Monday, February 20, 2017

Vespa Day

I have had a long standing love affair with scooters built in Italy and known to the world as Vespas. I got my first 50cc in 1970 when I was twelve, two years too young to ride it legally on Italian roads, a rule my mother was happy to encourage me to flout and so it was I learned to travel by Vespa on my school vacations. The picture below shows me at age 23 in Mexico in the summer of 1981 half way from New York where I bought the Vespa 200 and San Francisco where my six month trip would end. I kept the Vespa with a friend and rode it for another ten years until I foolishly sold it. 
I tried unsuccessfully to recreate that long lived relationship with the Indian built Stella when they came on the market around 2004 but that machine was horribly built and utterly unreliable:
I then went back to proper Vespas and bought an extraordinarily comfortable and powerful Vespa 250. Unknown to me 2007 was a terrible year for Vespa 250 models plagued with fueling problems.
 After ten months I had to give up the Vespa 250 and in despair I bought my Triumph Bonneville and motorcycled on in perfect reliability.
The Triumph still runs perfectly ten years and a hundred thousand miles later...
My wife meanwhile found a Vespa 150 very lightly used by a nervous newcomer to riding who decided to sell it after 250 miles. We went round to Cudjoe Key and I rode it home. We still have this machine with 30,000 miles on it and recently refurbished it looks set to go for another ten years and 30,000 miles. The most successful Vespa of all, 150cc four stroke automatic, Vespa's first automatic Vespa and now a classic, the ET4:
I wanted none of that automatic nonsense, I wanted a simple two stroke Vespa with gears and I found this in Iowa, a 1979 P200, classic of all the classics, not as pretty as some but more modern and solid:
Four years later I have given up. The P200 has never run right and the shop that refurbished my wife's scooter made me an offer I couldn't refuse. Today I say goodbye to nostalgia and drop off the white Vespa when we pick up my wife's scooter in the trailer. Thanks to Darren of Vespa Servicing in Bradenton for all his hard work: 
The trailer only has room for one scooter so in a couple of weeks I will come back to Bradenton (seven hours by car from Key West) to load up this modern orange Vespa 150:
I figure it is the same simple scooter my wife cleverly bought for herself so it should run as well, give me 60+ miles an hour like hers which makes it good to run on the Overseas Highway for my commute. 
 And like hers which was ultra low mileage in 2005, this one is almost brand new even though the S150 is  a model that was sold about seven years ago.
New old stock indeed.
With a sigh and no regrets I enter the modern age at last. And even though it is an automatic it is still a Vespa, and like my first scooter this one too is a flaming unabashed orange. I have gone full circle.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Morning At The Beach

These lovely cool winter mornings. 
I left home with the sunlight pushing up over the horizon though the orb itself only managed to break the horizon itself by the time I got down to the beach.
I met a dude sitting in a chair shown below. He was friendly enough and petted Rusty and asked how I was doing and so forth. He had had a close call recently the almost victim of unfortunate luck and now with life once again stretching out before him apparently limitless, he was approaching each day with renewed fervor. We watched the sun come up and he told me he was glad to be there and as Rusty dragged me off down the beach to his favorite spots it was a moment worth reflecting on. I am nto much given to telling people how to live but I was glad he shared the moment. I like to think I have made it a lifelong habt to live in the moment as much as I can. And its not an easy thing to do either.


The light tower would be Sombrero Light south of Marathon. Amazing telephoto lens on my Panasonic Camera.



Hmm, low low tide, for now no sailing.
And so back home under threatening skies.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Feast

I was picking up a con leche, as you do, from Sandy's and across the street I saw a temporary sign indicating the future path of the much missed Bistro Sole which used to offer an eclectic menu during the winter months on a rather pleasant outdoor patio area.
Al Maidah is Arabic for a table laden with food according to my translation services and these days it seems rather daring in a Trumpian world to name an eatery after the 5th Sura (chapter) of the Quran. Take heart those of you who fear all things Muslim as the menu appears mostly to be of the Central Asian variety, Muslim yes perhaps but of the 'Stans not the Empty Quarter. I wanted to make a joke about Trump and an Arabic restaurant but I wasn't sure the server would grasp it and I was pretty certain my fellow diners would frown so I shut up. Spinach "empanadas" that could have been crisper and could have benefited from hot sauce. The spinach was fresh and there was plenty of it inside.
We had plenty of time to observe our surroundings as the service was languid in a most un-American way. They have retained the rather romantic patio and they serve water by the bottle. Beer and wine is bring your own because as usual the city has its own extra languid response to a new business seeking a beer and wine license. Why does it take so long? Who knows. 
The restaurant has a  Facebook page and is getting rave reviews. They should too as they offer food not seen at Kennedy Cafe which has its own take on Central Asian food and which I also like. This is a kachapurri (spell it as you like) where the crust is filled with a soft stringy cheese while the middle has a soft fried egg like an egg-in-the-hole. The combination as you break the egg and stir in molten cheese and salty bread crust is extremely filling and very rich. The white lumps on the crust are rock salt. An excellent shared appetizer.
 I tried the lamb iskender because I have also had it at Kennedy Cafe. It is comparable, small pieces of lamb accompanied in our case by grilled vegetables which were done right, crisp and tinged with delicious aromatic olive oil. We took the Uzbek bread home for breakfast we were that full.
Service needs to pick up the pace though most likely that will come with experience, but I am hoping they are cashing in on their popularity at the moment to build a foundation that will see them through the summer and hopefully make them a fixture just as Kennedy Cafe has managed. And perhaps the city will remember that they have simply taken over where Bistro Sole left off and the beer and wine license can magically appear before the winter season ends...One way to support local business with no effort expended.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Living On The Rock

