Friday, March 31, 2017

Rainbow Friday

I was standing at the end of a leash watching the wind flutter flags beyond the row of charter fishing boats in Marathon. And then I read the sign. Fishing fishing. I know what it means, no fishing from the pier but the implication struck my funny bone.  No money to be made from people standing on the rocks tossing a line into the billows my more cynical inner voice said. Lunch of fresh fish was good though. 
Later this summer lobster season will kick in and all these pots will be dropped in the water and thousands of lobster will be caught. How they aren't wiped out every year  don't know. Then there is the two day amateur lobstering event encouraged to bring visitors to Keys that no longer have quiet seasons. They slaughter lobster, break rules and give themselves heart attacks from time to time as killing lobster is more strenuous than they imagine. Through it all the lobster survive. I am no great fan of lobster meat and have been a marked man since I once described it as a string cheese with a fishy flavor.
Rusty likes the smell of lobster pots and he took me a merry dance on what was a quite warm day. He caught and killed an iguana while on the leash which astonished me and I shall spare you the pictures as some people are fond of iguana. They are like lobster invaders, not easy to catch or kill and they eat everything in sight, wrecks birds nests and destroy plants and gardens and so on. Rusty hates them and I do not much care for them either. I am no longer quite so surprised he made it for four years on the streets of Homestead. Judging by the state of his nerves when I got him they weren't easy years, and he no longer feels driven to eat his prey but thrown back on his own devices he's do better than you or I. Amazing dog. 
This summer I have a vacation booked in Europe for most of July to see friends and family in Italy after three years away. I have mixed feelings, principally I'm not keen on leaving him behind though he will be in good hands. I know, it's months away but already I'm thinking about the pain of separation. And he will be fine.
He waits for me every morning at the top of the stairs. In the early days last year he used to run down unable to contain himself. Now he knows I come upstairs to get changed (and give him a treat) so he waits and jumps all over me as I reach the top step. These walks in the wilderness are my chance to put the night's 911 calls behind me and his chance to be a dog with a lively curiosity.
I feel lucky to be out on these trails with a chance to decompress especially when the main road is generating complaints of all kinds, too much traffic too many people, the Keys they assert are full.It comes as no surprise to anyone who hasn't been asleep. You can't keep building and expect to maintain the same quality of life. I met a guy as we walked back to the car. He was carrying a big stick and i wondered what he intended to bash with his club.  Rusty ignored him and he used my little dog as his justification for the club...just in case. I have no idea what fearsome things outsiders expect to find on these trails but after decades of walking my various dogs out here I have never been molested by anyone or anything. I trust it will stay that way.
I stop from time to time as I ride Highway One and I still take time to admire the views. I find the visitors who slow down and stick phones out of car windows absurd in their efforts to multi task on their vacations. These places, unique in North America deserve a little time and respect to be enjoyed. The great thing about driving the Overseas Highway is that you can pull over and stop almost anywhere - and the few places its too dangerous to do so are clearly marked. The rest of the roadside shoulder and numerous turn outs are all available for you to stop and listen and look and take a composed picture for the scrap book.
I was alone on the headland above the creek and I thought to myself how pleasant it is to be alone with my dog and my thoughts in this place. I hope your place treats you right this weekend and may no big sticks be in your immediate future. 

Thursday, March 30, 2017


My photographs were not entirely successful and I was going to toss them but the more I looked the more they evoked something in me. I hate fuzzy pictures as a general rule but when I went through these, none of which even show Rusty on his leash, I saw a summer evening in them. 
 One of the few things I do not like about living at twenty four degrees North is how short dusk is around here. The closer you get to the equator the quicker the sun sets. In my youth when I lived much further north I remember long lingering dusk, the sun might set at nine but I could read a newspaper by daylight at eleven. Dusk was a magical time of serenity and fireflies, smells of the country raised by increasing humidity and the slowly encroaching darkness.
For me sometimes it is hard to discern how dark it is, hence the fuzzy pictures. It seems like daylight and then it's not, just like that. Which deprives the camera of the light to take a decent picture unless I am paying attention and keeping the apparatus steady. If you want to know more about Key West's Grotto of Lourdes look HERE
On Truman Avenue my dog and I were wandering him with nose down me with head up, bowled over by young Spring Breakers eager to be somewhere else. I was happy watching the night close in as we ambled.
And then it was dark.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

2008 Churches

I left out the Muslim Masjid Al Malik in this list probably because not only was I not aware of it on Emma Street but I'm pretty sure it didn't exist in August 2008 when I first published this essay. From what I can figure it's been around since about 2011 and nowadays it has moved to Whitehead and Southard Streets. Anyway here's the list I made, flawed no doubt and incomplete, but it was a good effort I think at checking out a small town with a great many places of worship. 

