Friday, February 28, 2014

Lights Out On Duval Street

The rule in the city of Key West is that bars must close by four in the morning and alcohol cannot be sold until seven. Which on the face of it seems pretty unrestricted but I think if this rule were not in place the inferno that is Lower Duval when the bars are open would never end. As it is bars will start closing as soon the customers go home but by four in the morning the shutters must come down. Sloppy Joe's as not often seen by visitors to our fair city:

I am not fond of crowds but Duval Street at this hour is perfect to my jaded mind. Had I not been on my lunch break I'd have wanted to share this with Cheyenne who loves the smells and debris of Duval Street deserted.

It's amazing to think Rick's complex has ten bars on one entire city block, owned by a city commissioner. I suppose my total lack of ambition would never pose the conundrum but one wonders why he hasn't found something better to do with his time after decades already spent raking in millions from all the cheap beer sold in this place. The odd thing about these types of people is that enough is never enough; they have one bar or restaurant working out in spite of the odds in a cut throat trade, so they want another and another, and pretty soon one owner has half a dozen places all to himself and the band of investors.

I don't think the night time drinking crowds are what they were during the boom years, but as I am neither a bar crawler nor a night owl drinker I cannot be sure about this. Why take my word for it? I have never had a drink at Rick's or Sloppy Joe's. I had one beer once at Captain Tony's and another at Irish Kevin's one strange night and I went to see a performance once at Hog's Breath upstairs, above the raucous drinking downstairs. So my favorite place is lunch at Finnegan's Wake, so what do I know about the bars of Lower Duval? I suppose I should get myself an education.
Irish Kevin's in sepia here, looks like an old Western bar in Texas or Nevada or somewhere like that. Some people thrive on bars but I can't stand the noise and my subsequent inability to hear or to talk coherently, and I don't drink cheap beer if I'm paying for it because I like my beer to taste not hoppy but of beer not gnat's piss. I am a picky bastard aren't I?

Yet, despite my lack of enthusiasm for bars when they are populated, I am like my dog in one respect. Cheyenne the anti-social likes to visit dog parks after the other dogs have left and only their scent remains. It's not that she's mean to other dogs it's just that she prefers to be left alone to enjoy her sniffing by herself, unmolested.

In that sense I love coming to Lower Duval even as the crowds leave and the street becomes as empty as an after hours dog park. I like seeing the evidence of people who were heard but are here no more. I like being able to stand in the street and not get run over while I take a picture. I like squinting through the glass at the empty bars, on silent display like stage sets or museum dioramas. Some of the them weren't technically closed as it was before the witching hour of four. Like the Bull:

Charles Street was empty and quiet. The Red Garter is a strip club in the Rick's building. That whole white wall belongs to the Rick's and Durty Harry's complex of bars. Like I said, I have no idea why he doesn't sell and retire to do something interesting. Perhaps watching people drink and give you money is interesting. Not to me, there is so much more to be done.

"Why you taking pictures?" the young man asked me aggressively, eyeing my sewn-on police badge on my shirt. He brightened up when I said it was for me and my albums, so he impulsively threw his arms open asking me to take one of him, Brian. Alcohol is a hell of a mood changer.

Coyote Ugly another fine franchise outlet in historic Old Town Key West and it was still open so I could hear a young woman, probably barely legal, yelling drunkenly across the street that she was soo I wanted to point out that if you have to say it out loud, it probably isn't true, no matter what you are talking about.

Greene and Duval, below, the epicenter of mass tourism and bar hopping in Key West. During the day!

In the end for me the price of a bar drink is high and maybe if I weren't working I'd have done like this guy, picked it up at the Lost Weekend Liquor store and taken it home to drink in peace.

I read this list of foods posted, who knows when, at Shorty's market, a convenience store on Lower Duval. Aside from the misspelling I wondered about the foods on offer, fresh breads and pastries as though they'd never heard of Sysco food deliveries. Fresh baked? Really? I am astonished.

It's not that I never come downtown during day light hours, indeed I venture to say I a decidedly not one of those locals who sniff haughtily and point out they wouldn't be seem dead on tacky Duval Street. I come by, check out the people, take in a movie at the Tropic and maybe a beer at the Porch if it's not crowded. By way of proof here's my Vespa in front of the main tourist attraction:
And here's my Bonneville pointing south on Whitehead Street as I made the circuit back to the police station at the end of my lunch break.

And I was riding in shirt sleeves, just because even though it was cool it wasn't cold last Tuesday night.



