Tuesday, December 20, 2016

South Roosevelt Improvements

The state Department of Transportation is eyeing South Roosevelt Boulevard for improvements. Why? Who knows...they could put money into repaving US ONe which is torn up by dozens of overnight trucks hauling supplies to the Keys each and every day, or they could leave well enough alone, but no, the state wants to improve South Roosevelt, properly known as State Road A1A.
And there are turn outs for traffic to cross to the airport and hotels:

As it stands South Roosevelt is a scenic four lane street with pedestrian crossings near the hotels and a thirty mile an hour speed limit not always observed. 
There is a wide sidewalk on the ocean side which is popular with people exercising on foot or by bicycle. So why does the state want to make changes? No one who uses this street has any idea at all. 
There is talk or reducing the travel lanes to two, thus increasing the possibility of road rage and congestion, while at the same time adding more bike paths and a median with a  turning lane. A turning lane? Why do we need a turning lane? There's nowhere to turn!
On the inland side there is the bridle path which is a walking trail and where parking is forbidden though you can drive there if you want to. On the seaward side there is nowhere to go either of course...So turning lanes make even less sense than you might imagine...
If you are coming from out of town and heading west and you want to park along the seawall facing in the opposite direction a u-turn across double yellow line sis not technically legal. What I do is turn into the Bridle Path and face back out and rive straight across the four traffic lanes when clear and then I park facing the way I came. Done and dusted.
I can see no sensible reason to change the layout of South Roosevelt. It's not a fast route anywhere as it takes the long way round and if you are in a hurry take the North Roosevelt route which the state has improved greatly with its long drawn out work to limit flooding and to coordinate traffic  lights. South Roosevelt is the scenic route and ends up in  a rather ugly way at Bertha Street, a canyon between condos:
Clearly re-paving would be a charitable act for the drivers around here but redesigning the whole street seems like a make work project for bored engineers.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Midnight Shift

The big question was: what will Tommy do? The Tommy in question is a police officer who works night shift and survives, flourishes perhaps, thanks to copious cups of Cuban coffee. Between calls you were sure to find Tommy propping up the counter at Sandy's Cuban Cafe on White Street. Then came the devastating news, rippling through the police station. All eyes were on Tommy when he was told.
"WHAT?" The cri de coeur echoed through the halls of the police station. It was true: Sandy's will no longer be open twenty four hours a day. Sandy's now closes at midnight and doesn't reopen until five in the morning. For those crucial five hours each night the overnight institution is dark. I am not a fixture at Sandy's on night shift though we have been known to send a dispatcher down Virginia Street to collect life giving caffeine on those  tedious nights when the clock stands still. Now that option (with cheese bread on the side) is no longer available to us.
I was lunching at Roostica yesterday with some friends and on our way to the now-iconic Italian-American eatery on Stock Island we passed a new outlet just around the corner. Croissants de France? I was so shocked I failed to point my camera, so here is their website picture just to prove the truth of what I say:
 
