Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Georges to Jorge

painting of Gen Biassou by Alexandra Barbot

"Myth is more potent than history" Robert Fulghum

At the end of the 1700's our "other fort" in St. Augustine, Fort Mantanzas, was manned by a black platoon headed by the exiled former Haitian revolutionary, Jorge Biassou. David Nolan has written an interesting article as to how this came to be. Not mentioned is the fact that this "freedom fighter" maintained his own slave plantation here.He was known to be a man who brooked no disrespect. He died in 1801 at the age of sixty in a brawl at a tavern on St. George Street just down from his house(Parkinson, Wenda (1978). This Gilded African).Article

Sunday, August 22, 2010

White Town Drowsing

Two "Sleeping Man" installations in the Artist Market

The ordinance prohibiting visual artists from painting or offering work for sale in public spaces was illegally modified last year by creating a 75 dollar monthly lottery for spaces between the pillars in the Slave Market. Painters were essentially.banished to "the back of the bus". Some in City Hall probably thought that this would be an effective way of removing the homeless from the Market.

The above photo taken yesterday illustrates two of the six spaces for "street performers" as the painters are labeled on the photographic license to be worn at all times while displaying their works. The artists are loathe to ask these people to leave and calling a police officer is not in our agenda. Finding "public shade" is a difficult thing for these guys in these high 90 degree temperatures. There is a resentment among the artists that the City of St. Augustine is using them to "relocate the homeless".

The City of St. Augustine has a number of issues on the front burner at this time. Among them is further regulation of horse carriages, a growing homeless problem and a developing controversy over issues regarding the celebration of the city's 450th anniversary in five years. This last matter unfortunately will very likely get sticky when public and private monies are mingled without the public's oversight. Frankly, public "democratic" delegation of funds and programs isn't always advantageous. An example is a situation years ago in Sarasota, Florida when the public was asked what kind of public art should grace the front of the Public Library. Eventually an "arts advisory board" of mixed citizens and arts professionals overrode the citizen's choices and decided on a sculpture that they felt was aesthetically the best, in the board's opinion. It was either that or the commissioning of a cliched mural of jumping whales that the Sarasota public just loved.(Whales are usually not found anywhere near the Sarasota Gulf waters.) Delegation is sometimes important if the job needs to be done.

In 1986, Ron Powers wrote a book about the changes of his hometown Hannibal, Mo. a town in the midst of an economic slump. The plan was to change Hannibal into an amusement attraction featuring their most famous native, Mark Twain and his 150th birthday, as a way to revive it economically. But it didn’t work out. The town "became divided. The attraction was too big for the town. In the end, the scaled-down version was successful, but it was still tainted with the false promises." Listen to this interview and substitute St. Aug for Hannibal "White Town Drowsing" This book should be a cautionary tale for the city of St. Augustine and it's upcoming anniversary.Amazon

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Not So Scary



Monday, August 16, 2010


Last Saturday at the Slave Market in the Plaza de la Constitucion three artists had their displays and were offering their works for sale. One artist was decidedly different from the other two. He lives his life dressed as a woman. Roberta or Robert does local vignette pencil drawings on paper. He is "different". Where he is not different is that he is an affable, pleasant person who is accustomed to the stares and chooses to go through life unencumbered by what others think.

What does this have to do with the late actor Barry Nelson (who had no cross dressing issues that I know of) ? It has to do with an encounter I had in NYC in the late 80's. I was online ( different meaning then ), as they say in New York City, at the Broadway and 72nd Gray's Papaya. Two hot dogs and a coke was about $1.95 in those days.

