Saturday, November 30, 2013

Onlywood Revisted

It was a lovely summer day in November and my wife and I had finished our business just at lunch time so when my wife said she didn't want to make any choices I chose. I enjoyed Onlywood so much last time with George I figured my wife deserved a shot at this real Italian food.
They have this funky four sided gazebo bar thing in the middle of the room and you can eat there too if you want but it was warm enough outside our waiter directed us to a table underneath the fan at our request. He pegged that right and we enjoyed the cool breeze through lunch, with started with a bread basket and olive oil and vinegar.

After the bread basket we shared a plate of shellfish, classic Italian mussels and clams in a salty lightly tomato flavored broth. I really liked how they served this dish first bringing us a bowl with a fork and spoon so when the shellfish came we used the bowl for the shells. It was simple and elegant and the appetizer was perfect. Much enjoyed.

The restaurant isn't huge but the windows open on the garden so hardy visitors can sit outdoors and bake. And wilting indoor diners can enjoy some natural light. I can moly imagine how pretty the garden is under a full winter moon on a cool January evening.

The second course was a shared pizza and I enjoyed the one George ordered so I figured my wife might like the four pork pizza, with ...four different meats. The drink pictured was iced tea which glass was replaced as fast as I emptied it.

A group of French diners were enjoying their lunch and they were going the full nine yards with all courses. We skipped the rather interesting desserts but I think a nice ice cream cassata might be an excellent way to end a meal here.

The pizza comes from a wood oven in the corner of the restaurant and in proper modern Italian style the crust is thin but pliable and the toppings aren't thick enough to create a pool of melted grease.

Training a new cook the owner was busy with a heat sensor explaining the fine art of enough but not too much heat on the baking pizza.

We enjoyed our meal but we couldn't finish theists which my wife generously ordered boxed and I took the last slice to work. We also ate the pizza Italian style with a knife and fork, in civilized fashion.

A solo meal would be great at the bar.

I am really enjoying Onlywood, good value decent food and real Italian cooking. If you want to see how modern Italians eat out check this place. It's growing on me and I can't help it. Oh and we paid $36 for the food and my bottomless iced tea, tax and tip.



Cheyenne In The Cold

It has been a tough ten days for me, being at home with no dog, going to,work and coming home to an empty house. Poor me. This was what was missing:

I am told Cheyenne had a pretty good time Up North in the Florida panhandle where temperatures dropped to near forty degrees, historic lows for Key West but merely brisk in that part of Florida which gets winter frosts.

My wife knew Thèrese when they lived in Birmingham decades ago and my wife being the social butterfly she is has kept in touch ever since and when Thèrese retired from her globe trotting life and settled in Pensacola the two old friends decided Thanksgiving was a good time to spend together as my wife, not retired got the week off from teaching. And she took my dog to the frigid north where Cheyenne, who usually seeks the cold spot on the floor, got into sleeping in warm spots.

Apparently she even burrowed under a blanket at one point so one has to assume the harshness of the climate got through her thick Labrador fur. From the pictures I was sent you'd think my Labrador did nothing but sleep however I am assured that is not the case...

On Monday they took an overnight trip to New Orleans where my wife tells me Cheyenne wore herself out sniffing and walking. Tuesday morning, without me my wife breakfasted at the Café du Monde, where from previous experience she knew Cheyenne had to stay outside the fence.
At a guess I would say she preferred the idea of the beignet rather than the cafe au lait but considering how much beignet my wife woofed I wonder if poor Cheyenne even got a taste.

Doesn't look like it, poor thing.

New Orleans has often been described as picturesque but you wouldn't know if you walked Cheyenne there as she always seems to drag you to the industrial zones or the backs of restaurants where all the best smells are.

Eventually my wife got her to where she needed to go in the middle of a wild rain and wind storm which was freezing cold she said so this is the best picture I got of a night of debauchery (avert your eyes Cheyenne).

Whatever they did in the French Quarter wore her out because she wouldn't budge from the doorway of the elevator back at the hotel, thus holding them all in the lobby. Good dog.
That was a well worn out dog.