Thursday, February 27, 2014

Cuban Art

If you have sixty thousand bucks burning a hole in your pocket you could buy this painting to liven up the entrance foyer of your guest house. It's called Fantastic Voyage to Key West and it surprised me for several reasons, not least that it was available to buy at the Studios of Key West.
Roberto Fabelo is apparently a respected artist and teacher in Cuba and some of his works are on display in Key West in an exhibit that is the first of it's kind since the Cuban Revolution of 1959. I am surprised these paintings are for sale considering the idiotic embargo on all Cuban products that is still place between this side of the Straits of Florida and the other. Artistic exchanges are allowed with laborious paperwork but a year or two ago the bright sparks at the Treasury Department denied some young Keys athletes permission to play in Cuba on some spurious grounds that they would have too much free time among the godless Cuban communists. I am not kidding! US denies soccer team's Cuba trip |
So consider the opportunity to see these artworks in key west a minor miracle. And how odd is that these Cubans painting Key West themes appear to be aware of the quirky local practice of keeping free range chickens on city streets?
I greatly enjoyed the. Acrylic on fabric ClothSeries by Manuel Mendive, various details shown below:
It's worth remembering that even though Cuba is a closed society to those of us who live in this bastion of freedom yet who are denied access to their island, they have access to the rest of the world where their art and culture get seen ad heard regularly. I do wonder sometimes if Cuba gets a boost from being the object of so much Yanqui irritation.
Mendive is a member of the Fench Legion of Honor, no less, yet he is a cypher here a hundred miles from his home.
Manuel Mendive - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Perhaps Santeria and Afro-Cuban is a little too expected from the mysterious tropical island so to balance the expected we have something that to me at least was quite unexpected: cartoons!
Rocio Garcia's Return of Jack the Punisher panels reminded me of adult themed illustrated novels of my Italian youth except her masked "superhero" appears to be in combat with white rabbits, giving the whole thing a bizarre Alice Through The Looking Glass twist.
She had several of these panels on display, which incidentally were the most affordable listed in the brochure at fifteen hundred bucks each. Naked women, peeping tom superhero, bondage and rabbits. This stuff cries out for explanation, or knowledge, or context or something.
Happily the web comes to the rescue and we can find out what she is all about here: A Woman's Body is Her Country
Apparently there are several other venues for this artwork that has been brought to Key West in response to the first ever exhibit in revolutionary Cuba by an American artist, Key West's own Mario Sanchez. I really liked the ambiance and layout at the artwork at the Armory, with free admission and a serene space in which to see and think. Fabelo's work was all round the room with Mendive, so there was lots to think about.
Cernuda Arte :: Artist :: Roberto Fabelo

One can only wonder at the artistic ferment going on in Cuba today. I know Americans sneak in to Cuba via the Bahamas or Mexico but I don't want to be a visitor in a country that is held back by deliberate obstructionist polices, and thus impoverished deliberately.
I wonder how long before we get high speed ferries to Mariel so I can take my motorcycle to Cuba, ride the mountains and have lunch in Havana?
Key West Diary: Havana Part 1

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Winter Colors

I started my blog years ago, June 2007 after a few negative experiences on forums where attack mode seemed to be the only way people could communciate, so I decided on a whim to create my own page. Furthermore I discovered that despite the ease with which I can post pictures there are very few pages on the internet dedicated to exploring places. I have a traveler's curiosity and when I sit down with a computer to myself I tend to look at non-mainstream news pages, motorcycle and scooter pages and photos of distant places. For instance I have long been curious about Cay Sal Bank, never having sailed there so I'll make it a web journey to see what I can find out. In the case of Cay sal it's mostly ornithologists and ham radio operators as you will find out if you go hunting.

Because I do not have much facility with people and my pictures of them have them come out looking rather deranged usually, I refer to study places, shadows, light and textures. Unlike the bad old days when I was losing track of the film in my camera nowadays I can switch between monochrome and over saturated color with a tap of my finger on my electronic Swiss Army Knife, known to some boring people as an Android Phone.

Luckily Key West lends itself to this sort of meditative approach with a camera, an impatient dog and a leash. Usually I take black and white pictures at night but last Sunday morning I was moved for some reason to try this:

I liked it. I walked past the Mastic Trailer Park office on United Street and I took a picture of that too. I could have taken the color photo and by sleight of pixel I could have made it sepia, black and white or monochrome in another shade but instead, by way of contrast I,left it looking as it does in real life.

This winter has again been warm and brief, Indeed the latest cold front was no more than a sudden gust of cool air from the north with a little cloudiness, not even one sudden dramatic downburst or a slight drizzle. Thus my poor Labrador is getting far too warm far too soon I. What is supposed to be the cool season.

A Key West garage. I like that bicycles are useful transportation in this town.

A yard waste can filled with trash looks as idiotic in black and white as it does in color. Recycling and Key West are not yet on speaking terms. I met one guy breaking down cardboard for the recycling bin and I remarked that he was the only other person I'd seen doing that. He suggested we form a club.

I loved the lack of common sense displayed by this lost cat flyer carefully taped over the street name. And left to rot and discolor and fade away. I hope the cat got found.

This next picture looked better to me in black and white:

This splash of color would have been wasted in black and white:

And so it goes. These are not limestone rocks in a wall covered in snow.

Building a wall out of coral today would get you locked away so deep in the dungeons you would never be heard from again. Or for a while at least.

My bougainvillea has been eaten by iguanas so I have uncontrollable bougainvillea envy when I am out and see stuff like this:

Winter colors are here, just as they will be in summer in black or white or in primary colors.