Friday, March 13, 2009

Fifth Street

The weather this past week has been glorious, sunny all day with highs over 80 degrees (27C) a cool easterly breeze and nights just cool enough for good sleeping (or working depending on who you are). The skies have been classic south Florida, deep dark blue with puffy white clouds scudding across the horizon like sails.
The great white pile that is the Fifth Street Baptist Church (the friendly church) looked very summery reflecting the sunlight like a giant wedding cake. The Bonneville looked good as usual I thought, but I would wouldn't I?Fifth Street is a major connector between North Roosevelt and Flagler Avenue, it's a little wider than neighboring streets and is marked by traffic lights at each end. On the Boulevard (North Roosevelt) there is the dilapidated Yamaha dealership, specializing in cruisers and more cruisers with the odd crotch rocket and a scattering of scooters. The building is distinctive for it's blue decor and collapsing siding that never seemed to recover from the drubbing Hurricane Wilma dished out. They only do Yamahas here but they have a few accessories for people like me who ride something else:Across from the Yamaha shop is one the many Cuban delis that dot Key West, and I've heard some people claim that Kim's Kuban makes the best breakfast sandwiches. we used to order bacon egg and cheese on Cuban bread when I worked day shift...and I wanted to do a taste test to check the quality but my wife has forbidden me bread made with lard. So here's a picture instead for anyone lucky enough to have Cuban bread included in their diets:Fifth Street's saving grace, aside from convenience, are the trees and it has a few big ones casting their shade:I saw a couple of homes I thought worth photographing, one covered in pink plaster and some distinctive fencing:And this next one is sitting on little stilts, which would probably have been enough to spare it getting wet in Wilma, the great flood of 2005. New Town got hit particularly badly as did Bahama Village, and neither area is particularly endowed with raised housing. The Federal Government did have a plan to match funds to put houses on stilts but it costs tens of thousands of dollars. This manufactured home looks snug raised just a few feet:Across the Street I saw a big old home looking large and solid flanked by some of my favorite palms, I've seen them at the botanical garden so I think I know they are Canary Island date palms. Though I don't think a date with them would be that interesting:And the Baptist Church isn't the only one on Fifth Street. There is this Seventh Day Adventist Temple in Florida 1960's style: It was mid afternoon, under the broiling sun when I was out, not a snowflake in sight, and I saw these kids zipping by on a side street. I think its very cool that parents let their kids cycle freely around town. Hopefully they will soon get scooters and the motorcycle bug will never leave them:And there was also a member of a lightly more mature generation taking his bicycle for a walk down Fifth Street:Fifth Street is one of those annoying Key West Streets that suffers from two names (14th/ Glynn Archer also springs to mind). Old timers will tell you Truman Avenue used to be Division Street before the Prez started taking vacations in the Southernmost City. Fifth Street got renamed too after British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan paid a visit later. Shown here, from British Government Archives, with President Kennedy during the Cuban missile crisis: Super Mac, as he was labelled in England was known for his phrase, "You've never had it so good," as he told the British people after World War Two. Now you know. The name, Macmillan Drive is on the street sign but not on people's lips. It's Fifth Street for most residents. And here's the traffic light at Flagler where they meet. Oops there's the Bonneville again.:An old timer pulled alongside and got a look of intense concentration on his face as he studied the Bonneville. I've seen that look before and pretty soon he started reminiscing about his racing days with a Triumph Trophy and the 500cc Speed Twin he rode on the streets. "Looks just the same as the Bonnevilles from back then," he said unimpressed when I told him it doesn't vibrate and doesn't leak oil and starts every time... I had stopped at the south end of the street to check out another well known landmark in New Town, but the old laundry, Universal Cleaners is gone and all that is left is their business on Elizabeth Street across from the library.
This place always made an impression on me because, thanks to some architectural quirk you walked down a very long very narrow very dark corridor to get to the counter at the back of the building to drop of your wife's work clothes. And now it's for sale. we have to keep reminding ourselves change is good.