I just finished reading Mindy Friddle’s novel, The Garden Angel. The story is set in the community of San Souci, just outside of, and about to be consumed by the mythical city of “Palmetto.” It’s a tale of longing for the way things were, and of a young woman who can’t give up her past, even though the present is a mere shadow of her family’s once-golden days. (Dang – I should write book cover synopses.)
Mindy is a native, and went to Furman the same time I did. Even though we have had few interactions, I knew both her ex and current husbands fairly well, attended her first wedding, and taught both of her step-sons. How’s that for a six-degrees-of-separation connection?
Mindy’s book contains enough cryptic references to Greenville to make its reading even more enjoyable for me. Sunday was so beautiful that I had to cruise around in the convertible, so I decided to hit some of the spots that were similar to those described in the novel. While there actually is a community of San Souci, it’s not a town as described in the book. I think the mythical version is a combination of the Parker Community and San Souci, although it could be a description of just about any mill village in the area.
As I headed toward Parker, I took the new Western Connector. This new four-lane monstrosity cuts through old neighborhoods, exposing previously hidden levels of poverty while also permanently dividing communities. My first thought was that this would never be allowed through a Sugar Creek or a Thornblade. Money talks, and also determines the paths of freeways. Soon, though, the road settled back down to the old Cedar Lane that we all knew and tolerated.
The old landmarks are still there – the remains of Cedar Lane drive-in, which was one of the few theaters that dared show X (actually R, by today’s standards) – rated movies, Reverend/Brother/Sister Yurick’s spiritual advisor’s establishment (“Is you tired? Is you lonely? Has your friends let you down? Brother Yurick can help!” I used to love listening to his/her announcements on WHYZ AM 1070.) Now, though, mixed with the old, is the new influx of Hispanics. The right lane was totally blocked by cars turning into the “Community Center II”, with loud Tejano music blaring from a stage, and what appeared to be a rodeo ground set up. The neighborhood certainly has changed. I’m also betting that the long-time inhabitants are like Mindy’s characters – probably fighting the inevitible changes, and probably very suspicious of new neighbors that are from a different culture.