The organized events for St. Augustine’s Fourth of July were a fireworks display and a concert. These traditional events were completely overshadowed by an unofficial event–a parade–up and down the tat-filled, tourist-trap St. George Street. St. George Street is St. Augustine’s largest tourist attraction and finest people-watching venue. It beats Fort Matanzas by a mile even as its shops are useful only for parsing degrees of bad taste. It’s the people, people, that are the reason to visit.
I was surprised to find such a glorious display of eccentric individualism in Florida. It has made me rethink what I think about the Sunshine State. Within the first ten minutes, I had seen a man walking around with a dead coyote headdress, an angel, a very vocal teenage opponent of abortion, children with their hair dyed in the very colors of our flag of freedom, and young women dressed as strippers who were not strippers but merely young women who liked to have people think they were strippers. They were accompanied by young men who would like other young men to think that they dated strippers. There was a store for this type of thing, imagine that, and it even had a patriotic window display.
There was no starting point for the procession. People started at either end of the street and joined the crowd. Dogs rode in baby carriages and babies threw up on their mothers’ shoulders. A priest stood outside a church, greeting his congregation and anyone else who felt like being greeted by a priest. Exhaust fumes belched and belch-less trolleys carried sightseeing tourists who appeared to have been weaned on a diet of golden waves of grain and nothing more insidious than that. One of these, a satisfied-looking woman, took our picture. It was a heartwarming display of acceptance regardless of race, color, creed, wealth, sexuality, or political affiliation. I think anyone except Tony Hayward would have been welcomed. It made me momentarily forget Our National Gusher and the 42-million-plus gallons of crude crudding up our Gulf that has not been collected and how it is that the beach clean-ups have about the same efficacy as scraping at BP’s turds with a fingernail. As an aside, I would like to see several high-ranking governmental officials volunteer to bathe in the “mousse” or to perhaps use it in their hair. Since it’s so non-toxic, what’s the harm?
Mr. B. and I joined the parade at Cathedral Place and we immediately blended in with the masses. We strolled up one side and down the other and here and there we went into the couple of shops that appeared to have something interesting to sell. I bought a Tilley hat and immediately felt it gave me some kind of costumed identity, that of the woman who can deter men with a glance. I actually have quite a bit of practice at this; this is what comes from living and working in a big city where I each working day carried up to 50K in cash to the Wells Fargo Bank. I’ve had to hone my skills because I am, for whatever reason, the woman who attracts purse snatchers, nutcases, and overeager teenage boys.
At the northern end of the street, those burdened by too much existential weight could have that burden lifted by an angel. This is where I started a new hobby I call “Other People’s Pictures,” in which I take a snapshot that belongs to someone else, from a different angle. “Other People’s Pictures” makes its debut tomorrow, and it will become a semi-regular feature of this blog.
We didn’t stay to see the fireworks. Fireworks were not meant to be this year, although when we got back to my apartment there was a neighbor fooling around with some sparklers in the back yard. It wasn’t enough to make a dog bark, but it made for a silver-spangled finish.
Addendum: The person who found my blog by googling “Gulf clams unhappy” has made me happier than I’ve been since the gusher gushed. Bravo to you, whoever you are, for considering the clam.