So it's time to take stock and try to figure out what's going on here. Sandy's closing seems significant to me inasmuch as I think the traffic for the coffee shop has dried up. That says to me that the essential Bohemian nature of Key West especially the night denizens aren't there anymore.  I don't hang out in bars but I'm getting the impression not many other people do either, at least not into the early hours. The city requires bars to close by 4 am but they may close earlier if they choose or if they lack customers. Sandy's is a natural stop off on the way home, a sandwich, a coffee or a plate of Mexican food to go. Not anymore, between midnight and five. 
Furthermore there used to be people out and about at night, youngsters drinking and having fun, middle aged people trying to keep up and needing coffee to get recharged. Apparently not anymore. Key West is changing and as money rules the roost old age and social sedation take precedence. I can't say I like it but there it is.
Check out this place, further up White Street whose photo I took from their website . I have heard blasphemous suggestions that they may be better than Sandy's and maybe they are. But they aren't open at night so Tommy the night shift caffeine addict gets no relief here. Perhaps there is no need to have a coffee shop open at night, Denny's the last resort on Duval will have to do, or the new Sunshine Grill on White Street which they say is open all night. Maybe, just maybe all is not lost... 
And then there is the rather tasty Croissants de France selling pastries and European coffee in the land of the Stock Island Nike. White rubber boots are known that way around here as they are the preferred and identifying footwear of the commercial fishermen who work the docks of the fleet in Stock Island. It's hard to imagine they will be lining up to buy babas and cafe au au lait so if I'm right who are the customers envisioned by the upscale coffee shop? 
The conclusion is inescapable and it has to come back to gentrification. Stock Island is about to be transformed by a  wave of development that will eliminate the squalid but affordable trailers, that will replace Haitians and Cubans with people with money and a need for a winter home. 
My wife and I went to the theater Friday night. We looked around and listened as our neighbors in the aisles reconnected after a  long summer away with tales of the weather Up North a subject not as fascinating as they think it is. We sat and thumbed our programs and allowed the extremely loud chirps of delight to swirl around our heads. It was a good play well done and funny enough to laugh. We went on Friday to save ten bucks which is an offer they make at the Waterfront Playhouse. My wife the teacher is also eligible for discounts as a worthy worker...During the intermission we took the air outside the theater...
 ...and my wife looked around, the social butterfly, and remarked with astonishment that there was not one person there that she knew. I said and I admit I was slightly grumpy that we  were the token help, employed peasants to lend credibility to the notion that live theater is for locals too. In a sea of designer labels and artificial tans we were the scruffy oiks being shoved aside by the busy New Yorkers. 
The anonymous complaint column in the newspaper has started going off again on the subject of parking always a winter favorite when the snowbirds re-discover that unlike "at home" here they have to walk a bit to find their car on the street. Poor dears. Complaints about mature trees being decimated have been published all summer long so I am going to continue photographing them as long as they survive. Why trees need to be cut down I'm not sure but I guess if you aren't here in the summer the beneficial effect of their shade isn't immediately apparent.
Above I noticed a commuter of the new class, helmet, trouser clips -  reflective, and clothing worthy of an appearance in court. An old Key West joke: "What do you call the guy in the suit?" Answer: "Defendant." Very droll. Below we see the more usual business attire in Key West, get the job done even if it means getting your hands dirty. Or it could be a  customer.
On our way home from the theater I mentioned to my wife that I have never felt so comfortable anywhere as living in the Keys. I still feel that way even though I am starting to feel a bit endangered. I am by no means a Bohemian or an artist or a free loader, I work for the police and show up on time at work. Yet I don't subscribe to a lot of mainstream lifestyle choices so I am not fashionable dressed nor culturally up to speed all the time. Consequently I find visits to places like shopping malls a trial and sitting through small talk in gatherings wears me out. In the Keys I get away with being off kilter and no one minds, actually some people lie it. A friend of mine said the other day that I am his first eccentric friend. That he is 50 years of age and he meant it affectionately didn't stop me from freaking out for a bit. But then commonsense reasserted itself.  I guess I can live with that if he can live with me. 
I feel like a child stamping his foot while announcing that no I will not grow up and take my medicine. And no I won't accept the transformation of my last comfortable habitat without bitching and moaning. I have to keep on keeping on, working nights, suffering the loss of caffeine, putting up with snowbirds and their pretensions but I don't have to be happy about it. Eccentric is as eccentric does.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Rising Tides

Several things recently have caused me to ponder the meaning or climate change. The new President declares its a Chinese invented hoax to fool people while his daughter seems to think it's real and wants to mitigate it. Then there was the recent Breitbart story shot down in flames by the weather channel arguing whether or not the planet is warming (it is). And then there is my own life like this photo during the last full moon cycle. I took the picture the morning after the full moon and the dark patch shows where the ocean rode up onto our street. No harm done- yet.
For me climate change is somewhat academic as I am 59 and will likely be dead in twenty years, and because I have no children there is no compelling personal motivation to worry about what happens after I'm dead. And there is too the loud, deafening body of people who argue climate change isn't real so there. It's that last group of people that make me want to distance myself from the climate change debate.
Change doesn't come easily and to make real changes in the arc of climate change it seems to me significant changes will have to be made. So I can see why others in my position might not want to worry about what comes next. What baffles me is the army of deniers who have children and grandchildren. Even if they aren't convinced by the science you'd think an issue this critical would force everyone to take a good hard look at the future.
I live in a watery place close to the surface of the sea. So if the polar ice caps  melt producing three feet of rise, then pretty much everything you see here will drown. If that is even a possibility I'd expect you to start worrying about it and look for change from our leaders especially if you have offspring. And if you want to argue against prevailing science that Climate Change is a mere conspiracy I'd still make the argument that on the off chance it is real and you have grandchildren for their sake you'd want to mitigate it by changing how we live. No such luck, we are marching like lemmings into a dystopian future.
I have wondered idly in the past how climate change would make itself known and nowadays I think I am getting some small idea. I see signs of flooding every month everywhere in the Keys not that there hasn't always been flooding to some degree. But now Monroe County is planning how to spend millions to raise two roads in the county that flood with ever greater frequency. Draughts are everywhere as rainfall and more importantly snowfall levels are down. Storms are stronger and more unpredictable and seasons  are doing odd things. I read of primroses blooming where snow should cover the ground. 
I would be sorry to see the Keys go underwater if I were even still around at such an advanced date. But most likely all I am going to see is increased occasions when floods drive up onto dry land, when we will need to check the tide book to plan our walks, Rusty and I. 
What happens as things continue to change is anyone's guess but I expect at first, like now, we make minor adaptations and forget how things used to be. And then one day everything changes and the waters stop going backwards and keeping coming on.
Like this private road evidently flooding to frequently these days. So a few loads of gravel raised the driving surface a few inches higher. I guess we will see more and more of these band aids in the same way Monroe County is working to prevent flooding on two streets in their jurisdiction. They are trying to figure the best way to raise the roadbed in two places to allow traffic to pass even at high tide.
We may become displaced people sooner (or later ) than we think and Florida may yield to climate change faster than planned. Already seawater is penetrating the main South Florida aquifer as the fresh water is sucked out in greater and greater quantities. Engineers are trying to figure how to keep the saltwater out so we can continue to live here. 
 The thing that bothers me most about climate change is that it has become a political football. Opponents argue mitigation will impact the economy and that statement is so short sighted I cannot believe people still make it, but they do. Obviously industries will have to change, indeed they are changing and that drive to create a sustainable first world economy with renewable energy could be extremely lucrative for everyone in this country. Yet we are told a renewable energy economy will ruin the US. Change is frightening.
I wish we could have sensible conversations in this country. I wish we could make plans and believe in ourselves and know we will come out on top. Start there and good changes will follow no matter how crappy the climate gets.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Bella Luna Italian

