By Thomas Moore
Leslie and I walk from our rented bungalow on Carpenter Street in Brunswick, Georgia, as far as Egmont Street. The mid-March drizzle turns into a steady rain. Several For Sale signs mark Victorian era houses, some in San Francisco multi-colors: green dormer shingles, yellow trim, blue shingles, red front door.
Camellias are blooming. Red bud and azaleas are beginning to show, and there are lots of other shrubs I can’t identify. The real estate agents listed on the For Sale signs are women, reminding me of the full page real estate ads in the Golden Isles magazines showing columns of winking agents.
At the corner of Egmont and George, a pit bull mix behind a 4-foot metal fence roars as he races back and forth. There’ll be no breaking and entering here, not even a smash and grab with that pooch on patrol. Rumi, our 12-pound cocker-poodle mix lowers his head and paces onward like Durer’s dog in “The Rider”: determined and strong, ears back.
More For Sale signs, more women’s names. Most houses have a small notice on the lawn, announcing that the premises are protected by electronic detection systems. I wonder if they really are.
We’re getting wet. I’m wearing only a light jacket and in a pocket is a letter to friends at home in Maine that I want to mail. We were headed to the post office on Gloucester Street (rhymes with plough-jester) and I don’t want the address to get smudged. We head home across Halifax Park, Rumi pulling hard on the leash. He hates the rain.
The sign in the park tells passers-by that it is named for Lord Halifax and was “CHARTERED IN 1771, NAMED IN HONOR OF EARL OF HALIFAX, COLONIAL SECRETARY AT THE TIME OF THE FOUNDING OF BRUNSWICK.” Paint is peeling from the wooden letters. Across the bottom it reads: “EAGLE SCOUT PROJECT OF JEFF DEMPSEY 1985 TROOP 202 BSA.”
The park is an acre of stubbly grass, dog poops, clusters of Spanish moss fallen from the trees and a concrete slab the size of a basketball court. No fence, no baskets.
Shading the area are palm trees and massive live oaks, still green in mid-March and shedding their tiny leaves, smaller than the leaves of their northern cousins. Some of the branches draped in Spanish moss extend a hundred feet horizontally from the main trunk providing shade for strollers when it’s 100 in August.
Live oak is the hardest of all the oak species and was used to build the USS Constitution —hence “Old Ironsides.” I have a small piece of the original oak from Old Ironsides in the top drawer of my bureau next to my boxers in our bedroom in Maine given to me by Captain Eliot Rappaport of the Bowdoin when I sailed as official Bowdoin photographer from Castine to Boston in 1989 to a tall ships festival. I’ll examine it with new interest when I get home.
We are soaked when we get back to our Carpenter Street bungalow. Rumi shakes himself off on the porch and checks to see if the cats have left any bits of kibble scattered next to their yellow plastic dishes. A condition of our bungalow rental is to feed two feral cats, Patience and Lily.
Massimo, a bully from next door, butts in at mealtime. Massimo also takes walks around the block with Rumi and me in the evenings. Patience has a broken hind leg that thumps, and is a sweet cat despite a leg sore that we wrap with bandages. Across the street is the City of Refuge Mission Church and Friday afternoon choir practice has begun. Cars fill the grassy space beside the brick building and a hymn begins. I don’t recognize it, but I like the way the lusty rhythm meets rainy Carpenter Street air making the Friday afternoon seem full, almost joyous.
I set off in the car to mail the letter and pass the First Presbyterian Church next to the St. Francis Xavier School on Union Street. Half a block farther along the First Baptist church announces, mysteriously: “THERE IS NO PLAN B. WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?”
Then at Egmont and Mansfield I pass the Shiloh Baptist Church among the buildings of Glynn Academy. Farther along at Monck and Albany is St. Athanasius’ Episcopal Church. At Norwich and Monck is the imposing First United Methodist Church and a few doors down at 1326 Egmont is the Temple Beth Tefiolloh. Whew. A lot of bases covered, and I have not mentioned dozens of other churches in Brunswick. Are there any mosques?
On Saturday afternoon, Leslie and I drive to the farmers market/rummage sale on the Oglethorpe Bay waterfront next to the marine port terminals where huge rolls of paper line the warehouses. We resist the Deep Fried Ice Cream Sandwiches and Deep Fried Battered Oreos and prowl through the farmers market past jars of pickled okra and piles of fresh-picked green beans.
In the corner of the park near the Bay Street entrance is a scale model of a WWII Liberty Ship, perhaps 15 feet long. Gray. A plaque says that Brunswick produced a ship a week at the height of the war. A woman neighbor in Brooksville who died recently was a welder on Liberty ships in Portland during the war.
Tonight, March 14, is the Georgia Elvis Festival, and each of the city parks will host an Elvis impersonator. No one shows up in Halifax Park so we drive downtown to Machen Park and hear an Elvis belt out “Jail House Rock” to a crowd of white tops. The midges are out. Another 10 inches is forecast for Bangor.
Brooksville residents Tom and Leslie Moore spent this past winter in Brunswick, Ga. Tom, a well-known poet who taught at Maine Maritime Academy, wrote this essay about wintering in the “Peach State.”