Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Full Moon

To be a lunatic is to be influenced by the moon, and not in a societally approved way. To see the full moon is still a moment of awe if my dinner companions' reactions last night are a measure.Naturally women seem to react more strongly to the full moon than men who continue to dig in to their pasta with barely a grunt. After all, the moon does this every month doesn't it? Away from civilization's veneer the phases of the moon make quite a difference to one's life style. Lacking electricity a full moon can mean the ability to get around much more easily after dark.Tides are influenced by the proximity of the moon and even though it's a quarter of a million miles away it's has enough pull to move water across the surface of the Earth, Coriolis be damned.Can it be a coincidence that women cycle monthly just like the moon? Probably not because it was the women at table that were spun round to watch the full moon rise last night.When I was a child in Italy the peasants wouldn't cut down saplings to make ladders if the moon was waning. They said the wood would rot prematurely unless the tree was cut with the moon waxing. If you believe in ghosts that shouldn't be too hard to take should it? Of course I was sceptical but I wasn't the one doing the cutting. That long brown wiggly line in the photo above marks the extent of the most recent high tide at the Ramrod Pool where the waters rising from the left have pushed seaweed ahead and deposited it as shown. A full moon is no guarantee of rain but it looked possible this morning. Nothing much came of those clouds in my neighborhood.

Key West Chickens

"Check out that hairy dude in the flowered shirt. He must be a tourist, photographing chickens!" Wrong. That would be me photographing tourists photographing chickens on Duval Street. I enjoy playing tourist downtown when I don't have Cheyenne along with me, though I'm not one. When Cheyenne comes along people tend to assume I live in Key West and ask directions.It's chicken breeding season in Key West judging by the number of small birds circling round pecking the dirt these days and visitors like to stop and admire them. My wife has to keep reminding me that free range chickens are not normal urban residents in North America and I should not treat their presence among us as normal. Where they came from no one really seems to know, though there are theories. Some people say they originated as freedom loving fighting roosters which makes no sense to me as no one, not even Cuban renegades fight chickens. Another theory, still in the blame-the-Cubans camp, says that Cubans fleeing their island brought their household goods which included chickens which also sounds cracked to me as I try to imagine thousands of feathered refugees landing in Key West and setting up camp on the streets. Stranger things have happened.The theory I prefer is that when Key West went through a dismal economic period in the 1960s with the draw down of the Navy and a general loss of economic direction, yard birds simply got loose and had nowhere much to go on this small island. And I dare say people had other things on their mind than paying for a municipal chicken catcher. Which sounds like a grotesque idea but in the recent boom years the city did hire a local barber by the name of Parra to catch the chickens and send them Up North to a mainland retirement (a whisper campaign suggested they were sent to extermination camps outside Homestead) but the protests were long and loud and Parra ended up selling more t-shirts than catching chickens as opponents moved and vandalized his traps. Key Weird in all it's glory.

So these days the chickens are tolerated and even protected, though in some sort of bizarre Depression Era type of ruling there is apparently an ordinance that the chickens may not be harmed unless you are going to cook and eat them. Protein of the last resort. Remember Key West went bust in the Great (20th century) Depression so hard times were familiar around here once and shall be again soon no doubt if our national economy fails to produce meaningful employment. And thus it is we hope the chickens will keep bringing tourists to town to gawk and cluck and look sympathetic, whatever reason the chickens are here.

Sugarloaf Marina

On Highway One Sugarloaf Marina is the sort of place you ride by and hardly notice, it's just a collection of small buildings, a Realtor's office, a mechanic and some boats. From the water it is a convenient place to buy gas.Being the curious rider that I am, I actually took the time to stop and look around one night on my way home from an overtime shift.

By day we have a useful launch ramp which puts boaters 15 minutes from the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

The shaded gas dock is the usual mixture of convenience store, hang out and meeting place.

You'll see these signs in marinas all over Florida. The Keys get their water from the South Florida Aquifer by pipe along side the highway, so the water source is shared with millions of people on the mainland. It's hard to imagine 73,000 Monroe County residents make much difference one way or the other, but we must all do our bit and hope for the best.
Tootie, (or Zuzu) took a close interest in the proceedings.

The restaurant at the Sugarloaf Lodge is across the water. The place is being renovated and I'm told wood fired pizza is supposed to be part of the new eatery. The lodge itself continues to function as a motel as far as I can tell through the work on the restaurant.

