Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Of Eccentricity

I was looking at the cute dog curled up in the shade but upon mature reflection I realised there is a woman's backside here to cheer up Jack riepe who feels neglected by the serious nature of my essays, poor man.Of all the pictures I took waiting for the Minimal Regatta this year these perhaps reflect what caught my eye. The dog, the food, unidentifiable and thus interesting, alongside what could be a couple of pints of margarita (or lemonade, unlikely but possible). riepe considers me eccentric for not focusing on the female form but my wandering eye is taken by irony not big knockers.
The man with the hat in the next picture is a professional eccentric trying to earn a crust flogging a book; surely not? I understand not everyone is cut out to be an office wage slave but I admire anyone motivated to flog themselves publicly like that, walking around in a silly hat trying to look eccentric. I much prefer to melt into the crowd if actual flight is not an option.I am frequently accused of eccentricity by people who don't know me well, and I think even my wife had the wrong idea at first. After several years of marriage she said with wonderment how surprised she was by my tendency to follow the rules, to put trash in the can, to walk on the path and not use the pool after hours. I see no reason to make an exhibition of oneself in public but in Key West happily that reticence is a rare commodity. While everyone is staring at the over sized breast or silly hats I go about my business undisturbed. And some of the time I make it my business to look through a camera and the professional eccentrics love to have their picture taken.

Which in Key West is a standard activity, we are all amateur recorders of our times.When I went to Santa Cruz last year I got yelled at for taking pictures which I thought was odd in a tourist town. Santa Cruz is a town filled with opinionated people exposing their minds not their lives to public contemplation. In Key West a camera makes you a visitor and thus invisible to locals, which suits me just fine.I never could live on mainland Florida where even I am rated an eccentric, more a measure of the mainlanders' narrowness than my weirdness. Six months in Fort Myers and I was ready to dress up in funny clothes and walk with a swish to take attention away from my speech impediment, which is a mid Atlantic immigrant's accent. That mainland misery of being constantly noticed for the manner of my speech is how I know why Key West is my haven, as it is for so many lost souls. People in Key West are too busy nurturing their eccentricities to notice me. I recommend Key West for that reason alone, never mind the weather.

Meeting Conch

I had been planning a quiet afternoon in the air-conditioning with Wayne and Chuck but Wayne had ideas other than computing.

It was lovely and hot outside. Wayne and Chuck pride themselves on keeping the air quite warm now they are well south of St Louis as compared to me who likes his indoor chill.

The neighbors were out of town and their dog walker was charging horrendous sums to let the creature out so Wayne the decent fellow offered to help out. Wayne and Chuck will be taking excellent care of my beloved during our vacation this July.

Cheyenne and I waited in the shade for Wayne to collect the hound from upstairs and I was left to contemplate the value of a boob trappe?

Conch's home sits on an extra large waterfront park that Cheyenne found was full of new smells too check out. It was like a park for her.

Conch is young and full of energy alongside my older slower dog but they put up a good show in the blistering on sun. Wayne started to wilt and it was time to flee the scene. Conch's next scheduled outing was at dusk when temperatures drop a few noticeable degrees.

It was a quiet summer afternoon when human activity was noticeable by it's absence. Fat Albert, the air force blimp was among the clouds checking for intruders.

Last week 17 Cubans within sight of freedom were spotted by a busybody angler who called the Coastguard and because they were not touching land they were sent back to Cuba for re-education.

Wayne's favorite view he says, typical of fabulous Florida Keys scenery...myself I always enjoy sun glinting on palm frond:

But poor Wayne was over heated and had to get back to Chuck waiting patiently with ice and tea in the kitchen.

As lovely as it was outside Cheyenne promptly threw herself on the boys' terrazzo floor to cool off. Tis not the season for long walks!

Posted from my iPad using Blog Press. Some photo tweaking is clearly still required, but I am getting the hang of it. Blog Press is amazingly simple.


A picture of a woman walking past an ATM. This was a picture I didn't erase from my camera for some reason and I offer it here from my computer file, to assuage the needs of those strange men who occasionally drop in on my website and complain about the lack of sex appeal. Wasilla Bill: I am trying to toe the fine line between intrusion and Alaskan reticence.I find Key West and the Lower Keys endlessly fascinating for some reason. I enjoy the light, the play of shadows and colors, the peculiar architecture and the strange mores of people on vacation who wear clothes and behave as though they are strangers in town, mid Western rectitude be damned. And then I get endless requests for pictures of women. Having complied let me move on. As befits a man of my limited sense of humor the bicycle below struck me as an extreme way of evading the tow away zone restriction. The car driver should do likewise.I noticed this magnificent flight of stairs worn by the passage of time and doubtless many feet. It probably leads to numerous dingy apartments the building was never originally designed to accommodate. Rents are probably quite high as they have to be in a town where property ownership is expensive and people probably forget to notice the things that amuse and interest me.So who, I ask myself would defile this lovely flight of stairs from another time, with a bottle of beer in a brown bag? Someone who no longer notices his surroundings perhaps. But the bottle was not alone, there was a companion sitting on the sidewalk. I see a recycling opportunity but I took a picture instead. It's what I do.I love louvered windows in the old fashioned Florida style. I'm not sure I want to live with them through the summer but to look at in someone else's home they are perfect. Wandering Key West is all about noticing. And if you are me photographing.

