Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Stock Island

Industrial Art on the island of stock, the island through which all traffic to and from Key West drives, home to worker  housing, light industry, warehouses and body shops.
The Rusty Anchor used to be the home away from home of people who grew up around here, the Conchs, natives of key West.  
It's closed but it';s sign is still there and there are rumors from time to time that some new entrepreneur may be angling to reopen it. I dare say Roostica has taken over as the preeminent Conch eatery on Stock Island and I for one prefer it. But this was a piece of history that closed. Too bad.
"Pirates Paradise."  People do love their Key West pirates and you will find them everywhere except in the history books. Key West has actually been home to respectability and hard work far more often throughout it's past than modern tourist literature would have you believe.  For the longest time it was the most prosperous city in Florida, thanks to shipping and trade.
Stock Island is being bought up be developers and for as long as I can remember rumblings of imminent change are always swirling around in the atmosphere. Aside from some shuffling around in the world of marinas two of which are planning hospitality expansion, the rest of the island pretty much stays the same.
It's unincorporated, a part of Monroe County, only College Road to the north is actually in the city of Key West. Sidewalks are few, puddles, trash and unkempt grass are the order of the day across much of the island. Stock Island generates loyalty as it is the holdout for truly affordable, if not always pleasant housing close to key West.
 There are expensive houses here on small lots bounded by trailers of all sorts of decrepit vintage.
 Urban planning is a lost art on this island where they used to graze cows which would be shipped to Rest Beach from time to time and there slaughtered to supply the city of 12,000 inhabitants that was Key West in the 19th century. 
On my gloomy days Stock Island seems to fill that same quota, providing brawn to clean hotels, maintain services and sell food. In the morning you will see fleets of people cycling into Key West alongside the impressive lines of workers displaced by high rents to the outer islands of the Lower Keys. All of them, on the street and on the sidewalks flow into Key West to do the  work that won't pay the astronomical rents in the city. Housekeepers and servers that keep tourist infrastructure going live here:
Development plans are always in the air and sometimes in the newspaper. It is counter intuitive when the city keeps proclaiming piously that affordable housing is the biggest challenge. These trailers are vaguely affordable though they too are under threat.
Chickens run loose here, far from the tourist clap trap about them being imported romantically from Cuba. Chicken fighting has long been a  source of gambling and it still goes on, though more or less in secret as torturing birds is considered a bad thing and is thus illegal. Fights have been reported for ever in the Lower Keys but I don't think visitors would like to know why youngsters on mopeds can sometimes been seen scooping up roosters and whisking them away to be mutilated and set to fight.
There are more expensive homes here and decent apartments along side the trailers.  Rusty, like Cheyenne before him, enjoys this place filled as it is with smells, some a lot less salubrious than others.
Cheyenne who died of ripe old age four short months ago feels like she has been gone forever. I miss her even as Rusty grows into a great dog in my life. She loved poking around Stock Island and would walk herself into a coma exploring here: 
Cars parked apparently with no hope of movement as they lack even basic license plates:
 Modern stilt homes:
Old fashioned mobile homes, immobilized by the passage of time: 
Cars are everywhere: 
 And scooters too:
Rusty walked an hour and a half under a blazing sun which produced 90 degree temperatures during breakfast time. My wife was coming to pick us up so I improvised a drinking bowl from a trash can and put water in a plastic bag at a public faucet and he lapped it up:
Dogs make the walk worthwhile.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Dark Streets

It's been a while since I got out into Key West in the dark and I have to say I was quite pleased to get the chance. Rusty picked up where Cheyenne left off doing a nice job of stopping for while I focused the camera on something of interest.
 
It was actually quite early in the morning so I tried letting Rusty off the leash for a bit and my eyes followed him closely. I was impressed as he had smart street manners bred perhaps of his years as a stray. He stepped between parked cars and looked both ways before going into the street. He stepped back smartly when a parked car's engine started up suddenly. 
 
IN the city I prefer to use the leash as surprises are never too far away, even when one is apparently alone in the world and I was also keen to train him to walk properly to leash. He is a patient walker.
 
Key West is slipping back into summer torpor and I am wondering how that is possible as Highway One is packed with cars still in both directions all day. 
 
It's been muggy and hot lately inclining me to believe summer is here and soon enough schools will get out and families will crowd the Keys for the non existent beaches...and the merry go round will continue for a couple of months.
 
It seems pretty clear Cuba is opening up and  some people think tourism will magically drain away from the Keys like someone pulled a bath plug. I doubt it it. I am sure a lot of people will want to visit Cuba when they get going and figure how to accommodate Americans in addition to the Canadians and Europeans already there...
 
...But I am equally sure many Americans won't want to cross the water to an island they associate in their minds with Communism and the Cold War and all that negative history. The great advantage of the Keys is that they are an adventurous destination but not too adventurous. I think there will be many many tourists who will continue to be quite happy limiting their southern vacations to the southern tip of Florida, same language, same money, same customs and familiar street signs.

Besides its quite pretty enough here.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Night Walk

I got the urge to go downtown as the city slept, so I was able to park the Bonneville on the yellow lines on White Street (normally a busy thoroughfare) with me astride and snag a picture with my headlamp on high beam. Then I parked and walked a bit.
A look down Southard Street toward Duval where the original Samuel Southard had nothing to do with the city weirdly enough.Many people know John Simonton was one of four original owners of Key West, who each bought a quarter share of the island from Juan Salas who got it as a grant from a  noble who got it from the King of Spain. Simonton was join by John Whitehead, John Fleeming (sic) and Pardon Greene. Salas double dipped and went on to sell the island again to another American, John Strong but his claim was thrown out by the courts. Key West became incorporated as a city in 1828. And that's the origin of those four street names, Fleeming changed to Fleming over time.
None of those four ever lived permanently in Key West and where William Duval was the first governor of Florida, Samuel Southard was a governor of New Jersey and for a while held a Federal Cabinet post. His connection to Key West is unknown, nevertheless he got a street named after him.
Ann Street, two blocks long was named for John Simonton's wife, and very pretty it can be too at night.

