Monday, February 11, 2019

Artisan Market

Higgs Park is the grassy area inland of the beach. Much of it is open grass, some is devoted to dogs and a small triangle nearest the road becomes a place to sell stuff every other Saturday through the winter high tourist season. It used to be at the Restaurant Store on Eaton Street but now it’s moved as you can see: 

After a half night at work and a delicious lunch I was ready to go and see the Oscar nominated animated short movies at the Tropic Cinema.  Herself had a stop first. 

Hurricane Irma did a number on our windchime we forgot to bring indoors. Category Four storms will do that in addition to destroying entire neighborhoods. We got a replacement. The neighborhoods are still struggling and I try not to get pissed off about that. 

Layne went looking for fresh vegetables while I went looking for I wasn’t sure what. The brown roots in the front are turmeric I’m told. I’d never previously seen (or noticed) actual turmeric plants. 

Ciabatta focaccia and olives peppers and spices are ingredients in this European Bakery. The focaccia was nicely seasoned though soft. We strolled and snacked on it and enjoyed the bread. In Italy it’s more like pizza dough usually sprinkled with olive oil rosemary and specks of salt but I was entirely happy where I was. 

I’m not fond of cute aphorisms and memes but this one I liked, though what it has to do with headgear I couldn’t say. 

Yesterday was a lovely day. It was breezy with an east wind to twenty miles per hour, no humidity all while short sleeve warm. A hell of a place to be Sunday afternoon.  You’d have liked it too. 

New puppy. Camera shy almost as bad as Rusty (who was at home snoozing on the deck).  I waited to get the face. 

We talked to a friend of Layne’s working one of the booths selling pancakes on a stick...of which they had run out - darn!- as it was well past closing time when we got to the market. 

It turns out the demand  for space at the market is huge as they get 140 businesses applying to participate in the lottery for just 70 spaces. Which led me to ponder a potential solution to the demand dilemma. 

Why not hold the market every Saturday so everybody gets a chance to display their wares every two weeks? Seems obvious to me especially as I want to be sure to try those pancakes on a stick things...

And then it was time to go, check out the movies and rest my weary legs. Great market excellent location and it’s time to make it a weekly event I say. Not that anyone cares what I think. 

Eaton Street in shades of blue outside the theater. 

Sunday, February 10, 2019

The Bahamas

The Museum of Art and History, better known as the Custom House on Front Street is exhibiting the connection between the Keys and the Bahamas, which it turns out is extensive and intricate, rather a lot for just one room in the building. Consequently there are a lot of explanatory boards with many many words that I shall attempt to precis among these photos.
The Bahamas connection started with the Revolutionary War in the American colonies and when the revolutionary forces won, the Loyalists as they saw themselves, had their backs to the water. Britain rewarded their loyalty by offering them land nearby in the Bahamas, which were in 19th century as arid and under developed as they are today. If it is not already clear, this exhibit will make it clear for you that wealth was to be found in Key West, not in Nassau the capital of the Bahamas.
Thus it was inevitable that Bahamians started to trickle back to the US, after the bad feelings caused by the war started to subside. What makes this flow of human beings so interesting is that the bulk of the Keys were also underpopulated and, aside from Key West, during the 19th century most of these scrubby islands were as desolate agriculturally speaking as the Bahamas. So in a sense the flow of people in those days was less an invasion and more a mixing of populations.
They came from the Northern Bahamas mostly, the Abacos where American plantation owners resettled. In 1834 the British Empire outlawed slavery which altered the population balance in the Bahamas and led to more free people competing for available resources in those islands. Thus the flow of white Bahamians back to the US increased, where slavery lasted another 25 years. And they brought their skills with them, as fishermen, spongers and boat builders. 
I have seen the famed Bahamian sloops racing in Georgetown in the Family Islands Regatta and they are the descendants of the island schooners that traded among the Bahamas, which islands are also known as the "Family Islands" to their residents. Once the sailboats were a lifeline, now they are  an historic sport. Shown below, atrading schooner:
It turns out several names  familiar in Key West have their roots in the Family Islands. Nelson English Park for instance:
 Robert Gabriel public housing....
Sandie Cornish deserves a mention all his own in light of his desperate measures to escape slavery. He mutilated himself after he escaped to Key West and thus wrecked his economic value as a piece of property and his plan worked. He lived and prospered in Key West, a free man, and left money to assorted good causes. His principal monument is a vast white wooden church on Whitehead Street. I like to think he was also a fine story teller.
Sponging is one of those industries you don't think much about these days, in the era of synthetic everything.  I used to see the distinctive outline of a man near Sugarloaf Key standing on his boat poking the water with a hooked pole trying to harvest the sponges. I haven't seen anyone doing that for years now and I dare say it's outlawed or too much work or something. Once upon a time they imported sponge divers from Greece to harvest sponges near Tampa.
The other thing about the Bahamas is they are well known for their sandy banks. However the islands themselves are limestone outcrops just like the Florida Keys. Not at all like the sandy mainland of Florida.
The other thing about the people who came here from there is that some of them, the ones with money I dare say, brought their homes with them. Such labor seems beyond imagining when you consider the complexity of our modern wired homes and lives. 
In those days homes were shells filled with furniture. Though they did bring distinctive Bahamian shutters with them. This model represents a house dismantled on Green Turtle Cay and brought by schooner to Key West for its owner Tuggy Roberts.
Apparently there was a massive storm in 1846 which wrecked much of the housing stock, which event slowed the migration from the Bahamas but impatient souls decided to bring their houses with them.
And even today if you walk around Old Town with your head in the air you will see homes with tin roofs and solid skylights like this model, propped up on pieces of wood.
 Then there is Junkanoo which is a form of carnival celebration in the Bahamas. It involves masks, costumes dancing in the streets and music created by using goatskin drums and castanets.
Junkanoo is of unknown origins but even though the Bahamas aren't strictly speaking in the Caribbean (even though lots of people think they are, like Bermuda) they have developed similar holiday traditions.
There was film of Junkanoo imported to Key West and  boy was I surprised to see Nancy hanging out with the players. She used to work with my wife and now I see her at the gym so I shall ask if she knows she is appearing on the wall of the Museum every few minutes...
Worth a visit but I wish I had brought my rolling walker instead of my cane as there was lots to read and my legs were killing me by the end.

