Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Thirsty Mermaid

I had heard voices talking about the new place on Fleming across from Fausto's. We made an excuse to check it out, lunch with a friend, and we found a dining room in the modern light and airy style.

The view is not of ocean or beach but this part of Old Town looks good, picket fences, plans and one hopes blue skies.

This is a seafood joint primarily and they push the nautical theme though a poached pear and cheese sandwich caught my eye - not a menu item you see every day! So we tried the long neck clams first, certainly a winner.

They do offer meat as well so don't be surprised to see a burger from time to time...

And I ordered a dish that intrigued me despite the lack of fish. A snapper sandwich might well have hit the spot but I went for the gnocchi with short rib ragĂș. The gnocchi really did taste home made, like my great aunt used to roll them all soft and sticky in your mouth.

Like I said there was a nautical motif running through the restaurant but if you look closely you will see small potted plants under the artwork.

Potted mangroves. Brilliant and therefore simple and thus effective.

One complaint I have heard was that this place is pricey. We had two appetizers two main courses and two soups and two beers between three people and the bill was more than ninety bucks plus tip. Pricey yes, but good. Good value? You decide. I thought so.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day

Happy Memorial Day of course but it would be best to spare a thought for the reason for the holiday too. 

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Dinner en Masse

Rusty wanted to come to and the little tyke makes every trip fun so I left the motorcycle at home and loaded my Carolina Dog into the car. He must be wondering when I am going to run out of new walks to take him on, but this wa s anew one for him, 5th Street on Stock Island.
We walked the old street, now closed to traffic and I could get peeks at the homes afloat anchored in Cow Key Channel.
And I also spotted a rather brilliant home made topsy turvy dinghy landing among the bushes. I can't imagine using this drunk on a dark night but each to his own.
Because Rusty was along we elected to eat out, though I would have been happy to leave him in the car. He was unusually restless for him but I did get a picture of him blending in with the walls at Roostica, the Italian restaurant on Stock Island.
"We"  were the night shift dispatchers gathered in one place. We are almost fully staffed so overtime has dried up and after years of under staffing we are all a bit relieved about that. However this means the two shits of three dispatchers rarely meet anymore as we do our own shits. Every Tuesday is a short shift so we have a chance every few weeks to get together as a group. I'm the only one wearing glasses oddly enough, except for my Trainee in sunglasses.
After dinner I stopped off with Rusty on the way home and we went for a walk on Sugarloaf around the bat tower under heavy skies.
Rusty has become  my shadow, we walk together and he listens to me, he loves traveling but he accepts when I have to leave him at home. He is much better in urban situations, less scared of everything that moves and able  to stick close to me without tugging at the leash. 
I enjoy his company so much I am reduced to riding the motorcycle for commuting most days. Leaving Rusty behind seems like a waste of an opportunity to see the world through his eyes.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Ramrod Tourists

Not too long ago I photographed a version of this sign  that appeared one morning, unbidden at the Ramrod Pool. This picture I took last weekend snagged at a poor angle for the light but which included my inseparable walking companion of course. 
 The thing is,  the last time I saw this sign it looked like this:
"We do not negotiate with tourists" which I thought was rather funny. Instead some delicate soul went to a fair bit of bother to rearrange the anarchic sentiment into the more saccharine and socially acceptable  "One human family" logo, which  crops up everywhere and seems to have lost its meaning in the gold rush atmosphere of modern Key West. Perhaps I am allowing my curmudgeonly instincts to get away from me.
The thing is there was a habit of lighting a campfire in a well formed ring on the "beach" at this undeveloped state park. People come here after work and sit on the shore and slap mosquitoes and drink beer and argue over how many angels can drink on the head of a pin. They are working people enjoying their Key and they are no bother to anybody. Except they were because some visitor or part time resident with not enough to do complained to the county who wrecked the fire ring and stuck up this sign:
The One Human Family ethos would condemn finking about something that hurt no one, was done responsibly and brought people some low cost fun. I don't know who created the sign but I'm guessing the original sentiment was a swipe at that whole :ownership and use" of the Ramrod Pool. Not exactly in the spirit of one human anything. 
So here's a nice picture of a mercifully empty Seven Mile Bridge under a hot sun. For no reason at all.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Cuban Landing Drama

