Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Mouse That Squeaked

Originally posted 3/27/2008 I am reposting this essay today owing to a slight glitch in my ability to download pictures and access my account. As soon as my home Internet connection is restored by American Telephone and Telegraph normal service will resume here-by tomorrow I hope!

This sign at Mile Marker 53.5 marks the only entrance to Key Colony Beach:

It happened that when World War Two was finished reshaping the world people started to have time on their hands and money too and they wanted to spend some of that time in the sun. Lucky for them Phil Sadowski had a plan. He found an island, carved a bunch of canals and in September 1957, the month before I was born, the city of Key Colony Beach was incorporated. Yesterday these two Earth shattering events collided and I paid my second ever visit to the city that toils in the shadows of Marathon which is a much newer, and possibly less scenic incorporation all around Mile Marker 53. Key Colony Beach is the grand old man of cities in the Middle Keys:

Sadowski is memorialised in KCB, as the city likes to call itself, by the one and only road that projects south from Highway One- the Sadowski Causeway which carries a cheerful sign advising you that you've arrived so what's the hurry? I took the advice to heart, parked the Bonneville and in between taking a picture divested myself of all the protective gear that tends to alienate the motorcyclist from everyone else. I needn't have bothered. I made my grand entry to KCB on our fiftieth birthdays, near enough, by immediately pissing off a couple of power walkers, barely visible in the distance. Unbeknownst to me the yellow line means: DO NOT CROSS- no motorized vehicles. But that warning sign, among a plethora of others, only came later.

I multiplied my sin by stopping further along to photograph these curious constructions. They are breeze block huts, possibly 500 hundred square feet, facing the water with carports in back lining the eastern side of the causeway.

There are dozens of them, built I suspect to satisfy the needs of the less wealthy among Sadowski's post war snowbirds. I quite liked them as an early version of low income housing. I don't know what these place sell for, and I saw a couple up for grabs, but on the rest of the island the cheapest home I saw went for $800,000 in the internet listings. Right next to the low rent neighborhood is a marina and a few convenience type stores selling flip flops, sun tan lotion and possibly the devil's brew, and after that KCB is all residential all the time.

The city is bustling right now, with the city itself boasting that its year round population of 800 is boosted to about four thousand souls during the inclement season Up North. I can believe it, because it seemed like every single one of them was out jogging, hiking, cycling, walking, power walking, strolling and even driving the streets of this infernal city. If there is anywhere less conducive to momentarily parking a motorcycle to take a picture I have yet to find it:

And even though there are just a dozen streets everything is Very Organized which doesn't allow a nosey parker on even two wheels much room to pause and contemplate the frame:

I don't think the city actually encourages much driving within its limits, which may be a good thing. There are no parking spaces and almost no parking areas except for the few I found at the waterfront park. I paused at City Hall for just a moment, but needing neither a permit nor to pay a parking fine (yet) it was just time enough to snap a picture:

Which is my cue to point out that the city holds annual elections to choose city commissioners for two year terms on a rotating basis. The last election produced a landslide for the top vote getter who was endorsed by fully two hundred of his neighbors. The city has no debts, has an enviable record of relative harmony, no scandals and has fully six police officers (dispatched by Sheriff's dispatch in Marathon- I checked. You never know when you might need a job). It claims not to be a boring place to live offering bocce, tennis, 9-hole golf and a whole bunch of other stuff I can't really remember.Oh yes, fishing too. But not from the municipal pier where casting a line will net you a twenty five dollar fine. This is the only pier in Florida where fishing is expressly forbidden, so take a good look:No swimming allowed either, else the under toad will apparently eat you:And if you somehow got the mistaken idea that swimming off that magnificent sand beach under the palm trees would be refreshing, think again:And remember those six officers have but 1400 homes to patrol so they will be on you like flies on the proverbial if you dip a big toe in the azure waters of the Straits of Florida. Look don't touch. Which reminds me a bit of that old TV show The Prisoner.

Thats the shame of places like KCB. I have always had, as long as I can remember a nerdy attraction to places that barely seem to exist. As a kid I rode my motorcycles far and wide to the smallest geographic entities I could find, and in Europe there were a ton: Monaco, San Marino, Andorra, Lichtenstein, and bonus points for the truly obscure like Campione d'Italia in Switzerland and Llivia in southern France. You'd think a mouse that roared like Key Colony Beach would enjoy its status but it tries so hard to be dour under the tropical sun. And you can't be dour enough when you choose to live in something like this:There is a park after a fashion, but if I want to boil my brains out on the sunlit benches where do I leave the Bonneville? In the next jurisdiction? It's very passive aggressive. Home ownership in KCB does have its advantages, in that the city, unlike Monroe County, does allow short term rentals. Indeed short term is the theme for the Keys' own mouse that roars. The waterfront is obscured for the length of it's KCB mile by condos. Old fashioned 1950's concrete block structures:And newer designs with faux shutters and weird Mittel European porch lights blazing in the middle of the day to no visible effect:Not forgetting the neon glories beloved of our parents, back "in the day" as they say most annoyingly:I did discover an "extra" street within city limits, which was probably more fun than I should have allowed myself. Back at the end of the causeway I was returned brutally to the lives that the rest of us in the world outside the cozy confines of KCB have to deal with daily, in winter: a traffic jam turning out onto Highway One.The cars at the front of the line were so languid only about three got out on each green light which was making me crazy with boredom so, ever the rebel I took the right turn lane and found myself abruptly in the parking area of a Circle K convenience store. Indeed, and this it turns out is KCB's sole gas station, though as it faces Highway One a passer-by not tuned in to the vagaries of city planning would never guess. The city of Marathon uses the usual green street signs employed elsewhere in the county and in Key West. But KCB in an effort to distinguish itself uses blue street signs:And right around the corner I found Coral Way, in blue butting up to Clara Boulevard behind the Circle K. And I didn't even need to show id to escape back to the real world. As real as it gets in the Florida Keys, let's face it.