Through April 7th, from the Museum's page:
Aside from the geographic proximity to one another, the islands of the Bahamas and the island of Key West have much in common.  The latter’s original settlers were mainly of Bahamian descent, particularly from the Abacos, Harbour Island and Eleuthera.  The Bahamians, already proficient in the shipbuilding, fishing, wrecking and sponging industries relocated to Key West in the hopes of enhanced economic fortunes.  Once it was established that Key West could be prosperous, Bahamians moved to the island in large numbers, sometimes even bringing everything, including their homes, with them.  The result was that Key West effectively became an extension of the Bahamas; the food, the architecture, the industries, the music and the families all were closely aligned with their former lives.
This exhibit seeks to explore both the historical and contemporary connections between the two locations, demonstrating how much of Key West’s culture and community is deeply rooted in its Bahamian heritage.

Saturday, February 9, 2019


I live in hope that this weekend I will return, after five and half months to my own home and my own bed after a round robin of hospitals and loaned apartments and impenetrable staircases. The support I have received following last August's accident has been remarkable and every day I find myself feeling gratitude to one more person for their help. And then as I drove along Northside Drive I spotted once again scooter riders working hard to break their own pelvic bones. They wobbled and weaved, they wore n protective clothing, they threw themselves on the mercies of the gods.
I confess to feeling some small irritation at the way fate threw me to the ground and declines to throw others. Perhaps like a speeding ticket the one you get is payment for all the overdue tickets never did get when you were speeding ferociously. I have ridden motorcycles for fifty years with no worse injury than a few bruises and some road rash. Then I ate the Big One when I was traveling rationally in the flow and wearing my helmet. I don't wish the idiots ill but I wonder, as the youth on the sports bike weaves between cars what he expects his life span to the end.
I am tired of being a cripple. I look forward to the day, perhaps by April when I need not renew my parking permit and i get to park like everyone else in an unmarked spot. Rusty is enjoying seeing me around the house and my wife says he is much more relaxed even though I am forced to sleep in borrowed apartments with elevators for the time being. The seventeen steps up to the house should be surmounted by the lift chair very very soon. Then I will be living large.
The Key West city commission is acting weird too. They are moving to ban certain sunscreens that apparently damage corals. This sort of radical action usually goes nowhere but Key West is breathing fire on the subject. Also plans are moving forward to create three pedestrian blocks on Duval Street Friday and Saturday nights. It's more or less between Fleming and Angela Streets as a test program to see how it shakes down. One can hardly imagine such a modern proposal being a failure but the newspaper reports all merchants in the area are delighted with the plan. That in itself is unusual in a town with a million opinions. Oh and the news of the weird front an advertising truck has been seen driving around the city. I caught a glimpse of it while I was photographing fog the other day. It's a mobile billboard which may be normal in other cities but is new around here. I'm not sure if it's a blight or funny.
The fog was pretty thick. You'll see fog a time or two a year in the Keys but this episode would be rated as pretty thick. 
Luckily fog doesn't last long and by lunchtime it burned off. Actually it reminded me of California weather, cool and overcast and then finally the sun came out. I played with the exposure and brightened up the picture by over exposing it for fun:
 And there was my main man excited to be out and about in cool Florida weather. Rusty looking especially cute:

