Sunday, February 3, 2019

Civil War Heritage

I was wandering around the beach and field at Fort Zachary State park, and more on that another day, when I saw people on the fort walls pointing into the interior of the fort. So that was where they were...
These reenactors come annually to Fort Zachary to camp and replay a sea battle but this was the first time the stars coincided with my ability to check it out. The fort is period piece and shows off canons from that time as year round exhibits. This one pointed directly at the handicapped parking spot at the path to the fort.
My legs were tired from stumping around the pines and beach so I took a pause on a park bench set at a nice height for my weak legs. A woman sitting there was kind enough to make room and I laughed as she started back from the cripple. I explained my temporary disability and she explained she'd left home in north Florida at 4 am to be present to help her son, a Confederate who doubles as a student at the community college. Apparently his musket isn't allowed on campus, imagine that, and he relied on his mother to come down and haul his firing piece safely home for him.   
 The Confederate camp was a bit smaller than the garrison of Federal soldiers inside the fort. The reenactors are at pains to point out the Union held Key West thanks to artillery Captain John Brannan who stole across town with his soldiers in the middle of the night in January 1861 and held the fort for the US government which was very useful to help blockade the Gulf ports and their exports of cotton. Apparently some of the Confederate reenactors represented captured sailors.
The hill was steep and covered with pebbles but nothing daunted I climbed up to meet Jake the blacksmith.
He operates a small blacksmith shop in Edgefield South Carolina as a retirement hobby where he makes ornamental candlesticks and hinges and smaller items he said. 
They were getting ready for the weekend and I can only imagine and  80 degree day such as we were enjoying yesterday might get a bit warm.
One other business that caught my eye after I negotiated the slippery descent from the smithy was the fudge shop. There were people selling canvas and wooden items but an iguana shooting wooden crossbow wasn't on my list not least because I don't have an iguana problem with Rusty in my life.
Whittling for customers, not terribly impressed by modern technology:
 I bought mint fudge and it was every bit as good as I had as a child.
 The Union lines inside the fort:
I was using my cane to get around and practice walking but she looked like she had stolen my rolling walker:
 Camping in costume:

I posted these three lads on Instagram and labeled them cannon fodder which was what they were in the 1860s. Casualties were appalling and medicine was rudimentary:
 Walking around in wool clothing in January heat seemed a lot to bear but they were stoics:
 Then I spotted more food alongside an actual menu:
And there I found food I had often read about but never tasted. Well I have now.  
This guy explained hard tack to me, indestructible rations for soldiers on the move used as a last resort instead of bread and often eaten with smelly salt pork as campaign rations.
He offered me a piece and it became a challenge to get the stuff down as they saw it as inedible. I did eat it and did not break a tooth. It tasted floury and salty, not exciting to eat but not disgusting either. He said they often dunked it in water or on ships they used rum. Which might make it more palatable.
The seated woman knitting made it using an original recipe she said, equal parts white and brown flour, salt and a touch of cinnamon to make it bearable. They were impressed by my ability to pack it away. Yum! These reenactors may be crazy  but they sure do enjoy themselves and impart their joy of history too. I wanted to spend more time there talking about life as it was lived.
 A comfy looking tent:
 I did not try the coffee. I could only imagine how strong they made it.
 Cavalry yellow he said.
Then everyone popped out and headed to the entrance for some battle acting on board ships, they said.

Undeterred the park rangers continued their normal program of tours inside the fort. I couldn't climb the steps to the tops of the walls in my condition but the harbor views are quite pleasant. 

The bus was taking them to the harbor to board the ships for the sea battle. I had to go to the gym so I left in my air conditioned chariot.
 And left them to it.
I couldn't help but think had I suffered my injuries 160 years ago I'd have died, say from a fall off a horse or similar.  Modern medicine is just one thing I'm thankful for, and tasty food that travels is good too.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Key West Bight

I have great difficulty adapting my mind to the tourist economy that runs Key West, so when the city commission voted to rename the Key West Bight I found myself rebelling. I have no doubt in a couple of decades I will get used to it but for now the place is the Bight.
In nautical terminology - stop me if I've explained this before, and I have- a bight is an indentation in the coastline, such that it could be used as a harbor.  Thus it is clear this used to be where boats tied up when they came to Key West. Before it became a pleasure boat haven it was the home of the shrimping fleet which got gentrified out of here, mostly to Stock Island. 
 But now it is the Historic Key West Seaport which is a mouthful. Actually now that commercial fishing has gone Historic Seaport probably reflects life in the Bight more accurately.
 If you want to take some pictures the Bight is the spot. Between rain showers it was perfect to exercise Rusty and my camera  at once. I have no idea what those dishes were doing on the dock box.
Turtle Kraals used to do breakfasts and they were quite good but these days at 7:30 in the morning they were buttoned up tight. 
 Different angles, same boats the light just seemed perfect to reflect my mood. I don't like cold and rain and wind. It's inevitable in winter and soon it will blow away but I don't have to like it.
This guy buzzing out of the harbor in a miniature speedboat cracked me up. It looks like the tour boats they used to use to tour around Key West and he has adapted it as his one person dinghy. Pretty clever and it even comes with a steering wheel which is quite luxurious for a small boat!
I rested my weary legs on a box for a few minutes and Rusty sat happily in the puddles. I think he has no great fondness for cold rainy days after his time as a stray.
I am not tempted to begin flats fishing. I surprise myself by living in a  town where drinking and fishing are the main recreations and I don't much fancy either of them.
 The long poles on the flat decked flats fishing boats are used to propel the craft through very thin water where the propeller might get damaged.
 More rain coming out of thick gray skies.
Tossing garbage is obviously a bad idea. Tossing fish remains is also a bad idea not least because they attract predators and in areas where people swim you don't really want sharks being attracted by the delicious smell of decomposing long dead fish.
The sign boards have been updated. The big red "Old Trafford" sign made me smile. Though I suspect it may be related to soccer not cricket. 
Rusty just wanted to keep walking. 

