Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Building Change

I was surprised to see the Solares Hill Market, Charlie's Grocery store now sporting a fresh coat of bilious green paint. Gone are the stenciled advertising and  off white paint job. Now the place is fresh and mint green.
And it has a new name. I did not go inside as I expect the stuffed shelves and narrow aisles have probably not changed much. The old place, taken just after Hurricane Irma came visiting in 2017:
Besides I was in need of nothing. Convenience stores are everywhere in Key West, one on eachblock.
Except where they aren't. The Caroline Street Market has given up the unequal struggle:
I saw a U-Haul outside a house under renovation or similar. I wondered if they were coming or going..?
Further up the street I found further evidence summer is the time of year repairs and restorations are scheduled. It makes sense ina  town where the residents are mostly away this time of year.
I forgot to mention I was not alone. I tried to shame Rusty by pointing out this is a ridiculous stereotype of a dog and  a hydrant. He ignored me.
So he moved on and mocked me for my interest in parked scooters, in red white and blue. I like living in a  place where scooters are regular daily transport.
I also live in a place where churches and bars abound, and some of them are traditionally beautiful:

I, the former cripple was struck by the clever and easy to use hand rail added to the impossibly big original support. Key West tries to be disability compliant but it's not easy. I remember struggling pretty  badly downtown in my wheelchair. The sidewalks were stuck at an angle, entrances to stores are narrow or equipped with steps or some other thing. None of it was easy to navigate.
I am always surprised by the amount of effort people put into having houses worked on. They lift and raise foundations, or like this one you can see they have simple nailed planks supporting the house while other work gets done. I've seen houses lifted off their foundations and moved whole.
I still notice the old architecture, like the old tin shutters, not that I necessarily want them back but I do like their style:
Key West is ina state of constant flux. Lucky for me and my camera.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Costly Living

I am not the first to say it but it is surely true: if you wait long enough in Key West it will come up for sale. It won't be cheap and it probably won't be large but it will cot the earth especially ina  town where wages are not high. 
Fences, security cameras and alarm companies are all deployed by nervous residents ina town with a very low crime rate. Rusty ignores all warnings and does his thing.
Sometimes people call the police station and ask if there are any unsafe neighborhoods in Key West, as though they are worried they may buy a den of iniquity. I find it odd that they call the police with such questions but I try to answer as clearly as I can. I don't think there are any dangerous or crime filled neighborhoods in Key West. The worst problem most people have is with cantankerous neighbors, or they find themselves living next door to home being offered on the short term rental market. You need a permit to turn a house into a rental unit for less than 28 day sat a time but short term rentals are not impossible to obtain and the result can be rowdy drunken pool parties next door with new occupants every weekend.
The city looks very appealing when first you walk the historic streets with all those lovely wooden homes and flourishing tropical gardens. But jobs are hard to come by and careers even more so and even modest homes cost more than half a million dollars.  Locals grouse all the time about the lack of affordability but the market doesn't care and prices keep rising and wealthy people from elsewhere bring boat loads of cash into town and the wheels have not yet come off the gravy train that is Key West for some people.
I understand the frustration but we do not live in a community which could even begin to understand rent control or want to try such a social experiment. I keep hearing how the city wants to build affordable housing to keep workers housed but the term affordable is never quantified so who knows what is considered possible for people tending bars and cleaning hotels who need to pay rent.
The compromises of life in the Lower keys are fairly commonplace and well known. There is little of the choice and variety that is a hall mark of mainland life in the US, land of malls and mountains, recreation of all sorts and schools of varying degrees of efficiency. There is but one hospital and not many people like it very much. Gas is expensive. Parking is scarce. 
But still they come and dream of living here and those of us that do, choose not to go away so what does that say about all the grumbling and the expense and lack of choice? 
I suppose it means that the intangibles count for more than the tangibles. Spare million dollars anyone?

