Friday, July 19, 2013

Living Key West

Something happened to me in the past ten days and I'm still processing what exactly it is. It's nothing dramatic, externally, but inside I've been evaluating how I feel about where I live. It's odd, but I think that for the first time in 55 years I am trapped where I live, and what's even more odd I don't think I mind that too much.
When I used to live on a boat anchored off Rat Key, north of Key West I used to walk into town across Peary Court which was an open space with a baseball diamond and acted as a short cut from Garrison Bight where I landed my dinghy. The Navy took back Peary Court and built ousting it didn't actually need. Now they have graciously given theland back to the city and built terrorist proof housing directly on Fleming Key inside the Navy base. I'd like to see Peary Court revert to open space as it would make a lovely park but now the plans are for more housing. No turning back; oh well.
Thinking about the past led me to Harpoon Harry's, a diner where I always used to eat at the end of those walks in my search for breakfast. I don't eat out much these days at breakfast time as I am eager for sleep but from time to time I go and eat an egg and think back to the "good old days." The modern equivalent for young boaters might be Cuban Coffee Queen nearby:
One piece of social engineering the city managed to do well in its past was to lease the waterfront around Key West Bight and create a boardwalk with quite a few thriving businesses who rent space from the city.
Look up and see commercial planes sliding over Old Town bringing more people to visit southernmost city served by a foreshortened runway. They've talked about making longer but the mangroves, protected by the state, flourish at each end of the tarmac so getting bigger jets into Key West is still not possible or likely.
I first came to Key West by Vespa more than 30 years ago and I really like riding around here even though it has it's shortcomings, flat and straight as it is. A reader mentioned wanting to ride their Fat Boy on the Overseas Highway and I saw this Harley which I think is a Fat Boy (so called for the wide forks that allow wide tires I'm told) on Elizabeth Street:
I was wandering pretty much at random across town and stopped in at the Armory which is operated as an art gallery and a place for artists to visit town and practice their craft. I had no idea what I might see and that's part of the charm.
I just strolled around looking at the art, not taking notes or anything and I enjoyed it.
I like the Art scene but I like it on my terms. I'm not social and my fund of small talk is so small you couldn't put a single angel on the head of that nail, so standing around listening to people getting intoxicated and talking about themselves doesn't do much for me and I come away frm these events worrying how I made a fool of myself. So gallery openings rate as mental thumbscrews for me. But empty galleries are lovely.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, but the Internet made Key West livable for me. The electronic connection gives me the ability to easily reach across the miles and not feel isolated. Silly isn't it? You'd think the choice to live outside the mainstream would predicate a desire to avoid the mainstream but I like the ambiguity of being able to live on the periphery and read about that which he center is busy doing. Sitting in isolation ignoring the world outside never was my style and I valued Valladares' news stand for the connection their newspapers and magazines gave me. That was destined to die with the arrival of the new electronic world order, and it did.
I know they'll you there are no seasons in Key West, and in Spring everyone Up North loves seasons when the leaves pop out and life comes to life anew. In winter they bitch long and loud and my page views go up thirty percent as they frantically seek an affirmation that sunshine still exists outside their gray cold world. The seasons here are hot and humid or warm and dry but that's only meteorologically speaking, because summer is the outdoor season in the Florida Keys. It's the time we see fewer neighbors, a scattering of tourists and we enjoy sunsets at eight thirty, not late by northern latitudes, but later than winter sunsets in the Keys. We fish and go boating, we barbecue and take walks in the rain. We vacation Up Orth to escape the humidity and we crank up the air at home. We watch TV and go to the movies to escape the heat. We watch the tropical weather at the National Hurricane Center website and hope that when that season ends on November 30th we have in fact dodged another one. By the ourmbthoughtsturn to the warm and dry season as we wait for the second cold front of the Fall, theone that breaks the back of the heat and humidity once and for all, rains retreat and the skies clear after each roiling black clouded cold front blows through. That's when we get ready to greet winter residents, plan parties, buy tickets to the new season of plays and spruce up generally for winter. My dog perks up whe she can leave house even while the sun is up...
I met this guy fixing his bicycle and his kilt was ragged and torn from use. "You need a thick skin to wear one ," he said and I admired his comfort. I'd like a kilt but there is some resistance from the wife and I'm not yet readyntomforce the issue. Do you think he looks poofy? UTILIKILTS - American Made Utility Kilts for Everyday Wear I was wndering what the Chief would say if I asked if it was okay for a male dispatcher to go to work in...a skirt? Hmmm.
I like living here.
I miss boating even with my piddly little center console and sometimes I miss living at anchor for a weekend and leaving the land behind. It's been difficult to go boating lately but we will find time again I have no doubt. My wife is gearing up for her new much desired position teaching Adults and I continue to enjoy my city job. I just finished nine years as a police dispatcher, the longest I've held any job, and I find I still like it. I realized I probably can't make the same money elsewhere even if I could find a job that I enjoyed so much. People don't much hire 55 year old men, and I'm lucky I'm so happy where I am. I have high hopes my wife too will enjoy her new job in the school district. Late in life we enjoy our work with a chance of a pension we might be able to live on. How lucky is that? I just keep hoping civilization doesn't collapse in the meantime because I'm snug, for now.
I miss the Porch, a bar that has become popular and crowded and noisy. I like the Krawl on Southard Street not least because they welcome Cheyenne and they have Boddingtons and Palm on draught.
I like Cuban food, not as a substitute for Mexican but because it is old fashioned meat and cheese and bread with no apologies to the 21st century. There is also the fact that Cuban food is truly an ethnic cuisine in Key West, it's what Conchs eat and they like to eat well.
So now and the I go to Sandy's cafe and get a con leché and a cheese bread and rejoice in the fact that this is my home.
I live in town whee I can walk safely at night, where crime is present but more of an annoyance most of the time. Violence breaks out of course but if you lie with calm people and don't get belligerent and drunk in public you are pretty safe from the plague that sweeps many American cities. Key West isn't perfect but I rate it as safe for a common sense sober citizen almost all the time.
I'm not a sports fan but I like that Conchs revere baseball, I like standing on the sidelines and watching this most American of pastimes in this least American of cities, this iconoclastic little own struggling to find its way in the confusion of the new century.
it occurred to me this week that it's a privilege to be here on the sidelines to see how it goes. I don't think the economic future is bright for lots of us, as I watch the ideals of post war Europe washed down the drain of austerity while China and Russia and even lowly Brazil start to nibble at the edges of American hegemony. I like watching the world but I like living in the Keys. That's what occurred to me this past week.


