Monday, January 12, 2015

Worker Housing

 I  delivered my motorcycle to Stock Island to have Jiri replace a corroded brake caliper on the Bonneville. Salt air does that and I had missed riding the bike since the fault was discovered at its last service. The bots took their time getting here but I think Jiri has been distracted by his daughter's  grades... Life in the Keys!
After we dropped off the Triumph I parked the trailer and took Cheyenne for a walk through the worker housing lots of Key West's neighboring island.
Stock Island was so named because they used to keep the cows here that fed the twelve thousand residents of neighboring Key West. They shipped the cows to Rest Beach and slaughtered them there, far from the civilized corner of the island near Mallory Square. 
Nowadays Stock Island has got comfortable in its role as the provider of cheap housing for the workers who Key West supplied with manual labor. The laborers can be seen morning and evening cycling back and forth along North Roosevelt Boulevard, all dressed in the bright colors of chain restaurants and hotels. This is where they come to live:
I saw a couple of Muscovy ducks striding deliberately through the grass. I wonder if Key West could swap these silent dignified ducks for the flocks of unruly chickens that are palmed off on the city as a tourist attraction?
Alongside the worker housing Stock Island is home to the commercial fishing fleet that was pushed out of Key West, as well as the light industry that keeps a community going- welders, painters, auto body shops, carpenters, plumbers, construction companies and cranes all live on this island and are only seen in Key West to keep the well to do functioning. Oh and this is the closest campground to Key West, Boyd's which calls itself "Key West Campground." 
Other people on Stock Island make RVs their homes. Not all of these "vehicles" seem very able to move anymore.
 But this is where the working stiffs live, out of sight and not exactly coddled by the scenery here.
This isn't the tourist world that Key West's Old Town is, just four miles away, but there are some restaurants and three modern marinas with all facilities on the south side of the Island with a fourth on College Road.
Stock Island is a land of improvisation and adaptation like this rather clever stool conversion, used to keep a boat on its trailer at angle to drain the rain and prevent accumulation inside the boat. But Stock Island faces a very different  future.
Developers bought up large chunks of Stock Island, most of it in fact before the crash of 2008, and the newspaper was full of speculation about the transformation coming to this industrial landscape. The shortage of money has held back the speculation but recently the newspaper reported a hotel is planned for Stock Island, it's first and no doubt not its last. They shut down a Big Pine Trailer park to transfer the residence units to create the hotel. Any semblance of cheap living is going to be fading fast here.
People like to say that without cheap Stock Island housing Key West won't work, but I believe the future holds the prospect of dormitory housing and a transient workforce so the benefits of this lovely winter weather aren't wasted on the Lower Classes. I doubt this pharmaceutical palazzo was built here by the rapacious development family of Key West to serve minimum wage Haitians and Cubans and working class whites in their Stock Island trailers. You need a developer's vision to see where this sort of thing will lead.
 Anatole France got it right: "The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread."  
And Stock Island will treat everyone equally no doubt, as long as they can pay.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

New Town 2009


From the archives this view of New Town on an early walk with the new-to-me Cheyenne:


Fogarty At First

First Street with George Allen public housing across the street. Key West has quite a bit of public housing in this rather bland 1960s style scattered around town. It rather horrifies me in summer when I see open windows and no air conditioning. And across First Street lies Fogarty, heading east.
This street got badly flooded by Hurricane Wilma in 2005, and the high waters were a reminder why people originally kept Key West in what is now Old Town, the drier portion of the city closer to the original waterfront. This house looks like it has been closed for a while:
One saw in New Orleans the outer suburbs going underwater that same year as the levees broke, but their version of Old Town, the French Quarter and most of Faubourg Marigny stayed high and dry. There was often more sense in the habits of previous generations that we like to give them credit for. Which is an ungrammatical way of saying our ancestors were smart from bitter experience. For whatever reason people on this block of Fogarty seem to overflowing with stuff:
Though some people like to keep doors of some sort on their stuff in the car port:While others find the room to park a trailer off the street (on-street trailer parking is illegal in Key West) effectively creating a useful storage space:Hurricane shutters this time of year usually indicate snow birds though I thought several homes with them up appeared to be lived in. It seems rather dark and depressing to me, especially as metal shutters tend to bang and rattle in the slightest breeze, giving one the feeling one lives in an empty coffee can. i take mine down as soon as the danger has passed.
Cheyenne, oblivious to my ruminations, found Fogarty Street quite worth her while, seen here nearing Second Street.
Adirondack chairs set our ready for the cool of winter which has been slow coming this December:Wildlife I spotted from across the street stayed put quite a long time while eying the Labrador's oblivious antics. I'm guessing this is a mourning dove, which is a long shot thanks to my innate inability to identify flora or fauna with any hope of accuracy.A trim little home which I would be tempted to label as "sky blue" in color except obviously it is nothing like the blue sky in question:
A made up mailbox. I was tempted to put the flag up to get it out of the way but I'd probably forget to put it down and then the letter carrier would assume there was mail to be picked up and so...My favorite Keys colors, green greenery, white clouds, blue sky:Not a snow flake in sight though this palm was making quite a show of itself on Second Street.Houses surrounded by vegetation always appeal to me, which may be one reason I am so fond of my little tree house on Ramrod Key. This one does a nice job of camouflaging itself:The Bahama shutters leaning out from the house in the back ground are classic Keys style, as is the eminently practical bicycle in the foreground. A proper daily rider with basket for luggage.
I don't care much for the hoopla of Christmas with the shopping craziness and concomitant stress but I do enjoy the outdoor decorations integrated into the landscaping:This rooster and a few chickens were fenced into a yard like pets. I prefer Labradors myself.
I hope this was intended humorously, because that was how I took it:
And here endeth the brief tour of Fogarty between 1st and 2nd Streets. Classic Key West New Town.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Dry Tortugas Holiday

