Sunday, June 11, 2017

Flame Trees

Its that time of year when the orange blossoms are out in force or supposed to be, except it's been rather dry this Spring. It's Latin name is Delonix Regia, which is often translated into English as "royal" poinciana. 
 The tress are either magnificent or gaudy depending on your point of view.
 And they drop carpets of orange on cars, sidewalks and anything that happens to be underneath.
No, this isn't a poinciana fence. It's just my little joke, the orange construction fence in the same shade. 
 The orange flowers creep into every picture if you aren't careful, it's just the way it is this time of year.
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Saturday, June 10, 2017

Rusty In The Rain

I left home without my dedicated camera and after a short shift at work I took Rusty for a walk, he armed with his nose, me with my iPhone. And I ended up liking the pictures I took in the half light as the sun supposedly came up masked by heavy cloud cover.
The streets were empty on a weekday morning around six. The rain kept everyone indoors which was funny as the light drizzle faded rapidly away leaving us barely wet and the streets gleaming with water.
Key West is at its best in some ways between 4 and 7 in the morning when alcohol can't be served, bars are closed and drunks are abed.
Life stops and considering how heavy the rain has been lately it was an excellent way to shut the chickens up for a few hours. Usually they are making enormous noise as it gets to be daylight. I am not fond of roosters crowing though there are fans of the obnoxious birds.
The streets of Key West look suitably mysterious in the dark, street lights are scattered about but heavy tree growth can cast wide shadows. I find the empty streets serene though I know some people are very much afraid of walking alone but you would have to be unlucky to get beaten up in Key West if you are out walking your dog while sober and alert and sensible. It has happened but this is a town where most violence occurs between people who know each other or think they know each other and have usually been drinking.
 I enjoy the views instead, the particular architecture and the flowers and the light and darkness.
I took these pictures walking the area between Bayview Park and White Street, wandering Eliza, Duncan and Catherine Streets at random following my dog who was following his nose.
Rusty was ready for a street walk in the city and he was very busy. For me the colors and shapes and lights kept me busy. the absence of traffic of any kind meant we circled each other untangled  by a leash. That could only last so long until people started to wake up and peel out for work.
 We made the most of it. The new city hall was looking good:
Hurricane season has started but peak season usually comes in September. They monitor all that stuff from here at the weather station across from city hall and issue warnings and stuff. Sort of reassuring.
I remember when they built this place a few years ago people complained endlessly about the building including the fact the walls were painted red. It turns out that was undercoat and all the complaints ended up getting buried under rather more tasteful wooden panels. 
Usually we see boring No Trespassing signs or  private driveway warnings and I like this one by contrast.  Walk up and get your signature verified...
 Busy dog heading back toward the car.
We got back to the car in time, then the clouds let  loose again. What a great feeling, a decent walk through silent streets and home to bed. What a strange bunch of heavy windy rainy weather we've had.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Getting Around

I don't like cycling around Key West, I'll be honest. You don't see me cycling partly because I am walking Rusty but partly also because I don't like the business of cycling.I rely on my walking skills. So when I saw a lone shoe abandoned at Flamingo Crossing ice cream I wondered what happened. Did they keep going in one stockinged foot? 
Some people absolutely love their bicycles. If I lived in town I'd ride my scooter instead. It's not because I dislike the physical effort but because bicycles occupy a strange place in the hierarchy of the road. On the one hand they have to obey the rules of the road but on the other they are able to take short cuts that enable them to circumvent other road users. And that tends to annoy car drivers. So there is tension. Also the fact that you are an actual road user requires you to pay attention as you pedal, so the delightful ability to be distracted (and take pictures!) as you walk is no longer possible.
And yet bicycles are so sensible why would you want to drive a  big old car or truck? Because you do. Everyone does. I've seen some communities, places even not connected by roads where everyone still has a  car. The smallest islands have traffic. Cars are just part of the fabric of our lives. I see tracks across pristine land on satellite views and its obvious they are made by cars. The car leaves its mark across the planet.
I have always held the belief that if everyone rode two wheels the traffic would be that much more bearable. When I was a youngster motorcycle magazines offered up that vision as a way to make motorcycles socially acceptable- good for the traffic! We still rode like hooligans. We didn't care if anyone else rode. Now I live in a place where scooters are useful transportation and I like it. 
 My trainer at the gym grumbles that people have forgotten the validity of bicycles in Key West and he feels everyone should ride "like they used to" but its not going to happen. There are cars in every street picture of Key West, a city two miles wide and four miles long.
 There is also some self expression on two wheels in a state where cornering is not such a big requirement and motorcycles can be so low slung they barely ride above the ground: 
And I admit it, having the ability to take a road trip i a great thing because these aren't really islands, but a peninsula and there is that one congested highway out of town. Happily.
The Overseas Highway means you can be in San Diego in four days without taking a ferry.... 

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.