Saturday, July 7, 2018

Night Caroline

It is one of my favorite areas to walk and luckily Rusty was also in the mood. 
Decoration on top of Harpoon Harry's  diner.
This used to be a formal "panhandling zone." The city moved the bums and now tries to park coaches here for a very high fee.

I do not always agree with the sentiments I photograph.
There used to be lots more winter visitors in old beater trucks and vans in Key West.
The city has gone upscale and old beater anything isn't always appreciated for its funky ambiance. 

Island inspired decor. Dusty windows and sagging shutters. 

Friday, July 6, 2018

Riding The Rails

It happens from time to time that I take the bus and every time I do I study the schedule to see if I can make it work. It works for lots of people does the Lower Keys shuttle because it was pretty full when I stepped on board and coughed up my four dollars. In one year and four months (but who's counting?) I'll be 62 and I think that makes me eligible for half price fares. In winter I see clusters of tourists at bus stops waiting for a ride to the fleshpots from their accommodations outside Key West. The Lower Keys shuttle is a great idea.
The trouble for me is that buses don't run often enough. You can check online progress and scheduled service if you Google Lower Keys shuttle schedule and  furthermore you can see where the bus actually is on the interactive map. Pretty cool eh? I was on Cudjoe Key, a mile from my home and in plenty of time for bus 826 scheduled to be off Spanish Main at 4 pm. If you click on the stops you get scheduled bus arrival information and if you click on the bus the page will tell you if its moving or if the doors are open or whatever info it has to share. Pretty amazing.
In the US buses are not viewed as people movers. They are more often viewed as transportation for hapless workers and bums who don't have cars but do have body odor and bad habits and no money. I find riding the shuttle quite pleasant, if a little chilly. The temperature is more like a meat locker than a bus but for people out doing manual labor all day it must feel pretty good to arrive home without getting heat stroke.
The  biggest problem for me is that the schedule is so damned scattered. Buses run every two hours more or less and I can't make it work with my work schedule, not even a few days a week. And the thing is you could put a bicycle or electric bike in the front rack and have a way to get around town and to and from the bus  stop. The way mass transit succeeds in other industrialized countries is hard to reproduce here. But I did get to listen to discussions about following piece work around the Lower Keys as construction after Hurricane Irma  moves forward. 
Most Americans, myself included, don't want to live in Manhattan-style crowding which is where mass transit works a treat. It isn't so terrible living alongside one single highway in a long county but its expensive to get the buses  running frequently enough to make wait times 20 minutes or less. So when I need the bus to go and pick up a vehicle that has been serviced its splendid and I was back home on my scooter with a new tire within two hours, thanks to the Lower Keys  shuttle. 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

South Beach Park

Among the many piers that stick out from Key West's south shore this one has come into the focus of the city leaders. It's called South Beach because it is the southernmost end of Duval Street.So far so good, 
The beach is sort of public access but blurs into the Southernmost Beach Cafe and their premises which have an ll defined line in the sand. Apparently city planners want to clean up this end of Duval Street and make a formal pocket park with public access. No bad thing. 
The thing is that beaches in the Keys are not what people come here for, unless they are misinformed. Geologically the Keys are more akin to the Bahamas, rocky outcrops of limestone rising slightly above the tideline with no sand to line the beaches. Mainland Florida is much better suited to the beach lover as the peninsula is made of sand and has miles of beaches on Gulf and Atlantic coasts.
On top of that during onshore gales and hurricanes this area is swamped of course and high tides always bring seaweed to dry and rot on the imported sand here so it is a rather more robust beach experience than many tourists might expect. I can best describe rotting seaweed as having a barnyard smell like  steaming horse manure or fresh pig shit  and whichever way you smell it, it's suboptimal for the beach going experience.
The plan is to create a more aesthetic experience and to create a clearer line on the beach though plans have yet to be finalised.
I am pretty sure it will be an improvement as this is not exactly how you would expect the city's main drag to end, rather ignominiously in a pile of dead seaweed, cement and public/private sand.
Duval Street stretches away for 14 blocks to the other end which stops short at the harbor waters. Also a rather bland full stop even if not full of seaweed as the harbor waters are not infested with it.
There is much work to be done to modernize Duval Street and make it appealing if only they would consider it. Pedestrian only would be a wonderful thing.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018


