Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Bahia Honda Beach

I have been thinking quite a bit lately about the end of the swimming season.I expect that in another month the water will be cold enough that I shan't enjoy swimming anymore so I'm taking advantage of the heat. Apparently I'm not alone: Bahia Honda ("deep bay") is only fifteen minutes from my house and it's a pleasant ride on the Highway, so I've been visiting quite a bit.I've mentioned elsewhere that I have an annual State Parks pass which makes the decision to go and hang out at one of the nicest beaches in the Keys pretty easy:I like to swim but for visitors from out of town the relatively clear waters of the Keys make snorkeling a worthwhile activity: The old Bahia Honda bridge makes for a popular backdrop for pictures and I'm a sucker for puffy white clouds against a blue background.Not forgetting the abundance of palm trees:For some people seagulls are rats with feathers, for others they are objects of fascination:
The family that swims together has a really good time. My best memories of my mother were hanging out at the beach on vacation:It's a tough life hanging out at the beach in the keys in September.
Ideal footwear for the beach. This is how they wear them in Canada: Which is bobskoot's attempt to humiliate me. Of course if he trips wearing his pink crocs he gets free treatment in Canada's socialist health care system. We hold a bake sale to pay the free market hospital. Humiliation comes in lots of different forms.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fort Zachary Beach

I wasn't sure what to think; he appeared to be giving her a quick riding lesson in the parking lot on their rented scooter. It's a good thing I supposed, as there are altogether too many scooter rental wrecks in Key West, though it turned out he was actually getting her to pose while he took a picture. As long as they don't take to drinking and driving they should, statistically, be okay.An annual Florida parks pass means Fort Zachary Taylor is accessible anytime I want to spend fifteen minutes by the water before the start of my night shift job at the police department. I am the guy wearing black shoes, long pants and a dark blue polo shirt. Other people are in a far greater state of undress, which is not surprising as they are at the beach and it's 90 degrees (32C).Locals like Fort Zach because the entry fee keeps out the professional residentially challenged who also like to hang out at the beach, though they prefer the free access choices. It's also a nice swimming beach, not because it has tons of sand but because the bottom drops away close to shore and instead of wading up to your ankles for a quarter of a mile offshore, here you get to actually swim:This is a family park, supervised by rangers where alcohol is sort of not allowed and fights and rowdiness are definitely not allowed which means this is a good place for the generations to mix:
There are picnic tables in the shade... ...and sufficient young women sunning themselves and swimming to retain the interest of the prurient among us:And before w we get carried away let's check out those casuarina trees one more time. This is the place where a public uproar guaranteed these pines would not be removed for at least another decade. So called Australian pines are a source of irritation in South Florida between scientists and members of the public. Scientists argue these trees are non native, acidic in nature and thus prevent other native growth and though the trees provide shade they do not provide food for native animals and migrating birds. Lots of birds come charging through the Keys to and from the Caribbean each year it seems. Supporters of the pines got their knickers seriously twisted when plans were announced by the Park Service to tear them up and replace them with piddly little native shrubs and cement ramadas to provide shade while the bushes grew. The Park Service underestimated the popular revolt and after hearings and shouting matches and innumerable letters to the Editor the Park Service yielded and here we are with pines intact.
You can see the point of both sides, especially if you live in Key West and would like to retain one, bum-free, shady spot to hang out by the water. The Park Service, in my opinion, would have done better to import a few decent sized native trees and started encroaching on the casuarinas piecemeal by showing that sea grapes and buttonwoods can grow to full size and provide decent shade. The funny thing was that after the people won the fight the Park Service was forced to waste $200,000 shoring up the pines which were getting eroded around their bases. Very funny of course at a time of shrinking park funds...Key West inspires passion so I suppose it's inevitable that shade trees will do the same.On the other hand, here we are almost to October and people are still swimming happily in the salt waters of the Straits of Florida:
I don't know how much longer I will keep swimming. My wife and I were sitting out watching the sun do it's thing from our porch Sunday evening and we remarked the temperatures seem to be dropping a tiny little bit. Not enough for sweatshirts and pullovers just yet.Indeed this is the perfect time for a picnic at the Fort, no crowds, not suffocatingly hot (by local standards) with a slight but appreciated sea breeze:Though the sun is hot enough to tan by, apparently: Construction began at the fort in 1845 according to the indispensable The Streets of Key West, by J Wills Burke, who says a major storm wiped out the fort's beginnings in 1846 and work had to be started all over again. Before the harbor was dredged for modern shipping and the spoil piled up around the fort, it was in fact conceived as an island at the end of a human built causeway:The fort was finished in time for the Civil War in 1861 and was named for President Zachary Taylor, an Indian War hero who served as commander-in-chief for 16 months before he died suddenly of one of those unspecified 19th century illnesses while occupying the White House. If you want more pictures of the fort check out this previous essay on my blog: Today I content myself with looking out to sea, dipping into my book and alternating with a few sporadic photographs to remind myself of the pleasure of a few moments snatched from the day and spent doing next to nothing at the water's edge.The empty parking lot on a gorgeous September afternoon will not be replicated during the winter months so I figured it was worth noting, in passing:And so to work, ready for a night of answering 9-1-1 calls.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Early Duval

