Saturday, January 2, 2010

A New Year

"Oh man!" the public works employee groaned as I leveled my camera at the man sleeping upright on the steps. "Don't take his picture!" I'm trying to, I replied emphatically, as my dog jerked the leash and the camera wobbled and refused to focus in the pre-dawn half light. His intoxication, his incapacity, is emblematic of the giant party that just closed out the old year in Key West.There is a school of thought that speaks loudly in favor of of a new kind of tourism in Key West. Supporters of tourism of the wealthy say the city would be much nicer if rich people came to visit, making this public display of incontinence another piece of Key West's quirky history. Me? I was working New Year's Eve with Officers Young and Betz playing Bounce the Dispatcher as they stopped traffic all over town constantly all night on their vigorous DUI patrol. The rest of the city was boozing it up under a full moon, the last blue moon for the next 30 months:I staggered out of the Police Station at ten minutes to six in the morning, handing over the controls to Rachel, abandoning the care of the city to day shift. I had a dog to walk. Cheyenne was a little bleary eyed, over walked I think these past few days. She had refused to come out of the car during the night when I went downstairs to visit her on my breaks and I figured she needed a pick-me-up to get her going. The smells of Duval on the morning after were just the ticket. For some reason this trash can was empty, an ironic sight on the city's main drag that was itself resembling nothing quite so much as a landfill:Cheyenne got to work sniffing the detritus and I got to work photographing what was left of the party. To my amazement I literally knocked into the City Manager, bright eyed, bushy tailed and perfectly groomed, marching down the street organizing the public works crews. Jim Scholl came to the city from the Navy and he has a very different style from his predecessor. Navy ship-shape came to mind as he grinned, telling me how Lower Duval was well on it's way back to human habitability. I had m y work cut out to record the part of the party no one else wants to look at. Cheyenne was volunteering to join the public works crews. I was surprised to see the new Matheessen's store just closing at 6am. This used to be the falafel shop on Duval that I rather liked. Now we have yet more Conch fritters on offer."We seceded where others failed" is the motto of the Conch Republic, whose flag can also apparently be used as a rather attractive, if misplaced, door curtain.(Legible image courtesy of Bruce).
A lonely bottle pointing the way: Ho ho ho , God Bless Us Everyone. Very Dickensian don't you think? Except for the palm tree some spoil sport will feel obliged to point out:Even at this hour the bicycle traffic continues unabated through the remains of the war zone:
One more gruesome sports bar didn't stay open for a month. This is apparently some sort of chain restaurant, but the space is open once again if you have an arm and a leg available to pay for the monthly rent.Lonely Street is the place you fend off with beer and vodka when all else fails. Or you can pass out at the Heartbreak Hotel just out of sight of the picture.
At first glance one could make the argument that upscale tourism would be nice, but frankly I wouldn't like it. When places get boring they lose their charm. If you don't believe me check out Royal Palm Beach or Naples (Florida, I mean). And besides the merchants down here don't really want this lot to change. Public Works, those amazing tireless people, will restore everything before the hang overs are done and commerce will continue and no one will remember to thank them. There was an article in the Citizen, a pean of praise for City Commissioner Mark Rossi who spent $450,000 years ago to buy Ricks Bar and now owns the block upon which a warren of bars exists, along with a strip club called, alluringly enough, The Red Garter, where you can pay very little to see a pair of Eastern European breasts if the mood takes you. The article mentioned that the commissioner is still steamed about a noise ordinance proposed by the developer of Truman Annex all those years ago that would have required a different style of entertainment at Ricks's Bar. The ordinance obviously never made it, and Key West's path to a noisy, beery, cheap trinket renaissance was cast. Plastic cups anyone? Who says it never snows in Key West? Looks like a proper snow drift to me:Everyone went home but they left the lights on. Expense is clearly no object and the concept of conservation hasn't yet penetrated a community where only seven percent of the waste stream is recycled:It is not enough for one location to imitate the Big Apple by dropping a ball at midnight of the Old Year. In Key West the owner of schooner wharf, a lissome blonde dresses as a pirate-ess and drops from a sailboat mast. At Sloppy Joe's a Conch ("konk") shell drops and here they put an Asiatic wo-man in the red slipper and drop her. Take your pick- a real woman, a fake gastropod, or a real cross dresser, Key West would never be so wondrous were it to follow in the path of the gruesome, dull rich of the upper class suburbs.
Trust an anal compulsive like me to notice some dork left the lights on the bike.
The Bahamian arch denotes Petronia Street, scene of the Goombay Street Fair in October.How undignified to leave a cup on the seat of a stranger's scooter. Certainly no cup of kindness here:And then a block away Key West's serenity reasserts itself. "Coexist!" the bumper sticker demands of it's readers. Not impossible to do even in so small a place as Key West. we are only talking here about the visitors and their money on Duval, and the residents, living their quiet lives elsewhere. Not a plastic cup to be seen.