Friday, April 30, 2010

Eating With Tim

I was minding my own business happily living my daily life in the Fabulous Florida Keys and I got a mail from Tim, who was flying to Miami and wanted to know how to get to Key West to meet a sailboat. Ride in my car, was the obvious reply. There is still a portion of the 18 mile stretch that looks as it did before they decided to modernize it and make it safer. Soon this grassy view will be gone, replaced by fencing and barriers and everything.Tim's flight from San Francisco arrived at 8:15 in the morning. About which time I was here, stuck and aggravated. I hate mainland traffic jams I muttered to Cheyenne snoozing on the back seat.
Tim was there waiting exactly as planned, if an hour late and we fled south on unobstructed turnpike to the safety and tranquility of Key Largo, home to Denny's Latin Café.Tim and I met in Delray beach in 1981 when I was traveling cross country on a Vespa and a year later we met in Santa Cruz and lived out of his car together as we started our new adventurous life in the Golden State. We passed a lot of water together learning to live like hippies under the redwoods. Now we are middle aged men.Tim is a mechanical engineer, a man who studies the menu, aching for Cuban food that he remembered from his youth. Chorizo and eggs with salsa is my favorite dish here.We stopped at Bahia Honda to walk on the old bridge. I noticed this motorcycle cruiser from Up North and realized we weren't the only ones walking around with a huge mound of baggage...
Tim also missed conch fritters , not my favorite dish but Parrotdise on Little Torch Key served them up (on the left) with coconut fried lobster bites (on the right) and glasses of Smithwicks beer.We talked and remembered the Santa Cruz of our youth, reminiscing about our lives as boys, the women who made us crazy and the jobs we held down. We both wish we had been more career oriented and yet we both realize clearly that had we been we wouldn't have lived the lives we have lived of adventure and exploration.Tim wishes he had explored more and traveled further but Santa Cruz was a comfy nest for a young man with a lot of charm and a passion for mountain biking. And Key Lime Pie. Parrotdise offered up the best truly homemade tasting pie, tart and delicious.
From there we cruised to No Name Key in the wife's Sebring with the top down, and once we got off the bridge we looked for and found Key Deer.
Tim was in town to meet a boat sailing over from Cancun and we weren't sure how long he would be in town so I gave him the lightning tour of the Lower Keys as we drove and talked. Next up, the Blue Hole and the new mini alligator.
This is Bacardi's replacement. Bacardi was full sized and choked on a child's rubber toy dropped into the water from the observation platform.Tim's ship came in and it brought Tiina his girlfriend on it. She had joined the boat in Mexico for the trip to Key west which ended up being a 350-mile motor into the wind through choppy seas. She was none the worse for wear:
We ate Cuban and fish sandwiches from Sandy's Café up the road on White Street. After we had toured Fort Zachary and seen the town at more lightning speed we sat at Rest Beach on an overcast afternoon and ate.
I guess that's what you do around Tim. Eat and talk and have a good time. I hope he comes back soon. Tiina can come too if she wants.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Dawn's Early Light

