Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Monday, February 13, 2017


My wife was quite miffed: she didn't know about the new place with interesting food on Stock Island. So when friends casually suggested a Sunday afternoon rendez vous  at "the Jamaican place," the appointment had an a air of mystery attached.
Except of course for Facebook which will reveal all:
So we went off down Stock Island way on a lovely Sunday afternoon and found a large sign. I rather liked the "Commit No Nuisance" sign which has a flavor of Britain in the 1950s and quite likely Jamaica too. A "nuisance" when I was a youngster could be the act of peeing in public and apparently Wikipedia agrees: In essence, this is a discreet warning against performing improper acts in public, most commonly urination. Incidentally, the use of the term “public nuisance” comes from 12th century legal parlance in England. Back in those days, the Crown had the right to punish these criminal acts. But these signs have little meaning these days.
 A friend I spoke to about the place took umbrage at the sign not understanding the tongue-in-cheek cultural motif...
Yahman opens his food emporium Thursday through Sunday and as he was winding down for the week his menu choices were limited to shrimp and chicken so we got a jerked chicken and a curried chicken and I wouldn't have minded a slice of coconut bread pudding had I been on my own...but my wife was there so restraint was in order. He works miracles in a small kitchen and you can see what I mean by checking his Facebook page. The room in there is not huge.

The kitchen is located inside the art and craft space known as Coast and what they do and what they offer is best left to them to explain on their site. Boat repairs, sail making computer graphics and on and on, not to mention kid camps and so forth.  
I liked looking around with my camera while we waited for the food to pop out of the cupboard Yahman works in.
Be warned this is more or less a to go operation. Yahman offers ginger beer to drink and two stools to perch on (if you qualify!) but other than that it is strictly food to go.

This looked tempting to hang out in but we weren't "crew."
A Thai tuk-tuk taxi lurking in the background half out of sight:
Jerk chicken for ten bucks and would easily feed two. We had lots of left overs.
We took our food to Marina Village by way of the Tom Thumb where we bought drinks and then sat on the grass at the marina and picnic-ed with our Jamaican food.
It was a good way to spend a Sunday afternoon before I had to go back to work for the night. I needed a nap after all that jerk and curry and peas and rice and plantains...

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Cheyenne One Year On

It's been a year now since Cheyenne laid down on the deck at home and decided to die. She did it in such a natural and peaceful way it made it much easier for me to let her go and not assail myself with all the doubts that follow the decision to put a dog to sleep.
My relationship with Cheyenne was one that made me feel as though my dog was more mature than me. Taking her out for a walk frequently left me feeling as though I was accompanying my elderly grandmother as she chose the direction and the pace of our ambles. At home Cheyenne liked to lay down within sight of me but not too close, my shadow across the room.
One of the special pleasures of adopting dogs is the gratitude you get from them because they have known hardship and I find the relationship much more rewarding because there is the pleasure of offering a tired dog a haven. Cheyenne had been bred and had clearly been kept in her place, afraid to enter the kitchen, afraid of a rolled up newspaper etc...It didn't take long for her to end up closely observing my wife cooking or finding her own place on the furniture as a properly integrated dog should.
She was not the most willing traveler but she kept up, one year on a three week trip to California and back, once to Canada, and frequently to North Carolina and other jaunts that took my fancy. When we first got her she liked to sit all day in the car for fear of being left behind which had apparently been her lot in her previous life. I let her sit in the car with the door open for as long as she liked and pretty soon she figured out that whenever possible she was going to ride with me. Another of her demons put to rest.
She was a Labrador that never swam, a hunting dog that never chased a ball, a walking dog that preferred the city to the country, an expensive pedigree dog abandoned for the crime of being too old at age eight.She was a contradiction on four legs and I couldn't get enough of her.
 It was a good seven years, an honorable retirement for the old girl and I still miss her every day.
She was a big lump imperturbable and not much given to sentiment or cloying gratitude. The time I knew she was happy with me was when we prepared to move houses and as we packed she got agitated and I had to spend a lot of time reassuring her that this time she wasn't getting left behind.
There are no regrets, every day was a gift and we both knew it and made the most of each and every one.  She was the easiest dog in the world to live with always ready to give her all do her best and keep up. When she started to slow toward the inevitable end I asked her to spare me the needle problem and she did, her last gift, kindness itself to the very end. 
I can still smell her, feel her fur around her thick Labrador neck, hear her deep sonorous snores and we only just recently vacuumed the last of her distinctive long white hairs from the car. So now she is gone as we all will be but she lives on in my memory, one of those lucky chances in life that make life with a dog so rewarding.
Rest in peace dear girl.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

