Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Shabby Chic




The past week of rain limited the number of riders in the Poker Run from Miami so we can thank the weather gods for the lighter attendance of barely muffled motorcycles. I ride a lot but I do like factory quiet motorcycles, and I also like getting a move on. Getting stuck behind a bunch of Harley Davidsons going nowhere slowly and making a lot of noise doing it is not my idea of motorcycling. So I rode my Vespa and zipped silently among them enough to emasculate as many of them as I could. 
Rain made Duval Street look more dismal than usual. I was in a grumpy mood as the city's  newly hired Special Magistrate recently ruled that the carbuncle at 616 Eaton Street complies with historic code designations despite its monstrous size and flying walkways and general inability to fit in with Old Town residential architecture. Why the magistrate thought the thing is okay beats me. First very public outing, first fail. And Donald Yates was the back-up magistrate when his predecessor was unable to preside so its not like he hasn't had any practice.
As reported by Konk Life, the weekly paper city commissioners took advantage of a faux pas by one of their number to replace the previous magistrate, Jeff Overby who was a "bit rough" with petitioners ( people with money):
Overby had been reappointed to his position by Key West City Commissioners on March 17. However, the commissioner voted two weeks later to rescind that reappointment and start the application process over after Commissioner Teri Johnston inadvertently violated the city’s “cone of silence” ordinance when she contacted Overby by telephone before his commission interview on March 17. Johnston had called Overby asking for information on how many of his rulings had been appealed during his tenure as the city’s first-ever code compliance hearing judge. Under the cone of silence ordinance, no direct communication can take place between commissioners and a job applicant or contractor if the commissioners are the deciding body on whether to hire that person or business.... 
... there were indications that some of the commissioners wanted a new special magistrate even when Overby was reappointed by a close 4-3 vote on March 17. At that time, Commissioners Billy Wardlow, Tony Yaniz and Clayton Lopez voted to give the job to local attorney David Van Loon, who also reapplied in the second round. Although complimenting the job Overby has done over the past almost 17 years, Yaniz said he had heard comments that Overby was “a little rough around the edges” during code compliance hearings.
Mind  you Duval Street has its own overdue clean up recommended by another study paid for by the city. Soap and water applied with a stiff brush might be a start but some of the street frontage looks adapted from the Addams Family mansion:
This old sign to the happily defunct bar is still around and every time I pass it I find religion and offer up a  prayer of thanks for its demise. There never was any easy way to dispatch officers over the radio to quell a  disturbance at "BIG UNS" which can only refer to one thing, no matter what medium you are speaking on, even a police radio.
There are corners of the tourist district that I find evocative and that do sometimes get a lick of paint, like this brick building that shall remain nameless lest it shame it's neighbors:
Telegraph Lane got a fresh coat of asphalt not long ago which might seem surprising considering how many streets downtown are rippled and pot holed and uneven. However when you remember it provides the back entrance access to a city commissioner's bar, all is explained. And it still gets filled with puddles when it rains. 
Nice green corrugated plastic cover the band stand at the Cuban place at Mallory Square just ninety miles from Havana, a city that we are told struggles to find the money to maintain its shabby stock of extra chic mansions and palaces in the embargoed city. I'd like to think that AstroTurf and corrugated plastic would not blight their town but I am probably dreaming. 
But Key West has chickens and they rule the roost in this town:
Best to enjoy the motorcycles and not look too closely at the peeling paint and dusty storefronts. From last year: