Saturday, May 6, 2017

Harbor Developments

Looking out across the harbor I saw a boat at anchor, the white anchor light properly light and the dinghy tied up close along side. All very trim just off the south end of Wisteria Island under threatening rain clouds. Nothing like being stuck all day on a boat at anchor in the rain. Romantic at first, tiresome by tea time.
I was standing on Simonton Beach watching Rusty sniff and focusing my telephoto and any object worth my curiosity. I don't miss living on my boat even though sometimes it looks tempting to live away from the crowds I did it for many years and the hassles are many in their own right too. Ultimately we all of us live dependent on land.
The Pier House was the first of the resorts built along the waterfront. David Wolkowsky the developer is still alive as I write this and has an short street named after him near Mallory Square. He used to live on an isolated island seven miles west of Key West but the effort and advancing years forced him to a more conventional situation in town. I find the fantasy of a private island, like living on a boat to be a fantasy filled with untold effort. I have never lived on a private island so my speculation about the lifestyle is predicated on my experience of living on a boat...similar and equally inconvenient.
That other island off Key West which offers no privacy at all unlike Wolkowsky's distant Ballast Key is the lump of reclaimed harbor dredgings called Sunset Key visible across the water. This lot was developed by the creator of the Westin Resort with houses built in the "Key West style" on an island minus chickens cats or ordinary people.
 I found this paragraph on Wolkowsky in Wikipedia:

David Wolkowsky grew up in Key West and Miami and received his degree from the University of Pennsylvania. After college, he began to restore buildings in the inner city of Philadelphia. He is credited with starting the rejuvenation of Society Hill and Rittenhouse Square in that city.[3]
Wolkowsky visited Key West in late 1962, after the death of his father, Isaac Wolkowsky. The family had a few properties in "old town" Key West and Wolkowsky decided to "retire" to Key West at the age of 40. Unable to sit still, he rescued a condemned bar on family land on Greene Street, which was the original home of "Sloppy Joe's" of Hemingway fame. From there he developed property on lower Duval and Front Streets including "Pirate's Alley" and the "Original Cigar Factory". In 1963, Wolkowsky accomplished a major real estate coup by purchasing, for $106,000, the old Cuban Ferry Dock, choice waterfront property near Mallory Square.[3]
Wolkowsky lifted the 1890 Porter Steamship office off its foundation and moved it 300 feet (91 m) out, setting it on pilings in 40 feet (12 m) of water. He transformed the Steamship office into "Tony's Fish Market", a restaurant and cocktail lounge where guests could watch shrimp boats in the channel on their way into port.[4] He is credited with putting Key West on the road to being a major tourist destination.

And then the ferry to Sunset Key churned by and Rusty was ready to leave and so was I. The rain held off and eventually dried up. We went home to breakfast and the Sunday newspaper. Much better than a boat.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Key West, Paradise

I promised Rusty an early walk after my first night off and I got him to Key West just as the sun was coming up. He ran with his nose down, I strolled with my camera.
I saw this wreck barely able to function after a night of hearty drinking. He ignored me as he struggled not to vomit> I am astonished by the numbers of people who drink themselves insensible on the streets of Key West and fail to make it back to their bedrooms before they pass out on the sidewalk somewhere. I work nights in dispatch at the police department and people call all night long to report people passed out on the streets. It blows my mind after all these years.
It's these early morning walks that help me clear my head, usually as we walk among the woods but in town it helps too. I have been struck lately by the aggravation in Key West over the usual stuff: parking,leaf blowers and street paving. Complaints are always being made on the same old subjects cycling through various topics as the year goes by. Frankly I didn't find car parking particularly difficult this past winter. Yet the complaints flooded in.
 One measure for me is how complicated is it to cross Eaton Street but this winter it was never excessively tricky to get through the traffic. That led me to think winter traffic was lighter than in years past...Besides anyone who buys an expensive home without off street parking in Old Town should expect not to be able to park nearby in winter months. But they complain anyway.
Street paving is getting critical on certain streets. Its funny because there is no frost or similar down here to tear up the winter streets but the paving is ignored for as long as is humanly possible so things get into a terrible state on certain streets (the ones that accommodate heavy trucks usually) and the city has to get around to doing what needs to be done.
It's funny how these relatively minor issues drive people batshit crazy. I have always liked living out of town on a quiet street with lots of parking under my stilt house and with quiet neighbors. Living in Key West is a mixture that I understand, the ease of getting around when you live here but the other side of the mixture is that difficulty of close living in a society that isn't adapted to it.
Photographing the pilot boat reminded me of it's major source of employment: guiding cruise ships into Key West. If you want another huge can of complaining worms start a conversation about cruise above love the money hate the source. A complaint for another day.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Four In The Morning