Anonymous said...

You sir, are becoming as Cheyenne!
Contented with your station in life.

GCamden said...

I am glad that you and Cheyenne are content with your lives. It is a comfortable place to be. And I appreciate your viewpoint and your glimpses into your life and the wonderful little city of Key West!

Aodhnait said...

You are living the life that I dream of living.....but when the sun shines (as it is now) Ireland isn't so bad!

Unknown said...

At 47 I have lived in Pittsburgh, PA (my hometown) twice. It will always be home but I don't see myself ever returning. Charlotte, NC. Charleston, SC...a lovely city but not future there. Erie, PA which was a dreary and cold place even in the summer.

Now I am in Tampa, Fl. I own my home outright, I have a woman that actually really does love me. Friends that matter and the winery on speed dial.

Still though I find myself looking elsewhere...perhaps the Bahama's or Mexico now. Be happy you found a place to call home.

Martha said...

Are you using your iPad or iPhone or iWhatever for picture taking?

Lynn said...

Trapped, you say? I can't think of a better place to be "trapped"...wish I could escape Arkansas for the Florida Keys. This is an amazing post. I've been absent for a while, so I've got a lot to catch up on. I love the picture of the Fatboy, and I still dream of the day we're able to ride that long flat and straight stretch of highway. I don't think I could ever tire of that lifestyle and the scenery. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Abaco said,

This was my favorite blog so far. My wife and I have been to the keys 15 times and always loved it. We always dreamed of having a life like yours and living down there someday. Now with a 5 year old late in life and now the sad fact the after 21 years together my wife walked out on us last Summer (midlife crisis) now I just have memories. That is why I have fallen in love with your blog, it always takes me back to a happier time, not that I'm not happy with my little man but I do miss walking down to Sandy's the share a Cuban mix sandwich.

Thanks again for the blog, great pictures and the trip down memory lane!


Conchscooter said...

Well I guess that one struck a nerve!
Sometimes I get frustrated with the people who start to dislike key West because it is changing, its human nature to think the place of our youth was the best. The rest of the world is changing too and even as Key West becomes something different Miami, Tampa and every other place people call home has changed too.
I am going througha process of coming to terms with being 55, having a good job in a liveable town...
I wish you all the best and can only say I have no intention of stopping the blog. Which intent surprises me a bit.

Martha I take pictures with an android phone that I believe has a much better camera than an iPhone. It has built in picture adjustments and effects which I try not to overdo. It is also obscenely unobtrusive!
I upload pictures in the phone to picasa using an app and from there I use the Blogsy ($5) app to create my posts on my iPad. Simple and quick.
Highly recommended

Anonymous said...

I grew up in New Jersey, so I never had the problem of thinking that the place of my youth was best. I believe we all change a great deal more than the places we pass through.