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Rusty and Iguanas




I was quite surprised to read the headline in the newspaper:

FLORIDA KEYS — Iguanas have joined lion fish and pythons as a public enemy to be eradicated from the Florida Keys.
The large reptiles native to South America now are classified by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission as an invasive species that poses an environmental and health menace.
The FWC “encourages homeowners to kill green iguanas on their own property whenever possible. Iguanas can be killed year-round and without a permit,” the agency says in a fact sheet.
Green iguanas are not native to Florida and are considered to be an invasive species due to the damage they can cause to seawalls, sidewalks and landscape plants, FWC says.
“Some green iguanas cause damage to infrastructure by digging burrows that erode and collapse,” the agency said of roads, foundations, berms and canal banks. “Green iguanas may also leave droppings on docks, moored boats, seawalls, porches, decks, pool platforms and inside swimming pools.”



Before I got Rusty in my life just over three years ago he had been observed by his rescuers on the streets of the rural Redlands neighborhood of Homestead surviving by his wits for most of a year. Most of that involved avoiding murderous farmers and nursery owners who hate the abandoned dogs in their neighborhood and shoot and poison them. Rusty not only survived that but he ate what he killed and when finally he was the last survivor of his pack he gave up and let the women who had been feeding him take him into foster care.  Consequently when I got him he was terrified of fireworks like shots, big dogs like the ones that had savaged him, and little else. He slept with one eye open, literally, and hated to be fenced in or kept indoors. I immediately gave up trying to  fence him in and decided if he wanted to live with us he could do it on his terms coming into the house through his own door and staying safe in our driveway by his choice. I also continued the practice of feeding him food he liked that he didn't have to kill himself. 

The killer instinct didn't leave him right away but my horror at his ability to chase and catch small rodents was apparent to him and he very weirdly stopped chasing things to the point he is now afraid of street chickens in Key West especially after a broody hen chased him down Appelrouth Lane when he was innocently walking by. I am happy he isn't keen on chickens as Rusty causing a feather storm on Duval Street would be a  public relations problem. I'm not fond of chickens as I prefer native Ibis which kill insects but quietly and cleanly with a certain native dignity. Back to iguanas. I was astonished the first time he was walking on leash next to me and suddenly he pounced and came back to me with a giant iguana in his mouth and as I looked he bit down and killed it as casually as you might bite  a carrot. After that he seemed to acknowledge my middle class reservations about killing even these nasty lizards but he never stopped chasing them. I thought this one was a goner:
But no, I soon learned the cunning little dinosaurs play dead and as soon as Rusty lost interest and we walked away they jumped up and scuttled off back to their families none the worse for wear. There again I am not fond of iguanas and it turns out the state is now fed up with them wrecking the local environment but I am not much interested in becoming a killer. I learned to shoot them with an air gun when I lived on Ramrod Key where I was trying to grow vegetables which they regularly destroyed but since then I have no animosity toward them and I simply try to ignore them. For Rusty iguana are fascinating prey, and take huge amounts of concentration and effort to catch even just for fun:
Walking the old seawall near the Old Bahia Honda Bridge, a favorite photo location of mine, he saw this brute sunning himself.

The iguana promptly plopped into the water and disappeared. They can swim underwater for thirty minutes I am told and I have seen them scale walls, and jump 20 feet off decks and high trees. They have no natural prey outside of cars which squash them regularly as they bask on the hot asphalt, but they are ferociously adapted to survive and thrive in South Florida. Rusty started staring intently at the water, which he does not like to swim in:
Then he ran to the end of the seawall and started checking the water with a certain obsessed look in his eye.I thought he was being a little exaggerated as I was sure the iguana was gone but short of a quick cold snap disabling it I couldn't see how he was going to get it.
It has been written about quite extensively in the papers but every time south Florida has a cold snap, under sixty degrees say, in mid winter the papers report how iguanas fall out of trees like ripe fruit. They can't stand the cold and when temperatures drop they seize up and pass out. That is the time they are easy to kill as they are unconscious on the ground and whereas normally you can't get close in cold weather they are helpless. Eventually Rusty gave up.
I figured the brute was long gone but no, my dog as usual was right and soon enough I noticed a snake-like head weaving through the water toward the seawall. By this time Rusty had moved on but I watched it come to the wall, climb up the smooth vertical surface like it wasn't there and settle back into its preferred posture.
 Sunbathing, iguana style after a refreshing swim. Hurricane Irma cut back the population of iguana in the Keys by destroying their habitat and food but they produce hundreds of eggs and and plants are growing back so the population is burgeoning once again.
Rusty may have lost the war but I was fine with that. He got his exercise, the iguana were reminded they aren't always king of the roost and it was a lovely day to be out watching the water.  And not just as a hunter. 
 The few tourists who stopped were at the far end of the open space beach combing the rocks and taking selfies with the old bridge behind them. They never even noticed us.