Towers and Steeples

To try to photograph every church in Key West in one go is beyond the possible.They may have found water on Mars but they haven't figured out how a single man on a motorcycle can photograph every single church in Key west without going mad. So, as a compromise I simply photographed some of the churches that I find most evocative of a style of building that I think of as either tropical funk or Caribbean Anglican, that are scattered around the island. The church that set me off is this castellated beauty which I believe is known as the Southernmost (naturally!) Prayer and Faith Center Church, which name must be abbreviated for the adherents in some manner unknown to me. In any event I photographed it on a whim when I was at Love Lane on Fleming Street recently.Power lines notwithstanding I find this church, recently renovated, to be a nice example of the Caribbean Anglican style of church. I call it that because I have seen numerous examples of church architecture on English speaking islands around the Caribbean that have been built in the style of the English parish churches, and their square towers or pointy steeples dominate skylines from Grenada to Jamaica, and also it turns out Key West!Well, dominating may be a bit hyperbolic but sure as eggs is eggs, there is the church of the long name peeking over the greenery. As far as tropical funk goes I like this one, a little run down but exhibiting the faith of the small and intimate:I find the notion of "holy ground" harboring plastic pink flamingos to be suitable entirely for Key West. Or take this little beauty near the hill called Solares, Key West's highest point:Trinity Wesleyan combines the elements of Anglican stolidity with the lovely pitched roof and slat walls typical of Key West home building.
This one on White Street is undergoing renovation, and like the Creole Church, caters to the "other linguistically abled" congregation. God is a polyglot, though His adherents never did manage to build the tower :When I was a juvenile delinquent altar boy The Church of Rome required its' adherents world wide to pray in the one true language, impenetrably enough that had to be Latin. And as St Francis reputedly taught us, once its learned as a child, whatever it is, it's never forgotten! Indeed i remember many of the responses still, from those far away days. Nowadays along with eating meat on Fridays the Catholic heirarchy has relented and Mass at St Marys is recited in the vernacular. So the traditions change and yet these lovely structures remain:This is the big old church on Truman Avenue at Windsor Lane on the way into Old Town. It's the heart of the extensive Catholic community in Key West and it makes it's own statement about size and architecture:St Marys operates a school, a soup kitchen, a grotto built to protect the city in case of hurricanes (napping apparently during Wilma) and that most Catholic of institutions, a gift shop:When in 2007 my peripatetic Jewish wife went for the first time to St Peter's in the Vatican she stood in awe, her jaw literally dropping, under the vastness of the rococo embellishments of the vast basilica and confessed that for the first time she understood the worldwide reach of the Roman Church. Outside she was equally astonished by the trinket trade in plaster Madonnas and graphic artwork for sale in the streets surrounding the Holy See. Needs must and they do a roaring trade. Its not exactly money changers in the temple even though I find the gift shop trade rather tacky.
Not far from St Marys lies the oldest synagogue in Florida and very unprepossessing it is too, architecturally speaking:It's history in the Southernmost City is frequently held up as an example of tolerance in Key West but a few years ago some unidentified anti Semite torched the place, which became the opportunity for the neighboring churches to send the opposite message and they grabbed it wholeheartedly offering the synagogue space in their churches. Which incidentally would have got you a roasting in hell in the Catholic Church I grew up in, but times change and sometimes for the better.

There are tons of little churches on side streets everywhere, some more visible some I pass all the time and never notice till I am stalking them with my camera:

And this one on Elizabeth Street which I stopped to photograph while heading for another church I did remember seeing around here. Its the paradox of life itself; that which you stumble across while not looking for it:Not forgetting the Unitarians in The Meadows with their delightful old Florida louvered windows. Either the building is lo-o-o-ng or my Bonneville is shrinking:There is a persistent sign holder plaguing downtown Key West ever since Fantasy Fest, and he holds up a notice encouraging people to believe that queers go to hell, by virtue of their gayness. Apparently this bald statement is supposed to be an encouragement to Key West gays to change their ways which is a proposition I find bizarre, human nature being what it is, and I doubt it would gain much traction at the Metropolitan Community Church just up the street from the Unitarians:It surprised me when I realised just how many churches there are in Key West. I think the number and variety of them (a Mosque interestingly enough does not appear to exist) of which these are a tiny sample speaks to the fact that even a rootless shiftless migrating community like that viewed superficially in the Keys in fact has a population that demands the rooted sense of community that churches bring to a town. Churches in Key West seem to thrive because many many people in Party Town USA are just ordinary people raising families and going to work. They are why I like living in Key West, not because I can go to Sloppy Joe's and get tanked whenever I feel like it, but because I work in a small town that has real roots, despite any appearances to the contrary. Of course there are those that manage to slip off the bottom rung of the societal ladder:And the churches minister to them and their needs. The Salvation Army is prominent in town, and made a spectacle of itself by declining to hire a gay office worker on the grounds of the old going to hell problem, but hey no one's perfect. They help a lot of people regardless of orientation who come looking for it. This sleeper chose his spot well because when he awakes the beacon of Glad Tidings will be across the way, a church noted for its services to the down and out:On Flagler Avenue there is a big time soup kitchen across from this Lutheran erection. It's some sort of Buckminster Fuller apparition lacking the conviction to go all the way and become a real geodesic dome. What the Tudor style wooden beam highlights are doing I'm not sure:The attached school enjoys a fine reputation and is housed in a more conventional if rather dull building. I think in my next life I would like to be an architect and offer my services in communities across the country that would like to see proportioned attractive buildings housing their banks and churches and public offices. Whimsy is delightful but it hurts the eyes after a while:My hat is off to them if they can round up a congregation at that unearthly hour. Oh, wait a minute, I think it says nine am not five am, nevertheless.....

