Thursday, September 2, 2010

Spanish Main

Developers do not as a general rule offer us names that make any sense when we buy a modern American home in a subdivision. Cudjoe Key abounds in such bizarre names I would have difficulty living on many streets on that particular island. Pieces of Eight Road? Cut Throat Drive? Treasure Chest Road? No, I am too wimpy to have to claim piracy for my address.It happened that Cheyenne and I were at a loose end one afternoon contemplating a walk and she suggested Cudjoe Key. Sometimes my dog likes to spend a hot hour walking streets, some days she likes to go to the beach, others she prefers a stroll in the mangroves. This day she was feeling blood thirsty so we went to Spanish Main on Cudjoe (pro: cud- Joe, not coo- Joe or coo hoe) Key.
I wonder what a commercial use is? Parking a vending vehicle perhaps? Or driving a cab on this section of gravel path?It has been noted that the prettiest place in the Keys is actually Key West itself. The road to get there, all 100 miles (160 kilometers) of it is pretty much an urban planning disaster. Neon competes with ugly signage of all sorts, wires droop in every direction and landscaping is a foreign concept. Cudjoe Key enthusiastically embraces the anarchist's landscaping mantra: let there be chaos. You can never have too much hurricane fencing either.This photo below shows Spanish Main trending south toward the Venture Out trailer park and a whole collection of assorted side streets on the southern half of Cudjoe Key. Joy Williams in her excellent book The Florida Keys offers several sources for the name Cudjoe though none make much sense to me. Perhaps the name is derived from a joewood tree, or someone called cousin Joe, an early home steader on the island,or possibly the name is derived from an African name of an early settler or some such, as Cudjoe is said to be a name given by slaves to any child born on the first day of the week. In short, no one seems to know where the name came from. After noting that the best tasting lobster come from waters around the island, Williams moves on across the bridge to Sugarloaf Key and leaves Cudjoe to it's rural isolation. Me? I am fascinated by the silly street names because there isn't much else here. So, who knows where the Spanish Main of pirate legend really lies?It is actually the coastline of South America from Portobello in Panama east, as that was roughly where the treasure ships left from on their journey to Havana and then Spain. Having sailed part of the Spanish Main myself in my own boat I can say it is not an entirely friendly body of water. My wife and I still talk about the storm that caught us north of Panama and blew all night leaving us and the dogs like drowned rats covered in salt water. Spanish Main may be a romantic name, the reality is rather more coarse. Meanwhile the developers got busy with more idiotic naming.A privateer was not actually a pirate, technically speaking but had a letter of marque authorizing it to harass and sink enemy ships so the effect was that of piracy from an opponent's point of view. Sir Francis Drake was one famous privateer busy singeing the king of Spain's beard as he put it.As streets go Privateer is much of a muchness, the usual stilt homes and mailboxes, some bearing rather tired and sun bleached sentiments. You'd think a refresher might be in order.
When these subdivisions were built the idea was to get everyone into a waterfront home by bringing tidal water into the middle of the island. This was in an era when blasting out limestone rock canals was considered environmentally acceptable.Nowadays the equivalent of a neighborhood ploughed field is considered too delicate for a little homegrown fertilizer.
I have my plastic bag at the ready when we walk.
Most homes in the subdivisions off the Overseas Highway have lots of modular type homes on stilts as shown above. The one below reminds me of the Confederate Ironclad CSS Virginia with its sloping metal sides. Ugly but perhaps effective in a storm. A statue of a pelican, almost as good as the real thing.I wonder who figured salmon pink was just the right color for a tropical house?
The flood plain mandates stilt homes in the Keys, the older homes get away with being grandfathered in lower to the ground while newer homes have to be taller. I was never a fan of stilt homes until I started living in mine and surrounded as it is by mature trees I have come to call it a tree house.The local neighborhood watch. Cheyenne ignored them, as usual. They fancied her.
The other neighborhood watch checking for insects:
95 degrees and 100% humidity does not make an old VW Bug look attractive but this winter with cool sunny days it will no doubt be a blast to drive around.
For some the heat is too much and a bus shelter is a good place to take a breather. The Lower Keys Shuttle buses between Marathon and Key West were so popular with bike riders they removed the racks and now only allow people to board with folding bikes. Anything to reduce ridership, these people!
The inarticulate Danny Coll lost the Republican primary for county commissioner and now he can return to the obscurity of his NAPA business. His best qualification was a promise to make government work or reduce spending or some other thoughtless bromide. I'm voting for the incumbent in the General Election.Despite the fact that nothing much goes on, on Cudjoe there are actually a ton of small businesses that soldier on serving their neighbors.
I just wish that something more scenic than a bunch of insubstantial flapping plastic bed sheets marked their presence. The power lines aren't particularly attractive but they are hurricane resistant which is an obvious advantage in this climate.
Princess was ready to get back in her chariot and so was I. Enough sweating for one afternoon.