I remember overhearing, many years ago, one of those conversations between tourists speaking about their Key West vacation.
The comment I recall overhearing as they pored over their map was to the effect that they were surprised by how many districts and named areas there are in such a small island town.
They had a point, so much so I have never quite forgotten the remark and it comes to the forefront of my mind when I am walking through and thinking about Casa Marina.
Casa Marina's boundaries are not completely clear to me but like the justice said about the definition of pornography, I know it when I see it.
Expansive homes, garages, greenery and order all define Casa Marina. By North American standards the houses may not necessarily be particularly large, and some look opulent thanks to the abundant tropical foliage alone, but in Key West ample parking, car ports and garages, watertight windows and an absence of stores and tourist attractions make this neighborhood as special.
It is common sport among the working class in Key West to look at real estate listings from "back home" wherever that may be, land of snowdrifts and seasons probably, and see how much your money will buy in those places forgotten in the mists of time.
It's a mug's game to compare housing here with there. In absolute terms Key West is not as expensive as other exclusive enclaves in Florida but the isolation, the absence of regular housing and the relatively hopeless wages deter the ambitious from living working and raising a family here.
Casa Marina is not for the likes of us, and considering my home will be 72 square feet next year you might reassure yourself I never was a candidate for opulent living.
I see obligation and responsibility when I walk the neighborhood and I am glad there are others dedicated to the maintenance and care of these historic homes. I grew up in an old large home and was glad to put an ocean between me and it, and would do so again for the freedom of the open road.
I was following Rusty down one of the ample, shaded sidewalks when I was waylaid by a tall sinewy Nordic blond woman who blurted at me that she was from Idaho. Oh dear I said, I'm sorry to hear that but I suppose someone has to live there.
It turns out she was jogging as you do in Idaho apparently, in skin tight clothes which do not allow for the transport of cellphones and when her problem manifested itself on her run, she found herself helpless. Especially as she didn't know who to call. Until the off duty dispatcher showed up dragged by his dog.
A bird had fallen from a nest and she had propped it up on some gravel and was unsure what to do next. Oh well, I blurted before I put the filter in, I do this for a living so I might as well do it on my day off for free. She was shockingly grateful and made me wish she could teach people how to call 911...but I got the wild bird rescue rolling and used Rusty as my excuse to leave her to monitor the avian rescue program on her own.
With the natural order restored and the time space continuum once again intact Casa Marina slipped back into serenity and ease. Hmm I thought to myself, seeing the Sprinter across the street, they live in vans around here? Probably not a stranger I figured, as someone would be bound to call it in...
Most people know Casa Marina as the resort on the beach in this neighborhood and it's been around for a while. Henry Flagler had it built as a destination for his travelers, those who chose not to take the ferry to Cuba in the 1920s.
Flagler was pretty smart and when he decided to run railroad tracks up and down the east coast of Florida he figured he'd better give people a reason to visit so he built resorts in St Augustine, Palm Beach and Key West.
The Keys extension never made money but it got a bunch of New Yorkers to Cuba and the Keys for winter and it supplied tropical fruit in good order to people in the northeast for which they must have been grateful.
Not all Casa Marina is vast single family dwellings, as witnessed by this apartment building:
You could see a pretty little cottage like this in many areas of Florida, not just here:
And I have been photographing this magnificent wall of symmetrical shapes for years and I still don't feel like I've cracked it. I'd probably get stopped for loitering before I figure out the most interesting angle but I'm still trying:
One day before I leave I am going to rent a golf cart and ride around with a big grin and a long line of cars forced to follow me. I've never driven one and I think its time to add the experience to my long list of vehicles driven.
A house with a pool...dream on little Rusty.
And while I was pondering life and reflections he stepped smartly out of the frame as usual leaving me in the mirror alone.