Home at last and that is a good thing.



Friday, November 29, 2013

All Is Lost

I went to see All Is Lost earlier this week at the Tropic Cinema and I went with a mixture of trepidation and curiosity. I'd seen the trailer a few times and I was curious to see if he survives his sailboat sinking under him - the trailer suggests not. I was also curious to see how well a sailing movie would depict the dark art of crossing water under sail. There was also some trepidation because a) I wasn't sure the movie could hold my interest and b) if it was any good would I get flashbacks to when I had my own problems at sea? Judging by early reviews in the respected West Coast Sailing Magazine Latitude 38 the movie sucks:

From this website we get this review:
November 4, 2013 – Movie Theaters Everywhere


Well, shucks. Hollywood has the chance to really represent sailing accurately — relatively speaking, of course — and it appears they dropped the ball . . . yet again. The debacle that was The Perfect Storm or even the ridiculous 'rescue' scene in Dead Calm were painful enough but now we have another epic fail to add to the list. We have yet to watch the film for ourselves, but reports from sailors are flooding in about Robert Redford's 'tour de force' performance in All is Lost and the reviews aren't favorable.



The one-man show that boast a grand total of approximately three words follows the harrowing trials of a sailor whose boat sinks out from under him in the Indian Ocean. The trailers looked exciting and passably accurate but we're told the rest of the film is a disappointment. "From the moment his boat gets rammed by the free-floating container to the last scene where he decides it would be a good idea to start a bonfire in his WWII-vintage rubber liferaft to create a signal fire," writes Corte Madera's Linda Muñoz, "anyone who has ever gone on a Bay cruise on pretty much any type of vessel would agree that you don't want to go sailing with this guy. He's only adrift for eight days and barely has any food, almost no water, no PFD or lifesaving suit, no GPS or radio, and no flare gun. Redford does his best but unfortunately, the massive number of inaccuracies and unbelievable situations ruins the movie for anyone who has sailed."



Hugo Landecker, who sails his Westsail 32 Alexander out of San Rafael, agrees with Linda. "There were so many mistakes in this film but I didn't have a pencil and paper to record the countless errors. He made navigating with a sextant look so easy! Just wave it at the horizon and voila! You have a plot fix on the chart! There were so many inaccuracies that this serious 'thriller' turned into a comedy for me. My poor wife's arm was bruised by the time the movie was over for all the times I nudged her when there was a mistake. I'm sure non-boaters would enjoy the drama, but after seeing this film, they'll never get on anything resembling a watercraft."

We'd been looking forward to seeing All is Lost on the big screen but after hearing these dismal reviews, we'll just add it to our Netflix queue and pop Captain Ron into the DVD player. It may not be that much more accurate but at least it was meant to make us laugh

- latitude / ladonna

I am very fond of Latitude 38, the best boating magazine anywhere, and when I used to live aboard and sail Northern California, Latitude 38 was the monthly required read. This was before the advent of the Internet yet even in this electronic era the free monthly paper magazine seems to be flourishing. Having said that, I must respectfully disagree with the sailors' comments above. I lived aboard and sailed for a decade, and I in fact sailed to Key West from San Francisco at the turn of the century taking nearly two years to sail to Panama and up the Caribbean side. That was where I met my own couple of storms whose memory this movie so powerfully evoked.
Personally I was astonished by the power and effectiveness of this film and it was in my opinion the best I have ever seen about the sailing life. Let's not forget it is a movie and film makers have to make artistic compromises one way and another so to expect absolute authenticity is unrealistic and, excuse me, a little bit stupid or naïve. Frankly I think sailors are showing off if they want to nit pick publicly about the movie's sailing shortcomings. Robert Redford's unnamed sailor hits a floating container in the middle of the Indian Ocean in a flat calm and he methodically sets about fixing the hole in his boat's hull and trying to repair his radio. The sailor is as calm as the ocean he is floating on but, like the biblical Job, one thing after another goes wrong. It's often said among sailors that one failure will lead to the next and this sailor has clearly pissed off all the gods within range because he gets no breaks. Silently and efficiently he responds to everything that goes wrong with a measured and planned response. It is a mesmerizing performance especially as there are but three pieces of dialogue throughout the almost two hour movie. First, as a voice over, he reads his goodbye letter to his family ending with the haunting phrase "all is lost" and then in flashback the whole nightmarish eight days unravel. During that part of the movie the sailor tries calling on the radio till it dies definitively and the final moment of dialogue comes when he screams a long drawn out curse as he discovers his fresh water supply is tainted with seawater. That's all the dialogue there is and yet the movie is totally absorbing, riveting and the pace never flags.