I have been holding my breath since January 20th wondering what direction the President will take in this brave new world that the Midwest has plunged us into and  I can't say things look good from my perspective. I had hoped for a Teddy Roosevelt figure hiring capable non partisan technocrats to straighten up all those things that we all know need to be changed. Instead we seem to have landed in the Fourth Circle of Hell where greed still runs rampant and bromides are all we get from a cabinet of unqualified millionaires. These are not people brought to government to fix it but to wreck it.
I view the increasing chaos in Washington from the perspective of one who lives on the margins and observes from behind a parapet of daily work, ever advancing middle age and no progeny to worry about. I live in a good place, a small town with a decent community and a sense of commitment to humane values. True enough Key West lacks the resources to overcome extreme demands on the city placed on it by  state and federal legislators but there is a bit of a buffer in Key West from the excesses of the Trump Administration. When health care insurance is taken away as it soon will be the Republicans tell us, we will revert to charity and fundraisers and so forth to help defray medical costs as we did prior to Obamacare. I am more glad than ever for my work related health insurance.
I wondered why His slogan about making America Great Again caught fire. I thought America was pretty great even though the President was black (and Muslim) and despite more people were getting health insurance this country seemed pretty good to me even against a tide of Republican opposition. Apparently America sucks and needs to be fixed. I don't see how it sucks so much. I wonder if Trump can bring back jobs lost to globalization (which I have always opposed) but even if he does if there aren't unions to negotiate pay levels  wages will be feeble. No one likes to talk about the role unions played in the prosperity of the 1950s but these days history seems to matter less than ever.  
I blame Ronald Reagan for starting us down this path of collectively not trusting the government. Newt Gingrich reinforced the rot and now we are led by people who want to tear down the institutions not to repair them. I am not a fan of revolution, nor would anyone be who knows their history like I said already. Too many people today live in a reality presented to them by biased sources which offer alternative reality as an option. Then I consider how many people are on drugs -legal and otherwise- and how many people believe in the Book of Revelations as a viable program for the near future, and I wonder how long before something goes seriously wrong and shots are fired at us or among us.
I hope the institutions built up around the constitution hold up and the economy improves and people feel better and Trump can take an honorable retirement and we can get back to normal. If not I live in a good place to weather whatever madness our totally unqualified leaders push us into. One more reason I'm glad to live in the Keys. Bring on the fundraisers!
One would like to think:
Image result for we the unwilling led by the unqualified to kill the unfortunate die for the ungrateful

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Youth Hostel And Change

I panicked a moment when I saw this in the Casa Marina district of key West. Hell, I thought, they are going to tear down that bizarre Polynesian roof and replace it with some house in the "Key West style" like every other one cuirrently being built or remodeled.
You don't see this everywhere in Key West:
It turns out I was wrong and they are just remodeling the building but not taking away it's unique silhouette. Which was relief as things are once again changing a lot around here. 

The hospital seems to have been involved in a rather nasty financial scam with the newspaper reporting payoffs:
(01/26/2017New details revealed about hospital lease)  by the operators who contracted to run the hospital and the Depoo Mental facility on Kennedy. 


The Blue Paper is reporting some rather use of building permits for a new hotel on Stock Island. There is limited growth allowed in the Florida Keys so as not to overwhelm the infrastructure or quality of life but the paper reports LINK the developer may have been building capacity without the proper permits and the county didn't bother to notice. That hotel forcibly replaced a working recreational fishing marina along with small businesses catering to boaters. All gone. It's the beginning of the end for affordable working class Stock Island.
 So one tends to get a bit paranoid when spotting a potentially endangered land mark. These days classic bad Florida tatse like a plastic flamingo is hard enough to find in this town:
Yet for some reason there seem to be fewer visitors to Key West this winter. The highway is clogged by commuters forced to live further from their Key West jobs, forced to drive by insane real estate prices in the city. Around town parking seems more available than usual and main streets aren't as clogged as in a normally busy winter season. A friend told me hotel occupancy in the relatively cheaper hotels on North Roosevelt is down in some cases to less than half full.
I'm not sure what all that means though my friend also wondered in the same breath if the general uncertainty surrounding President Trump's diabolically chaotic reign may have people wanting to be cautious with their money. Sounds like a stretch to me but who knows.
This place has been listed ready to be demolished for a couple of years I thin. Yet it's still here offering teh cheapest rate for a fleabag hotel in Key West. I've never stayed but friends who have say it attracts "characters." I will be sorry to see it go.
Places like this are hard to find in Key West.
And this place is a mere fixer upper, ready to be turned into an ideal winter retreat except it doesn't appear to be for sale. Somebody's ace in the hole.