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Fishman: Living large in Savannah, finally 

I knew good things were in the air when I had the nerve to order that peanut butter and jelly club sandwich at Back in the Day bakery on Bull Street.

I choose one of these puppies every six months or so, long enough between experiences to forget that beside the third piece of bread, the thick slab of peanut butter, the luscious and rich jam, the cook has the cheek to add a layer of butter -- the good kind, sweet butter.

A PBJ club with butter to boot. Now that’s living large.

I didn’t have to eat it all. I knew that. I could save part for later. But I didn’t want to. Because this is a sandwich with that “morish” taste. Take one bite and you want more, no matter how much room you do or do not have left. But I’m embarrassed to be able to polish off the whole thing in one sitting. It’s somehow indelicate and unbecoming -- piggish, really. So I wrap up a section in that wonderful waxed butcher paper and make like I’m going to eat it later.

Only I don’t. Once I’m at my garden, out of the public eye, I sit under the brittle and brown vines from last year’s passion flowers, unwrap my sandwich and finish it off.

It’s that kind of happiness, that kind of week. The whites of the spring trees are brilliant, the pinks are psychedelic, the dogwoods -- not particularly happy in this part of the country -- are splendid, and new growth on the live oak trees -- right on schedule -- are doing their job to push off last year’s leaves, producing our own kind of autumn in the South.

There’s a frenzy in the air verging on delirium. Even the Democrats are showing signs of life. Watching Wisconsin’s Russell Feingold step away from the pack to introduce a proposal to censure Bush for his sneaky eavesdropping ways gives hope.

So does realizing that Barack Obama, who everyone says is too young to run for president, is close to John F. Kennedy’s age when he, also a first-year senator, ran for office. So maybe come next election we’ll have a horse race.

After all, Savannah has a new art museum that some people thought would never happen -- and a section of Barnard Street we never expected to use again.

And make no mistake. The Jepson Center is stunning. Under the soaring and curving ceiling I feel about two feet tall. Standing outside on the sculpture garden, I wonder what rooftops I’m looking at, what city I’m visiting.

I can’t find enough excuses to ride my bike or drive my car past the place. Already I heard about one car accident when a driver, navigating the square but looking through the once-controversial glass facade at the building, spaced out and hit a parked car in his route.

I’m grateful to the indefatigable Diane Lesko, the museum’s director, and to the people who ponied up the big bucks. I wish I could write each one of them a thank you note. I hope their largess is still around when the electric bill of summer comes due.

Not to be outdone by the Jepson, we get to move straight into the Savannah Music Festival, the brainchild of the unflappable Rob Gibson, who never ages, never gains an ounce, never backs away from thinking large.

While I could wish for a sexier name, I can’t argue with the festival’s subtitle -- a “paradise for music lovers.” It is that.

And there are choices. After a big disappointment at not being able to get tickets to Emmylou Harris, I took a step sideways and saw the “Living Legends of the Blues” at Orleans Hall. An excellent choice.

Although we’re lucky in this radio-deprived town to hear blues -- and jazz -- from Ike Carter and other dj’s like Larry Dane-Kellogg out of Savannah State University, for which I am eternally grateful, this was the real deal, up close and personal.

Held together by the venerable guitarist “Steady Rollin” Bob Margolin (who played knowing his record company had sent CDs of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir instead of his), we got to see the raunchy, animated, mid-70-ish showman, Nappy Brown, resplendent in a yellow, double breasted suit that he nearly removed entirely while singing and acting out, “Let me squeeze your lemons.” Later he was singing from the floor on his back, his legs up in the air like a cockroach.

But the piece de resistance sat at the piano. With little fanfare, Pinetop Perkins, 93 years young, helped by an assistant and carrying a cane decorated by an octave of black and white piano keys, took his seat and wailed away.

For some of us middle-class white folk, this antiseptic, smoke-free venue may be the closest we ever get to a Mississippi juke joint on the side of the road.

Afterwards I learned Perkins, who had played earlier in the week in Boston and New York with the Allman Brothers and other blues legends, went down to River Street after the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

“His idea,” said his assistant. “I put him in a wheelchair and we went. He loved it.”

Forget butter on a PBJ. That’s living large.


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Jane Fishman

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Connect Today 12.10.2016

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