and my return trip had some mugging potential, I moved quickly around mausoleums, statues of Mary and Jesus, azaleas, and mossy trees. It really was beautiful.
I walked along the sandy trail toward the Wilmington River. It was low tide and a motorboat buzzed by creating a large wake. I knew that near here the Nobel prize winning poet Conrad Aiken was buried next to his parents.
By chance, I happened upon the Aiken family plot. I took a picture of the bench and its epitaph. Nearby was his slain mother's and suicidal father's double gravestone.
I ran into a mother and daughter who were still in the cemetery. They had parked a car in a lot near the river; there must be some alternative entrance from the back that stayed open. They were from Cecil County near Havre de Grace, Maryland. The woman said that the "Bird-Girl" had been moved to somewhere in South Dakota because visitors were ruining the grave site. I was crestfallen because I really wanted a twilight picture. I believed the woman and was grateful that she told me because I would have searched that cemetery forever looking for the "Bird-Girl". It seems a shame that its gone and odd that it wasn't put in a Savannah Museum. (Note: The woman was only half right; the statue wasn't in the Cemetery. It was donated to the Telfair Museum located in Savannah).
I walked around and snapped photos of interesting head stones. I knew it would be dark before I found the Stranger's Tomb (where you were put if you die and are from out of town) and Johnny Mercer's tomb. I practically ran back toward the fence and catapulted over. The grounds keeper had closed the access road gate as well, so I had to tramp through a soggy forest to get back to Bonaventure Street.
I was exhausted and felt worse because I knew of the long walk ahead. A dog nearly bit me (I'm not exaggerating) on Bonaventure Street. I was going to be forced to defend myself by kicking it as hard I could in the snout, but it turned away at the last moment as I quickly escaped.
I took a more direct and safe route home. It took me exactly an hour and twenty minutes to get home. I opened the door in the room and collapsed in the desk chair where I am sitting now.
From journal Savannah - "The Book", St. Paddy's and Beyond
July 24, 2000
From journal A Novel Approach to Savannah
Murphy, North Carolina
January 11, 2006
From journal I Could Be Your Tour Guide