Saturday, May 14, 2011

Pier House Piano

I'm sure that visitors to key West go to the Wine Galley at the Pier House Resort as a matter of course but my wife and I rarely visit and I'm not sure why. The location on the small beach at the hotel is quite lovely and were we the hardcore drinking types Key West's hardest of hard core bars is just round the corner. When Chuck comes back to town I'll let him drag me through the peanut shells on the floor of the bar and we can eat peculiar hot dogs together while we tell lies over weak beer.The Wine Galley is far more fancy and perhaps it is telling, but it is to my gentrified taste, the serene ambiance, the view over the water, and a glass of Yuengling goes down a treat. The man who holds court at the piano is Larry Smith and he's been doing it a while. He's one of those musicians in Key West that holds down a steady gig and does it well.
He shares his space with other musicians from time to time and last weekend it was Cathy's turn. In real life Cathy teaches in my wife's school and on the side she sings and does comedy. Her husband plays piano at Little Palm in much the way Larry Smith holds down the fort at the Pier House.It was a good evening out and we had a good time, and when Katherine got up to do a duet with her buddy Cathy, the cheerful Larry invited her back for an evening of her own in June.
It works for me as I always like an opportunity to have a reason to go back to the Pier House. Sitting there listening to the music I got an inkling why people come to key West and stay in these places on the waterfront. I wouldn't have minded myself retiring to a room looking forward to breakfast by room service on the balcony overlooking the harbor. It sounded divine but we had to drive home when the music was done. We are, after all, locals.

A Murder Of Crows Review

To say that the movie A Murder of Crows is set in Key West is a bit of an exaggeration. The plot actually revolves around New Orleans and it's cinematic-ally stereotypical corrupt practices. However key West does show up in the movie. Fishing for instance. When Cuba Gooding's character gets disbarred from the law in Louisiana he returns to the ancestral home in Key West and takes up the trade one expects a dropout to pick up: fishing guide.He grows a beard of course and gets tangled with a client who goes by the literary name of Christopher Marlowe. They fish and they drink together. At Sloppy Joe's of course, where we learn to our astonishment that Hemingway's favorite drink was the daiquiri.
But the lot thickens and pretty soon our literary/fishing/legal hero is soon under suspicion of murder after he purloins Marlowe's manuscript and passes it off as his own. It turns out Marlowe was a murderer and now Gooding has taken the benefit of the script and must suffer the consequences of the murders performed to get the book written. A chase ensues through the streets of Key West.I find movies set in locations that I know tend to lose a little something when for cinematic reasons the logically impossible becomes necessary. A chase that starts on Elizabeth Street magically turns a corner......and becomes White Street. And then we ask ourselves how is it exactly that a Waterfront market truck is parked at Fausto's?Now that the market is long gone we view the truck with heavy nostalgia of course. And perhaps these movies set in Key West serve that purpose for us, they enshrine what was and make it real once again for a few minutes on the screen.A Murder Of Crows (1999, 1 hr 41 mins) is a nice enough thriller. It's not especially memorable in terms of plot but the action is fun and the settings in New Orleans and Key West make for a fun view, but the stereotypes get labored. How many more drunken southern gents do we need to see on screen? This one was nicely played by Eric Stoltz drawling with the best of them. Tom Berenger walks on and off as a decent but confused cop.But in the end we know things are going to work out and the tension cannot be sustained. Beside I have little respect for script writers if they have to move the plot along with a voice over narration. The movie is available on disc from Netflix which is good as you can thus put it on your list of movies to watch on a cold wet afternoon when some Key West sun would make a nice change.

Other movies I've looked at about Key West:

