Thursday, April 21, 2011

House Sitting

Wayne and Chuck had to go Up North for business and the last I heard they dying from exposure somewhere near the New Madrid Fault line. I heard stories of Donner Party levels of exposure to the elements, their dogs huddling with them in cramped conditions while 50 degree arctic blasts swept round their hovel on the outskirts of St Louis. It sounded like Hell.Happily for me, the house sitter, things in the Keys continue as normal, sweltering heat, local governments at loggerheads and the price of gold over $1500 an ounce. Chuck and Wayne, when they bother to come home at all, live in a mansion among palazzi on Sugarloaf Key but in order to keep up with the times they try to grow vegetables in their yard and they wanted me to keep watering them through the drought. Cheyenne party pooped pretty badly by staying out of the sun as I dealt with the withering garden.Growing season for public buildings is in full flight in key West with the House of Brats controversy free wheeling along as the school district tries to build the world's biggest school while the city tries to figure out how to keep Godzilla in check. In the world of tomato and pepper plants the growing season, at the Boys' Palazzo is pretty much over. I dutifully watered, harvested enough tomatoes for another of my wife's famous tomato salads and rested from my labors.The last few vegetables watered, I put the hose away, glad to see the impeccably organized Wayne has a faulty hose connector, amply provided for by a frying pan that I recognized as the kind of stop gap "repair" I would happily employ.
I am glad to able to report that when I checked the horizon from the top of the stairs (photo courtesy of Cheyenne) the Horace O'Bryant Mammoth School Building was hardly visible on the horizon some twenty miles to the west.
I am not fond of rocking chairs but the boys are so as Cheyenne and I took our ease I felt compelled to rock back and forth as I read the paper.

Cheyenne forced herself to take another nap and the afternoon ticked away. In a well regulated world gardening would never be this rugged.

Casa Marina Ghost

It was lunch break time and I took a three o'clock walk around Casa Marina, the high end neighborhood in the southwest corner of Key West. It's hard for me to say if walking Key West at night is a dangerous occupation, though I find it to be an entirely enjoyable place to be at three in the morning. The newspaper reports one of last year's notorious teen muggers has turned snitch and is putting his equally appalling young colleagues in the frame for a couple of publicized muggings in the middle of the night last year. Be that as it may no one has ever bothered me walking, riding, photographing in the middle of my night shift.Indeed as I balanced my camera on my topcase and set the timer for these four second exposures a dude on a heavily loaded bicycle, likely a man of no fixed abode swooped round the corner and took the time to ask if I was okay and if i need to make a call on his cell phone as I stood next to my immobilized motor bike. I reassured him and he took off to find shelter somewhere. I'd rather not know where.
Generally speaking, staying sober and not being annoying or flashy will keep one safe enough anywhere on the streets of Key West. Buying drugs is a quick way to get into trouble and being blitzed and falling down drunk won't help either.I really enjoy the nights on the streets of Key West with no one around, just me and my Bonneville. A colleague of mine showed me pictures she had taken with some of her friends in "haunted" places in Key West, murder sites and known haunts of the dead. She saw shadows and showed me remarkable outlines of shadowy people in the pictures. I have never seen any myself, yet I look in the picture above and on top of the "Stop" painted on the asphalt of Washington Street one sees the ghostly outline of a cyclist riding parallel to the live cyclist to the left, the one with the glowing headlight. Is it a ghost? I doubt it, but what fun if it were... The El Patio Motel, a landmark and surely haunted by all the visitors who come and go and dream of life in Key West as an exotic tropical haunt. For the living, not the dead I hope.

Bridge Walking

Cheyenne enjoys walking pretty much anywhere, and she'll seek out things of interest in the most unlikely places. Including the wooded areas alongside Highway One!As the summer like heat has increased I have found Cheyenne is happy to go on longer walks if she gets to wander at will in a place she finds interesting.It's less walking and more meandering these days.To my surprise the old bridges alongside the Overseas Highway have her attention every time we go out on them. They look barren to me these hundred year old structures but perhaps she finds the tail end of angler's bait or catches smelling the place up. I saw this cyclist first riding west toward Cudjoe Key and a few minutes later back he came briskly peddling.Winter is the season for long distance riders, people who tackle the 130 mile long ride from Miami to Key West, a ride that baffles me, perhaps because I know the road well enough that seeing it at 12 miles an hour would not be terribly interesting. I do enjoy stopping and looking at the ever changing, same scenery. I don't take it for granted... ...and neither does my ever curious Yellow Labrador.In Paradise even the mundane road signs take on a slightly exotic air, caught between sky and sea, and one wonders why would anyone not want to adopt this highway?

Word Of Mouth Gardening

My wife told me to report for happy hour with the dog at a stranger's house as the sun was heading toward the horizon. The start time was delayed thus it was Cheyenne and I showed up on time and settled in to enjoy the view from the porch.I don't do well in bars, the noise of many people talking all at once, the use of small talk, the televisions blaring and the sounds of the street pouring in like a blanket across all the rest of the noise make me cringe when I am in a crowd of people. I end up acting like someone hard of hearing, nodding smiling and wondering when will the torture end. Not in this case, we several of us admired the view together in respectfully hushed tones.Dwight is a man who not only built his own home but he has also built a garden that has inspired awe in all who have seen it. I was overwhelmed by his fruits and vegetables, such that when he pulled out a giant watermelon and sliced it up announcing it was home grown all I could do was dig in.The food kept coming out of the grill, Dwight, seen below and carefully observed by Nan pulled grilled vegetables out of his magician's hat, huge egg plants, acres of tomatoes and crisp boiled potatoes. This is a man who knows his soil.A couple of visiting Californians were duly impressed, and people from the Golden State aren't easy to impress as I well remember after twenty years residence. Cheyenne naturally missed out on everything, she is such a wall flower when it comes to food we forgot she was there. Important communications were beamed in by use of Cathy's iPhone. God forbid we should make a move anywhere without the support and backup of random electrons.Lucy and Carol set the world to rights in the yard while Satchel, Cheyenne's first friend ( the first dog she was friendly with after she came out of the pound) explored the boat. Cheyenne preferred to stay close to the food, and to me, who is an easy mark.The easy conversation went on well into the night until we pried ourselves up, swept the table clean more or less and made our way to the cars. Dwight's mango trees are reproducing themselves at a pace we rank amateurs could only dream of. We wanted to know his secret."Plastics" Dwight whispered confidentially at the top of the stairs. At least that was what I thought he said but I may have been bemused. "Pro Mix" my wife asserted with confidence. I wonder if it is too late to apply it to our mango tree which this year has managed to produce just one single solitary fruit?