Coastal living charms soul with style

Loran Smith

Loran Smith

Skidaway island is a popular retirement spot, a barrier island that dates back to a time when it was inhabited by Indians, who, as you might expect, either were pushed off the island or succumbed to the white man's diseases.

If you have an affinity for golf, this is the place to visit or permanently hang your hat. There are plenty of lush fairways that beckon. You seldom need to reserve a tee time. We like the laid-back living on Skidaway. A guest bedroom that overlooks a placid lagoon at the home of Bill and Linda Schermerhorn brings about restful evenings and reenergizing afternoon naps.

I'm always intrigued when I google a locale and learn about its history. I often wonder why it took me so long to engage in a little fact finding. After the Indians came the Benedictine monks, who started a school on the island. Skidaway was attractive to smugglers during prohibition, owing to the difficulty in charging and prosecuting those engaging in any illegal activity.

Sojourns into Savannah for business and pleasure take you over the Moon River, which causes a lapse into a seductive mood brought about by the Academy Award-winning lyrics of Johnny Mercer, a Savannah son who hitched his wagon to a star, reached the big time, and never lost affection for his roots.

One of the best known lyricists and singers of his time, Johnny Mercer was recently inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame. There could hardly be a more worthy inductee. The lyrics to "Moon River" confirm his worthiness:

Moon river, wider than a mile,

I'm crossing you in style some day,

Oh dream maker, you heart breaker,

Wherever you're going, I'm going your way.

Can't remember when I first learned about Johnny Mercer's career, the lyrics of the songs he wrote, and the fact that he was a native Georgian. It made me proud -- I remember that. Johnny Mercer wrote and sang over a thousand songs, winning four Academy Awards. He also wrote six Broadway shows, and his style has been characterized as "laid-back, easygoing Savannah style."

There is something about coastal living that charms our inner depths. Docks, marshes, brackish water, good seafood, and moods that make you want to prop your feet up and listen to Johnny Mercer's music-like "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe." That song won an Oscar, and Johnny sang it to No. 1.

Some historian could probably confirm it, but it causes one to reckon whether Johnny Mercer ever took the Santa Fe westward. For a man growing up on the Moon River, more than likely he was attracted to railroads.

Even now, I often think how spiritually uplifting it would be to ride a freight train west. Not one of those sleek passenger trains with champagne and a hundred-dollar meal, but a freight train-like one that helped grow the West in the old days.

"Wherever you're going, I'm going your way."

As technology drives us into distractions, intensity, and redundant uselessness, I often wonder if creativity will be the victim. Who has the time to sit on their porch, overlooking the Moon River? Who wants to ride the Santa Fe through the Rockies?

Johnny Mercer's music is something you want to hear when you are in the dentist's chair, when you are boarding a flight. When you are having a glass of wine on your back porch in the cool, cool of the evening. With your cell phone muted, of course.

Loran Smith is affiliated with the University of Georgia and can be reached via e-mail at loransmithathens@bellsouth.net.