Saturday, August 13, 2011

Ramrod Summer Morning

Cheyenne and. I left the house as soon as I arrived home from work. As she took a moment to root around under my co nut trees I noticed a great and glorious day developing so I ran back and pulled my camera out of my bag.

Off to the North thunder was rumbling with the occasional lightning flash but where we stood, me staring bat then sky, Cheyenne with her nose in a bush, all we could feel was warm muggy air.

My street is single lane with salt ponds to the west and a line of homes and occasional empty lots to the west, lining the canal. There isn't much traffic before the retired wake up and go for their immutable strolls, but I do occasionally meet a cheery neighbor peddling hard. Linda is one who smiles a lot which makes her rather a change from the dour sad sacks who have retired to my street and seem unhappy with their fate.

The salt ponds are surreal in the early hours before the sun comes up. They are home to birds, mostly waders picking delicately through the shallows which apparently are home to fish and crabs even though they tend to dry out in the dry season.

It is a pleasant fifteen minute stroll to the end of the street and it allows me to relax after a night at work, I can read then paper as the sun comes up, I can watch Cheyenne being busy and I can listen to the silence.

This is the alternative to living in Old Town amid the noise and hustle and bustle. It is to my way of thinking more what Keys living is really about.

And then slowly the sun comes up, regular as habit.

And as my work day ends everyone else's begins. Except of course for the marching ranks of the retired who take over the street for an hour as I sleep and stride about looking unhappy. I wonder why?

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Duval Landmarks

My favorite time of day on Duval is early in the morning. Not even necessarily that early, but at a time of day when most people are still nursing hang overs and the sun still casts an interesting shadow he and there. The San Carlos, formerly the Cuban Consulate, still claimed by the Cuban government as their turf, but these days cherished by Cuban emigre├ęs as their cultural center.

I found these delightful billets-doux stapled at eye level on a post supporting the outdoor seating area at Willie T's bar. Part of me does wonder if we can encourage a better class of visitor to Key West. To do that we need a better class of bar I guess.

Moving hastily along we see the pleasantly elderly Appelrouth building across the street.

I saw a chick magnet t-shirt among the dreck for sale on Duval and wondered if Cheyenne would wear it for me.

At a time when retail is failing all over the country, Fast Buck Freddie's is doing fine. I wrote about Half Buck's on Caroline Street losing their lease but my wife tells me they are actively looking for a new location. Half Buck's sells stuff they didn't sell in the main store and is the delight of bargain shoppers like my wife.

If Fast Buck's. Doesn't hack it for you, maybe a hookah, a water pipe, might work. there's a store up Duval Street that has a nice line in Gothic nastiness.

I thought switchblades are illegal but apparently not. I'm told the legality is based on the length of the blade though as I'm not a cop I have no need to know these things. Personal protection at bargain basement prices, though I'm not completely certain that if push came to shove I could slice someone up with one of these nasty looking things. I'd rather just give them a severe talking to.

Bob in Montana says there is a wall devoted to pictures of customers' dogs on the wall at Margaritaville. I have no reason to believe he's lying so I guess this place just went up in m estimation.

I am pretty sure The Porch, not yet a landmark on Duval though it should be, is my kind of establishment. And ere are no dollar bills with nasty messages attached to the walls either.

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Travel By Water

The waters are supposed to be flat this time of year, with not much wind to ruffle them. The views can be tremendous if you like that sort of thing and I do. I spent years on California's central coast and the big draw there is heavy wave action producing surf crashing at the base of the cliffs that line the coasts. It's all very bracing stuff especially considering that an average summer day is lucky to see seventy degrees. I prefer this sort of placid scene:

Fat Albert is a constant presence in the skies over the Lower Keys, supposedly keeping an eye out for unauthorized traffic, boats smuggling Cubans or planes bringing drugs. Or vice versa, because smugglers are cunning devils.

Mind you, people have lived by smuggling for the longest time in the Keys. During the unpleasantness with the Northern States,Confederates ran the Union blockade even though Key West, a critical port, was kept in the Union by the garrison if not by the local populace. Then there were all the revolutions going on in Cuba that resulted in a lively trade across the Straits of Florida.

Prohibition was a blessing for the Keys as there was much alcohol to be smuggled. This weekend Key West attracts visitors with Captain Tony days and one of Tarracino's accomplishments in a long and varied life was a close shave with gun smuggling, which by his own account didn't quite come off.

These days smugglers, paid by wealthy Cubans in Miami (the Miami Mafia, the Cuban government calls them) bring relatives over in fast boats which is illegal all round. Cubans that make it across under their own steam, not smuggled, get to stay if they set foot inn the US, and their reward under this absurd "dry foot" policy is $8,000 to help them settle inn the US. Haitians need not apply as they are black and not fleeing communism.
For such calm waters inside the reef, this can be a wild and crazy place, out on the water.

The whole Cuban embargo thing is daft, rather like getting in the middle of a family spat. Fidel Castro married Mirta Diaz Balart in 1948, had a son with her and later got divorced. It may come as a surprise but her family were supporters of the Cuban president Castro ousted and over they came to Miami where they got elected to Congress and have been leading lights in the virulent exile community. Hence the continued and pointless embargo and the prolongation of the Castro government who blames all bad things on the US.

For all that the surface is placid inside the reef these can be wild and wooly waters. I like my ocean nice and flat and calm, but that's easy for me to say as I am not really the gun smuggling, dope running type.

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Key West Signs

I have never understood the theory that taking money from members of the public who need utilities and giving it to stock holders instead of spending it on the utility system is somehow better than a publicly owned utility. We the people need decent water and the aqueduct, properly known as FKAA brings it to us without having to generate profits to pay off gamblers who own stocks and shares.

The electrical company is a public utility as well and long may it stay that way in this age of mindless privatization that ends up ordinary people. I was interested to note the spineless school board voted to privatize janitors who will get a huge pay cut for their services to stockholders. No one at the top, board or superintendent, the people responsible for the mismanaged budget took a cut. We need a few more of these:

Baseball is huge in Key West, a welcome relief from the misery of national and local politics. I've always enjoyed then image of a fighting conch,a cephalopod that moves at a pace one could only describe as languid. A slow motion fighter perhaps.

It's a cop car. We had a really nasty anonymous comment in the citizen's voice this week snarling at a police officer for 'not doing his job' and I was reminded how little I want to be riding around in a police car taking crap, being snarled at and smiling all the while.

I cannot imagine how annoying it must be to live in a home mistaken for a guest house all the time. Pay attention to the sign!

You may be amazed to know there is actually an area of Dow town Key West where panhandling is not allowed.

No nothing no time no where. if you think living downtown in old town would be fun, pay attention.

And no I did not buy any. My dog already Iives better than half the people in the world and buying ice cream for her just seems over the top. Let's ban ethanol subsidies first, get growing corn for food so poor people can eat, and then let's make treats for dogs.

Whoops! A little too much reality intruded in this essay. Too much for this far south at any rate.

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