Amelia Street looking west, toward the waterfront, in the distance.
 Restored Bahama Village architecture:
Bahama Village has been a tight knit community of African Americans who were shunted off to this side of Key West when the center of trade was in the harbor around Mallory Square. Nowadays this land is valuable but the community is well entrenched even though the voracious demand for land and housing puts pressure o the older families that want to live in "the Village."
Restoration and sale. So it goes.
 The figurehead hints at nautical roots often claimed not often verified these days.
Below we see the classic Conch styles of fencing, plain picket and cement block with decoration:
 Classic unrestored architecture, strong simple fence, metal gate and house with possibly a window air conditioner. 
I loved this sign, "Danger!" OMG...
 The ambiguity of my lunch break, head one of two ways...back to work on my Vespa.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Parking Garages

Greene Street dead ends into what used to be known as Key West Bight which is now officially known as the Ancient-Historic-Seaport-and-Tourist-Attraction-at-what-used-to-be-the-Key-West-Bight or some such nonsense. They studied the matter deeply and it seems calling something historic makes it more palatable. However having made the bight seem more attractive the city commission is now working to make it look more ugly. Weird.
There is this open space that has sat here like his forever and a little umbrella at the entrance covers a man who sits and takes money to park. Not good enough said the people in charge who were going to pave the parking lot. However shoot first aim last was the decision making process and the city commission voted to pave the parking lot until they discovered, later, that paving would produce a mere fifteen spaces, as reported in the Key West Citizen.
So, back to the drawing board they went and came up with a plan to spend several millions of dollars to build a parking garage on the site and create 300 spaces. It won't be ugly they said, it will be a work of art. And don't forget these new homes which are going to cost their new owners almost two million dollars, right next to the new parking garage it turns they like that. Sparks may well fly when the city commission meets to consider this plan.
There is also talk of creating a garage at the Simonton Street fire station, shown here in a an old picture I took right after it was built and Cheyenne wanted to inspect  it:
There was talk about building a multi story parking lot here but that plan faded away without anything being said. Now the talk is back. All in all this location seems like it would be much less controversial even though it is much further from the bars of Duval Street and in a world where walking is frowned upon I'm not sure visitors will be ready to walk six blocks to get a drink...

Meanwhile back at Greene Street the plans also call for taking down businesses currently living on the edges of the lot. Apparently storage for Conch Republic Seafood would be impacted as would refrigeration for commercial fishing operations and the long lived Reef Relief non profit. Squawks of protest naturally.
 Its not terribly scenic but they do valuable work here, all of them.
In the end this whole thing boils down to philosophy. No one wants a parking garage because they are ugly and take up space and are to a certain extent an admission of failure especially in a  town like Key West where walking and cycling and even scooter riding are viable alternatives. But the outcry or parking is an annual event, a winter sport when the town floods with people and their cars and everyone wants to park within half a block of their homes. 
 Parking lots, and the Conch Republic lot seen below is better than many, add very little to the urban landscape. call them a necessary evil sometimes masked by trees and flower beds. On the other hand if these garages aren't built... what happens to parking?
Key West does not have any kind of plan for the future. Parking is one issue that could use some 21st century vision involving say bike lanes, one way streets, public transit or something. It's the same mindset that nothing needs to change that is revealed by the total absence of solar energy in one of the sunniest spots in the nation. The new panels at city hall are saving the city substantial amounts of money each month but that news only brought more grumbling about putting them in the parking lot and not on the roof... 
I frankly don't see any way around accommodating more cars.  I'd like to see more transit and I applaud the new free bus loop running up and down Southard and Fleming around Lower Duval which could be a great start. On the other hand I'd like to see Duval Street be a pedestrian zone with Whitehead and Simonton one way streets in opposite directions with bike lanes and urban beautification on all three streets. I saw Church Street in Burlington last summer and I have been annoying everyone with my envy of Vermont's forward looking politicians ever since...
Compare Green Street above with Church Street below:
Rusty liked it too:
Never going to happen in Key West I predict.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Boca Chica Birds

With summer starting to make itself felt there are fewer cars and no people if you get to the beach at dawn.
 The warning about nudity is still there, but Rusty and I both went clothed.
 He rooted around in the bushes and i enjoyed a few minutes of messing with my camera.
 Another Rock Another Tree...
 There were tons of waders that ignored Rusty and I.

 I saw a face in this pile of rocks like the so-called Green Man, craggy eyebrows, a big white nose and a black triangular mouth...
 Like this:
Image result for The GReen Man
But when I reverted to color the face disappeared...Make of that what you will!
 On a more mundane note some poor deluded soul left behind an empty can of "Limited Edition" Budweiser, a bit of an oxymoron I thought as this isn't exactly craft beer.
 Someone is putting in a fair bit of work building rock piles in the water and walls on land:

 Just a few pictures from a  banal beach walk.