52,000 Mile Bonneville

I bought my Bonneville in October 2007 and since then I have commuted back and forth to Key West more times than I'd care to count. I've ridden across and around Florida a few times as well and we completed two iron Butt rides together. All without the trace of a glitch. I think the Bonneville is the best motorcycle I have ever owned. I remember with great fondness and nostalgia the motorcycles I rode in the past. As time has gone by motorcycles have become more reliable and easy to use with better brakes, better tires and better suspension than we ever dreamed possible in the 1970s. I read other people's remembrances but I am not swayed because nostalgia is a false friend if relied on too heavily.The Bonneville needs an oil change every 6,000 miles and it never burns a drop. The 8 valves need checking every 12,000 miles and if they need an adjustment it is a job for professionals- shim changes are beyond me- and that is the only disadvantage of a double overhead camshaft in my book. The lovely bikes of my youth seemed to need attention all the time, but they mostly did repay the attention with a reliable ride.When it comes to motorcycles I feel I am an oddity in this world. My bike is a tool, it is a means to make the least, most boring journey into something fun. Even and perhaps especially, a ride in the rain becomes an adventure and when I drive the car I always miss my bike. Yet what you see here is a standard Bonneville with luggage and windshield added, but no increase in power, no post factory mufflers, no added chrome, nothing that doesn't add to the practical use of the machine. People seem to buy new motorcycles and plan to add shit before they've even ridden the bikes. It takes me about 5,000 miles to get used to a new ride and figure it out. Other people decide the factory specs are never enough and plan to mess with the bike right from the start. I trust the factory and I like reliability.Critics will tell you the modern Bonneville is bland and uninteresting, a jack of no particular trade basing it's popularity on it's name and the history of the marque which is one of spectacular racing, spectacular failure and mediocre daily performance in a motorcycle that leaked oil, vibrated and dropped nuts and bolts everywhere. But nostalgia is a powerful mistress and in memory the Bonnevilles of old were superbikes. With 60 modest horse power this air cooled twin will take me where I want to go and if that includes gravel roads there will be no problem. It will cruise the freeway at 80mph and on an average day will return 43 miles per (US) gallon of regular gas. The original Bonnevilles, in 1959, when I was barely one year old displaced 650cc's but this motor bike has 865cc's, to compensate for the stifling effects of modern noise and air pollution laws. The British Classic Bike magazine tested an original Bonneville against a modern version and they had about the same performance, close enough that the skill of the rider counted for more than anything else. It's time in the saddle that gives you skill if ride and think and pay attention to what you are doing. In a country where motorcycles are counted as toys my dedication to the usefulness of the ride comes across as headstrong and eccentric but I'm not a trick rider or a daredevil. I ride for pleasure and the pleasure of the ride gets me in the saddle. I am astonished by the low mileage of so many used motorcycles for sale in this country. Otherwise rational people buy bikes, take a couple of rides, sell them, get a bigger machine and then fail to pile up the miles on the new bike. I'm always reading about how people want the latest model year to maintain the resale value of their bikes. Screw resale- I buy the bike to ride it which is just as well because with 52,000 miles on the clock of a not-yet-four-year-old bike there is no resale value. I guess I'll keep it and keep riding.Above all else the bland boring new Bonneville commits the ultimate crime of being easy to ride, so easy that I can't think of any reason not to get on the thing and go. How could I not love a simple machine with the good looks of a 1960s classic, that brightens the dullest of days and the worst journey? If you have a motorcycle and you are looking for excuses not to ride when the opportunity arises do someone a favor and sell it on cheap. Motorcycles deserve to be ridden, thats the secret to keeping them, and yourself young.

1,000 Page Views

I am astonished to note that Google counted more than one thousand page views for my blog yesterday. I have come close before but that was a first and there it was in black and white:

Page views yesterday

I have to say I am gratified that you are following my progress so closely and take the time to look at what I see in the Keys and Key West every day. It does take planning and a fair amount of effort to keep up with the five-a-day format but I can also affirm that I have a new energy boost about the potential for these essays and I am still working on new ideas for this blog. At home I thank my wife for her unstinting support, pushing me into the office to write when she could be enjoying my company (think about that for a moment...) and my buddy Chuck who is brim full of ideas and suggestions and tweaks which I will implement as we move forward. He and my wife have been clear and constant in their support for my efforts along with kind words from Orin and of course the Twisted Roads Jack riepe . I have to say that after much thought I have come to the conclusion that I like my blog right where it is in its layout and color scheme so I have dropped plans to move to a new domain or web page. However thanks to Orin's help it's new address is though will still direct Web searches to this very spot.

I am getting used to the frequency and pace of five a day and I am looking forward to implementing Chuck's latest zinger which is to include interviews with regular people who live and work in the Lower Keys and Key West, to find out what keeps them ticking down here south of reality. If you are one such and would like to see your picture here and as essay about your daily life please contact me at If you know of someone who might like the treatment or that you would like to read about drop me a suggestion and I'll see what I can do. I hope that such additions might help broaden your knowledge of what it takes to make living full time in the Keys a reality and give you a fresh perspective onlife down here, because let's face it, not everyone is a police dispatcher around here. Amazing but true.

I am also working to figure out how to add reader's essays. Gary: I still can't figure it out quite and neither could Orin but the pictures won't download. @#$@^&! Rest assured the glitches will work themselves out. Anyway the guru of this change, the rather unapproachable Bill Belew calls this sort of work fiddling inasmuch as I'm not writing fresh posts and I have lots of words in my head struggling to get out so cheerio, I've got to get back to posting!

So onward and upward and thank you for your support.

Florida Keys Sunset

I took these pictures out on the water after a happy hour spent swimming, talking and admiring the views.Sometimes the sunset over Newfound Harbor can be excessively spectacular but this year the absence of rain clouds means the sun sets in a clear blue sky.
We have no lights on our skiff. It's part of the drive for simplicity after spending so much time fixing stuff on our sailboat while traveling. After we came ashore I wanted nothing that might need repair, so we dispensed with instruments and lights. So as we approached the entrance to our canal we needed to be sure we would be tied up at our dock at home before dark. Besides who wants to be in the water at dusk when the predators come out.
One of these days I'll tear myself away from the comfort of my back deck at sunset and join the wild crowds at Mallory Sqaure. One of these days. I promise.