Sunday, October 4, 2015


The Key West Citizen posted a photograph of a juvenile (we're told) American Crocodile sunning itself off Smathers Beach.
The wild creature was seen (in the wild) off Dog Beach as well. I am not terribly fond of Dog Beach as Cheyenne doesn't swim and  therefore what's the point of us going? But for other dog owners this is a quiet corner dedicated to letting your dog prance around and swim. Not with a crocodile in the offing. Even if it's  a small one.
AS you might imagine a crocodile sighting has had the urban dwellers of Conchtown up in arms with lots of bravado and chest inflating. Talk of guns and posses and threatening to run the invader out of town on a rail etc...etc... You can imagine the nonsense they speak, people who like to think of themselves as debonair dwellers in the Tropics who have no facility with life as it is lived in the land of cockroaches, scorpions snakes and dinosaurs. 
Wildlife experts (scientists, please note) will tell you that crocodiles are docile shy creatures who want nothing more than to be left alone. Mostly they inhabit Florida Bay between the Upper Keys and mainland Florida but a few trundle down the Keys to be spotted lurking in the mangroves of Cow Key Channel from time to time. The only alligators in the Keys are to be found in the Blue Hole, a freshwater former quarry on Big Pine Key:
They are different creatures than the more familiar and widely seen alligators, they have narrow snouts and snaggle teeth (like anyone is noticing these minor differences at the critical time) but most importantly alligators live in fresh water and crocodiles live in salt water ( and crocodiles are few enough in number to be endangered).
I have a healthy respect for predators, be they snakes sharks of dinosaurs of either sort and I don't play with them or provoke them. But I respect their need to live and in the case of snakes bats and spiders I love how they clean up the insect and rodent life for us. There has only even been one recorded crocodile attack ever in Florida and two stupid people swam in a canal known to harbor crocodiles. They did it at dusk when the predators are out and they got their limbs scratched for their trouble. No sane sensible person has ever been attacked by alligators but idiots to get in their way and alligators will kill you by drowning you and stash your body underwater until you rot when you are easier to tear apart and eat. So if you don't like that sort of a fate don't provoke alligators. But people do and then the alligators are blamed for behaving as they should. 
And one other thing, from experience I can tell you that watching dinosaurs sunbathe is about as interesting as watching paint dry. If you've never seen one in the flesh you probably won't believe me but it's true. They just lie there.
Or you could watch Cheyenne in the alligator position:
Really. Come back in 15 minutes and nothing will have changed.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Sitting With Roxie

Luckily I like dogs; and I say luckily because my neighbor needed his dog sat. Say hi to Roxie:

I felt a bit weird walking a dog on a leash around my house. Cheyenne wouldn't be seen dead not being trusted around her home but I was not keen to lose this little tyke who was in my trust.

I loaded Roxie into the car, much excitement, for a ride to the Big Pine Bark Park.

She had a grand time sniffing and running. Cheyenne was blissfully unaware of my treason - she was home sleeping off a hot muggy afternoon as is her won't in her 14th year of life. Young Roxie had a blast.
Watson Trail, Key Deer refuge, Big Pine Key.


I took her home for a while and Cheyenne was not terribly impressed.

I closed the dog door to prevent the intruder from escaping.

Sitting still wasn't in the cards for the overstimulated Roxie and after a while she ran to the front door and I figured it was time to take her home for the night.

It was fun having a young small dog around for a little while, but like visiting grand kids I was glad to relinquish my duties and return to companionable silence with my under stimulated Labrador.


Friday, October 2, 2015

Cheyenne and Me

I attribute some of Cheyenne's sleepiness early in the morning to our  time zone. Until we switch back to winter time on November 1st daylight in the morning isn't going to show up till almost seven. Thus when I arrive home around  6:20 it is  pitch black at home and I tip toe into a house filled with the sounds of peaceful snoring from dog and wife. It has to be said that Cheyenne is now well into her 14th year and she is no longer as active as she was. The heat and humidity of the time of year also work against her. So, all in all I am getting in less walking in the morning than I used to. Afternoon walks are now out of the girl sleeps on her bed and opens one eye when I say goodbye on my way back to work.
The other morning I was in the mood to walk even just a little  bit so I tempted Cheyenne out with a chicken strip. The jerky was organic made in the USA etc... and thus irresistible but for a while it was touch-and-go as to whether my Labrador was ready to leave the house. The day before we had walked 40 minutes which is a lot for her in the heat and sometimes she prefers at best a walk very other morning. I was glad I rustled her out of the house. I needed gas for the car so we went east toward cheap fuel on Ohio Key, 15 minutes form the house, and against commuting traffic toward Key West. I also thus got to see the sunrise which looked a lot better than this picture at Bahia Honda:
The old girl perked up quite a bit by the time we got to Veterans Park near the Seven Mile Bridge and she took off with me in tow trailing plastic bags for the inevitable contemplative moment. Its these moments that refresh me, watching her have fun on a beach that is empty thanks to low season. Come here in January and the pallid masses are swimming in waters cold enough to make me shudder.
Just to remind me, as if I needed it, I found one more sign people are weird, probably drunk and quite possibly driving. Four perfectly good fish no longer swimming in their natural environment but cleaned and gutted and grilled and left not eaten. Cheyenne enjoyed one and I tossed the rest. What a waste. 
These ibis are my idea of what free range chickens should be like: quiet clean and unobtrusive.
I was ready for bed quite honestly but the sun finally put in an appearance...until we switch to winter time daylight comes close to seven in the morning and sunrise obviously later than I was up past my bedtime and for that I was grateful to Cheyenne.
By this time herself was ready for breakfast and bed, quite likely in bed knowing my soft spot for herself.
Her appetizer of fish with a side of cold fries found elsewhere set her up for the morning and I think she asleep faster than I was.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Duval As Open Space

