Roman Forum 2006

Roman Forum 2006
Foro Romano, from the Palatine Hill - a favorite photo from one of my favorite cities

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Bloggo Mezzo-Mezzo: In Tepid Praise of Greenville

I realize that I have posted no blogs in a good long while, but then I promised Kelsey and Jen (the instigators of La Vita è Troppo Breve per Dottore Gianni) that I would write about travel. And I haven’t been traveling much lately.
Liberty Bridge at Falls Park - and falls of course!
I take 4-5 mile walks early every morning along a stretch of the Reedy River, from Falls Park to the zoo and a bit beyond, but I have little to say about that except that it’s a very scenic journey, that I am staying healthy and that there a lot of amazingly fit women in Greenville! 
DJ and the Gannons in Asheville NC
I spent a lovely afternoon recently with my cousin and her family, in the too-hip-to-be-true Asheville NC (about an hour and a half drive from here), but while it was a grand reunion it was hardly a trip to blog about. I just returned from a 20-minute walk to the public library, but I don’t have much to record from that trip either.  
The Greenville Public Library
Oh! Except for the strange threesome I walked past in front of the nearby art museum. They stopped whatever they were doing abruptly, and one of the men greeted me effusively: “A wonderful day isn’t it? How do you like this weather?” (It was overcast.) The lone woman looked up and smiled sheepishly, the third person, another man, was too preoccupied with what was occupying the weird trio to pay any attention, or perhaps he was hanging his head in shame. An illicit ménage a trois? A drug transaction? I didn’t stop, in fact I didn’t even break stride, to find out.

So, as you see, I am no longer “in transit,” as I wrote about in my last post, well over a month ago. In fact, as I have passed the last three months here in Greenville, aside from my morning health walks I have become downright sedentary. The prime reason for this is money…pardon me, the lack thereof! I have never had money in my life, and as I view the totals of my monthly checks from TIAA-CREF (Ithaca College’s retirement plan), Social Security, and the pittance I receive (I’m not complaining, in fact I’m surprised that I’m getting anything) from Actors Equity, I am very well aware that I never will have money in what’s left of my life. Not a very good capitalist, I guess, alas and alack.

Fiscal woes or no, I WILL travel. I can’t wait to return to England, Croatia is near the top of my list for a visit, a return to Italy is a must, Scandinavia is calling me, as early as next summer perhaps. But not much in the way of travel for the next several months. Possible shorter trips before I head back across the great pond: certainly more day trips in this area (Brevard, Hendersonville, Saluda, all about an hour distant, just across the border in North Carolina); Atlanta for a wedding in mid-September; a slightly longer trip that could take me to Washington DC, Philadelphia, or NYC, possibly Boston, maybe even Chicago, any of which would deserve a post, but for the most part at the moment I am living life in the slow lane.

That’s not a bad thing, necessarily, and Greenville is not a bad place to put that lifestyle into practice. I’m less enchanted with the city than when I first arrived, probably because I’m getting acquainted with it, and you know what familiarity breeds…but still it’s quite a nice place to stroll through, and not at all a bad place in which to retire.

a "gorges" view on a gorgeous day - Falls Park
In fact, I have discovered (or imagined) that Greenville reminds me distantly (if not distinctly) of two places I have really enjoyed living: Washington, DC and Ithaca, NY (harsh winters excepted!). Ithaca is similar in size, has a sort of hip downtown area as does Greenville, and is of course “Gorges.” So in a lesser fashion is Greenville! The main gorge in Greenville is even more central to town than are Ithaca Falls and Cascadilla Falls, and more people-friendly. Falls Park, literally just off the charming Main Street, is a hive of activity, restaurants overlooking it, a prime area for walking, jogging, cycling – even home to an admittedly mediocre summer Shakespeare Festival. And, as I pointed out in an earlier post this summer, an easy half-mile walk (8 minutes to be precise) from my apartment. If I had to choose between Ithaca and Greenville in terms of downtown charm, I think I’d have to give it to Greenville, by a hair at least, and maybe more.

