Sunday, February 26, 2017

Key West Monochrome

I really liked this picture of the church at Fleming and William:
 And this one worked for me, a corner of the Old Harris School on Southard:
 On my Instagram account I labeled this one "waiting."
 Not quite black and white this shot of an empty dining room at Turtle Kraals:
 A lighted boat:
 A post doubling as a bill board display:
 The Galleon resort:
 Front Street looking toward Duval:

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Aground In Key West

I took this picture for the scooter tag thread in the Adventure Rider motorcycle website but I liked it all leafless evocative of a northern winter. Deciduous trees tend to lose their leaves in winter in the Keys more I think because of the lack of rain and decreased hours of sunshine than for the presence of cold.
The Keyviche building on Caroline Street remains closed and unused, a tourist winter gone to waste. Surprising but true. They were said to have great fish but the prices reflected the quality and high prices are killers in this economy oriented eating town. You can still see the old flame holders from its previous incarnation as the Brazilian steak house chain Braza Lena.
 The newest CVS on Duval street continues to display the worst windows ever. I suppose they feel no need to entice shoppers in or beautify the street at all. All I can say is it was much dirtier when the building wasn't  occupied at all. 
 The souvenir shop across the street at the Conch Train station shows how it is done:
They do make a mess overnight around Duval Street. Before most people are awake the city's employees have it all clean and tidy again:
And the day starts again as the sleepers get up and start their aimless wanderings:
Someone was tidy as they drank:
 Mallory Square coming to life:
 Out in Key West harbor someone was waking up on a slant if the boat was even occupied:

Friday, February 24, 2017

West Summerland Key

I was glad to note in a recent Key West Citizen caption to a picture by the noted photographer Rob O'Neal that he referred to the location as West Summerland Key. Ironic too as it was in regards to scouting as I recall.
I think West Summerland, known to cartographers to day as Scout Key is one of my favorite spots in the Lower Keys. Luckily Rusty likes it too. For me this place offers an almost natural mound of dirt from which I can look down on a panorama and this makes it unique. Think about it: I live in place which is so flat tall bridges constitute  hills. Here I can climb the mound that was the railroad approach to the Bahia Honda bridge and I can pretend I am on a mountain. Pretty cool.
 Then there is the history, in this case the old water pipe installed by the Navy with a pump station hereabouts, built in 1942 to supply the wartime garrison in Key West. The infrastructure is collapsing but that makes it all the more photogenic. Above we see the remains of the original water pipe. The 1982 replacement runs alongside the highway and hangs under the bridges.
West Summerland also consists of friable white rock which weathers into odd rounded mounds. It looks like hard clay. Sometimes I sit on it while Rusty hunts. In the picture below the white rocks look like cotton wool balls strewn about:
 Rusty on the trail:
Rusty hunting
 The tide was far out so I wandered the tide pools staring down at sea anemones trapped in puddles waiting for the return of the ocean. I also found a common-or-garden plastic bottle turned into art by the crushing of the waters and the silting of the sand (and a little dexterity with the camera settings).
When I see hardcore photographers setting up their multiplicity of equipment to catch a sunrise or some other moment on their headlong flight back to the mainland I feel privileged. For me there is tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow if today doesn't work out. Sunrises will get more colorful, wind and waves will conspire with me tomorrow not against me...who knows.... who cares...I will be back when I feel like it.
 Besides which I am too impatient to deal with tripods and long lead times- I have a dog to keep up with.
I did have time to play with shutter speeds and light conditions while Rusty ate a long dead fish. There wasn't a lot of movement in the water but I managed to soften things up with slow shutter speeds a bit.
Whatever it was he thoroughly enjoyed crunching down on it and it gave him terrible dog breath. No kisses for Rusty for the rest of the day.

Seaweed was pushed up onto the beach. What you see here is a floating mat and were you to step on it you would sink immediately into the water below:

Another fine morning walk at West Summerland Key.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Stock Island Construction

The Stock Island gentrification news is all focused at the moment on the new Ocean Edge Hotel at the former Oceanside Marina which has been made to vanish to be replaced by this:Related image
from the Web
However the new Pritam Singh resort is under fire as the owner has rented an apartment on his own property to gain standing to sue some other apartment owners who are renting out their units illegally and wrecking his peace and quiet. In the course of the suit it apparently came to light that the hotel has a lot more rooms than it has permits and the county is investigating that little problem. It's hard to imagine anything will come of it, as Singh is very wealthy, but they are making a  show in the county offices.
Around the other side of the island on Shrimp Road another large luxury hotel is taking shape at the Village Marina complex.  
 This is much more low key so far, no lawsuits, no anger, just steady building.
It's all part of the changes that are finally coming to Stock Island after years of threatneing gentrification. It would have been silly to assume that the crash of 2008 killed off all plans, it just slowed them down.
The problem with all this change is as usual the displacement of people who do the work. As it is hotels closer to Miami, in the Islamorada area for instance get their workers on buses from Homestead, commuting back and forth for hours for the chance of a better paid job in the luxurious end of the Keys.
Around here some hotels are considering employee bedrooms in their buildings, but the commute to Big Pine Key, 30 miles from Key West, once unthinkable is now commonplace.
Stock Island will have to clean up to attract tourists but that will be just part of the master plan I am sure. The duty old trailers that house the Cubans and the Haitians who wash dishes and clean rooms and tidy gardens will disappear and those lives will be upended and I suppose sent to the mainland to find other work.
This can't last, and as the hotels in Key West keep drawing people it makes sense to those who need to keep expanding to do their expansion here.
I can't say I particularly like Stock Island the way it is. But there again it's nothing to do with me. I don't like the chaos and garbage everywhere. The problem for me is that when clean up happens it tends to go too far in the opposite  direction, that of a certain sterility in conformity. And to me that is when it comes to the run down nature of Stock Island, on balance I'd rather they left it alone.
But money talks and that's all there is to it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Early Morning In The Alleys

Rusty was pretty insistent at 5 in the morning that we go for a walk. I held him off for ten minutes but he was an irresistible force and we left over very comfortable eighth floor room in the hotel to head out into 57 degree St Petersburg morning.  
I had planned the night before to walk the alleys that I used to enjoy exploring when I lived in St Petersburg 30 years ago. When I am on the road and looking for a place to run Rusty I usually look at a satellite view of Google Maps on my phone. Checking the St Petersburg peninsula there wasn't any obvious interesting open space so I decided to walk the alleys early on Presidents' Day morning before the world was astir.
 This is a city with an extraordinary number of murals, artistic merit cannot be denied but neither can the optimism of painting vast murals on the walls of buildings that merchants expect to occupy for a a very long time. This city does not exude the sense of being a transient population. 
 I parked on Central Avenue and led Rusty to the entrance to the alleyway. He was fascinated, once again demonstrating his amazing curiosity which I enjoy so much. He ran back and forth, pausing as I struggled to take a picture, pausing for the occasional car, waiting for me at cross streets...the perfect companion.
For those worried about my safety, and there are always some worriers when I show pictures taken before dawn, I carry only a leash, a plastic bag and my phone in my pockets, with my camera (Lumix FZ300) in hand. No one ever bothers me but if they did Rusty would be a formidable opponent. He is very friendly normally but once when I was playing with a friend he intervened in no uncertain way to look after me. My friend was quite surprised, as was I. Good dog.
It was a still morning, cool and fresh and I was glad of my vest over my shirt. It wasn't cold enough to see my breath or anything wild but it was quite a bit cooler than the Keys. 
There is a lot of neighborhood renovation underway all around St Petersburg, as evidenced by all the paint variously applied:
 St Petersburg is a large city by area occupying much of the peninsula that is Pinellas County. Incomers pronounce it Pin-ell-ass while crackers call it Pine-elass and as I was never more than an incomer I was always used to the more prissy pronunciation. Its a huge chunk of land 140 square miles of city on the sandy peninsula. Clearwater is the county seat of Pinellas County but St Pete is far bigger with a population of 250,000 people and rising. Its a popular city as its very livable, housing averages less than $250,000 and you've got beaches and lots of arts going on here and across the bay at it's arch-rival Tampa the grittier former industrial city and major commercial port. 
The bits I don't much like about St Pete are the summers which are long and hot and still. It rains like clockwork every afternoon on the Gulf Coast of Florida, a heavy downpour for an hour or two with thick vapors left behind as the sun burns the moisture off. Also you have to drive a long way to get anywhere. There's one of everything at least in St Pete but the city is so scattered it takes an age to get wherever it is. And it's reputation as a retirement center still lingers making it less than hip even though it is undeserved as younger people are flowing into this city. If you are looking for a home in the sun St Petersburg is an interesting possibility.
 I have my home in the Keys and we have pensions to earn so a change of residence isn't in the cards. Besides which the waters of the Gulf of Mexico are rather murky and brown which is a bit of a change to the clear waters of the Florida Keys I am used to.
Rusty was doing a nice job of waiting for me when he got too far ahead. At one corner I was slow catching up and I came round the building to find him sitting on the sidewalk rather in the way photographed below. Some young guy going to work was getting out of his car and saw Rusty being perfect. He couldn't believe how he waited for me and didn't run out into the street.
St Petersburg has a mixture of old and new, business industry and residential. There is some tourism but I don't see much of an impact compared to Key West which gets overrun all winter.
 Who are all these mural artists?
 I found this public art to be stunning.
 Lovely tree lined streets.
 And brightly painted buildings.
There are tons of locally owned coffee shops, yoga studios, craft beer outlets, furniture and consignment stores and furniture outlets all over the city. Not a chain store to be seen. 

 I parked near Haslam's a city landmark. It is a vast book store unlike any you have seen.
We sat on the sidewalk a while watching the sun come up. The plan had been to see the Kahlo exhibit at the Dali Museum but the crowds were so thick we had to line up and wait to get into the parking lot so we decided to come back another day. Nevertheless it wasn't a bad visit to the Sunshine City, and I'm looking forward to going back. It's a lot nicer than Miami or Tampa and less frantic than Orlando.