St Petersburg

I get a strange bolt of nostalgia through my system when we pass by Demen's Landing in St Petersburg. Almost 30 years ago I lived here on my boat, a Flicka 20 by Pacific Seacraft for those who care about such details while I worked at a radio station in Tampa and before I took off sailing the Bahamas.
Despite the adventure it was not a happy time in my life, and I struggled to enjoy what should have been a carefree period in my early 30s. I did not handle my sudden insertion into a tight knit community very well and I felt like the awkward outsider which magnified my feelings of discontent. I was hiding from my stated plan to sail south and finally when I had made myself (and those around me) thoroughly miserable I forced myself out and away. Looking back I felt like my life in downtown St Petersburg was a catalogue of missed opportunities even though I sailed most corners of Tampa Bay I didn't really explore the shore side attractions very much at all.
I made two friends in this period who I still know and both of whom live in Key West so all was not lost...And St Petersburg today is a much more vibrant and dynamic city than it was in 1989. In those days it was still known with reason as "God's Waiting room" owing to the huge number of old people who retired there: the movie Cocoon was filmed there and very sweet it is too so watch it and enjoy a good flick. These days St Pete has a core of young people with the amenities they want and as it is a large city you will find all the services you might like but you will have to drive for them as the city is spread across a large peninsula.
The city marina at Demen's Landing offers secure berths and easy access to Tampa Bay which offers quite enjoyable sailing and lots of destinations between Tampa and the Gulf of Mexico. The waters tend to be hot in summer and are always murky unlike the waters of the Florida Keys...and I would miss the turquoise waters if I lived here. However the cost of living is much lower even though the population tends to be more staid and less eccentric than Key West. By a very long mile.

Demen's Landing, the park around which the marina is built is named for one of the two founders as explained by Wikipedia:
St. Petersburg was founded in 1888 by John C. Williams, who purchased the land, and by Peter Demens, who brought the railroad industry into the area.  As a part of a coin toss bet, the winner, Peter Demens, named the land after Saint Petersburg, Russia, while Williams opted to name the first hotel built which was named the Detroit Hotel, both named after their home towns respectively. St. Petersburg was incorporated as a town on February 29, 1892 and re-incorporated as a city on June 6, 1903.
WE walked the perimeter on this windy afternoon and enjoyed the relaxed ambiance of the park.  
The waterfront inside the marina:

Shade for the power boats, an idea I like very much in South Florida though the roof should be covered in solar panels, obviously:

They have their bums too apparently, trusting types who leave their carts unattended for a moment:

Time to go to the hotel. 
I was glad to get to take a short walk once again in my second or third favorite city in Florida. Some days I prefer St Augustine, some days I don't. Key West is always number one.

Friday, February 10, 2017

The Amphitheater

Earlier this week the city commission in Key West voted to carry on with the construction of a four million dollar outdoor concert venue at Truman Waterfront. They had a public meeting at which half the audience supported the plan, the other half didn't and the remainder wasn't sure. That adds up to more than 100 percent of those in attendance and I think it's fair to say this latest storm in a Key West teacup has left a lot of residents unsure. The whole of the waterfront is now pretty much a construction zone and something like this should emerge by the Fall:
Image result for truman waterfront amphitheater design
At the meeting city staff told the elected leaders that were they to shut down the project plans and closure would cost the city half a million dollars which seemed to decide the outcome. The paper had previously checked around the state and the Citizen found that similar venues elsewhere generate almost no income for their municpialities, a suggestion Mayor Cates found annoying, musing out loud about the perception that a park should pay for itself. That notion was put about by the Spottswoods the premier family that wanted to develop a profitable concern at Truman Waterfront and whose plans were scotched nit by the city but by the Navy who said a firm "No" to the idea of a marina generating money as part of the waterfront park. Ever since then this notion of a park-for-profit has hung in the air, an emanation left over from thedeseprate Spottswood development plan.
Image result for truman waterfront amphitheater design
Which is not to say the park will be a wild and interesting open space as I might like. It will offer facilites and paths and order and control. That at least is the impression they give. Meanwhile we drive through corridors of construction fencing, like travelers passing through Checkpoint Charley in a divided Berlin. Rusty is always ready to inspect anything, such is his curiosity.
Either the amphitheater will be successful beyond anyone's wildest dreams in which case traffic and noise will flood the quality of life in Bahama Village,. Or it will sit idle  most of the time and become a four million dollar monument to the Triumph of Hope.