Standing behind me was an "old guy" and his younger female companion. His straggly ginger colored hair stuck out under a corduroy snap brim hat. Under a long rumpled coat he had a bright wide faded floral tie and a yellow with age seersucker vest. His companion was one of those zaftig gypsy Stevie Nicks types with a cape and scarves.We started talking and he introduced himself as Barry. "You're Barry Nelson the actor!" I said. "Guilty", he replied. At one time,this guy was everywhere on the big screen as well as television. He generally portrayed the "nice guy" second fiddle to the lead actor. If you wanted to cast but couldn't get Eddie Albert you would try Barry Nelson. The couple joined me at the window counter where we ate our meal. I embarrassed myself when I asked him if he was in costume for a play. Laughing good naturedly he told me that he likes vintage clothing pointing out that his hand painted tie was over fifty years old. His companion was draped in a bright antique Balenciaga silk boa scarve. He told me that he has been retired for years and no longer "acts". I remember telling him that I didn't know that actors retired. He lived near there and had a home in the South of France as well as Pennsylvania (so he must've saved his Hollywood money) He now traveled and collected antiques going to shows around here and Europe. Mr. Nelson was not boasting , just good naturedly answering questions that I now realize might have been intrusive. He was just like the roles that he played...nice easygoing guy. It was hard to picture this guy as the first James Bond on film. He told me that occasionally, at these antique shows he is asked by security to produce his entry pass being mistaken for a homeless bum. He never took offense and complied thinking that it was humorous.

Here's my point. We many times make our whole judgement of a person by appearances alone. I am guilty of this when I see someone wearing this on their t shirt. I'll stick with my intuition on that but we all should try to go a little further before snap judgements, beyond skin color, national origin, religion or any label. I have heard such venom directed toward the transient homeless who sometimes inhabit the Plaza de la Constitucion. These guys are not there most of the time but they are high profile when they are there. Sleeping under a tree ( Horrors!) or panhandling is considered bad behaviour by most. The police on the beat will tell you that it is manageable and is actually less of a problem than it was say three years ago. A little fine tuning to the ordinance will soliciting near an ATM or parking kiosk that accepts money.

I was once approached one evening by a woman as I had my art display set up on seven 70 dollar easels with my inverter for electric lighting. The conversation went like this:

Lady: " I don't have any cash to give you but I have this lottery ticket that's a three dollar winner."
Me: (Confused) "What? " I said, taking what she was handing to me.
Lady: "I'm sorry, that's all I have on me." ,said the lady as she walked away.

I was really taken aback , and realized that I skipped shaving that morning, but I was wearing clean jeans and a nice white t shirt. I was baffled and came to the conclusion that this well meaning woman reads the local paper and made the assumption that everyone in the Plaza was a needy, homeless person. I once complained to Senior St.Augustine Record reporter Peter Guinta about his stories covering the visual artists and aways within the story, a reference to the transients as if it were the same issue. Labels make it easy to identify something but perhaps should be used referring to objects not people. SUVO

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Another Night in The Ancient City

photo by WJXT television

A drifting sailboat tangles with St. Augustine's newly refurbished Bridge of Lions over the Mantanzas River last night.

I think we might be going a bridge too far. ...Sir Frederick Browning (1896 - 1965)

Thursday, August 12, 2010


"Tell Me You'll Wait for Me, Hold Me Like, You'll Never Let Me Go"   John Denver

After a public outcry over what many considered needless spending of 25 thousand dollars for seven City of St. Augustine administrators to fly to our sister city Aviles ,Spain on 8/25, the mayor, Joe Boles has cancelled his participation. Story here This appears to leave the other three commissioners and three staff members in the lurch and may force them to follow his lead "avoiding the appearance of impropriety."

This article should give you an idea of the arrogance of our elected officials.This annual visit (sometimes semi annual) is many times a family affair. Commissioner Don Crichlow whose term ends this year and will not be up for reelection was honored last year in Aviles when his daughter Katy was the second American in the 116-year history of la Fiesta del Bolo to be selected as a Dama de Honor and rode on a throne in the Easter Parade. Story Here Public service has it's tangible rewards.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


3D Popup page by Suvo "The Tree of Knowledge"

The Oldest Street In Our Nation

   Rev. Dr. David J. Weidner, City Commissioner Erroll Jones ,Mayor Joe Boles and City Commissioner Leanne Freeman
One of the most charming  and overlooked streets in St. Augustine has been Aviles St., formerly known as Hospital St. This may change hopefully as a result of a makeover and realignment of the old bricks and an expansion of the sidewalks for outdoor dining. An 8:30 A.M. ceremony was held  two weeks ago and this is a film of that event. Later that night there was Fiesta de Aviles with revelry from the little bistos and restaurants amongst the unique boutiques and shops (not a franchise or tacky souvenir shop anywhere) Next, we are going to air condition the whole street! No, ...that would not be authentic would it?