Washington DC is of course for the most part quite dissimilar to Greenville (duh!), but like Greenville it too has a river (or creek, Rock Creek that is) running through it, which is one of the prime reasons I loved DC those many years I lived there and remember fondly today. If you’re being nitpicky you’ll say, yes, but a creek versus a river? I assure you that Rock Creek is every bit as large as most of the Reedy River.  And what a haven that creek was in an otherwise crazy city. The first house I lived in in the DC area, in suburban Maryland’s Randolph Hills when I attended high school, was a short walk from Rock Creek. I remember sledding down the hill that led to the creek, walking along it, writing poetry (god-awful, but at least it was depressing) as I nestled into an interestingly shaped tree trunk on its banks. In later years living in DC I remember driving through Rock Creek Park to avoid the awful traffic of the city and stopping frequently to relax along it, calming myself down after something extraordinarily good or bad had occurred.

This stretch of the Reedy reminds me
very much of Rock Creek Park
So too with the Reedy River, at its most dynamic in Falls Park, much more peaceful once away from the park, along the Swamp Rabbit Trail, which follows the river through the city and beyond. There are apparently more than 40 miles of Swamp Rabbit Trail. I am acquainted with only a few of them, from marker (one for every half mile) 31 ½ (near which is the Swamp Rabbit Café boasting excellent coffee, tasty scones and a small store attached that sells mostly local food and wares) to marker 35 ½ (a bit past the Greenville Zoo in the opposite direction). The marker in Falls Park is mile 34, so you can imagine me if you’d like walking every morning, every morning including the falls in my walk, then heading back to my apartment. I can say without hesitation that the hour or hour and a half I spend each early morning walking is my favorite time of every day.

Other than the river/creek running through each, any similarity between Washington, DC and Greenville ends. Do I miss the energy of a big city? Certainly. Do I miss the traffic snarls and many other down sides to living in a big city? Certainly not. As one of my old Air Force buddies used to say…in fact he said it incessantly and drove me and his other friends a bit crazy with it, “Life’s a trade-off, Hrkach. It’s ALL a trade-off…a fuckin’ trade-off...”

Even though the hairs on the back of my head just rose in memory of that never-ending litany of his, my old buddy was more or less right. And even though there are mornings on my walks – the only social hour of my day, and boy am I social: “Good morning!” or at least “Hi!” to everyone that passes, a wave or at least a nod of the head as well. They don’t always wave or nod or speak back to me (particularly, alas, the lovely women…”Beautiful girls, walk a little slower when you walk by me…” an old song – Tony Bennett sings it best – particularly apt in this context) – but, though I may not “stay younger than spring,” as the song ends, if I sometimes feel the loneliness of the long distance walker, burdened with the unbearable lightness of being Dottore Gianni, all goes fairly well, on the walks as well as later in the day, most days. If life is a trade-off, I think I made a pretty fair trade.

So good-ish for Greenville!

Finally a preposterous and not at all serious comparison between Greenville and another of my favorite places – the U.K. Any of you who have spent time there, 
DJ at Stonehenge, 2005
particularly in places like Stonehenge, Avebury, the Orkneys or any number of similar sites, will remember the great Neolithic stone formations to be found in that great country. Being in their near vicinity always thrills me! I feel at one with the ages and amazed at the skills of the ancients who constructed them.

Standing Stones-Upon-Reedy
WELL! I am proud to say that I have discovered a similar formation, of enormous significance geologically, in Greenville SC! In fact I’ve placed visual proof in the photos here. One morning on my daily walk along the Swamp Rabbit Trail, next to the Reedy River, I stumbled upon a site that startled me. After I caught my breath I dubbed this formation the Standing Stones-upon-Reedy! Move over Standing Stones of Stenness! Bow down Stonehenge! Eat your heart out Skara Brae! I have a stone formation (not necessarily Neolithic) of my own: All hail Standing Stones-upon-Reedy!

The message?” If there is one, it’s that if you look hard enough, or imagine hard enough, you can discover the amazing anywhere, and in Greenville it’s a good bit easier than in many places. Thus ends my praise, if somewhat tepid, of Greenville.