Tuesday, April 9, 2013

OldUSA- Day Two in St. Augustine

Bastion on bay side of the Castillo de San Marcos
Day two of the exploration of St. Augustine started with my partner Kym O'Donnell reading from our Florida travel bible "Weird Florida" by Charlie Carlson which describes strange things in the landscape to be seen or avoided. I learned that we had, in fact, avoided the pink carnivorous cloud of Tomoka. The stories about this flesh eating fog resemble a monster in a Star Trek episode I remember- but that was a blood sucking sparkly cloud.

The episode is called "Obsession" if anyone out there is interested in vampiric vapors and science fiction. Also on the interesting list was the fate of the Native American known as Osceola. Osceola was imprisoned along with many other indians at the Castillo de San Marcos while the US Navy held the fort. It seems that Osceola died in prison of an ailment (quinsy or malaria) but because of his notoriety his head was cut off and given to a local physician by the name of Frederick Weedon. Weedon embalmed the head and kept it, even using it to discipline his children by putting it on their bedpost at night when they were naughty.( remember the good old days when you could torture your children with severed heads if they didn't clean up their room?) The head eventually found it's way to one Valentine Mott in New York who placed it in the collection of the Surgical and Pathological Museum. The museum burned down at some point and the head of Osceola was presumably freed from this material dimension. Anyway, on to our second day exploring St. Augustine. We began at The Fountain of Youth.

I feel obliged to describe the area not through the natural beauty of the site but through the themed environments that describe the sites history. Unnatural beauty is much rarer. Here we see a Native American greeting a Spaniard at the Fountain of Youth.
There is also this great oil painting at the site. Ponce de Leon is pictured asleep against a palm tree dreaming of the fountain with naked young girls dancing around it. The painting is by Augustus Heaton, I do not know the date. We drank from the fountain and were informed that the water comes from the Floridan Aquifer which is basically common Zepherhills drinking water.
We then had lunch at the Santa Maria Restaurant where you can feed the sea birds through cool little trap doors at every table. The servers bring bread and you can either drop it through or, if you are brave, hand the bread directly to the hungry beak. Feathers float in through the door and land in your food- its great fun.
Octopus ceramic plate at the Villa Zorayda Museum
Our next stop was to view the Villa Zorayda Museum which is a monument to exoticism. It is collection of arabic and eastern furniture and objects that takes the breath away because of the attention to detail and beauty of the artifacts. We don't make stuff like this any more!
Monk lizard pitcher at Villa Zorayda Museum

One of the strangest artifacts at the museum is this Cat Fur Rug that hangs in an egyptian themed room.
Supposedly thousands of years old and made from actual cat hair, this rug also has a curse connected to it. Should anyone walk upon the Cat Fur Rug, well, that person is in big trouble. On a table beneath the hanging rug is a glass pyramid shaped curio with a mummy's severed foot in it. St. Augustine is sure fond of severed body parts. The museums staff assured me that a publication is pending which will list and show this museum's exotic treasures. I for one will have it in my library.

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