Saturday, November 16, 2013

Mind Altering Key West

Key West's blue laws have been repealed me so nowadays you can buy alcohol seven mornings a week at seven o'clock if you want to. The ban on Sunday morning sales was lifted after sustained protests that it was anachronistic to ban alcohol only for people lacking the means to drive five miles to buy a bottle on Stock Island. That such desperate behavior might be construed as signals of a potential problem went without saying. The problem was not being able to buy alcohol in a city dedicated to that proposition.

There is but a short time now before winter sets in Up North, and out of the snow drifts and iced in airports will come crowds of frozen people. It's another season like red leaves or icicles and it wouldn't be Key West if there weren't crowds of them shuffling up and down sidewalks whenever the temperature drops below 70.

My strategy is to adapt to circumstances, downtown when it's empty and hot in summer and in the back country when it's cool and pleasant in winter. Fall is the time to stock up on Cuban coffee without having to stand in line at the coffee shop as one does in winter. People think my job answering phones at the police department is tough, but I can't imagine standing all day selling strangers cups of coffee, but luckily some people think it is a fine way to earn a living doing it and they aren't allowed to behave as though they don't like people.

Cuban Coffee Queen has made a go of it and I find it surprising honestly, they have almost no seating, shoved to one side of a large empty lot on a town overflowing with coffee shops. I have absolutely no idea what makes a business work or not. Location and low overhead maybe, but lack of amenity has nothing to do with whether or not a business succeeds.

They make a decent sandwich at Cuban a Coffee Queen, though for me the difference between a Key West breakfast and a mainland breakfast might be fish versus meat. I like fish for breakfast but it's hard to find a nice plate of eggs and fish to start the day. What Cheyenne found in the picture below, doesn't bear thinking about but it was very very interesting to my dog. I hate seeing people drag their dogs away from interesting smells, it's like tearing the book out of your hand before you've finished the story. I think Cheyenne goes home more relaxed when she sets the pace for the walk, and has time to read all the interesting stories along the way.

I was reflecting on my meeting with Bohemian George and I wonder how he wil cope this winter in Prague, snowed in in Bohemia. I imagine wood lined beer cellars brightly lighted and everyone drinking tall mugs of golden Budweiser, which as I recall from my visit to Czech some 15 years ago tasted as beer should, not like the gnat's piss sold by the Belgians in the US. Then I imagine George stepping out into a Kafka stereotype world of shadows and snow and cold piercing wind, and I wonder why he does it when he has a perfectly nice house in Old Town.

Petronia Street is an interesting stretch of road through Bahama Village. It's narrow and lacks parking and all amenity for visitors. Yet it boasts several successful restaurants, some well known, the crepe place and Blue Heaven as well as a newly relocated Salsa Loca eatery. And others less well known, but a mean omelette place nevertheless:

Are you ready? Checking the billboard I wonder why these people feel they have to inspire fear all the time. I wish St Paul had left a few letters that inspired perhaps a little less misogyny and a little less fear. Fear of the dark makes people act very odd.

Then of course there are the day to day irritations of being human. I wonder if the hereafter is silent? Is that possible?

This mural inspired thoughts of eternity in me, which goes to show how off kilter my mind is. The living parrots in full color and the shadows as shades. One always seem to revert to the idea that any after life most likely has a nasty component to it. Are you ready? Me? Not bloody likely, there's plenty to worry about in this life never mind the next.

I took this next picture of Ashe Street at Olivia just because I liked how it looked. No deep thoughts.

And I keep bumping into these things. This one was getting worked about about pruning?

Key West is great place to sit and think. Sometimes just to sit.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Getting Around Key West

I was driving into Key West one morning when I saw this vehicle in front of me and it was clear to me that winter is upon us. Seasons are hard to see in Key West when you are used to obvious stuff like snow ice and leaves changing color and dropping off trees. Nothing like that happens around here, though temperatures do dip from tIme to time before they get back to the normal range of comfortably warm. So when winter hits Up North down here we know by virtue of all the out of state tags that start to clutter our streets.

I saw the clutter in the van and I figured its about time the Higgs Beach campers came back too, I suppose. It's not just the idle rich and hard saving vacationers that visit the Florida Keys in winter. Anyway that van was the seed that grew into this essay, a consideration of what makes for suitable wheels in a Key West. A Vespa sidecar perhaps?

It's not my cup of tea, a 150cc Vespa with a solo top speed around 55 on a good day, now with a hack reducing that to 45mph and awkward parking. Cute but no cigar.

An MP3 scooter perhaps? No longer imported they are built by the people that build Vespas. I rented a 250 version in Rome, where it was excellent for coping with cobbles and streetcar tracks. It had a top speed around 75 but aside from the initial expense it apparently eats brake pads thanks to its weight and is a very complicated and clever piece of machinery. Not good value for money in streetcar-free Key West.

I saw this venerable six volt VW Van, similar to one I owned for a few years in cool damp California, down to the Grateful Dead sticker. It was horrid in winter as cold and damp made starting it an iffy business unless you had a hill to roll down. The interior was great for camping and I took it more than once to Mexico and all round California, until I got tired of the starting issues. For Florida the lack of air conditioning and a cruising speed of maybe 55 would make it terrible for Key West as go-to-mainland car, and awkward to drive around town. No good, but cute and terribly nostalgic.

