Monday, August 8, 2016

Summer's Heat

The sign says Mangoes restaurant at 700 Duval will be back this fall after some massive renovations. 
I caught Rusty crossing the by-now-crusty rainbow pedestrian walkways in front of the Bourbon. They looked pretty when new. Now they look worn out and nasty; $4,000 not well spent.
It has been hot lately, and I've asked around and got lots of agreement though I don't know if I am feeling less heat tolerant than usual or if it really is hotter than one might expect.
It usually stays stifling until late October so we are in the middle of the hot season right now and there is lots more to come.
Duval denizens unable to cope:
Seeking refreshment on the water:
A cel phone and a dark booth can be enough to escape the heat, maybe:
I wondered how Cuban seeds could still be 100% 60 years after the embargo was imposed but who knows. Below we see the classic Key West station wagon:
"No Dogs Allowed"  Wot? Not even Rusty?! Lucky I had no plans to do laundry on Center Street. 

A traffic jam. The scooter rider from out of town did not cut and thrust as I had expected him to.  He sat patiently as though he were driving his SUV.  I walked past the delay.
This guy had no dog attached so I guess he was good to go, as frantic as he looked:
Rusty decided this shady spot was a good place to pause. It's hot enough even my little energizer bunny slows down considerably.
I wondered if there were enough signs explaining this is the Wicker Guest House.  Probably not. Vacation makes people lose all shred of self assurance or common sense sometimes.

As we stayed in the shade resting my furry friend and I I looked around and took a few pictures of Key West under a hot summer sun.

Some things defy easy explanation:
And home after a rest in the air conditioning saw Rusty sitting outside enjoying the heat once again. 
He came in through his private dog door only when he was good and ready.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Tarpon Belly Key

From July 30th 2014, a reprint of a fine adventure:

Robert was on a nostalgia  kick yesterday, so despite some setbacks we had a great time buzzing around the back country in our little boats, each meditating and ruminating as we sped across the water individually, talking when our paths reconnected on land. Robert and Salty Dog at 23mph crossing Cudjoe Bay: 
The stilt houses, typical of the shorelines around here. What you can't see is the massive influx of people in the Keys this week for the Great Lobster Kill today and tomorrow, known as mini season.
 Niles Channel Bridge arcing gracefully 40 feet above the water. I used to come out here quite often when I lived on Ramrod as this is a wide, deep, and direct path to Tarpon Belly Key.
Once under the bridge we turned west and aimed for the buildings which on land line Highway One. We had to get fuel...after a fashion. 
Robert had proposed  a pause in the proceedings to take lunch, I seconded the  motion so we stopped at The Wharf on Summerland Key for lunch.
The Wharf offers an organic menu of food and drink and while I stepped out and tried the tamales, well worth while, Robert took his default position and went with the cheeseburger, which seemed to hit the spot:
Salty Dog was perfectly behaved lounging in the shade with a giant bowl of iced water. We lounged, it was hot. Yes,. I know I enjoy heat but it was hot. Robert was in charge of navigation, only until I explained I used to do this trip quite a bit up Niles Channel. 
The bridge was looking good. I love that arch plus you get  some excellent sunrises from the top.
We resumed our separate paths running smoothly  across the dark blue waters. I have the more comfortable boat with a center console on my Dusky and  a wheel to steer by, while Robert was giving himself a Popeye arm as he put it working his tiller steering at speed. I took the time to meditate a bit as we drove in a long straight line up the channel and I started to wonder, as one does, why Homer called his seas "wine dark," a phrase that has become as famous as it is puzzling. I have never sailed a sea that I could have confused for a glass of wine but scholars have discussed this subject at some intricate length Lapham's Quarterly.
The image Homer hoped to conjure with his winelike sea greatly depended upon what wine meant to his audience. While the Greeks likely knew of white wine, most ancient wine was red, and in the Homeric epics, red wine is the only wine specifically described. Drunk at feasts, poured onto the earth in sacred rituals, or onto the ashes around funeral pyres, Homeric wine is often mélas, “dark,” or even “black,” a term with broad application, used of a brooding spirit, anger, death, ships, blood, night, and the sea. It is also eruthrós, meaning “red” or the tawny-red hue of bronze; and aíthops, “bright,” “gleaming,” a term also used of bronze and of smoke in firelight. While these terms notably have more to do with light, and the play of light, than with color proper, Homeric wine was clearly dark and red and would have appeared especially so when seen in the terracotta containers in which it was transported. “Winelike sea” cannot mean clear seawater, nor the white splash of sea foam, nor the pale color of a clear sea lapping the shallows of a sandy shore.
Enough of this existential rubbish, we arrived at Tarpon Belly Key, but this time from behind. I got to see part of this island (technically three islands as it is cut across by two canals) I had not seen before. I usually land on the west facing  pebbly beach but this time we draped our anchors over the horizontal cement bridge support still solid, still in place across the mouth of the easternmost channel. The interior of the middle island was as wooded as any trail I've walked in the Keys:
With a big smile Robert found the rusty remnants of an axle and an engine block of a truck used to shuttle supplies across Tarpon Belly when the island was operating as a shrimp farm decades ago. Robert knew a guy who once drove this:
Today is opening day of lobster mini season, a two day slaughter designed to allow recreational anglers a chance to score some Florida lobster before official commercial lobster season starts next month (and continues into the Spring). Commercial lobster season is a pain from a navigational point of view as lobster pot floats sprout like toadstools in all near shore waters and commercial trappers maneuver their boats like un-muffled tractors at all hours, backing and forthing to check their traps, but mini season is torture for local residents.
Mini season is a boost for local businesses so as much as residents moan its never going away but it attracts a huge proportion of yahoos, people who have forgotten any manners they may have had before they were lured here  by lobster. There are rules (no hunting in canals or near shore) and the body of the lobster must be at least three inches long and not a female carrying eggs. Astonishingly enough law enforcement find numerous violators. Mini season is chaos. I don't think their laundry lines enhanced Tarpon Belly, frankly.
Our side of the island was silent and empty as we strolled around in the appalling heat following frisky young Salty Dog on his explorations. Our anchorage was perfect as the current was flowing south out of the canal holding our boats away from the cement. 
Looking west, we crossed the bridge and walked on the easternmost island, a place rich with other memories for Robert.
"I last walked here 35 years ago" he had remarked as we landed. Now he eagerly led me through the undergrowth to another spot he hadn't seen since he was last here in his twenties with two buddies. We had fun, Robert said with a  twinkle in his eye as he told me about their exploits at a time when few people came and hung out here.
Yes we climbed the mountain of rock and gravel, we estimated it easily at 15 feet high, as high as the tallest point in key West, Solares Hill.  Above we see Robert descending, rather inelegantly like a skier on one ski, while I stayed on top in the rarefied atmosphere of the death zone because I discovered my Verizon phone got two bars here at the summit and I could send my wife in California an actual picture of the view across Tarpon Belly Key. 
You decide if the view was worth the effort. The Himalayas weren't in it. And there we see Fat Albert the blimp keeping an eye on things in the Florida Straits. I was slightly surprised I still had to look up and tjhat the blimp wasn't  flying at my eye level.
After I scrambled down, wishing someone made crampons for Crocs, I noticed I could still see fat Albert from our improvised dock. Honestly I think the view is slightly better from here. Which detracts nothing from our mountaineering achievement. Salty Dog went up and down twice, without I should note, the assistance of supplemental oxygen.
We dropped our mountaineering identities and got back in the boats. Robert did Important Things with the waterproof charts while I stared vacantly back at the island trying to discern, in vain, the location of the mountain amongst the foliage.
I am tempted to draw a discreet veil over the rest of yesterday's activities but I have to confess that at a point not too far from Robert's place my engine conked out. Again! Grr! We towed a bit and sometimes it ran for a bit so we planed a while too, so we got back to Robert's dock in good order if quite a  bit late.
We fiddled with it for a while in the appalling heat, and I left it ultimately at Robert's with plans maybe to give in and taker it to a rather good Yamaha mechanic I have used previously. "Something electrical" Robert opined, so we shall see.
I ended up  on Robert's power  cat getting a  ride home - again - but it was in all respects an excellent day of exploration. I barely got a nap before I had to go to work.  But that was another adventure.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Key West Details

I never cease to be amazed by how much using a camera forces me to notice things, not just see them. Colors shapes and details leap out at me as I stroll around Key West.
I imagine these days with the craze involving photographing imaginary Pokemon characters I am more invisible than ever with my dog and my iPhone.
Which leaves me free to admire details, and some times the big pictures as well.
To me the details of the city tell me more than the people who cross my path. Most people in Key West hide behind a uniform of casual clothes that express island laissez faire at best and social indifference at worst I suppose.
The buildings, the architectural details speak louder to me than clothing fashions or baseball caps.
I keep thinking there is nothing new in the city but there always is. Maybe just a big green leaf.

I saw these pomegranates and I was reminded of my tree on Ramrod Key, the one where somebody stole my first ripe fruit. I was glad to move out of that sourpuss neighborhood. I didn't steal these:

Key West: trees, houses and motorcycles. A perfect combination.
The old louvered windows, classic Florida architecture: