Inevitably Key West gets labeled as a "Tropical Vacationland" so naturally I end up working here because I am a contrarian. Still it worked out in the long run and now is the time to look back and be surprised at how the time has passed.
Years ago when I was a licensed boat captain a friend of mine on the docks asked me to meet him after work at the "Flying Buttress Tree" which was his name for the Kapok Tree in front of the courthouse. I have never again heard it referred to thus but every time I pass by that's the name that springs to mind.
There used to be a picnic table under the tree and I'd eat my sandwich from the courthouse deli under the Kapok Tree. It's been a while. I also liked to wander up to the top floor of the old courthouse building, an arcade that managed to capture any passing breeze while I mingled with unfortunates putting in an appearance before the law. There was once a saying, "What do you call the man in a suit in Key West?" - "Defendant." Even the jury pool has to be explicitly asked to wear long pants and sleeves for court duty in this town.
Now the balcony and the memories of idle afternoons looking across the city are closed.
For a non conformist town Key West boasts a sturdy standard brick courthouse at 500 Whitehead Street. Thus it looks today:
Thus it looked after Hurricane Irma breezed through town in September 2017:
They put a pay to park lot off Appelrouth Lane but forgot to put a clear "one way" sign at the entrance. This poor tourist happily turned the wrong way to go direct to Duval and I was glad to see no one honked at the hapless driver.
I have no idea who has the energy to create such a complex intricate piece of art but there it was and I had a camera to record it. I wasn't sure if it was based on some sort of tale of science fiction or abstract art but someone spent some time on it. You'll see it just past the leather underwear boutique on Appelrouth. And no, I wasn't out shopping.
The back side (in a manner of speaking) of the San Carlos Theater:
A reminder that parking in Key West sucks. If you must buy an overpriced house buy one (or two if so inclined) with off street parking. It will save you much frustration.
This unattractive, yet functional corner was where I got a job I really quite liked in the summer of 2004. Indeed had they offered to increase my pay just a little I might not have gone to the police department at all. I worked in the shipping area of Fast Buck Freddie's the department store that went under a few years ago and was replaced by CVS Pharmacy. We used to take our breaks out here and drink coffee and talk. It's odd how places that look to the naked eye as crappy can be transformed by memories.
Up above the building was an apartment belonging to the man who created Key West the resort city in the mid 20th century. These days David Wolkowsky is memorialized on a little alley near Mallory Square but he built the Pier House resort in 1967 which is his real memorial in this town dedicated to tourism.
Fast Buck Freddie's closed and the owner only got viable offers from the chain store that took over, so the story goes. However one requirement was to feature local artists in the corner shop window which remains a rather cool feature of the building that once housed the Kress Five and Dime.
The arcade at La Concha looked rather empty, no street vendors any more, though perhaps they will return if the pandemic abates.
This used to be an Italian clothing store, Antica Sartoria, which has been replaced by the ubiquitous latest craze, the CBD store. It seems like there are a million of them up and down Duval these days.
I stopped by St Paul's Church on Duval as I rather like the shaded benches in the front garden, and wasn't I surprised to hear the sounds of a church organ sounding vibrantly through the open doors. Actually the doors were open but they were barred as well so I could only peer in and take a couple of pictures through the barrier.
It was a good moment, a reminder of past noon concerts when the church with doors and windows open and a cross breeze created a haven of shadow and music in the heat of a summer afternoon.
The music stopped and wasn't I surprised when the organist opened the gate for me to step inside. He thought he was doing a tourist a favor and wasn't he surprised when I mentioned the distant noon performances and how much his warm up (for a lesson it turned out) had pleased me.
Tim is the Director of Music for the church and though we wore masks when not using the camera we spent rather too much time (!) reminiscing about Key West, our lives here and our hopes for the future. It was extraordinarily pleasant as we shared similar points of view about so many of the things that make Key West unique and occasionally irritating.
Walking back to the car I remembered brunch before the pandemic on the deck inside the hotel, the movies across the street at the Tropic Cinema...indeed I remember watching movies at the guitar shop, the San Carlos and I can't remember where when the Film Society was looking for a home. There even used to be open air films where I shared a pool recliner with Emma, my first Labrador at the Atlantic Shores.
I need to get going; I am turning into an old bore before my very eyes. And while I'm at it: why is that young punk cluttering up the streets riding his bicycle in the middle of the road? Young people...harumph.