The big question was: what will Tommy do? The Tommy in question is a police officer who works night shift and survives, flourishes perhaps, thanks to copious cups of Cuban coffee. Between calls you were sure to find Tommy propping up the counter at Sandy's Cuban Cafe on White Street. Then came the devastating news, rippling through the police station. All eyes were on Tommy when he was told.
"WHAT?" The cri de coeur echoed through the halls of the police station. It was true: Sandy's will no longer be open twenty four hours a day. Sandy's now closes at midnight and doesn't reopen until five in the morning. For those crucial five hours each night the overnight institution is dark. I am not a fixture at Sandy's on night shift though we have been known to send a dispatcher down Virginia Street to collect life giving caffeine on those tedious nights when the clock stands still. Now that option (with cheese bread on the side) is no longer available to us.
I was lunching at Roostica yesterday with some friends and on our way to the now-iconic Italian-American eatery on Stock Island we passed a new outlet just around the corner. Croissants de France? I was so shocked I failed to point my camera, so here is their website picture just to prove the truth of what I say:
So it's time to take stock and try to figure out what's going on here. Sandy's closing seems significant to me inasmuch as I think the traffic for the coffee shop has dried up. That says to me that the essential Bohemian nature of Key West especially the night denizens aren't there anymore. I don't hang out in bars but I'm getting the impression not many other people do either, at least not into the early hours. The city requires bars to close by 4 am but they may close earlier if they choose or if they lack customers. Sandy's is a natural stop off on the way home, a sandwich, a coffee or a plate of Mexican food to go. Not anymore, between midnight and five.
Furthermore there used to be people out and about at night, youngsters drinking and having fun, middle aged people trying to keep up and needing coffee to get recharged. Apparently not anymore. Key West is changing and as money rules the roost old age and social sedation take precedence. I can't say I like it but there it is.
Check out this place, further up White Street whose photo I took from their website . I have heard blasphemous suggestions that they may be better than Sandy's and maybe they are. But they aren't open at night so Tommy the night shift caffeine addict gets no relief here. Perhaps there is no need to have a coffee shop open at night, Denny's the last resort on Duval will have to do, or the new Sunshine Grill on White Street which they say is open all night. Maybe, just maybe all is not lost...
And then there is the rather tasty Croissants de France selling pastries and European coffee in the land of the Stock Island Nike. White rubber boots are known that way around here as they are the preferred and identifying footwear of the commercial fishermen who work the docks of the fleet in Stock Island. It's hard to imagine they will be lining up to buy babas and cafe au au lait so if I'm right who are the customers envisioned by the upscale coffee shop?
The conclusion is inescapable and it has to come back to gentrification. Stock Island is about to be transformed by a wave of development that will eliminate the squalid but affordable trailers, that will replace Haitians and Cubans with people with money and a need for a winter home.
My wife and I went to the theater Friday night. We looked around and listened as our neighbors in the aisles reconnected after a long summer away with tales of the weather Up North a subject not as fascinating as they think it is. We sat and thumbed our programs and allowed the extremely loud chirps of delight to swirl around our heads. It was a good play well done and funny enough to laugh. We went on Friday to save ten bucks which is an offer they make at the Waterfront Playhouse. My wife the teacher is also eligible for discounts as a worthy worker...During the intermission we took the air outside the theater...
...and my wife looked around, the social butterfly, and remarked with astonishment that there was not one person there that she knew. I said and I admit I was slightly grumpy that we were the token help, employed peasants to lend credibility to the notion that live theater is for locals too. In a sea of designer labels and artificial tans we were the scruffy oiks being shoved aside by the busy New Yorkers.
The anonymous complaint column in the newspaper has started going off again on the subject of parking always a winter favorite when the snowbirds re-discover that unlike "at home" here they have to walk a bit to find their car on the street. Poor dears. Complaints about mature trees being decimated have been published all summer long so I am going to continue photographing them as long as they survive. Why trees need to be cut down I'm not sure but I guess if you aren't here in the summer the beneficial effect of their shade isn't immediately apparent.
Above I noticed a commuter of the new class, helmet, trouser clips - reflective, and clothing worthy of an appearance in court. An old Key West joke: "What do you call the guy in the suit?" Answer: "Defendant." Very droll. Below we see the more usual business attire in Key West, get the job done even if it means getting your hands dirty. Or it could be a customer.
On our way home from the theater I mentioned to my wife that I have never felt so comfortable anywhere as living in the Keys. I still feel that way even though I am starting to feel a bit endangered. I am by no means a Bohemian or an artist or a free loader, I work for the police and show up on time at work. Yet I don't subscribe to a lot of mainstream lifestyle choices so I am not fashionable dressed nor culturally up to speed all the time. Consequently I find visits to places like shopping malls a trial and sitting through small talk in gatherings wears me out. In the Keys I get away with being off kilter and no one minds, actually some people lie it. A friend of mine said the other day that I am his first eccentric friend. That he is 50 years of age and he meant it affectionately didn't stop me from freaking out for a bit. But then commonsense reasserted itself. I guess I can live with that if he can live with me.
I feel like a child stamping his foot while announcing that no I will not grow up and take my medicine. And no I won't accept the transformation of my last comfortable habitat without bitching and moaning. I have to keep on keeping on, working nights, suffering the loss of caffeine, putting up with snowbirds and their pretensions but I don't have to be happy about it. Eccentric is as eccentric does.