I picked up my copy of the Key West Citizen out of my driveway yesterday morning and saw this story splattered across the front page: Some Cuban refugees managed to land on an unoccupied light house on the reef and were being held in a Coast Guard ship while the courts decide their fate. Rubbish I thought to myself, the Conch Republic long since settled this issue. Let me explain.
The following pictures are screenshots from my phone so you can find out all you want on Bing or Google if you know where to look. Ten years ago a group of Cubans landed on an old pillar from a Flagler Bridge as described in Wikipedia (see below) and when the courts ruled they hadn't set foot properly on US soil the intrepid Secretary General of the Conch Republic landed on the unclaimed rock and declared it was part of the sovereignty of the Conch Republic, a sovereign state of mind. This act embarrassed the US and after the Cubans were returned to Cuba the courts ruled that of course the column in the water was  actually part of the US and they should have been allowed to stay.

Cubans get special treatment when they come to the US, and they are coming in droves now they fear the special treatment may soon come to an end. If they propel themselves and don't pay smugglers and if they manage to land on ground. not necessarily dry, but just so long as they can stand without drowning they get to stay in the US. So now the question is whether or not landing on a lighthouse structure built over the reef, anchored by steel screws into the submerged rocks, constitutes a dry foot landing for the Cubans as required by US law. 

I know what the late Peter Anderson, photographed above on the infamous lump of rock, would say if he saw that lawyers were arguing the point. He'd be in a boat with a Conch Republic flag, sallying forth to claim the lighthouse for his sovereign state of mind. Unfortunately he's no longer with us so his peculiar form of cheerful persuasion is no longer available to nudge the US Government into doing the right thing. However his legacy has already proved the point: extraneous lumps and pieces of construction material are part of the US so I don't suppose the ruling on the latest bunch of Cubans will be too long in coming and I have no doubt they will be allowed to stay. The Conch Republic has already proved that point.
It was a life lived well, a master of promotion who made a living and had great fun celebrating the Conch Republic. I don't suppose the new Cuban arrivals will ever be told they owe it to this man:

In a side note every time there is a new landing of Cubans from home made boats they managed to steer across the Straits there is a spate of nasty comments in Facebook, that ultimate arbiter of public taste, wherein people moan endlessly about Cubans coming to live her for the benefits and the modest re-settlement fee ($8,000 at last count). I find those comments repugnant, not least because these are people who would never have the gits to cross the Gulf Stream in the wrecks these ingenious Cubans put together, many of whom disappear without a trace. I don't think these Cuban refugees are afraid of hard work if they can make that kind of effort to get here and those comments are unworthy of people safely ensconced in the comfort of life here. I don't think the wet foot/dry foot policy is sensible or fair, especially considering Haitians don't get the same consideration, and it is an outdated policy supported by the Cuban old timers in Miami, but it's there and it's the law and being cruel to the people who come here to live her and prosper reflects no good on the people who make the negative comments.  

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Flat Seas, Overcast Skies

The morning after the weekend before and it's a debris field surrounding the trash can. What is wrong with people?
Quite a bit it turns out if pictures on my Facebook page are to be believed, pictures of abandoned and abused dogs. Rusty does not seem to miss his former street life one bit.
Once I struggled past the excesses of weekend anglers the west end of the old Bahia Honda bridge created quite the view under overcast skies. Rusty rooted around and I played with my iPhone's camera.
I find serenity out here, even right next to the Overseas Highway, the modern road bridge to the left in the upper picture. Traffic this year has been a  prolonged torture of people in long endless lines stuck behind one slow moving visitor after another, roof down enjoying island time at 40 miles per hour. Snowbirds are long gone and families haven't yet got school vacation time, yet the flow of cars into the Keys seems as thick and constant as ever. Staring at a silhouette of a coconut palm seems to help resettle my jangled nerves.
Further evidence if any were needed that summer is here is the occasional rain and the flat calm seas.

