The Malmo of the Southeast…

24 Jul

April 15, 2007

“How do you like Savannah?” Sara asked Dana Cody, who’d moved there since they’d last seen each other.

“It’s the Malmo of the Southeast!” she responded — if one considered a prepared slogan an answer. “Tom feels especially at home because it’s where his mother grew up.”

Gina reflected on what an achievement it had been for her mother to leave her hometown. Her father, who’d moved from Pennsylvania to work for Coca-Cola, met Ellen Payton at a Christmas party in Savannah. Within a year, she was Mrs. Thomas Cody of Atlanta.

“The Paytons go back in Savannah to 1753,” Dana continued. “That’s why we were all so shocked when Regina moved to such a widdle baby city like Seattle.” She frowned in solemn reflection. “It still hasn’t really grown up, has it?”

Gina blew lightly on her no-longer hot tea.

“Goodness gracious,” she said with a Payton’s polite scorn.

“Who am I offending?” demanded Dana, reacting fiercely to Gina’s tone of voice. She swept the room with the back of her hand, and in truth, only Gina and Teresa seemed put off by her comments. “Everyone here’s as much from Seattle as you are. It’s like New York. Except Seattle’s a very soggy city… and I don’t mean the weather, not just.”

“What do you mean?” Sara asked.

“It’s like a town became a city and no one told it. There’s no rhythm, no pulse, and no drive. We were in Greenwood yesterday. Tom and I went with Matt to look at a spot he was considering for his next restaurant.” As if everyone was hanging on the thinnest rope of suspense, she added, “We advised him not to take it.” Gina flinched, offended on Sara’s behalf, although Dana’s words had breezed past Sara like wind along rock. “Anyway, on 85th, there’s a stop light where literally no one goes anywhere for like five minutes. Whoever heard of a light where no one can walk? And everyone’s standing there waiting!” She took down the rest of her drink in a triumphant gulp. “How you get anything done here is beyond me.”

“Seattle is more of a driving city,” Gina said shortly.

“Well, I agree with Tom: if a city isn’t a walking city, it’s not really a city. In Savannah, anywhere worth going is within walking distance of our home.”

Pulling her fingers from a thatch of red hair, Cindy Prior redirected the turbulent flow of conversation to herself or as close as she ever came.

“My sister is thinking about taking some time off in the fall and spending a few months away from Portland. She was considering Boulder or Austin.”

Gina almost laughed but stopped herself at a broad smile.

“Is the hustle and bustle of Foster-Powell getting to Mindy?” Gina asked, expressing her talent for effectively cloaking sarcasm with just a curl of a consonant.

“If she’s looking for a college town vibe, she ought to come down to Savannah.” Dana rubbed the dry twigs of her fingers together as if starting a fire. “And not just for a change of pace. She might be happier there long term. With all respect, the Portland thing’s not gonna last.”

“Why do you think it won’t last?” Sara asked. “There’s been steady economic growth in such industries as…”

“No, no, I mean last as a destination. The Times will eventually tire of it.” She added, “I mean the New York Times.”

“We know,” Teresa said coldly.

“You’ve been to New York?”

“I lived there for a year after college.”

“Oh, you did?” Dana remarked, as if New York’s collective bouncer had wandered off and Teresa had slipped past the velvet rope when he wasn’t looking.

“Teresa graduated from Stanford and left for a good job in the city.” Gina’s shoulders bopped to the tune her words unconsciously triggered in her head. Whenever Gina attempted to speak well of her husband’s sister, she focused on her academic credentials and brief pre-motherhood career in New York because those were the only things Teresa had done that made any sense to her.

Dana pointed her champagne glass at Jane Hind.

“You’re in Portland, too, right?”

“Yeah, Northeast. I actually wanted to live here on Capitol Hill, but it was impossible to find anything.”

“It’s really expensive,” Wiggles added, flicking off crumbs from her polo shirt onto the rug. “I mean, this is a cool house,” she noted approvingly to Sara, “but it probably went for a million or so.”

“1.6 million,” Sara replied — her precision for numbers obviating any pretense of modesty or impulse to boast.

A sharp whistle broke free of Wiggles’s wide nostrils.

“That’s why I think you’d really dig Savannah,” Dana told Jane. “The real estate market’s so much better than Portland or Seattle.”

Jane cocked her head.

“It is closer to my folks in Connecticut but still far enough away for peace of mind.”

The blue dots on opposite sides of Jane’s tiny nose recessed further into her cratered face, to the point of vanishing. She was actually considering Dana’s suggestion, which disappointed but didn’t surprise Gina. Jane was often ungrateful, taking for granted much of what Gina did for her.

“Does Georgia have reciprocity with Oregon? Or is there some strange form of law I’d have to learn?”

“I think you’re referring to the Napoleonic code,” Sara said. “That’s in Louisiana.”

“No, I don’t wanna do hurricane law,” Jane remarked, “I have enough trouble with underwater mortgages.”

— from The Wrong Questions

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Posted by on July 24, 2014 in Uncategorized


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