Thursday, December 30, 2010

Spain's Greatest Writer

Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes was eighteen years old when St. Augustine was established here on Florida's Atlantic coast. Both he and William Shakespeare died within days of each other in their respective countries, Spain and England. Their works were published in both countries, though those governments were often at war with each other during their lifetimes and well beyond.

We all know Cervantes' story of Don Quixote that tells of a man who perceives himself to be a Knight errant whose unbalanced mind sees enemies and danger where there is none, attacking windmills with his lance thinking that they were ferocious giant dragons. His chivalrous mind had convinced him to fight for the rights and dignity of his fellow man and woman. At he end the old knight is confronted with reality ,though his steadfast companion/ sidekick Sancho Panza tries to keep up the charade to prevent the Don from becoming an ordinary fellow. Alas, as Quixote comes to the realization that he has been deluding himself, he slips into melancholia and very soon, dies.

Too much sanity may be madness and the maddest of all, to see life as it is and not as it should be.

Miguel de Cervantes

Friday, December 24, 2010


Christmas In The Ancient City

For over 412 years Christmas has been celebrated in St. Augustine's Plaza de la Constitucion,the nation's oldest public park. As a meeting place, the tradition continues.The live oaks and palms are strung with thousands of white lights, a twenty five foot tree is erected in the center and a grand illumination is held for all to "ooh" and "aah" when the switch is turned on. And they do...the viewers actually make that sound.

A few days ago a local radio talk show host spent time reminiscing about St. Augustine Christmases past in which the speakers and callers waxed eloquently over holidays here in the 1950's and 60's. One caller actually said that they do not go downtown anymore because "you put your life in your own hands" when you do so. I waited for someone to call to refute such an outrageous statement. After 15 minutes and no such call came I had to do it myself. I told the radio audience and the moderator (who should have challenged the earlier comment) that I spend a great deal of time downtown, particularly in the Plaza and it is as safe as anyone's back yard. Furthermore, during the holidays hundreds of children daily are now having their own holiday experiences that will be lovely memories for them in 2050. The kids play tag in the Plaza, tilt their head up in wonder at the twinkling official tree and line up to see Santa* in the Slave Market . The downtown St. Augustine that I have seen is one of the most wholesome and safe places that I've experienced in my travels and this goes for the year round ambiance. The remark that you "risk your life" is more than hyperbole, it is irresponsible and anyone who would say such a thing is not anywhere near the truth and causing harm to this wonderful city. 

I am certain that the holidays in the 50's and 60's were a magical time for 10 year old white kids here in St. Augustine, but I'll wager that it is even better now and certainly more inclusive.

Thank you to the City of St. Augustine for the fantastic lights and decorations. Merry Christmas!


*Unfortunately some parents remarked that they have never experienced such a high pressure, mercenary Santa before. Our City authorized Santa had his elve assistants aggressively hawk for donations to their"charity" sometimes,while puffing on a smoke. I gave my best disapproving glare toward Santa as he was in his chair counting out bills in plain sight...he got the message.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Eavesdropping in St. Augustine

Heard Around The Plaza

"The Pope has a permanent bedroom available to him at all times here at the Cathedral that's what makes it a  Basillica." Red Train Driver

"Tomorrow, in the Plaza, the Jewish people are going to light up the Mezuzah" from a city worker.

"I don't have to pay for parking on Sunday? If I get a ticket I'm coming back to make you pay". From a way too suspicious tourist.

"They used to hang pirates from that tree" Walking tour guide spouting nonsense.

"Can I see some ID? A request from the police just before they issue a 100 dollar ticket to artist Suvo.

"I really doubt that there's 3 million lights here, it looks more like maybe, two million." Local person who knows.

Offering a religious tract to artist, "Have you been saved?.. "No, I've been spent", said the snarky artist.

"That guy that stole the old lady's tricycle, they should hang him here in the Plaza and have everyone beat him with clubs, and then string his guts in the trees".  A really creepy comment.

Three-year-old boy: Do Santa and Batman fly in the sky together?

Mom: I hope they're careful if they do, because otherwise... Batmobile crashes into Santa's sleigh, boom! (makes explosion noises) Santa and Batman. Dead.
Three-year-old boy: (laughs hysterically)
Auntie: I'm glad he laughed at that, otherwise you were getting the "worst mom" award.

