Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Cold Front

In light of the rather extensive and unusually cold early snap that has sent snow falling all over Europe and the Southern United States I have been rather  reluctant to mention the effects of all this refrigeration on these sceptered isles set  at  a  modest 24 degrees north Latitude. It is cold by local standards, quite brisk with a  persistent north wind but compared to snowmen in Louisiana not much to talk about really. I have adapted one Vespa to ride in 55 degree nighttime low temperatures. I love the handlebar muffs, $30 of vinyl guaranteed to keep your hands warm and mostly dry in rain in any but arctic conditions.  Installation takes seconds and is entirely simple, plus no electricity is required...They look ungainly but they are lovely to wear when you are cold and busy riding.
 I get tired of explaining to hardier folk that 60 degrees in the Keys feels cold and damp and even though some few people understand that indeed the human body does adapt and grow used to temperature ranges no one really thinks 60 American degrees (15 Canadian) is cold. I think you have to live it to discover how cold the salt laden air is especially when the wind is blowing. And some few visitors to Key West are getting the local frozen treatment. Rusty I discovered in North Carolina last month actually enjoys cold weather even though he is superbly adapted to South Florida heat:
We haven't seen low temperatures like this in a  few years so this chill is a pleasant change but it is also a reminder of how hard it is to get used to cold feet and the chill of showering in a temperate climate. This is not the time to be taking outdoor showers despite the abundant sunshine. On the other hand a low of 55 and a high of 66 isn't outside the historical bounds when I took a  quick look at this rather extensive and thus confusing table from the NOAA Key West page: Historical Data LINK
 I like seeing other people out riding in this cold but I don't see many single headlights at night on Highway One when I come to town or leave in the night after work. And if you think 65 is an inconsequentially low temperature check out the gear these various visitors are wearing to ride.
In a way it does make it more seasonal for Christmas but I will be glad to return to warmer normals this next weekend. Humidity will be banished for a while but highs near 80 by day and lows near 70 by night will be perfect and most acceptable. I am not a weather hero. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Welcome To Old Town

I was out walking Rusty early one morning before this latest monstrous 55 degree cold front swept over the Keys and I was trying to picture myself landing in Key West, preferably not at 4 in the morning and coming across the city through the Margaritaville Resort. Aside from a  delivery  truck on front street Rusty and I were alone.
Charles Street looked pretty  good after dark even though it's not some where I hang out during the day.
Then I wandered around the front of Front Street to admire the shops touting for tourist dollars, and boy are they disgusting. You have to ask yourself what self respecting tourist would shop in a store with black shiny mold pouring down he wall?
Or this decrepit jungle at the other end? Across the street is the famous and lovely custom house museum but this tarnished crap is no selling point for this tired old town.
This I thought was the end of the world until I realized its being worked on and the interior is under construction. One hopes there will be some paint in the bottom  of the can for the exterior...
Here's a picture I took a while back of what the city offers to make Clinton Square look nice. The Custom House built for that purpose and converted to a museum worth visiting:
Or  Key West's indoor shopping mall, if you can call it that,  Clinton Square Market:
Better hope the eager tourists don't look to their right and see the decrepitude!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Holiday Cheer

