Monday, March 6, 2017

Bahama Village

I wonder if Rusty ponders the contrast between himself and the dogs he meets who are trapped behind fences. I doubt that he does but it is a question that provokes me once again to wish I could have a conversationwith him for an hour or so, about life and walks and the need to earn a living.
The thing that I enjoy about Bahama Village is that it's a tight community of mostly African Americans, still after all these years, and that their slice of Paradise was a cast off handed to them to keep them away from the Mallory Square hub of commerce. Nowadays Key West's black community ends up owning prime real estate and most of it isn't up for sale. There is a certain irony there.
Bahama Village  today is on prime land close to the water and close to the revered Duval Street attractions. It wasn't always that way because originally Key West was a smaller city centered on the corner that faced the water at Mallory Square which was the working harbor and thus valuable real estate. The cast off land designated for the black community was on the other side of the island, which as the city has spread has come to be in the center of things.
The great exodus from Old Town only took place in the white side of town when the Navy pulled out in the 1960s and commerce collapsed. A few people tried to buy up sections of boarded up Duval Street and they are leading lights of commerce in the city today now that their desperate rear guard action has paid off. The African American part of town never sold up and left for New Town when the gay community saw an opportunity to develop a gay-friendly destination in the 70s.
As a result one of the most picturesque parts of unreconstructed Old Town is Bahama Village, and there are still some few people who think it is dangerous to wander Bahama Village. It's nonsense and you will find clumps of tourists wandering here as much as anywhere admiring the architecture, some of it dilapidated in a way that actually looks attractive. 
If you choose to wander The Village as it's known there are all sorts of little details on view here as much as anywhere in Key West.
Afternoon sunlight making shadows on a  wall on Terry Lane:
Ground has been broken on the amphitheater on Truman Waterfront and some people think concerts will flood the neighborhood with traffic coming and going with loud music keeping people awake across the neighborhood. 
I doubt any of it will change the essential nature of Bahama Village. The African American community is solidly entrenched despite all inconvenience.

Sunday, March 5, 2017


I'm not sure how but I was in Bahama Village on a lovely winter afternoon and I was alone.
 It was cool and breezy for me though I heard some tourists complain of the heat. 
 No sidewalks not much room for large cars, conversations floating off porches.
 I'm not alone!

 Rusty liked it too.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

616 Eaton Street

I would never have believed it possible but the Key West Citizen is reporting that plans to convert an old mansion on Eaton Street into a 6700 square foot modern palace have been pushed back by sheer force of protest. This is how the property looked for the longest time before it was sold for $1.8 million according to the newspaper:
The old owners were apparently horrified when the new owners suddenly submitted plans not only for the restoration of the mansion which has been completed as  shown below, but also to turn the large city lot into a vast "family compound" in a modern style. How they got the city's Historic Architecture Review Commission to approve the carbuncle needs to be investigated, as do several other HARC bungles but in the event neighbors did what city officials could not do and they stopped it dead.
It seems the new owners have given up and are selling the restored building and lot back to the original owners and all will return to normal on this part of Eaton Street. Luckily I suppose the house is being traded between people with enough money to bandy the cash around at will. Below I have included an illustration published last year in the Citizen showing the plans for the giant compound to be built in the back over the protests of the neighbors:

I should never have believed their success in stopping this awful plan could have been possible but protest does work apparently even in Key West. This is the town where the dice sometimes seems loaded against good taste and common sense. Why the city hasn't hired a new commission of people to oversee preservation of Old Town Key West I don't know. I think the largest historic wooden home neighborhood in the US deserves better protectors than the bozos currently occupying that position. There are enough ugly glass and cement buildings springing up around Old Town to prove my point. This hatchet job was prevented by good citizen neighbors not HARC.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Cock Fighting

You walk around Key West, you see chickens in the wild. Their story isn't very well documented but the myth says they came over with Cuban refugees who used them for cock fighting back home. Which makes no sense as  they wouldn't have brought chickens as well, you only fight roosters.
Anyway the chickens are on the streets and the tourists love them. I'm not that fond of the chickens actually as they are noisy  and  messy kicking gravel over the sidewalks...But they are harmless and do their bit for the city.  
Then you see small boys chasing them. They chased the rooster over and under the tables of a nearby restaurant(!), they hunted the rooster here and there. They do this on Stock Island too and people fight them in illegal rings. Cock fights have been outlawed in Florida for a while but they still happen. And someone has to supply the talent. Enter fast small boys on the street looking for pocket money:
The rooster's empty pointless life on the streets is over. No crime here, just a kid with a pet bird...
The conversation was about fighting the newly caught bird with the dude limin' behind his fence.  
My anger spilled out when I stopped the kid and asked him what did he plan to do with the bird and he ignored me. Why shouldn't he, it's none of my business as I wander his community. So how much of this is gross abuse and how much is culturally entrenched customs that ought to be respected? Beats me, Is it worse than dog fighting..? Depends how you feel about chickens and dogs I suppose. Had I slapped the kid and deprived him of his pocket money for a day I would have been at fault. The street chickens are cute maybe, but they don't bring out the best in us.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Play Group

A funny thing happened to me this winter, Rusty found a play group. Two old white guys, like me but older happened to be at the water's edge with their dogs and Rusty had so much fun playing I went back.
 I lie. I went back because the two old white farts, like me a bit, made me laugh. And think. I discovered they weren't annoying but they were interesting. 
We talk politics though they are harder to label than am I (a Sanders Democrat), they are sort of libertarian no party affiliation, socially liberal free thinking common sense rough and tough retirees.
Rusty plays with Sam the chocolate Labrador, whenever Sam isn't chewing on seaweed or sticks, and he runs from Lucas the fat, speedy Dalmatian who lives with Rich, the less hard of hearing of the two (in the black shorts). Brian is from Kentucky and he is the funniest driest commentator on the human condition you ever heard.
I tell myself I take Rusty to the beach so he can play and splash and get socialized like any happy dog.
The truth is, its as much for me as it is for him. We talk about the state of the world, their travels as they plan their return trips to Kentucky and Connecticut, their insomnia, their retirement activities, Trump, riding motorcycles and fishing.  It is the best way to unwind after a night of 911. I go once a week at least...for Rusty.
It's all coming to an end and I don't know how to break it to Rusty.
 At least I'll still have my camera.
 How do I break it to Rusty?
Winter is coming to an end and in a couple of weeks they will be gone. I am truly bummed; I surprise myself.
Now we have a reason to look forward to next winter.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Summer In Winter

The seasons everywhere are going haywire thanks to that Chinese hoax called climate change. Or not, perhaps a snow-free winter will be the norm just because in the decades to come. Perhaps California will go from drought to flood and back again like a meteorological yo-yo, just because...Don here in the Keys the weather has gone weird. We are coming into Spring and we had but a couple of nights with temperatures below 60 American degrees or 15 Canadian. That is the new normal.
And then the rain comes and goes at random just like it was summer. Walking back to the car from Sugarloaf Creek, almost two miles of dirt road it started to rain and I wondered if I was going to get wet. Rusty didn't seem to mind and honestly I wouldn't have minded so much as it was a hot humid morning and rain might have cleared the air...But it stopped as soon as it started. Typical summer weather nonsense.
 Rusty is the one with the brown fur, I'm the one going gray,.
 I told you it was a hot morning and this was taken around 8 o'clock:
 A sea grape leaf. I was bored while Rusty paused so I was playing with macro functions on my Lumix  camera.
 Yes, it has been raining at random, we even had summer thunderstorms that night. It's not normal I tell you. Perhaps the Chinese aren't running a hoax but the real thing?