Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Look Of The Thing

Those "Conch Pride" signs tell the story- sports is a big deal in Key West, home of the "fighting conchs." I like the small town feel these signs express, the part of Key West that belongs to families that have always lived here, who live apart and don't much care for the face Key West turns to the world.
I read in the paper the head of the Historic Architecture Review Commission is retiring. The suggestion was that his departure might end the practice of approving these weird additions to the Old Town uniformity of wooden homes and picket fences. 
This one further down Truman Avenue wouldn't be ugly in many places but it sue looks out of place to me.
 I like the beach towels drying, vacation time uder the bright orange petals of the poinciana. 
I like walking around town with a camera around my neck so I look like a tourist. People leave me alone and i fit in as I watch them all go by intent on squeezing their vacations dry. Make lots of memories though there is a lot more peculiar stuff in this town than a restaurant that makes sexual innuendos out of it's menu.
I am glad payphones are going away. I wish I hated my iPhone but I don't. I like my kindle app, my magazines online, my camera my maps and so forth. I don't miss the bad old days of hunting for quarters and asking directions and breaking the spines of  heavy books hauling them around in my backpack. I see a payphone and I fondle my iPhone happily.
 The gym at the St Mary's school. I thought the Catholics had gone all Kokopelli for a moment.
Here is how Old Town Key West should look.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

All Full Up

I suppose one should ask oneself why did it take this long, but it seems that we are now full in the Lower Keys and there is no room for more people. Tourism is a year round activity between the inevitable snowbird population and summer families, Europeans in the Fall and tourism boosters never letting up...the long hot dreary empty summer has vanished with payphones and and travel agents and all the odd technology of the past century.
Nowadays there is only the briefest of slack periods, about now while schools are finishing up and snowbirds have gone back North. Key West braces for the next round of invaders. They paved the bumpy streets around the Casa Marina resort, Flagler's destination hotel for his 1912 railroad still a massive tourist attraction.
They come to see the buoy that supposedly marks the southernmost point which is actually inside the Navy base behind the fence and thus inaccessible and therefore touristically invalid. So the buoy it is and they line up to get their pictures taken. Splendid stuff.    Two and a half million people visit the Southernmost City, which has a year round population of 23,000.
I was riding up North Roosevelt on my orange Vespa one day around lunchtime and while stopped at a traffic light an electric car with a corn fed pale family onboard pulled up alongside nuzzling into my space. Wanna race? the jowly father asked. Welcome to Disneyworld I replied dryly enough that he missed my point. In his world the only real ride is that pictured below, everything else is a carnival toy, especially if a scooter. Stepping into traffic is the norm in Key West, nothing bad can happen on vacation.
If you lack the balance to rent a bicycle or a scooter you can rent an electric egg car just like the one that wanted to race me on the boulevard:
Key West remains a town of narrow streets and tropical foliage and interesting architecture but underneath the placid summer heat there is a growing sense that we have reach carrying capacity and "something needs to be done." One thing I hear a lot is that advertising for tourists could well be  cut. Encourage no more...which doesn't seem likely to happen from where I'm watching.  The thing is tourists mean money and no one in charge is going to cut back the income flow.
Key West's vision thing isn't kicking in either. There is a group advocating against cars, Car Free Key West is driven by the city  to encourage alternatives to four wheels. My informal polling shows no support for the concept of taking to bicycles or scooters or something simple like feet. There is instead resentment that anyone should propose a change to the way things are. And there was vehement opposition to proposals to build two parking garages downtown to accommodate the cars. So let's see, everyone wants to drive no one wants to make room for the cars. Sounds about right for the incoherent approach the city residents take to planning their collective futures.
Last winter traffic on Stock Island was so completely jammed up it took an hour to drive through the lights into Key West. The argument was the lights weren't properly synchronized. After the snowbirds left traffic went back to normal, a bit slower a bit jammed but working fine. Too many people is not anything that can be discussed. Goose laying the golden egg must keep laying. I wonder what will give next winter when too many people take up residence in a town still devoted to attracting visitors. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Higgs Beach Ablutions

It was a weekday, it was overcast and rather gloomy but still they come and they hang out at the beach.  It's funny because anyone who knows the Keys knows the beaches here are not what you'd expect in Florida, where the peninsula is made of sand. 
But they do like their beaches. And I have to say there weren't many people soaking up the gray overcast. Not least because we are in that blessed hiatus between snowbirds going home and summer vacations not starting. But those that were there were determined to enjoy it. Good for them.
Across the parking lot there was some dude who was unplugging his ears and scrubbing his armpits. I have to say I admired his nerve standing around in the public space acing like he was at home in his own bathroom. Higgs Beach has been a magnet for travelers and bums and idlers for as long as I can remember. The county owns this park and has tried to unload it on the city but the city wants nothing to do with it.
They closed off one set of tables to the bums by making them park of a children's playground so the bums moved. In winter the county pays of an off duty deputy to patrol the beach and keep it sorted out.
 The workers of course have to keep doing their thing, cleaning the trash and so forth, the unsung chores of a tourist town that prefers to advertise the water and the activities and the drinking, not the grungy day to day stuff that fascinates me. 
 And there he still was washing up.
Rusty was tired after a long cross town walk and he watched with interest as we waited for our ride to come pick us up.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Street Food

