Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Great Christmas Tree Challenge

The world of blogging is weird but it has it's moments. Motorcycle blogs trend to get a bit technical and sometimes technical people get a bit doctrinaire. And sometimes not. Scooter in the Sticks mentioned that he took his Christmas tree home on his first scooter, a Vespa 150. Then he took one home on his 250, then his 250 was in the shop and in 2008 no Christmas tree. A lot of people were impressed by this photo from his blog, and wanted the tradition to keep on going:Then there is Dan Bateman a much respected (with reason) motorcycle riding instructor. His skills were called into question by this tree thing so he had to take on the Great Christmas Tree Challenge, and being the competitive soul he is, he had to one up Steve of Scooter in the Sticks. So he did:

Both blogs are in my links for your perusal and I suggest as you doze along in your car when the thought enters your brain that people on motorcycles are either a) young hooligans or b) idiots you might spare a thought for these two middle aged sober men and their...symbols of manliness. Cheers to both and I, secure in my manhood plan to sit this one out, treeless.

Ghostly West Martello

A night time walk around the old West Martello Tower; this I should have done for my birthday last Halloween...Though looking through the front gate, and pointing the camera that way shows something that resembles those gardens of old Savannah made famous in the movies: Key West has two of the eight Martello Towers built in the United States in imitation of a fortress designed by the British in the 19th century. Though they were originally designed as coastal defences Key West's western brick tower is now used for more pacific purposes:
The garden club puts on shows and sales and assorted events inside their splendid tower, a great setting for their plants and a fine place to take pictures on an early morning lunch break:The East Martello Tower is next to the airport and is in much better shape. It houses a museum (that merits it's own essay of course) and offers rooftop views across the Straits of Florida- though you still can't see godless communists in Havana from there! The West Martello Tower is fairly decrepit owing to the presence nearby of Fort Zachary Taylor. It seems bored artillerymen in the fort used the West Martello for target practice, hence it's state of chic disrepair. The garden club makes the most of it:Those arches are on the street side of the tower, and they are sometimes used as shelter by "local subjects," however there were no little bundles of joy snoring underneath the arches the morning I was out walking around. The West Martello is actually part of Higgs Beach, the Monroe County Park located on the south side of Key West:The waters against the seawall are pretty shallow but there is plenty of sand so this is a real beach. The tower also overlooks the water, and the White Street Pier:And next to the tower they built a monument to the African Slaves, rescued from a slave ship by the US Navy and more or less abandoned on the beach in Key West until they sent to Liberia to start a new life.In researching the towers I did find out a bit about the history of Martello Towers in general, of which I saw a few along the coast of England when I was a child . It seems that during the British invasion of Corsica at the end of the 18th century a British Naval officer liked the look of the round Genoese Tower defending Point Mortella in Corsica. So when he brought the idea back to Britain for use as a coastal defence he unhappily managed to misspell the name, hence Martello, which it so happens in Italian (the native language of Corsica) means hammer. And when the US military saw Martello Towers constructed in Canada they got the idea to do the same on the US East and Gulf Coasts. I see some of the Martello's architectural roots incorporated into the Key West police station too:Very symbolic I'm sure.