If you are a sailor and go into this movie looking for nits to pick you will find them. I got completely lost in the story and I had no time to see any of them. I loved how the sailor's boat and equipment was worn and actually looked used. He was a perfectly middle class average sailor just like any of us and suddenly "all is lost." I thought it was a fabulously absorbing drama all the way through. I guess there are a lot of sailors in Key West, or perhaps Robert Redford still has magnetic movie star powers because the theater was almost full when I went to see the film. I'm very glad I did as I cannot get the story out of my head. You should go too whether or not you know how to sail. This film will reward you and put you off sailing!


Let It Snow In Key West

Winter has beset Key West, the first real cold front of winter is upon us. Nighttime temperatures almost hit sixty degrees and daytime highs yesterday barely reached seventy. Quite a few people were wearing long pants and jackets around town during my afternoon lunch break from work.

Thanksgiving had its own neutralizing effect on the city. Sandy's 24 hour Cuban cafe was closed though Andrea snuck down there before the three pm closing time and brought reviving con leches to the communications center. The rolled down white door is a sight rarely seen on White Street.

It was generally a gray day yesterday, reminiscent of California's summer time marine inversion when cold sea air mixes with warm desert air and the day disappears behind a gray wooly blanket. Colors were muted, an unnatural condition in Key West. It wasn't actually snowing but it felt like it should have been.

People from Up North take great pleasure in mocking us for our inability to cope with temperatures below seventy degrees. All I can tell you is anyone who has felt cool temperatures in Key West will tell you they have never before felt so cold and damp at that temperature, whatever it may be.

The lowest temperature recorded in Key West was 41 degrees and I have seen 42 official degrees in town and it seemed frigid. Snow has been seen, feeble enough and momentary in Miami. But frost has never been seen in Key West. Winter temperatures in Northern Florida can dip to freezing, but down here never.

And just as well as the city is poorly equipped to cope with cold. Few homes have heat, fewer residents have much in the way of warm clothing, as I shall show when a strong cold front hits and weird pathetic scarecrows take to the outdoors in whatever woolen scraps they may have. Life on a boat can be frigid lacking proper equipment.

I take pleasure in the first drops in temperature that break the cloying heat of summer. Yet I soon tire of the cold.

I was astonished by the large crowds lined up for a "sunset" cruise on such an overcast blusterous day as was yesterday. On the water, the chill is even colder. I wonder if the tourists were aware of that?

Waterfront dining at Conch Republic Seafood is usually an open air affair, but when needed they can close off diners from the cold.

I expect the sunset cruisers were having fun out there. They probably saw an iceberg or two.

You might be forgiven for thinking that Kermit's Key Lime place on Elizabeth Street had snow shutters, but it was just styrofoam ably camouflaged.

What an odd sentiment to use for advertising I thought as I strolled by. I expect it works as I know nothing of business.

Every time I walk downtown and I see cruise ships towering over our little town I wonder how our leaders could imagine that vessels even larger admitted to our docks could benefit this modest island.

And now Thanksgiving is past and so it is on to the next holiday, Hanukkah for my wife and her people, Kwanzaa for African Americans, Christmas for Christians, and shopping wildly for everyone else.

For me, lacking as I do any belief in anything I cannot see or touch, I now face the long dark winter lived Up North, thrusting people down here to find sunshine, a fact that needs no belief, and I am not even a shopper. Soon I shall start to look forward to summer's heat and peace and quiet, even though tomorrow it should be close to 80 degrees, sunny and properly pleasant once again. Cold and gray is all very well, but the sooner the sun returns the better. Enjoy your seasons Up North.



Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanks Be To All, And An Alligator

Call it irony but the Florida Keys this week are being ravaged by a solid cold front bringing rain, high winds and night time temperatures close to sixty degrees as we celebrate The Fall Holiday. What the hell I thought, I've got lots to be glad about so I assembled a few pictures from my store of who knows how many pictures in my picasa files and figured I could share these with those of you sneaking away from family gatherings to consider how life might be in Key West today. Pretty much like it is wherever you are I guess.
Cheyenne is in the Florida Panhandle with my wife so the home has been empty all week which has been rather weird. My wife and I communicate because we are human and we made the decision for her to go and be with friends; Cheyenne, who cannot talk or text, just saw me drive away after I dropped her off with my wife for the trip Up North. I've said plenty about Cheyenne on this page so let me just say she is doing well despite my benign neglect that shocks the more attentive dog owners in our stress filled world, and remember she came from the pound because someone else didn't want her. Why buy a dog when you get lovely animals for close to free from your local shelter? Does Cheyenne look like damaged goods to you?
Even in the Keys, even here life is a bunch of compromises and though I get to ride every day the ride is a trifle limited. One highway, flat straight and unvarying so I do my daily riding here and take to the road for mountains purple majesty whenever I can. I'm grateful for my sister in law in Asheville home to many winding roads, and my great rides last September in the Dolomites. This time of year all those lucky sods who get to ride in the most beautiful places all summer long have to put their machines away. I don't. I like riding even during the rain or a cold front. And I'm not alone on the road at least when the sun is shining.
I am not fussy either, I like riding slowly and I like riding fast and I even enjoy riding my wife's scooter, as I wait for my own P200 to come home from the restorer's shop. Gratitude to my wife for indulging my absurd nostalgic two stroke desire when she lets me ride her more modern Vespa as I please:
Sand sun and gentle ocean swells are the chamber of commerce view of life in the Keys. Throw in lots of alcohol and the sybaritic eating out lifestyle and you have nothing that remotely resembles daily living in the Keys. Funny that, life here doesn't live up to the sales image.
However let me point out that life is good here in the Lower Keys, it just isn't what you think it is. It's a mixture of work, always important if you don't have a private income, and time to yourself. Work is tough because this is a tourist economy and jobs aren't careers. Careers in the Keys are already taken by people who grew up here or got here before you did. How I found the best job of my life in Key West I cannot rightly say, but I work for the government which is the only other option in the Keys. If you're a welder you could open a welding shop...but then you come up against the high cost of living and cut throat competition from established business. Low quality housing, high rents and out of town millionaires buying up the best housing stock is not a pretty picture if you live in a McMansion Up North and want to trade snowdrifts for this:
The great thing about Key West is not just the waters but it's also the resources in town. It's a by product of the weather but in winter poets and musicians and actors and artists like to get a paid vacation in the sun and the city bustles with cultural events. The seasons here are marked as much by the tenor of public events as much as by the changes in temperature.

