Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Escape From The City

I pulled up to the Key Haven Shell on my wife's 150cc ET4 Vespa and lifted the seat to fill the tank with $4.30 premium. "That thing moves," said an off duty UPS employee who pulled up alongside to fill his silver VW Golf. "I was thinking of passing back there and you blew by." He looked at the diminutive cream colored "moped" and added that he was doing 60 miles per hour at the time. Yup, I replied and it gets 70 miles per gallon, as I finished loading one and a half gallons into the tank. "Good for a hundred miles," I said as I pulled out of the gas station.

Asking my wife to drive us home in her convertible was my way of putting the cap on an evening that had not gone exactly as planned. I brought the Vespa to her workplace for her to ride around town and we had talked of having dinner out and going to see Win Win at the Tropic. Paul Giamatti ( ) plays a sleazy small town lawyer surrounded by adult losers who pin their hopes of validation on a young wrestler new to town. Great good fun. Dinner however went all wrong. How is it possible I ask myself, that every single sodding restaurant is closed on a Monday? Is it a Bittburger conspiracy? Do the restaurateurs gather on a Monday night in someone's living room and have a giant bitch fest about the past week's most annoying customer? We stuffed a meter with coin on Virginia Street (oh Bonneville I miss you and free motorcycle parking) and walked to Sweet Tea, my wife's new favorite. It may be a new venture of the local arch capitalist Chris Belland, man of the people in the Key West Citizen, but it isn't open on Mondays apparently. Nor is my favorite Badboy Burrito on Simonton , nor is Banana Café (La Poivree, a burger with cream peppercorn sauce in a crepe) so we ended up wasting the quarters in the meter and moved the Sebring to park it for free at the courthouse and from there walked to a dinner of Stella Artois and popcorn at the movie theater. It could have been worse. It was fun being the passenger for once in the car putting the camera above the windshield and playing with the settings. My wife puts the roof down at every opportunity, prompting me to wonder why people pay more to buy or rent convertibles and then they never seem to convert them. Myself, I am not much of a fan of convertibles preferring the cool shady quiet of an enclosed car with strong air conditioning and a dead German composer in the music box. Even the Lime Tree Food Store on Flagler Avenue managed to look alluring in the dark warm evening. But my wife wanted to get home and I did too so we didn't stop. As part of my job I get to ride along with officers from time to time and I've seen the inside of the Stock Island Hilton (hint: it's not a hotel, it's a jail) and I prefer sleeping in my own bed so drinking and driving is always out of the question.. Highway One, closing in on Sugarloaf School. Fifteen minutes from home at wife warp speed, ten minutes by Bonneville hyper drive. There to uncork the Black Strap Molasses Rum and reflect on the meaning of life and value of sleep.

Black Strap Rum

When I was in Marathon I went by this place to get some booze.It is pretty big, and carries a wide variety of liquors, sandwiches and sandwich materials, on three aisles.I was aiming from Guatemalan Zacapa on my buddy Keith's recommendation but my wife set a price limit and for $40 I got one of these ($20) and a 375 ml bottle of flavored Pyrat rum from Guyana. Two new ones to taste. Excellent.Josh it was that told me I needed to try some Cruzan Black Strap Rum. So I did when we got home. "How is it?" he said after pouring me an excessively large measure into a brandy snifter. I took a sip and reeled. This stuff is strong, very strong.It had long long legs around the glass, thanks to the sugary molasses which give it a delicious smokey flavor. The alcohol seems to sit on top of the tarry black molasses like an evil spirit and hits you up the nostrils as you sniff the snifter. It was delicious but a little goes a long way. Keith said I should try it with some ginger beer to make a proper Dark and Stormy (usually made with Bermuda's Gosling dark rum). Cruzan (pronounced with the emphasis on the "") is made in the United States' true Caribbean islands, the US Virgin Island of St Croix and I think they get some tax relief which helps keep the price down, as an added incentive.

I keep a bottle of Flor de Cana ("flower of the sugar cane") from Nicaragua in my drinks cabinet and I recently tried some Appleton's from Jamaica which has a tremendous reputation but I found it a little spicier and less smooth than my favorite......which is still Barbancourt from Haiti. The eight year old is okay but when I've finished this one I'm going back to the 15 year old which costs around $45 a bottle. It's worth it.Meanwhile Ive got an orange flavored Pyrat to try. It was offered at $12, a 30% discount which may be 30% of nothing if i don't much like it. I'm not a fan of flavored or spiced rums but I'm adventurous so we shall see. Check this adult only (!) website if you have a hankering to learn more about the home of US Caribbean rum.