A few early morning pictures of Duval Street should probably start here because, if you are familiar at all with Duval Street, you know it can only go downhill from this wholesome portrait of a mother strolling her child:An early morning (between 7:30 and 8:00 ante meridian to be precise) cup of coffee while communing, not with a palm tree actually, but someone standing neatly behind the tree trunk:
"Custom boring and stroking" and I guess someone will buy this and wear it proudly to Home Depot on a Saturday morning as a reminder of a vacation in Key West:This is a Proper Photographer, with a real camera and a multiplicity of lenses. I keep wanting a single lens digital reflex to get "better" pictures but I end up thinking what the hell, this is as good as it will get and you can't haul one of those things around in your pocket. My Canon SX100 does me quite nicely I find:The morning after the night before. He was quite polite when we crossed paths, he made eye contact and everything. I wanted to ask him where he spent the night because clearly Officer Biskup couldn't find him... Like I said at the beginning, wholesomeness on Duval is a difficult commodity to spot. You want wholesome you need Disney, where the Pirates of the Caribbean don't suffer from body odor issues, I'm told:
Let's not forget it was above 80 degrees at this early hour and lots of people feel they do need to cover up their natural wholesomeness with powders and lotions "as advertised on TV" - the ultimate accolade for CVS pharmacy products:
The busiest dude on Duval. I was quite surprised to see the windows at Sloppy Joe's getting a clean. You'd hardly think anyone would notice or care by 6pm. This guy was so into his work I couldn't catch him standing still:
And this by contrast has to be the least busy man on Lower Duval. I thought he looked like a rather down-at-heel holy man from the Indian subcontinent. I saw them when I was a kid on the sidewalks of Calcutta (known as Kalicut I think in these anti-Imperial days) and they had an innate dignity that this guy surely seems to lack. Perhaps it's just the cultural perception. Or the alcohol:As if you needed the confirmation, cause and effect:
This next one is for cpa1234 who, we discover, likes women's bottoms. I don't of course but I thought they looked like a very wholesome and energetic pair of visitors. Riding a bicycle in Key West is not necessarily a way to burn calories. It can just be a way to get where you are going while saying "hi!" to your neighbors as you roll by:
I should have saved this next picture for use in the dead of winter when the rest of the country has been immersed in gray for months, but then I thought, there'll be lots more pictures of sunshine by then. As you can see the sun is strong enough this early to completely burn off the face of a visitor who is not used to the sub tropical sun. His companion seems better adapted to the climate. Either that or I had my camera on the wrong exposure setting:
If you listened to my wife's friends, mine is "pain-in-the-ass-with-a-squeeze-box" but perhaps they'd prefer this one: It's hard to imagine there are pests on Duval. I wanted to point out a couple sleeping in doorways but he didn't look like the type to appreciate an early morning existential extermination joke:
Rush hour was building. It is legal to ride on sidewalks in Florida as long as you yield to pedestrians.
But mopeds and scooters have to stick to the street. Even ones carrying large laundry bags:
What could they possibly be selling in this store?
Harry Houdini preparing his sunset act: "Escape from a Toolbox."
This dude from earlier needs to understand that the equipment means nothing if you are going to go looking for photographs carrying a con leche. I saw him walk at least 50 yards (48 meters) without taking a single picture. Size means nothing if you don't use it.
The sun is up and it's long past my bedtime because the former Wachovia building is by now fully illuminated.
The space is for rent if you want to try your hand at selling t-shirts with rude words printed on them, like "Investment Bankers Suck" and "Private Health Insurance Is A Scam" or if that sort of language is too strong for your shop you could sell t-shirts that say "I Like to Fart" and "Chick Magnet" because those sorts of things do a land sale business apparently. All part of the color of Duval Street, throbbing heart of the Conch Republic, at all hours.