Waterfront Development

This is the quintessential Key West view, palms, sun and people enjoying the alternative lifestyle of scooting through Paradise. Hold on a moment and Paradise may come a step closer behind the mural if certain people get their way. I overhead one man, ostensibly a resident tell his out of town visitors in a confident tone of voice that a brew pub is going to be built here, in the former Waterfront Market, the much missed organic grocery store and smoothie bar.

The brew pub idea is the plan, led by the owners of the very charming and (I hope) successful Porch beer and wine bar at Caroline and Duval. The idea is to create a brewery of craft beers, a restaurant and an adult music space where old farts like me can have an evening out, drink alcohol and not fall down drunk on the way home. I am a big fan of the plan.I look forward to taking a table overlooking Key West Bight and drinking a beer (not too hoppy and bitter please) while watching the sun set over the water. However before that can happen there are a few hoops ( and hops) to leap through. However like the guy said, essentially, this is a development that should happen, if only to encourage the notion that Key West's clientele is graying. Honestly I would love to see a master plan in the works for the city's future. I have to acknowledge that any plan put forward would be torn to pieces by competing interests whose first task to tear down such that building up never happens, but it seems to me tourism income is going to be shrinking in a shrinking economy, as befits a shrinking Empire. Now might be a good time to figure if Key West can offer more or less of: filthy t-shirts? Cheap eats sold pricey? or chain outlets?Southernmost Brewery. Please. Business comes and goes in this demanding town and sometimes a store you've always seen in one spot seems destined to be there forever and it isn't suddenly one day. On Ramrod Key a rather cool welding operation set up shop, and he helped me with my utility trailer once. He's gone and the building's up for lease. The old Paradise Cafe on Eaton Street is another such fixture that was there and then it wasn't. And nothing has stepped in tot take it's place.I remember it fondly, the sandwiches were huge and it was on my way to and from work at the time, always a plus, and besides all that when I took Emma by she got cold cut scraps and a bowl of water. Emma was my Santa Cruz rescue yellow lab who made her retirement in Key West after sailing Central America with me. And that's the end of that as Emma and Paradise Cafe are both gone.The Steam Plant has been around for a while and now that is luxury condos (50% off if you've got 1.6 mill to spare) it looks likely to remain around for a while. And the greenery is filling in and looking well settled so pretty soon we'll all be forgetting it was a disused power plant for ages and before that a power plant that spewed chemicals into the eponymous toxic triangle across the street. Change can be good sometimes, and the brew pub may be one of those changes.

Old Town Color

I've passed this statue by before with my camera and she is still there, still staring at the flowers while struggling to keep her grip on her clothes.The car cover produced a splash of color in the driveway. I've never thought of Key West as much of a place for exotic cars (or motorcycles either) not least because they are such a nuisance to have them looked after professionally. Besides all that there doesn't seem to be much point in driving, or riding anything too powerful most of the time.That said my wife always fancied an Audi convertible and she did nix my suggestion we replace our V-6 Nissan with a six cylinder Ford Fusion. Not ecological said, making sure we got a dullard four cylinder which does the job just fine in point of fact. And did just fine crossing the country last year. I'm not sure what it takes to have such a trim neat and colorful porch. My outdoor seating area always seem to look functional but not quite colorful when I take the newspaper and tea out there. Cheyenne chews her bones out there when she wants a break from the summer air conditioning so I call the porch her charnel house. That may have something to do with it.I think this splash of orange is known locally as a lobster claw but as usual when it comes to naming flowers I could be wrong. Some considerate person put a rather powerfully framed mirror on their outside wall. However to preen successfully I should have been eight feet tall. Cheyenne looked at me very old fashioned as I stood in the street on tip toe seeking inches.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Cemetery Trees

