Saturday, June 30, 2018


My pursuit of the best possible cloud formation to express the power of a summer thunderstorm has been eluding me all the eleven years of this web page's existence. I started this blog in June 2007 as Key West Vespa and  still I can't capture the magnificence of the summer anvils overhead. Feeble:
 I found a clever reflection in one of the salt ponds on Big Torch Key, but still not a thunderhead.

 A little bit of filter to make it look aggravated:
 The heat this June has been searing even by local standards:
 So while Rusty sniffs around I seek out my ultimate thunderhead which so far escapes me.
 I got a lot of nice variations on the mangroves,blue skies and white clouds.

Thursday, June 28, 2018


I don’t often eat breakfast out as I work nights and come home rapidly after each shift to walk my brown bundle of joy.  By the time we have driven to his favorite spots and gone home after a wide ranging amble, breakfast is far from my mind. So when I made a morning appointment for my car to be checked for our forthcoming road trip, breakfast was on my mind. I left the car to it’s fate and walked across Stock Island to food. 
Everyone has their own preferred shop and for some time I have been visiting Oily on Stock Island. It is a truth acknowledged but rarely understood that service jobs are hard to fill but skilled trades are impossible. If you find a mechanic or a plumber who will show up you are ahead of most.  In these parts dependability is highly desirable, perhaps rated as highly as skill. One of the huge problems after a catastrophe, typically a hurricane, is finding skilled workers to rebuild.  People who live in small communities think they get it, but the utter isolation of the Lower Keys makes wealth or skill highly prized. Some home owners import workers from elsewhere to rebuild. Those that can’t afford such drastic responses, most people that is, keep their fingers crossed, pray, light candles and from time to time rain down curses.  So I keep my car and scooter shops close. 

El Mocho was quite crowded when I arrived, on foot, sweating like any car less bum.  This is a long standing Cuban place on Stock Island, adapting to modern times by expanding and selling food to English speakers, as the population of rough and tumble Cuban commercial fishermen dwindles. Development is coming to Stock Island, five star hotels, upscale marinas and plans to build homes. This place that has lived in the shadow of Key West, the industrial island next to the glamorous tourist trap is turning into its own destination. A friend of mine who lives here says there is no need to leave Stick Island anymore. There are restaurants, hotel pools and even a pharmacy so there is no need to step across the bridge to a Key West. Even so I rarely stop off here so a trip around Stock Island is a journey. I did not expect to meet anyone I knew.
El Mocho is a greasy spoon, unapologetically and their con leche is sweet their bacon crispy. Suits me, a savory breakfast with sweet coffe is fine especially at their prices. Which I can't quote to you as my breakfast was bought for me.  A law enforcement officer sitting at a table called me over by name which had he been from my agency would have been no big thing but he wasn't.   I have lived here too long.  Sometimes I feel old but the compensation for all my time lived here was an interesting conversation about local politics and  likely future changes. We talked about retirement, an important consideration among government employees. I wonder how a man retires at 51 when he only knows life in uniform but retirement is the goal for us all. 
The other guy at the table, the brave soul who bought my breakfast, may good fortune rain upon him, had a tale of woe about his hurricane damaged home.  Heavy manual labor outside in the hot summer sun, "I’m sick of it,” he said wearily. Hurricane Irma struck last year and here he is still fighting his insurance company. The bank he says owns the house and they won’t give out a mortgage without he says why isn’t fixing the house the banks problem? Impeccable logic. But the world turns the way we know it does. Key West I said has been good to my wife and, good jobs pensions and a decent life. That I like to her the other guy said. Too many people come to Key West and expect to get a life handed to them.  I forbore from pointing out we were in our 40s when we came and had a different outlook to most 20 year olds. Mind you I suso3ct Conchs must get tired of heading incomers complain about their home town.  
Not too much to complain about for me.  

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

What A Morning

I am not among those who slow down on the bridges to admire the scenery - irritating drivers! - but every day I do get to peek at the waters on either side of US 1 and the Overseas Highway lives up to its name. And when I realized I had remembered my big camera I pulled into a parking area next to Kemp Channel, the one that divides Cudjoe from Summerland, and Rusty and I took an extra walk before the real thing.
 Lately it has been extra still and extra humid but when the breeze picked up and the air lightened the big puffy summer clouds came back and the sun broke through the persistent cloud cover of weeks previously. The effect is glorious, blue skies, flat waters and not so wet that you can walk around without turning into a human sponge.
I thought the cluster of kayaks was some sort of summer camp, most likely from the Sea Scout Base nearby, and I set to pondering what the youngsters might think of a summer spent in this remarkable place. Maybe it just is where they live. I try to remember if I appreciated the physical beauty of places where I grew up and some of them were really nice, but I have no memory of thinking how lucky I was. 
 I think Rusty is a bit like that. His criteria for finding somewhere interesting beats me. He had a really good time for the span of several photographs looking hither and yon. Him with his nose me with a telephoto. 
While he was head down in the smells the other side of the highway was on fire...

