Saturday, May 28, 2016

Ramrod Tourists

Not too long ago I photographed a version of this sign  that appeared one morning, unbidden at the Ramrod Pool. This picture I took last weekend snagged at a poor angle for the light but which included my inseparable walking companion of course. 
 The thing is,  the last time I saw this sign it looked like this:
"We do not negotiate with tourists" which I thought was rather funny. Instead some delicate soul went to a fair bit of bother to rearrange the anarchic sentiment into the more saccharine and socially acceptable  "One human family" logo, which  crops up everywhere and seems to have lost its meaning in the gold rush atmosphere of modern Key West. Perhaps I am allowing my curmudgeonly instincts to get away from me.
The thing is there was a habit of lighting a campfire in a well formed ring on the "beach" at this undeveloped state park. People come here after work and sit on the shore and slap mosquitoes and drink beer and argue over how many angels can drink on the head of a pin. They are working people enjoying their Key and they are no bother to anybody. Except they were because some visitor or part time resident with not enough to do complained to the county who wrecked the fire ring and stuck up this sign:
The One Human Family ethos would condemn finking about something that hurt no one, was done responsibly and brought people some low cost fun. I don't know who created the sign but I'm guessing the original sentiment was a swipe at that whole :ownership and use" of the Ramrod Pool. Not exactly in the spirit of one human anything. 
So here's a nice picture of a mercifully empty Seven Mile Bridge under a hot sun. For no reason at all.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Cuban Landing Drama

I picked up my copy of the Key West Citizen out of my driveway yesterday morning and saw this story splattered across the front page: Some Cuban refugees managed to land on an unoccupied light house on the reef and were being held in a Coast Guard ship while the courts decide their fate. Rubbish I thought to myself, the Conch Republic long since settled this issue. Let me explain.
The following pictures are screenshots from my phone so you can find out all you want on Bing or Google if you know where to look. Ten years ago a group of Cubans landed on an old pillar from a Flagler Bridge as described in Wikipedia (see below) and when the courts ruled they hadn't set foot properly on US soil the intrepid Secretary General of the Conch Republic landed on the unclaimed rock and declared it was part of the sovereignty of the Conch Republic, a sovereign state of mind. This act embarrassed the US and after the Cubans were returned to Cuba the courts ruled that of course the column in the water was  actually part of the US and they should have been allowed to stay.

Cubans get special treatment when they come to the US, and they are coming in droves now they fear the special treatment may soon come to an end. If they propel themselves and don't pay smugglers and if they manage to land on ground. not necessarily dry, but just so long as they can stand without drowning they get to stay in the US. So now the question is whether or not landing on a lighthouse structure built over the reef, anchored by steel screws into the submerged rocks, constitutes a dry foot landing for the Cubans as required by US law. 

I know what the late Peter Anderson, photographed above on the infamous lump of rock, would say if he saw that lawyers were arguing the point. He'd be in a boat with a Conch Republic flag, sallying forth to claim the lighthouse for his sovereign state of mind. Unfortunately he's no longer with us so his peculiar form of cheerful persuasion is no longer available to nudge the US Government into doing the right thing. However his legacy has already proved the point: extraneous lumps and pieces of construction material are part of the US so I don't suppose the ruling on the latest bunch of Cubans will be too long in coming and I have no doubt they will be allowed to stay. The Conch Republic has already proved that point.
It was a life lived well, a master of promotion who made a living and had great fun celebrating the Conch Republic. I don't suppose the new Cuban arrivals will ever be told they owe it to this man:

In a side note every time there is a new landing of Cubans from home made boats they managed to steer across the Straits there is a spate of nasty comments in Facebook, that ultimate arbiter of public taste, wherein people moan endlessly about Cubans coming to live her for the benefits and the modest re-settlement fee ($8,000 at last count). I find those comments repugnant, not least because these are people who would never have the gits to cross the Gulf Stream in the wrecks these ingenious Cubans put together, many of whom disappear without a trace. I don't think these Cuban refugees are afraid of hard work if they can make that kind of effort to get here and those comments are unworthy of people safely ensconced in the comfort of life here. I don't think the wet foot/dry foot policy is sensible or fair, especially considering Haitians don't get the same consideration, and it is an outdated policy supported by the Cuban old timers in Miami, but it's there and it's the law and being cruel to the people who come here to live her and prosper reflects no good on the people who make the negative comments.  

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Flat Seas, Overcast Skies

The morning after the weekend before and it's a debris field surrounding the trash can. What is wrong with people?
Quite a bit it turns out if pictures on my Facebook page are to be believed, pictures of abandoned and abused dogs. Rusty does not seem to miss his former street life one bit.
Once I struggled past the excesses of weekend anglers the west end of the old Bahia Honda bridge created quite the view under overcast skies. Rusty rooted around and I played with my iPhone's camera.
I find serenity out here, even right next to the Overseas Highway, the modern road bridge to the left in the upper picture. Traffic this year has been a  prolonged torture of people in long endless lines stuck behind one slow moving visitor after another, roof down enjoying island time at 40 miles per hour. Snowbirds are long gone and families haven't yet got school vacation time, yet the flow of cars into the Keys seems as thick and constant as ever. Staring at a silhouette of a coconut palm seems to help resettle my jangled nerves.
Further evidence if any were needed that summer is here is the occasional rain and the flat calm seas.

I watched Rusty running hither and yon enjoying his rural time, rolling in seaweed which meant a bath when we got home. He's got much better about bathing and a chicken strip is all it takes to soothe his frazzled nerves and damaged dignity these days. I call the baths the price of admission to this life.
 Happy dog taking a breather before the next series of mad dashed across the landscape.
We took the flying walkway back to the car. The small speck is my dog checking things out. He makes me feel elderly and slightly inform as he sits from time to time, and waits for me to catch up.

Definitely a dog in need of a bath and he knows it. No regrets.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Impromptu Dog Park

My wife said "There's a dog park there as we walked by with Rusty. So there was; who knew?
 I don't know who had the initiative to close off this piece of open space by chaining a couple of gates closed but the result is a place for dogs to play very close to the heart of the city.
Key West is a strange town where travel of even a mile or two is considered "far" consequently there tend to be two of everything of note to allow successful businesses to reap customers deep in Old Town and further out as well.
The idea of transporting one's dog to the south end of White Street might seem too much to a city resident hovering near the north shore of the city. The question is: how long will this delightful space stay open?
The rather expensive Steam Plant Condos overlook the shaggy antics field and one wonders how long they will tolerate plebs disporting themselves with gay abandon in this dog field...Besides which open space like this within sight of salt water might be worth more to some people as cement and industry rather than just as a place for dogs to play. Hard to imagine I know.
Rusty quite enjoyed himself to my surprise. He is not fan of packs of dogs running around in a dog park. Cheyenne wasn't either but she defended herself. Rusty gets overwhelmed.
 It kept him entertained enough for him to need to use the facilities thoughtfully provided:
There is clearly a group of happy dog owners here ready to equip the place for their beasts:
And across the street the Ferry Terminal, still known to some as the Buquebus in remembrance of the Argentine ferry service that got the place built for them and then failed to make money on the boat service. Key West Express is the furthest boat while the smaller closer boat is the ferry for the Dry Tortugas day trips.
I played the the shadows and light in the body of water known as the Key West Bight. This corner used to be known as the Toxic Triangle when the Steamplant used to generate electricity and spew noxious outflow here. I used to have a friend who tied up his boat here for free on the seawall a long time ago. With a name like that I guess no one had the heart to charge a fee to live here. These days its valuable real estate.
 It used to look like this from on top of the Steamplant power station:
The good old days of a commercial fishing fleet, a noxious power plant and a toxic brew in the seawater they said. All grist for the developers' mill today.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Roadside Attractions

