Monday, June 6, 2011

Key West Bight 2

Sunset over the Coastguard Base.And sunset over civilians enjoying a boat ride, more of a floating bar really on a giant catamaran. The newspaper says one quarter of all Americans are planning no vacation this summer. Count me among the lucky ones with my increasingly precious government job, and my wife with hers and count us all lucky that tourists keep coming to Key West to spend money. The floating bar was packed. This basin used to be home to the shrimping fleet, in my own memory, but the waterfront hotels have pushed the old commerce aside and replaced it with the new. Excursions and pirate stories instead of fish and white rubber boots.
The scared and tanned old fishing hounds now trail around Stock Island, cigarettes dangling, loose tank tops dangling from their skinny shoulders and their feet encased in the low white rubber boots that are the official footwear of commercial fishermen in the Keys.Change is good of course and when more money is to be made it is always better they say, so we rejoice that we have the boats of the gentry to replace the smelly old tubs that caught fish. I have faced the scorn of the pros when I was traveling for pleasure and it's hard to argue that putting to sea when one doesn't have to is an odd occupation. "Like jail with the chance of drowning" as Dr Johnson said, a long time ago. So many pretty boats, so little actual sea time.

Koftes In Key West

I was in town alone and indecisive so my wife sent me a text from out of town and said go and eat a lamb sandwich at Kennedy Café. She always knows what the best thing is to do, so I did. Except I didn't have a lamb Donner, I had koftes.Koftes are, as far as I can tel, Mediterranean cuisine's answer to meatballs. I have seen them illustrated in various designs, Greek Turkish and now Uzbek for the Kennedy Café is an Uzbek eatery such is the variety of Key West's hotel help.One is waited on by sturdy dark eyed Asiatics which is truly exotic, one thinks of Mongolia which I have only ever seen briefly from the window of a train, and Samarkand and the Silk Trade route through Central Asia, which I have a hankering to see. I am really very fond of Kennedy Café. And the food's really good too. The lamb meatballs were delicious, crispy on the outside an cooked through but not tasteless on the inside and the mashed potatoes were real. The Uzbek bread is interesting stuff with a soft spongy interior and a shiny crust embedded with sesame seeds. I love their lamb sandwiches as a result, Shwarma with a white sauce which is Uzbek I'm told and Donner with a red sauce which I prefer:The Kennedy Café used to be a Cuban restaurant called Seven Days Deli operated on Kennedy Drive and the decor remains but the food is something quite different. They offer sadly no Uzbek food for breakfast and they offer American food for the other meals of the day though why one would turn down a chance at Central Asia cuisine I cannot possibly imagine.I guess a lot of it is just variations on Mediterranean stuff that has become known in the US:
Beer and a Donner. Nectar of the gods.

D Day

I guess 67 years after the event one should expect to see no more references in the newspaper to the incident in Normandy than a reprint of an elderly comic strip by an author long since dead.And yet I confess, if not to surprise, to disappointment. As the years roll by it is obvious that certain moments in history cannot be declaimed every single year. Heaven knows we rarely see much discussion about the Fourth of July and it's origins, or the anguished debate that led to the signing to the documents two days late. So why should D Day evoke any special feelings? Perhaps because I grew up in the shadow of the second Great War of the century past, because I believe the present is predicated on the past and fundamentally there is nothing new under the sun. Corruption and failure wear different disguises but at their base they are the same issues as they always were.
D Day was the day democracy showed it could triumph over corporate Nazi-Fascism, it was a landing that sent tens of thousands to their death in a wave of human bodies that reminded the leaders of the day of their own experiences with the great slaughter in the trenches of thirty years previously. Today our leaders send youngsters to their death on the flimsiest of pretexts, back then it took an almighty surprise attack to force this country to send men to slaughter.

Robert Capa in Normandy

The awfulness of D Day, it is my belief, is what made the dropping of the atom bomb in Japan such a relatively easy choice. I don't believe President Truman would have slept at all well had he chosen to see wave upon wave of Americans dying on Japanese beaches as they had in France. He had a better swifter and more certain choise, as horrible as it was. There are so many conspiracy theories abounding about Pearl Harbor (Roosevelt knew in advance!) and Hiroshima that one hardly knows where to turn. In the end I believe those conspiracy theories, similar to the ones that 9-1-1 was government caused, are an expression of our own inability to believe the worst of ourselves and our inability to find leaders in our democracy that represent what it is we want. Peace, prosperity and a decent life for the next generation. Things that seem simple enough and every day further our of reach. They preach the sermon of Greed to us and we drink up the Kool Aid of individual rights and freedoms conveniently forgetting the duties and obligations of citizenship. There is no Team in America anymore and we are paying the price for our greed and acceptance of corruption. Peace and prosperity are further from us now than they were in 1946.