The "Oldest Street" in our nation (1586) argument about that .This is a "must visit" place on the S.E side of the Plaza. Here is a story about the archaeology.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Tengas Un Buen Viaje

San Francisco St. ..Aviles, Spain

Seven members of the City of St. Augustine administration will be leaving soon for a two week trip ( how will we function!?) (story here) to the seaside town of Aviles Spain, birthplace of St. Augustine founder Admiral Pedro Menendez. There will be some small furor over the 25 thousand dollars this will cost taxpayers but it will die down quickly as it always does. We prefer to not make comment on this and simply ask the Commissioners to visit the street artists in that city's Plaza. It is noted that in none of the articles on Aviles could we could find a mention of Pedro Menendez.

When the Spanish delegation visited us here last year, two of their group left their controlled tour and came to purchase local art from one of our artists  though it put her in jeopardy of arrest. They were surprised to have someone speak Castilian Spanish to them as none of the commissioners (according to the delegates)speak Spanish..

.Things NOT to say to the officials and locals in Aviles Spain:

"That Franco...he was a helluva leader."

"Do you have a Denny's? I can't function two weeks without a Grando Slamo"

"Soccer?.Nah. I follow American football, a man's game.Who won that World Cup Soccer thing anyway?"

"Blech! You say Chosco is the tongue of a pig served in the intestine of a pig! Christ!,Gimme a barf bag!"

"Most right thinking Americans at home are on the guard against Obama's plan of creeping Socialism" (The mayor and almost all officials of Aviles are card carrying members of The Spanish Socialist Workers Party)

"I was told that there would be Moors here, where are all of the Moors?"

"Look, me Pepe one more time and we'll have an old fashioned FSU smackdown right here! It's Joe Dammit!, I'm the mayor...El Jefe!, Comprende?!"

"That Spanish Fly thing, I suppose Viagra knocked the hell out of that as an industry, huh?"

Bring us all souvenirs out of that 25K.See you back here soon.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Not a Gossip Column !

After a brief vacation from the Internet ,which I recommend for everyone, I find a large number of comments on my last post. Our artist struggle here in the City of St. Augustine is about our Constitutional First Amendment Rights NOT about one person, namely me. Scurrilous and specious personal attacks are not part of the issue here and let's not confuse free speech with libel. The Internet is a wonderful thing but unfortunately it gives some the ability to become Matt Drudge creating confusion and misdirection. My "criminal history" as described by the post would make me a far more interesting person than I actually am.  I could easily press one button deleting the untrue statements made but I decided to leave it. Send me a personal email at the address on the header if you wish to discuss me.

To the poster came up with a clever but slightly awkward word describing my condition (oh, again).....Artyrdom, a play on martyrdom. Please,if a statue is raised in later years, make it of Karl the Rottweiler.This is probably the same person who referred to me as "rebel without a pause". Quite a wordsmith, this guy.

Another post that got my attention was in reference to my "layman's misapprehension of First Amendment  jurisprudence". I suppose that this is opposed to an "attorney's misapprehension"? A Federal judge in Jacksonville ruled in our favor or did she misapprehend? Federal Court U.S rulings and the citations included are not written in vague arcane language and can be read by anyone and I have read 'em all regarding this issue. I don't know many standard practice attorneys who can say that they have studied the artists rights issues as closely as some of us have.

I do not understand the term "wannabe artist" . Each of you readers...go out and create something , a painting, a veal picata, a song, or a bridge. Voila! You ARE an artist. A wannabe would only sit and mull it over.

In closing, I am not the leader nor representative of any group. I do not "spearhead"movements. I speak only for myself but I find like minded individuals who because of their personal makeup cannot hold themselves out for their rights. This is acceptable to me. It takes all kinds.