Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Evening on Southard

The 900 block of Southard Street has two well known book-ends, and because this is Key West, the book-ends have to be either a place to drink or a place to eat. In the picture above the white overhang marks Mangia Mangia, a sort of Italian restaurant, and in the picture below the white square behind the Bonneville (yes, it's my motorcycle, no comments from the peanut gallery please), is the Cuban Deli known as Five Brothers.And in between there are the usual examples of fine Conch architecture:
In this picture below you can a clear example of how Conchs (native Key Westers) used to enlarge their modest homes as they were able. The individual sections were often added one at a time and frequently the roofing materials on each section look slightly different. This example looks modern and quite possibly added on with the use of a spirit level as all the sections match. This pink charmer is for sale at a breath takingly reduced price of $974,000 dollars (about 15 new Yuan) so if you feel the need to escape the snow you know where you can land:I have long admired this next house, and not just because the garden is so perfectly maintained:It is vaguely in the bungalow style of homes I lived among in Santa Cruz, California, andt there were a few examples of this faux adobe style surrounded by heavily manicured plant life.Perhaps the cool damp of a perfect winter day in Key West reminded me of the cool damp of a perfect summer day in coastal California. Pehrhaps had it been a hot dry day it might have reminded me of Santa Fe. I don't think it has off street parking and it is located on a busy street but I really like the look of that house. A busy street? Everything's relative but Southard (pronounced "suth-'ard") Street is the main artery to Duval from White Street where Fleming Street is the parallel one way street leading away from Duval. And there are hardly any stop signs on Southard so it can be more convenient than taking Truman or Eaton streets:The Cuban Grocery is popular with locals but it is also on the tourist charts and it is one of the places indicated if you want an "authentic" (I hate that word!) Key West experience:I like the food very much, as high as it is in calories. One takes one's meal and sits outside on the benches and watches tourists wobbling by on bicycles and roosters pecking desultorily in the gutters. I recommend the papas rellenas, Cuba's answer to a Scotch Egg or the bollos which are Cuba's answer to falafel. I feel the need to go and photograph some (and eat them) purely for research you understand:The blessing of off street parking:
I delivered furniture to Southard Square once and discovered it is a collection of impossibly small and expensive designer condos grouped around a bunch of banana palms and a pool. It is exquisite:You could choose to study marine biology in Washington state's frigid waters or you could knuckle under and read law at an ivy league school. Or you could hang with the big dogs on the waterfront in Key West. If you do, this would be your uniform:An eyebrow home, mentioned previously, inevitably, in this blog. The overhang was designed to allow upstairs windows to stay open in inclement weather but all the overhang actually does is hold in the hot air rising...Pretty nonetheless and the disadvantages are overcome by air conditioning.J Wills Burke tells us, on page 57 of his superb book The Streets of Key West that Samuel L Southard (1787-1842) was a governor and senator from the State of New Jersey and he also worked in the Federal Government as secretary of War and of the Treasury. Who knew? The question is, why did he get a Key West street, and a big one at that, named after him? He had a falling out with president Jackson over giving him credit for the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812 but Wills Burke suggests that his connection to New Jersey, from whence hailed Whitehead, may be the reason he is remembered in Key West. Which makes no sense to me but there we are, I guess friendship can get you a street name if you are influential enough.And this is where I get to stick my neck out. I am not a fan of Mangia Mangia, and I never have been. I am alone in this as everyone I have ever met loves the place so ignore me and continue to flock here. God knows it's cute enough:
And packed (I took this shot when I walked past later at night) because like I said it is very very popular with locals and visitors:I am a hearty eater, and after a decade spent in English boarding schools my taste buds have been mangled badly enough that I even like tapioca pudding- a lot. I have never been a great fan of Italian-American restaurants, as I find the practice of spending good money to pay eat pasta and drink wine is a waist; even I, the world's worst cook can pull off a meal of pasta and wine, at home, and considerably cheaper. Besides, Mangia Mangia has an odd menu that mixes flavors that just don't seem to appeal to me. But like I say everyone else loves the place. Having made an ass of myself perhaps I should move on. More innocuous architecture: And a last look at the Bonneville, upon which machine I enjoyed a fine commute to work: Suffice it to say that Cheyenne didn't talk to me for ten minutes after I arrived home in the morning. She's going to have to get used to it as I enjoyed the motorcycle commute as much as ever, if not more.