Monday, April 5, 2010

Harpoon Harry's

This was my home away from home when I lived on a boat in Key West and worked as a boat captain on the waterfront. It is necessary to point out that in "those far off days" Harpoon Harry's was just a greasy spoon and never had a license to sell intoxicating liquor. It did not as I recall have televisions blaring from the ceiling telling me what to think either. Big Brother is where you see him and I see his grasping features in the spewing box rather than in government forms. I dislike eating while being surveiled but when I mentioned the intrusion to the owner Ron, he shrugged and said people want it. Sheeple! (I'm the grumbling bearded tramp in the corner spooning his grits and smelling foul).I expect had I lived in the happy years before television I'd be grumbling about something else, the WPA probably or the cost of government relief programs, or the rising tide of hussies' hemlines. Aside from the abomination that is television when I moved to nights I stopped eating breakfast out almost altogether. I lost the high calorie habit as it were. So, finding myself alone in town at a loose end at dinner time I took up an old habit one more time and discovered something quite delightful about Harpoon Harry's. It is an excellent window on the world, a feature I had not previously noticed. The place across the street is one of the innumerable inconvenience stores around town it is known as Maun's, a venerable Key West name and then it became the New Store or some such bland appellation when Maun sold it. People still come and go of a Friday evening to pick up their needs and notions.These folks are doing a creditable job of going local to my eye; but I am not well tuned to dress subtleties and perhaps they don't look the least bit like scruffy, no name brand locals. Not local this next, I'm guessing, but he clearly has a communicating relationship with his offspring for which this 9-1-1 operator gives him a gold star. I had sent an officer to explain the bad things about truancy to an exasperated mother and her 17 year old son, points of behavior that had no value when they came from mother. Inside the café I was hunkered down during a slow period, when the place was almost empty. I eat at odd hours when I'm working, constrained by my schedule and my upside down sleep patterns. I was almost alone in the cafe and had plenty of time to enjoy looking around. Harpoon Harry's prides itself on it's collection of dust catchers.I didn't check this visit but there used to be a a Barbie in a show case on the wall on the Margaret Street side of the restaurant. Bondage Barbie was all done up appropriately and got stolen for a ransom once as I recall. I have no doubt I shall slip her picture into a future essay if she is still there.The two other patrons, shown above, were chatting away merrily with the server, while I was going to read as usual, but I didn't get around to it. I played tourist in my window booth with my camera. Decidedly local.I never order a tuna melt on wry bread, so this being an evening of "never do's" - I did. Turn it over from time to time- the server admonished me- else it gets soggy. She was right it was deliciously sloppy and some of it had to get spooned up with a fork.
My only lament was Miss Chatty was doing a good job of making the visitors feel at home but was not up to speed with my coffee requirements and I ended up with only two cups where four would have been a minimum with all the fries, ketchup and sloppy melt I had to deal with. The coffee was as I like it, less bitter than battery acid and properly American. (Giovanni, my Italian childhood buddy calls American coffee brodo- or broth but there are certain things of which he knows nothing).A diner should leave me with coffee spilling from all orifices, and I am too bourgeois to interrupt a conversation with demands of a waitress. Ina diner I expect coffee to be a constant flow.I ate uncharacteristically slowly waiting for more coffee, which gave me time to check out the street from time to time. It must have been getting on for the witching hour of sunset as people in forcibly eccentric dress started to commute to their own workplaces of an evening.You might be surprised what a career can be made for oneself at Mallory Square if one has a certain competence and flair. I would piss off all the punters to a degree that would leave me on government relief, no doubt. People are a thin skinned lot. In addition to not liking television I am not much of a drinker so I cannot be sure but I am fairly certain the Orioles Nest on the one hundred block of Simonton Street went out of business, which, if I am correct, makes this t-shirt a classic and worth snapping on the fly like this:
The purpose of the Orioles was never quite clear to me other than to host street scuffles just before closing time. This character looked like he lost his way to the Sud Tirol/Alto Adige. One has to wonder where he went to get the felt Trenker on his head. It looked like one, as he flashed by.Big pole dude, very big pole indeed. I don't fish so further comment would be impertinent.I'm thinking we might need to bring back those 5 cent dance parlors to deal with our own Depression. Perhaps an Andrew Jackson a dance to account for inflation?Weather guessing is a big deal in Key West for some people, not just because of hurricanes. The server had been watching television and was all in a tizz over a line of storms heading towards Key West which were going to bring us heavy rain for hours (and a quiet night in Dispatch I allowed myself to hope). It looked sort of gray outside and she was enjoying the spectacle, getting her roommate organized over the phone and preparing for a break in the routine of the dinner hour service.Not a storm but a damp squib it turned out. My Bonneville got drizzled on overnight but people did not stay off the streets.
Harpoon Harry's last entry in their blog was July 2009. Fresh coffee would have gone down a treat with this lovely:Faced with a dry cup I avoided the strawberry cake and to my surprise got a slice of cake at work to celebrate an anniversary. So my self denial was it's own reward.I got out for $15 including a decent sized tip, more than my wife would have authorized, that is to say.
Not tipping in Key West is a crime against humanity considering the wages in proportion to housing costs. You give up a lot, to give up a lot, was how one aquaintance put the cost of living in perspective.I was very glad to make Harpoon Harry's acquaintance after a long dry spell.
Don't bother killing the TV, I am in a tiny minority, I know. Tuna, a modest amount of coffee and a window on the world were just what I needed to get me ready for work.