Because my dog takes her time when out walking I end up with time on my hands and I get to thinking and that leads me into odd places. It was on one such morning that I saw a field of mangrove pneumatophores that caught my imagination.
Around here red mangroves are two a penny, and after decades of being viewed as useless impedimenta to progress they have regained stature as critical components to the nearshore lifecycle.
Mangroves grow in salt water which is pretty strange to start with. They grow out of the muck and silt laced with poisonous salt and they thrive.
Mangroves suck up salt water, filter out the salt and stack it in selected leaves which promptly turn yellow and drop off, taking the salt poison with them.
They reproduce by growing cigar shaped seed pods called propagules which grow, mature and drop off in sure and certain hope of landing in salt water and floating off to create a new bush somewhere else.
There he goes, the little dear, seeking new horizons and a fresh start.
Floating off like a little submarine filled with new mangrove life.
If the propagules land on hard land they dry out turn brown, and die without a chance at creating new life.
Eventually they sprout roots, turn vertical and dig in. And when they do they sprout in mud among rocks and anywhere they can get a grip. Then they create shade and protection for small fish and crustaceans and hold the shoreline together. They are in a word: brilliant.
It used to be they were considered unfit for man nor beast in that they don't burn well, they don't grow straight and true and were thus useless for building and they grow on water so they aren't an indicator land is at hand. Walking among mangroves is in fact impossible for ordinary mortals (and their dogs).
Fish love them and thus sportsmen who know their sport love them. Mangroves also do a better job at no cost of maintaining canals than seawalls. In it's infinite wisdom the state of Florida eventually gave them protected status. And think about this: these are just the red variety, there are black and white and their cousin the buttonwood. South Florida is mangrove heaven.
Tourists on scooters and sidewalks underneath the sign that marks the epicenter of Key West to most people.
The dark clouds of an impending storm offset the pastels of the buildings quite nicely.
It was an evening that turned into light rain wind and thus appropriate for indoor entertainment.
Years ago it used to be that every breeze would knock out power somewhere but these days Keys Energy (pace City Electric) keeps the juice flowing magically in almost all conditions. They keep their boxes well labelled rather like the fusebox in the hall at my home.
Overwhelming choice in non-Cuban cigars, was my caption for the picture below. I don't smoke but I do enjoy how the Embargo requires cigar sellers to label their most desirable products as "almost Cuban." Grown from Cuban seed is my favorite as though Dominican grown is good enough.
The mysterious Porter Mansion which houses the only drinking hole worthy of the name on Lower Duval: the Porch, home to draft Belgian Palm beer.
It must be my fevered imagination but these ticket booths seem to be popping up everywhere like mushrooms after a rain shower. Business looked slack.
Among others one of my great disappointments is that I don't like to wear a hat. I like admiring them, but on my head they itch and I have to keep moving them around.
I meant to take a picture of an early budding Christmas Tree in the spirit of the true meaning of Christmas in a world dominated by commerce. In a rather nice piece of symbolism I accidentally managed to get a reflection of St Paul's rendering the shop window in half.
The emotional tug of war between Key West as home and Key West as source of income never ends.
It is decidedly unfortunate that I'm frequently pleased to see Lower Duval not filled with frantic shoppers and drinkers. I think I am missing the summer doldrums already. Oh dear.
It is said by tour guides that Key West has more bars and more churches per capita than any other US city, which statistic is not easily verified, I guess. I am not a barfly, and I have never bothered to have a drink in any of the bars on the 200 block of Duval.
I end up walking past them a lot and they are easy enough to peer into on a whim as they are wide open and inviting. I'm not sure why I'm a reluctant bar crawler but noise doesn't do much for my Asperger's and I have a hard time with making myself understood or even simply listening to a conversation.
A friend of mine with a history of working in bars restaurants and hotels estimates a complex like Ricks must take in money in the the tens of millions of dollars annually with ten bars squirreled away in the complex. It is an estimate that boggles my mind. A least City Commissioner Rossi makes enough to be able to decline the $20,000 annual salary the city pays it's elected leaders.
A peak into the Lazy Gecko with televisions competing for my attention and the same basic layout as every other bar - stools tables and chairs in an easy to clean format, just doesn't draw me in. But these places are positive havens for hundreds of thousands of people. They are a large part of the draw of Key West. Irish Kevin's draws a younger crowd I'm told.
I find it mystifying. For the same price one could get a craft brewed beer at The Porch or even drink beer or wine at The Tropic while watching a movie. Yet bars are the ultimate appeal to so many people in Key West I feel I am missing something fundamental.
It was early evening and people weren't out yet. As I was going to work I was hoping the promise of cold damp weather might keep them all home for a quiet night of dispatching (it did!). The Bull was quiet, lacking the usual crowds fueled by alcohol fueled for that particular momentary friendship of the bar stools.
The quantity if not variety of bars is stunning. I did have. Drink once in Captain Tony's on Greene street but that was to get an out of town friend a memorial cup. My kind of drinking requires me to be able to enjoy a conversation among friends, not to be deafened. I like my porch quote a lot too, watching my own sunset celebration which I know is cheating when discussing a tourist town.
Then there is The Top which opens at 3pm and has a bar that opens at 5pm so you can look out over the city from high atop La Concha while sucking up the demon alcohol. That is decidedly worthwhile. Tradition says suicides preparing to jump drink white wine prior to the fatal leap. That and a grain of salt perhaps.
I think the Grand Café starts to look appealing around dusk but I've never eaten there. Why? No clue- we just go elsewhere, if on Duval, Fogartys for cheap and cheerful or 915 for atmospheric and exotic (and fries in a fake newspaper). I think perhaps this is too much the tourist strip to be appealing, is lower Duval. It's hard to imagine places catering to visitors with the horrendous rents charged around here, can do as well as places off the beaten path.
Finally, in this incomplete and decidedly unscientific look at a few of the many choices of drinking holes there is a new place named rather grotesquely the Tattoos and Scars Saloon, on Greene Street. It doesn't look grotesque.
The only thing that made this place stand out was the dirt bike racing on the television. Not enough to suck me in I fear, even had I not been off to work.