Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Burned Sepia

I published earlier today an essay on the burned remains of the Nature Trail off Key Deer Boulevard on Big Pine Key.

That was Cheyenne in full glorious color exploring the shattered remains of the burned out woods. As you can see there isn't much color left.

I thought these strange surroundings merited a quick sepia look.

I thought the tone made them look like winter woods Up North.

As sad as I am about the fire I quite liked the effect.

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Bangla Deli

My wife brought a couple of dishes by my work last month as a surprise and a treat and theywere both. She had been reminded by a friend to stop by the old Deli on Simonton at Truman. The facade remains the same as ever, more or less.

It used to be a fairly undistinguished greasy spoon, the food was okay prices were reasonable and service was rapid. They had a devoted following among certain locals but after a very long run I guess exhaustion set in and they closed. They have been reopened by a new owner who still has the original café menu augmented by a couple of regular simple but delicious Indian dishes.

Not being Hindu I permitted myself a beef curry which hit the spot, to go unfortunately I had to get back to work. I should have enjoyed taking a table and people watching in air conditioned comfort.

I am looking forward to seeing what the vegetable curry tastes like and exploring as many of their specials as they care to put on the growing menu.

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Key West Wildlife

There is one spot you can go in Key West if you want to check out some wildlife.

The main post office on Whitehead Street has a jungle that is home to these wild predators:

The chickens lurk in the shrubs and grasses.

They hunt by day and sleep by night.

I find them loud and messy, as they dig holes in flowerbeds and spread dirt where they hunt.

Some people like them because they eat bugs that annoy some sensitive humans.

I am much more a fan of ibis and egret, local birds that eat bugs with delicacy and tact and in silence.

I am not an enemy of Key West chickens but they are hardy birds and don't care about my feelings. The story is that they are descendants of Cuban fighting roosters brought to Key West, a story that makes no sense on many levels.

I doubt Cubans escaping their island would take their roosters under their arms as they jumped into boats but even if they did roosters are male chickens...It's like Key West pirates, one more cool story based on no known facts.

The chickens I guess just got loose when Key West was a less organized town than today and now they are a tourist attraction and protected. The version I heard is that chickens can only be killed if you are going to eat them. If true that sounds like a depression era rule.

So there they are hunting and killing and eating and reproducing.

They are scattered all over the island and drive some residents mad by crowing at all hours and wrecking sleep. The city hired a local barber to catch the chickens and export them to a chicken retirement home (they said) on the mainland. Mistrustful supporters of chicken rights would release the birds from the trapper's cages, rendering him impotent and frustrated so he quit.

And the chickens remain.

On the streets.

Minding their own noisy messy business.

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Bayview Park

It's pretty as a picture under a bright Florida sun.

Bayview Park, the gateway to Old Town Key West more or less, is an oasis that in a few weeks will become even more of a homeless hangout than it is during the heat of summer.

The Cuban Liberator José Martì stands guard over the lonely southeastern corner of the park.

The rules are posted for the park but the courts have ruled you can't keep people out of public places no matter how disheveled or unmotivated they may be. Or crazy, as we know half the homeless are abandoned people with mental health issues. No new taxes please to help them!

Bayview Park is a living space for people on the streets but it is also a pretty place, a stretch of tree-shaded lawn in a town where lawns are in short supply on a waterless rock.

There used to be benches for people to enjoy the sylvan view at their leisure but then the spite- your-nose brigade took them out to prevent the residentially challenged from using them.

Date palms grow in the Keys but it is too wet I am told for the dates to mature and become edible, but they sure are pretty.

There are tennis courts and playing fields and statues in Bayview Park, plus there's a gazebo which is sometimes used for outdoor concerts, but not often enough in my opinion.

Above all it's a pretty place alongside Truman Avenue, and it's too bad more people don't enjoy it.

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Burnt Pine

The recent fire that burned out of control on Big Pine just barely spared the Blue Hole. The nature trails half a mile up the road weren't so lucky.

Standing in the parking lot Key Deer Boulevard is now clearly visible as the undergrowth has burned away. The signboard has burned away too, nothing of that is left!

If one wants to look on the bright side not everything burned away.

The Forest Service was planning to do a controlled burn on twenty one acres to clear brush in the usual way, replicating Nature.

By the time this controlled burn was restored to human control, one hundred acres were scorched alongside Key Deer Boulevard, the main road cutting north across the island.

The slash pine will come back slowly, no doubt, because nature has been burning these woods with lightning ever since these limestone rocks dried out above the post glacial tideline.

This trail was a lovely wooded slightly mysterious thirty minute loop through the countryside.

Now it's something rather less than that. And it is sad believe me even though I know it will grow back.

I've written several essays about the Jack Watson trail named for the first game warden paid to protect the Key Deer when they were almost extinct after World War Two.

This is more or less how the trail used to look before 90 percent of it burned. This tiny corner of the trail was spared the uncontrolled burn.

This was my original essay on the beauty of Watson Hammock, pristine:

We found one resident hanging out looking for food. She ran when she saw me. Cheyenne didn't even notice the deer at first and stood next to me as the wild one bounded away.

Looking skyward the original profile remains if one doesn't look too closely at the ground level burning.

But the flames went everywhere it seems. I hope the Feds have the money to repair and replace all this damage. Or to put it another way I hope the banksters will release enough of their bonuses to allow repairs to be made.

Cheyenne found crispy God knows what in the cremains of the wood. The white line at her back is the loop of the trail winding round where before the bushes were so thick it was impossible to tell exactly where one was.

It will all come back, I know it will.

But how sad it is to see it gone, just before the weather cools off and walks in the woods become my favorite winter sport in the Keys.

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