Wednesday, September 1, 2010

500 Southard

I am not as big a fan of this place as many other people are. I like the building, the service is good, the food is okay. I am on the wrong side of public opinion (again) as this restaurant is the object of raves most places, but when i think of eating out, ever less these days, this is not on my list. Yet the block of Southard Street between Duval and Simonton Streets is always appealing to me. This white block across the street is the telephone exchange of Ma Bell, as was. And on a summer afternoon with the sun dropping in the sky the white American Telephone and Telegraph building looks like a wedding cake compared to the rest of the diminutive buildings on the block. Samuel L Southard lived from 1787 to 1842 and most likely got this street named for him thanks to his service as Secretary of the Navy, according to J. Wills Burke's book The Streets of Key West, an indispensable tome if you want to understand the city's history. People who don't know how to pronounce the street call it South-hard, where it is actually Suth-'ard. It is a one way street towards Whitehead Street and very useful it is too for one who wishes to approach Duval from White Street. A social service office has moved and left behind some helpful bumper stickers.One might like to extrapolate a downturn in the economy from a sign like this one below. Businesses come and go, some move some leave. It happens all the time in Key West, even in this economy, when you might be surprised home some hopeful is still ready to start up an indispensable new business. This used to be a Spanish language station broadcasting at 1500 AM. Konk-AM on White Street now uses that frequency and this place is no longer a radio station. Konk-AM is a funky community radio worth a listen, unpolished and heartfelt and all about Key West.Dust catcher alert!
I have photographed this store window previously. I love the notion of a "put on" store, but that is exactly what happens- Ramona puts logos on clothes. And does it very nicely too.Back across the street next to the defunct radio station we have the cell phone tower that serves downtown. The other cell tower is on Stock Island. Plans to put a tower on North Roosevelt near Albertsons foundered over community opposition.
My wife and I recently divorced ourselves from Big Banking and left Bank of America for First State Bank. I enjoy the contrast between the big bank and the struggling local credit union on Southard.
the middle of the block is actually quite picturesque. The gap between the buildings is Key Lime Square.
Back across the street is a stalwart of the vegetarian scene in Key West. This is a place this omnivore likes to eat. Southern fried tofu is astonishingly good as are their cold noodles.Next door is a drop in project for young people. What this sign means precisely I shall have to ask. I loiter a great deal with my camera.
The project is part of the Florida Keys Children's Shelter and they do good work. And next door to the Lighthouse is another beacon- the place where pizza is served almost 24 hours a day. It is a place where many late night drinkers come for a bite to eat in the early hours. Cops too. Not dispatchers if their wives find out.And back across the street the former Dunkin' Donut turned Papa Java's has folded. Krispy Kreme doughnuts can now be found in many convenience stores and that will have to do. I heard it said that immigration raids found undocumented workers much to Dunkin Donuts' displeasure. And without those eastern Europeans doughnuts aren't commercially viable. Too bad. Everyone needs a hit of fried dough now and again. With coffee. Yum! Southard crosses Duval and local merchants have tried to turn the tide of aimless shoppers off Key West's main thoroughfare.When riding Duval one looks for this landmark, lately showing accurate time, which marks Southard.
September is the slowest month of the year in Key West. Europeans are headed home after prolonged summer vacations, American families are long gone and snowbirds are still enjoying leaf changes Up North. With no hurricanes in sight this week I am kicking back and enjoying warm ocean waters and empty streets.
While it is quiet it isn't completely dead. Some restaurants close and hospitality workers who have set aside some money from the busier times of the year are getting a break. Others who weren't so careful are struggling to pay the rent.
The art deco Pegasus Hotel:Money makes the world go round.
I am grateful for my year round government job this time of year more than ever.