Friday, July 31, 2009

Bug Madness

It seems the lobsters managed to take down two divers this year during mini season which is fewer than some years. Highway One was clogged with trucks towing boats, gas stations were packed at all hours with people pouring precious gasoline into boat tanks, truck tanks, jugs and some of us foolish people even tried to fill motorcycle tanks in the midst of mini season. Then they got out on the water: Florida lobsters don't look he least bit like Maine lobsters with big claws and everything. They more closely resemble large craw fish such as one might see in Louisiana, but left unmolested they would live 120 years hanging around under rocks and minding their own business. Lobster has become a fashionable food, despite the fact that the "bugs" as they are known, are bottom feeders and their meat doesn't offer any of the health benefits associated with eating fish with scales. People do like to hunt them down as early as possible on the two days of mini season:On my way home from work, around 6:20am I stopped the Bonneville on the bridge between Cudjoe and Summerland Keys to watch the boats processing up the channel toward the Gulf Of Mexico:The thing about mini season is that it is basically open season on the lobster. There are limits to how many one can harvest ( and it's not open to commercial fishermen) and the Marine Patrol tries to get extra units into the islands for this peculiarly Keys event but it's tough to patrol every nook and cranny. Inexperienced people end up snorkeling (air tanks aren't allowed) and they can end up getting into trouble all too easily. Especially inexperienced unfit townies down from the mainland.
They go out on the water all day, or as long as it takes to get their quota (whatever it is, I can't remember). Then they come in to eat at restaurants everywhere and spend a ton of money which is the point of the exercise. I spoke with a local restaurant owner who told a story of a table of eight who complained about the quality of the food and he just turfed them out. "Better to lose a four hundred dollar tab than try to make a bunch of assholes see sense," he shrugged. We like his place and eat there often, so it's hard to imagine he dropped standards suddenly and profoundly. The excitement of the lobster chase can make even mild mannered accountants lose their marbles, I suppose. Me? I'm not that fond of lobster; not fond enough to get up before dawn and go out blundering about in the dark trying to beat a bunch of crazies to the punch to snuff the life out of an animal that would live longer than you and me combined. Call me sentimental.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Vignettes XXIV