There I was walking down Truman Avenue behind Rusty and all was well with the world. Usually mockingbirds are real pains diving bombing and squawking wildly. This little guy didn't bother and posed agreeably on the wall at St Mary's for my Lumix camera's telephoto. 
Rusty stopped suddenly and his head went down. Oh, I thought, I will be stuck here for a while as that's a lot of food. Now I know some people hate their dogs eating found food but I figure a dog needs to be a wild thing sometimes and who am I to deny him his hunt?  Dire warnings never prevented Cheyenne from living to a ripe old age. Or Emma, or Bobby or any of the others going back in time.
Rusty gave the abandoned breakfast plate a quick sniff and left it all untouched. I have no idea who or why but alcohol does weird stuff to people and you will find all manner of objects abandoned on city streets the morning after the night before. Including food.
This lack of interest in found food put me in mind of Cheyenne. I took the picture above on the first day I got her from the pound in December 2009. I started her life with me as I intended for it to continue and we went for numerous walks that first day to let her enjoy freedom and get her tired. On Sugarloaf Key we came across an abandoned lunch on a trailer. She made it clear even then found food interested her.
In the picture above my current dog was ignoring the second meal he found on Truman near Simonton Street. This time it was steak fries and broccoli. I understood the lack of interest in the green vegetables but Rusty passed this temptation by without touching a thing. Very odd. Below we see Cheyenne on her favorite downtown walk not letting one fried potato get away:
At the Simonton Center hedge Rusty stuck his nose into the leaves. I'm not sure why, and there certainly was no food hidden away. Curiosity or another passing dog perhaps. 
And then as he set off again toward Duval Street half a block away he passed a Cuban sandwich loaf.
I remember this day well when Cheyenne and I were in the parking lot of a boat launch ramp and she found a piece of dried fish and plunked down to tear it to pieces. There was nothing that Labrador wouldn't  try. 
   
Rusty sniffed the bread and moved on disdaining the lard baked bread. A different breed all right.
I am relieved to see he ignores birds too including chickens. Some of the local street chickens are rather aggressive and he has learned to leave them alone. I'm glad of that as I see some Latin American travel in his future and I'd rather not pay Mexican peasants compensation for birds he might have eviscerated.
And on the subject of wildlife Cheyenne was perfect. She even ignored the Key Deer she came across when we went for walks. Funny old dog. I miss her.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

On The Beach

Summer's calming influence can be felt.
Rusty and I were alone at Boca Chica Beach last week around seven in the morning.
He didn't even feel like walking very far in the thick humid early morning air. 
I took pictures while he chased iguanas. I did better than he did.
I saw the pane overhead and thought how nice they are off and away, all those people.
Rusty sat next to me in a break in the wall and we looked at the ocean for a while.

And then we went home and ate breakfast and took a nap. 
AS this is my weekend to work it seemed like a nice Sunday way to spend a Wednesday.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Stock Island

I feel this need to wander Stock Island and take photographs. The future of this place hangs in the balance as Key West goes deeper and deeper into gentrification and locks out more and more working people.
Stock Island is where some workers live, the ones not pushed further out toward Big Pine Key 30 miles away. This island is where light industry still hangs on, welding plumbing electrical shops, boat parts and scooter repair.
Housing varies between relatively modest apartments and run down trailers and a few areas where single family homes dominate, mostly in the Avenues which are the numbered streets on the west side of the island..
Chickens roam though I was surprised to see this sturdy rooster loose when there is a powerful trade in roosters for illegal cock fighting.
Walking Stock Island and wondering how long things will stay this way is fruitless but I can't help but think that this lot will be replaced by hotels and shopping and so forth. A few years ago the newspaper showed how Stock Island was sold in huge swathes to developers. Not much has happened yet but I'm sure change is on the way and spare sheet metal and household fixtures lying around are bound to contravene some future beautification ordinance.
Nice  big spikes seem to be a useful reassurance around here:
Look what they pulled out of the ocean, some giant anchors.
Stock Island is urban all right but it's not incorporated so sidewalks and landscaping are nowhere to be seen. Some crazy people in Key West sometimes make noises about annexing this place but I can just imagine how excited everyone would be if they had to get their boat trailers off the streets- trailer parking isn't allowed on Key West city streets.
Viewing grandstand:
Low income house looks like it has a toe hold here. I wonder how the hotels will build around this:
Stock Island  will be this way for a while, hard scrabble and working class.
But things are starting to change, a couple of hotels some new places to eat and we can see the start of a new chapter being written here.
All I can do is keep walking and trying to record "the good old days..." which is now.