Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Watching The World Go By

I sat myself down to give my hard walking dog a break. We chose a plastic chair in front of the former city hall at Angela Street. More precisely I occupied a resting spot generally used by the firefighters of Station 2 which is a decaying fire station still housed in the mouldy husk of the city hall building. A new fire station is to be built in the new parking building that is supposed to be rising, Phoenix-like, in the construction site next door.

As we sat and watched the passersby I have a tendency to think, and indeed owing to I know not what, I have a tendency to over think. And in this town when one sits and thinks there is much upon which to cogitate! My dog compensates by not thinking too much while resting. Cheyenne is properly measured in all things.

The newspaper ran editorial recently on the subject of noise. Most of the editorial is not ground breaking, pointing out that "this is a small island" (no really?) and airplanes fly overhead, without asking why the commercial runway is oriented right over the city, and on the ground lots of noise is necessary to permit the wheels of commerce to turn, without explaining exactly why. Then the irritated author of the leader column takes issue not with leaf blowers, but with scooters with damaged or altered mufflers. Clearly the author is in the habit of strolling Flagler early in the day and wage slaves making their way to one of their many jobs is irritating this august personage. So even as the city commission turns to making revisions of the noise ordinance the newspaper wants to see scooters stopped and checked for muffler violations. Who I wonder is qualified to say which mufflers are authorized for use on say, a Yamaha Zuma? Ah, but that is just a detail and personages do not deal in details.

I am an avid rider of motorcycles and scooters of course, but I am not an avid customizer and I dislike noise, so I am no defender of loud mufflers. I also resent noisy mufflers when they used to support a claim that "loud mufflers save lives." Training and paying attention saves lives if you ask me and making noise just gets people like me and the author of the Citizen's editorial all riled up. The difference between me and the newspaper is that they are important and I have no doubt when the question of noise comes up it won't be loud music or leaf blowers but suppression of "bees in beer cans" which will become the priority.

Noise is one of the issues that strikes newcomers to the city and as sensible as city residence might be the fear of noisy neighbors fills me with dread. It takes special training to learn how to live in a tight knot community like Key West. And most people who move to Old Town have no idea how to live and be civil in each other's pockets when your million dollar home is only offset by eighteen inches from your neighbor's grossly overpriced shack.

If your neighbor has a short term rental license your home may be next door to party central. Eighteen inches away. Apparently the Citizen editorial author does not suffer from these problems as it's "bees in a beer can" that need immediate attention. Whatever, I suppose it can't hurt, unless the owners can't afford to repair them but hey, scooter riders are just out having fun of course!

The other page in the paper that I greatly enjoy is the Citizen's Voice, a column of anonymous contributions that regularly irritates the people in charge who call on the paper to abolish the people's voice. Despite many unwelcome changes at the paper, abolishing letters for instance, the voice holds out. In the same edition of the paper the first comment complains of noisy leaf blowers, while the second complains of slow drivers in the left lane (my pet peeve!) Key West Diary: For Pity's Sake! The third comment attacks Key West PD for not catching a notorious prowler plaguing homes around the cemetery, all standard fare for the Citizen's Voice.

Rental scooters are limited to 29mph as state law limits "mopeds" to thirty on flat ground so they lack the kind of get up and go that modern traffic sometimes calls for. They are properly mufflered but renters do like to beep their blessed horns as they express they joy at being on vacation in winter sunshine on a toy scooter in a town devoted to play.

I do find it massively annoying when locals whinge about "having to go to work" and I try not to do it because after all no tourists means no money, at some level we all understand that, but Good God Almighty, do you suppose tourists could cut us done slack dimply because they don't have to be anywhere? Nah, not a bit of it. It becomes something of an antagonistic relationship which is disappointing considering how much pleasure everyone seeks to mine from this small rock.

A lot of the comments lately have been busy attacking a city commissioner. I don't know Tony Yaniz nor do I know what to think. He gets stuck with a variety of comments, some praising him extravagantly for being the last bastion defending the people while others excoriate home for being a public idiot. The only sensible conclusion us that he is somewhere in the middle and pissing off people at either end of the spectrum is frequently a sign that a leader is charting a middle course. These days though everyone is polarized at all levels the middle of the road is usually seen as a bad place for a politician to be.

Then another city commissioner, a sensible thoughtful voice usually, has been the subject of a complaint that she built a fishpond without a permit. It's lawyers drawn at fifty paces now Commissioner's koi pond, garage draw complaint | KeysNews.com and the commissioner pointed out rather tersely that neighbor disputes can afflict anyone. Ah yes, life in paradise!

Happily the fire truck returned from a mission and we had to yield our place in the sun to their proper owners. Thinking had to cease for a while as we resumed walking.

There's a new food truck at Duval and Angela so I checked the menu: burritos tacos and salads. Where have I seen that before? Food trucks are popular they say, though in a Key a West there are three now and none if them is a truck in any mobile sense of the word. Though why should they be in a small noisy island where everyone loves to get along?

Monday, February 10, 2014


A couple of Sundays each month the Monroe Coubty Sheriff's Office opens the Farm to the public and kids in particular get to meet animals they'd never otherwise see in these limited, agriculture-free islands. This isn't a farm in the agricultural sense, rather it's a refuge for abused and abandoned animals, exotics and not.

