Saturday, May 28, 2011

Silver Palms Inn

This place used to be El Rancho, an elderly survivor in a town filled with hotels and guest houses but time wasn't kind to the old place and it had become a flea pit. There is no other name for it. Now it is a rather smart and cleverly designed new building on Truman Avenue and packed for the holiday weekend.
I happened by and wandered in to have a quick look and it was impressive as seen from the outside- things have changed quite a bit:
I suppose in some people's world a scooter is as compact as a car can get... But this building is self contained as far as parking goes and that's impressive in a town where street parking is always at a premium and a cause for disputes over who parks where.The offspring of the El Rancho owner built this hotel to a 21st century vision. I remember them announcing they were going to build it as a green hotel, lowering energy use and the hotel's carbon impact and create hypo allergenic rooms. They got their Green Lodging Label.From the exterior it looks nicely done, filling the footprint, spiriting guest's cars off the street and surrounding the building with landscaping that makes it look entirely unobtrusive.
At a time when major construction projects in the city are causing a ruckus this brand new hotel appeared without a peep and looks like it has been there forever, on the main road into town, in the heart of much regulated Old Town. They planned well.

Windsor Lane

Memorial Day means lots of visits to the cemetery and Monday there will be the honor guard and dignitaries and everything at the USS Maine plot so city workers have been busy spiffing the place up for the weekend. Happily though there are corners where the serene pace of daily living has not speeded up and these old tombs under the poinciana got their glory from nature rather than nurture. Leaves falling everywhere across town as the rains continue to tease us with their absence mean people have to sweep the street if they want a clean appearance in front of their homes:It seems like a lot of work to me. The woman in the picture below had a defeated appearance but the mystery was explained when the other half of the operation appeared and took supplies out of the trunk of the car. She was just bored, acting as a doorstop for her store:It seems to me it must be terribly lonely to be an Indian in Key West, a town that can't even sustain an Indian restaurant. We used to eat chappatis and naan a great deal when we lived in Fort Myers, a town strangely enough that supports an active Indian population.Bicycle laws have been the object of much criticism in the anonymous column of the daily paper but perhaps the crackdown is having an effect. These guys waited for the green light much to my surprise before they crossed Truman Avenue:It was the calm before the holiday weekend storm no doubt, no cross traffic on Truman.

Passover Lane

This charming cottage faces onto the cemetery which makes for an ideal neighborhood in my opinion. The dead are a quiet bunch on the whole, though Key West's cemetery is a beautiful spot and does attract visitors.The thing about small charming living spaces is that everything tends to hang out, as it were. A shopping expedition can lead to storage issues and I know when we get home from Miami on occasion, and we mostly buy food and clothing Up North I look at the packed trunk of the car and sigh because I just know it's going to have to be squeezed into our less than 800 square foot suburban home. Packaging usually gets the machete treatment unlike this lot, put curbside with no apparent effort to cut it down to size:We now have single stream recycling in the Lower Keys and Waste Management says we can recycle all categories of plastic 1 through 7, which is cool. But recycling remains a failure in these small islands as far as I can tell. Only about 6 percent of the waste stream makes into recycling and the youngsters I work with think I'm eccentric because I take the modest amount of time needed to separate the trash in the office. I see no future for recycling in the Keys if the businesses can't be bothered and youngsters don't get it.Scootering is one form of conservation everyone gets to one degree or another. I liked the look of these two Genuine Buddy scooters in their shady off street parking. The Yamaha dealer on North Roosevelt has taken over the Genuine dealership, after it languished hopelessly at the Honda shop on Southard for a couple of years. There are now lots of these cute reliable scooters around town. I think they've sold one geared Stella 150 in that time.

Memorial weekend is the official start of summer in the US and schools down here get out in a couple of weeks. This is a boating weekend even though the weather has been fine in the Keys for weeks. Highway One is packed with boats on trailers, hotels are busy and no doubt I will be busy at work these holiday nights. Recession? What recession?

Kim's Kuban

Walking into the sandwich shop on North Roosevelt Boulevard is more a matter of walking into a conversation than into a restaurant. Yes, they will take your order promptly and get to working making the café con leche and the bacon egg and cheese sandwich, but the conversation flows on smoothly though the work.It is my regret, and to the benefit of my waistline, that I work nights and rarely get out to eat a bought breakfast but when I do I like Kim's Kuban for a breakfast sandwich. Corey made my coffee never dropping the sports talk ball while he did. The Miami Heat had a notable win the night before and he laughed that anyone who came in "half asleep" had been up late watching the game. Me? I read the paper and gloat over my crusty bread, and hot egg filling. I know that most visitors to Key West prefer 5 Brothers on Southard or Sandy's on White and there is nothing at all wrong with their sandwiches but for some reason Kim's has always got my top vote.Perhaps it's just snobbery because you have to know it's there to find it on the Boulevard next to the Yamaha Motorcycle shop. All I can do now is wait till heaven knows when the next time will be that I am in town early enough for breakfast with an excuse to go and eat a million calorie sandwich like no other.

Angela And Margaret

The crop of 20th century eccentrics who made Key West the desirable haven it is today, even as struggles to gentrify continue, has been thinning rather alarmingly of late. The businessman Frank Romano who figured out how to sell aloe and was one of the leading voices in the creation of Fantasy Fest died recentlyRomano and his partner (what a strange title that is in our homophobic world) had a head for numbers and an ability to sell, but those traits that are so frequently used as an excuse to diminish individuality and creativity were expressed in the exact opposite way to the benefit of the community at large. Carolyn Fuller also died recently as did the owner and creator of the Sign of Sanford Gallery, whose passing comes to mind when I ride Simonton Street. Fuller was not a loud voice in key West but her presence near the cemetery did not pass unnoticed.

I was walking past Fuller's former home, site of the bottle wall which became the mirror wall in an effort to keep pedestrians and vehicles out of her yard, and I got to thinking about that passage of time problem. Time passes faster the older we get because we come to understand there is nothing new under the sun and repetition is the enemy of long lived memories. If you notice the days passing in a flurry of speed it's because there is too much routine in your life. And yet how do we mere mortals escape routines in a world driven by same-ness and repetition? By being eccentric perhaps.It happens from time to time that I end up wondering what it would have been like had I found a career path in my youth and followed it straight into middle age? I watch youngsters in the police department doing just that and I fear for their breadth of experience and the precipitous flight into middle age that daily routines will bring as they settle into what is probably one of the best and most secure jobs one could find.
Such speculation is fruitless- we can't all be eccentric artists or travelers by inclination. Routines must dominate for most of us, and this Memorial Day weekend is a reminder of mortality and the annual start of the national summer season. It will invade Key West this weekend of course, when I will be working all night each night, but yesterday afternoon the city was a sleepy little hamlet with empty streets down which you could shoot the proverbial cannon. What was I doing Memorial Day last year? Or the year before...?