Sunday, May 22, 2011

Bridge Fishing

It used to be that if you were a Florida resident saltwater fishing from a structure attached to land you needed no fishing license to indulge in this activity.Cheyenne is just one of those hazards bridge anglers need to be aware of when they are handling smelly bait and we happen upon them. Visitors from Miami are not, it seems to enamored of large friendly Labradors so conversation was limited. I expect they were going to remove their trash to the nearby trash can in the fullness of time. I hope their parents were as insistent as my wife is on the daily use of sunscreen because other wise things looked like they could go bad for these brash youngsters. As to whether or not you need a license check out the confusing state of affairs here:
As best as I can tell if you are poor (with proof), young or old or in the military you probably don't but everyone else does to fish off a bridge.The fact is I find fishing insanely dull. It is a hobby filled with technical gear, no how and arcane knowledge about the color and shape of bait and I have used up all that space in my brain to learn about the insanely boring and intricate sport of sailing, so you see, I have no more room in my head to learn about fishing. Besides, there is something fundamentally disturbing about the way people hook fish, drag them from their natural and peaceful habitat and toss them in the sun to suffocate slowly and painfully.I am well aware of the paradox that I live in one of the finer saltwater fishing areas of the country with easy access to the water and yet all I can do in it is swim. On top of all that fishing involves sitting around endlessly in the sun waiting for something to happen. I see the lights at night on the bridges as people camp out in the cooler air and I confess there is something romantic and charming about night fishing.On the other hand I can just as easily walk my dog in the cool of night and that involves no killing at all. This lot came to fish fully equipped. Here we see Mom and small kids hiding out under the bridge with a fire going ready to grill the protein Dad just hauled from the munificent ocean.You have to give them credit for planning a serious weekend getaway in the Keys, but I cannot imagine the boredom of Mrs Angler sitting under the bridge also waiting for something to happen. Cheyenne and I kept moving enjoying the sky and the clouds and the excessive sunshine.

Life of Brian

While Cheyenne and I were breakfasting at Anne's Beach last Thursday morning we were invaded and at first it didn't look good. Two adults, a child and two Labradors carefully leashed came striding down the waterfront boardwalk. Frequently I find encounters with other dog owners to be encounters with people who worry about their dogs far too much. Left to their own devices dogs find their natural place in the pack and adapt easily and quickly to each other's company. Would that people could do the same...When the spare adult and child had walked on by the owner of the dogs, not affiliated with other humans present, let go his hounds and I thought to myself he can't be all bad. It turns out Brian was all good.Let me list the ways: he rescued his dogs, one found wandering the streets of Key West completely abandoned, and the other from the pound where he worked as a volunteer helper and dog walker. A Good Man.The dogs circled and sniffed and Cheyenne sat down as close to me as she could get; she is still not sure I might not prefer another dog and we talked briefly. Brian left Key West for the Upper Keys in search of an easier life of less expense but clearly he wouldn't mind a return to the Rock and I for one can't blame him. The Florida Keys to an outsider may look like an amalgam of similarities but each island has it's own character and Key West's is unique among them all. Which is why it is expensive, naturally, especially for a single person. With Molly and Missie in tow.We talked allergies and Brian told me he had a trick for goopy ear which affects a lot of dogs in this hot humid climate. The vet told him, as I was also told it is pretty much permanent. He said he cured his problem with delicate application of Q tips day after day, a little at a time and his dog no longer scratches her ear. Cheyenne is not thrilled by this plan but in some weird way I trust this stranger's advice. He also told me of snake bites Missie got which left a large lump on her neck. Application of Benadryl cured her feverish symptoms- I think it was a pygmy rattler-but the bite left a lump especially after Missie went back to the same spot to teach the snake a lesson and got a second bite for her troubles. Brian is no control freak when it comes to dogs. I rather liked that about him as I feel the same way and like to let Cheyenne find her own way as much as she can.I learned a lot from our brief encounter. I hope he moves back to Key West, I'd like to meet him at the Higgs Beach dog park.

