Thursday, November 12, 2015

Another beautiful day in a beautiful place! We love St. Augustine! How to make it better?

"What a day this has been, what a rare mood I'm in, it's almost like being in love."
"Almost like being in love," sung by Ella Fitzgerald (Lerner and Lowe)
We love St. Augustine.
Sixteen years in my case (despite energumen who say stupid stuff one harridan's mal mot, "if you don't like it here, you should move elsewhere."
There are no strangers in St. Augustine, only friends you haven't met yet!
I was proud to watch our wonderful Veterans' Day parade today, culmination of our St. Augustine 450th commemoration.
This should be an annual event.
Let's do it.
Next year, hopefully with a couple of 82nd Airborne Divn. paratroopers descending from the skies, in honor of the conquest of Nazi Germany by Americans, saving the world from fascism.

I was impressed with the people who cared enough to honor our Veterans, who have given so much with so little appreciation.
I think of my father, suffering with shrapnel in his knee for the rest of his life after months in Army hospitals, "CONpensated" with his measly token monthly VA check for $6 and change (a mere 10% disability, knee-shot in Normandy after three combat jumps with the 82nd Airborne Division, jumping out of C-47 airplanes in early morning hours in North Africa, Sicily and Normandy).
I walked with a new friend to our Huguenot Cemetery, the gates of which were actually open, for a change. I and saw the graves of some of our City's early American non-Catholic residents, including Buckingham Smith, benefactor of "worthy colored" people as his grave says, whose name graces institutions that are murky and need scrutiny today.
Many of the people in the Huguenot Cemetery died of mosquito-borne disease (Yellow Fever, or "Yellowjack," portrayed in the Bette Davis movie, "Jezebel") -- diseases our Anastasia Mosquito Control Commission of St. Johns County guards against (competently, because citizens hold it accountable -- "We, the People" halted the corrupt purchase of a $1.8 million helicopter, thank you).
I saw the Coast Guard's bright rescue helicopter, the one that comes to St. Augustine to investigate oil pollution, as on MLK Day 2009, when our Bridge of Lions was being reconstructed and Skanska allowed oil to pollute our Bay, and my friend Robin and Nadeau noticed the oily sheen crossing the Bridge. Skanska was not caught, but did not repeat its performance.
Toured the Castillo, greeting old and new friends, and was impressed with the costumed re-enactors who dedicate their hearts and souls to making our history come alive!
Enjoyed the spectacular views from our Castillo gun deck of our Matanzas Bay and downtown streetscape. Except for the six-story 1927 Treasury building (the former bank that housed the crooked developers and lawyers who once ran the town), the view was remarkably similar to what it was when British invaders burned our town to the ground, with the villagers huddled in the Castillo.
Did you know St. Augustine changed hands five times without anyone dying?
1763: Spanish to English suzerainty (Treaty of Paris, ending the "Seven Years War").
1784: English to Spanish suzerainty (Another Treaty of Paris, after U.S. Revolutionary War).
1819: Spanish to United States.
1861: United States to Confederate States of America: Sergeant turned over keys for receipt and steamboat ticket, returning receipt to U.S. Secretary of War Simon Cameron, then retiring to Pennsylvania).
1862: Confederate States of America to USA (Marines offshore with U.S. Navy, Confederates fled because of explosive projectiles from recently-invented Dahlgren guns, invented the Admiral for whom our Dahlgren Chapel at Georgetown University was named).
There was a Coast Guardsman showing World War II history, including a great big 'ole .50 caliber machine gun bullet, the weapon of choice for my father for whom the 82nd Airborne Divn. Assn. South Jersey Chapter was named (I wore my dad's jacket for part of they day, until it got too hot). When my parents were married at Fort Benning (Alabama side) in 1945, 70 years ago, my father's confreres fired off .50 caliber machine guns on either side of the chapel moments after the priest said, "I now pronounce you man and wife," leading my mom and bridesmaid (her sister Betty) to hit the deck. My folks were married for 58 years, having endured World War II and sequelae, including my father's PTSD (never diagnosed, but producing nightmares). It was the gallantry and suffering of Veterans like my dad we celebrate on Veterans' Day and Memorial Day.
At the Castillo, I learned of some excellent suggestions for our St. Augustine National Historical Park and National Seashore,
1. National Park Service should get the contract from University of Florida to run Pat Croce's moribund, failing Colonial Village and provide costumed interpreters.
2. National Park Service should build an underground Visitor Center, as was also suggested by one of Peter Rumpole's UF students: after archaeological studies, place it under the glacis (mound) at the south end of the Castillo, allowing for a 10,000 square foot museum telling the whole story of St. Augustine history, from ancient times to Spanish, English, African-American, French, Menorcan, Jewish, Civil War, Flagler era, and civil rights history -- all of it, "with warts and all," as Lincoln would say.
I walked along the Bayfront, admiring the horse and carriages, and walked to the Slave Market, commiserating with artists waiting on our U.S. District Court to decide the First Amendment case of Bruce Bates v. City of St. Augustine. Ineffectual City of St. Augustine General Services Manager JAMES PIGGOTT (a/k/a "Mr. BIGOT") once again left the artists in the dark due to refusal to change the timer after Daylight Savings ended (ten days ago). So I contacted our City Manager JOHN PATRICK REGAN, P.E., who texted back, "General [S]ervices has been notified and it will be adjusted."

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