The last time we came here Rusty got one. He jumped into the bushes like a mad pogo stick and came out with lunch. He showed it off to me, put it down and walked away. It was gone by the time we walked back later.  I suppose I ought to carry a machete or something to dispatch the lizards he catches which would be the environmental thing to do, but I am not inclined to kill and prefer to hunt with my camera. 
I think about the life my little dog must have had to live, kept by people who didn't want him, thrown to the curb to live by his wits, harassed by big dogs and angry armed people and forced to eat food he no longer even thinks about eating, and yet through it all he is sweet and gentle and obedient and very much a loving family pet. Dogs do amaze me, and when people ask if he is friendly I am inclined to say he is surprisingly tolerant and easy going all things considered. He just likes to prove he still has it, he is still wild at heart and capable of managing by himself. I'm just lucky he prefers to share my life with me, and I am very glad he does.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

A Cemetery And McDonald's

A short city walk on a hot afternoon produced a few pictures and no deep thoughts:
 The Key West Citizen - Friday, February 22, 2002

Barbara Mae Whitehead, affectionately called ""Bobbie," was born on June 22, 1921 in Key West. A life-long resident of Key West, she departed this life on Feb. 20, 2002, at Lower Keys Medical Center after an extended illness. 

Bobbie made an impact on the lives of all who were graced with her presence. She will always be remembered and appreciated. 

Bobbie was a member of the Key West United Methodist Church and she owned and operated Bobbie's Beauty Salon. She will be greatly missed by her loving family and many friends, especially those at Dennis Pharmacy. 
The old Conch shell at the cemetery was adorned with a wine bottle oddly enough:
We couldn't go in to check on it!
Rusty contented himself with things at his eye level:
And I at mine:
I stopped at McDonald's on North Roosevelt for a salad as recommended by my absent wife and found these bicycles blocking the wheelchair ramp. These days I notice this sort of thing and though I kept my irritation to myself I did post something on Facebook, which is not something I do very often.
And there was lots of room at the bike rack or almost anywhere in the private parking lot. Grrr.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Mangrove Sunrise

And to end the week a few pictures of typical morning walks with Rusty:

 Reflected in the water:


 Sleeping boy:

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Jack Watson Trail

Here's another place I haven't visited in a while, the nature trail on Big Pine Key, off Key Deer Boulevard.
 It's a large expanse of not too much, scrubby pines and rustling palm fronds, home to a gravel trail and a lot of informative signs:

 It's named for the first warden of Key Deer, the man responsible for saving them from hunting and extinction:

 Rusty could smella  few things going on away from the trail.

 It is a pleasant walk lacking only shade on a  July afternoon.



He is very patient o leash and doesn't tug or struggle with me. He could easily chew through it in seconds if he felt like it.
 A few years ago a controlled burn got out of control and burned more than a hundred acres, which is a lot around here and you can still see evidence of it:
 From the Monroe County website this reminder:
Image result for big pine key uncontrolled burn
For the most part the vegetation has recovered even though there many dead pine trees as a reminder of that bizarre week of burning:









 The  old mosquito control, a fish trench populated with fish that eat mosquito larvae: 

 Known as gambusia trenches after the fish that were put in them:
 You are here, a thirty minute walk through the woods:

 The Mannillo trail was designed and built for people in wheelchairs. I last walked it in 2011 LINK.

 And we have  a nice paved parking lot:

 Key Deer Boulevard. A couple of miles down there is Big Pine's supermarket and traffic light.