Friday, June 30, 2006

Cheers for the City !

We have previously mentioned the Thursday night concerts in the Plaza. Imagine twilight skies, Spanish moss garlands in the ancient trees and some knockout music from professional area musicians. The City is the prime sponsor and Director of Public Affairs, Paul Williamson ( see his lookalike, actor Paul Dooley) oversees all of these events. He is our own Ed Sullivan (if you are over 50) or Carson Daley ( for the twenty somethings)

Last night Bob and Jolene's Friends of Mine Band performed and they were in fine form. We want to see them again so will probably look up their schedule and actually buy a drink or two to hear them play. Last week's Mike Hart Band with their Randy Newman type compositions and the talking wah wah guitar ( think Peter Frampton) were equal hits.

July 4 will have The "All Star Band" ( not the one with Ringo Starr) playing Big Band music, so bring the old folks ! The Bridge of Lions Part 2 will close so that we can all watch fireworks over the Mantanzas River. We are so lucky to be here! Hello to everyone back in Peoria ! Fireworks at Smitty's Salvage Yard just doesn't come up to this does it?

Has anyone heard that the old coquina seawall is in danger of being demolished for a modern seawall? Historian Daid Nolan writes that it WILL be replaced. That would be a shame. We need more info and will inform our gentle readers. We now have 400 subscribers who have walked throug the Plaza within the past six months.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Random Stuff

We've always suspected that celebrity was a false illusion. These disembodied heads, spotted in a shop window near the Plaza only bolsters that belief.

Our good friend, artist Suvo is back after a suspension by the city for not buying the required (so they say) permits. The City is working on a new ordinance for street visual artists. A nearby copy of the U.S. Constitution would be a helpful reference when drafting a new code.

Tonight is another concert in the Plaza. To learn more about the concert series go HERE.

A. I.T.M. took a walk down St. George St. yesterday. Our cultural and historical heritage is maintained at a few government funded locations but the general impression is one of being in a mall. Birkenstock, factory art and phony , cutesy "pirate" gear ("Pirates Girls Have Big Chests") can all be found on St. George. At least the pirate near the Columbia Restaurant has a real pegleg. We know him in private life and yes, he is a real "scalawag".

Art In The Market advocates the right balance between economic development, sustainable tourism and heritage conservation which includes the prevention of undesired development. Picture Sarasota or Naples Florida. It seems that those communities have evolved into a haven for the wealthy to situate their second or third homes. Residents and working people get short shrift in terms of quality of life. The service jobs that the wealthy require are traditionally low wage positions. St. Augustine is in danger of becoming such a community if unbridled development continues. READ

Good intentions aside, the micromanagement of visual artists in the Plaza is not the answer to creating a desireable park. Colonial Williamsburg is an example of Cultural Heritage Tourism and complete control. Do we want another one? The "Disneyfication" of history may not be the answer. Do we want St. Augustine simply to be a laboratory or classroom for elementary school daytrips? We have much more here in St. Augustine. The contemporary and the colonial can co exist. We would like more nighttime adult diversions in the old quarter. Sangria was invented in Spain. We call for wine and song for adults. Give us folklorico in the form of flamenco and fiestas. Get a babysitter! "But what about the children ?!".This recent trend of "child worship" has baffled many of us. Even Dr.Benjamin Spock and Maria Montessori would not approve. Going to Key West? Sloppy Joe's has a kiddie Daiquiri and a Hemingway Balloon for Junior. No kidding!.

A final note on a conversation held with a local St. Gerge St. merchant who felt that "every dollar spent by a tourist in the low overhead Plaza was a dollar not going to St. George Street businesses". "We have so much invested in rent and need to get every dollar we can to make payroll, replace inventory etc." Perhaps, we say, they should hold this discussion with the landlord who seems to be getting high rents that may not be justified by the gross receipts. There always seems to be another wannabe merchant waiting to gamble that they can succeed where others cannot. The landlord benefits particularly when the lease states that all improvements and fixtures remain after the tenant has left. Bathroom Boutiques? Solar clothing that changes color in the sunlight? Another high end"factory art" gallery? Which one will be the first to go?

Friday, June 16, 2006

This monument in Plaza de la Constitucion was erected in 1812 to celebrate the first written Spanish Constitution. King Ferdinand IV was crowned in 1814 with a promise to uphold the constitution. Not long after his coronation, Ferdinand and the Catholic Church repudiated the Constitution and began ferocious reprisals. In 1823 The Battle of Trocadero eliminated the liberal threat and Ferdinand prevailed with absolute monarchy. As historian Howard Zinn said, "Politicians lie".

News traveled slowly to St. Augustine in those days. The residents here were of a liberal bent and these monuments were by Royal decree to be destroyed. "Hola! Tell the stinkin' King that we worked hard building this monument and we're gonna to keep it , Senor ", said the St. Augustine residents ( loosely paraphrased) Fortunately for the residents, the Spanish Monarchy paid little attention to the albatross colony of Florida. The first time a Spanish King arrived in St. Augustine was five years ago with a visit from King Juan Carlos. All of the "Swells" were out in force. No one mentioned great great grandfather's duplicity. Besides ,he is perhaps still stinging over Generalissimo Franco. We are polite with our guests. SEE PICS Take a look at Florida's own , Katherine Harris toadying up to everyone in sight.

In 1821 St. Augustine became the capital of East Florida with Indian hater Andrew Jackson as governor. If you click onto the photo you can see that the "Constitucion" has been crudely changed to "Constitution." This is done on all four sides. The De La had to remain probably because the rough chisel was not sufficient to change it to "..OF The...". Exactly when it was done we do not know. This could have been done last week for all we know. This could have been the work of Minutemen.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Bon Voyage !

Kate Merrick,the portrait artist, ( she does wonderful linocuts and landscapes as well) keeps busy creating excellent renditions of visitors to the Plaza. Kate will be leaving this month for an extended stay in the Dominican Republic with her daughter, son in law and most importantly...her grandson! We will miss Kate and the Plaza will be lacking one of best. Good luck Kate! Bring back some inspiration. Kate Merrick's website link
Every Thusday throughout summer, from 7-9 PM, the City sponsors a concert in the Plaza de la Constitucion. Last Thursday the popular local group, the Driftwoods played their smooth and elegant version of Bluegrass both classic ("I'll Fly Away"and contemporary. We were impressed. They were reminiscent of the defunct "Gin Blossoms". Next week get out the ukeleles and slack key guitars because bra there will be da kine Hawaiian style music ! We wanna hear Drop Baby !