Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Eaton Street

I spend a lot of time looking up when I wander the streets of Key West. Usually summer  is the time of year clouds form and look menacing but naturally this weird winter we get random rain and extra clouds to keep things interesting.
I walked down Eaton Street and noticed a trend in my pictures. I used to meet my wife here for lunch with two elderly gents , one cooked the other served a fixed meal at a fixed price in the garden in back.  You got what you were given. Now it's all gone.
Subway seems to have closed too, a place where occasionally you get  a last minute sandwich of no great merit before or after a movie. One only gets sentimental about these things when they are gone. 
I don't get donuts here as unusual as they are because I don't much like the owner. They won't miss me as they do a roaring trade and sell out easily without my help! 
My last interaction here reminded me of the soup guy on Seinfeld and I am avoiding drama these days. They are just donuts and  I don't eat them very often. Lots of pastries in town all over the place. 
And then there is the occasional boarded up house. These always manage to surprise me considering the value of land the cost of housing and all that in this crazy town. I was listening to a  debate on the radio about the housing problems of San Francisco and you'd better believe you feel better wherever you live when you try to get your head around their problems...Anyway one of the "experts" pointed out that every single tourist destination around the world, from Barcelona to Bali has the same issues with rich people buying up housing stock for investments pushing residents out of the cities and tourist centers. Great, I thought, we are just like everyone else. Fantastic.
The Tropic cinema is fine as far as I know but I did enjoy the blank "coming soon" poster....it gave me a nice  caption for  Instagram. Good enough I thought.  It was about here I got the idea to do a series of photos about things closing. 
I know...St Paul isn't closed but I liked the skyline right there. Sometimes I allow myself to enjoy the beautiful in Key West. There is so much to get annoyed about in this town I can't wait to be retired and free to fulminate...No I want to be free to enjoy the good bits and not hear from the miserable, the drunk and the beaten up by life all the time. The sheer beauty of the church tower mustn't escape me and my jaundiced eye:
And this was my little joke.
The bicycles were in front of the Saints which I photographed another time. Very atmospheric:
Yes, that's what this city is, full of atmosphere:
And then I saw this fierce looking dude hauling his very expensive coconut. I expect it was expensive if he bought it. He looked armed for a good time with it though.
My Key West, not a sunset in sight but still a  splendid place.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Cruise Ships Galore

Cruise ships have been keeping a low profile lately in Key West after a few years of grumbling. There were plans to widen and deepen the approach channel to Key West harbor to allow the very largest ships to dock but opposition caused a change of mind and we are hosting ships up to about a thousand feet in length these days.
 There are three docks for them. The small one at Mallory Square where they block the sunset if they overstay. The other dock is the Navy pier known as the Outer Mole where the pier sticks out and creates a basin of protected water behind it. The Outer Mole is a long way from the flesh pots of Duval Street so the city pays the trolley people half a million dollars as  I recall, every year to ferry the passengers back and forth.
 The third dock is at the Margaritaville Resort which has the benefit of allowing people easy foot access to the heart of ye olde quainte Key West but because the city sold the dock to the hotel owners they get the lion's share of the landing fees.
 I saw a photo a few years back juxtaposing the profile of the Titanic against one of these medium large cruise ships. It was shocking how small it was and how ugly these floating hotels have come to be, compared to the elegant lines of steamers a hundred years ago. The cement dock below is the Inner Mole and the dark water between is the Navy Basin enclosed by the Outer Mole to which the ship is moored.
 If you walk to the very end of Front Street the Margaritaville Resort is to your right and left and the docks called mysteriously "Pier B" is dead ahead. The city sold the original hotel people, the Hilton of course franchised to the Walsh conglomerate the land and the island now known as Sunset Key, with the docks for eleven million paltry dollars. It was a long time ago but it was not a smart deal compared to the Key West Bight where the land is rented and produces annual income.
Not everyone hurries to come ashore but those that do spend money mostly on Lower Duval so from time to time merchants on the rest of the street petition for action to spread the foot traffic wealth their way as well. No one has figured out how just yet. Maybe one day.
 And yes, cruise ships pollute and are hated etc etc... Well worn arguments but money talks especially ina  town dedicated to tourism.
As to whether or not this is the finest way to see the world that is a choice best left to the people buying passage. Next stop Mexico or Jamaica or the Bahamas...