My wife's shoulder is recovering nicely from her surgery and she is able to start thinking about getting out and about a bit, so it was we were in Big Pine Key looking to order some window blinds. The blind shop happened to be located in a tiny shopping center whose location on Highway One is/was marked by this large tin lobster like thing:Imagine my surprise when I pulled into the unpaved parking lot and found Anchor towing loading up the old clunker that formed the pedestal for the lobster. They wre busy doing their work and the wife was anxious to see the blind lady (the lady that sells blinds, not...oh never mind) so I didn't get to ask them if this was a removal for a l,ong overdue paint job or if the departure was permanent.
It's lobster mini season this week, two days and nights of mayhem on the waters around the Keys when any yahoo with a boat in South Florida invades the islands and has permission to harvest lobster from local waters (outside canals please!) This money raising ecological madness happens every summer ahead of the start of commercial lobster season which opens in August and runs into winter, hurricanes permitting. I loathe the mini season as it gioves people license to rape the waters, they don't give a fig about ecology or habitat and they drive cars and boats like maniacs. But they do spend money so we are stuck with them. The metal lobster sculpture however was another story. By the time we came out of the blind store the space was empty:
Let's hope the real live lobsters do better than this old timer did.
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One of my ever popular "kids on a scooter" series, just bcause this is Key West (Stock Island in this case) and everyone rides a scooter in this small corner of America. Personally I think everyone should ride a scooter but that would be silly wouldn't it? I just hope this youngster gets the bug and doesn't let go until s/he has one of their own. A pity Dad wasn't setting the proper example with a helmet of his own. "Do as I say, not do as I do.":These two youngsters striding in the sun accidentally obscured what I was photographing in passing. The Harley rental place at Hurricane Hole on Stock Island has vanished. Oh well, another empty store front to be filled as we all bound into this improbable economic recovery they are telling us about. Meanwhile no Harley for you:
That wise old saying about scoundrels wrapping themselves in flags came to mind when I saw this bumper sticker. I figure if he really were a decent carpenter he could have found a name to reflect that. Yes, you answer, but you are just a cynic. Not a cynic I reply, a sceptic (and there is a difference). Sometimes people confuse Naval Air Service Police cars for civilian police and traffic slows to a crawl around them. The NAS police cover military bases all over Key West and can frequently be seen traveling from Boca Chica to the city on Highway One. In this case I rather wished they had jurisdiction and could have politely told this nice guy on his Harley that following too closely is a) a violation and b) dangerous. I loved his loud pipes though (said through gritted teeth).
We have been having some rather slow traffic jams on Stock Ilsand thanks to much needed roadway repairs. After one spectacular foul up that had traffic backed up for two miles in Key West the state Department of Transportation graciously decided to figure out a better solution. That nevertheless presented a short back up for a while, so that people, caught for three hours in the original major traffic snarl up got pretty fearfuland at the slightest provocation would pull a u-turn to get out of anything that looked like a back up. I wanted this picture to show the "Keep Off the Median" sign in the background: I arrived in Key West after just ten slow minutes on Stock Island. Slow driving that gave me the chance to snap the pictures I showed up above..
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I was walking past Moped Hospital on Truman Avenue, which is a major player in the world of 50cc scooters in the US and I happened to see these two products of a bygone age through the window. For older Americans Cushman scooters are what they remember of youthful two wheelers from the past-war years. Nowadays these loud sheet metal contraptions look like something beyond quaint. I liked that one of the importers of Kymco scooters into the US shows them off in their window, albeit with no ceremony and in rather dusty condition. And just up the street from the mouldering Cushmans I saw this sign: Which is a healthy reminder that some people in Key West have real jobs. Other people are reporting that their establishments in the hospitality industry are doing land sale business.I noticed recently that an empty lot on my street which had been for sale for years is now boldly showing a "sold" sign on it. One wants to think the recession is drawing to a close...Summer meanwhile is in fullbloom and the poinciana trees I wrote about earlier are still flaming in the hot streets of key west, here forming a rather fetching arch over Olivia Street:
It was in this area I passed a parked truck somewhat the worse for wear. I wonder why it is people let these eyesores molder way infront of their very eyes. But I suffer from a congenital inability to collect anything. I am the opposite of a pack rat.
My complusions would lead me to dispose of unwanted carpet of course, but I hope not in the public trash cans provided for the temporary relief of passers-by. Perhaps it wasn't a local occupant who abused the city's largesse with this object dumped in the trash. Perhaps there was a tourist out there on Petronia Street that suddenly found themsleves encumbered by some formerly necessary carpet, and finding it surplus to requirements they felt complelled to toss it in a public trash can?But it's not just household trash in public trash cans that caught my eye. I was forced to wonder what this appliance was doing on Truman Avenue, carefully wrapped in a plastic bag awaiting curbside pick up? Waste Management operates a generous pick up service for appliances that need to be removed but when I put out my old fridge they told me to tape the doors closed to prevent accidental suffocation by any passers-by moved to play inside it. They never said it had to be weather proofed:I usedto have a motorcycle once with a dashboard mounted radio. I rode that fully dressed Yamaha Maxim 650 from Fort Myers to Santa Cruz California in 1991 and thoroughly enjoyed the trip, but I never did get to understand the purpose of a dash mounted radio. Underway it was hard to hear, and when parked I was afraid of depleting the bike's battery as already motorcycles wer ebeing deprived of kick starts and the Maxim was a heavy brute with the bags and full fairing and shaft drive made it hard to bump start. At least, unlike this Harley, my Yamaha's windshield was unencumbered and offered a clear view of the way ahead:I did manage to find a motorcycle more spartan than my own, one evening at work.This orange Yamaha 600 appeared in the parking lot at work one night bearing an "Under 21" tag from the great state of Florida, thus letting us know the registered owner is not allowed to drink alcohol or ride without a helmet but is allowed to vote and to volunteer to fight the Taliban if s/he so chooses.It was a study in contrasts, the kid's minimalist cortch rocket with twice the horsepower of my 860, and absolutely no capacity to carry anything escept the rider with a passenger possibly perched high on the back.So much motorcycle evolution in thirty years,and most of it leaves me indifferent. Ah, old age.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Eanes Lane