This orange thing is idiotic but people love their high gas consumption, noisy knobby tires and leaky cloth roofs. Ungainly for Key West's narrow lanes and thus not worth it.

I'd like to think this huge Nissan van came to town loaded with holidaymakers who promptly parked it and rented bicycles to get around town. It's about as big as a conch cottage, and less mobile.
In Key West it's best not to drive an exotic, and the list of "exotics" is pretty long. There are Nissan, GM, Ford, Toyota and Kia dealers. The nearest Honda shop is in Key Largo and all those high powered German machines go to Miami for work though I have heard some local mechanics can do some work on them. I stick close to home with my Ford...I liked this Cadillac, symbol of capitalist excess (I want the new CTS) sporting an illegal Communist souvenir from the Forbidden Isle. Florida only requires a license plate in the back making the front tag holder, if you have one, a good place for self expression.

Ah yes, the ultimate in Key West wheels, a bicycle, pedaled powerfully.

A thousand cc Kawasaki might do quite well, like this one parked at Key Line Square, if you can stand the modern squared off styling. However you could run most of your errands in first gear and pass most vehicles on the road. It's over powered, consumes too much, and around here where roads are flat and straight, it would be overkill. It might pull women, though, there is that.

A moped is good and sensible though one should lose the beer can before riding. Drinking and riding is not good nor sensible. It was probably dropped off by some intoxicated passerby, who mistook a scooter for a recycling bin.

Guest houses and hotels offer guests the use of free bikes, attesting to the popularity of pedaling in Key a West.

This woman who looks like a bush was painting her bicycle to make her machine distinctive. I wished I had stopped to talk to her, wondering if she knew of the late Captain Outrageous.

I am falling in love again with Three-in-One oil a simple true lubricant, easily applied and effective. WD 40 is not a true lubricant as it is designed to displace water, hence it's name. This bike could use some penetrating lubrication.

This one could dump the candelabra until next year's zombie bike ride. On the other hand just yesterday I saw a cyclist riding with a bloody stump of a foot strapped to the handlebars. It takes time for some people to dismantle their decorations.
Occasionally I get to see some two wheeled exotica in this town devoted to useful practical wheels. This Spanish Derbi scooter looks truly odd but goes like the clappers I'm told.

Check out the dude below on Duval Street. This is why some people argue cycling is the way to get around Key West.

Tourists on scooters have fun but their weaving antics and incessant horn tooting can get old for passersby.

Locals ride too, I barely caught these three young tear ways enjoying their home town on bikes. A great way to grow up in the 21st century. Parents in this town give their kids more freedom than most in fear filled America. To see them loose on their bikes reminds me of the best part of my youth, being free to roam.

A well organized bike can transport your worldly chattels at speed.

The body language in this next picture tells me they aren't intimate friends. And he seems...nervous? Poor boy.
Notice the freedom inherent in the lack of "safety" gear. Passive safety is not high on the list of local priorities.
It makes riding easy and convenient so more people ride. This behavior also is not approved on the mainland. It's the same rebellion that fills recycling bins with trash. Oh well, sigh!
Not locals, but very safe, they think.
Check these two safety equipped cyclists riding in traffic even though safety and good sense dictate riding on the ample...
... and smooth bike path that runs along Smathers Beach. These people are enjoying the best way of all to get around if you have the time to walk:
And a ninety minute tour isn't such a bad idea if you want to learn about this lovely little city and it's wheeled residents.

By the way, check out Cigar City Reflections and add Dennis to your daily list of Florida places to visit. I am waiting patiently for his first political entry.

Key West on Dwellable



Thursday, November 14, 2013

Seminole Photography By Julian Dimock 1910

I missed this exhibit on my most recent visit to the Ah Tah Thi Ki Seminole Museum but when we came up to check out the cultural jamboree we made time to see the photography exhibit before it left the Evergladees.
I had no idea who Julian Dimock was and even less of an idea when he was in Seminole Country taking pictures. It turns out it was in 1910 when the American Natural History Museum organized an expedition to unexplored Florida swamps to see what was what. It's hard to imagine a century ago these places were barely known except to Indians and descendants of runaway slaves who made a home for themselves here, as well as renegade whites making a living on the margins of this watery world.
Julian Dimock was the expedition photographer, 37 years old and a well known travel photographer. He took amazing pictures of the Seminoles, pictures that I could not do anything close to justice not least as they were under glass in a well lit exhibition space in the superb museum.
Dimock's pictures put me in mind of Clyde Butcher's modern landscapes frequently taken waist deep in the muck of the Everglades. Dimock and Butcher both celebrated the clouds of South Florida.
And the people. The Seminoles were rather wary of white people in their midst and Dimock ended up getting turfed out when they decided they had had enough of these weird explorers.
But the pictures were taken, and then developed under ice to keep the chemicals stable in the heat and humidity of the place.
A few years later Dimock tired of photography and with a collected of some 8400 to his name he quit and turned to other pursuits.

I'm glad we took the time to check these pictures out. An astonishing collection.