Monday, April 12, 2010

Southernmost Parking

How cool is that? Driving Simonton Street in your hot red convertible, top down, checking out and being checked out. Then you have to park.You would be astonished the lengths people go to avoid dealing with parking in Key West. They find contraptions (Where, Dear God, where?) and adapt them to use on city streets. Got a bizarre tricycle? Tart it up with a lawn mower engine and call it good.The city's rules on parking are not easy to follow especially if one's main purpose is to be in town a little while and the mind is already focused on the benefits of alcohol. There are meters which yield about ten minutes a quarter on the blocks surrounding Duval Street. I say "about" because I don't use them very often and when I do I tend to throw all my available change at random and hope for the best. I think an expired meter is $25 and other violations are $35. So $25 for a day's choice parking while on vacation may be an idea worth considering. Or check these innovations out:That magnificent, flood damaged structure in the picture is City Hall and Fire Station Number 2 now scheduled for demolition. City Hall's next location (possibly here once again) is a hot topic in the city, a community which sometimes follows the lines of the old Jewish joke regarding the number of people in the room and the correspondingly vaster number of opinions. Approach the machine with credit card in hand and choose your language (Francais, Deutsch, Espanol) and follow the pictograms. Upon insertion the machine tells you how long you get for the basic fee and you can hit a button for more time. It's brilliantly simple.
Put the ticket in the windshield thusly and bob's your uncle.
Want to move the car? No problem use the same ticket at another location until the time expires. An excellent deal except if you ride a powered two wheeler and for some inexplicable reason feel the need to use a metered spot you have to use coins else your ticket will get nicked, obviously. The good news? Scooter and Motorcycle parking spots are FREE!Old Town is a great location for pedestrians, and there is debate among the enlightened about the possibility of creating a pedestrian only section on Duval. This idea is very radical in Key West and may be implemented some time after gas reaches $10 a gallon. For a city coming to grips with the inconvenience of recycling, pedestrian malls are a concept one or two leaps down the road. Use a bicycle and..park for free!"Private" even if hammered to a tree means just that. You will be towed and there will be much lamentation as the tow fee ends up being north of $200 and the wrecker lots are all on islands with cheaper land than Key West (Stock Island, Rockland Key etc...) so the cab ride to retrieve your towed vehicle will make you sweat a few extra dollars. By the way, there will be a test at the end of this essay so, PAY ATTENTION. If the meter is jammed, what do you do? Park, get a ticket and prepare to contest it in court. This little rule is the cause of more anguish than you might imagine. The idea, a few administrations ago, entailed the notion of considering all citizens to be thieves and the assumption was you would knobble a meter with, say, your jimmy tool you habitually carry in your purse and then park for free. So to prevent us all turning into crooks, the city dreamed up this buzz kill. No, you don't catch a break if the meter is broken, you get a ticket.
They mention it twice because they mean it.So, like this smart lady you whip out your debit/credit card and buy peace of mind.So, you parked your car in New Town on a wide meter less street and you lifted your bike off your bike rack and peddled under the canopy into Old Town for a little sightseeing and figure you are safe if you secure your bike with a lock. Which you are-except (there is always an exception) do not lock the bike to city property if it is not a proper bike rack. Public works may cut the lock and impound the bicycle at the Police Department if it gets in their way. This has nothing to do with cops who will not unlock your car for you if you lock the keys inside, nor will they cut the lock on your bicycle, contrary to popular belief. I don't believe Public Works has a band of roving lock cutters on the payroll but you are subject to sanction if you do this popular act of law breaking.On the other hand, leave your bike, as ratty as it may be, unlocked for five seconds and it will be GONE. Do you know your expensive bike's serial number? Too bad, that number makes it much easier to retrieve when the thief tries to pawn it. If you don't report your bike stolen, even without a serial number, and you see someone else riding it around town how will you prove to the officer I dispatch to help you, that the bicycle is yours? Swallow your pride and report the theft. Now back to parking. Next question: May I Park Like A Local? Answer: Most Assuredly Not.Sidewalk parking garners you a tow. Unless it's your business it's in front of and you deliver pizzas and Philly cheese steaks around town almost 24 hours a day. Parking and admiring the passing scene is allowed though. You may not even have to lock your ride in this case.Do not park your motorcycle/scooter in a bike parking area. To each, her own.Read the sign. After I took the next picture this scooter