Friday, September 18, 2009

Moods Of Rest Beach

I got to Key West through a rain storm. I was standing on the shoulder of Highway One at Bay Point putting on my waterproof layers when two Harley riders pulled up. "Haven't got rained on since we left Tennessee" they muttered looking at the huge black cloud up ahead. I was too tangled in plastic waterproofing to reach for my camera but I advised them I had a dental appointment and had to press on. They turned back with the idea of stopping and waiting at Sugarloaf Lodge a mile north. The rain cleared by Big Coppitt and at Mile Marker Nine the road was dry again. I made a beeline for Rest Beach to undress and dry out my waterproofs before I repacked them in the saddlebag.
Rest Beach is a hang out
but in September the worst beach month in Key West, I found an empty table. To the left there was a lonely man and bicycle waiting for Godot and to the right there were more men and machines probably waiting for the same unlikelihood:
Homelessness is a surfeit of time and an absence of money which is a dire combination, no matter what their critics tell us. I did my best imitation of a residentially challenged person by spreading my belongings out around the picnic table to dry. Summer storms in the keys are intense though happily short lived:
My tooth cleaning appointment (free to me with my municipal health insurance plan) was at 2:40 so I had twenty minutes to burn while I waited for the waterproofs to soak up the sun and banish mildew-forming moisture. I turned seaward with my camera.
Rest Beach is a pretty little spot to hang out and watch the horizon, but the ever excellent J Wills Burke in his book "The Streets of Key West" tells us it wasn't always so. Apparently it used to be used as a slaughtering place for cattle shipped down from Lee County. They were corralled in the Martello tower nearby, where the garden club is headquartered, (see this essay for details of the tower: ) and led out to the beach to slaughter. The beach became the city dump and was known as Bottle Beach according to Burke. The Federal Government targeted the beach for beautification by the Works Progress Administration during the first Great Depression and there we have it, a pleasant place to stop and contemplate the cruise ships coming and going behind the White Street Pier:
It was time to go, the clock on the Bonneville said so, as did the first large, cold, wet, raindrop from overhead. I bundled my stuff up and left the protective sea oats to bend in the increasing wind. My dental hygienist gave me a clean bill of health with the promise of no imminent cavities. By the time I was out the rain had passed and the world was crisp and fresh for a few moments before September's heat closed in again.