While on our little trip, strolling along the river walk, we spotted a boat with billowing sails. Okay, they weren’t exactly billowing because the boat floated at the dock, and the sails were down…but that’s how I remembered it until I saw this picture!
I asked my husband to take my picture in front of it.
I heard, “Hey, do you want me to take a picture of the two of you together?” from a man coming toward us. He held fresh, yellow-green palms in his hand, the kind I’d only seen given away as a kid on Palm Sunday.
Turns out, he makes his living as an artist, bending and folding gorgeous creations from the palms, which he sells to tourists. Well, according to the locals, he isn’t actually allowed to set a price to the palms, but you can give him whatever you think is fair.
“You should sell these to florists. Entire weddings could be done using the palm,”I told him.
He shook his head. “People want real flowers for weddings.”
“How did you learn how to do this?” I asked.
“A friend of mine, but she doesn’t even talk to me no more.”
He tore the palms in half and in minutes handed me a tightly wound double heart with roses. I thought of my little green wedding. I didn’t use any flowers at all for the pictures. The bright yellow-pale green would have been perfect against the white dress with the deep green of the pine trees in the background. If only I had known.
“You really should think about going into business for yourself,” I said. “You could at least ask a florist if they’d take your stuff.”Again, he shook his head. “I’ve tried. Nobody wants it.”
“Where do you get the palms?” my husband asked.
“Just across the bridge,” he pointed. “There are tons of them.”
“How long have you been doing this?” I asked.
“A while. It’s my livelihood. How I make my living,” he said.
“Are you from Savannah?” I asked.
“He just said he was born and raised here,” my husband said smiling at me. I’d been watching him tie the palms, and hadn’t heard a word.
“Do you mind if I put you on the internet? I have this green blog…” I started.
“Nope, don’t mind,” he shook his head.
Upbeat, positive and charismatic, he didn’t push his product on us, though I could tell he hoped to make a sell. As soon as I saw it, I wanted it. It was the perfect “green” souvenir and absolutely lovely. We’d enjoyed a fabulous day, and taking the palm art home to set up in a vase would remind me of the fun we had, and the various characters we’d met in Savannah–like Tony.
Characters like–the boy singing Christmas carols as he passed us late at night on his bicycle. The couple also staying at the B&B who eerily could have been our future selves. The shy, young, male cook who brought out breakfast at the inn wearing a white apron over his clothes. The snarky tour guide who told the group we followed too closely behind her. The lady at the hat store who smiled at us while we browsed. Christmas song solos drifted in through the open door belted by a brave soul across the street .
“Wow, you have to listen to him all day long?” I asked.
“Every day of the year,” she laughed.
As we walked back toward the B&B, we passed close to two dozen artists on the streets of Savannah selling the same palm creations as Tony, including thick bouquets of palm roses perfect for a wedding. We’d found Tony’s art original, creative and green. No wonder he couldn’t sell his product to the florist. There were too many doing the same thing.
It made me wonder how he found himself in that particular job. What he ate for dinner. Where he slept at night. With competition so fierce, I couldn’t imagine the street artists made a killing like they did on Venice Beach in California. I also thought, if everyone who visited Savannah bought a palm creation, there would be no more palms. (Though from the looks of the salesmen, sales weren’t too evident.) I wondered how many they sold in the bustling, steamy summer.
If you’re ever in Savannah, Georgia on the river front…seek out Tony, the artist and check out his palm creations. See if you can find out the rest of his story for me. I wish I’d stopped longer to hear more of it.
Goings-on in Savannah:
- Life and Leisure in Savannah IS Theater! Year Around Savannah Theater and Social Season (presidentsquartersinn.com)
- Follow-ups in Savannah on: ’60 Minutes’ story on homeless children in Florida spurs $1 million in donations | Poynter. (homelessnessinsavannah.wordpress.com)
- COFFEESHOPS: Gallery Espresso, Savannah, GA (chrislaclair.wordpress.com)