Monday, March 9, 2009

Duval Street Fire

We had had a busy night Saturday in Dispatch with lots of calls for service as one would expect on a weekend during Spring Break. Sunday night started out quietly enough until we hit ten o'clock and we got word of smoke and flames seen on the 500 block of Duval. The best known landmark there is Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville Cafe and a few doors down is the magnificent San Carlos Theater.It appears the fire was centered between them at the crepe shop and two art galleries between them and has caused a lot of damage to those businesses but spared Margaritaville and the San Carlos. I went down to check it out after my shift was over.Police closed several blocks of Duval and evacuated neighboring restaurants and let the firefighters do their thing. It wasn't just city fire, there were military firefighters and officers from the airport to help out as well and apparently it was quite spectacular with smoke all over downtown. I wonder if we will get our Breton Crepes back? Especially in an economic environment like this one. One firefighter got checked by rescue on scene but no one else was hurt, and by one a.m. things seemed to be levelling off at the scene. It is an unfortunate fact of life in a town with narrow streets and well seasoned wood buildings one needs a well organized fire department. The last big fire on Duval was when the old Copa Club burned down in August 1995. Tonight was a really strong reminder of how much we depend on our firefighters in this town. Budget cuts be damned.

Sunlit Mallory

This blog is good for me sometimes, it forces me to do things I might otherwise be too lazy to follow up on. Thus it was I was mooching around downtown waiting for my wife, once again, and I decided to go to the heart of the beast and wander Mallory Square. Not at sunset, it was a warm afternoon and the streets around Duval were absolutely packed which crowding gives me hives... There was a cruise ship tied up and people staring out at the water so I snuck around, and took pictures on a glorious sunny afternoon. There is also handy dandy motorcycle parking on Wall Street nearby, so scooter and motorcycle riders barely have to walk to get to the Square: Mallory Square in the 19th and early 20th centuries was a working waterfront with proper docks and warehouses and all the accouterments of maritime trade. Nowadays its a brick plaza set up to accommodate tourist hordes who usually show up just before the sun goes down. The rest of the time it tends to be quieter but the arrival of a cruise ship at the nearby Westin Pier B will increase the flow of traffic across the plaza. It's a big enough space that it can handle larger crowds than this:

And for all that this is a major tourist thoroughfare the water front is quite lovely, turquoise waters under the sun:

Some people like to sit and stare at the water, doubtless sorry they are soon going home (ha!), others photograph things...

...the object was the pelican, with the Sunset Key Ferry in the background (known as the Tank Island Whore to disgruntled old timers who remember the island pre-development and regret the change):

I like photographing the cruise ships, I remember my one trip cruising quite fondly, much to my surprise, but tourists keep aiming at the water:

This boat churning by reminded me of the kayak tours I used to lead when sailboat racing was under subscribed by the cruise ship visitors. I had to learn to kayak and guide the tours in a hurry as sailing was what I was signed up to do as my job. Flexibility required learning to drive one of these outboard powered machines in a weekend, and let me tell you they steer like the wallowing pigs they resemble:

Photography continued apace all around me. Behind this shutterbug one can see the boats anchored around Wisteria Island, known to most as Christmas Tree Island owing to the abundance of casuarinas, Australian pines growing on the uninhabited spoil island.

Both Christmas Tree and Sunset Key (nee Tank Island) came into existence thanks to dredging efforts to deepen the harbor at the western end of key West. Tank Island used to house Navy oil tanks that were actually never used but were serviced by utility lines making the lump much easier to develop. Wisteria/Christmas is still living an uncertain fate of development in potential only. Not that people standing on the seawall probably care that much:

The photography continued apace, as I tried to picture my wife and I goofing off similarly in twenty years time:

While others hunted for game:

Overhead the biplane from the airport buzzed by giving someone a thrilling ride.This is the height of tourist season and everyone is cranking:Back on Earth, one punter was trying to sort out a phone call in the bright sunlight, with Sunset Key over his shoulder:Across the way another visitor was wrapping up lunch on one of the planters:On my way out of the square I saw one early bird trying to make a living before the sunset celebrations began later in the day:And as usual in Key West if you look around you'll see interesting roof lines,in this case the one in the back is the red Customs House Museum, a Federal design built steep to shrug off snow:

As I walked back to the Bonneville I spotted these two taking off for some fun in the sun:Soon enough they will all have to go home and we shall be left to poverty and peace and quiet. But first we have Spring Break to get through.