MadJack (Above Solaris Hill) wanted obscure lanes (all gathered in one place- ha! not bloody likely at this late stage...) and here I have my entry for among the most obscure. Eanes Lane (pronounce it how you will, something like "innes" is the best I can come up with and police officers on their rounds mangle it much worse than that) lies between Whitehead Street to the west......and Duval Street to the east......off Truman Avenue. This lane is obscure enough there isn't even a city street name attached to the pole anymore and I suspect, judging by the calligraphy the blue sign that is on the pole was put there by the owners of the Inn which is bang at the end of the street shrouded by trees and practically invisible. To find Andrews Inn is an act of faith. To park on this lane is an act of foolishness:And even for residents the on street parking situation appears to be a squeeze, though it may just be in this case that the bush is alive, I tell you, and hungry:I'm not at all sure how effective an over sized lace doily is as a sunshade but it sure looks cute on this Fiat Spyder: This sign says no parking in driveway but I suppose a bicycle can get away with it:Personally I'd rather keep a valuable car out of the sun than my useless junque, but I am frequently not heeded on that point:And long before my boat grows ivy I hope it will be long gone from my life:And I cannot imagine who it is that thinks that their home is enhanced by a sign flapping in the breeze over their cute little porch. Has any sober person ever mistaken a porch for a public park? While I was standing there contemplating the vagaries of human nature I observed a camera laden tourist behaving as a person should with a camera, photographing something cute: And so I close this essay with a panorama of a lane whose length encompasses hardly a block:Not necessarily pretty but certainly obscure.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Summer Furnace

I enjoy reading about people living in desert climates at this time of year, they have heat waves that are unrivaled by the puny heat of a Key West summer, like this typical July day on Smathers Beach: This is not the place to come to find temperatures over 100 degrees (38C) or sunlight that burns a hole through automobile paint. When first I met snow birds gathering up their stuff to leave the marina where my wife and I planned to spend our summer, I asked what the attraction was. Not the weather apparently because they told me horror stories of long humid summers in unsuitable houses on the various Mid Western prairies they inhabited with their grandchildren during summer vacations. It seemed a summer even on mainland Florida is breezier and fresher than one in the depths of an Iowan cornfield. I have no terms of reference for the comparison but I see the poor dears off the cruise ships dumped into the cauldron of downtown Key West and they seem to suffer even with their fancy paper fans donated by a caring cruise ship line:

They wear broad brimmed hats and baggy unbecoming shorts from which their whitewashed legs poke like picket fences and they gasp as they strut through the city. With the best will in the world I recommend they wear dark clothing. I know it seems counter intuitive in the heat and humidity of a 95 degree (35C) afternoon but many Americans are embarrassed by obvious signs of perspiration, a necessary bodily function like so many swept under the carpet of an overly sanitized culture. Or not; what do you think? My wife and I were at a party last weekend and the subject of air conditioning came up in a room filled with seasoned travelers. The question came up about how one acclimates to air conditioning and I made the point that when one travels in less developed countries it's rare to find oneself hopping in and out of frigidly cooled buildings and one gets used to a certain temperature and humidity level and the body adapts. I doubt this artist in front of the Hemingway House would prefer to be in an air conditioned booth...?
Old timers at the Friday night party remembered fondly "the good old days" (sigh) when Key West homes were built to take advantage of the multitudinous sea breezes with jalousied windows and broad shaded shutters. I enjoy sea breezes at my home on stilts out in the suburbs but I stilt enjoy cranking my air conditioning and keeping the inside of my home mold free. Perhaps nowadays we just have more stuff, more electronics,more books more clothes all packed tightly into our closets. People climbing the key West lighthouse in search of a view, and possibly a breeze didn't look that cool up there:
Someone used to living at street level in Old Town prefers pedal power to a car even at this time of year. The trick is to take it easy and suck down iced drinks:Visitors just seem to get steamed more easily, as they stroll the streets looking for something to do, be it as simple as checking out the menu of the 915 restaurant, a splendid place for an outdoor table, ringside on Duval in winter, perhaps not so much in July:A shady spot, even that provided by a simple surrey on an electric car could do the trick.

Personally I like air in my car, I cannot conceive of driving a car down here without air conditioning, and even riding the Bonneville gets to be a bit of a trial in the heat of the day, like riding into a hair dryer. I feel like a shark on the motorcycle- if I'm not moving I suffocate! So perhaps the best thing to do is just give up and yield oneself to the power of summer:Or get someone beefy and strong to pull you to where you need to go:
Or you might want to think about taking a ride in a boat to some refreshing snorkeling spot. The only problem is you need to stand in the sun a little to organize the ticket:I wander for a while, overheating myself, while I snapped pictures that i thought might illustrate the heat of summer downtown......before I wandered off the Smathers beach for a few pictures of summer in a traditional vacation setting, there to sit in the shade to cool off in the sea breeze before my next appointment.
Luckily for me I was ferrying the recovering wife around so I got to ride in an air conditioned Nissan in the middle of the day. I missed the Bonneville, but it was a sacrifice I had to make.