Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Little Hamaca Park

I like Little Hamaca, the scrubland between the airport and Riviera Canal and I go there from time to time to take some pictures and walk a dog when I'm in town and he doesn't want to walk the streets...This week the reason we were there was that I had to take my wife to the drop in clinic as she had caught my flu and needed the dreaded pills to ease the course of their nasty break bone illness. Rusty and I saw no value in sitting around waiting for the long line of patients to dissipate.  Even though I wasn't feeling very strong I could totter behind Rusty on the new boardwalk they've put across the park.  It's a five minute walk to the Riviera Canal which was on an extremely high tide at the recent full moon.
The walkway used to be made of wood but I guess it was time for an upgrade. The piling appear the originals sunk into the mud and water below.
The Blue Paper has a video this week discussing "little known" Little Hamaca. I don't usually watch videos as I haven't the patience but what with being in bed with the 'flu, nothing lost...Luckily they ran with the video-dramatic history of the place focusing on the Cuban Missile Crisis that saw Hawk Missiles based at the end of the park now marked by blast berms and radar towers.
Rusty and I spent a little time here before we retreated to the shady boardwalk through the mangroves.
There are warning signs about crocodiles so be aware. There have been reports of reptiles in the Riviera Canal so consider yourself warned. I've never seen one in Key West but I don't live in these mangroves so if it were me for instance I probably wouldn't swim in the Canal these days. But on the boardwalk? No problem.  Rusty is not a suicidally inclined dog.  I've seen him get very wary when we were walking in the Everglades and whether he detected a large snake or a croc I don't know but I respect his wisdom and we beat a retreat. He has good instincts and I don't argue with him even if I see nothing.
The city has put some energy into making the park accessible but in summer it tends to be a pretty quiet spot. Runners run on Government Road but not out here. It's very serene.
The houses you can see through the trees are on the far side of the canal. 

Looking east down the Canal toward Stock Island:

No crocodiles, no homeless people and no tired lonely gay men looking for a good time. 
All "known" hazards at Little Hamaca that have never bothered me.
I must give off the aura of wanting to be left alone in the wilderness. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

View From The Overseas Highway

On our way to the airport for our recent trip I took pictures from the car window as I was that rarest of things in my life: the passenger.  I took the pictures because my family likes to look at what seems rare and exotic, turquoise water, coconuts and year round temperatures that never approach freezing. It is an unimaginable phenomenon and they never quite seem to grasp the concept that I live in the land of eternal summer. "What do they do for agriculture," my sister the farmer asked me one evening over dinnner.  None I said bluntly, there is no land. She looked down at her plate of home killed chicken and home grown vegetables and pondered that anomaly for a while. I showed her the pictures.  "So you eat fish?" looking for the harvest from nature in some form. Yup I've learned to like fish during my exile in the New World. But I don't enjoy fishing any more than I didn't enjoy farming.

The chaos of one road out...

Better off on the water you might think...

Unless you are on Islamorada's notorious sandbar.

Monday, August 7, 2017

A Busy Day In Italy

Modena is a small town in the flatlands of Northern Italy where they grow rice and age Parmesan and make their famous balsamic vinegar.

And this is the city that is also home to the restaurant rated best in Italy and second best in the world with three Michelin stars. The unobtrusive entrance to Osteria Francescana.

I got a table for two by repeated online efforts and making myself available when someone cancelled their place. We arrived early of course and spent some time in the nearby church veered market where naturally we bought some vinegar.

The northern plains of Italy suffer terrible winters so residents like to duck out of the fog and rain underneath the arches lining many older city streets.  In summer they offer shade:

We checked the local covered market which we had visited previously, where my wife bought some vinegar and some bottled kitchen additions, pickles and the like.  Had we an apparent,net they had vegetables fruits meats and fish which would make daily shopping quite pleasant. Apparently the owner of Osteria Francescana does just that.  
You can't bring meat back to the US but you can bring cheese and packaged foods, so we do.
Credit cards are widely accepted at your average tourist haunts but not at local stores. Italians think paying for small amounts with a credit card is weird and merchants hate paying the fees. Many would rather not have your business than deal with a card. Carry cash! Your convenience is not their priority.
One Euro is worth about $1:20 this year.A five Euro bottle of wine could be described as costing $6.  Exchange rates are complicated because bank fees and charges muddle things up. For instance they changed our rate which we snagged in the US at €1:10 which became €1:20 by the time we got our paper money at First State bank to take to Italy with us...
We got back at the eatery two minutes before time. We stood around ignoring each other like customers approaching a disreputable business and suddenly a wild haired man, thin as a stick rushed by, waved, announcing in accented English he'd be ready in five minutes. A wave of adulation and clicking cameras followed Massimo Bottura round the corner and then the doors opened. English is the first language of the Osteria with its customers. My Italian fluency took them by surprise. 

