Saturday, December 1, 2012

Bicycle Pictures

A series of photos showing cycling in Key West in November, frost free, snow free and in short sleeves. Beat that wherever you are! These pictures were inspired in part by a comment from Bob in Montana who wrote in noting he faced the prospect of spending a night in a snowdrift if he lost control of his vehicle. Things are different in the Southernmost City.

It doesn't take much to amuse me when I'm out and about looking at what's going on around town. I took a bunch of pictures on Caroline Street with no particular purpose in mind except that I was sitting on the sidewalk and noticed lots of activity. So I took pictures.

Finishing up with a skateboarder, one of those appliances that came along too late to be useful for me, but which still seem able to provide exceptional mobility for those capable of balancing on them properly. In my advancing years I'd prefer a proper bicycle any day of the week.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Southern Color

I read that winter is closing in Up North and by all accounts it seems we face the prospect of a more severe cold season this year than in years past. Snow is falling, skies are gray and more of the same is predicted for the weeks ahead. Not in Key West, where it is an endless summer. And for that I am grateful. Seasons are appreciated by people other than me. Here's a reminder why:

Big Pine Color

I like the way these mobile homes get the color treatment on Big Pine Key.

I lived for years on boats, a way of living the is frequently viewed with (misplaced) romanticism. I liken it to life in a trailer which gives the romantics pause.

That's because living in a mobile home or the like is viewed with disdain in this country. To me it seems like efficient living.

Put a coconut palm up, paint the house a bright shade of tropical and call it good. Looks good to me.
There is always the chaotic pack rat in an neighborhood ready to live down to the stereotype. And if you've got a nice vintage BMW rusting in your yard for God's sake get on with it and get it running, or give to someone (not me!) who can and will get it on the road.

The Avenues, Stock Island

The Monroe County Commission last week took some steps to move forward the process of gentrification of the waterfront on Stock Island. Big plans are in the works for the commercial waterfront tbthat will soon enough become home to recreational marina dockage with suitable support services ashore. The nature of the southern shore on the island will change, little by little and the modest homes built here for the Key West workforce will undoubtedly face changes in their own right.
The Avenues is one area of concentrated residential building, a dozen streets laid parallel on the western side of the island, a place where homes sit cheek by jowl on small lots, a mixture of mobile homes and houses set down in neat rows. I took Cheyenne by for a walk and enjoyed a cool Fall afternoon under the sun.
Srock Island is just east of the Big Tourist Kahuna called Key West and has for all recorded history played second fiddle to the seat of Monroe County. Stock Island is not a city and is unincorporated though that too may change in a few years if a referendum can be organized. Key West wants to add wealthy Key Haven, Mile Marker 5, to the tax rolls. However working class south Stock Island is another matter.
Stock Island, Mile Marker 4, got its name from the practice of keeping cows on the hoof here for use by the Key West population as needed. The unfortunate bovine victims were taken to Rest Beach alive, killed and dismemebered there and served on plates to the city residents. key West has restrictions on boat and trailer parking that would be hard to enforce in these parts. I am convinced city regulations as much as city taxes will prevent incorporation.
Stock Island's role in support of Key West remains today except that these are the homes of people who work in the city and commute from these more affordable homes.
In the middle of the afternoon this is a peaceful spot to walk your dog as everyone else is away at work. Another reason to enjoy working nights!
During the boom years some of the larger more solid homes commanded prices close to half a million dollars which seems astonishing now.
Stock Island may not be a city but it is urban. Around the corner on the streets and avenues to the east there are all sorts of businesses, once again of a type that couldn't make it on the expensive, densely populated soil of Key West. This is where body shops, carpenters welders and plumbers keep their offices and supplies.
This is not an area of great beauty and I've remarked previously on my surprise at how only wealthy neighborhoods get greenery. It's as though the wealthier you are the more trees your street gets, which seems weird to me.
And those few bushes that do exist often support a threat as well.

My Labrador ignored the frenzied barking and kept plodding stolidly along as usual. She found a pile of bread crumbs in the street. An indignant homeowner stepped out a d said "I didn't know dogs ate bread," which if true labels her as a prime idiot. What she actually meant was she put the bread out for the birds. There were no birds in the street when we approached but I guess the sight of a fat Labrador eating avian scraps was too much. We kept going and I even managed to tear Cheyenne away from the found deliciousness.
I saw this line of roofs, these wires all laid out geometrically and I wondered why there are no trees here. And no sidewalks either. City services wouldn't be all bad though I don't suppose the residents will ever know.
Funny place the avenue but it was fun finding it cool enough to walk in the noonday sun at last. It's been a long summer.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

People On Whitehead

I was people watching again downtown, this time while sitting n front of the county courthouse, that would be the building that marks Mile Zero on US Highway One.

The woman on the bicycle looked happy if determined. The guy hauling the guitar on his back looked like Opie from "Sons of Anarchy".
The homeless types hunched over the picnic tables looked like... fixtures. Oh well, I get my turn at those tables from time to time as well.

Just another great day South of Reality.

Everglades Rod And Gun Club

Imagine it is the end of the Civil War and you are some fat cat from Up North with a bank full of carpet bagging dollars and you want some winter sunshine with hunting and fishing to keep you amused. You would have packed your bags and taken a train south followed by a boat ride from Fort Myers up a certain river to this place:
The Rod and Gun Club was only accessible by water at the time because south Florida was a bug filled boggy wasteland no good to man nor beast in those far off days before cheap air conditioning made South Florida accessible to the masses. When that happened big block condos sprang up everywhere ignoring any requirements of cross ventilation or shade. The Rod and Gun Club is from another era, a more expensive if genteel era designed before the condo was dreamed up.
I wasn't there to spend the night just to have lunch in passing and I was determined to enjoy the experience no matter how bitchy and mean the harried waitress became. Which was just as well as she had no great desire to welcome me to the outdoor dining area overlooking the river.
The waitress told to order quickly as she had a party of ten coming in soon and on that cheerless note I asked for a fried fish Reuben which sounded vaguely interesting. It turned out to be more odd than interesting. The bread was toasted dry, the fish was okay as it should be but the Reuben was just coleslaw served between the bread instead of as a side dish. Whatever...
The expensive lunch did the job even though the coffee never got refilled and the bill came to something extortionate like fifteen dollars or more and there was nothing remotely like gracious 19th century living about the whole transaction...granted it was lunch but I wonder what dinner indoors would be like.
There was a devastating fire in February 1969 that wrecked much of the place as recorded on the walls of the hallway.
The interior of the club is lovely, all wood and souvenirs and it feels like the sort of place where men would gather like walruses and snort and grumble about the state of the world. Check it out:
And in the middle of all this luxurious living I finally got to see my first Florida panther, albeit somewhat immobile:


Despite the shortcomings it's a pretty spot worth the visit and consider how welcome must have been the bright sun and greenery to hunters from the cold wastelands Up North days away by the fastest transport then available.
Even today when the place is just half an hour from the bright lights of Naples it looks pretty good to me. You might find it looks pretty good too come February on those cold long nights.

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