 I guess the osprey on the top of that pole has a ringside view of the morning spectacle.
Then we  got on to the serious business of walking and more sniffing.  And photos of course.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

A Light Italian Lunch

My nephew described the dead wild boar as the Umbrian equivalent of a Florida crocodile and he has a point. They are a protected species much of the year but when a particular animal goes rogue and wrecks crops special permission is granted for an out of hunting season cull. This one was taken away for processing by my nephew and it will eventually reappear as sausage and salami and prosciutto. They are an earthy lot my Italian relatives. 
My wife is in Italy learning Italy at language school five days a week and practicing her nascent Italian seven days a week  with my sister and nephews.  My wife reports it's all much more fun than she had anticipated and because she likes to cook my nephew's girlfriend Giulia is also sharing cooking tips:
Giulia runs the family bed and breakfast and takes care of laundry cooking breakfast and so forth, as well as giving lessons on cooking with fire apparently. Everytime I watch a movie and food is cooked over a flame I cringe. The way its done is to burn down the fuel until it is embers and then pull out the embers to radiate heat and cook the food, as in the photo above.
Even today this is a pretty rural part of Italy but when I was a child the roads weren't paved, electricity and piped water were innovations and these country skills, killing and cleaning, cooking with fire and so forth were in common usage. Nowadays there are many urban Italians to whom these skills are bizarre and unknown.
Antonio in the cap above was delivering fresh fruits when I was a kid and in those days he used a little three wheeler and when I met him in May he told me this was his third box truck worn out by continuous deliveries to these very rural communities.  His son rides with hm to continue the family business in a part of the world where Amazon, though known is not dominant. Below my wife scored this excellent photo of a food truck with a message in fashionable English that fell slightly wide of the mark:
That it is in English is testament to the fact the Umbria is a destination nowadays like it never was when I was a boy. Americans and Italians "in the know" now boast of second homes in Umbria; Tuscany is too common for them.
Meat cheese and mushrooms are what Umbrians eat in a region without a tidal coastline. Consequently I have no idea what Italian names are for fish, just as I had to learn sailing in California and have no idea about that specialized dialect in Italian. The stuff my wife deals with I am familiar though and ;ast weekend she was at a family celebration, a grandchild's birthday and she was plunged into that part of Italian life not usually lived by visitors. I took this picture in May when the family gathered in my honor, the Uncle from America.
Part of the idea for my wife to spend a month in Italy is to live and learn Italian without me there to interpret. It is natural and normal for everyone to turn to me so without me there she had to rent a car, drive, explore, talk and ask and rely on herself. Which has worked out surprisingly well. Immersion is the way to learn. She also had another chance to enjoy a protracted celebratory lunch for the birthday boy and immerse herself in the family cooking. First lasagna:
Then suppli. In Umbria (and Rome) what Americans call "arance" (oranges) are a variation on the Sicilian style of fried rice ball that has taken root in Italian-America. These rice balls have a meat and tomato sauce flavored rice inside and fried breadcrumbs on the outside. And usually no gooey cheese which is the Sicilian style.
 Fried zucchini, known confusingly to my English family as courgettes.
Sausages and prosciutto killed and cured by my brother-in-law. This is a very robust country family. I was never cut out to be a farmer and that was obvious to me. Though I caused much outrage at the time my decision to flee is generally viewed as the right thing now, 35 years later.
 Beans and salad because even determined meat eaters like Umbrians do graze rabbit food.
 Not sure what this is but I do like Italian custard especially when oozing from flakey pastry. When I was a youngster dessert was almost never served after a  meal. It was always fruit and creamy pastries were reserved for breakfast when in the city.
And for special occasions there is home made "English Soup" which is an Italian variant of the English dessert called trifle, layers of cookies custard and fruit in a huge gooey mess. It is said British sailors introduced trifle to the Italians during the Napoleonic War and I always had it during my childhood, a mixture of custard and chocolate sauce which was irresistible and fondly remembered.. 
 Dogs are part of the scenery and these live better than many in the region where chains and kennels are part of the scenery and which break my heart.
 My brther-in-laws dog got a new American bed (from Amazon via my wife's suitcase) and my wife reports Caramella likes it very much. All good dogs deserve a bed.
 Me? I got the pictures of lunch and placated my memories with a cuban coffee and cheese bread from Sandy's, at the old location on White Street. Food is so evocative.
 Me not missing the family gathering or the food or the winding mountain roads. Rusty is somewhere just outside the frame.
And when not prolowing...
 He has his own bed.
He never did take to an open bed, he likes being scrunched up when not on the couch or on my bed. Very odd

Monday, June 25, 2018

Seeing Key West

I keep thinking there's nothing new for me to see after eleven years chronicling my walks around the  Key West neighborhoods. 
 There is. It might be the angle of sunlight falling on a house or a man sitting on the sidewalk.
 Or the older generation cleaning the gutter by hand:
 I am inclined to forget not all US  cities offer these varied old frontispieces to their city streets:

 And not every city expects to see eager scooter riders cluttering their streets.
 When in doubt, look up.