Saturday, February 29, 2020

Head In A Box

I suppose a discount can't fail to pull in customers can it? Even when the purchase involves a disembodied head in a case? Seen on Fleming Street.
"We're at our best when we're together," that gratuitous piece of advice from an annoying corporate message on Duval Street. I usually drink tea if we stop at Starbucks on the road but I marvel how visitors drop in to Key West and turn their backs on that most ethnic of foods, Cuban Coffee in favor of one more cup of the familiar. 
One cup of Starbucks didn't make it and was abandoned by some thoughtful shopper. The scene of the crime:
I have thought about grouping together a whole bunch of these pictures and titling them "Urban Forest."  This one is on Whitehead Street and it's there if you look for it:
I really liked this next picture, over exposed and fuzzy of focus.  Documenting Key West pushes me to take as much care as I can of the basics of modern digital photography but this one got away from me. I like the effect of light and speed and blurriness as much as I am annoyed I wasn't ready to take the shot.
From time to time bees take up residence around Key West coming from as far as Cuba I believe.  We live in a time of bee stress so it is now popular to leave them alone and encourage them to not die off. The inconvenience seems worthwhile especially as I wasn't looking at the time for parking at the county courthouse.
A face in the plywood. If I can see it I sure hope you can! Angry isn't he? On Whitehead Street.
We started with a head in a box and end with a face on a plank. Yup, Key Weird it is.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Higgs Beach

It is said that photographers hate bright sunny days and prefer moody gray skies. Not me. I love tropical brilliance primary colors and sharp shadows.
So  naturally it was gray and overcast on my visit to the beach so i tried to make some drama out of the cloud cover.  I like Higgs Beach which is actually maintained by the county even though it is an enclave in the city. The sand, imported, is actually thick and real underfoot, not a composite of pebbles and small rocks typical of the Keys "beaches."
Monroe County has off duty deputies to patrol the beach and keep order which means you can enjoy a family day at the beach and use the two childrens' parks without fear of being accosted by panhandlers and the like. Or  you can hang out and mediate at will:
The Martello Tower is half ruined as it was used in the 19th century for target practice  by the gunners at Fort Zachary at the southwest corner of the city. Nowadays it is home to the garden club of Key West.
And the brickwork offers a different silhouette in a town made of wood.
  You can bury your feet in the sand and look out across the straits of Florida. 
You can see various boats off the beach but you cannot see Cuba as some wags would have you believe. The Earth is actually round and the curvature of the surface will prevent you seeing the mountains of Cuba 90 miles away. That alone should convince you the Earth is round but I am astonished by the number of people who take the flat earth belief as reality.
  The moon of course is a flat disc made of silver cheese. Everyone knows that and here's the proof:
Cactus spikes don't hurt, and to prove it you can try touching these examples at the garden club. You can run your finger over the screen with no problem at all:
I stayed for a while at the beach and waited for the sun to get closer to the horizon.
After such crappy gray skies some golden light was a welcome change:
Lighting up time on the shrimp boats getting ready for night fishing:

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Mangrove Sunrise

Conventionally speaking a sunrise away from the beach might look like this:
I keep seeing black and white landscapes elsewhere, but around here I don't think mangroves offer enough contrast:
 A car on the Highway beyond the hedge managed to look menacing:
 But this is what the walk was about, aside from exercising Rusty:

 Rusty relaxing with a gin and tonic after his exertions.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Gato Village Pocket Park

I think this little pocket park behind the First State Bank on Simonton Street has been here for almost a decade. Time flies, it really does and yet the place, known as Gato Village Pocket Park, still looks pristine. 
That ugly jumble of cement across the street is the bank and the park is surrounded by a fence to resemble a garden in front of a cigar maker's cottage typical of what you might have seen a hundred or more years ago.
The wooden facade is built at one end of the park and offers  a pleasant spot to hide from rain or sun while enjoying the greenery.  Originally cigar workers came from Cuba when tobacco importers decided to bring raw leaves to Florida to avoid import duties on finished products. Key West was the closest port to Cuba so at first they came here. Gato in Spanish means here's the cat at the Gato Village Pocket Park! Very cool.
The whole thing is actually named for the family that ran the whole enterprise in Key West, and they built a factory on Simonton Street to process the tobacco and have the workers roll it into cigars.
Nowadays the Gato Building is owned by Monroe County and is home to several county offices including the department of public health. It is an imposing structure that hints at the value of the tobacco industry in Key West.
Eventually the same old bugaboo that haunts Key West today, the cost of doing business  on a small isolated island, caught up to the tobacco industry in the city. The people in charge figured they could have more land and cut costs by heading north to Tampa which is how Ybor City was born. All that is left is this representation of their famous Cuban  cigars:
This pocket park really is small and usually I find it quite empty. You can sit on the floor under the awning or on a bench among the flower beds. 
 Its a bit surprising to see it so well maintained after all these years!

