The New Kid on the Block

Meet Shelton Rae -
Meet Shelton Rae –


By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

This summer we had a most charming guest.  His striking color, light green eyes, and friendly demeanor won us over.  Most importantly, he connected from the outset with my daughter Anjelica.  She had sought a feline who relished being held, one who was older, yet playful.  She searched the local Humane Society and other independently operated shelters. Within two months, she found a perfect match.

Anjelica named him Shelton Rae.  One of our favorite books is Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt [We also like the Clint Eastwood film version of the story].  Savannah, Georgia, the setting of the novel, is one of our favorite places on the planet.  “Shelton” happens to be the name of Jim Williams’ cat in the Southern Gothic tale.  Shelton’s middle name “Rae” invokes the gentle rhythm of a gentle Southern lilt when intoned:  Shelton Rae.

Our veterinarian informed her that this longhaired, two-and-a-half-year-old ball of orangeness has a double-coat of fur.  Even the white pom-pom of fur on the tip of his tail is thick and fluffy.  His luxurious coat of dark orange necessitated the purchase of a particular kind of comb to fluff him up, thus avoiding tangles.  Shelton demonstrated he his affinity for being coiffed by purring loudly.

Water faucet stand off - tangled
A blurry water faucet stand-off – tangled

The only two in our household he failed to entirely win over this summer were Fellini and Coco Chanel.  Fellini has reigned as Lord of the Manor for 11 years; and his triangle-shaped nose was out of joint at the inclusion of this orange upstart in his family circle.  Coco Chanel growled and spent a fair amount of time hissing at Shelton’s playful overtures.  What she could not abide was Shelton’s affinity for bathroom faucet water.  The bathroom faucet was her domain.  Each time I set foot in the bathroom, she and Shelton queued up to imbibe.  It made washing my face and brushing my teeth acrobatic feats.  After two weeks of circling Shelton Rae like a chuck wagon, a sort of feline détente had been achieved.  He and Coco Chanel romped throughout the house, chasing one another up and down the stairs.  Shelton and Fellini engaged in a cat version of Greco-Roman wrestling.  Three furry faces greeted me each morning in the kitchen for their Fancy Feast breakfast. A kind of cat peace reigned with three different decibel levels of purring.

Shelton and Fellini, a wary window truce -
Shelton and Fellini, a wary window truce –

Finally, Anjelica placed Shelton in his soft-sided, polar-fleece lined carrier, and moved him, herself, and her Beta fish Poseidon to her new town.  The three of them drove off to Law School.  It is to Shelton’s credit that never once did he draw his claws, except for a pawdicure on his 16-pound scratching post.  As a houseguest, Shelton Rae embodied the finest of Southern gentleman-like cat behavior.

Ciao for now.


The Charms of Savannah

: Savannah Historic District:
: Savannah Historic District: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: The Eugene Talmadge Memorial Bridge o...
English: The Eugene Talmadge Memorial Bridge over the Savannah River at Savannah, Georgia, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Sorrel Weed House
Sorrel Weed House (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
: Savannah Historic District: City hall
: Savannah Historic District: City hall (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
: Savannah Historic District:
: Savannah Historic District: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

   One of the most endearing aspects of Savannah, Georgia is its people, at least the ones we encountered in the Historic District.   One late afternoon, as my daughter and I strolled along West Congress, we happened upon a tiny bookshop tucked inside the door on the first floor of an old building.  Since Savannah was established in 1733, there are quite a few antique buildings in the Historic District.

The miniscule bookshop was shaped like a slice of pie.  Books were displayed both outside the shop on a short bookcase, and on three walls with shelves high up inside the shop.  It was as if the books had climbed ladders to place themselves on high.  A handsome gentleman arranging books turned out to be the proprietor.  He quickly lifted the hinged part of the counter and popped up inside the store.  Although his name escapes me, as does the name of his charming emporium, his lilting Southern drawl and quirky demeanor charmed the socks off of us.  He was, he explained, a photographer and a great reader of books.  In making reading recommendations, he often quoted from the books displayed.  He showed us the dust jacket of his coffee table book of photographs of Savannah’s flora and fauna.  We were willing to purchase his book, but alas, he told us, he was awaiting a shipment of it, and delivery had proved to be tediously slow.  It appeared such a lovely book of photography that we understood how he had sold out of it quickly.

My daughter had not read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, by John Berendt. The bookseller admonished her that it was an integral part of Savannahian reading.  He shared with her a few Savannah sites purported to be haunted, and urged us to visit them together.  Cheerfully we paid him his due for the book, and promised to return to Savannah, not a difficult promise to keep.   Like the horses clip-clopping down the street drawing their carriages, we too walked on to enjoy a glass of wine and Italian food with our friends, having spent another leisurely day savoring the bliss that is Savannah.

Ciao for now.

Savannah, Mon Amour

Forsyth Parc - Savannah, Georgia
Forsyth Parc – Savannah, Georgia (Photo credit: Elvis Pépin)

Last summer we vacationed in Savannah, Georgia with our Houstonian friends, Juliet and Mark.  Every six months we get together in a new locale; this time it was Savannah.  Southern Living magazine had run an article replete with photos, of Savannah, which sold me on the idea of converging in Savannah.  Juliet, a long-time, intrepid Girl Scout Leader, had her heart set on two things:  Visiting the founder of the Girl Scouts’ Juliette Gordon Low home, and dining at Paula Deene’s The Lady & Sons.  My wishes included taking in the Savannah College of Art and Design [SCAD], the squares, architecture, Mercer-Williams House, and Bonaventure Cemetery, immortalized in John Berendt’s book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.  But mostly, I wanted to soak up the richness of the language variety of Savannah.  Through my years of living in Houston and my travels in the South, I fell in love with the people and the wealth of linguistic variety and principles of Southern Hospitality.

Savannah answered our desires in spades.  We hopped on an Old Town Trolley Tour to get the lay of Savannah’s Historic District.  We toured historic homes, a number of which were restored by the late Jim Williams [read the aforementioned book to learn how vital he was in the restoration of historic homes in Savannah].  We stayed at the Avia Hotel in the Historic District.  We dined at fabulous locales like The Olde Pink House [Low Country], Circa 1875 [French], and at The Lady & Sons [heavy on the fried chicken] on Mother’s Day. Goose Feathers served up breakfast with tantalizing quiches and more Low Country cooking [no complaints on my end].

After meandering in those irresistible squares with their gnarled trees dripping Spanish moss, we wandered over to The Paris Market.  We shopped at the Savannah Bee Company Honey House [honey, honey in everything, even the soap], Nourish [all natural body products], and art shops [teeming with art by talented SCAD graduates].  After lingering over scoops of ice cream at Leopold’s Ice Cream [rose petal and lavender were our favorites], we took a horse drawn carriage ride at night. Our driver peppered the tour with anecdotes, both racy and humorous.  Savannah does have a most colorful past [read Berendt’s book].  Hunger pangs struck again.  That night we washed down mussels and pasta entrees with wine at Garibaldi’s Café.  The mirrored walls reminded me of Le Grand Vefour in Paris where we also relished steamed mussels.  Garibaldi’s fresh Italian fare was tasty, to say the least, and even reminded us of a Venetian palazzo.

All too soon our voyage ended.  We will return one day, Savannah, for you captured our hearts, mon amour.

Image of Savannah, Georgia
Image of Savannah, Georgia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ciao for now.

The cover of the 1994 novel
The cover of the 1994 novel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)