Monday, February 23, 2015

A Winter Of Discontent

This guy was a dead ringer for the headmaster of my first boarding school, a man with a short temper and a long walking stick which hurt quite a bit when applied vigorously to the buttocks of small boys. His alter ego did no such thing and tranquilly read his newspaper. Which is surprising as things have been not so tranquil in the Southernmost City.
No one seems terribly excited by the arrival of a large new national pharmacy chain where Key West's eccentric Fast Buck Freddie's used to do business. It's across the street from another such store by Walgreens at the Strand Cinema building. Plus it's bracketed by two more CVS stores, one on Truman five blocks south and one five blocks north at 12 Duval soon to be replaced by a CVS "mega store" on Duval at Front Street. It seems reasonable enough to me to wonder why anyone would want to make a visit all the way here to shop at five and dimes that litter street corners in suburban developments across the country.
Yet this is the future and not one civic leader in Key West has any kind of alternative vision to offer. Plans were bruited a few years ago to try a pedestrian zone on a couple of blocks of this part of Duval but the merchants outside the zone feared it would be so wildly popular they would lose customers. So instead of expanding the concept our civic leaders killed the whole idea.
City planners have been fighting a rearguard action against the new food craze sweeping the nation and the Food Channel, but their drive to shut down food trucks don't seem to have done much so far. Of course its not at all clear at the moment what interesting inexpensive food they have managed to keep out of the city but the White Street Station and Yebo's renamed Cayo have both survived attempts to shut them down. Now there is a new hybrid offering on Southard Street between Duval Street and the Green Parrot Bar. Fritas Cuban Burgers claims to have brought genuine modern Cuban street food to Key West in this shady spot, but the food truck is actually the kitchen and the food service is carried out in the solid structure next door. Whatever the nature of the "truck" which apparently this isn't, the food is getting rave reviews online.
Somehow the city has managed to organize a new city hall after years of debate and aggravated name calling. Old City Hall on Green Street is the ornate palazzo where the commission meets, while the work of the city staff is carried out in distant new town at Habana Plaza, the temporary city hall which was created after Hurricane Wilma in 2005 drenched the actual city hall on Angela Street. That structure and all its mold has finally been demolished and the firefighters associated with it have moved into a fine new building which is supposed to end up surrounded by a parking lot to serve the mid section of Duval Street, a black away.
New City Hall will end up on White Street at the former Glynn Archer School which is either a 20 million dollar boondoggle or an inspired and inspiring location (I belong in the latter camp). I like Glynn Archer as I have mentioned previously because not only is the building imposing as  a municipal headquarters should  be, but also because it is centrally located, the property has tons of room for parking and easy  access from all quarters. On the other hand it will cost soemthing close to twenty million.  
The state of mind that was the Conch Republic seems to have vanished off the street, the blue building that housed the "Office of the Secretary General" is now a yellow consignment store. The web presence is still there but I don't know what that means.
Another of those fleeting landmarks in this city of evanescent traditions has also been replaced by banality. Don't get me wrong: palm reading is nto my thing but "unique gifts" and henna tattoos is a horrible way to replace the dead palm reader. He was, perhaps not unique, but he was a tad bit different. 
I enjoyed Clark Gable Slept Here a 70 minute farce mocking the pretensions and facades of Hollywood; nothing revolutionary just a few good laughs and a momentary naked penis flaunted on stage. I am glad for the theater we have on offer in Key West each winter. The best thing I see on Duval actually.
I saw this tourist sign below and I forbore from asking the harried ticket saleswoman whether the house or the tickets were discounted. I don't think she was in the mood for a  discussion about the proper placement of modifiers in a billboard. Cheyenne was bored by my amusement. Good dog.
Cold it has been around here but how glorious itis when the sun comes out and the sky is blue.