Dear Husband and I went to Saint Augustine from Wednesday until Easter Sunday to celebrate our one year anniversary; we made it there at midnight on Wednesday and passed out at the hotel soon after putting our clothes away and showering.
The weather was perfect, a balmy 72 to 73 degrees with a chilly breeze and not a cloud in the sky; it was almost as if the city had made itself pretty just for us. Oh the beauty of the Spanish moss, the towering oaks, the warming sun, the blooming flowers and the damn pollen that had my throat closing, my eyes running and me sneezing my brain out of my nose…sigh.
I love history…I may not love history the same way DH loves it but it doesn’t make my love any less real. My love of history is based on the romantic notion of all that has been sacrificed by those who came before us and the old rules, the old charm, the manners, the ridiculous customs, the restrictions, the fashion, the gentlemen and ladies, the quest for honor, the appreciation of duty above all and that crossed eyed (now considered silly) selflessness of those who went to battle eager to do what was right.
The city was founded in 1565 and it used to belong to the Spanish and the Catholic Church of course, which pretty much ravaged the area with its convert-or-die agenda that the church is famous for. No fuzzy, warm feelings for those back in the days Catholics who ruled with an iron fist and an eagerness to slit throats, hang or burn all in the name of Jesus. Matanzas Bay (or Matanzas River) which is neither a river nor a bay, but an inlet or estuary was called that charming name “Matanzas” meaning Slaughter or massacre because of all the French Huguenots or Protestants that were slaughtered by charming man that was Pedro Menendez de Aviles who held a mass (the first ever catholic mass in the U.S.) and then went off all filled with Christian passion and self-righteousness to kill a bunch of non Catholics and then slaughtered 300 more or so because of heresy. You gotta love the beautiful things done in the name of Christ.
We walked the streets in our trolley super corny in our red trains and hanging cameras and enjoyed the city with its old walls, the Castillo de San Marcos, the Flagler….everything and the old Victorian houses. I have an obsession with Victorian Houses, they make me sigh, shiver, crave, and long for hoop skirts, bonnets, parasols and horse drawn carriages. I have my computer filled with pictures of Victorian Houses from when I visited Connecticut, Maryland, and South Carolina, my short stint in Massachusetts and now from Saint Augustine. I think is ironic that I dislike Florida for its lack of history, for its newness, for its terracotta shingle roofs and the anal retentive landscape where every bush, flower and stone is separated with mathematical accuracy and yet Saint Augustine is THE oldest city in the United States.
I love being surrounded by history; it makes me feel…I don’t know... I can’t describe it, it’s a combination of the hibbie jibbies and wonder, wonder that I have walked the same cobblestone roads as someone did 200 years before, touched the same walls, maybe felt the same feelings. When we were at the Castillo de San Marcos we walked the barracks and saw in the wall the carvings of some soldier that had wanted to make his mark, he left his initials E.H. Hancock, December 1884. It makes one wonder, what happened to E.H. Hancock? What did he look like? Did he live much longer? Did he die in the fort? Did he perish of the yellow fever that later that century killed a third of the town’s population? Did he fall in love? Did he marry? Was he happy?
Old buildings, history, soldiers and the 1800s always make me feel melancholy. Don’t know why but that is always the case. At first I am always excited to see the places and once I’m there I feel a little sad for what was and is no longer. It’s weird but I miss those long dead strangers as if they were friends I haven’t seen in a while. This makes me believe even more in reincarnation! Well Saint Augustine was beautiful, it made me like a little more this crazy State of Florida that I have never been a fan of, it made me even more firm in my believe that the Catholic Church has always been fucked up and probably always will be.
As I take a look at the pictures of the houses, the old streets, the old city entrance that is still standing I can’t help but wonder architectonically speaking what kind of legacy are we leaving behind? The world is filled with beautiful buildings full of history, pain, blood and tears and what exactly have we built?
Don’t get me wrong, I like leaving in this age where I don’t need a chaperone to walk the streets and I won’t be burned as a witch if I don’t the like the church. I rather like this age where I won’t succumb to a fever but can simply pop an antibiotic and the fact that the streets are paved and not heaped with horseshit. Why then is it that it all seems so much more heroic, more romantic back then?