Riding the Overseas Highway

That this next picture could have been taken in the dead of winter, and not Saturday morning just goes to show what an excellent motorcycling destination the Florida Keys really are.Which is absolute rubbish actually. The only decent things about riding in the Keys are: the weather, the scenery, the novelty. There is a reason motorcyclists frequently refer to Florida as Flatistan. Flatness is anathema to good riding. Flatness is boredom. Flatness equates to clumps of macho men riding Harley Davidsons obediently sitting in lines of cars driving distracted ten miles below the speed limit while failing to steer straight and text at the same time. Florida is old people unable to remember the rules of the road. Florida is every crappy stereotype you've heard, or not heard about riding a motorcycle.Then there are the Keys. And yes, there are lots of cruisers down here riding like whores on couches, their crotches splayed for all to see as they take in the sights, but ask yourself: where else do you ride with palms as the background? Hawaii is a long long way away and the ferry service from Long Beach leaves but twice a month.
The weather is actually excellent, it rains sparingly in winter just before each cold front arrives and in summer it pours, usually, and clears up in less than an hour and because it's summer it doesn't feel terribly cold. The scenery is also excellent, with water, bridges, exotic foliage and lots of sunshine so unless you like cold and gray and bleak it's all rather nice. The novelty is that you can ride dressed in your underwear if you like and some people do. If you are 21 and have health insurance you can ride helmetless with the added benefit of making the All The Gear control freaks absolutely insane with repressed envy and open rage. Plus you get to be mildly irresponsible in our over regulated world while looking at sea and stars and sun and sky in a really nice, easy to ride, place. Like this guy:He's flying the flag sitting back and watching the mangroves roll by. Fair enough, the road is pretty straight and flat and the turns are wide and undemanding especially at the speed limit, so riding a cruiser actually makes perfect sense. I see people driving muscle cars in the Keys and i sort of wonder what they plan to do with those V8 engines. Some wussies ride their bicycles to the bus stop and get on a bus which is something we can all look forward to if our bills get worse (and they will), but I'm holding out as long as I can and keeping on riding because for whatever reason I never get bored riding the Overseas Highway. Which is just as well as it's the only road around here that goes anywhere. Side streets dead end into the water...I've been commuting this highway for the five years we've lived outside Key West and I ride dressed more or less like the pansy in the photo above with a jacket and gloves and a helmet and stuff but I feel bad for the kids who ride those powerful sport bikes on road whose top limit is 55 miles per hour. I also have motorcycle luggage attached to my Triumph Bonneville so I don't have to ride like a pack mule. Many visitors bring women on the back so they can ride comfortably while their women can carry the load. Women who ride Triumphs, and trust me the rapidly disappearing red Bonneville pictured below is actually a Triumph, enjoy freedom from luggage. She looks a lot more comfortable. Ride with a bloke who rides a Triumph is the moral here.And there are those who use bicycles as transport like this guy who was racing along at a rare old clip, not at all like the genteel winter snowbirds enjoying their retirement in protective gear and pedaling slowly like snowmen through marmalade. This guy had places to go and people to see. The freedom of the open road and no cost of gas with healthful exercise. Under 90 degree sunshine. Ah youth.
To summarize: stay healthy and upright, medical bills will kill you if the slide doesn't (it's $20,000 to get airlifted to Miami if break your brain open or get burned half to death), enjoy the scenery and remember you can stop on any shoulder to stroll and take pictures; you don't have to cross bridges at 20 miles per hour and hold up impatient people who have to get to work. You should also stop and enjoy the amenities though if you choose to drink beer, don't be like a local and drive drunk please. Go dive a reef instead. The paper reported the owner of this place was murdered in Central America last week, a Canadian who gave up his health insurance came to the land of the free and made good, poor bugger. One hopes Looe Key resort will remain, the motel isn't cozy or anything but they are dive experts, take people snorkeling and have a well known Tiki bar and swimming pool with music and drinks where I'm told people make friends easily and have a good time. When the winter north winds blow their good cheer sweeps right across my deck three quarters of a mile away.Gas in the Keys costs a bit more in Key West and a bit less in Key Largo. Here at the Ramrod Shell, Mile marker 27, it's offered this weekend at $3.88 for regular. It seems like a deal.And if you enjoy the ride and take your time and get lots of pictures you will end the 130 mile ride over the water in lovely Old Town Key West where residents ask you to please not blip your throttle and make loud horrible noises with your open pipes. I live here, my Bonneville has factory mufflers so my ride sounds like a much derided sewing machine. I also ride with my feet with my feet tucked under me so my crotch isn't on display. In the keys it really is okay to go your own way, but remember there is but one road anyway so make it your own.

Moon Pie At The Beach

There are those who say you have to travel north from Miami to see the South. I say that just because there are lots of us immigrants in South Florida doesn't mean it isn't The South. To prove it I eat the occasional moon pie.There are variations on the Moon Pie all over the place but it was invented in Chattanooga in 1919 after a salesman watched miners dip graham crackers in the new marshmallow cream imported from Up North as a new and weird delicacy for people to taste. Nowadays it is an industrial product with flavor to match. I had my double decker chocolate with coffee as befits breakfast but one i supposed to drink RC Cola with the thing. And O prefer the banana flavor single decker but this isn't the real south so choices were limited in Islamorada...
We paused at Anne's Beach to read the paper and sniff the seaweed and read the health warning signs about fecal matter not in the water around here.They have picnic tables along the boardwalk but I figured Cheyenne needed beach access so I sat on the steps and read the paper and ate dry crumbly moon pie and thought about the meaning of life, which was fruitless exercise, it always is, and watched the ocean instead.A thousand calories later I was no closer to a conclusion so we made haste to make tracks. We live in a world made industrial for profit and it's hard to imagine living in a world where things could ever be made by hand once again. "There isn't time!" is the universal cry, which is undoubtedly true. And how sad that is.

Check out my last photo essay from this useful pause along the Overseas Highway: and ask yourself: would i rather have a home made Moon Pie or the no surprise conformity of an industrially produced marshmallow cake? As it's always been factory made I guess the truth is a home made Moon Pie would be a contradiction as fundamental as any.