There's my old favorite the Methodist Church on Eaton at Simonton. Awhile back I highlighted the swooping roof of the entryway of the hall which I think is lovely and Polynesian:Especially when contrasted with the traditional church it is attached to. You don't get to see enclosed porches like that very often at rthese latitudes:
On Simonton Street not far away is another white castle of a church, a fine enough construction in its way:But out of this series of buildings my hands down favorite is the church at the 800 block of Center Street. This a two block street between Petronia Street and Truman Avenue. To find it simply turn north off Truman at the over sized Adirondack Chair.Clearly a church I would rate as Anglican Caribbean, from the exterior it has the attributes of stolidity from the interior it is cool and dark to make it a restful and intriguing place to sit and not think:And when such a place invites one in, what can one do but respond?
I like a church old fashioned enough to leave its doors flung open, and this place apparently is supported by a busy congregation judging by the overflowing community bulletin board inside. It was a break I thoroughly enjoyed and I put my camera away for a few minutes and emptied my head. On returning to the outside world all I could see was light and heat and busyness, again.
All those drunks need ambulances and police, all night long! God help me...

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Old Town By Night

At night in Key West, in the early hours of the morning as the bars close and whatever crowds are left start to disperse, a certain lassitude falls over the 911 center. Well, I thought some fizzy caramel water loaded with caffeine might help. Especially if to get it I have to take a brisk ride in the fresh night air. 
That involved stopping along the way and looking at what there was to see under the occasional, strategically placed street light.
 Wherever you look in Key West's old town, especially  if you look through the lense of a camera.
Decorations of all sorts spring up, as though to counteract the irritatingly loose electrical installations, wires boxes and junctions danglig everywhere. 
 There was a for sale sign on the cottage below, and then they added a sold sign. Done and dusted.
 Catherine Street, a portent of summer, Spring Break is over and the kids have gone home. Lovely.
 The gates to my bank looking surprisngly medieval. The ATM next to it is quite modern. 
 Duval Street looking south from below Truman.
Empty as it should be at 4:30 in the morning. Back to work...

Monday, March 27, 2017

Bucktooth Rooster

Robert was in Big Pine and so we met there for lunch at what used to be the rather unimaginatively named Big Pine Restaurant.  Under new ownership not only has the name been spiced up, quite imaginatively, but the food seems rather more than it used to be, and it was always quite adequate.
It is brighter outside with all those tropical colors and happily it is brighter inside too these days. The staff seemed to enjoy working there and the atmosphere was extremely welcoming. Not that I like television on the walls of a place where I eat but it was lunchtime so informality is fine. Our server was genuinely cheerful and funny and Robert the technician noticed the rather eccentric and effective ceiling fans that spun and rotated all at once. This might be quite the retreat on a  hot summer lunch time.
Their menu is massive, four packed pages of flowery descriptions but mercifully they also print a specials list on one sheet of relatively clearly spaced print. I stuck there and avoided being overwhelmed. Meatloaf and roast beef or snapper sandwich? My wife does a mean meatloaf so I went with the sandwich. Robert went with the burger avoiding the special- a "Mexican" version with queso blanco and jalapenos. 
His burger was  a solid lunch and he liked it. My fish sandwich was decidedly unusual, as I have never had fish with bacon but the menu did say it was a BLT with fish and they served what they promised. I had no complaints once I got used to the rather odd combo. You should try it, you might very well like thick cut crispy bacon with delicate white fish...I did  much to my surprise.
There is enough food on the plate for two. The fries are enormous and seasoned, the pickle was crisp the lettuce fresh and a pleasure to eat. It's basic stuff but they got it right. The pasta salad was a starchy touch I really didn't need. Robert didn't eat his saying it tasted like coleslaw and he doesn't like coleslaw. I thought the dish needed flavor but I could just have thrown salt at it to fix that. 
There was lots of food, it was good, I ate it. Yum. With a  menu four pages long one visit doesn't really provide a complete picture but I think its safe to say if you want a meal in Big Pine this place is well worth checking out. There's tons of parking as its next to the Post Office, it's right on US One so it makes a decent break 30 miles before (or after) Key West.  
Weird name so for me its still "the old big pine restaurant." Give me time and some more lunches and I'm sure I'll get used to it. It has a good reputation locally so I am hopeful it will join the other much improved choices in local restaurants in the Lower Keys as a fixture. We have pub and Italian and American, and Chinese but unfortunately I don't think Indian would work out around here. I save that for trips to the mainland and eat my fresh fish locally.