Saturday, July 2, 2016

From The Archives

This essay from December 14th 2012 a happy memory of just another banal walk with Cheyenne, my companion by then of three full years.

Early Morning Stroll

It turns out Chrysler Sebrings built in the early part of this century had quite a few engine parts made of plastic where they should have been made of metal according to my wife's mechanic. Thus as she has now gone over a hundred thousand miles, it happens that bits of plastic fail from time. Not that they aren't easy to replace and the plastic parts so far haven't killed the car dead when they failed so we had time to take the car in and get it fixed. Even here in Key West parts are shipped overnight and because we work opposite shifts it's easy to drop each other off while the car gets worked on. The upshot of all this shuffling is Cheyenne and I dropped the wife off early yesterday and we took off for an early walk in the Casa Marina neighborhood while the wife's convertible got a new engine cooling part made of plastic installed under the hood.
I tend to forget that pink Crocs surprise some people when they see me walking Cheyenne but I'll tell you what, I never fail to be surprised when I see some bloke passing me pounding pedals dressed in a tight fitting banana skin. Or a pair of serious minded joggers dressed for the occasion, also pounding past me as they run, serious minded like a couple of Politburo members planning a putsch. I wonder why people come to Key West and can't get into the proper Key West slouch.
And because I was stumbling slowly behind my dog I got to notice these bizarre leaves, parked in a flowered in front of the coral house on Reynolds Street.
I liked the high wall and intimidating sign protecting the resort guests for the creeps and freak outside the walls. They made me feel quite unwanted with their threats of insecurity and inaccessibility. So I stayed out side with hoi polloi and felt quite secure with no security patrols at all.
Clearly there is a lower class of person in e neighborhood as I stumbled across some apparently well worn female underwear in the street. The well disposed among us might imagine they fell from a laundry basket though I feel obliged to point out there are no public laundries nearby. I fear hanky panty was abroad on Seminole Street last night. My shoe is in the lower corner of the frame purely by accident.
I am not one for adding stickers to my motorcycle but when I spotted a Grateful Dead sticker on this otherwise innocuous scooter I felt I should tell Cheyenne about my old VW van, a vehicle I owned in the people's republic of Santa Cruz many years ago in California. It was covered with similar stickers that refused to yield to my razor blade and everywhere I went, especially at gas stations where hitch hikers congregated, I was approached by dubious characters reeking of cannabis asking me where the next gig was. I went to see the Grateful Dead once at Berkeley's Greek arena but the evening was not a success. The music bored me and the woman I was with was not galvanized as I had been led to believe she might be, and I decided that I liked camping in my funky van though the musical associations were just a nuisance, and made every fill-up an adventure.
It really was a lovely morning in Key West even though it was muggy and hot as we waited for a non existent cold front to materialize and blow away the dampness in the air. Cheyenne got tired but she wanted to press on and. Enjoy as much of the city's she could so I put her back in the car ad drove her across the Fleming Street by the library and from there we took off through the shadow and light of the leafy cross streets.

I liked this weird door, worn and beaten up yet still sporting a flashy flamingo panel on top while exhibiting an unpainted temporary/permanent repair at the bottom.
These old style shutters remind me of the ones we had on my childhood home in Italy giving William Street a slightly Mediterranean look.
By the time we got home it was laundry day at the manse so I got down to work...

...while Cheyenne helped. Luckily I have been properly trained in how to hang clothes to dry so Cheyenne's non cooperation didn't hold me up to much.
After all a girl needs her beauty sleep after a long walk, a large breakfast and a quick shower to make sure she smells nice after all that hiking. The wife's car is repaired, a cool six hundred bucks but Oily said the plastic parts crumbled in his hand when he went to replace them and now my wife has a car heater again for when temperatures drop below seventy degrees, and the engine as a secure cooling system for when temperatures go above seventy degrees, which is all the time in the engine block. Meanwhile my air cooled motorcycle head is being sent out for new valves and guides. Sigh, it never stops with machinery. Engines should take a leaf out of Cheyenne's book and take a nap from time to time. It does a body good.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Up The Hill On Petronia

An Italianate villa on Petronia just to remind us that architecture in Key West is as varied as anything.
I am not sure if Rusty has been holding out on me and can actually read.
Petronia Street looking west toward Duval.
If you look hard this place on the corner of Center Street isn't really that attractive but, aside from the closed off door-to-nowhere which gives it a slight air of mystery the greenery makes all pedestrian places look good.
Include a dog in your day to make it better if you ask me. Solares Hill climbed we caught our breaths 16 feet above sea level, Rusty and I. This church puts me in mind of the Caribbean not surprisingly.
Key West in a nutshell; modest home and two wheelers, powered and pedal. All you need:
Same again at the bottom of the hill on Elizabeth Street.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Trees Of Key West

I keep reading in the newspaper's complaint column, the Citizen's Voice, how the city's tree commission is failing to protect large trees from being cut down. So I tried walking around looking up in the street. 
Clearly there must be something going on as I have seen parking lots  in New Town stripped of trees and surely complaints must be generated by some activity, justified or not.
I am not much good at doing stuff like pruning, even though I have been taught the basic principles, and the sound reasons for pruning trees. I just don't like cutting them. I positively loathe cutting trees down, even nuisance ones so I am in no position to take sides in this argument.
I have to confess that it was because I was reading about all the tree cutting that supposedly goes on that I thought it might be an idea to take the time to rejoice in the presence of trees that are flourishing.
And in between I caught a picture of the stone wall that so much reminds me of weathered skulls on Amelia at Windsor.
Trees make Key West what it is today but it wasn't always so. Before the advent of regular water supplies brought to the city by Navy pipeline in 1942, water was not so abundant it could be wasted on decoration like this:
Check out this picture of what should be James Street according to the state archives. I rather prefer modern Key West filled with greenery and canopies. Good old days they may have been but they were also rather stark on the streets.
A poinciana in full bloom. Known in Latin according to a long time resident as  delonix regia, hence the occasionally used title "royal" in English. Perhaps there is a delonix somewhere that is less regal.


I enjoyed the shadows  playing on the walls during a setting sun, but then I found a banana tree lined up with a coconut palm and with the magic of perspective I joined them up.
It would be a shame if all trees really were being cut. I hope not.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

On The Waterfront

Rusty and I were limin' on the waterfront together...
 I'm not sure about this historical definition for limin' but it will do as well as anything:
1) The word is associated with sitting under a lime tree, or having nothing more demanding to do than squeezing limes. It is also thought to originate from "limey", a slang term meaning a British serviceman during World War II (noted for hanging around bars and drinking).
2) During long voyages at sea, sailors would suffer from a disease known as Scurvy which was caused from a lack of Vitamin C. British soldiers would counteract this by taking limes on board and sucking them periodically. For this, they came to be known as "limeys". During WW2 when many limeys were stationed in Trinidad and Tobago, they would seek amusement from the local prostitutes (Green-Corner, Port-of-Spain was famous for this and there is more than one calypso sung about it eg. Jean and Dinah - Sparrow). The locals would see the limeys hanging out and say that they were "liming", hence, liming became a verb which means to hang out (source: English teacher in Hillview College, Trinidad-and_Tobago early 90's).
The hanging out came to an abrupt halt when this dude and his dog came into view. Rusty suddenly straightened up and started staring, a posture I have come to associate with the potential for danger, in his view, danger to the stray dog he used to be.
There was of course no danger for my formerly stray dog, now respectably owned and oh-so-adorable (there are lots of adorable dogs ready to be adopted and trained for real life) and he managed to do a respectable job of playing with a dog larger than himself. That's a mark of progress for a dog that four months ago was afraid of his own shadow.
 Some people have the art of limin' down to a science:
Others don't get it at all as they improve themselves through exercise and copious draughts of fresh sea air:
 Rusty followed my cue and took to limin' like a champ:

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Stock Island

Industrial Art on the island of stock, the island through which all traffic to and from Key West drives, home to worker  housing, light industry, warehouses and body shops.
The Rusty Anchor used to be the home away from home of people who grew up around here, the Conchs, natives of key West.  
It's closed but it';s sign is still there and there are rumors from time to time that some new entrepreneur may be angling to reopen it. I dare say Roostica has taken over as the preeminent Conch eatery on Stock Island and I for one prefer it. But this was a piece of history that closed. Too bad.
"Pirates Paradise."  People do love their Key West pirates and you will find them everywhere except in the history books. Key West has actually been home to respectability and hard work far more often throughout it's past than modern tourist literature would have you believe.  For the longest time it was the most prosperous city in Florida, thanks to shipping and trade.
Stock Island is being bought up be developers and for as long as I can remember rumblings of imminent change are always swirling around in the atmosphere. Aside from some shuffling around in the world of marinas two of which are planning hospitality expansion, the rest of the island pretty much stays the same.
It's unincorporated, a part of Monroe County, only College Road to the north is actually in the city of Key West. Sidewalks are few, puddles, trash and unkempt grass are the order of the day across much of the island. Stock Island generates loyalty as it is the holdout for truly affordable, if not always pleasant housing close to key West.
 There are expensive houses here on small lots bounded by trailers of all sorts of decrepit vintage.
 Urban planning is a lost art on this island where they used to graze cows which would be shipped to Rest Beach from time to time and there slaughtered to supply the city of 12,000 inhabitants that was Key West in the 19th century. 
On my gloomy days Stock Island seems to fill that same quota, providing brawn to clean hotels, maintain services and sell food. In the morning you will see fleets of people cycling into Key West alongside the impressive lines of workers displaced by high rents to the outer islands of the Lower Keys. All of them, on the street and on the sidewalks flow into Key West to do the  work that won't pay the astronomical rents in the city. Housekeepers and servers that keep tourist infrastructure going live here:
Development plans are always in the air and sometimes in the newspaper. It is counter intuitive when the city keeps proclaiming piously that affordable housing is the biggest challenge. These trailers are vaguely affordable though they too are under threat.
Chickens run loose here, far from the tourist clap trap about them being imported romantically from Cuba. Chicken fighting has long been a  source of gambling and it still goes on, though more or less in secret as torturing birds is considered a bad thing and is thus illegal. Fights have been reported for ever in the Lower Keys but I don't think visitors would like to know why youngsters on mopeds can sometimes been seen scooping up roosters and whisking them away to be mutilated and set to fight.
There are more expensive homes here and decent apartments along side the trailers.  Rusty, like Cheyenne before him, enjoys this place filled as it is with smells, some a lot less salubrious than others.
Cheyenne who died of ripe old age four short months ago feels like she has been gone forever. I miss her even as Rusty grows into a great dog in my life. She loved poking around Stock Island and would walk herself into a coma exploring here: 
Cars parked apparently with no hope of movement as they lack even basic license plates:
 Modern stilt homes:
Old fashioned mobile homes, immobilized by the passage of time: 
Cars are everywhere: 
 And scooters too:
Rusty walked an hour and a half under a blazing sun which produced 90 degree temperatures during breakfast time. My wife was coming to pick us up so I improvised a drinking bowl from a trash can and put water in a plastic bag at a public faucet and he lapped it up:
Dogs make the walk worthwhile.