It was a remarkable meal, shown below the off-the-menu amuse bouche which by itself was fish four ways, intense falcons such that I was glad to get a mere taste and not face a whole plate of the tiny delicacies.
There were about 15 courses including the famous five seasons of Parmesan, the cheese reduced to foam, cream and mousse covered by a slice of delicately fried cheese. This dish made the restaurant famous.
I quitE liked their play on popcorn, brought to the table on a plate with a big cup. Te waiters are happy to pose for the cam area oddly. Everyone was recording their meal.  At first I was shy but my wife took these pictures for us.
Oops I dropped the lemon tart! is a dish famously created after a chef dropped the last tart and Bottura was forced to improvise. So he made the mistake into his best known dessert, offered on an artistically broken plate.  Tasted like Key Lime Pie to me but maybe I was just missing Key West.
He came by each table and said a few words.  I find it uncomfortable taking to the chef and I think he much preferred talking to the windbag behind us.he did talk about his soup kitchen program using his fame to bring attention to the idea of feeding the poor nourishing tasty food in dignified surroundings. 

That human decency alleviates the stress of paying seven hundred dollars for two lunches without wine.  We did take a glass ofbubblyItalian prosecco as an aperitif but we had a long day ahead so we chose to save three hundred bucks and not do the wine pairing.  In the end all I can say is it was an experience and I'm glad we did it but I can't see doing it again. I'd rather spend the money there than at Disney World but I am likely in a minority.
For whatever reason my wife had decided she wanted to attend an opera, something she did once as a child of which she had no memory. I have long wanted to go to the Arena di Verona, an open air opera performance in a Roman Amphitheater. The show started at nine (dusk) and we had a two and a half hour drive from lunch. I didn't know it at the time but they now offer supertitles on the advertising screens shown in the picture above. The titles are in Italian and English and were a boon to my wife who got a lot more out of the performance of Rigoletto which she thoroughly enjoyed. To her surprise.

The evening was highly atmospheric and we were smart to sit in the cushioned seats close to the action. Yeah yeah, the stone seats at the top cost $30 and you can wear shorts. Down below we paid $150 each and had to wear long pants which was okay by me. It was not at all cold either and we got to keep our wine glasses as souvenirs which was an intermission bonus.
It was a memorable road trip in Giovanni's BMW 520 which he lent to me for our last couple of weeks in Italy. So much went on in the last month it was an outing to Modena and Verona that stood out as being as varied from my regular life as was possible.

Under The Weather

I came home coughing and feverish only to be diagnosed with the 'flu after a nurse stabbed my nostril with a swab, a jab that brought tears to my eyes...Normal service will be resumed on this page as soon as I can get off my sickbed and get out with a camera. Rusty is looking very sleek and fit after his vacation with Shannon and Matt and is waiting patiently for the rest of the household to drop snuffling and hacking. 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Sugarloaf in July

I took these pictures before I left on vacation. I figured they would be something I could look at to remind me of home. And of him:
 It was a lovely morning, not too hot a bit of humidity a slight breeze.
 Apparently a sign asking people not to drive on the old state road isn't enough and now Fish and Wildlife is ramping it up. I doubt the county will refuse their request to install a gate. 
 We now have two blimps flying off Blimp Road. There used to be two, the second one transmitted TV propaganda to Cuba where they blocked the signal and nixed the 16 million dollars in US taxpayer money the TV Marti blimp cost to fly each year. 
 At the time of writing (July 4th) I have no idea what the second blimp is for. 
 Red mangrove seeds, called propagules:
 The road ends in the remains of a burned out bridge:
 There was a tide running quite strongly in the saltwater creek:

 We spent two and a half hours on the walk. It helped dull my guilt momentarily, guilt about leaving him behind for three weeks.
My beloved boy.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Key West Cemetery

A few pictures of an all too brief stroll through the cemetery:

I caught the Fort Jefferson seaplane sneaking overhead:

Frances Street gate: