Thursday, February 21, 2019

Key West Fish And Chips

Businesses come and go in Key West. I was walking Rusty down here early one day and saw the sign advising all he world there are fish and chips to be had here. Last time I came by it was a pizza truck...I think...
 It is a food truck parked where they are always parked here, whatever food they may be selling. I was encouraged to see the owner of the original food truck back on the spot and serving customers.
In March 2014 I came across a South African Food Truck operated here by a  South African business woman by the name of Helena. She and her husband were food truck pioneers and like all pioneers they were less than warmly received by a community that clings to its traditions and brick and mortar restaurants. 
They struggled with the bureaucracy but Yebo as it was called had to close. My favorite lunch, the strangely named Bunny Chow left the island.
 But the redoubtable entrepreneur is back offering what no one else does, as well as foodstuffs that others do sell:
 I took a few pictures while I waited for my fish to fry.

 And then I loaded it in my cart and took the two lunches to go back to my wife's office.
 Light fresh and piled high with real fries. We both agreed we'll be back.
I've wanted fish and chips for a while and I'm glad I found them.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Roadside

On my most recent trip to Miami for another doctor's visit my wife, who is protective of me in these strange times insisted I not drive. Normally on our road trips I am always the driver while she navigates and organizes lunch stops and hotel rooms and all those other critical details. For me to cross the Seven Mile bridge in the passenger seat...well, that's a rare thing indeed.
 My nap ended somewhere near Islamorada and when I struggled back to complete consciousness I looked around for something to do.  With accommodations and an evening out with friends already planned all I could think was to test some manual settings on the camera. Lobster traps! Done:
Then I thought to myself: here's a challenge. Let's see if I have the speed and the wit to capture faces as we buzz along between 45 and 55 mph. Let me tell you, if the quality of the pictures doesn't speak for themselves, it's not easy. 
The Upper Keys are a world apart from the Lower keys. This part of the world has no central focus, there is no Mallory Square, the homes are scattered alongside the highway and the land may be only a few hundred yards wide. Around here you are within an hour's drive of the great metropolis and laborers can be hired and bused here from Homestead easily enough. There is much less of that sense of isolation that you get in Key West.
It's more manicured here, neater, with vast vegetation allowing only occasional ocean glimpses. For all that there is very little dirt here in some ways it feels more removed from the ocean to the casual passer-by.
 Driving through here and trying to actually look at the passing scenery put me in mind of the TV show called Bloodline which was I thought an excellent representation of life in the Keys. It also managed to show me a bit of life in the Upper Keys, life constricted to either side of the road. From an outsider's perspective you could see it as claustrophobic and when I think about that I make myself life. I live on an island two miles by three miles bisected by the same highway.  
No helmet no gloves and sandals on his feet with an innocent passenger. I see this differently now, I wince instead of remaining indifferent. I wonder how little they value their lives?
Most of these communities are a blur to me, I drive by on my way somewhere else, but the the problem is, were I to stop I wouldn't know where to go. 
There are places you can catch a decent view but the Upper Keys to me represent the flow of people and traffic.


And pretty soon I was in Miami, as usual.

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

Vignettes

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.