Thursday, August 25, 2011

Clouds Make Glorious Summer

"And all the clouds that low'r'd upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried."

The opening lines from Richard The Third sprang to mind as I swatted mosquitoes and watched Cheyenne having fun.

Everywhere I looked the sun was hidden by the weight of water vapor in the sky.

Every day I'm grateful to Cheyenne for greeting me with a wet nose and a wagging tail and expecting me to take her for an interesting walk. At 6:30 in the morning after a full twelve hours dispatching.

You don't get to see this by lying in bed.

Or by living in e Keys in winter when the clouds are gone the sky is incandescent blue day after day for the snowbirds who have no idea what they are missing during the summer.

In January there will be half a dozen dogs and a cluster of women standing around talking about nothing right here.

Right now it's me and Cheyenne and the biggest show on Earth.

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Treasure Village Montessori

This school was founded in 1998 and has, according to their website, gone from strength to strength claiming 30 staff And 190 students up to 8th grade. They have a rather startling sign by the side of the Overseas Highway.

Chuck pointed out to me that the school is housed in a fake castle, complete with a central keep and bars on the windows which looks completely at odds with a place of learning. There is however an explanation.

It seems the castle was built in 1950 to show off Art McKee's House of Sunken Treasure, a museum dedicated to artifacts found off the Keys in the Straits of Florida. For that reason the founders of the Montessori school decided to call it Treasure Village.

They say one can see both the Gulf of Mexico and the Straits of Florida from the top of the Keep, which oversees a central courtyard and two and a half acres of school grounds.

It's one of those oddities that crop up around here quite unexpectedly but that show a recycling spirit that anyone should emulate. Take an old funky showboat castle and turn it into a seat of learning. Just like that.

It all makes sense now.

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Irene's Sideswipe

In response to enquiries let me say that the Lower Keys are watching Irene go by with a certain equanimity. Aside from some strongish North winds we have been unaffected by the large hurricane currently ravaging the Bahamas.

The Florida Keys are frequently viewed with pity, seen a string of vulnerable little islands strung out to sea, close to sea level and unprotected from the force of any passing tropical cyclone. Yet this is only part of the picture. Shallow reefs surround the islands and those rocks help protect the islands from storm surge. Cuba to the south has a long line of mountains along it's back and they too help the Keys, for they tend to break up the winds and deprive them of the warm water the hurricanes need to stay in business.

Storms from the Yucatan, a rare event happily, tend to bring floods as they drive the water onto the less protected western end of the islands, just as Wilma did in 2005.

The other thing about the Keys is that it's difficult to live here and not be aware of one's vulnerability. Thus people who live here tend to be better adapted to adversity and better prepared for the effects of a major storm. After the storms of 2004 and 2005 there was the sort of coming together of the residents that one hopes to see in any crisis.

So now we sit here and watch our neighbors in the Bahamas get trashed, this is their worst drubbing in years, and up next the Outer Banks and after that, who knows...I heard on the radio that New York City is mobilizing it's police to meet the effects of Hurricane Irene.

Up next we see another big red blob in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, preparing doubtless to become Jose as it approaches the Antilles in the Caribbean. It is too early to get nervous about that but I am sure all of us in it's potential path will be monitoring the progress of the big red blob...

Everyone who lives in the hurricane zone develops theories and my theory is the path of the season's storms is set early on. I hope I'm right because Western Caribbean storms have chosen to trash Belize while storms further north so far have preferred an Atlantic path. For my sake, selfishly, I hope that continues.

Best wishes to all Up North preparing to get trashed. All this, and snow in winter just seems very unfair to me.

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Blue Hole Alligator

There was this wake up call lying in the watery edges of the Blue Hole on Big Pine Key. Looking over the side of the viewing platform one has to wonder what exactly an alligator thinks as it sits there doing nothing.

Key deer is what this place is supposed to be about and the diminutive creatures are all over the place. But of alligators in the Lower Keys...they only reside in this former quarry on Key Deer Boulevard.

Perhaps it is lurking or simply snoozing or maybe even contemplating it's next move.

Masked by the grasses and the bushes at water's edge.

We humans are afraid of and appalled by the supposed ferocity and danger posed by these fresh water dinosaurs.

In point of fact this creature's predecessor, the much larger alligator known as Bacardi starved to death after it swallowed a plastic toy dropped in the water. They have more to fear from us than we from them.

The Blue Hole is still green, under a watery summer sky.

Luckily the alligators don't stray from where they are parked as suburbia isn't very far away.

Last year there was widespread revulsion and outrage when a couple of young men appeared in court charged with shooting an alligator at the Blue Hole. The term 'refuge' is relative.

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Amigos Mexican

There they were sitting under the sign that said it all.

This was Thérèse's goodbye dinner before she got on the ferry out of town to see her Dad Up North in Southwest Florida. My wife got herself something that looked like a chimichanga but was a taco salad, deemed delicious.

I got a fish burrito because I am a pig and I wanted refried beans and rice. The more moderately inclined Thérèse had the fish taco, sans rice and beans and pronounced it excellent and good value at $3.99. Two tacos might have been more healthful than the $13 burrito but I enjoyed it with it's large piece of fish. My wife is not as fond of Chicos because she grew in California where tropical Mexican food, Veracruz style, is not the norm. Amigos is closer to the California norm, and sometimes one wants the familiar if it is to qualify as comfort food.

There's Captain Tony's across the street, still advertising that it was once Sloppy Jose's and still pulling in the visitors looking to take their pictures. We ate Mexican food as we watched the antics.

I thought this menu board looked cute but Wayne sniffed and looked at me as though I were an idiot. Well, I still like the mañana touch.

But there again for cheap and cheerful food this place does okay. A burrito at badboy is still my favorite though from time to time I would pay a few bucks more for a sit down California-Mexican style burrito. Key West has long since needed a Mexican place that does it like this and I hope they stay a good long while.

They were packed and it's not all air conditioned so I would say that is a very good sign.

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