was gone, ridden away by the owner. Again, do not imitate locals who know (from painful experience) what they may get away with momentarily.This lot was full as usual on Appelrouth Lane which means moving along and finding somewhere else. You have lots of choices downtown. Yellow line? Fool, don't do it. If you have a handicap sticker or license plate you can park for free in metered parking but you cannot use loading zones. Unless... A motorcycle/scooter at night opens up Duval Street with lots of easy parking. Don't park in the cab stand at Rick's Bar, the cab drivers hate that and I hate getting their calls of complaint.Bicycles make travel easy but the good student will point out immediately what is wrong with the picture above. On Fleming at Duval, alongside La Concha Hotel (which has it;s own expansive parking lot with a scooter rental shop on premises. Park your car and ride).Please, NO SCOOTERS!
Getting a little close to the edge here:
If you need a Slavic lap dance you have to work your way past the ride, so to speak.
I almost forgot- blocking driveways is a capital offense in the Conch Republic.
Is this creative or illegal? You decide. This where parking gets into a gray area. Sidewalk parking is illegal but what is this Honda Metropolitan (Jazz, in Canada) hurting? It seems like sensible use of space to me. Move along, nothing to see here.Off street parking is excellent and necessary. You just need less of it if you can bring yourself to ride a scooter. Do not use vendor allocated spots along Duval. They pay through the nose to use these places during the day and you will be towed faster than greased lightning if you block them.
The above picture illustrates the demand placed on every available inch of Duval sidewalks and streets. Busking, temporary bicycle parking, vending, walking, you name it. Vending seems a hard life to me:Even prams/strollers need to be legally parked or risk getting a ticket.Stopping in the street for a chat is a hallowed Key West tradition, Getting impatient marks you as a busy person or an out-of-town asshole.This my preferred spot for the Bonneville when I'm in town on eaton at Duval. The turquoise building is my temple- the four screen Tropic Cinema.Let us not forget the Post Office at 400 Whitehead Street. From time to time parking at the post office has been allowed after hours. The current post mistress has decided she can't cope with the "liability." Thus she has empowered Arnold's Towing to make an absolute fortune towing from this lot after hours. Read the signs, don't park here, you will be towed. I don't begrudge the fortune Arnold's is making but a dozen cars a night is a lot of angry people and they tow as many as often as they can and still the idiots keep parking here.
These tourists were smart enough to be cycling but they didn't know where to cycle to. I stopped and was nice to them and sent them up Fleming to Margaret to the cemetery to White Street to Salute for drinks and dinner on the beach, just like any tourist baiting local would. She gave me a Key Lime chocolate coconut square and I made her promise not to tell my wife. I had to eat it immediately else it would have melted.By now you are waving your arm to get my attention and begging to be the first to tell me what is wrong with this picture taken on Southard at Thomas:Blue heaven tries to be a good neighbor but area residents went through a phase of dumping on this place. It's too expensive for me but you might want to make a habit of mango pancakes for breakfast here with live chickens on the side.And so the final test: what is residential? Residential spots are supposed to help residents park somewhere near their homes. To use them you need to either a) have a Monroe county tag, like mine:or you can buy a sticker from City Hall, I think it's $85 for one calendar year (January to January). If you don't have these accessories, eagle-eyed residents will call you in and you will be ticketed. Many of Florida's 68 counties issue their own labels on tags like the one above. They aren't registered in the computer system so telling me the suspect vehicle had a "Sunshine State" tag won't help me locate it in the police computer. Florida used to issue "Lease" tags to rental companies but thieves used them as a beacon to guide them to the richest pickings. In an effort to join the race to end the separation of church and state in the New South, Florida has joined the fashion and offers an "In God We Trust" tag. We have not joined with Virginia in celebrating the celebration of Slavery by dedicating April to the Confederacy of Sore Losers. Then there are over a hundred specialty tags that send a portion of their revenues to more-or-less good causes depending on your taste. Former Governor Jeb Bush was once heard to lament that the basic Florida tag was itself becoming an endangered species, a sentiment with which I heartily agree. However in a tax starved state one learns to be creative. Here is a residential spot packed with scooters. Multiple vehicles in one parking spot is permitted but if the spot is metered and the meter runs out everyone gets a ticket.

As for the quiz I was just joking. (I was also joking about legally parking strollers/prams but the stuff about Virginia celebrating the War Between The States to Keep Slavery is not unfortunately a joke).