Saturday, December 31, 2011

That's All Folks

This was the very first entry in my blog, a joke told to me by my buddy Robert, when I rode a Vespa 250 GTS and this blog was called Key West Vespa.

Day One June 13 2007
This dude dies. There's a promising start for a blog. Well, anyway he dies and goes to heaven. St Peter meets him at the Pearly Gates and says:
"We have choices nowadays in Heaven. You get a free trial period in a choice of places. In your case you get to try out the celestial sphere up here, or you get to spend the rest of eternity in Key West.
Day one, among the clouds sipping ambrosia, tinkling the odd harp, lounging around chatting of this and that with the hosts of heavenly angels.
Day Two, our hero gets sent down to Key West to check out the scene. He starts the day with a proper breakfast at Turtle Kraals, fresh eggs, strong coffee, crisp bacon and a view across the Key West Bight Harbor. Then he heads to the beach at Fort Zachary for a swim, a read in a hammock under the pines and a leisurely bike ride back to civilisation for a refreshing smoothie on Duval Street while checking out the passing scene.
After a lunch on the beach at Salute restaurant he takes off from Smathers Beach dangling from a parachute, whips round the harbor and back on land takes in a ride across town to Half Shell raw bar for oysters and a frosty.
In the evening its back to Duval and a night of drinking and carousing.
St Peter barely has to ask.
"Dude," our Hero says, panting from his exertions in Paradise, "its gotta be Key West for me." Nodding gravely St Peter puts him down for eternity in Key West.
Our hero drops off to sleep under a freshly laundered sheet, a fan swirling slowly round above his head.
He awakes in a lather of sweat, the sound of hungry female mosquitoes fills his ears. His lip is swollen from a nighttime mosquito feast and his ears are filled with gritty sand.
"Hey!" A voice roars and the sound of cracking whip fills the air." Get up you lazy bugger! Work! Get to work!"
"Hey, I'm spending Eternity in Paradise!" comes the indignant protest.
"Yeah, yesterday you were a tourist. Today you're a local."

So there we have it. I'm not completely sure how to say goodbye because after all there I will be tomorrow to greet the new year at but in the meantime let me say thank you for following this blog and I hope to hear from you on the other side tomorrow. It has been fun and I can't say better than that.

Keep well. do good work and enjoy New Year's Eve with the hope of good things to come next year.

Solares Hill 2008

So here we are, the last day of Key West Diary and I couldn't let my beloved blog fade away without some pictures of the iconic hill in the middle of the city that I am pleased to call home, even though I live in the suburbs.
There are people that delight in thinking Florida is flat which in point of fact is not true at all. Solares Hill, a couple of blocks east of Duval Street is variously reported to be between 14 and 18 feet above sea level. I take the middle ground and call it sixteen feet (about five meters in new money) which is, I think, a good height for a hill to be. For instance if you were planning a fishing trip on your bicycle and came this way, west on Angela Street, you could free wheel a block:There is another hill in Key West, on Elizabeth Street near Eaton, and it, though unnamed is labeled by the presence of the Hilltop Laundry. But Solares Hill takes pride of place, by virtue of the fact that this is Key West's own Mount Everest, the top, the highest peak of all. You may even see people climbing the hill without the aid of supplemental oxygen. These hardy souls looked like visitors staying at Courtney's Place located on the South Col, just off the Hill itself:Solares Hill isn't a straight climb. The road dips on its way up from City Hall at the corner of Simonton Street:What makes this place odd is that in a town notorious for labelling every little non event in its tumultuous history, the highest point gets no marker. Here there is no souvenir stand, seashell vendor or tout with postcards. For the ardent labeller it is a do-it-yourself spot, and in that spirit I label this Key West's tallest house, the home with the front porch highest above the lapping waters of the Straits of Florida, one short mile to the south:It could as easily be this imposing home across the street:But I prefer the more modest Conch proportions of the little white house with it's sky blue trim and every time I pass I salute it as Key West's highest foundation.

The other thing about Solares Hill is that it comes from nowhere and leads nowhere. It is just another street, another way to get out of town, and once you pass the crown of the hill the street levels off:It becomes, momentarily, a modest little plaza that is actually an intersection where four roads join. At night the pink house with the drooping cantilevered extension looks quite a bit different, more imposing perhaps and a lurid shade of yellow in my viewfinder:The lights in the distance mark Angela and Simonton Streets, the bright lights of downtown, but up here on the hill where every breath costs a climber effort, the lay of the land is much more peaceful, by day......and by night:In that last picture I caught the trifecta of Key West wheels; the convertible, the scooter, and the shopping cart, something for everyone. From the intersection one can turn left onto Elizabeth and head towards the Fleming/Southard corridor, or keep going straight, down the hill towards the cemetery:Or, if turning right one gets to freewheel a little bit back towards Truman Avenue and the main street out of Key West:Or you could be like me and wander the hill at 4:30 in the morning and find a bunch of little alleyways, evocative and secret that I shall have to come back to check out in the cold light of day. I keep thinking I know this town and then there is a fifty yard strip of cement lined with laundry, sleeping cats and tile decorations that make a liar out of me. How provoking.