Taxi dispatcher: "Yeah, take your time. No need to kill yourself".

Taxi driver: "One more reason not to kill myself. Copy"

And this below is the final use of this is now officially dead

Loud man on cell, walking across bridge: "So I just said, "I want it all! I want to see it all!"
60-year-old woman to teenage granddaughter: "That's what she said."

Sunday, December 12, 2010

It's Come To This

Regular readers may recall that Santa's throne has disappeared from his space at the St. Augustine's Slave Market. May recall? It was just five days ago! This is a solid fact, but there is backgound to this story and new disturbing developments since.

Some facts: On a previous week, one of Santa's elves has a wage dispute and brings her pickup driving boyfriend to confront Santa. He leaves when children start arriving and promises that "This is not over".

                  On Dec 2, Santa's tinseled and sequined throne disappeared sometime between Midnight and 5pm
                  The seat cushion mysteriously reappeared three days later (proof of life?)
                  On Friday December 10 a snatch and grab of Santa's donation jar was made by a                       twenty something man who gets away in a waiting pickup truck. A confederate?
 Saturday December11,an unsigned ransom note of cutout newspaper letters is found beneath Santa's tree by Santa's remaining loyal elf. It reportedly reads as follows; We have added underlining for emphasis.   


Important clues:   The Santa Claus parade organizer wanted Santa to "disappear" when another City authorized Santa came by on the "official" Float last week week. Slave Market Santa refused to leave his throne. Possible questioning needed here.

pickup truck ...the throne was bulky and would not fit in a regular car or SUV.
                       the perpetrator profile indicates a deep and longstanding resentment over perceived slights by Santa Claus.

The ransom note was actually quite colorful and creative, indicating an artistic personality.Plaza artists were present during three of these incidents.Artist Scott Raimondo said earlier that day that he had a flat tire on his ArtCycle and brought his pickup for the first time in six months. Related?

Santa's current elf  ( who found the ransom note) shows very unelf-like behavior....openly smoking,,studded lips and nose rings, felt antlers (she's an elf, not a reindeer!) aggressively hawking passersby for "donations" to Santa's charity ( really?)

Status of Case: Santa took a break yesterday evening to go to the police station to make a report. The ransom note is in SAPD possession and it will be "dusted" for fingerprints. By eliminating all those in the Slave Market who handled the note (big mistake!) the police should lift one from the perp or perps.

We were told that a 24 hour watch is being given to the Christmas Tree. by the police Department (unlikely)
Santa Claus himself has told us that HE will be on stakeout himself, watching the tree. More later as the story unfolds. 

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Pirate Museum Opens

Top L to R: Owner, Pat Croce and all female staff, Wednesday V.I.P opening, Croce and the Mayor, Fake pirates and Elaine Frazer (Fountain of Youth)

On Friday 12/3 there was a V.I. P. reception for local bigwigs and city employees at the "Pirate Soul Museum" built by entrepreneur Pat Croce. You could spot our local politicians in their coats and ties while Croce was in jeans and an oxford cloth button down. Noticing this, the mayor pocketed the tie that he came with.

It is impressive according to attendees. Disney animatronics has been employed to tell the story of the life of eighteenth century pirates. Display cases exhibit artifacts from Croce's private collection and items on loan from the state of Florida.

The "pirate juggernaut" in our tourism plan seems to be taking over though St.Augustine was never "a stronghold of piracy" as was reported. Nevertheless, the building renovation is a great addition to our bay front and Pat Croce's enthusiasm for his project has given our town a nice new addition. LINK

Monday, December 06, 2010

Naughty Not Nice!

Photo credits: © 2010 Historic City News staff photographer

Date: Friday, December 3, 2010
Time: Between Midnight and 5 PM
Description: Santa Claus' Throne
Location: Plaza de la Constitucion, St. Augustine, Florida

 SAPD's Sgt Etheridge states that they heard about the missing Santa throne, but no official report has been filed. "It's probably in some college kid's fraternity house somewhere".

Santa has now replaced his throne with a Queen Anne style upholstered chair that has no real flair but does the job well enough.

 Since December 1, parents and relatives of the little ones have donated, through Santa, over 750 dollars for children's charities.

If you have any info regarding recovery of Santa's throne, please call the St. Augustine police department at 904-825-1074