A blog in St. Augustine, Art in the Market, is published by street artists who are tired of being driven away from the city's Old Town district by police. Ten years ago, the thousands of tourists who walked up and down St. George Street in Old Town would see a motley assortment of musicians, artists and street performers. One of our favorites was Sterling the Silver Man, a guy covered in glittery spray paint who combined robotic movements with the occasional water gun sneak attack on passers-by. My kids loved it.
In the late '90s, shopkeepers on the street decided that these folks were bad for business, so they got the St. Augustine city council to pass ordinances that make it illegal for them to work on the street. This sucked most of the charm right out of the place, so we visit much less often.
Today on Art in the Market, they tell a story of another side of street life in the nation's oldest city -- the death of John Lynch, a homeless alcoholic who was a fixture in the area:
When tourists or residents complained about the "bums" in the Plaza it was many times in reference to John Lynch. Whatever sent Mr. Lynch on the road to broken down alcoholism, we'll never know. He was usually in an extremely foul mood. Life had battered him apparently and he escaped into the bottle. He had over 32 citations and a number of incarcerations from" open container" violations to aggravated battery(drunken disputes). ...
If he had been dry for awhile (jail time) his appearance changed to a tall, distinguished, white haired 63 year old gent who could be mistaken for the head of the Rotary. This change lasted until he got a hold on another bottle.
I'd be lying if I said panhandlers and homeless people in this part of Florida are a welcome sight. Some of them are young, able-bodied and fairly intimidating, and I think the last time I gave one money was years ago in Fort Worth, Texas, when a guy wouldn't let me pass on a deserted street. But I appreciate the fact that a local blogger's telling stories that would otherwise go untold.