John Adams to Abigail Adams, 3 July 1776

John Adams to Abigail Adams

Philadelphia July 3d. 1776
Had a Declaration of Independency been made seven Months ago, it would have been attended with many great and glorious Effects. . . . We might before this Hour, have formed Alliances with foreign States.—We should have mastered Quebec and been in Possession of Canada. . . . You will perhaps wonder, how such a Declaration would have influenced our Affairs, in Canada, but if I could write with Freedom I could easily convince you, that it would, and explain to you the manner how.—Many Gentlemen in high Stations and of great Influence have been duped, by the ministerial Bubble of Commissioners to treat. . . . And in real, sincere Expectation of this Event, which they so fondly wished, they have been slow and languid, in promoting Measures for the Reduction of that Province. Others there are in the Colonies who really wished that our Enterprise in Canada would be defeated, that the Colonies might be brought into Danger and Distress between two Fires, and be thus induced to submit. Others really wished to defeat the Expedition to Canada, lest the Conquest of it, should elevate the Minds of the People too much to hearken to those Terms of Reconciliation which they believed would be offered Us. These jarring Views, Wishes and Designs, occasioned an opposition to many salutary Measures, which were proposed for the Support of that Expedition, and caused Obstructions, Embarrassments and studied Delays, which have finally, lost Us the Province.
All these Causes however in Conjunction would not have disappointed Us, if it had not been for a Misfortune, which could not be foreseen, and perhaps could not have been prevented, I mean the Prevalence of the small Pox among our Troops. . . . This fatal Pestilence compleated our Destruction.—It is a Frown of Providence upon Us, which We ought to lay to heart.
But on the other Hand, the Delay of this Declaration to this Time, has many great Advantages attending it.—The Hopes of Reconciliation, which were fondly entertained by Multitudes of honest and well meaning tho weak and mistaken People, have been gradually and at last totally extinguished.—Time has been given for the whole People, maturely to consider the great Question of Independence and to ripen their Judgments, dissipate their Fears, and allure their Hopes, by discussing it in News Papers and Pamphletts, by debating it, in Assemblies, Conventions, Committees of Safety and Inspection, in Town and County Meetings, as well as in private Conversations, so that the whole People in every Colony of the 13, have now adopted it, as their own Act.—This will cement the Union, and avoid those Heats and perhaps Convulsions which might have been occasioned, by such a Declaration Six Months ago.
But the Day is past. The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America.—I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.
You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not.—I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States.—Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The Glorious 4th

I noticed last Friday how traffic was building and  he town was hopping. I worked all weekend including Friday and there was a higher volume of 911 calls than usual so I figured people were in Key West determined to squeeze the most out of  tomorrow's summer holiday. ZI took a quick look around.
I honestly don't get the bar scene. For me sitting in a noisy environment surrounded by people gradually losing their inhibitions and frequently their good manners while paying through the nose for a drink  that I can have at home for much less... it makes no sense to me.
And besides that people come to Key West  specifically for that privilege. When I travel exploration is high on my list and when its time to sit back a  crowd is not what I seek out.  Luckily I am unusual because this city thrives on urgent crowds seeking alcohol. They throw in a bit of history and the bars argue over which really was Hemingway's preferred. I struggle to picture Hemingway in either of them but when you think about it the bars in those days just looked a bit different but their function was the same. Most likely he'd be massively at home being bought drinks and cheered on for his derring-do. 
 People will tell you the t-shirt shops the bars and the drunks make Duval Street unsuitable for children. I have no children so I haven't a  clue but I do know from talking to people the grungy nature of Duval Street is appealing. I guess in a world that is overly preoccupied with being clean and safe Key West is still promoting its alternative bad boy image and trying to look edgy. It works.
I'd like to see Duval treated differently, as an open air market, a pedestrian zone with shade trees and benches, a place that would attract people not repel them.
I still think about Church Street in Burlington, a place I visited a couple of years ago when in Vermont and I was impressed by the outdoor cafes, the food stands, busy shops and tons of people milling around talking and playing music, throwing horseshoes and generally treating the street as a playground. Duval doesn't even offer anywhere to sit for fear the bums will take over.
And then there are the businesses that have closed and there is nothing apparently to tell property owners to make the empty buildings at least look presentable. 
But these are considerations that don't amount to much. Key West is a summer playground and that's what matters.
 Old City Hall is getting a  face lift and the clock face wrecked by Hurricane Irma has been fixed.
 The scooter parking out front used to be a trench filled with rainwater and trash. They fixed that too with cement and everything:
Small steps.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Irma's Effects

For some reason my neighborhood, close to Hurricane Irma's landfall is ringing lately to the sounds of hammers and saws. Repair work is in high gear 10 months after the 150 mph  winds landed here
The tourist infrastructure has been repaired and so the face of daily life in the Keys proceeds as normal. But off the beaten paths where people live insurance companies have not been so forthcoming.
The boats that washed up have been cleared at vast expense but there is still crap in the water, unexpected branches and humps of dirt....
I found a couple of gas stations on what appeared to be limited rations...that was a flashback.
Not being able to find gas was a huge headache before and after Irma and a constant source of frustration. Now one of the Shell stations appears to have given up altogether on offering higher grades of fuel. Weird.
The campgrounds in the Lower Keys got mashed. The Sugarloaf KOA appears nowhere near ready to reopen yet.
New fences mark the path of the storm.
Houses appear abandoned in some places, damaged and unattended.
We  don't  need another storm this summer. We didn't really need Irma.