Our jobs have turned into a source of pleasure and accomplishment in our lives. It's not that work has taken us over but my wife loves her new adult education job and her boss seems to value her. My boss values me and for the first time in my life I have no desire to quit and move on. Next year marks ten years at the police department. How lucky is that?
We are both grateful for our union membership, health insurance, defined benefit pension plans and the prospect of social security and Medicare (single payer, finally! Ten more years!) if the one percent don't manage to steal that too. I have positioned myself as well as I can with a job that I hope can never be outsourced to India...
In my job you hear people being profoundly nasty, the inhumanity of humanity is in evidence in 911 calls, believe me. And then I remember how lucky I am. I send them help, no matter how nasty they are, and I get to ride home to my real life. And when I'm out and about I see all those people who didn't curse at me last night living lives like mine, meditating on the value of the timeless simple things in life.
I am grateful for the flat waters and astonishing seascapes I see every day in these islands, colors and shapes that most people in our high stress society get to see on magazine covers.
For your amusement I include a picture of everyone's favorite fearsome Keys dinosaur. You'd be astonished how many people live in fear of snakes sharks and alligators, monsters under the bed, an attempt to make the excessively civilized little islands grow in stature by virtue of their danger. People constantly warn me of the danger of rattlesnakes when out walking Cheyenne but they are simply story tellers as their fears keep them far from the dangers of which they speak. That snakes exist there is no doubt but of all the predators in these islands humans are the most rapacious.
But food for humans is better when prepared in. A coffee shop...When I first encountered Caribbean food I was surprised by the lack of flavor in Latino countries, simple meat rice and beans and not much flavoring the way Mexicans cook by contrast. British Caribbean countries used curry and fried pastry in a creditable imitation of being stuck in the 1950s. Cuban food in Key West is full of fat sugar and salt and caffeine. What's not to like? I'm grateful this tiny town turns it out by the ton. I live here so I can only eat it sparingly but here it is and I am grateful for it:
I get to live where other people want to vacation. I know, everyone hates tourists, but these people bring the money that fuels the city. Tourism has changed since the crash, and that was inevitable. Tourists are older, more respectable and employed. Everyone else gets to stay home. Thank your corporate bankers and their derivatives. I miss the good old days of wild spending and optimism as grateful as I am for my job and my small place in this society. The benefit of the graying of tourism is there are fewer drunks being rowdy around the city of a winter's night, but the trickle down effect is trickling less abundantly.
When you live in the Keys one thing that gets confusing is how much seasons Up North change. In the Keys in winter cool weather and rain come and go and t-shirts remain the informal wear of the vacationer. We know its cold Up North because more people show up on Duval Street suddenly. People make fun of us because we say that sixty degrees is cold. It is cold here and if you are ever here when a cold sea breeze is blowing and the air is damp and you have no heat in your room you will feel cold. I've seen it happen over and over again. People from Up North look surprised and say, hmm it does feel colder than sixty degrees does at home.
Key West is also home to gross bad taste. It gets tiring watching people let everything, literally, hang out, but like getting yelled at on the 911 line observing this side of human nature reminds me to be grateful that I live here. Diversity is a pain in the ass, let's face it, learning to cope with other people's quirks and absurd beliefs, but the fact is my firm conviction looks like a nutty belief to you, and because we live in a nation built on a set of laws, not a common culture, we have to learn to get along. And Key West is a great place to learn the lessons of tolerance. If this guy walked your Main Street dressed like this would he draw no attention at all?
I like seeing mountains and I like riding them but sea level is where I feel best. I hear people remark that dry heat is better than high humidity, but I know the feeling of straw like hair and brittle finger nails in the dry air of the mountains. I loved riding up to Passo Giau last September, huge gratitude, but when the time comes to get home to sea level I feel no lingering regret.
Unlike Italy, which abides by EU requirements, I like having the choice to ride without a helmet and I treasure this Florida choice, the only thing that makes me remotely grateful to Republicans. I wear it most of the time but sometimes I don't. I grow weary of the need for absolutes in a world which is ruled by uncertainty and I would rather choose for myself. Whe. I remember reading a comment by a scooter rider who was toying with the idea of coming to Key West and renting a scooter to add to her life experiences but was out off by fear of looking weird wearing riding gear in a town where such behavior is hardly ever indulged. It seemed such an odd position to take I have never quite forgot the story.
I am grateful for the chance to do something good with this stupid blog. I get messages from people trapped just like me by the spiraling failures of our New World Economic Order except they aren't here and wish they were. I have gone out of my way not to sell out, not to pander and not to talk down to anyone who reads this page. The one time I was persuaded to change I found myself in a strait jacket. Never again. Writing my daily essays is not an act of pure altruism, it benefits me to record my days, to express myself and to have this electronic page on which to do it. Ah gratitude, you start to bore me so let us end it here.
Happy Thanksgiving wherever you and your dog and your motorcycle may be.
Live every day as though it were your last for one day you are sure to be right.