Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Duval Night

I was glad to see sidewalk cleaning on Duval Street. The fog it created pleased me as well.
Bicycles, white picket fences and Rusty: another morning in Key West.
A not completely obscene t-shirt in a shop window. 

Usually I study the texture of bark in the woods where there may be little else to photograph. 
In this case the tree was outside the Bourbon, an unexpected location.
And then I assembled a few pictures illustrating our walk. 
After the bars close and before people start showing up is the best time to wander.
People  ask if its safe to walk the streets in the dark. Honestly I have no idea. I'm an old fat white man armed with a dog. No one bothers us. That's all I know for sure.
Every step practically leads to another photo opportunity ion this extraordinary town.
Check them out:

Monday, February 18, 2019


One of the apartments loaned to me during my time living in Key West was close by the newspaper building on Northside Drive. I was aware the building is for sale but that knowledge did not decrease my distress every time I drove past the sign. For some years now the Key West Citizen has been printed in Miami and since Hurricane Irma the paper has appeared only six times a week, making it no longer the daily paper of the Keys.
I was actually surprised the paper returned at all after the hurricane but it has though it is not a dynamic institution at all anymore. Enterprise journalism in the modern era requires a certain electronic flair but the Citizen fails hopelessly at updating or following news online. Weekends are barren as the Sunday paper is gone and reporting is now essentially a Monday through Friday operation.
The building is decaying in front of our eyes, and when I stepped inside momentarily there was no sense of bustle or liveliness. I have never been a newspaper reporter but I have spent time in newsrooms in newspapers in my capacity as a radio reporter and the state of the  Citizen saddens me. We all know newspapers are in a  parlous state and reporting is suffering but the newspaper I remember as a dynamic afternoon paper printed in town and on the streets daily is shriveling before my eyes and seems to be going down without a fight.  Perhaps its the best we can hope for in this day and age, but I want to avert my eyes from the tragedy. 
In 2012 the Art In Public Places program of the City of Key West started posting poems on the sidewalks of the city. Apparently this brilliant idea didn't originate in Key West but in Minnesota but has been enthusiastically adopted here. I confess my photograph was not brilliantly executed and the writing is a bit hard to read but Rusty was tugging at his leash, always a good excuse...
...so I have included a note from the sidewalk poetry page by way of explanation:
Location 8 it turns out is across the street from the Banyan on Whitehead Street. It's between Eaton and Caroline Streets.
Just up the street is the Custom House Museum of Art and History. Sometimes it is misspelled as the Customs House but either way it has benches on the shaded porch and I enjoy people watching from the top of the steps. Steps that aren't easy to climb in my current physical state but I do love the view.
I posted this picture below on Instagram. Is it to obvious an irony, the flag flying high and proud over a closed circuit observation camera? 
I was discussing air conditioning with a friend and he said he doesn't need cold air even in summer. Me? I love my a/c especially in my car. Even at home I enjoy spending time outdoors heating up and then retreating to the cool indoor shade from time to time. And as for sleeping night or day a cool dark bedroom is the only way. I like air conditioning so I feel some considerable sympathy for the Conch Train drivers  protecting themselves from the winter sun:  
And yes, its every bit as warm as it looks.
Back at the museum I was peering through the eye of a fish statue when quite by chance I got a rather decent little picture. 
I though the tandem bicycle photo was cute but the steel fish was rather more robust actually. What possessed me to look through the eye with my camera I'm not sure.
Every winter you will see certain vehicles hanging around town for days weeks or months depending on the snowfall Up North. This winter it's this yellow metric cruiser overloaded with the kitchen sink. I suppose it's an adventure for the lone rider but I don't know how long I could hang around the same old  places without purpose. It works for him.
Higgs Beach at the African Cemetery. Monochrome art.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Stadium Trailer Park

In the fight to retain low income housing it becomes apparent that some pretty awful housing stock has to be preserved. Currently occupants of trailers on Stock Island are fighting not to get evicted to make way for new homes that are supposed to be "affordable," which is a tough thing to define in Key West. Generally speaking the new homes will cost far more than the old wrecks they replace.
This means no one wants to give up where they are living. And these are the homes of the people who do the daily grind that keeps this town moving. Chambermaids, gardeners, wait staff, clerks and cooks all live here and you'll see them coming and going wearing familiar uniforms pushing bicycles or on foot.
How these trailers have survived this long is something of a miracle considering the heavy storms that blow through.
But they do survive and flourish, just like the banana trees.

Sometimes I look at the wiring looms and I wonder how they keep serving the customers but they do!
The developers of trailer parks on Stock Island three miles away are offering various incentives to try to side step law suits that are blocking development.
In the end though, the cost of the new housing versus the old will affect people being evicted, not being put at the top of the list of people waiting to be settled in the new homes.
I have no doubt stadium will be here long after I'm gone, and people will still be making lives here and valuable contributions to the city's economy. I cannot imagine what would happen if anyone suggested tearing down one of  Key West's last three trailer parks, and by far the largest.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Clinton Square

It occurred to me, after resting for a while on the bench on the porch at the Custom House that people strolling past Clinton Square have no idea what  a controversial piece of land that once was.
I don't know why it's named Clinton and it is a triangle not a square and it it is also supposed to be the home site of native son Stephen Mallory, of the nearby square fame. Mallory was a lawyer who became Secretary of the Navy for the losing side in the Civil War but in Key West that doesn't mean the waterfront named for him has to change names. No sir!
In any event the Navy Club of Key West decided to honor war dead with the column you see in the triangle, which move upset Confederate adherents who promptly built the fence around the column to memorialize their dead.
Call it a diplomatic victory in a town that was split between sides during the war. As I recently mentioned on this page the military detachment led by Captain John Brannan, by subterfuge secured Fort Zachary for the Union and thus Key West, that most Southern of towns remained with the North. 
Which is not to say a great many influential people, and less influential too come to that, chose yet to support the South and so I suppose you could say they felt emotionally Southern but enjoyed the perks of  being on the winning side after the war. All these red hot emotions are encapsulated in this little monument and its garden and fence. 
Yet if you look at Clinton Square next time you are here you will notice no one paying attention to the place. They walk by looking away.
And there is a small sign explaining the story:
I climbed down from the museum preferring to struggle with the steps and handrail rather than winding halfway round the building on the handicapped route. However these two steps at the bottom nearly undid me. Surprising how hard they were to negotiate and I leaned heavily on my cane much to my surprise.
Stumping back to the car on Whitehead Street I passed the wall which holds up a  raised play area created from wasteland inside Truman Annex next to the old water tank structure. Ha! I thought. Finally I can get my camera at ground level thanks to the level being six feet up. 
Not normally something I can do for the time being.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Day Walk

Key West never ceases to feed my eyes. 
As often as I have walked Center Street I still enjoy the buildings.
I posted this van picture to Instagram to much acclaim and nostalgia.
Absurd growth. This is winter after all.
John Keats in his poem "To Autumn" was thinking of northern seasons. Here's the first verse:
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, 
  Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless 
  With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees, 
  And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core; 
    To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells 
  With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees, 
Until they think warm days will never cease,
    For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.
Not exactly how we see things in the Keys in winter...

These cuts in the rock wall at the new fire station on Simonton Street looked like the image of a cocktail glass. Which probably means I have been living in the Keys too long...
And a  glimpse of La Concha hotel on Duval Street is a reminder that the legendary Top bar is gone replaced by a  spa of some sort on the roof top insider the glass.
I wonder if they tell the spa customers the story about how Chardonnay was the choice of last drink for those committing suicide by jumping from the Top and leaving behind the wine glass.