I watched Rusty running hither and yon enjoying his rural time, rolling in seaweed which meant a bath when we got home. He's got much better about bathing and a chicken strip is all it takes to soothe his frazzled nerves and damaged dignity these days. I call the baths the price of admission to this life.
 Happy dog taking a breather before the next series of mad dashed across the landscape.
We took the flying walkway back to the car. The small speck is my dog checking things out. He makes me feel elderly and slightly inform as he sits from time to time, and waits for me to catch up.

Definitely a dog in need of a bath and he knows it. No regrets.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Impromptu Dog Park

My wife said "There's a dog park there as we walked by with Rusty. So there was; who knew?
 I don't know who had the initiative to close off this piece of open space by chaining a couple of gates closed but the result is a place for dogs to play very close to the heart of the city.
Key West is a strange town where travel of even a mile or two is considered "far" consequently there tend to be two of everything of note to allow successful businesses to reap customers deep in Old Town and further out as well.
The idea of transporting one's dog to the south end of White Street might seem too much to a city resident hovering near the north shore of the city. The question is: how long will this delightful space stay open?
The rather expensive Steam Plant Condos overlook the shaggy antics field and one wonders how long they will tolerate plebs disporting themselves with gay abandon in this dog field...Besides which open space like this within sight of salt water might be worth more to some people as cement and industry rather than just as a place for dogs to play. Hard to imagine I know.
Rusty quite enjoyed himself to my surprise. He is not fan of packs of dogs running around in a dog park. Cheyenne wasn't either but she defended herself. Rusty gets overwhelmed.
 It kept him entertained enough for him to need to use the facilities thoughtfully provided:
There is clearly a group of happy dog owners here ready to equip the place for their beasts:
And across the street the Ferry Terminal, still known to some as the Buquebus in remembrance of the Argentine ferry service that got the place built for them and then failed to make money on the boat service. Key West Express is the furthest boat while the smaller closer boat is the ferry for the Dry Tortugas day trips.
I played the the shadows and light in the body of water known as the Key West Bight. This corner used to be known as the Toxic Triangle when the Steamplant used to generate electricity and spew noxious outflow here. I used to have a friend who tied up his boat here for free on the seawall a long time ago. With a name like that I guess no one had the heart to charge a fee to live here. These days its valuable real estate.
 It used to look like this from on top of the Steamplant power station:
The good old days of a commercial fishing fleet, a noxious power plant and a toxic brew in the seawater they said. All grist for the developers' mill today.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Roadside Attractions

The news out of Key West has not been terribly uplifting lately with spats made public about switching voting to citywide elections instead of by district. I don't vote in the city but some of the comments in the paper were rather unpleasant.  I think the plan has died but there were suggestions that it was a plot to consolidate the power in the hands of the few and eliminate minorities from the commission.  Hmm, I though to myself I'd better go take a few pictures and think pretty thoughts. So the first thing I saw was this shot up wildlife boundary sign, worn by time and made holey, if not sanctified.
 These tiny flowers growing by the side of the road seemed to have been sown on rocky ground but they were making the best of it. 
 There is a sameness to the countryside in the Lower Keys, a  lack of elevation and a lack of variety among the trees and shrubs that struggle for life among the rocks and salt water, so you have to look closely to see anything in the scrub lands worth noting. Dead  tree limbs and gnarled, sun bleached roots provide contrasts that stand  out:
The moisture in the summer time sky can produce clouds worthy of note though yesterday it was mostly dreary and uniformly overcast, until the sun broke through and had us both baking along the road as we walked.
 This root put me in mind of a guitar; Rusty was poking about in the bushes leaving me to let my imagination run riot.
 He was in no hurry to come back out into the sunshine that was .
I enjoyed seeing this piece of trash labeled "BITES" in this mosquito infested  area. I remembered my repellent on this trip but I was swatting horseflies off Rusty's nose.
He is a funny dog, and he loves roadside walks. So when I am driving home from chores I'll pull off the highway onto a side road and let him run in the sun. He loves it and I get some power walking exercise keeping up.
I use these opportunities to train him to sit on command when a car goers by and he does very well, perhaps I should have more faith in his traffic sense as he has survived as a street dog in Homestead and he keeps an eye out for the rare car coming up the road.  I call out to him and he sits and watches and waits for me to release him so I'm feeling pretty good about his traffic skills. 
 It was hot and Rusty sat at the trucnk of the car where he knows the water is stored.