In light of all the ongoing debate about gentrification and decay and poor use of space along with the Truman Waterfront Park plans on on and on, I have decided to post a column from the venerable New York Times, quoted in a blog I read from my former home town in California. Bruce Bratton on Santa Cruz writes about the issues he sees plaguing his home town's main street...
... which has been suffering from identity issues that anyone in Key West could sympathize with. His subjects cover local-versus-chain stores, bums, dirt and encouraging locals to mingle with tourists...Duval Street? No, Pacific Avenue:
And now it seems New York is wondering how to handle Times Square which  when used  as a pedestrian zone has become a social free-for-all. The ideas contained within appeal strongly to me especially as tentative plans to prohibit traffic on two blocks of Duval were once mooted and then abandoned as merchants outside the zone feared it might be too successful.

It sounds crazy doesn't it? Let me quote a snippet from an article published in the Key West Citizen of Thursday May 30th, 2013 b Gwen Filosa, quoting city Commissioners Bob Yaniz and Jimmy Weekley among others:
Duval Street could become a "festival street configuration," giving Key West the option to close it off to cars for an event, such as the upcoming Pridefest.
Without a price tag or a specific timeline, EDSA's designers laid out what they called a vision for Duval Street, one that keeps its unique character intact but opens up the city's economic engine to greater use.
Yaniz resurrected the idea of some type of pedestrian-only option for Duval in December, where a 6-1 vote set the designing in motion. Only Commissioner Billy Wardlow dissented, saying a prior traffic study showed the idea would create traffic congestion.
Last year, the commission killed an idea backed by Weekley for a "cafe district" along several blocks of Duval.
But that idea didn't die because of local critics, Weekley said Wednesday. Instead, some Duval Street business owners and restaurateurs were annoyed at not being part of it, to the point where the threat of a lawsuit against the city arose, he said.
"This entire corridor is important to Key West, not just a piece of it," said Kissinger. "We are now talking about the entire corridor, from end to end."
Well, that never happened nor will it I dare say, and that's a shame because now we get around to the New York Times and its haunting discussion of Key West's greatest "Third Place",  Duval Street. 
COPENHAGEN — PUBLIC controversy has returned to haunt Times Square. This time, it is the presence of body-painted, topless women, who call themselves “desnudas,” and are accused of polluting the public space by “aggressive panhandling.”
Heeding calls from his police chief to tear up New York’s new pedestrian plazas, Mayor Bill de Blasio responded by announcing a review of the entire project of pedestrianizing Times Square. That might seem an extreme reaction to a couple of street performers’ shaking down tourists for cash, but it’s because the affair has touched a nerve — a sense that somehow the plaza has made Times Square only more sleazy and vulgar than ever.
The kneejerk reaction of some city officials — to tackle the issue by returning Times Square to its old car-centric, traffic-first self — is unsurprising: We know how to manage traffic, with curbs, signals, crosswalks and signposting. But the answer to this topless crisis is not to act in haste and go back to a Times Square gridlocked with yellow cabs and black S.U.V.s.
Instead, the lesson is that painting the pavement blue and closing it to cars is a start, but reclaiming space alone is not sufficient to create the sort of vibrant public plaza we’d all like. That requires real stewardship. Civic culture needs cultivating and curating. Unless we do so, public space can become a public nuisance.
Many of the city’s parks and plazas are in far better shape today than they were 10 years ago. The pedestrianization of Times Square was the flagship, but the NYC Plaza program that began under the administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (and which our architectural consultancy helped initiate) has created more than 50 new plazas, in all five boroughs. Along Broadway alone, five sites opened up an area equivalent in size to Bryant Park — space that is free for everyone to enjoy.
 Like bike lanes, these innovations attracted some criticism at first, but today they have largely been accepted.
Before the changes, Times Square had no square — even though, for decades, pedestrians vastly outnumbered motorists passing through the area: 90 percent of the users were being squished into just over 10 percent of the area. After the changes, the rate of injuries went down (for pedestrians, but even more so for motorists), traffic flow in Midtown improved, and local businesses thrived — a fact reflected in steeply rising values of retail space.
It is a measure of that success that Times Square is now such a bustling place, walked by up to 480,000 people — tourists and locals — every day. The plaza program has made New York a leader in the international movement to make cities more people-friendly, while remaining pragmatic about cars. Mr. de Blasio has carried through his election campaign theme of a “tale of two cities” into the OneNYC plan, an equitable vision for ensuring access for all residents to everything New York has to offer.
That so many people are clamoring to spend time in Times Square means the city faces a new challenge of managing this vitality — one that’s very recognizable from the experience of cities across the world. Here in Copenhagen, the process has been evolving for more than five decades since the city first pedestrianized a street in 1962. Urban space develops organically and in sync with a city’s communities if it’s nurtured properly, but we’ve learned that this requires cities to keep reviewing how that space is designed and regulated.
There must be mechanisms for maintaining a balance of activities, to avoid one particular group of users, like panhandling performers, dominating. Sometimes, that means regulating activities that are a nuisance or offensive. But imposing conditions or constraints is only part of the solution.