Friday, February 8, 2019

Ferron Bell

I have this unfortunate tendency to make connections and find things funny that most people don't. I have actually been berated for my public  sense of humor by those unhappy beings who don't share my sense of fun which sometimes comes across as too strong for those of a weak humorous disposition. I have never been moved to make artworks out of my puns but I take my hat off to a man whose work is currently exhibited at the Custom House on Front Street but ends on Sunday the 10th so I only just caught it. Lucky me. 
They call it Whimsy which when you look at the art is a good description. I knew I was going to enjoy the show and I did, very much. 
I had difficulty deciding what to photograph there were so many objects on display. 
The large picture below is titled "Hurricane Palms" but all I could hope to do is give you a small taste of the brilliance on display.
 Much is made of the fact that Bell did not make large sums of money from his art. He kept his prices accessible and apparently lived on the edge of financial ruin all his life.
Which is odd because his work is beautifully crafted and has a surreal Dali like quality. Like Dali the artists demonstrates superb technical competence.
 The pictures mostly are light, perfectly executed, in gorgeous arrays of color and I find it hard to imagine they would have been hard to sell had Bell had a mind to sell them for their full worth.
 He enjoyed playing with the royal palm concept too, below accompanied by a piece titled "Pigeon Key."
 Royal Palm:
Board Meeting:
The vertical piece on the left is titled 24 carrot.
From the Art and History Museum's website is wanted to paste these words as they will disappear soon enough as will the exhibit.

“Ferron’s work is unlike any other artist in Key West,” says Society Curator Cori Convertito, Ph.D.  “It is not idyllic.  It is not intended to evoke daydreams in tourists’ minds of swaying palm trees on a pristine beach.  Ferron was eccentric, and so was his artwork.”
That said, Bell had a self-professed love of palm trees and made them the subject of his final Key West exhibit – “Palm Sunday Show” – held on April Fools’ Day, 2012, a year before his death.  The three-hour pop-up held at Smokin’ Tuna Saloon was a benefit for The Sister Season Fund and the Gay/Straight Alliance at Key West High School, and (by his account) the largest collection of his work ever gathered for one show.
“There are many palms in the world and we have a great selection here in Key West,” Ferron wrote on his Facebook page when promoting his show. “We have Lipstick, Feather Duster, Gingerbread, Christmas, Old Man, Royal, Bottle Palms, and others… and each of them is unique and beautiful.”
True to his wit, paintings included a palm tree with its top shaped like a hand (“Palm Tree Dee”) and feather dusters flanking a lighthouse in lieu of feather duster palm trees (“Lighthouse Keeping”), among many other pun-inspired paintings.
“Ferron loved puns. His artwork typically involved a pun or a play on words,” says Convertito. “He took the lovely scenery around him and incorporated elements of nature (particularly birds) in a pun.  For example, he created various examples of a work he called ‘The Crow Bar’ which was, essentially, a murder of crows standing alongside a bar with cocktails in hand.” 
Bell’s passion and creativity were embraced by both of the island communities where he lived and worked.  In Key West, he was commissioned to paint entire rooms with tropical motifs and sold many of his pieces to friends who supported his quirky vision and nature.

 Ferron Bell lived on Fire Island for thirty five years, spending only winters in Key West:
 (Unfinished)  Crow Bar - my kind of pun so I put my shadow in the picture!
 Truman Annex.
 Eggcellent Day In The Keys:
Key West Art & Historical Society celebrates the legacy of one of the island’s most clever visual artists with “Art & Puns: The Whimsy of Ferron Bell”and a special opening reception from 6:00pm-7:00pm on Friday, December 7 in the Bumpus Gallery of the Custom House Museum located at 281 Front Street.  The exhibit runs through February 10, 2019.  The exhibit spotlights the quirky late artist’s trademark visual wit and whimsy, featuring work from private Key West collectors, personal photographs, and newspaper clippings about the unique personality widely known for his off-the-wall and humorous creations.
A self-taught artist, Thomas Ferron Bell began his career at the age of 16 in Chattanooga, Tennessee, moved to Fire Island Pines, New York when he was 21, later splitting his time and talents between there and Key West, Florida. Bell worked full time as an artist, cultivating his audience and frequently bartering and donating his work to fundraisers in the Key West community.