The Goat, The Cabbage, And The Wolf

The stars aligned and it was time to launch the boat for a summer of swimming fun. Launching the boat at the community launch ramp (cost to residents for unlimited use is $10 per annum) is a bit like the game of carrying the cabbage the goat and the wolf across the river. The problem is that, by myself I have to get the boat on the trailer to the launch ramp about one mile from my house. So, I drive the car to the ramp. Put the boat in the canal, come home with the boat down the canal. Which is filled with grasses such that I had to paddle through the roughage as the outboard couldn't manage it.Then I had to walk back to the launch ramp to pick up the car and trailer. I used to ride my bike and put that on the trailer to bring it home. These days I walk Cheyenne instead of cycling so the bicycle is buried in the shed with flat tires, a lot of work to pull out for one trip up the street.Anyway, thought I, this would make an excellent opportunity to kill two birds with one stone as its a fine dog walk to the launch ramp. Sometimes Cheyenne and I do it after dark when I get back from an overtime shift in the cool of the night. A street with no lights at three in the morning is quite the star studded spectacle. Which is as may be but my dog was not having any of it at one in the afternoon.Cheyenne stood under the house at the limit of the shade and looked at me standing in the bright hot sun. No way, no how she said, and went and sat on the cool dark cement. I took off by myself trudging up Indies Road by myself, my dog leash unused in my pocket, hoping against hope that she would suddenly trot out to join me. She never did and I retrieved the trailer (the wolf in the picture game) by myself. Just see if she gets to take a ride in the boat this summer.

Old Town Blossoms

Everywhere I look I see the flame trees blooming. That's always the way though, once you think you notice something for the first time you then start to see it everywhere.In Key West they call them Royal Poinciana, though where the adjective royal comes from no one quite seems to know. I have started to notice a few orange splashes of color around town and if you look carefully you will see a few more I am sure in essays past and to come. I took this next photo on a Saturday when I also took the time to give the letter carrier a word of encouragement about how much I like Saturday delivery service, the next small skein of social comfort our dear leaders are eager to unravel.He was more interested in giving Cheyenne a cookie. She wanted two. It's not just flame trees in bloom either. This is the corner of Grinnell and Southard Streets.These bushes below aren't blooming but they provide some contrasting color to the salmon pink house. I believe they are called mamey but they are the same as the fruit bearing mamey. I expect I am wrong but I am sticking my next out on this one.I have been chasing down the easy-to-grow frangipani blooms lately and this tree was covered in pink blossoms.I am going to turn myself into a botanist if I'm not careful. Not really, as labeling things gets tedious for me. I should though considering I live in the middle of all this stuff.

Old Town Walk

I can't imagine looking after a building as complex and vast as this but the view of wooden and vine and leafy green is just superb. You can imagine it as the setting for some exotic Somerset Maugham short story.The cheerful whore in Rain, perhaps. Or like Cheyenne you can see a lovely fountain as a mere watering hole, well placed.I am absurdly fond of my dog, and grateful to the fools who gave her to the pound for being "too old.". More decks and balconies and cheerful plantings.
This stately home was suffering from an unfortunate hole in the roof.

Part of Key West's charm is the dilapidation of some of the house, the determined and tasteful restoration of some more and the balance between the two. Walking these historic streets is endlessly fascinating.


I am sure it's all Cheyenne's fault but I am astonished to see 168 followers on my page. Thank you all for trying to keep up with this mad experiment. Orin of is helping me to do this and we plan to switch to Wordpress at some time in the not too distant future, probably later this summer. is the new address for my blog so those of you with more computer savvy than me will know how to change the URL and keep up. I will keep this blog alive and well for as long as Blogger makes it so inexpensive and easy to keep the pictures on this site and anyone typing the old address will eventually be redirected (I think!) just as the .us address is currently being redirected automatically here. As far as content goes it will be the same, better I hope as I get used to the format of five a day myself and I will add more Florida and Keys web links. At the moment taking pictures and writing (and doing the laundry, exercising and bathing/walking/feeding the dog) is taking up most of my copious spare time. I am glad you are along for the ride, as I felt the need to be challenged by this blog and I have been. Without Orin none of this would be possible, and that's not hyperbole.