I have long wanted to eat at Two Friends because I like the patio arrangement but for some reason it's not on my radar on the rare occasions I eat downtown. And they deliver!
The patio to me looks like an upscale Buddy Owens Fishwagon to me and for some reason it appeals. Even at night, in the dark and empty. 
One day...

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Pirates Road

Give Rusty a bush, a trail some open space, a few dark corners to explore and he will make it a playground.
As dogs go he is an easy animal to walk, enjoying anything especially if there is no traffic. The noise of vehicles passing close by make him nervous so when he's in the wilderness he's happy.
This little side street off Highway One on Cudjoe Key serves no visible purpose as there are no homes or businesses at the end of it. But the seagrapes are looking loaded. The birds will probably get them before humans can eat them, but I'll be keeping an eye on their ripeness.
The only things I've seen Pirates Road used for is to store lobster pots and to hide a geocache. The pots are there for all to see, the cache I have yet to locate...little bastard. Trash is always easy to find among the mangroves.
An official Florida Wilderness Area. Impenetrable.

Later I stopped on Blimp Road to give him a longer run. A fine figure of a dog!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Rusty Or Why I Love Digital

From time to time I hear much lamentation and gnashing of teeth about cell phones. Personally I love my iPhone, even more than my Android which had a habit of running out of storage for no visible reason (I do not store much on my phone actually). It works all the time it requires nothing but a few amps from time to time and it just keeps going. Beyond that it serves so many functions I continue to look at this hand sized piece of wizardry and I am amazed every time I use it. Actually amazed. I see no reason to leave home without it.
I know people like to hate cell phones because they ruin human interactions and so forth but I'm not sure why that should be seen as a disadvantage frankly. It's not like the art of conversation has been nurtured much in the last half century. Critics make it seem like cell phones are destroying our ability to chat with each other but I see precious little of that in a country polarized six ways from Sunday. I get more entertainment and information out of my phone than I do out of most conversations with people I meet on the street. 
Aside from the access I get to the world's newspapers I have services on my phone that I as a young adult could only dream of...My phone is an encyclopedia, its a compass, its a geocache finder, a speedometer, a flashlight, a calculator. It plays radio stations from around the US and the world, I can watch movies on it and YouTube is an endless source of video clips from everywhere on everything. I have the weather service on my phone and I have numerous forms of digital clocks and temperature gauges, I can take notes I can navigate I have a world atlas on my phone in any scale I want. I have  a library of almost any book you can name, magazines from almost anywhere in the world on any subject. 
And then there is the camera with all the array of apps to enhance the camera if you want. I don't do much enhancing outside of what the cameras itself offers in the phone. But consider this: the phone camera offers as much free photography as you can want plus you can send the pictures to anyone, post them on all these social media sites and store them in ways one can hardly understand. And all for pretty much no money at all. Indeed the costliest features of the phone in terms of money and electrical usage are the actual functions of communicating by talking or texting.
Years ago my wife used to get irritated with her high school students who used to text not talk and she grumbled about the impersonal communication style. Of course it didn't take long to learn the pleasures of texting, of delayed replies, of sending pictures or symbols and so forth. Youngsters got it first but the AARP generation has caught up. Cell phones are brilliant. If you want to converse with me I can do that too but talking to me about the weather just remember I have a ton of other things to think about...in my phone. Powerful competition.
It's the camera I have been giving quite a lot of thought to lately. I have heard from quite a few people about my pictures and I am surprised they strike a chord. In fact I chose the pictures in this essay because I didn't feel most of them were that great.  I like a few more than the others but it was a hot day, the contrasts in the field were Rusty was running in were not that marked and in general I didn't feel the pictures came together. Nonetheless I kept taking pictures. It's easy to do, and free!
I always wanted to be a photographer and I have had a camera much of my life except when they broke especially on critical journeys in my past (!) but in the bad old days of film it was bloody difficult. Imagine this children: in the bad old days you pointed the camera, guessed the settings and wrote them down if you felt inclined for comparison later, shot some pictures and eventually took the completed roll of 12, 24 or 36 pictures to a shop where they developed them as they saw fit, and charged you several dollars for their efforts. Then if you wanted to switch between color and black and white you had to either finish the roll or have two cameras...and if you messed up removing or replacing the film your pictures could be exposed to light and ruined without you knowing it. 
Some people, especially keen amateurs who developed their own black and white film lament to supremacy of digital. I was never much good in the dark room at school fiddling with chemicals under a red lamps. The smell nauseated me and the fiddling drive me mad mixing developer fluids. I love digital cameras, clean and neat, they give you the ability to see what you are photographing and to correct mistakes by retaking the image instantly or processing the image for better effect in the camera in front of your eyes! The pictures can be transmitted with no loss of clarity and instantly. It is all quite stunning to me.
And not all pictures are great but you can discard them with no loss of anything or waste. It is possible to argue that digital is much less an art or an arcane science than film but so be it.  With this page to store my pictures and tell their story I have a diary such as I would never have dreamed of keeping were I writing in a book and sticking in developed pictures. I am grateful to digital technology, it has enriched my life.
I recognize that I suffer from social shortcomings, a dog is not a human, and a phone is not conversation, but perhaps for those of us that lack a certain finesse in life a dog and digital camera can make up for the real thing to some degree. Color me content. Especially as they neither of them throw tantrums or threaten to leave and they both stick around. I love them both.