Sunday, June 19, 2011

Keys Contrasts

There are places in the world where the contrast between the structures from the past that were stood for something, that were built to last and the modern human endeavors of convenience are not as apparent as they are in the US. In most of this country we see modern buildings thrown together in planks and plaster, inexpensive shopping centers used to pop up like mushrooms in the drive to take advantage of the quickly blooming economy. Those malls are now shrinking back whence they came, as retailers find it is no longer possible to make a living selling fancy socks, or bespoke sandals.I was thinking about this contrast in styles as I stood on the beach and watched the cars flying through the dusk on the Seven Mile Bridge and it occurred to me that a bridge built in 1982 will have to be built to last, attacked as it is by the elements that surround it. The old Flagler Bridge alongside is as solid as the day it was planted, a hundred years ago. It is as solid as a Roman aqueduct. But it's not all architectural solidity in the Keys.Coco's Cantina used to sit in the building above. The Cuban Restaurant has moved to the Big Pine shopping center and the structure remains, unoccupied and available. It's a cement box and it needs to be as storms test the integrity of structures in these exposed islands.The former garden center and barbecue stand is cleaned and abandoned awaiting an uncertain future. Businesses attract hopefuls in the Keys, where older buildings have shown they can survive, and where residents have done the same. Not all with the grace and elegance of a curvaceous bridge built to span the centuries.

Mass Lobster Potting

I passed them by on the Highway as I rushed somewhere, but I couldn't get the image of them out of my mind. As I rushed back home I pulled over in the car and took pictures trying to think of them as the farmers and share croppers of my youth, not as modern commercial fishermen.It is the conventional platitude to think of the fishing life, as a way to earn a living as a tough way of life, but the reality isn't always very clear it seems to me, in the mids of the office workers and indoor professionals who sit down to a plate of lobster or grouper. There is that hankering image that won't quite go away of a rough and tumble life on the high seas, in fine weather under sunny skies, pirates and freemen of the modern world who ply the oceans looking for that one big catch, the pot of gold that they will spend drinking and whoring when they get back to Port Royal.These men are preparing for the lobster season to start in a couple of months. They have spent hours painstakingly hammering together the intricate one way boxes that trap the lobster. Now to make sure they sink upright they pour a layer of cement into the bottom of each trap, by hand. The temperature has been hovering well over 90 degrees in the shade these days.They look neither piratical nor romantic lumbering around with wheelbarrows and cement, more like indentured servants on a construction site...But it's nothing more than the tools of their trade they are plying. These are the unseen tools, the wheelbarrows and the shovels on the grassy open space far from the romance of the high seas.It's hard to imagine that whoring and drinking in some mythical Port Royal wouldn't be on the sweat filled brain of even the most devoted family man among these hard working laborers of the sea. Think of wheelbarrows and cement the next time you order lobster or crab in Florida.

Shutters And Flowers

As usual I have absolutely no idea what on earth these blooms are called but they struck my eye anyway. In these circumstances I think the best thing is a stab in the dark as that occasionally provokes an accurate identification from a reader. Honeysuckle, perhaps?Dade pine is a peculiar wood, now no longer available in Dade county as it was all cut down for construction, but I am reliably informed there are stands of this extraordinary wood in Florida's panhandle. Dade pine is a particularly resinous wood that resist tropical damp and insects without the help of paint.Around the corner the Studios of Key West live with metal gratings over the windows a legacy no doubt of the Armory's martial past when weapons, not art, were stored inside. The metal shutters suffer the assaults of salt air with less grace and resilience than Dade pine.Whimsy attracts me like a moth to flame. Hullo pretty lady!And then we come to the subject of iguana, reptiles I absolutely have come to loathe. Whoever first released these plant wrecking anti-gardening bull dozing exotic "pets" into the wilds of South Florida must have their own special place in Hell. Iguanas swim like submarines, climb vertical unassailable walls, leap as though wearing seven league boots and produce eggs and offspring by the tens of dozen. Alongside cockroaches and rats, iguanas must be counted as the world's greatest (warm weather) survivors. They eat everything I try to grow. Bastards!This grandfather scuttles around the parking lot of the Key West Police Department unscathed. I am obliged to be polite but he should consider himself lucky he is 25 miles from my vegetable garden. The next tourist I come across going gaga over these loathsome predators I shall kick in the shin. Just you see.

Sculpture Surprise

It happens I am out walking and I wonder what there is that is new under the sun in Key West and imagine my surprise when the city yields one more to keep me wondering.The Studios is an eclectic art space on White Street housed in the old Armory, a swords to plowshares concept of ever there was one. They offer concerts, art shows and exhibitions in the lovely old hall, especially in winter when the connoisseurs from Up North are in town to see and be seen around town, but this is a place where something always seems to be going on. What prompted me to stumble in the little outdoor space in back I'm not sure but there it was all laid out for me to enjoy.There was no one else there to enjoy the sea mammals carved in stone, but they put on an excellent show for me.They smiled to see a visitor.There is a wealth of talent to go around in a world that can put out such art in a back space.I felt lucky to come across it tucked away here off White Street.I only wanted more time to spend there but being as how I'm just one more bureaucrat in a world apparently overloaded with us despised government workers, I had to report for work at my union workplace. Lackaday me.I saw no more information than this about this delightful exhibit.It was all I needed. It pays to keep your eyes open when walking the streets of Key West.

Past And Present

I saw the pink frangipani bouncing off the pink accents on the house and thought to myself there's a picture. I like my pink Crocs but pink houses?I never get past the simplicity and beauty of the views in Key West's streets. It is a source of wonder to me how this place has survived in a world dedicated to tearing down the old and replacing it with what we see across much of the rest of the land.

I was impressed by this resident's dedication to street clean up, a dustpan and brush, a bent back, and a clean porch as a result. All in 90 degrees, and I'm pretty sure the owner of the back was alive when Pearl Harbor was bombed. I hope I'm that spry.

You wouldn't know there was a drought judging by how things grow.

These homes were here in the Great Depression of the 1930s and back then times were well and truly tough. It doesn't seem as though we have yet reached the nadir of our own economic troubles and I wonder if we have the resilience of the generations that went before. I expect we do when we are put to the test, because what else is there to do?Key West was a poor place in those days but it was a self reliant town, and living with rain water and fish was no great hardship considering what had come before. These days we rely on the Internet, piped water and elaborate shopping expeditions to make our ease. Key West looks much the same as it ever did but we don't. Looking at the increase in food prices, growing commodity scarcities and wobbly world economies a friend remarked how we live in "interesting times." I am not as enthusiastic as he is but I shall endeavor to be as the houses are, survivors. History must be our guide in these uncertain times. Happy Father's Day!