I only know it's been here quite a long time as I unearthed this picture form January 2014 of Cheyenne resting on one of our walks through the area.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Southard Street

I have been riding my new to me electric bicycle during my lunch breaks but I don't find it very conducive to photography. I bought the bicycle for a very specific reason, to try to avoid traffic jams projected for the next  year at the sole bridge into and out of Key West which will be undergoing almost overdue repairs.
In Key West the Cow Key Bridge is known as "The Triangle" as North and South Roosevelt Boulevards meet Highway at this critical three way junction. Anything blocking the bridge backs up traffic for miles so my plan is to park somewhere on the shoulder and complete my commute on my $600 Pedego Classic, lightly used six speed cruiser with a 350 watt electric motor powered by a 10 amp battery . Phew! Its as big a mouthful to describe as it is heavy to lift. This was me cruising down Southard Street with Light Pedal Assistance.  I got back to work sweat free, as I go to the gym for my exercise.
Aside from riding the bike lane at 12 mph I also enjoy walking Southard Street a one way ride away from Duval Street toward White Street. My yellow buzz bomb was rather overshadowed by the giant hump I saw on the hood as I walked by a couple of days earlier:
Walking, especially with Rusty gives me a chance to look as we go, and for all its usefulness as transport a bicycle still requires you to watch traffic more than the architectural oddities passing by.
An oleander flower (I think) celebrating the summer heat that has descended on a winter short by even Key West standards.
Rusty settled down on the sidewalk in front of Mangia Mangia restaurant, the corner building with the inviting awning.
I labeled this picture "White Ghosts on Patrol" on Instagram:
And I reserved a street corner panorama for the overloaded cyclist:
Rusty took our break in stride, paws carefully crossed.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Southernmost Wanted

I have seen the graffiti all over the Lower Keys and in Key West since about 2015. I made  a half hearted Internet search with no results (he has a private Instagram account for friends apparently) and resigned myself to never knowing who the author of these weird pointless letters might be. CYNE painted or printed with the additional slogan underneath: "southernmost wanted."
But it turns out these signs are bound to start disappearing. And most likely not coming back. Why?

Southernmost Wanted has a checkered and thus quite interesting  past, especially in light of the fact his crime in the Keys has been spraying uninspired graffiti and sticking small stickers on public spaces. In the past he was more inclined to violence it has been alleged. In the story below from the Fayetteville Observer one clause leaped out at me: "one of the odder homicides" in the community according to the author of this well written report. I reproduce an extract here. The link above has the entire story, well worth a read as it makes chilling reading.

