Saturday, September 28, 2019

Truman Annex

I found myself waiting to go to a movie at the Tropic Cinema just around the corner so I wandered through Truman Annex with my camera. I haven't been here ina  while and the whole place looks pretty much the same...
I'm not a fan of gated communities but who cares what I like. I wouldn't live in Truman Annex even if I could easily afford to, but lots of people like the idea of living in Key West but without the mess and color and vibrancy of a noisy populated Old Town.
The developer of this property created a style of housing that is now known as "the Key West style." It's a style reminiscent of Old Town Conch cottages but all gussied up. It's very effective  and seems to sell well, and not just here.
This used to be the Navy Base in Key West but when the land was put up for sale a young man who first came to Key West as a youthful homeless urchin sleeping in doorways as the legend has it put in a bid. He had to have a second go as the first bid bankrupted him but he got it done and is now one of those few families that have made millions off Key West.  
I like the doggie bags as outside dogs are NOT allowed in Truman Annex. Rusty has never stepped in here.
However even here loose chickens have made their way...seen in the distance...actual wildlife! 
Through all the gates there is tidal water at the Margaritaville Resort Docks:

Then there is the major tourist attraction which is  the  Little White House where President Truman liked to spend time during his presidency. It was more as a working vacation than an actual period of time off though he did walk around town and fish and do that sort of stuff.

In the Key West  style:

Try and figure how to locate this street address:

Navy officer housing converted into splendid apartments at splendid prices:
Meanwhile around the corner the masses line up for the ferry to Sunset Key and Latitudes restaurant for lunch:
A Portuguese cruise ship. Never seen one of those before in the Southernmost City.
I used to work in that corner of the marina prepping Stiletto catamarans to take tourists sailing round the harbor. After I got my job at the police department I allowed my Master's 50 ton license to elapse. I'm not real keen to go sailing for money again though it was okay while it lasted.

Friday, September 27, 2019

White Street Pier

The White Street Pier merits the occasional visit and its always a pleasure.
 City workers get to drive out where vehicles aren't permitted to keep the place clean.

 The inland end of the pier is the Aids Memorial:

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Cruise Key West

Rental scooters: curse or blessing?  Discuss.  Looks like great fun from here. On a car license you can ride a 50 cc scooter in Florida, and by extension the Conch Republic. They are supposed to be limited to 30 mph, and rental scooters actually are speed limited.  So the first curse is that getting stuck behind one on a main thoroughfare can cause a back up. 20 mph is the citywide speed limit which is helping create some rather tense driving as not everyone wants to get where they are going at bicycle speeds. Being in the middle of that on a scooter with no experience of two wheels or the city layout is the second curse.
Parking a scooter is easy so that's a blessing and in this town parking is hell. People go mad for parking spaces and if that  isn't enough many of these residents are new in town, paid massively for a house that has a garage converted to another room and think they shouldn't have to walk a few blocks from their house when they park their cars. It's a slow learning curve, because the complaints about lack of parking never seem to diminish. The city struggles to apportion the limited number of spaces fairly between residents and visitors but the results are always criticized. 
Scooter motorcycle and bicycle parking is free. Pretty cool. So that's a big fat blessing. May the power of city hall never grow less!  I was wearing a helmet when I got knocked down last year and it undoubtedly saved my life. However if you are over  21 you can do as you please so to see a rider with helmet  its a rarity. 
One of the things that impresses me about scooter riders in Key West is how useful their machines are. Scooters aren't tools for enthusiasts, they are basic transportation. You will see people riding to work on them, people of all ages and income level. There are only a  few long established professionals who have offices with designated parking. Almost anyone can benefit from the convenience if not the low cost of scooter riding
Towels are a widely seen accessory, the theory being that the towel will offset the burning heat of the vinyl seat under the sub- tropical sun. And you would expect me to say that scooters are fun to ride. Because they are, and if you aren't careful you can fall and wreck your vacation and your fun. Turning corners is a skill not easily mastered judging by the number of people who fear leaning into a corner to get round it. The other beginner's mistake that will cause bleeding is excess enthusiasm on the accelerator. As the scooters don't have gears and clutches a quick burst of acceleration will have your machine rearing like a bronco. I exaggerate but you know people fall off too easily. 
It may therefore be a not bad idea to use your feet.  That's how I get these pictures and I like to walk around town. There's lots to see.
 The alternative is to have someone else peddle or drive for you.   
And the last and in my opinion worst alternative is the ubiquitous golf  cart.  It is slow and takes up the space of a car and cannot be parked in free motorcycle parking. Tourists love them so I must be missing something but I would rather be buried in cement than get stuck behind one of these abominations in traffic. However crash one of these and you won't be bleeding like you will on a  scooter.
I see walkers all the time of course and  if you come to Key West you will too. I have to admit the weather lately has been most un-Septemberlike with strong winds, low humidity and cool temperatures relatively speaking,  so walking has been the perfect way to get around. Walking Rusty before dawn has been positively brisk except what seems brisk to me probably doesn't to you.   
The slightly odd thing about the people you see on the streets of Key West is that they will give you no idea what time of year it is. Even if they look overheated and bothered it may be an 80  degree day in February. It is rarely so cold as to require a sweater or a jacket in Key West. T shorts and shorts are the uniform.
I know some people look forward to changing wardrobes with the change of seasons but wearing shirts and shorts year round has never bothered me. Endless summer is perfect for my taste. 
I do miss hills and varied terrain but for twenty years the mangrove flats have been a suitable compromise for perfect year round weather. I was talking to a colleague at work and she has never got used to year round heat in Key West and she pines for the winters of her native Ohio. There is no accounting for taste and that is brought home to me as her impatience for retirement is an expression of her desire for a return to cold winters. Rather her than me.
The local chickens rule the roost in the end. They survive baking summers and hurricanes and floods and all manner of disasters. We are told they are descendants of Cuban fighting roosters, a legend that has never made any sense to me.  But that's a consideration for another day.
I need to go for a walk. Or a scooter ride. Anything, a bicycle maybe, but one of those ghastly golf carts.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019


You have to have a Facebook account to understand the point I am about to make, and even though I use Instagram all the time and don't often use Facebook there is one feature of that so intrusive platform that has left its mark on me lately. It keeps posting pictures that I posted a year ago, or two, or more. I have come to understand it's been a busy couple of years.
Two years ago roughly Hurricane Irma wrecked the Lower Keys, the eye of the storm ran past my house on Cudjoe Key and tore up everything along Spanish Main Boulevard. Facebook has been rewarding me with views of the damage. Thanks but really I don't need them. This year so far Bermuda and Ocracoke have had their share of destruction, not to mention the northern Bahamas which have taken more than their share, and we are keeping our fingers crossed as storms get backed up coming across the Atlantic. Karen is the latest, bearing in mind another K, Katrina wrecked New Orleans, so Katrina is no longer used. Lorenzo is in the back there near Africa and scheduled to go north into the ocean. Good.
The other anniversary Facebook takes the time to remind me of relates to my hospital stay last year. It's worth mentioning I suppose that I lay in a hospital bed helpless it did occur to me that it would be a good year for no hurricanes to threaten southeast Florida and in that respect I was lucky. The notion of being evacuated in a gurney was not morale boosting. This year a prolonged stay in a Miami hospital would be a much more nerve wracking affair with all the storms coming by. To that extent I was lucky.
But my luck spread in other directions too, as I had no spinal column damage and could work my way back to walking pretty much normally. I am still very conscious of putting one foot in front of the other but I can walk moderate distances. When I visited Webb we walked 2.7 miles one morning into town and home again. He has a measuring device attached to himself which was how I knew.  I have been taking spinning classes at the gym so I know I can ride a bicycle.
One year on my ideas about my life have been altered by my rite of passage last year in and out of hospitals and physical therapy and so forth. My near death experience has remained with me, time has not softened the experience as I expected it to and the memory remains with me every day. I can say though that it has in some way I cannot easily explain, removed the sense of urgency I used to have pressing at the back of my mind. Before my crash I had a nagging worry that something was missing from my life and I had no idea what it was, which increased the feeling of vague but pervasive dissatisfaction.  Since the crash all that has changed and has stayed changed.  Quite surprising that.
When Facebook presents me with a picture that I posted a year ago from one hospital bed or another I am most reminded not of the physical difficulties and limitations of the time I spent in bed but I am reminded directly of the moment when I felt time had run out. August 31st that was, in the late afternoon  staring up at the sky helplessly floating away like a sentient balloon.
So strong was that wistful desire for more time I feel it again every time I am reminded of that afternoon on the road, staring at the sky pondering the very short time horizon ahead. And yet I don't view it with a familiar sense of rising panic, of dread even, but now for some reason I am at peace with it all and I know what  have to do. Now I have to live.
And that I guess is exactly it: I have to do, no longer is it enough to ponder, now is the time for doing and the future is opening up with a liberating sense of being on the right path, of knowing that I am headed in the right direction, at the right time, and with the right plan. Rationally speaking it is very odd to feel so serene about a future path my wife and I are going to embark upon, an open ended life in retirement. In late life you are supposed to be settled and secure. Our security lies in our liberation and that's not normal apparently. But there's Facebook, ready to remind me life is short, an ending is going to come and best get on with it while life and mobility and curiosity are flourishing in this fragile vessel we call our body.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Key West's Third Man

There is a notion floating around in the contemporary photographic universe which posits that black and white photography is somehow a way to posture and add an arty label to mundane photos. I am not in a position to argue the merits but for me black and white is just another way to take a photograph. Night photos seem an obvious time for the monochrome effect but even in daylight I like to think about the possibilities of black and white when color is not necessarily called for. As for artistic pretensions I prefer to  try to tell stories with my pictures than create High Art. 
I do like the  effect of the black and white pictures as they remind me of the film noir genre produced by Hollywood, and others in the mid 20th century. Take for example that great mystery of a film which put its  musical score front and center as well. Mercifully I'm not claiming to be a composer at least.
I grant you it is a bit of a stretch comparing 21st century Key West to the rubble of Vienna after World War Two but looking back at this handful of photos puts me in mind of The Third Man. The British Film Institute says it's the greatest British film of all time, so I suppose my modest photos ought to be good and artistic!
 In the event I was wandering around the custom house and the shadow and light were wonderful. It's part of that strange anomalous mystique of key West. This is the town you associate with wooden houses, bright colors and picket fences overflowing with tropical foliage. That's my Key West. 
But when you look around there's that other town, the brick buildings and scabrous plaster, the light falling at an angle and the darkness...I love it.  This is Margaritaville Resort in the early hours as quiet as if it were unoccupied:
 Check out the Custom House Museum from a slight distance, across from the resort:
 And round the other corner the waterfront side, in color yes, but all washed out with himself bring a touch of the usual to the scene.
We ended up not walking far but in the expanding circles we made there seemed to be lots to look at. 
 I've seen a few of these stickers show up around town as though gentrification can be held back by thinking about it.  Money talks and eccentricity and non conformity are on the wane in Key West.
 I saw puddles on Wall Street near Duval:
 And this picture of Exchange Street looking toward Front I've taken a few times.
We turned our backs on it all and Rusty led the way to the car. He was ready for mangroves and wilderness and fewer human artifacts. Not at all like Harry Lime who needs to have people around him to keep himself in business.