Standing in the shade on Frances Street, waiting for Cheyenne to catch her breath in summer heat I was contemplating the trees dominating the cemetery skyline. It's been hard lately for me living in a state that seems hell bent on devouring itself. Our Governor, one of the most successful corporate crooks in history, is determined to sell out what is left of the Sunshine State to his former cronies in a breathtaking sweep under the carpet of social mores and middle class rectitude. He hasn't created one single job, indeed has driven out the proposed rail jobs offered by the Feds. He has announced a privatization campaign that will funnel public funds to private stockholders across the board and the modestly unbalanced budget is to be set right on the backs of the poor not the rich. God forbid. So I take solace in the shiny fronds of the palms towering over the dead. The sun still shines in the sunshine state and I am snug in the Southernmost City so i suppose it is esoteric in this selfish age to worry for my less fortunate citizens. If they can't afford the lifestyle let them find another! I've got mine and my wife has hers and that's all that matters.Eventually things will change and from change comes improvement, eventually. One could argue that without World War Two industrial drive such as that seen in post war Germany would never have been possible, but consider the cataclysm that the people went through to get to their modern unionized manufacturing prosperity...And I ask myself how it is that Germany manufactures, pays high wages and provides an ample social safety net - and work even for Turkish migrants!- and we in the US languish with our best paid jobs sent overseas.The latest proposals to wreck Medicare and Social Security while cutting taxes on the very wealthy all the way down to 25% top rate seems like such a blatant attack on the middle class one wonders how it's authors can survive a public lynching. Instead, in the process of breaking every promise made to the middle class we see our people rolling over and leaving it to the protesters in Syria and Spain and Sendai to do the heavy lifting for us. I am told I should bargain with Medical providers when the Federal government gives me medical vouchers to tend to my old age medical needs. I wonder how exactly those negotiations will go. They certainly don't go well now when we face absurd medical bills and the promise of an ever worsening situation.And like I say we are the lucky ones, to some modest degree. Child free, employed and with medical benefits we sit in the sun and watch the glare on the palm fronds and the ripples on the ocean and read how it seems Michigan's Upper Peninsula is too remote and under populated to be worth spending any money on. The rich don't need da U.P. so the Peninsula can go hang. As long as there are palms and sunshine and fish in the ocean ready to be caught and killed they won't let us go the way of the U.P. They will need us to tend to their safe back yard tropical playground. Therefore we thank the palms for looking so good.

Wong Song Alley

The first time I got a call for service from a resident of Wong Song Alley at first I thought she was joking about her address. She sighed, "People never believe me when I give them my address." Convinced of her authenticity I then had a terrible struggle trying to figure out where she actually lived.In cases like those I take time in my lunch break or the next time I'm downtown to check out the location so I know the layout in my mind for next time. There's always a next time, except there never has been for Wong Song Alley.Wong Song Alley: I have no idea where he name came from, except it sounds like something out of The Mikado or South Pacific, depending on your musical tastes.Instead Wong Song Alley is just another leafy lane off the south side of Truman Avenue half way between Simonton and White Streets.The street sign is irresistible to thieves and souvenir hunters apparently because it is rarely in situ. But when you have found it you will know the place for it's magnificent stone wall located half way into the alley.The alley is rather delightfully filled with leaves dead and living, and colorful flowers whose name, as usual, escapes me.And across from the endless rows of apartment houses we have a......horse's head? Very Cosa Nostra I'm sure. Lacking any other sign to confirm our location Cheyenne, hunting for shade, found this:And emerging on Virginia Street Wong Song Alley looks like this: Also unmarked and mysterious from this end. Look for it across from the Mini Storage building on Virginia Street.

Minimal Regatta Loungers

Schooner Wharf's Minimal Regatta is a load of boating action that takes place on the water but in back of the bar and away from the scene there is the limbering up area.
You might think this is just a bunch of people drinking but what they are actually doing is putting the finishing touches to their weirdly ill assorted craft. The boats are made of a wish and a prayer and get points for being unseaworthy or fast as the designer chooses.As a result there is a line of would be contestants sitting around dealing with butterflies in their stomachs as they wait for their number to be called. It's a well know fact that the best way to kill off butterflies in your stomach is to drown them in either Captain Morgan's or Corona so that is what is really happening behind the Schooner Wharf Bar. Some vessels look decidedly unseaworthy. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility to meet a contestant known to you. Donnie fixes my car on Big Pine when he's not risking life and limb by drowning in Key West Bight. A couple of years ago I caught his business partner Dave in action in the regatta in this essay:
http://conchscooter.blogspot.com/2009/05/sink-and-swim.html and sure enough Dave was back out for more punishment:
Drowning the butterflies before the main event. He's off to a new married life in Indiana in a few weeks. As Donnie put it this was his "last hurrah." Which, sometimes is life in Key West.