Thursday, June 30, 2016

Trees Of Key West

I keep reading in the newspaper's complaint column, the Citizen's Voice, how the city's tree commission is failing to protect large trees from being cut down. So I tried walking around looking up in the street. 
Clearly there must be something going on as I have seen parking lots  in New Town stripped of trees and surely complaints must be generated by some activity, justified or not.
I am not much good at doing stuff like pruning, even though I have been taught the basic principles, and the sound reasons for pruning trees. I just don't like cutting them. I positively loathe cutting trees down, even nuisance ones so I am in no position to take sides in this argument.
I have to confess that it was because I was reading about all the tree cutting that supposedly goes on that I thought it might be an idea to take the time to rejoice in the presence of trees that are flourishing.
And in between I caught a picture of the stone wall that so much reminds me of weathered skulls on Amelia at Windsor.
Trees make Key West what it is today but it wasn't always so. Before the advent of regular water supplies brought to the city by Navy pipeline in 1942, water was not so abundant it could be wasted on decoration like this:
Check out this picture of what should be James Street according to the state archives. I rather prefer modern Key West filled with greenery and canopies. Good old days they may have been but they were also rather stark on the streets.
A poinciana in full bloom. Known in Latin according to a long time resident as  delonix regia, hence the occasionally used title "royal" in English. Perhaps there is a delonix somewhere that is less regal.


I enjoyed the shadows  playing on the walls during a setting sun, but then I found a banana tree lined up with a coconut palm and with the magic of perspective I joined them up.
It would be a shame if all trees really were being cut. I hope not.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

On The Waterfront

Rusty and I were limin' on the waterfront together...
 I'm not sure about this historical definition for limin' but it will do as well as anything:
1) The word is associated with sitting under a lime tree, or having nothing more demanding to do than squeezing limes. It is also thought to originate from "limey", a slang term meaning a British serviceman during World War II (noted for hanging around bars and drinking).
2) During long voyages at sea, sailors would suffer from a disease known as Scurvy which was caused from a lack of Vitamin C. British soldiers would counteract this by taking limes on board and sucking them periodically. For this, they came to be known as "limeys". During WW2 when many limeys were stationed in Trinidad and Tobago, they would seek amusement from the local prostitutes (Green-Corner, Port-of-Spain was famous for this and there is more than one calypso sung about it eg. Jean and Dinah - Sparrow). The locals would see the limeys hanging out and say that they were "liming", hence, liming became a verb which means to hang out (source: English teacher in Hillview College, Trinidad-and_Tobago early 90's).
The hanging out came to an abrupt halt when this dude and his dog came into view. Rusty suddenly straightened up and started staring, a posture I have come to associate with the potential for danger, in his view, danger to the stray dog he used to be.
There was of course no danger for my formerly stray dog, now respectably owned and oh-so-adorable (there are lots of adorable dogs ready to be adopted and trained for real life) and he managed to do a respectable job of playing with a dog larger than himself. That's a mark of progress for a dog that four months ago was afraid of his own shadow.
 Some people have the art of limin' down to a science:
Others don't get it at all as they improve themselves through exercise and copious draughts of fresh sea air:
 Rusty followed my cue and took to limin' like a champ:

