Saturday, November 23, 2019

Casa Marina

Henry Flagler, the 19th century oil baron knew that if he wanted his railroad to prosper he had to create destinations. So he built a number of palatial hotels down the east coast of Florida to fill his winter excursion trains with frozen New Yorkers coming south taking the place of ripe Cuban pineapples going north.
His Key West hotel is called the Casa Marina Resort owned these days by a rotating list of chain hotel names currently Waldorf Astoria is responsible for the old pile built in 1912 when the Florida east Coast Railroad arrived in Key West. Nine years ago (!) I wrote out the whole story and posted it on this page. Digital cameras have come a long way since then I discovered when I went back to look. This is the back of the resort which is the huge pile visible behind the lead bicycle rider:
Many years ago I overheard a conversation between two puzzled visitors. They were studying a  map, not on their phones as I said this was a long time ago, and one said to the other; "I'm amazed a town this small has separate neighborhoods." A comment I've never forgotten, apparently.
And it's true there are several neighborhoods in town. And furthermore I'll tell you this, kids who grew up on Big Pine divide themselves. North "Piners" despise South "Piners" even though Big Pine Key has a population you could conveniently house in your garage. The highway divides two ardent communities. Weird. Upper and Lower Sugarloaf is the same way. You drive down highway one oblivious but "As The Keys Turn" is playing out just beyond your windshield.
Casa Marina is an upscale neighborhood with expansive expensive homes a bit like Cudjoe Gardens is a cut above my neighborhood (Spanish Main) on Cudjoe Key (population: not many). If you live in Casa Marina you aren't in The Village or Midtown or The Meadows. But you are still under the flight path ready to get your TV drowned out by another load of trippers coming to town.
Like every upscale neighborhood in America and I dare say the world at large where there is wealth there are trees. and here they are spectacular. If you like tropical greenery that is. If you prefer coniferous forests you are out of luck.
Wind palms bowing and scraping in the air far above me. I really enjoyed that on my lunch break yesterday.
And the architecture of even the modern bed and breakfasts and homes reflects the Key West style:

This is where you come to escape the snowdrifts of your home town, a lounger under the palms, a barely adequate banana hammock and a fruity drink. If it ever comes up I prefer a gin and tonic to something that looks like a crushed coconut or blended strawberry.
And on the subject of snow going swimming on a day that registers barely 76 American or 24 degrees Canadian is not a day to go swimming. 
You just can't tell some people anything.
Even among the seagulls sunbathing space is at a premium.
A fine sunny splendid day on land. Swimming days are over but they will return in the fullness of time when in fact the time changes and we know Spring and warm-ish seawater is back.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Mall on Duval

Mallory Square upon my return from a trip round the bars (not into them for heaven's sake! I had my poor innocent dog with me.) I saw "two couples enjoying the moment." I thought it was a funny caption but the pigeons looked at me balefully as pigeons do, while the humans kept walking. 
Joking aside I read in the newspaper recently that the City Commission barely managed to muster the votes to have another season of Mall on Duval  It's taken a  fair bit of discussion and debate to test drive the program which closes  down a couple of blocks of Duval Street to traffic and allows pedestrians to mingle and sit at tables outdoors on the street. It was an implementation of the not very radical notion that pedestrian zones boost downtown businesses.
Of course Key West manages to buck every trend ever  and the newspaper says many of the previously supportive Duval Street businesses now want the program to end. They say the pedestrian zone is hurting business not helping and they put their case to the city commission which had to authorize the pedestrian program once again.
Three of the four members of the commission voted against it but Mall on Duval will take place every other Friday and Saturday until February 17th when the program will close and be evaluated. Shutting down an open air street event in the middle of winter at the height of tourist season only makes sense to commissioners of the Southernmost City. Last year the program ran from February to July and was considered a massive success. Now suddenly it is on life support.
There was an issue with cost as the city was paying $5000 each weekend for police off duty to patrol the event until somebody figured out this isn't a high risk gathering requiring a police presence and that expense was cut, allowing the Mall on Duval to press ahead.
Now the plan is to take away a program once seen as a great way to encourage locals downtown, to keep people in the area and to support the image of a street that really might be at the heart of the city.  One has to wonder what could save it and keep it going after February 17th next year. 

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Colors Of The Keys

I have posted a few pictures of the colors i see daily on my walks around the Lower Keys. I haven't much to say about them except that I accumulate pictures like these over time as i am out twice a day usually and always with my camera. I decided not to clean them up or filter them or process them as they are a reasonable representation of what I see or as close as a camera can get to what the human eye sees. This is the time of year downtown Key West is crowded which pushes me away from Duval Street and helps me find my best walks away from the crowds.


My wife took this one of me walking the neighbor's dog with Rusty who was none too pleased to be sharing me.
 Rusty and Roxie at West Summerland key.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Petronia Street

I'm not sure this sort of new construction is in the Key West style lacking as it does balconies and so forth but at least they kept some off street parking. 
I saw a row of books on the wall of the fire station downtown. No idea who or why.
On Instagram I titled this one "Open Invitation."
I was hoping the pigeon would come into the middle of the rainbow colored crosswalk but It stayed away from Rusty and I.
Bliss Deferred, a sign I saw a couple of weeks ago. I admit that even as jaded as I am I was still surprised to see the open ended vacation on the sign. It seems South American agriculture was the reason for the vacation and agriculture is notoriously unscheduled:
"We are back from picking coffee beans in Colombia. Open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday from 6 PM to 9 PM. Online reservations available."

Tuesday, November 19, 2019


The temptation in Key West when you see people sitting around is to ascribe to them impure motives. In a world driven by the urge to succeed and create and make more, lounging is anything but a virtue.
So if you are seen lounging with a drink in hand chatting, or studying the horse racing form or communicating with your family it is only to easy to view you as lazy or a bum or some other form of idler. You may just be relaxing after a long day of manual labor. Or office labor. 
But this is Key West, the town renowned for lounging and vacationing and drinking and partying. Everything as hard as possible.
Years ago my wife and I went sailing in the Caribbean during the low tourist season and we spent two weeks between Grenada, St Lucia and the Grenadines. It was my cunning plan to assure my wife a sail boat trip would be fun and it worked splendidly as we had a great time making leisurely passages swimming and ignoring the fact it was the height of hurricane season. We were from California and knew nothing of such things. We knew nothing of limin' either but soon learned.
Not sure if buzzing around on a boat counts as limin' but I'm pretty sure the seagull on the pole was relaxing...and catching the cool easterly breeze. Because that is what limin's actually is, a Caribbean phrase reflected a laid back form of relaxation. The Internet has a formal explanation:
The word is associated with sitting under a lime tree,or having nothing more demanding to do than squeezing limes. It is also thought to originate from "limey", a slang term meaning a British serviceman during World War II (noted for hanging around bars and drinking).
No lime trees need be in sight when you decide to act all tropical and do nothing. Read the warning signs though as a visitor dived head first into shallow water a few years ago and ended up paralyzed. That ended up in a massive lawsuit so now all hotels have to warn guests not to be stupid, even when drunk. Being reckless isn't limin' so before you dive check the water depth you plan to plunge into or risk death...
Had I had the time I might have settled myself down under the  arbor  at  First State Bank to do a little limin' myself, but duty called and I had to get back to work. I suck at living on island time!
The irony of course is that you have to have a lot of money or a private income to live  a laid back life in the Keys these days. Working people don't get to hang out as much as visitors or retirees who come to live here and naively assume laid back is the cultural norm. Limin' isn't for everybody in Paradise.