Grab a tall drink and a comfy chair Readers Mine, this one is apt to get a bit long.
As you may know Mockingbird and I spent last weekend in St. Augustine, Florida attending the 4th Biannual Slayage Conference on the Whedonverses (Slayage 4, or SC4). Mock’ was one of three keynote speakers, and I made my first academic presentation, and (long story short) both went very well. This was my first Slayage and the location was incredible, so there are rather a lot of impressions to get down here.
Flagler College hosted the conference, and local chairs Tamara and Jim Wilson did a truly phenomenal job of making us feel welcome and keeping things running throughout the three days of the conference proper. The main buildings of the college began their existence as the Ponce de Leon Hotel, built by Henry Flagler in 1887, with help from Charles Tiffany and Thomas Edison (I kid you not). It is a glorious pile of poured concrete and terra cotta, with wonderfully fantastic Hispanio-Moorish lines, copper gutter spouts in the shape of dragons’ heads, and lavishly decorated interiors including the largest collection of Tiffany glass on the continent, and wall and ceiling murals where all that glitters actually is gold… or silver. The place is just incredible, and made more so by our bright and witty student tour guide, Marissa. The kicker is that they actually use this building for classrooms, student dorms, and the college cafeteria. I am told that when the girls upstairs get to running up and down their dorm corridors, the 9 Tiffany chandeliers in the room below (valued at between $1 – 18 million each) sway prettily.
St. Augustine has many other attractions as the oldest continuously inhabited town in the US. The Castillo de San Marcos was Spanish, then English, then Spanish again, then American, and still stands today. There are cemeteries dating back to before the American Revolution that today are cool oasis shaded by great oaks and Spanish moss, bronze plaques and historical markers every ten feet, statues, cannon, and one Saturday night while we were there, reenactors with morions, pikes, and harquebuses fleeing a British invasion. I am told Matthew Pateman, in from the UK for Slayage 4, was rather nonplussed at being told to run for his life because “the British are coming!” The Old Town is lovely, cobbled, and commercialized, but then again, it’s nice to have lots of air conditioned stores in Florida in June. The people and businesses in St. Augustine were fantastic, with special mentions going out to the Hot Shot Bakery and Café, who opened early and on Sunday just for us Whedonites, keeping us fed and caffeinated for remarkably reasonable prices. Another favorite was Anastasia Books, owned by Mr. and Mrs. Stetson Kennedy. While I didn’t get to meet Mr. Kennedy, his wife is a delightful woman, and very proud of her husband, who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in Florida and was responsible for bringing many Klansmen to justice. Plus, their bookstore has a selection that is both broad and deep, particularly their history and SF sections. Mrs. Kennedy was delighted that a flock of scholars had descended to further serious study of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and lamented, “here I am stuck with all of these Twilight books!” ‘Nuff said.