That was why people died in Normandy today 67 years ago, and how much easier is it to indulge our bozo conspiracy theories than to accept that we have let them down by accepting the nonsense and lies and greed of the people who elect themselves our leaders. Forget D Day, read the gossip and entertainment blogs instead.

Not Riding Through Town

I heard from Jiri at JK Motorsports on Stock Island. My brake calipers on the Bonneville are corroded and the pistons and internal gubbins need to be replaced, a problem not previously anticipated so more parts are on order from Triumph USA who are luckily quite responsive. One sort of needs decent brakes on a motorcycle so my wife is okay with the expense and I am okay with waiting a little while longer for my bike but I do miss riding the thing. I watch others with envy when I am not sneaking off with my wife's Vespa. Tourists on White Street even made me envious:They were enjoying life on two wheels and so they should. Driving a car is fundamentally boring which is why so many people drive distracted. Riding puts you in the middle of it all. God only knows what they all found so fascinating about the Harvey Government Center. I am one of the few people who thinks the Honda Ruckus (and it's Chinese knock offs) are a silly scooter design. All the advantages of weather protection, stylish bodywork and storage space are lost to a trellis frame with all the ugly bits of motor and transmission on open display. This one has a milk crate and a not waterproof ice chest for luggage which adds to the general ugliness. I like luggage that either looks stylish or that works sensibly: ie is waterproof. I think I am getting grumpy from lack of Bonneville in my life. Oh well.These people looked happy on their Chinese 150 with trim matching top box on the back. Bastards. I was stuck in the car.Even this guy hauling the kitchen sink under pedal power looked like he was enjoying the ride past the dive shop across from the police station.This next picture is for John in Dallas who sent me a very nice letter with a picture of his amazingly tarted up Harley which must be hell on wheels to ride. I'd be terrified of dropping the fantastic paint job, as I have a habit of dropping my bike. I cannot show it to you here except in this rather crappy format by means of using my camera to take the pictures off the e-mail.
And his cheerful dogs killing each other for sport: I was put in mind of his letter by this guy riding past the Police station looking like he was enjoying himself on his bike, damn his eyes:Mary from New Hampshire (or Hollywood) sent no pictures but I would venture a bet that New England is no bad place to be right now if I had my bike. Mind you I've heard they have killer tornadoes up there so it's probably safer to stay in the Keys for hurricane season...Even youngsters got in on the act of making me miss my motorcycle as they rode directly past the Police station. I know I need brakes that work but really this is torture.

Key West Bight 1

The last surviving ferry that serves the Dry Tortugas National Park looked as bright as day in the dock lights at Key West Bight.There is only one ferry service, in addition to seaplanes, these days because the Park Service wanted to reduce the stress on Fort Jefferson isolated as it is seventy miles west of Key West. The ferry service website:
For those who think living aboard your boat is the ultimate expression of freedom etc...etc.. you might be interested to know you literally have to deal with your own shit and because these are marine sanctuary waters dumping overboard into God's Own tides is no longer approved. So one can either order the city pump out for scheduled visits or one can tie up at the dock and handle the hose oneself. Which, having done it myself for years I can tell you is a chore comparable to mowing the lawn with the added chance of covering oneself in shit. But you didn't come here to ponder these urgent matters so I should bring in some pretty pictures:Turtle Kraals looking good at dusk, and I'll venture a guess these good people are not sparing a single thought to ponder Key West's plumbing. The county is apparently about to start to turn the screws on people who live in inshore waters on their own anchors. This rather gray area of boating has long been a Federal preserve which meant it was ignored. Now local agencies have the go ahead to deal with boats at anchor in their waters and rules and regulations are on the horizon, en masse. Change is good remember?People who live at anchor come to town in their dinghies which they tie up at the city provided dock in front of Turtle Kraals for a small daily fee. This way of life will no doubt persist but too many people abandon their boats or end up trashing them and leaving them as expensive detritus along our shores and the county is fed up with paying to remove them- to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and they barely make a dent in the abandoned vessel lists. So the lifestyle will have to change somewhat.
So the usual response to human carelessness is coming- more regulation. And liveaboards, among whom I used to count myself, will as the trite platitude has it, have only themselves to blame.