I don't know what to think of my colleagues who profess to like snow. That being the case choosing to live in that tip of the country that never sees frost seems a perverse choice though I'd like to think there's more to living her than living frost-free. We are facing a  cold front this weekend which will be a pleasant change especially as the National Weather Service promises lows below sixty degrees.  
The theme of a modern Christmas has been set in stone thanks to the 19th century fashion of pine trees, yule logs  snow and good king Wenceslas trudging through the snow with supplies for the peasants. None of which has anything to do with the original Christmas in Palestine where the Huns and Vandals had never been heard of along with their mid winter pagan rituals. Nevertheless we now find ourselves stuck with all this stuff that has about as much relevance to Key West as it does to the Middle Eastern climate where the Christmas story took place.
I do find these street lamp wreaths, as weird as the theme is, to look quite good around town. Of course in a town with no Fall to speak of there is plenty of greenery already in place and flourishing after the dusting it got from Hurricane Irma. 
I like Christmas in Key West not least because there aren't blizzards to contend with, but also because the forced requirement to be kind and cheerful puts a  bit of a crimp in the winter population's tendency to get overbearing. Though I must say the nativity scene at the Methodist church on Eaton looked a bit, how can I put this? - sparse? It gained a little from the weedy palms in the background giving it location authenticity but a two dimensional show with one huddle sheep seems a bit lacking in the abundance we have come to expect from these outdoor displays.
Mind you Hurricane Irma is still in view be it ever so slightly. The Keynoter had a heart wrenching story this week on the status of survivors in the Avenues of Big Pine Key, thirty miles from Key West. People living in tents, FEMA needing absurd permits to install trailers to get people housed, ongoing useless chaos. County leaders wringing heir hands which is as helpful as you can imagine. 
In Key West you have to look to see damage though there is a little here and there. Motivated by the need to attract tourists the city cleaned up in a hurry. The Sheriff has announced that adding garbage to the roadside debris along the highway is now an arrest-able offence but nothing has been said about the side streets.  I saw a man pulling trash from the trunk of his Audi yesterday and dumping it along Spanish Main, a main artery on Cudjoe Key. Perhaps the payments on the Audi are so burdensome he can't afford the fee to drop his surplus trash at the dump, poor man.
In the end though we keep on keeping on and as short staffed as we are once again at work I am making horrendous amounts of overtime this holiday season so I hope that everyone in Key West stays sober and polite and refrains from calling 911. Fat chance, I have to think of it all as  job security, and very nice it is too. 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Seeing Double

It does not seem so long ago that Starbucks was an out-of-town delight you had to aspire to and plan if you were going to shop on the mainland. Now there are so many Starbucks in Key West I've lost count. Two on Duval, a drive through on the Boulevard and two in hotels I think. Al that in a town four miles long and two miles wide with 23,000 residents (and millions of visitors). This one doesn't even have any seating which make sit no good for people watching sat the intersection of Front Street.
 Mind you Ana's, a staple of the tourist trade at the other end of town on South Street perhaps 13 blocks away now has another outlet on Green Street to cover both ends of the city:
 Sandy's Cafe on White Street is under new management and I've seen a food truck in their livery parked near the police station. Now this, close by Fausto's on Fleming Street. And incidentally of course Fausto's Food Palace has it's second outlet also on White Street in case it's too far to travel.
It is a weird Key West phenomenon, this fear of travel. My wife once hired a classroom assistant for her class on Stock Island. Her first hire quit after a few weeks as she found it too arduous to travel the four miles from her family's downtown to the job. My fitness trainer prides himself on never leaving his one square mile neighborhood from Truman to Higgs Beach. A trip to Caroline Street is an adventure for him. His partner shops at Publix at Mile Marker Three on the Boulevard. 
I find it doubly hard to handle considering how little useful stuff is sold on Duval These days between the upscale galleries and frou-frou furniture stores and ghastly tourist t-shirt and bong shops as well as endless rows of candy stores and cookie outlets...how can you not want to breathe free in the outer darkness of the Lower Keys from time to time? But I'm a terrible shopper and I am an inveterate explorer even of my own back yard.
There are some tasteful and good looking places that I enjoy frequenting occasionally when overtime permits. Very gracious of me, I'm sure...
 But I leave the irony to express itself:
Oh and sometimes you just have to look around and wonder. This couple turned Olivia Street into a temporary funeral cortege as we ambled along behind them at their stupefied stumbling walking pace.
And then I wonder what the hell some people are thinking. My blue car was an island when I left it 90 minutes earlier walking Rusty. Upon our return we were hemmed in, in an empty parking lot mind, by a lumpen Jeep.  It wasn't a big deal but still watering Rusty and inserting him into the car suddenly became a choreographed ballet at which I'm not very good. Choreography I mean.. 
I suppose at some level I just like offsets and space and not having gruesome people surrounding me. I really am in the wrong place for such aspirations.

