Sunday, May 3, 2009

Charles Street

You never know where you might find a picturesque spot in Key West, and the corner of Charles Street at Telegraph Lane is as unlikely as any. Looking down Telegraph you might be on a rural lane rather than on a service street at the back of some of Duval's better known bars:Charles and Duval is the intersection where one is most likely to find a police officer keeping an eye on the crowds during a busy night of drinking on the 200 block of Duval. I found a lady marching back and forth on a cell phone impeding my view:She's standing at the corner of the gigantic block of Ricks/Durty Harry's, a complex that includes a warren of bars and the rather dubious Red Garter Saloon around the corner on Duval which also has an entrance on Charles Street:Which if you're not allowed to take pictures, what's the point? The point is that women take their clothes off inside, supposedly fattening the wallet of one of the city's elected commissioners, in the traditional marriage of commerce and politics:Looking at her staring down the camera you just know she harbors a lot of respect for her clients, a real barrel of laughs I'm sure. But times must be tough at the Red Garter and likely to get tougher if they don't take care of the dry rot:
And we have on the roof that other symbol of commercial licentiousness heavily promoted by the tourism people, a pirate:It amuses me that the US Navy commander who drove the pirates out of the Old Bahama Channel, David Porter, was hounded out of 19th century Key West for being excessively uptight. People in this town like to dress up and they do like to associate pirates with Key West so that's why we see people dresewed in the supposed costumes of the pirates who never really existed in Key West. I guess they wouldn't get the same frisson if they dressed up like the stodgy Commodore Porter. Me? I too am a fuddy duddy and I like Dade pine and shady houses, rather than houses of ill repute:And quite the mansion on Telegraph at Charles, even if the windows are boarded up:Even though Charles Street has become a tawdry alley alongside the tawdriest strip of Duval you can see the downtown origins of what was Florida's wealthiest city a hundred and fifty years ago.Key West was the best stopping off spot between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic for shipping carrying commerce between Galveston or New Orleans and the Atlantic ports. Lots of money landed here, in the city that had the mildest and most comfortable climate in the peninsula. They built their mansions and imported furniture and waited for the next economic downturn which came and changed everything one more time. Nowadays it's tourism and up till now most visitors have been in the "mass tourism" niche. One has to wonder, as the economy contracts, if the marginal spenders will be squeezed out and we will see a more upscale Key West grow out of the current depressive recession? Will they want to eat lunch with their clothes off?It's not an urge I have sought to fulfill so I couldn't possibly say if it's still open, and there weren't crowds apparent, trying to force their way in. I was much more interested in the new Yamaha 125 Zuma scooter of which this is the first example I've seen. Aggressive and macho like the extremely popular 50cc model, but quite a bit bigger. I sold my Zuma 50 after a couple of months as it lacked any kind of storage and the handling could best be described as "squirrely" on the big fat tires. The 125 looks good though:Joseph Cohen, whoever he is could use a Zuma or equivalent as he has a rather limited parking area...
Charles Street, the lane with the patrician name and the less than patrician face on the world. You can't blame people for being disorganized when living spaces are cramped, but a trip to the dump is often worth the cost:When you're here today and gone tomorrow, most likely, why bother? Permanence is a quality of the homes, those 19th century piles, not necessarily the occupants, whether they live there or simply dance around a pole.