Former Fort Bragg soldier Brandon Mims was found not guilty Tuesday morning of murdering Michael Ray Staggs in a parking lot outside a Chinese restaurant in Fayetteville two years ago.
According to Staggs’ family, the jurors thought it was likely that Mims killed Staggs, but that they lacked enough evidence to vote to convict him.
Prosecutors had circumstantial evidence that indicated Mims could have been the shooter, but no direct evidence - such as video recordings or positive identification from witnesses - that he was the person who fired a shotgun into Staggs’ car.
“I feel comfortable that with the evidence that we had before us and that was admissible that we put on the best case that we could put on,” lead prosecutor Nitza Rothstein said in an interview Tuesday afternoon.
Defense lawyer Dee W. Bray could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Mims could not be reached.
The case was one of the odder homicides in Fayetteville, seemingly random.
Michael Ray Staggs’ father, Mike Anthony Staggs, said it was a “stranger on stranger” killing, that his son did not know Mims and there was no known connection between them.
The younger Staggs was shot in the head Jan. 29, 2011, as he sat in his car in the parking lot of the Compare Foods shopping center on Bonanza Drive and Morganton Road.
Rothstein and co-counsel Scott Gainer were able to present these facts to the jury:
Mims had a burgundy Ford F-150 pickup. Witnesses observed a flash and loud bang from a burgundy Ford F-150 parked next to Staggs’ car, then saw the pickup drive away.
Mims was seen in the Chinese restaurant and shopping center parking lot shortly before the murder, and the restaurant had a debit card receipt of Mims’ roommate, who had given the card to Mims that evening to buy cigarettes.
Mims’ grandfather gave police Mims’ shotgun, which investigators say was of the type that fired the shotgun pellets that killed Staggs. There was gunshot residue in the window area of Mims’ truck.
“To me they proved the case,” Mike Staggs said.
But Rothstein and Gainer could not put Mims’ grandfather on the stand. He died last year. Had he lived, Mike Staggs said, Mims’ grandfather could have testified that, on the morning after the slaying, Mims brought him the shotgun and admitted that he shot Michael Ray Staggs.
Once again I find myself feeling relief that I live in a town where murders are so rare they don't get a rating. We get lots of calls in police dispatch from anxious relatives across the country who haven't heard from family members who come to key West on vacation or for business. Check the advertising and you might get the impression that if you come to Key West you should drink yourself insensible after you have met a whole bunch of boozy new wonderful friends.  Under the circumstances it might seem obvious that your friends and relatives are going to "forget to call." However that thoughtlessness strikes you, rest assured if they are engaging in drunken stupidity they may spend too much money and they may soil their reputations but this is not a town of violence. We don't have unusually interesting murders and I am very grateful for that. We do have a lot of drunken stupidity and helmet-less scooter riders with severe head injuries. And now the Sheriff has locked up an alleged killer. But he got locked up for graffiti, not murder which makes this arrest interesting to me. Are we witnessing the calming effect of the Keys? 
So why did I post a picture of a banal bottle of antiseptic soap, two dollars at CVS I discovered upon investigation. This story will I hope counterpoint the CYNE arrest with a description of the true crime scenario in Key West. I paused in my walk with Rusty to sit on a  brick wall and study the new business about to be built where Rum Barrel used to be, a bar opened by a pirate obsessed, media savvy doctor who wanted to sell food and drink for profit in Key West, and did very well parlaying his fame as a sports doctor to top flight sports figures I believe. The permit notice in the bar window says the city will be considering granting an easement to make legal what is apparently an illegal taking of city sidewalk. The brick ramp below has been incorporated into the architecture of the building apparently without a permit and now the usurpation of the public sidewalk is to be made properly legal. Bad enough you might think that a public sidewalk has been used illegally - there's a crime of key West proportions.
So, the question of the on if you have the stomach. As we resumed our walk I noticed a certain odor hanging about my person so I scrupulously checked the soles of my shoes. It wasn't dog shit either it was pungent and human and wherever it was it wasn't on my shoes. I raised my camera to take a picture and the smell became intense. I looked at my hand and the tell tale brown smears were everywhere and unmistakable. I recoiled in horror and started frantically checking my short tails and shorts to see how far the plague had spread. Happily it was only on my one hand -only - and I staggered down Front Street like a leper holding out a diseased limb. I spotted a hose and managed to squeeze a few drops from the spout with my clean hand but that did nothing except increase my sense of panic. 
I am not germ-phobic, quite the opposite, but I do know that shit actually does carry disease and anyone who takes a  shit  on a brick wall is probably not the healthiest of specimens at the best of times so I was looking at my hand with half a mind to cut it off. The inspiration struck. I was staggering down the street pondering y options when I saw the pharmacy, one of half a dozen in Key West and for as often as I have been critical of all the chain pharmacies springing up all over town I approached the front doors with a  profound sense of gratitude. It took a while but I have become reconciled to the misfortune and now I think I can safely say my hand and I are friends again and I no longer look at the palm worrying that nasty brown smears will reappear and fill my face with that ever so nasty smell. Human not canine. I pick up after my dog so I know.
Murder? I felt like murdering whoever put me in that predicament but this is Key West and I contented myself with sending them a mental curse and clutching my bottle of hand sanitizer close to my chest for the next unfortunate encounter bound to happen in a town filled with residentially challenged visitors and several weeks of winter to wait out in the tropics.