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Stock Island

Industrial Art on the island of stock, the island through which all traffic to and from Key West drives, home to worker  housing, light industry, warehouses and body shops.
The Rusty Anchor used to be the home away from home of people who grew up around here, the Conchs, natives of key West.  
It's closed but it';s sign is still there and there are rumors from time to time that some new entrepreneur may be angling to reopen it. I dare say Roostica has taken over as the preeminent Conch eatery on Stock Island and I for one prefer it. But this was a piece of history that closed. Too bad.
"Pirates Paradise."  People do love their Key West pirates and you will find them everywhere except in the history books. Key West has actually been home to respectability and hard work far more often throughout it's past than modern tourist literature would have you believe.  For the longest time it was the most prosperous city in Florida, thanks to shipping and trade.
Stock Island is being bought up be developers and for as long as I can remember rumblings of imminent change are always swirling around in the atmosphere. Aside from some shuffling around in the world of marinas two of which are planning hospitality expansion, the rest of the island pretty much stays the same.
It's unincorporated, a part of Monroe County, only College Road to the north is actually in the city of Key West. Sidewalks are few, puddles, trash and unkempt grass are the order of the day across much of the island. Stock Island generates loyalty as it is the holdout for truly affordable, if not always pleasant housing close to key West.
 There are expensive houses here on small lots bounded by trailers of all sorts of decrepit vintage.
 Urban planning is a lost art on this island where they used to graze cows which would be shipped to Rest Beach from time to time and there slaughtered to supply the city of 12,000 inhabitants that was Key West in the 19th century. 
On my gloomy days Stock Island seems to fill that same quota, providing brawn to clean hotels, maintain services and sell food. In the morning you will see fleets of people cycling into Key West alongside the impressive lines of workers displaced by high rents to the outer islands of the Lower Keys. All of them, on the street and on the sidewalks flow into Key West to do the  work that won't pay the astronomical rents in the city. Housekeepers and servers that keep tourist infrastructure going live here:
Development plans are always in the air and sometimes in the newspaper. It is counter intuitive when the city keeps proclaiming piously that affordable housing is the biggest challenge. These trailers are vaguely affordable though they too are under threat.
Chickens run loose here, far from the tourist clap trap about them being imported romantically from Cuba. Chicken fighting has long been a  source of gambling and it still goes on, though more or less in secret as torturing birds is considered a bad thing and is thus illegal. Fights have been reported for ever in the Lower Keys but I don't think visitors would like to know why youngsters on mopeds can sometimes been seen scooping up roosters and whisking them away to be mutilated and set to fight.
There are more expensive homes here and decent apartments along side the trailers.  Rusty, like Cheyenne before him, enjoys this place filled as it is with smells, some a lot less salubrious than others.
Cheyenne who died of ripe old age four short months ago feels like she has been gone forever. I miss her even as Rusty grows into a great dog in my life. She loved poking around Stock Island and would walk herself into a coma exploring here: 
Cars parked apparently with no hope of movement as they lack even basic license plates:
 Modern stilt homes:
Old fashioned mobile homes, immobilized by the passage of time: 
Cars are everywhere: 
 And scooters too:
Rusty walked an hour and a half under a blazing sun which produced 90 degree temperatures during breakfast time. My wife was coming to pick us up so I improvised a drinking bowl from a trash can and put water in a plastic bag at a public faucet and he lapped it up:
Dogs make the walk worthwhile.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Dark Streets

It's been a while since I got out into Key West in the dark and I have to say I was quite pleased to get the chance. Rusty picked up where Cheyenne left off doing a nice job of stopping for while I focused the camera on something of interest.
 
It was actually quite early in the morning so I tried letting Rusty off the leash for a bit and my eyes followed him closely. I was impressed as he had smart street manners bred perhaps of his years as a stray. He stepped between parked cars and looked both ways before going into the street. He stepped back smartly when a parked car's engine started up suddenly. 
 
IN the city I prefer to use the leash as surprises are never too far away, even when one is apparently alone in the world and I was also keen to train him to walk properly to leash. He is a patient walker.
 
Key West is slipping back into summer torpor and I am wondering how that is possible as Highway One is packed with cars still in both directions all day. 
 
It's been muggy and hot lately inclining me to believe summer is here and soon enough schools will get out and families will crowd the Keys for the non existent beaches...and the merry go round will continue for a couple of months.
 
It seems pretty clear Cuba is opening up and  some people think tourism will magically drain away from the Keys like someone pulled a bath plug. I doubt it it. I am sure a lot of people will want to visit Cuba when they get going and figure how to accommodate Americans in addition to the Canadians and Europeans already there...
 
...But I am equally sure many Americans won't want to cross the water to an island they associate in their minds with Communism and the Cold War and all that negative history. The great advantage of the Keys is that they are an adventurous destination but not too adventurous. I think there will be many many tourists who will continue to be quite happy limiting their southern vacations to the southern tip of Florida, same language, same money, same customs and familiar street signs.

Besides its quite pretty enough here.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Night Walk

I got the urge to go downtown as the city slept, so I was able to park the Bonneville on the yellow lines on White Street (normally a busy thoroughfare) with me astride and snag a picture with my headlamp on high beam. Then I parked and walked a bit.
A look down Southard Street toward Duval where the original Samuel Southard had nothing to do with the city weirdly enough.Many people know John Simonton was one of four original owners of Key West, who each bought a quarter share of the island from Juan Salas who got it as a grant from a  noble who got it from the King of Spain. Simonton was join by John Whitehead, John Fleeming (sic) and Pardon Greene. Salas double dipped and went on to sell the island again to another American, John Strong but his claim was thrown out by the courts. Key West became incorporated as a city in 1828. And that's the origin of those four street names, Fleeming changed to Fleming over time.
None of those four ever lived permanently in Key West and where William Duval was the first governor of Florida, Samuel Southard was a governor of New Jersey and for a while held a Federal Cabinet post. His connection to Key West is unknown, nevertheless he got a street named after him.
Ann Street, two blocks long was named for John Simonton's wife, and very pretty it can be too at night.

I have long wanted to eat at Two Friends because I like the patio arrangement but for some reason it's not on my radar on the rare occasions I eat downtown. And they deliver!
The patio to me looks like an upscale Buddy Owens Fishwagon to me and for some reason it appeals. Even at night, in the dark and empty. 
One day...