It's also a refuge for people who have gone off the rails, trusty prisoners get to work here beneath the Jail at the Sheriff's headquarters:

The range of animals is impressive, though not all of them come out to show themselves off on demand.


...Wendell the Vietnamese pot bellied...


Giant land tortoises inside...

...and out.

Silky soft rabbits...

...and mice.

The rats even look cute but their antics attempting yo escape their cage take on new meaning when...

...you learn they are kept as food for snakes in the Farm.

A Burmese Python looks sadly trapped but these snakes are let loose in the Everglades by stupid owners who have unleashed a killing machine without predators.

Better here than out there wrecking the Everglades ecology.

These Patagonian Cavies look like small wombats, when you can see them. My wife says they were dropped off by a family that had to move north to an inhospitable climate and they pay to keep them here in a luxury pad:

Some animals are standard issue North American breeds, kept in captivity, abused and rescued.

And there is people watching too.

A Lemur.

And there are birds too. Imagine seeing this lot if you are a kid raised in a fishing town with no fields or crops or farms.


All located under the Jail building which like most new buildings in the Keys is built on stilts.

It is a good life for all concerned but there's work to be done.


Nikki was not the least bit friendly to me, poor bugger.

This poor horse was starved and blinded by some bastard near Homestead. The Dade Sheriff had no idea whatnot do with it when they raided the property and the former Monroe Sheriff Rick Roth offered the starving animal a home. And here she still is, doing fine thanks.

Jeanne Sellander's job is to look after the animals, train the prisoners to look after them and teach the public about animal husbandry and basic decency toward animals.

My last visit was in 2010 when there were done of the same and some different and the alligators were showing themselves: Key West Diary: Animal Farm


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Spry Cheyenne

I sat up in bed wakened from a deep sleep

and it was five o'clock in the morning.

Only one thing to do;

Go for a


Medium-old city hall wrecked by hurricane Wilma.

Due to be demolished sometime soon.

Named for a long serving city clerk.

Lost, like the building to history.

The tricycle creaked past before I got my camera together.

Cheyenne loping alongside looked cute.

Well bugger.

This one came out better in the end.

Someone left the gate open behind the San Carlos.

Danger Will Robinson!

Though Will Robinson had other dangers on his mind.

I discovered these beauties cost eighteen dollars a day to rent.

I guess inflation creeps up as I thought they were half that.


Beginning of day.
End of walk.


Saturday, February 8, 2014

Kiki's Sandbar

I have missed the old Parrotdise Restaurant on Little Torch Key since it closed abruptly and under something of a cloud, a question of closing wages I believe. It was never any great shakes in terms of cuisine but it was reliable, the bar was always popular and to me it represented the best of simple earthy Keys cuisine without concessions to tourist images of the Keys. It had great views across the channel and I enjoyed sitting at the window looking at the water and taking out of town guests for the same.

The Landrover on the rocks is still there as is the motorcycle parking but the new owners have built a tiki hut arrangement over the entrance stairs expanding the seating options to the great outdoors. Which may be a great idea, but as we shall see the kitchen is having trouble keeping up with indoor seated diners... The bar is also still there and popular it seems:

The window tables are now raised of which seating position on a high stool I am not a fan. They were all occupied so we took perforce an inside row table which was fine. The service was good to start with cheerful but not intrusive severs and prompt delivery of drinks. I miss the old draft beer selection which included Guinness and Smithwicks but they do have draught and bottled craft beers along with wines. Oddly the beers are quite reasonable while the wines seem quite pricey.

The Citizen ran an article on the place last month and judging from that future seems promising: Location, location, location | KeysNews.com however we had an inordinate wait for our food. My wife and I split a cheese and chorizo fondue appetizer which arrived promptly enough and was as delicious as it sounded served in a crock pot to keep the contents hot and molten. Then we waited and waited and of our main courses there was no sign. We had plenty to talk about with Robert and Dolly so the time passed but I was well into my second beer before the good showed up. I had a Funky Buddha Brewery Floridian white beer first, which was perfect but they ran out and I got the last one. It was a bit of a struggle to find a non hoppy and thus bitter alternative but I expect the Floridian will be back in full keg next time.

When it arrived our shared main course was about as perfectly cooked a piece of meat as I've had. I usually order medium well as I don't like bloody wobbly meat on my plate, and I live with the consequences. This steak cooked outside and pink inside full of flavor, and the sweet potato purée was a great accompaniment.

Robert's sandwich kept him quiet and he shared some fries with my wife who liked them as much as he did. Dolly as I recall had a salad with shrimp. Aside from the wait the kitchen was brilliant.

Like I said the service was just right and our server stepped in and offered free pudding and saved the evening. We had two brownies, excellent of course...

...and I had a surprisingly good berry tart. Even my wife remarked on it and she likes chocolate flavored desserts. They also offer Key Lime Pie of course, but I was reluctant. Parrotdise had the best, tartest, most perfect Key Lime Pie in the Lower Keys, made I was told by a local resident, and I was not ready to try anything less at this particular location. Now I'm thinking they may have that under control too!

I'm glad this place is here, Parrotdise may not be back but I'm encouraged to think this may be better. When I get used to those damned high chairs...

Key West Diary: Parrotdise, a bit of history.