There are moments when I consider taking a flight on this ultra light, a simple motorcycle of the air. There used to be one on North Roosevelt Boulevard in Key West and it seemed a very...elemental way to fly, as I watched it wobble into the air off the water.

We ended up following another boat north out of the marina after the refueling was done. I think non ethanol gas is around $5 a gallon but I was a guest this day so I averted my eyes from the bloodbath at the cash register.
Some of that precious fuel vaporizing as we got up on a place leaving the marina basin.

Hot sun, no rain, lots of gas and lots of salt water to explore. Another fine day in the fabulous Florida Keys.

Southard Street

They call this place the Conch Republic, a cheerful self deprecating place but really it could be called the Green Republic for it's walking/biking friendly size and the number and size of it's trees.However the Green Republic, formerly on Southard at Bahama Streets is gone.There was an eco-restaurant thing going on for a while there in the Southard and Fleming corridor with the venerable Cafe holding it's own splendidly then joined by the Help Yourself venture now apparently firmly established at Fleming and Margaret. Then Green Republic appeared and now has disappeared. The notice in their window said "Corporate" had made a decision and thus I learned this place I always meant to try but never got around to, was a chain store.They come, they go and perhaps with a photo or two I could have done a better job of recording their passage. The underlying structure of key West seems to remain fixed but at the surface where new arrivals show up in town all starry eyed and dreamy the chances of the Keys accepting and making them welcome seem completely arbitrary.Some businesses come and stay, and if you want an expensive lap dance I have no doubt Living Dolls can provide just the blond blue eyed thing from Latvia or Lithuania or Ukraine or some other not-quite-First-World-economy but across the street organic sandwiches cannot hold their own against corporate need. I'd take the sandwich, even though I have never yet patronized the Living Doll emporium either and have no direct knowledge of it.My decks at home are not near so picturesque as the one shown above but I like to think I spend more time observing the salt ponds west of my home of an evening than I have ever seen anyone sitting on this lovely balcony observing the comings and goings below. That other fact of Key West life is that for many people it takes not two but three jobs to maintain a life, which leaves precious little time for playing Juliet upstairs.

A small apartment, with balcony, a couple of jobs neither of which is too onerous and a pink bicycle with basket. Life in Key West would be complete.

Appelrouth Lane

The Florida Keys Mosquito Control District has announced with utter gravity that rainy season is upon us and we must beware the squadrons of mossies about to descend on us with the imminent arrival of copious amounts of rain.There are public discussions of the dangers of dengue fever a mosquito borne illness that makes a lot of noise and gives a few dozen well nourished First World residents a brief fever. In the Third World where food is scarce and public health departments even scarcer dengue kills hundreds.I look skyward and see nothing resembling a proper soaking summer thunderstorm. I chose to walk Appelrouth Lane, the alley across the from Strand on Duval Street, as much for the shade as anything else. I very much enjoy perusing The Streets of Key West by J Wills Burke (a pseudonym apparently) and in the book he mentions Appelrouth was renamed from the rather bland Smith Lane in 1981, not so very long ago.The picture above is not pilfered from a Spanish Tour Book. It is the autumnal appearance of parched trees dropping their leaves into the courtyard in back of the San Carlos Theater (the former and possibly future Cuban Consulate, land claimed by Cuba but retained by the exile community of South Florida). The picture below is of a building that went through a rather curious recent past. It became briefly a night club called Zu which, to much local whispering, encouraged people to come and watch others having sex. If you had any doubt we are over stimulated as a species ask yourself what life would be like without advertising where every single object of desire or utility is presented as a sexual enhancement. I believe someone somewhere hoped to make a lot of money from this club. It would be too much to hope to make similar sums from manufacturing widgets that might actually be useful for the promotion of human happiness.Billy Appelrouth was a store owner who sold useful things on Duval Street in what was known I think as a dry good store. He lived well and died a respected member of the community and is buried in the Jewish Cemetery in the middle of the city. Today he would have been steam rollered into oblivion by Wal Mart, or bought out by Zu, God help us. The Strand Cinema was a staple of early 20th century social life but had deteriorated by the time I first came to Key West but for most of the 20th century the Carbonell family brought reels of the outside world to Key West here. It soldiered on as a night club and then faded by way of Ripley's'. That it has become a chain pharmacy is just the way of our world. Sometimes change isn't completely awful, sometimes it is for the better, but change is happening all the time.