Sunday, January 20, 2019

Mallory Square Sunset

I took Rusty  downtown for a walk and I decided to incorporate the sunset celebration as part of our stroll. The crowds were thinning by the time we got there but there were still several acts swallowing swords and juggling fire. 
I wanted a knick knack for my wife  and I like the fact that stuff sold here is advertised as being made by real people not imported from those places that specialize in far east mass production. The acts and the vendors are part of a cooperative that pays to rent the square for the evening gathering and supporting them helps that along as well. 
 Rusty meanwhile was making friends as only he knows how. 
There was some preacher from the Upper Keys explaining the Bible but I didn't overhear any particular revelations I've not heard before. He was very enthusiastic though and he bellowed away  through the cold north breeze.
A cruise ship at the middle pier, the one in front of Margaritaville Resort rose up over the proceedings though there were no passengers left at Mallory Square, easily identifiable by their sticky badges issued when they go ashore. A short while later I saw the ship pull away and spin around in the harbor when Rusty and I were walking more peacefully at Truman Waterfront.
 It looked quite lovely actually, a huge wedding cake of lights in the darkness...
Back at Mallory Square the sunset was proving worthy of it's reputation. This whole bizarre business of toasting the sun's final performance of the day was started by Tennessee Williams as I am sure you are tired of hearing from tourist sources. 
The thing is it has become a commercial enterprise with  vendors and performers paying rent for their spaces and the non profit that rents the square from the city is managed in some manner by a  collection of these people. This formality gives the sunset celebration a certain quality, rare in Key West of reliable longevity. It's been going for years and there are no signs it's going away. As long as there isn't a  cruise ship at the Mallory Square dock blocking the horizon the celebration goes on. And the Mallory Square dock is too small for most modern cruise ships and the sunset limitations make it pretty undesirable as a place to stay over night for the big ships.
I found I still like this event. I'm going to come back without Rusty but with my wife and a handful of dollar bills to pay tips to performers, take photographs and enjoy the show.You can buy food, jewelry, artwork and have your fortune read. What more could you possibly want at a happy street fair in a town where everything costs money and far too much of it. This is a place to wander, and kick back.
Home many times have you wanted to talk to a psychic under an umbrella on the waterfront in the coolest little beach town you've ever heard of? Don't listen to the tired voices that bitch about the old days and the cookie lady- may her memory never grow less- what you have here may not be 1970  but it is still a little funky and easy going. 
The performers will drag out a two minute act to 15 by virtue of their patter, participation by audience members and the old Key West standby of asking everyone where they are from. I am terrible at audience participation events so I stick to the back and avoid eye contact at all costs. Everyone around  you is having fun so you don't have to be put on the spot if you don't want to be. And these performers make a good living doing these off beat jobs. 
This guy was wailing his saw on our way out of the square. Bob from Knoxville Tennessee had decided to come to Key West for a couple of weeks and try his luck and I felt lucky to have run across him and his musical saw. Musical saws are a big deal, on the level of sub-culture in Santa Cruz where I lived for twenty years and Bob was surprised I even knew what a musical saw was. I hope he comes back next winter.
Then some anonymous arse let off a loud thunderclap, a firework or cracker of some sort most likely, and the evening went really bad for Rusty who had been holding his own in the crowds. He looked frantic and started tugging and looking around like he was back in the fields of Homestead being hunted by angry farmers who hated the strays dumped in the Redlands. I grabbed him and failed to reassure him but that's PTSD. We waited till he was ready to move on and then I took him to run for a bit at the waterfront far, as the poet put it, from the madding crowds.   All better. 

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Mangrove Walks

With my inability to sustain a decently long dog walk these days as my legs recover from the August accident I have developed a practice of incorporating more than one walk into a morning activity.
What I do is pick one spot where I can walk at some length relatively easily with my rolling walker...
...and then I'll try and think of a place where I can hang back and let Rusty run around at will...
...without me needing to do much more than sit and point my camera. Which is another sore subject.

.
Birds it turns out are put off by the sight and sounds of my contraption rolling noisily across the gravel path...The birds seem averse and take off, consequently I have to wait, look from afar.
It is a source of great joy for me to find myself back in these deserted landscapes.
I know the views don't vary much like they do in mountainous country, but the solitude is refreshing.
You wouldn't know Duval Street is less than thirty miles from here.
And that's how I like it, sitting in my walker in the sun with a cold breeze blowing out of the North.
Old abandoned trash rotting faster than you would give it credit for in this salt air and water world.
My dog keeping me company.
And later passing out next to me on the bed as we both rest from our exertions.
That's how you know it was a great walk. Pity the poor restless dog never worn out in the woods.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Happy Dog

