Friday, April 8, 2011

Surviving the Streets of St. Augustine

This is an odd post for me, a small departure, but I wanted to share...
I am a 45 year old runaway.  Yes, this weekend I ran away from home.  It's a struggle, living on the streets.  The mean streets of St. Augustine.  The constant assault of local live music wafting through the air, tripping over street musicians and performers with tiny dogs dressed as pirates.  The wonderful indie art galleries and restaurants in every nook, cranny and hidden side street.  Don't get me started on the antbellum architecture or how the place reeks of painstakingly maintained Spanish history.  It's Hell, I tell you, Hell!

Just to survive I've ducked into a new little place called "Rhett's", right next door to "Scarlet O'hara's" on Hypolita Street.  Those marketing wizards!

Where Scarlett's is a multi-level, old home turned into pub-style restaurant and college hot-spot, Rhett's is a new, super-cool, upscale piano bar and gourmet dining experience.  Sort of like what I imagine Mr. Butler would also be...but that's another story.

I can hardly manage to wolf my Caesar salad with all the burbling piano music, lovely and attentive staff, and don't get me started on the saxophone guy...oozing talent and fresh-scrubbed college cuteness. 

My lovely waitress just stopped by to ask what I thought of my salad.  I so wanted to drawl, "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn."  Don't worry, I didn't.  But I could have!

So, I sip my beer (yes, I am not afraid to order a draft in a place like this, after all, I am a street person), and stare at the antique tin tiled ceiling, plotting my next move.  I am interrupted by the arrival of my lobster stuffed chicken breast on truffle-infused mashed potatoes.  Oh. My. God.


I don't want to simply eat this meal.  I want to marry it.  I want to wear it next to my skin.  I want to take it for a long walk on the beach, holding its hand.  In case you don't get what I am saying, this meal is an orgy in my mouth.  Wait, that is really gross.  This meal is...delicious.  Simply, elegantly, delicious.

If I could eat like this every day I would become one of those house-bound people who eventually make the news because a wall of their home had to be destroyed so they could be removed by crane.  And I would be grinning ear-to-ear while dabbing at the truffle oil staining my chins.

I ran away to St. Augustine because many, many, MANY moons ago I used to live here, and to this day I adore the place.  Don't get me wrong, St. Augustine, America's oldest city, has its share of ridiculous tourist-traps.  Many crap shops selling T-shirts and chocolate on a stick in the shape of an alligator, "ghost tours" on every corner, and sangria bars with exhausted locals sweating their asses off dressed as Spanish soldiers, grinningng through gritted teeth at drunk, fanny-pack wearing families from Wisconsin taking their pictures.  But, as I sit under a painting of the Battle of Atlanta, sipping cappuccino, I marvel at how hip little places like Rhett's coexist with the Nation's Oldest Drug Store and Ripley''s Believe it if Not!  Somehow, St. Augustine has managed to grow up, while still retaining it's core personality.  Kind of amazing, really.

By the way,  I am totally getting into this whole runaway street person thing.

I was about to say that my dining experience was marred by the arrival of a huge party of really loud people seated right next to me.  I was, until the woman in charge of the group came over to me and apologized in advance for her boisterous group, and offered to buy me a drink to make up for it. God, I love St. Augustine!

Holy crap, I just realized that after it gets dim in Rhett's, they give you menus that LIGHT UP WHEN YOU OPEN THEM.  I can't stand it. You crazy kids with your fancy toys.  God bless you, no more squinting, or lighting your menu on fire because you held it too close to the table candle in a vain attempt to read it.

Back to the charm that is St. Augustine.  One of my favorite memories is of walking down a side street one evening after a great meal, and hearing laughter and music coming from a hidden courtyard.  The yard was surrounded, as many are, with an ancient stone wall.  I peeked over and found a group of locals, off work but still dressed in their Spanish period costumes.  They were relaxing, drinking beer, and cranking some great tunes.  They saw me and immediately insisted I join them, a total stranger.  Of course I did, and had a great night getting buzzed with soldiers, pirates, and wenches.  Totally awesome.

That is why I run away, as often as I can, to St. Augustine.  And you should too.  Living on the street has its advantages...

So, Rhett's, I'll let you carry me up that gigantic winding staircase anytime.  Really, you can, because I am so stuffed I can't walk right now.


Unknown said...

I want to head over there right now! St Augustine is magical and beautiful..... I should know, I was born there. Also grew ip hanging out with the author of this blog... Good to see you Karen!

Queen of Tides said...

you missed another calling, author! You could easily be a best selling author of travel/adventure/fantasy books. Now I want to go to St. Augustine, and I do mean NOW! Sigh, save me a seat next to a pirate, would ya?

Unknown said...

Yum! That looks delicious! Have you ever had popsicles from the Hyppo? They're in downtown St. Augustine and have the craziest flavors!