Monday, October 24, 2016

Zombie Bike Ride

The Zombie Bike Ride had its first appearance in 2009 and organizers say 70 people participated. By now it is arguably the most popular event at Fantasy Fest, and organizers suggest possibly 8,000 or more people take the "leisurely ride" into Old Town Key West.
The event used to start on Stock Island at the bike shop called Recycle which invented the ride and still sponsors it. This year the start was moved to Pines Park and the East Martello Tower on South Roosevelt, shortening the "leisurely ride" and also avoiding a massive traffic snarl at the entrance to Key West. 
I made my way to the East Martello Tower area by approaching along South Roosevelt as traffic was a mess already in the other direction where the four lane street was closed.  Fred and Chelsea flagged me down so of course I took their picture:
It was a huge crowd enjoying the sunshine and cool fresh north wind - perfect conditions for a slow intoxicated ride with 8,000 of your favorite living dead neighbors.
The great thing about the Zombie Bike Ride is that it really is family friendly in that it's about zombies and costumes not about nudity. And yes, people are drinking alcohol, not an activity normally associated with the term "family friendly" but this as peaceable a gathering of people as you can imagine. The Zombie Bike Ride is about being silly and having fun which makes it enormously appealing in a week that is usually considered to be adult only in Key West.
It was an almost Druidical gathering in the Pines Park on South Roosevelt, followers of some obscure cult of the bicycle, or blood, or torn clothing:

There was one political sign I noticed though the the owner of the sign chose to step out of the picture.
 Some body paint got quite elaborate.
 The mood is totally festive and fun.

Some come to ride and some come to drink and ride and some come to wear a costume and ride. Your choice! Mix and match.
Costumes can be elaborate or not. I like silly animal heads:

 Some Zombies smile for the camera...
Some less so.
 Some Zombies even have the faculties to use their phones....
The ride in to town looked glorious, but I had to go to work so I got out while the going was good before the six o'clock start of the ride, which was coincidentally when I had to be ready to work in the dispatch center at the police department.
It has become a family spectacle too, everyone hanging out having a sunny picnic and enjoying the coconut palms on the Bridle Path. I really like this picture, small town Key West having innocent fun:
We got a 911 call later in the evening, a report of a cycling Zombie catapulting himself over the seawall into the ocean. My colleague got a breathless 911 call announcing: "We need help! There's a Zombie in the water!" and in the background Nick could hear someone shouting "Man overboard! Man overboard!" I sent an officer and Shannon sent an ambulance and a fire truck as the seawall is quite high above the water and a ladder could be useful. Happily no harm was done and the wet Zombie was safely reunited with his friends on dry land. We got to have a  laugh when we heard the outcome and were grateful to the Zombie Bike Ride for a moment of good cheer on what promised to be a busy and crowded night. I really do like this event.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Decorated Key West

When it  comes  to the last  week in October Halloween vies for attention against the noisy nudie crowd that comes to town for Fantasy Fest. Halloween comes across not as creepy and scary  but as wholesome family affair. 
 Unless that is you want to wear a tutu and not shave your beard for Halloween:
It's funny inasmuch as  Key West's landscape and architecture lend themselves perfectly to a celebration of the dead, and a display of the macabre.

And  then you see some muscular dude hauling clothing around and you assume its costumes. No, it's nothing that interesting. Just clothes, like anyone might carry around for any banal reason. No tutus to see here.
And then if Halloween and Fantasy Fest aren't enough there are hidden dangers in full sight on the sidewalk. Use this discarded stove and DIE! Wow. Hugs and kisses...
 You'd think these buildings could use some Halloween decorations, but no such luck:
 Oh and then there's the cemetery always good for Halloween imagery.
It's a place where people bury their dead family members, no more, no less.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

West Summerland Sunrise

I cannot be sure how it happened but I was there as the sun came up in a burst of red and orange and yellow under  perfect dark blue dome.
Below we see the new Bahia Honda Bridge, two lanes in each direction that allow passing while on he right the old Bahia Honda Bridge which slipped into disuse in 1982. It was a converted railroad bridge and lacked room for wide traffic to meet safely on the bridge. It was not a great road bridge but it is a picturesque wreck.
This is not an area to swim as the currents are strong. "Bahia Honda" means "deep bay" in English and water spills in and out of the Gulf of Mexico through here. It is a good place to drown if you aren't careful.
The old approach road to the bridge was built on a  ramp of earth that rises fifty feet in the air and gives a walker on the path a rare view down across the water. Nowhere in the Keys is naturally as high as this above sea level:
Anglers stand on the seawall and fish by lantern light about where the engineers built the edge of the artificial ramp that leads up to the old bridge:
 Rusty was in the mood to run and he ran back and forth rolled in theluch grass and played hide-and-seek with me. I caught a flash of brown in the camera:
 The pause before the stroll back to the car:
 Cheyenne was rather more sedate on her visits here:
There is always the breeze...
 ...the dawn...
...the end.