Friday, February 1, 2019

My Key West

Rick Worth painted Wilhelmina Crossing the 7 Mile Bridge on the wall at Olivia Street and Simonton. Apparently he touched up the mural and added his dog who died a short while ago. My kind of artist.
I came across something I hadn't previously noticed- what's wrong with me? Luckily I had my camera!
 I first noticed the abandoned cup outside, which naturally was too awkward to carry empty to a trash can. Then  I saw the brand new cups lined up inside. Out came the phone again.
The moon was doing it's thing and after dark it made itself felt. I'm not sure why but the moon like sunsets and coconut palms attracts a lot of attention. There. Done.
So then I figured I'd better put the disc in context. So I did that too. It's a bit like photographing the sunset. When I look at other people's pictures of Key West and the Keys they seem to inhabit a different world from me. Their's is a dollhouse of clean bright colors and manicured palms and mine is homeless people, grubby unpainted storefronts and stuff like that. I have no idea how to make a sunset different or interesting or how to make it tell a story. So I don't. 
 Yup there's the moon peeking through over the rooftops. I like my Key West, the funky off kilter one that most people don't see, or seek out, or cherish. 

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Seagrass Restaurant

A couple of days ago I was lunching at Goldman's Deli in New Town and then I found myself in short order having lunch with Nick at a new Thai restaurant in town. Nick has a fondness for all things Asian and he hadn't been here before so it seemed logical to try it out. The interior decor was fresh and airy with a surprise giant lion fish staring down from the wall:
We had checked the menu the previous evening at work thus there wasn't much humming and hawing over their massive menu.  I am no great fan of sushi or sashimi so we went directly to the Thai offerings and as this was an exploratory meal we included an appetizer, a serving of pork shumai and they were tender and delicious.
Nick said his baseline is Pad Thai so that was what he ordered over my objection that the dish is not adventurous enough.  That is not an objection I can make when my wife is around as she loves the dish and honestly I like it too. Pasta and peanuts? What's not to like? He thought it was as good as his favorite offering at Thai Island.
My main course was massaman curry with two heat stars out of five and it was quite spicy enough for this delicate palate. The dish consisting of potatoes onion and peanuts with the fried tofu in a huge portion was utterly delicious even though it was a monotone sort of beige color. I would order it again in a heartbeat.
Nick gave the place the big thumbs up as did I especially after we finished off the fried banana with honey. We had to check the dessert as this was an exploratory meal, and when I return with my wife I have no doubt whatsoever the pudding will not be included. 
It was soft and creamy inside, crispy outside, and perfectly delicious. I felt bad for tempting Nick into dessert country half against his will, but it had to be done as I couldn't possibly finish one more giant portion all by myself.
The restaurant was busy, overlooking the Winn Dixie Plaza, and it was pleasant to be tucked away where we could talk without being overheard and interrupted.
I know both of us will be back together or separately.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019


One of my colleagues had a birthday so word came down to me that we needed to reserve a table downtown to celebrate. Martin's it was on the 900 block of Duval Street and that location worked for me as I haven't eaten there since they were on Appelrouth Lane years ago.
I hate to say it but I don't much like eating on Duval Street, which I know is painting with a broad brush but the epicenter of tourism leaves little room for parking and I have so many suitable places to eat away from all the people that I don't think of Duval as a dinner destination. One thing going for Martin's was the romantic decor including a pair of bizarre feather lampshades.
Kristi liked her latest birthday get together and she had a few during the curse of her birthday week. I thought Martin's was alright too though the ambiance might have been more suited to a romantic tete-a -tete.
I had potato soup to start, creamy and thick not spicy though. I feel sometimes that we expect peppers in every dish. German cooking is not known for its  fire so there is that. I liked it.
For the main course I stuck to Martin's roots as German eatery and had the Jaeger Schnitzel which came with a mushroom sauce and crispy spaetzle, German potato noodles. It was a lot of food and half went to the doggie bag for dinner at work the next day. The meat was tender and the crispy deep fried coating was dry and perfect. I was quite impressed. My wife saw the pictures and decided we need to check it out together. 
Night dispatchers amusing themselves. Dispatching is one of those trades where you do need to be alone in your group to be able to talk freely. Not only do we deal with private information we also work with the sort of stressful situations that require a particular sense of humor and rather bleak outlook to deal with among ourselves. Nurses cops and the military do the same sort of thing. We are the group that is rarely remembered and infrequently heard from when the shit hits the fan. Three of the four dispatchers who stayed behind during Hurricane Irma are in the picture below:
Normal people were in the room too and they showed no signs of overhearing our rather peculiar conversation at the end of the room. I looked around from time to time but I saw no one looking green or anxious so we seemed to get away with it. 
I walked three blocks with my walker to the restaurant. Nick drove me back and I was grateful as my legs were tired. I stop to catch another monochrome shot of Key West by night. A lovely end to a good evening out.