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Beach Bum

I remember vividly watching a movie whose title I've forgotten at the Regal Cinema (when it was open) and one of the social failure characters announced he was going to get the money and fulfill his dream of going to Key West, at which the audience as one sat up and yelled at the screen in unison: "We don't want you here!" If we're going to be honest most movies made in Key West in whole or in part leave one feeling that way. The flicks always portray Key West as a magnet for scoundrels ad wastrels who only seem colorful in fiction; in real life these people are a pain in the ass.
Apparently there's a new effort being filmed in Key West and some people are all agog. IMDB says it's called The Beach Bum - oh joy!- wherein "a rebellious stoner named Moondog (Matthew McConaughey) lives life by his own rules." Further from IMDB: According to director Harmony Korine, some cinemas in los Angeles have agreed to show the movie while spreading curls of marijuana (smoke).
It's not really surprising one gets tired of seeing Key West in the movies. There have been some good ones though. 92 In The Shade if you can get ahold of that Peter Fonda classic from the novel. I liked CrissCross starring Goldie Hawn with some excellent scenes of older Key West. A friend of mine was an extra at the baseball field at Peary Court and she remembers the experience fondly. I didn't mind A Murder of Crows either with Cuba Gooding. Though not great it has  a nice chase scene on White Street and some boating shots as well. The plot is better than you expect. At least I seem to remember it that way and it's been a few years.
I don't know what to think about some movie about a beach bum in a town where only movie stars can afford to buy ( I exaggerate only slightly) and in which Jimmy the musician who never showed up to help out after Irma has a role. You can assume I don't think much of the premise for this movie. Apparently Buffett shot his scenes with "Moondog" in Miami. Buffett's connections to Key West are tenuous at best. Yes he got his start in Key West but the pursuit of fame and fortune have led him elsewhere, to more profitable places.
Key West as I like it: nooks and crannies and quiet streets and me and my dog. Not at all like the TV series Bloodline which I liked until they decided to end it abruptly and prematurely. The final season made little sense to me. 
Oh and some inconsiderate soul standing in the dead middle of the sidewalk. I wanted Rusty to pee on his shoe as we walked around his eminence. Rusty of course was too polite. Perhaps one day...probably about as soon as someone gets around to telling a real story about life in Key West.
Really. A beach bum living by his own rules. How likely is that? Not as sexy in real life as a movie star, eh?

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Winter Season

It's not getting any better as we approach the third month anniversary of the Category Four Hurricane that came ashore near here, Spanish Main Boulevard on Cudjoe Key. This is the view when I come or go from my home at the southern end of Spanish Main. My wife keeps a running tally of the new appliances and furniture and large amorphous lumps of garbage that are being added surreptiously to the Hurricane Irma wreckage that lines our subdivisions.
I took Rusty for a walk on Sugarloaf Key on Tuesday and struggled to find a clear spot to park my car before we set off on foot.
 Ramrod Key has a pick up spot that empties and fills as garbage is shuffled around. Currently it looks fairly empty in this photo I took from my car as I paused alongside the highway. 
The post office on Summerland Key has re-opened though it looks rather forlorn frankly. This is their temporary sales area:
Key West looks pretty much a sit always has, and this was the sole picture I got for the holiday parade because I had to go to work before it got underway. There's no garbage piled up in tourist land. 
I walked past the former Secretary of State's office on Simonton Street. Peter Anderson who made the Conch Republic into a profitable state of mind is long since dead, and his office has been transformed into a consignment store which seems ironically representative of the state itself. The Conch Republic paraphernalia is still available online. 
Christmas is coming and as a premature gift we are promised a cold front this weekend. Some people think we may see overnight lows in the mid 50s. I'm sceptical not least because I haven't seen temperatures below 60 degrees (15 Canadian) in a decade at least.
Perusing one of the Keys related Facebook sites I found this picture of the Australian pine on the old seven mile bridge getting decorated. Very cool.
 I saw some Christmas lights winking ona  pile of roadside garbage on Sugarloaf Key on my way to work. That made me smile.