The news out of Key West has not been terribly uplifting lately with spats made public about switching voting to citywide elections instead of by district. I don't vote in the city but some of the comments in the paper were rather unpleasant.  I think the plan has died but there were suggestions that it was a plot to consolidate the power in the hands of the few and eliminate minorities from the commission.  Hmm, I though to myself I'd better go take a few pictures and think pretty thoughts. So the first thing I saw was this shot up wildlife boundary sign, worn by time and made holey, if not sanctified.
 These tiny flowers growing by the side of the road seemed to have been sown on rocky ground but they were making the best of it. 
 There is a sameness to the countryside in the Lower Keys, a  lack of elevation and a lack of variety among the trees and shrubs that struggle for life among the rocks and salt water, so you have to look closely to see anything in the scrub lands worth noting. Dead  tree limbs and gnarled, sun bleached roots provide contrasts that stand  out:
The moisture in the summer time sky can produce clouds worthy of note though yesterday it was mostly dreary and uniformly overcast, until the sun broke through and had us both baking along the road as we walked.
 This root put me in mind of a guitar; Rusty was poking about in the bushes leaving me to let my imagination run riot.
 He was in no hurry to come back out into the sunshine that was .
I enjoyed seeing this piece of trash labeled "BITES" in this mosquito infested  area. I remembered my repellent on this trip but I was swatting horseflies off Rusty's nose.
He is a funny dog, and he loves roadside walks. So when I am driving home from chores I'll pull off the highway onto a side road and let him run in the sun. He loves it and I get some power walking exercise keeping up.
I use these opportunities to train him to sit on command when a car goers by and he does very well, perhaps I should have more faith in his traffic sense as he has survived as a street dog in Homestead and he keeps an eye out for the rare car coming up the road.  I call out to him and he sits and watches and waits for me to release him so I'm feeling pretty good about his traffic skills. 
 It was hot and Rusty sat at the trucnk of the car where he knows the water is stored. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Conch Homes

It was a lovely afternoon and I was in town and Rusty needs to practice urban walking without fear of every least off we went.
Above the Banana Cafe a French place that has thrived in its newer larger digs. I remember it fondly when it was across the street in a little hole in the wall that felt like it belonged in Martinique. However the food is still good and worth a visit.
Above we have an eyebrow home of which I have spoken often and which I found discussed on this Architecture Blog at some great length. Below we see the official permit required by the city to rent your home out for short periods ie: less than 28 days at a time. They chose 28 to make monthly rentals legal on even the shortest month of the year...for the useless information file.
While we were walking I snagged a few pictures here and there of houses that appealed. This one was not exactly when you think of when you picture Old Town Key West. Interestingly this one looks like an old Florida home, the outdoor terrazzo tile and jalousie window makes it all quite cool in its own way.
This is what the punters line up to buy in Key West and hang their Conch Republic flags from to show their credentials to all the world. For Rusty a 90 degree afternoon was proving to be a bit of a burden which surprised me a bit. I expected him to be better acclimated to Florida summers. Life on the streets must have been tough for him, and its lucky he has an air conditioned room with a couch to retreat to these days. Lucky for him and for me.
I keep wondering how the city is going to overcome it's housing shortfall for working people. Highway One is jammed every day now and I have to suppose in part that is thanks to endless tourism year round these days. But I also see a lot of single occupant vehicles on the road during commute hours and the commuters are coming from as far as Big Pine Key, an hour away.
These little homes with no parking and no garages within a block or two of the noise and bustle of Duval will sell form perhaps three quarters of a million dollars. Add amenities like parking or central air or even a pocket sized swimming pool and the prices go stratospheric. Which doesn't give a working stiff much of a chance.
The little seafood shack on Catherine Street has been here forever but I have never seen it staffed and I've never seen  much in the way of advertising. Until now.
Check this out, clear and to the point. A proper family enterprise.
Back home my hot dog stretched himself out and dreamed of all that he has seen in the past couple of months and what he has yet to see on this strange adventure we call life.