The winter season is kicking in slowly as snow Up North hasn't yet been abundant we are told. It's a good time to get out and use the facilities as it were before the hordes show up. We went Italian.
Bella Luna is one of several eateries in the Lower Keys between Big Coppitt and Big Pine that make it possible to stay out of town and still have a pleasant evening out.
Image result for bella luna cudjoe
Bella Luna is entering their second winter in operation and the night we were there it was raining so the new outside patio wasn't indicated.
Image result for bella luna cudjoe
They make crisp calamari rings and the Tuscan eggplant stack appeals to my wife who is very find of squid and eggplants, both.
We've had the baked pasta before and I ordered it again as its something my wife doesn't make. We shared that and a fresh crisp pear salad.
We finished with my favorite dessert anywhere which is the panna cotta("cooked cream") which is a firm milky cold custard and it makes me salivate just to think about it. We know the chef and he had us try the cheese plate which was served with crisp fried bread. Sweet pickles truffle cheese blue cheese and fruit was really too much on top of the sweet.
Over the top and delightful. I plan to sneak a visit during the arrival of the snowbirds and who knows maybe during too.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Holiday Spirit

Kisiti put up a tree at work so we have some good cheer while we answer 911 calls from angry snowbirds or drunk tourists or outraged locals. But Key West is like that, the place is so small that there is an inevitable parallel life going on between people who work here and people who play here. Just like the UPS guy making a delivery in the harbor where the tourists gather:
I walk around sometimes with my dog when I can but always with a camera and I ask myself: how do other people see this place? For some people like the stranded husband below its a series of shopping experiences, but for me the shops are just a  backdrop.
I like to try to look behind the facade that the city presents to the visitors, the back of the famed Curry Mansion, home to Florida's first 19th century millionaire one percenter:
Key West was a trading station. If you read the much derided 19th century diary run daily in the paper you'll see that ships came and went every day bringing the outside world to this town of twelve thousand people. They had their own Amazon in those days ordering products from far and wide which were brought to them in sailing delivery ships. Key West was famous for  wrecking which was a way of salvaging stranded ships on the reef. They too brought new fashions and expensive house decorations to this outpost of America in the days before steam ship.
The main Federal building in Key West isn't the post office as it usually is in small towns this size. Key West has an imposing sandstone structure which houses Customs and the Federal Courthouse among other national offices. It's still a vast building by local standards even though the shipping trade is much diminished. But it's  sheer bulk demonstrates the importance of 19th century Key West to the United States.
The holiday spirit in a  town frost free is hard to define. I always wanted to celebrate Christmas in Summer and thought my only course was to emigrate to Australia.However it turns out living in Key West is just as good. Here you have to decorate troical foliage to get in the holiday mood:
Good enough for me even though some people feel deprived if there is no snow on the ground. I'm all for a frost-free winter thanks.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Park And Pay Key West

Closing in on the end of the year and nothing much changes in the countryside of the lower Keys. No frost no smokey wintery mornings. Mangroves stay mostly green so foliage doesn't change color or fall off  the branches. Everything stays the same.
The city has drawn up a plan to raise parking rates by a dollar an hour which should go over a treat in a town where pretty soon breathing will become a restricted activity. I visit other cities and laugh when they charge 25 cents an hour and shut the meters up at 5  in the evening. 
In Key West the parking controls are in operation from 8 am to midnight 6 days a week and on Sundays its noon to midnight. No exceptions. Now at three bucks an hour seven days a week you'd think the message is loud and clear: don't park downtown. Last year's revenues amounted to 6 million bucks from parking machines which have replaced meters. That's where you insert a credit card and get a permit to park which you can can use in any paid spot on the street or in a parking garage or lot owned by the city. The system is very good and flexible but three bucks an hour seems quite a lot. The answer is to walk further or ride a motorcycle which still gets free parking in designated spots.
And parking is just one more reason to live the suburbs where you park under your stilt house with no problems. And you get easy access to the peace and quiet of the backwoods.
Rusty likes it out here...
I like it. Free parking...peace and quiet and a time to not have to deal with people.

Run Rusty run and then sleep.
Parking rates mean you have to keep out of the Duval corridor and trust that you will find free parking on Whitehead Street or Elizabeth Street. Don't come looking on my street- we're all full up in suburbia with no desire to turn into Old Town Key West...