Friday, October 21, 2016

How To Cope With Fantasy Fest

My advice if you live in Key West and don't like the bizarre nature of public body art, drinking, loud late parties and thick crowds, then this is a very good time to take a vacation. Unless like me you are in a  reserved occupation and have to work. Then, like me, you take a week off ahead of time and try to come home well rested for the madness that is to follow:
But it's not all drunken nudity, as starting today there is Goombay described repeatedly  as "family friendly" and it is. Goombay is supposed to be a Bahamian type junkanoo festival featuring music and food from Key West's neighbors in the Bahamas.
They also have kids choirs singing and everyone is fully dressed. I like Goombay just fine. But Goombay on Petronia Street is the opening salvo in a ten day affair that offers various odd and very odd parties. If you like bondage orgies they are available, or if you want to strut in a peculiar hat you can do that too in front of a dedicated audience of hat admirers. The full schedule is here:
Image result for fantasy fest 2016
And each year the celebration has a theme. This year's vaguely political theme has had the habitual complainers banging on about all the terrible things that can happen in a bizarre election year with a political theme. I guess they have to worry about something but anyone who views Fantasy Fest as an opportune moment to get serious about anything, least of all politics, is missing the point. People dressed like this aren't making a political statement:
Well, I suppose that this year anything is possible, but Fantasy Fest is a celebration and it's not a time or place for people to get serious or violent. And they tend to do neither.
If you aren't ready for it the Fantasy Zone can be a bit surprising. It consists of Duval Street to Truman Avenue and the side streets on either side. Simonton and Whitehead are not in the Fantasy Zone. And the Fantasy Zone is where you can wear minimal clothing, female nipples and all buttock cracks must be covered even minimally and no genitalia showing. Seriously.
And you can carry alcohol around with you. An explosive combination you might think, but Fantasy Fest is quite peaceful and cheerful. The boundaries of the Fantasy Zone are clearly marked and please note: even inside the Zone you cannot have sex in public. No lewd acts as they say... seriously. That gets you arrested. Look for the signs if you are confused:
There are those detractors of Fantasy Fest who complain that participants are getting older and saggier as though the general population of Key West isn't getting older...There is a sexist and ageist tone to these complaints that doesn't really fit with the notion that Fantasy Fest is a fun time for all. But be warned not everyone is going to fit your notion of acceptable beauty. Some people you admire for their sheer ballsyness in a society dedicated to youth and standard dreary beauty:
Basically next week it starts out relatively quiet with a few people dressed up slipping through crowds of people ready with cameras, and slowly as the week progresses more and more people in less and less clothing show up and walk around. The idea is to get your picture taken so if you see someone you want to store in your camera, or post on your blog its perfectly acceptable, even desirable to show up smiling and ask to photograph their tits. If you are under dressed and don't want to be immortalized this is the week to stay home.
There is always a charity fundraiser underlying Fantasy Fest and associated activities of course which in Key West justifies everything.Originally Fantasy Fest was a few locals waking a couple of blocks down Duval to break up the tedium of October when sales were flat and hurricanes threatened and Key West was a money-free zone. Nowadays when the city is a practically year round destination and no one seems to get a break ever it almost feels like an imposition to have this week of faintly obscene over the top noisiness.
A fine example is the Zombie Bike Ride on Sunday which has grown so huge as to be unmanageable. How do you manage 20,000 drunk cyclists?
Or, maybe the question is: do you need to manage them?
I like most people take time to enjoy the locals' parade which used to be a celebration for locals on local political and social themes of the past year. It's been discovered so now its the Masquerade March and all are welcome and pile up around the cemetery on Frances Street at 5 pm today and march to Duval. It is still in my estimation the best part of Fantasy Fest. There was that year a particularly nasty nutter who walked around town with signs saying "Gods Hates Fags" and in proper Fantasy Fest style his message got...obscured. I love the locals' parade sense of humor:
If you need advice on how to handle this stuff all I can tell you is don't get too worked up. This really is a week to go with the flow. If you have accidentally booked a room and find yourself surrounded don't mind what you see. Leave the family values complaints to residents of the city well practiced in getting annoyed about drunken nudity. People make a lot of money off this stuff so it isn't going away. For myself I just try to remember we are lucky to have basically a week off while the rest of the country braces for snow. Fantasy Fest is stupid and sometimes not what you want or expect but in a world filled with anger and rage it is lighthearted cheerful and basically harmless. No "pussy grabbing," no rape, no battery. Just drunks having fun.
Sometimes you meet a friend, in drag and have time to catch up over a beer. That he is a woman and in heels and you are in the street makes no mind:
If you enjoyed the locals parade catch the Grand Parade Saturday night, the event that wraps up the whole ten days. The best part are the local floats that some years are outstanding with local commentary and some years you just get to see people showing off a bit...
And then after its all over finally there is the debris field which Cheyenne loved!
And some people are so feeble they have to sleep it off. Imagine that.
Till next year!