Sunday, September 22, 2019

Conch Homes

A night walk pointing  the camera  at houses in the dark. 
 This photo was a section I took of the mansion on Southard recently refurbished. Miles of windows and wood.
 Summer is the time to rebuild and repair:

 The Congregational church on William Street shining like a multi colored beacon:
 These last two pictures came from the Theater on Eaton Street devoted t live theater and music...
 ...and apparently  guitar store. Who knew?

Saturday, September 21, 2019

KOA Reconstruction

We walked across the footbridge/bicycle path/fishing pier that connects Cudjoe Key to Sugarloaf Key. The view from the bridge can be spectacular and sometimes Rusty doesn't mind walking the half mile across the water. 
The other thing you can see is the KOA Kampground on the Sugarloaf shore and I use the term campground loosely as it got wrecked in Hurricane Irma two years ago and is still looking the worse for it. Machinery and construction workers have only been working there for a couple of weeks and progress is not brilliant.
I have taken the time on this page to point out that hurricanes in the US are rarely fatal but they are tedious. Living through the cacophony of howling winds and flying debris is bad enough but when things calm down the survivors discover they live in a lunar landscape devoid of amenity and convenience. Everything is messy and slow and difficult.
Then long after the immediate Facebook drama ("thoughts and prayers") has dissipated the clean up plods along. Some other fiasco of no great consequence or impact is put up as a banner headline and last week's heroic hurricane survivors are now history. Yet they still have to pick up the trash and figure out how to flush waterless toilets and wait patiently among the mosquitoes for the power to return... And in some cases hope that soon their campgrounds will reopen.
And that's not the worst of it. I know of people whose homes are still damaged from Hurricane Irma and the struggle for redress by insurance companies continues. God knows how the Bahamians will fare in their reduced economy on their isolated islands.
We meanwhile, we lucky few continue our daily lives on and off the water. Fishing line dangling complete with victim off the power lines. You see this everywhere among our islands:
And as we walked I took a few pictures of clouds and sea and skies and put the results through a filter on my phone to exaggerate the drama. It is I feel the way everyone likes to live on the Web, vicariously with drama!
 Some of the effects are more subtle:
 This one untouched:
 This grainy painting started out as an unremarkable low key digital image:
 Looking north across the main highway bridge:
It was getting warm for Rusty so after a companionable pause we walked back across the bridge in the rising sun. I was surprised he enjoyed the bridge as much as he did.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Southard Street Night

This is not the first time I have photographed this home before and I still like it with the palms and the symmetry. 
What with all the climate change stuff that creates so much anger, the storms that seem to be getting stronger and more frequent I walk these streets and wonder how the city has survived and thrived since incorporation in 1828. I find it relaxing to walk past these wooden homes and in photographing them I want to store them in my memory as symbols of the sturdy self reliance of Key West over the decades.
I have no particular desire to argue the merits of human caused climate change but even skeptics have given up opposing the notion that the climate is changing, human caused or not, and given that it seems likely we will be seeing more of these grotesquely powerful hurricanes in the seasons to come.
The odd thing about these storms is that if properly managed  governments can limit loss of life and event though damage to property can be hair raising human lives are not generally at risk. It's counter intuitive I know but I'm not afraid of dying in a  storm barreling down on Key West but I am fearful of living through the aftermath of no services, filth everywhere and a total absence of the civilized comforts we are used to in the First World. It just gets stressful living through a storm and dealing with the clean up, not life threatening. 
Then you see the brief video clips of Abaco and Grand Bahama literally vanishing into the sea as huge storm surges climb over the islands, that in all respects are the same as the lumps of rock this side of the Gulf Stream. Those submerged homes could easily be the homes in these pictures.
And then there are the businesses that thrive in good times and not so much when times are tough. Times when tourists stay away, times when national stories about disastrous storms hang over these islands like a bad smell even as the chambers try to over ride the bad news stories. The convenience store above survives through it all the take out food joint below has apparently closed. I liked the idea of Cajun food but Caju alligator and frog was not what I was looking for in a take home dinner.  
Manley Deboer has been in Key West forever selling construction supplies in the face of national chains. I took the picture below planting the office in a stark dark wasteland of emptiness in which they too manage to thrive. Small sparks of light that you need to keep in mind when hurricanes blow out your creative spark.
When I look at Rusty I wonder how stray dogs live through these wet and windy times. Even pets owned by callous owners, the outside dog types...I do the best I can for him and wonder how on judgement day I would justify my inaction on behalf of the animals ignored by humanity.
Then I look upstairs at the Albury Court and compare those walkways to the rising tide waters photographed from upstairs in the Bahamas. Imagine that height of water flowing through your downtown.
Caroline Street as Rusty failed to stop for my most determined effort at a shot of the bicycles flashing by on a street still in focus. I've photographed Caroline Street so many times I don't need this for the archives, just as a study in motion. Well, that didn't work too well. "I'm ready to be obliterated thank you M. Cartier-Bresson."
At least a  guitar player in a mural can't move to screw up the shot. Even if he were alive I doubt the would move considering the concentration displayed:
Sails and Rails used to be a gallery and now its some sort of museum it seems. I guess one day I'll check it out but I wonder what more there is to display on the subject of Flagler and his railroad to Key West.
I saw the sign on the bench and made Rusty stop for a second. The sun might make the bench hot. Be careful. How is it possible such warnings are necessary in a town noted for it's lack of winter weather?
You know it's summer  (and therefore HOT) because there are no dinghies at the dinghy dock. In winter when the town is bulging with people this place overflows with dinghies brought in by people living at anchor out there.
Take pride in the history of your home. The man after whom Kemp's Ridley Turtle is named lived here once.
The Fleming House cleaned up and dramatized on Snapseed. Looks good doesn't it?
A  few more pictures to round out our walk:
A church on William Street at dawn:
Mangia Mangia the Italian restaurant back on Southard Street:

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Chicago River Tour

I have been dreading writing this page ever since I looked at my camera's picture counter and noticed I'd taken 220 pictures and most of them on the river during last Sunday in Chicago. When I made reservations to visit Webb Chiles in his home near Chicago he pondered a suitable day out and hit the nail on the head with a River Boat Tour. His wife Carol was telling me about the tour when I rudely interrupted her and asked the pressing question a  man who lives to sail would ask: How does the tour boat go to weather? Aside from the sailor's joke, and going into the wind would not be something I'd like to do on the tub that cruises through Chicago, the tour is astonishing. It really is.
Let's get one thing straight: I'm not an architect and though I was busy with my camera I took no notes and I can only hope to get the outlines right. Our guide Siobhan a docent since 2015  was full of anecdotes and stories about the dozens of buildings we sailed past. a tour de force performance.
Our boat was right there, just arrived with a load of happy visitors. Chicago downtown looks like this, with neat  flowerbeds, lean sidewalks and polite people. I was quite surprised to find since my last tourist visit  with my wife's cousin who lives nearby, Chicago is still the most approachable of big cities. San Francisco has gone downhill, New York is still nice enough for a mega metropolis, but Chicago retains a small town feel. At least in the tourist bits.
I was entranced enough I got left behind as Webb and Carol marched forward. You can't keep a sailor from a boat, not even a stink pot like the tour boat. Which comes fully equipped with ice cold drinks, delicious, at  a bar  in the saloon. We sat on deck in brilliant afternoon sunshine.
I suppose the tower on the Wrigley building is where one should start, the iconic building apparently purchased by the chewing gum magnate who then added a second building:
You can see the second building on the right, connected to the first by a bridge. The tour brought home to us the many styles of building created in Chicago over the years since the skyscraper was first invented here.
Trump Tower manages to dominate the entrance to the river though I am told the President no longer has an interest in the building. The tour was strictly non political; nothing to be gained there for an organization dedicated to the appreciation of architecture.
 Siobhan was keen we should know why the city flag has four stars and I think I learned that lesson. One for Fort Dearborn, the original settlement (whose boundaries are marked ion the sidewalk in bronze which I failed to photograph in the press of people), one for the great fire of 1871, and one each for the great expositions of the 20th century.  Chicago was an industrial powerhouse in the 19th century, slaughtering cattle, creating construction materials and using them and shipping catalogues and products around the country 
 Lots of people want to see it all:
 The corncob building known more prosaically as Marina City with car parking in the lower sections:
They have the parking lot as the location for spectacular movie scenes launching cars into the river. This classic beauty looked to be for rent I think:
Carol pointed out this machine, below, noting "Key West is everywhere." And so it is. When I boarded the tour boat they asked the passengers where they were from and among the high proportion of locals when I said "Key West" (Cudjoe Key seems a bit too specific under the circumstances) she said "No wonder you are so laid back."  Not at all I thought to myself, it's because I am being totally taken care of. Usually I get a knowing smirk as though residents live on a permanent binge like visitors, constantly inebriated. 
Kayaks were popular. I though the business of paddling a  river among so much traffic was intimidating.
 Yay! Tour boat! Clearly a table of people from Key West.

Once upon a time the river was a polluted industrial mess, when there was industry, and now they tell us the only sign of it is up one branch of the river almost out of sight:
 The city's mayor visited San Antonio the story goes and was so impressed by the River Walk he wanted one here. Wen you are mayor you get to make your dreams come true and he ordered that any new construction along the river must include  a public walk way. So be it. A winery with no staggeringly drunk people. Weird.
 Young people partying. 
 Tour boats are clearly objects of fascination.
And judging by all the stuff yu can see from the river they should be. Check it out:

 Details on the facade:
I forget he details of this building except the windows are designed to be small to keep the interiors quiet. My kind of apartment.
Harry Weese river side cottages. Designed to look like cottages seen in Budapest with nautically themed triangular elements, like sails, a cottage came on the market for the first time in 25  years and sold for nearly three million dollars. Originally they were viewed with some suspicion. Now they are highly desirable.
The tour lasts ninety minutes, a twenty five dollar bargain and is full of details. It would take more than you could stand to read to go that deep. You have to trust me that this tour is worth taking and if you never go to Chicago be glad I took the time to take the pictures for my diary and my memory. 
 This green building  is a fitness center of some sort. The river used to be in such polluted disrepair the idea of putting windows in to overlook the mess was laughable.
 As a measure of the clean up progress you can see a row of windows looking out in the water these days.
This long building on the left hand side was built in 1908 as the Montgomery Ward warehouse. Monkey Ward started the catalogue business despite the fact Seas Roebuck is better known for it. What makes all this history interesting is how the wheel is now spinning.
Groupon has bought the building, and what used to be the catalogue capital of the world is now adapting and trying to attract the new digital economy. Catalogues have given way to Amazon and all the rest but the concept remains the same. The old post office is huge and is being transformed into housing. Everything was geared to shipping stuff. Chicago was at the forefront of innovation.
They planned to bring paper to the giant printing presses at the Tribune building by boat but the docks were found unsuitable and stirred up toxic muck when the barges docked so they used trains instead. Their heart was in the right place though: boats forever!
  A survivor? A water tank for the upper middle classes?
This thing is the base of the 150 North Riverside Building. The whole building comes down to a very narrow base anchored a hundred feet into the bed rock. Winds are apparently a problem for sky scrapers so they use giant water tanks, 200,000 gallon capacity, to absorb the vibrations from winds blowing by.
But this bizarre pointy base allows a building to be built on a  tiny strip of land. Stare and be astonished.
The civic opera where Maria Calls gave her American debut in 1954 and returned earlier this month, just 42 years after her death. 
The Chicago Sun Times:
“It’s fascinating to watch audiences adjust,” says Wadsworth. “She’s weirdly alive. The first 10 or 15 minutes for people are definitely strange. You can see them cocking their heads side to side, like a Labrador Retriever holding a pose, like ‘What’s going on?’ Because it’s a complex equation — Is this historically apropos? Is it ethical? Is it ‘real’ or is this fake? Is it tacky or fantastic? The best way to think of it is that it’s an evening spent in contemplation of Callas.”
Yes, they brought Maria Callas back to life by hologram and she performed here on the seventh. I thought the billboard was a piece of nostalgia, but thanks to the Internet I discovered how wrong I was. Even the dead aren't dead!
This version of Callas is a lovingly crafted hologram, created from a body double whose face was digitally shape-shifted. She will be surrounded by the Lyric Opera Orchestra in the flesh, kept in sync by Irish conductor EĆ­mear Noone.
Callas’ body double spent months under the tutelage of opera and theater director Stephen Wadsworth to develop a gestural language that was spot-on. Then this revivified “Maria” was filmed while singing, from different angles, so that her image, when projected on a transparent screen, would look like the real thing. The sound of the voice is Callas’ own, extracted (again digitally) from her recordings.
I was entranced by posters around town extolling the 250th anniversary celebrations of Beethoven's birthday. If you lived in Chicago you could hear the actual symphony orchestra in concert in its own home town. How cool.
We passed by the spot where the great fire of 1871  started, though it was not caused by Mrs O'Leary's cow kicking over a lamp, a story she never lived down. Though it was at her place that the fire started. Over there among the pipes which mask the spot was her farm. The actual place is the building barely visible which is now, ironically a fire department training center.
The fire set the river ablaze as the waters were so greasy and oily they were flammable. The fire killed three hundred, made 100,000 homeless and torched three miles of the city. All of which made much misery but also opened up the city to new and innovative industrial construction. Hence the boom that followed.
A building described to us as a beehive as I recall, but of which I recall nothing else. shame on me. It was the turn around point of the inland portion of the tour. 
The Sears Tower, once the tallest building in the world. But it's neither. The person who leased the tower in an excess of hubris would't buy the lease without a name change but nobody calls it by its new name so it's just the Sears Tower. 
I found  al ist of the tallest towers in Chicago led by this one:
Willis Tower 1,451 ft. Trump International Tower 1,389. Vista Tower. 1,191.
And the Willis/Sears Tower still has ghastly little boxes for you to step out onto the void:
Then there is the building that wanted to be put on the map so they put themselves on a map they built up one wall. The red box marks "You Are Here."
Marshall Field built the Merchandise Mart in the 1930's and this massive building covers two and a half city blocks. It's getting a  40 million dollar renovation to turn it into offices, retail spaces and showrooms for events.  As the developers themselves put it:
"theMART is home to hundreds of tenants including manufacturers’ showrooms displaying everything from the finest home and outdoor furniture to luxury kitchen and baths to inventive office furniture solutions. In addition, theMART is home to corporate offices of innovative technology firms, creative advertising firms and education institutions."

Apple's modest but innovative showroom along the river with a roof designed to resemble one of their products:
More renovations for residential apartments:
Including the old NBC building which will become apartments:

Chicago's Third Tallest Tower is called Vista and is scheduled to open next year. It will have around 400 condos already sold and two hundred hotel rooms along with the offices.  Jeanne Gang designed the building and I noted on her web page she is proud to be  a leader in pay equity at her company. So yes it is notable this building was designed by a woman.  

To deal with windage this condo, which slipped through a city code loophole to build on the lake shore directly, was designed with the curves to reduce windage aloft. How about that?
The locks at the lake, Chicago Harbor Lock, were closed and we spun around and went back to the dock. A perfect tour imperfectly recorded.