Cities can designate certain areas for street performances and restrict them to specific times of day. They can also require performers to be registered or licensed. Many cities already do this: In London’s Covent Garden, for example, performers audition before they can use the former market’s pedestrian plazas, and a nonprofit street performers’ association works with local managers and government to maintain standards and keep things running smoothly.
The city could invite cultural institutions to curate exhibits and shows in Times Square. This spring, the city government in San Francisco opened up Market Street to a three-day festival curated by the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Installations designed by local people invited passers-by to interact with them and participate in the street life. Some exhibits will become permanent features of the downtown area.
Another imaginative example of how city space can be transformed is the “Paris Plages” project in France. Promenades along the Seine are turned into beaches with tons of sand and palm trees — the scene complete with deck chairs, umbrellas and ice cream vendors. The city even sponsors sand castle-building classes for children.
Public spaces like Times Square are the great equalizer in cities: Improvements in the public realm benefit everyone. The city should view the challenge of Times Square’s pedestrian plaza not as a reason for retreat, but as a call to create a diverse, dense, intense experience of public life that we can all enjoy.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Long Key Bridge

Originally published on this page on May 9th 2009 - so long ago!- I thought it might be time to air it once more in honor of one of my favorite bridges on the Overseas Highway. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did when I looked back over the pictures from that far off day

Long Key Channel

Everyone knows about the Seven Mile Bridge in the Keys, but the lesser noted Long Key Bridge is a very useful piece of open road in the Middle Keys.It's proper name is the Dante Fascell Bridge, named for an industrious Dade County member of the US Congress, whose photo I append here from their roll:He was born in New York and went to law school in Miami and served in Congress for decades, more precisely from 1954 to 1993, and he died in 1998. Perhaps his crowning achievement was the creation of the Biscayne National Park in 1968 (and which itself deserves an essay). Spend any time in South Florida;s open spaces and Dante Fascell's name will pop up. He also has a research boat with the marine sanctuary named after him. This is the view north from the bridge looking at Long Key:I am fond of the Long Key Bridge because it is extremely handy for passing slow pokes, as it is about two and a half miles long and the yellow line is dotted all the way. The only thing to be careful of is the hump at the southern end that can mess with your sight lines. The beauty of Keys bridges is that visitors like to slow down to admire the water which makes it easy to zip past them.That isn't the only reason to enjoy the bridge, it does have some pretty views, including this section of the Gulf side of Long Key which reminds me of the Bay Islands of HondurasI got these three pictures by way of comparison from the excellent site
The new bridge which was built as part of the Overseas Highway modernisation in 1982, runs parallel to Flagler's original bridge built as part of the original 1912 railroad connection to Key West.
Nowadays the Flagler bridge is a most excellent walking, jogging, biking and fishing pier:
And if by chance you are in the area and attempting to kill fish please put your discarded monofilament fishing line in here:
To prevent critters like this from tangling themselves in it:Fishing was on the mind of this man who scrambled down under the main bridge to try his hand, not successfully apparently because later I saw him walking back to his vehicle, an 18-wheeler! Quite the enterprising trucker, I thought.Fishing isn't the only sport. A period of sustained southeast winds has raked the Keys with gusts to thirty miles per hour and this couple figured their own entertainment in the conditions:I was on a mission with no time for frivolities, so I had to saddle up and get going:Taking a ride up the Keys on my day off was the name of the game.