Monday, January 18, 2010

Seafood Festival

I had been looking forward to the seafood festival an event to raise money to benefit commercial fishing. In the event we took a quick spin around the stands and bugged out.The weather was dank, overcast and slightly muggy, presaging one more cold front, the light was abysmal for photographs and the crowd at Bayview Park felt suffocating to a misanthrope like me.The fact that I had Cheyenne on the leash to test out her crowd skills didn't help. She was overcome by too many smells in too many directions, she attracted attention and I couldn't sneak pictures. The afternoon was not a success. I saw Robert representing the National Marine Sanctuary, busy educating the public:
The lobsters are plastic samples (I think. I can say they weren't moving):
Dinner plans agreed for next Monday (Japanese seafood perhaps) we moved on. For once I wished I were a kid:
Dogs are generally welcome at these kinds of events in Key West, but a Labrador fresh from the pound still anxious to enjoy every last ounce of stimulation was a bit much. I get her point: she has been deprived for a long time, but she was a handful on a leash.
My colleague Noel had the day off dispatching so he was helping his extended Cuban family staff the pudding stand. My wife and I took one look at the long lines for fish and decided to start our meal with dessert- Key Lime tart with meringue and a giant slab of flan:
Call me grumpy but there is something decidedly daft about standing in a humongous long line to eat fresh seafood. It's not like the stuff is a rarity in Key West:
I was attracted to the hot dog stand at Centennial Bank (the former Marine Bank who are always busy doing charitable events in Key West). We were in town to celebrate my wife's recent birthday so we were doing whatever she wanted and hot dogs are not one her favorite foods. Sigh. So I took a picture of this eager wiener eater instead:
The shrimp looked good (they always do in the Keys!):Mayor Cates was busy glad handing. His big public headache at the moment is trying to figure out what to about rebuilding city hall. He says $18 million is too much. That's the easy calculation; the hard one is how to do it for less. Happily I don't live in the city so it's one political tussle I can watch from the sidelines.If you stood in line to get a plate of cracked conch or conch fritters (pronounced "konk" not "konsch" please) you had the rare delight of eating standing up in the middle of a swirling crowd with your food perched on an upended crate.Or you could use the occasion to meet friends and watch people eat seafood they had stood in line to get. I caught Nan with her lovely blue eyes closed, I blame Cheyenne for that:
Beer on the grass is another longstanding Key West tradition. Beer in the park on any other non festival day is a no-no, so one takes advantage when one can.
Then we made a tour of the dust catcher stands. Coconut shells disguised as fish. I saw a woman carrying one of these to her car later and I couldn't help but wonder if they look better at Bayview Park than they might in her living room Up North. A conversation piece no doubt as she welcomes neighbors in from under a snow drift:
If you still have a line of credit on your card, plastic will get you a tropical aquamarine t-shirt to fight off the winter blues.No Bonnevilles in wood, though these Harleys are really quite divine. Irondad would like the tank:
There was live music intermittently. When he was on he was LOUD. An impromptu bicycle parking lot. Cycling in Key West is more than a hobby, it is sensible transportation. I wish when tourists go home they woul take the lessons of scooters and bikes with them. These aren't toys, they are a great way to get around:
I was wearing my subdued tennis shoes to the park but there was a woman present to fly the flag for the outrageous footwear cult:Full of fish and shopping, these were the intended target of the festival planners:
Or this Kansas accountant throwing caution to the wind by appearing in public in his Woodstock t-shirt:
"Boy, that was a waste of time- all smells and no steak."
And I stopped her ravaging these bags of recyclables, er trash. Oh what's the difference, we don't differentiate much in Key West. Now this is my idea of Key West seafood, and happily it was my wife's too. The sun was out, pale but visible, the Straits of Florida were only slightly agitated and my Anchor Steam beer tasted better than it ever did under the cloudy drizzly skies of San Francisco. And it tasted a lot better than Big Brand Name Light on the grass at Bayview Park.
We shared a salad and a plate of mussels and scallops on pasta at Salute on Higgs Beach. Sitting at a table and everything. And no standing in line either. My idea of how seafood should be celebrated. There were lots of other people donating to a good cause in our place.