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Miami Camera Walk

My wife was off being useful completing some obscure chore so I took my dog from the car and forcibly dragged him out for a walk. More or less. We wandered around for a while as he kept his nose down and his tail wagging while I looked for something to catch my eye.  Nothing did for a while but then I saw orange window panes and I raised my camera.
They have some interesting architecture even in the lost suburbs of this massively spread out city. And if the architecture sucks someone with a paint bucket gets creative. 
Of course this part of the world, 150 miles from Key West has to live with a much higher crime rate,  whether living in a cage is a requirement or the act of a paranoid I couldn't say but I have seen this barred arrangement in cultures far from Miami. I think it's weird treating yourself as a caged animal. I don't think animals should be caged never mind people.
 Lovely old building facade:
 Lots of apartments packed into that narrow street front:
I found more everywhere I looked.  It's good to get out of the Keys from time to time and see what affordable housing looks like where architecture runs amok:
 Some style here:
 And me playing with sunlight and walkways far above the ground:
 Then Rusty led me to these two passing the time at the street corner on a Saturday afternoon. The older dude gave me a buenas dias back but  the younger version stared straight ahead and ignored me. And pretended to ignore Rusty. 
The old man and the chair:
Dogs on leash tend to clear sidewalks in Latina America. If your dog is fierce ("bravo") you restrain him with a leash. Which was the question I got from a man coming towards me with a cigarette in one hand and a small plump dog on a leash in the other. It took me right back to Central America and my two dogs a couple of decades ago when he started peering at the space where Rusty's testicles used to be as poor Rusty tried to play in an innocent way with the sausage dog. The owner who  looked like he could get a decent following on the drag stage at La Te Da in Key West, eventually satisfied himself Rusty was useless, or something, and minced off with a cheery wave in a cloud of pungent smoke. You don't get those encounters anymore in Key West and it reminded me somewhat sadly of the past. As did the fruit truck rolling down the street playing the opening bars of la cucuracha on the horn. 
It reminded me of my summers when I was a child in Italy, and the villages in the mountains were served by traveling salesmen. The guy who used to sell fruit half a century ago still does, from a bigger truck and has trained his son to the job. So when I saw the fruit truck rolling down the street I could hardly believe it. 
 Tripadvisor offers all you may want to know HERE about this little church. My the power of the Internet never grow less!
Miami isn't just Cubans, there are people from everywhere, including Colombia and Venezuelans and even our west coast migrants not in California but Miami!
I used to eat street corn all the time in Central America, where elote is corn They put white cheese on the grilled cob and some paprika and it is absolutely delicious. Naturally being a  gringo I only had credit cards on me and no cash. Grr. 
 Rusty checking for traffic before crossing. Good boy.


Saturday, January 11, 2020

Garrison Bight

A few years ago they cleared out the old houseboat row, a nostalgic line of boats tied up to the seawall on South Roosevelt Boulevard. Expensive new condominiums were being built across the street and Ed McKnight the developer wanted to give his buyers clean ocean views.
They were offered places in the much sought after city marina at Garrison Bight, the marina you drive past on North Roosevelt and Palm Avenue.
This is also the home of the dinghy dock serving the city mooring field north of Key West, so dinghies come and go:
I had no idea there was a harbor tour boat operating here. It's not apparently well know as it had but two passengers on board:

A man and his dog. I am amazed by how many liveaboard keep dogs. I did it for a while but it was horrendously complicated. Never again, hence the retirement van.
Everywhere is in the airport flight path!
And here is the rather well built dinghy dock. There is even a toilet and shower block next to the parking area. It all makes the mooring field quite a decent option for a few hundred dollars a month.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Playing In The Mangroves

I took Rusty out and it was cloudy. I have been suffering a  series of insufferable calls at work, the entitled and the irritated and the parking averse and the angry, the neighbors who can't get along and it's all grist for my employment mill. Thank any god you care to mention they can't manage their lives as they give me job security. But after I have finished with my employment for the day I take the dog out and he plays with his nose and I play with my camera. Equanimity is restored.
Winter in Key West is the time of year when too many people cram themselves into a very small space and try to get along. As a social experiment its fascinating; as a formula for daily living its an absolute disaster. Key West isn't a high crime neighborhood but it is a high irritation city. Take 23,000 people and superimpose 2.5 million visitors and make sure most of them show up in the winter months and you have a recipe for lots of complaints. 
If I had to live and work in a  town with daily shootings and murders and armed robberies it would be bad enough but to be a dispatcher is such a community would drive me to drink.  Its not that Key West has no crime at all of course but the bits that stress you out tend to come reasonably spaced out so IU can walk Rusty take a few pictures and find my equanimity before the next round of misplaced anger juggles my mental balance.
In a world filled with temporary work and no benefits I feel acutely my good fortune and some days the work is very good indeed when people get help and I play a small part in that process. But some days I just want to be out here away from them all listening to the breeze and feeling the heat penetrate my bones. I feel alive in the fresh air be it ever so humid.
I have no idea where the graffiti come from but I get the feeling that maybe the author feels similar to myself, no doubt for different reasons and instead of taking pictures leaves a visible mark. 
I saw a cobweb and spent a happy few minutes fiddling with my camera, in this case a Panasonic LX100 pocket camera if you are interested.  The white line is a single cobweb strand that defied my attempts at focus for long enough that I got determined to catch it.
Then I got ambition and found I was able to manually focus on a whole lot more. And now here you are looking at genuine Florida cobwebs. That doesn't happen every day (thank goodness).
It was good for me though to relax looking for shapes and shades and patterns in the wilderness.

A bunch of old cement pipes brilliantly re-purposed into a  paintball field. 
And an artistic canvas.
What a great place.
Photographing ants is even harder than cobwebs. Be glad I gave up in a  hurry.
There's a dog out there:

It could be a lot worse than hanging with Rusty on a gray day off.