From Christmas Day 2009 this essay from our last camping trip to the Dry Tortugas, 70 miles west of Key West. Which is by way of a reminder that we should do it again I suppose. It's not cheap as the ferry is somewhere between $150 and $200 each, though the camping fee in the park is as reasonable as only a government service can be, a few dollars per tent site, first come first gets. One big obstacle to taking another camping trip arrived at our home just after this trip...dogs are not allowed on the ferry (though they are allowed on the island outside the fort, so bring your own boat).


Tortugas People

I saved these pictures from our Thanksgiving trip to Fort Jefferson. They had no place in other essays I wrote and today does not seem to be the day for much heavy commentary. Besides everybody is cloyingly sentimental about the holiday thing, so here is an antidote with not one picture that is Christmas related, I promise.


I like to think few enough people will even be reading blogs when they should be with their families, such that my pink crocs (my only footwear in the National Park) might pass unnoticed.This phallic object (below) is called a Parrot Rifle, after it's inventor I think. The rifling referred to makes the shell spin about it's axis as it flies through the air, a common refinement in modern weapons, but it spelled the end, paradoxically for brick walls just like those of Fort Jefferson.
It was cold in November, much more so than December which has more closely resembled summer. We huddled by the fire grate and wore long clothing.Of course summer reasserts itself eventually in the Keys.Sun, blue skies, and brick walls.The life of a Park Ranger is, I think, somewhat less glamorous than one might at first imagine.A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and a nice private beach. Except of course for the irritating photographer on top of the fort's walls.
I think this pensive figure was Sarah from Fort Lauderdale who bumped into our party for Thanksgiving. At the time I failed to recognize her, I just liked the picture.
I guess I was quite busy sneaking pictures of stick figures all round the fort.
This lot reminded me of nothing so much as those field trips we used to make as school children. They were actually day trippers off the ferries starting their organized tour of the fort:
This Key West woman was camping with her family and as they got ready to leave her child took a ride in the hand cart, waving goodbye to all that:
Later her kids were throwing themselves off the picnic tables and making their own fun, which is a skill more youngsters need to develop:On the beach I spotted parties of Japanese (Asian really) tourists doing inexplicably odd things. I had never previously seen women in ankle length dresses wearing snorkel gear and then posing for a photographer. Maybe they are gag holiday pictures to satisfy some Japanese (Asian?) fad?
Here was one more conventionally dressed for the beach but the pose looks bizarre, like something out of a Hollywood poster from the 30's. Talk about culture incomprehension; the American pose is barely visible at the bottom of the picture.
Here is a Park Ranger on top of the fort doing something, I know not what, more glamorous than taking out the trash:Jan was drinking coffee from his happy mug, a container covered with smiling flower faces. He posed to try and keep up. Any stray Japanese/Asian tourist watching us might have been culturally confused as we collapsed laughing after the pose was struck.This was Jan as he looks normally. We watched him cross the campground as we snarfed pancakes and wondered if he looked more like a cat burglar after an unsuccessful night, or a mobster returning from a hit.People checking the view. Lots of water out there, with whitecaps on a windy day. People from England call them, rather more picturesquely, "white horses" when the water gets all frothy:
In this next picture Carol was walking back to camp after doing her usual watching the sunrise from the top of the fort. Behind her you can see what I call "buffaloes" on the horizon. When the buffalo are running is when you stay put in your anchorage and wait for calmer weather to go sailing.
A quick look back at the beach on a cool windy day when towels become the equivalent of fluffy warm sweaters. What they were looking at so intently, I have no idea, unless it was a dried up old seashell. Tourists love those.Weather still cool:
Still cool and breezy unless you are a butch male of the species:More Park Ranger work. They nattered for a while poring over their all important list. Then they looked off into the middle distance, thoughtfully. Possibly world peace hung in the balance and I had no idea. I was just camping.This lot stood around on the swimming beach. I wondered what there is to be puzzled about when in your swimsuit on a beach designated for swimming. The woman with fins has the right idea, if you like swimming in rough waters.
Awww! I like dog pictures. Other people, inexplicably, like pictures of small noisy infants.
This next one just makes a child free man like me wish he had procreated and produced noisy, squalling, needy, versions of himself. That's me being sarcastic (not ironic please note, lest you get the two confused).And we close with Kathy glad to have made it back to Key West without puking.
It was a surprisingly smooth ride home from Fort Jefferson. 45 minutes after this picture was taken I was back at work barking orders at police officers over the radio. Camping in the rain sucks, but the memories of the sunny days, the majority of our days, are priceless.