I have always made it a habit to walk Cheyenne at least a little when I get home from work. The ride home generally gives me a boost after twelve hours of taking 9-1-1 calls and talking to police officers on the radio and I expend the energy on my dog. These days it's getting progressively hotter after the sun comes up so I am spending more time walking her while it is still cool and pleasant outside.It's frustrating but the oil burning kennel runs just fine, everything works except the odd puff of white smoke indicates problems under the hood. While we figure out how to replace the Maxima I continue to use it as a kennel and Cheyenne is duly appreciative.Cheyenne is a born explorer and I cannot imagine how frustrating her former life must have been. I am pretty sure she was not encouraged to dive into mangroves at will, as I rarely see any other dog owners behaving in this laissez faire manner, allowing their pets free rein.North Ramrod Key is five minutes from my house where there is a failed development ideal for lonely dawn walks. Mako becomes Johnson Street which leads to Ramrod Park, known as the Ramrod Pool. These mangroves, shown below, go under water in rainy season, but God forbid anyone restrain themselves from disfiguring the landscape with silly signs. Might as well warn off any potential trespassers, even ones equipped with waders.
I guess everything is owned by someone but it's not like there's anything to steal here except a glance at the rising sun.
I don't take the time to change in the morning when I get home, Cheyenne's impatience to go walking is palpable, but I still feel rather silly walking the woods dressed like this.
Not half as silly as the half wit who dropped off this wrapper. Considering the nearest Checkers Hamburger joint is in Key West 27 miles away it took some effort to haul this disfigurement this far to dump it under a private property sign.If you look at Google map this path is marked as a street, as though development were imminent. It's not.It is instead a rural spot filled with things to smell.There are a couple of houses out here and I have met at least one occupant. That's me walking my dog in my work clothes. Long pants, Kevlar lined to ride the motorcycle, designed like dress pants so I can wear them at work. They call them sliders because that's what they are supposed to do when you fall off the motorbike. They slide, you don't get torn up. I've met Jack and his rescue greyhounds walking these same paths but I haven't seen him the past few days. He really likes living out here in splendid isolation. Sunrise: plotted and expected but always magical.
Commercial fishermen. I used to crave living at anchor like this and then I did it for a while. I think I am growing old because when I see people "on the hook" all I remember are the inconveniences.
Road ends, more or less. The track out to the Ramrod Pool was getting so bad the county actually trucked in some gravel and made the roadway quite usable. Amazing how they find the money in these difficult times.It's a rather bare bones "park" and don't expect anyone to berate you if you bring alcohol to this spot. I usually bring a swimsuit but I am the exception in that I don't care to drink when I swim.
I also tend to clean up after my dog. Amazingly enough there is a trash can out here, emptied regularly by a county employee. The place is actually quite clean, on the whole.
People come out here and it is a well known dog swimming place so Cheyenne has lots to smell. She hates the water and I don't encourage her to learn to swim as she is much easier to keep clean when she isn't wet with salt water...
There is a community of people that hang out here and drink and set the world to rights with very loud music. I like the pool at this hour when it's just me and my busy dog.
The views west towards Summerland Key and the tall Niles Channel Bridge are magnificent.
The pause that refreshes. What are you doing at 7am on a weekday? Harried and hassled are you getting ready to go to work? I really enjoy working nights and no one believes me.
It's the start of a new day's work on the sea for the Old Man and his fishing boat. He picked up a crew member who parked his truck on the other side of the pool.
And after waving cheerfully to me as they putted by, they left to see what the day would bring.The county has also spent money to block off trails to motor traffic all around the Lower Keys with these bright yellow barriers. The gap is for pedestrians and bicycles. Cheyenne is walking on the by pass created by assholes in trucks who need to drive absolutely everywhere...
...and save ten bucks by not using the dump at Cudjoe Key.
I am going to miss my V-6 Maxima, but my wife says, very sensibly, if oil production is going to peak in two years or less we need to go economical with a four cylinder sedan to replace it. It is our comfortable long distance car and we need a sound replacement. I hate buying cars.
Cheyenne won't know the difference, she'll still have a bed to nap in after her exertions.
Sleep, tired Nature's sweet restorer. The face of a chauffeur who is thinking of his bed.
It is altogether too bright at 7:40 in the morning and all sensible people should be composing themselves for sleep.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

United Untied

This mysterious white ball is best viewed from the United Street side of United and White. It's not actually that mysterious, it's just the back of the National Weather Service office built a few years ago on what used to be, as I recall, an RV park. It was open space for years and the weather service built a hurricane resistant office with category five resistant toilets. So if the mother of all hurricanes threatens, the weather forecasters get to lurk in the windowless toilets in the middle of the building. It was probably not designed by someone planning to use the office. In my experience architects are like that. This building was designed a few years ago and thus has pretensions to beauty, a concept alien to modern designers who like cubes and concrete.It's not that lovely, the Facilities Department for the financially ailing school district but the setting sun illuminated it in a way the NWS office would never glow. Plus the school district has tons of parking around here for a fleet of vehicles.The 1300 block of United has an almost light industrial air to it, with all these cement office structures from the 1960s, also devoted to utility over beauty.
The Monroe Association of ReMARCable Citizens got stuck with an awkward acronym for their valiant work taking care of their segment of the population in need. Some bright spark from a cold hearted era before ours coined the term Monroe Association for Retarded Citizens and the term MARC has become part of the local lexicon so they came up with an alternative reading. Either way they teach self sufficiency, they run a superb plant shop for those that like to grow flowers and they have avoided any hint of financial scandal or impropriety over the years, just doing what they do so well. Across the street a wooded residence.United is a wide thoroughfare across mid town all the way to the south end of the Duval Tourist experience. Out here east of White Street it is utilitarian.With touches of Art. And before we get another outbreak of artistic temperament let me just say the artwork is here whether you like it or not:
Another Hansel and Gretel house:And a mother and child walking home playing and talking as they went. They seemed happy together which unhappily struck me as unusual.MARC House plants for sale. I have no idea how the doormat made it's way here.
Privacy in bloom.
More public Art.
Kids playing. The elder girl liked Cheyenne, her younger brother was scared but I reassured him saying she'd eaten her quota of small noisy children for the day (would that were true). He got the sort of apprehensive look you see on a Congress member's face when asked to regulate big banks and congressional lobbyists: irrational fear.
A small house, a porch, a yard, a scooter: idealized Key West living.This area of New Town took a beating in Hurricane Wilma in 2005. Fogarty Street ended up looking like a trailer park with FEMA RVs every lot while homeowners struggled to rebuild. It was a tough time unnoticed in the shadow of New Orleans much worse disaster.

A house on stilts might be very useful "next time." Horace O'Bryant School has nothing to do with United Street except it is nearby and on my route back to work.
Plans are to tear HOB down and build a new facility. In a town dedicated to the principle of nicknaming everything and everyone it's often known as House of Brats, but that's just because it's a middle school. It has nothing to do with the heroic educator for whom the school is named.