To assemble this collection of pictures I pushed my rolling walker for  56 minutes. I paused and sat down twice for a total of perhaps five minutes. I was sweating and desperately  tired by the end but I got the job done.  I will say I was rather proud of myself. 
I started from in front of the old Harris School on Southard Street. I wrote an essay on it ten years ago, Link Here and since then it has been proposed for various things, none of which panned out and the last tie I looked it was on the market for $17 million as I recall. It seems to be continuing in  its state of suspended animation, a repository for many memories among people who went to school here decades ago. Now its a pay parking lot. Too bad.
Rusty was ambling under his own steam and in between keeping an eye on him, which he doesn't much need as he spends a lot of time keeping an on me his very own cripple, I snap a picture or two of something that catches my eye.
After all this time and tens of thousands of pictures I am as enamored as ever of Key West's streets, whose details are always fresh to me, always worth trying to capture one more time in pixel form. Just like my dog who never seems to run out of scents to sniff.
I have to force myself to remember that much of North America isn't anything like this, our arrow streets, overhanging trees, no advertising or neon visible, the sight of a well used commuter tricycle not looking the least bit out of place. 
These homes, often renovated by the influx of big money these past twenty years look exactly as you'd expect Key West to look. And I still get pleasure from the shapes and angles and shadows and pastel colors. Ceilings are traditionally duck egg blue to ward off insects and spirits or something like that. It's tradition: what more do you need, right?
The oddest things strike my eye when I'm out walking with Rusty. A poster at Charlie's grocery seemed odd, touting for Medicaid business at a convenience store seemed weird. I guess I need to broaden my view of what small business needs to do to compete in the age of the gruesome Amazon.
Now you know why the ceiling above the front door is that color in the picture below, and I can in fact report a total absence of ghosts or ectoplasm as we strolled by. It must work.
Looking down Galveston Lane toward Bill Butler Park. I get to visit here as often as I like and I am appreciative of that possibility. I've been photographing this lane for a decade and it really never does get boring. 
Icicles! As close as I want to get to frigid stuff like that.
The other side of Bill Butler Park. There's a tiny alley up to the right that connects to Elizabeth Street just short of Angela. And I photographed it in 2009. Of course I did.LINK HERE.
Rusty had almost reach Elizabeth when I took this picture of the gorgeous overgrown garden at the corner. 
Everywhere you look you see classic Key West architecture. The story goes that ships' carpenters used salvage timber to build homes in the port city, which is supposed to explain the less than symmetrical results. Key West has been through a great deal of commotion since it was founded officially in 1828. In some respects it's amazing the whole city hasn't been repeatedly rebuilt after one calamity or another, fires, hurricanes and the general decrepitude incurred in a wet tropical climate. 
I had Rusty close to me by now, past six o'clock and the city slowly comes to life around that hour as the people who keep the place functioning stir themselves. 
I had one of those "living here" conversations when I allowed myself to be cornered by a nice visitor. In the spirit of the new affable less self conscious me I tried to explain to the bright eyed and bushy tailed tourist what it takes. The best answer I have come up with over the years is to tell people that the best way to find your place in Key West is to give up your ambition. If you can do that you will go a long way to fitting in. It's hard if you were important at home to become another wanna be in this small economic back water.
Prices are another thing. What makes Key West so tough is that jobs don't pay in proportion to the cost of housing. I'm starting to understand this is a widespread problem but around here there is only water. In other words you can't commute to a better job or live here and work there in the time honored manner. 
Luckily I like living out of town and my landlord is a really nice character who looks after us as I am not handy. I get to drive to town, work, go to the movies or wander around with my dog checking out these views.
And then it was nearly seven in the morning and as the sun came up I saw the sign at the old school parking lot. No RVs, with an RV parked right behind it. A small one I grant you but a recreational vehicle just the same.  Ten dollars is ten dollars...
Sunrise. 
And just to finish off my morning this character was busy jogging and doing push ups in a fishing town know for its drinking problem. Key West as small as it is, is big enough for all of us it seems.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Truman Waterfront

I dreaded the changes coming to Truman Waterfront, the thirty three acres of former Navy Base deeded to the city two decades ago by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission. Tow decades of abandonment was fantastic, a spread of weeds and old buildings run wild in a city so cramped you can't sneeze without infecting ten neighbors.  Then came plans for development and modernization and on and on. 
Instead we have an amphitheater which seems to be used little and cause none of the anticipated neighborhood irritations and lots of open space with nice lawns winding paths and saplings promising future shade. I was astonished my big camera could spot two passengers watching Key West from their distant cruise ship. They are a bit pixellated but look how far away was the ship!
I watched them cast off the ship slowly and methodically.
I heard a rumor a while back someone dropped a rope into the sideways propeller that pushes the ship off the dock. Not a good thing apparently. This lot worked in harmony and looked surprisingly crisp through the viewfinder:
Cruise ships pollute they tell us and dump waste at sea and all sorts of stuff heartily refuted by the industry. Whether or not they are good for the city is a subject of hot debate but they bring millions in docking fees and some merchants at the north end of Duval love them. 
And then, as the casting off process takes ages I sat and stared at the water in the early morning light. 
This is an actual Coastguard ship at the Navy Pier. The Navy lets the city use the pier for cruise ships but reserves the right to let visiting ships dock for military purposes.  
And Lord knows what this is:
This, back on the Inner Mole is the floating museum where you can watch the sunset on weekends with a glass of alcohol in your hand. I've toured the Cutter Ingham  but I've never watched the sunset from there. 
Rusty liked the place. I'll have to come back early before the winter people are out improving themselves. 
And there are places in this new waterfront...
...to do just that:
But happily most of the waterfront remains an open space with grass and trees not dissimilar to the good old days. Better in fact:
May  2010: