Thursday, October 15, 2020

Frances Street

I have never driven a golf cart for any distance, outside a parking area nor I do nurture any ambition to do so. The thing is for people not keen on bicycles or scooters but who want some alternative to their cars a golf cart can seem quite fun. I suppose. Tourists love them. I don't.
Key West
Some people keep them as town cars and their small size helps in Old Town but on the main roads across New town they are a menace as they are limited to 25 mph on 35 mph streets. At least one has to concede the electric models are silent and environmentally clean
Florida Keys
Bicycles make more sense as they are well able to slide around town not getting tangled in traffic but I found my brush with an electric bicycle only worked in urban settings. In suburbia where I live the electric bike was heavy and slow and not as useful living as I do along a stretch of highway. 
Key West Bicyclist
I like walking as it keeps me out of the traffic flow and encourages me to stop and ponder and look around and amble without too much purpose. I look up and I see tree limbs stitching patterns.
Florida Keys Tree

Key West
I am a small minority when it comes to golf carts and bicycles. Ignore me; everyone else loves them.
Key West, Florida

Wednesday, October 14, 2020


Florida Keys Grave Yard
Were you to type the word "cemetery" in the search box at the top left hand corner of this page many efforts of mine to record the cemetery would pop up. 
I love the Key West cemetery for its ambiance, a park like space that invites meditation in the middle of a town frequently filled with frantic party goers with no interest in the history represented by these graves.
I don't suppose the docents are giving tours in these pandemic times but when they open up again the historical society docents are well worth the tip. Beyond the handful of memorable or even famous graves the entire plot is filled with the history of what is, beyond the bars and the tourist advertising a particular small town. 
"US Navy. Spanish American War"  In those days Key West was a frontier town on an open border. With Cuba largely closed off to garner the political support of Miami' exile community Key West feels more like a cul de sac than a jumping off point. The reverse is also true, so the absorption of foreign influences drops as well. 
The Albury family name is well known in the Bahamas, as the Abaco Islands have exchanged residents with Key West all through the 19th century.
The above ground nature of the cemetery is required by high water table levels under the limestone rock. Nevertheless the view across the above ground cemetery reminds a viewer of the more famous graveyard in New Orleans and similar styles of burial across certain European countries.
Kemp. You may have heard of Kemp's Ridley Turtles. Discovered by Richard Kemp who is also buried in this cemetery they got their name (derived obviously from his) to differentiate them from the Olive Ridley turtle.
Like I said it is a pleasant place to stroll and you can even use it as a short cut from Margaret Street to Frances Street  across the middle of Key West. 
Scooters have been banned for a long time thanks as usual to inconsiderate behavior. Cars and bicycles are permitted.  
I see the grave yard as a place of history and a pleasant place to walk and think, but it is very much a working cemetery. Family members visit, funerals happen, new memories are buried here. Act appropriately.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

A Small Excursion

I had Sunday off and my wife  suggested we go shopping for groceries in Marathon on the theory that Sunday evening in low tourist season would be a quiet time to travel the aisles. Let's air out the van I suggested. So we did. 
Van Life
We had spent Saturday and Sunday morning re-organizing the storage spaces in the van and in throwing out stuff we now consider superfluous. Thus re-packing the spaces we found we were running a heathy surplus of room. We have thought about adding a  storage box at the back which would increase the length of the 21 foot van by another couple of feet so our re-packing is an effort to prove to ourselves we need no more stuff. All will fit within. Which is a tall order for a retirement home on wheels of 72 square feet, but we might just manage.
From a brief dog walk on the waterfront at Old Bahia Honda on West Summerland Key we moved on to the goal of the 25 mile journey: Publix in Marathon. Which it turned out was packed with rather too many people for comfort. We zipped through the store, rejoicing in the fact we had turned on the fridge /freezer in the van and there would therefore be no rush to get home. Layne strolled through check out; I walked Rusty. The idea is for Rusty to learn the van is a source of fun and he has been showing greater enthusiasm and less fear of this weird noisy means of locomotion.
Florida Keys Dog Walking
Time's fun when you're having flies and by the time we got back on the road with a refrigerator full of food it was getting dark. The Seven Mile Bridge looked excellent and of course I'd left my camera at home to be more sociable with the family. iPhone to the rescue.
Florida Keys Sunset
My wife had the genial idea to stop on the way home and have some dinner. We have a convection oven/ microwave onboard along with all necessary implements to eat and drink. Easy peasy, we stopped by the water.
Florida Night
Home to bed after unloading the van and buttoning it up for the night. Rusty spent dinner curled up next to me on the settee preferring to be indoors in the air conditioning with us than outside in the 90 degree night. I was slightly surprised as he usually likes to roll in the grass. Maybe for all three of us the more we use it the more the van looks like home.
Our next planned excursion is a week in north Florida and the Panhandle for Thanksgiving. We are hoping for cooler weather so we can sit outside and enjoy the great outdoors from our home on wheels. Just like we did this summer in Michigan. Happy memories.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Flora On Frances

Howard Sands died at Pisseloup in the Second Battle of the Marne on July 19th 1918, in the last year of World War One. His memory is preserved in this handwritten sign at the corner of Frances and Petronia Streets though for how long one doesn't know. The house is for sale to anyone with three million dollars to spare.
Key West
Howard Sands was 18 and died after a month in France as the Germans tried one last big offensive before the Armistice was signed in November. His father who lived on Eaton Street was the one officially notified of the young man's death in France.  And the tree planted here a century ago flourishes.
Key West
The house used to be occupied by an old Conch woman, a  lady I dare say who could be seen every day dealing with the heavy snowdrift of leaves dropped by the tree. In old school style she took a  broom to the sidewalks around her house and not a noisy leaf blower, the choice of those unable to wield a broom to full effect. I had a friend who crossed swords with her and when he told me she was mean I felt privately that she deserved a tip of the hat. I never had the nerve to approach her but with antecedents like hers she had much to live up to and she did it well.
Trees are protected in Key West even though signs aren't and even trees can be cut down legally on a  pretext so one wonders if the new owners will want to remember Key West's past. Not many seem to these days. Three million dollars buys you some latitude in these matters.
Key West
I like to come down Petronia from White Street to Frances partly because I enjoy the Conch architecture but also I like the shade thrown by the Malabar Tree. The Sands name is memorialized in public housing in Key West but this tree marks someone from key West who went a long way away to try to do some good and got killed for it. An admirable dedication to what's right and not what I would call a sucker and a loser. I find World War One particularly painful as it marked the switch from 19th century warfare to the brutality of mass killing by mechanical and scientific means with limited medical care and terrible physical discomfort. To go from Key West to the trenches of the Western Front must have been mind boggling. And six months later the survivors started to go home. 
Wandering up to Ashe Street I found life spilling over onto the sidewalk, in bright colors.
With World War One and its losses in the history books, Key West benefited from World War Two by having water piped to the city from Miami to supply the wartime navy base. For the first time there was a relative abundance of reliable drinking water in a town that had lurched through seasons by catching rainwater. Until then Key West was not nearly as green and filled with plants and trees as it is today. You simply couldn't waste water growing ornaments. Nowadays it's  a different story, and very glad I am too.
I passed a couple of eyebrow houses which display an architectural feature that has made them famous despite the fact it doesn't work as intended. The eyebrow was supposed to allow air to circulate upstairs even when it was raining but all it did was trap hot air and didn't help. But it looks pretty.
As do the flowers on the streets. The blessings of water! In abundance.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Entropy and Change

This time of year its possible to be on Duval Street and still be distanced from people but I was wearing a mask anyway. I thought it worth a try to see if I could snag some pictures.
You could blame the virus but September and October are low season, the time of year special events are created to lure people to hotel rooms. Plus those pesky cruise ship day trippers. This summer the fur is flying in Key West over whether or not allow cruise ships back after they start sailing at the end of the month with anyone brave enough to stew in close confinement with several hundred potential carriers. 
City voters face three different questions on cruise ships which in essence of approved would drastically reduce the size and frequency of the ships in Key West. I expect that even if the voters approve the suggested changes there will be lawsuits aplenty for the foreseeable future before anything changes.
The idea is to reduce the size of ships and require them to meet anti-pollution standards rather than the pre-pandemic free for all with up to three shups a day and thousands of people wandering Lower Duval in search of the elusive essence of Key West.
It may come as a surprise to learn that Key West has been awash in competing claims over this cruise ship referendum. Supports say they have never seen coastal waters so clean after a six month coronavirus embargo. They say it will be easier to entice high dollar visitors to view marine wildlife in rejuvenated coral reefs not subjected to stress by cruise ships stirring up silt and muddying the waters.
The pilots who make a lot of money guiding the ships into Key West argue that effectively banning big ships will cost the city so much money 911 will not be answered promptly and taxes will go up and Armageddon will follow.  I made this point to a well connected friend of mine who sniffed and said the city may lose a hundred thousand a year in ship fees. I was surprised as I thought the city made 2.5 million from fees paid to dock in Key West. Not so i was assured.
And so it goes on. I don't live in Key West so I don't vote on the issue and I haven't bestirred myself to get in the middle of the competing claims. I have a suspicion that if the vote does pass there will be some unintended and therefore unexpected consequences from any reduction in cruise ship dockings, but like Brexit and other momentous requests of citizens to decide complex questions the die is cast and the result will reflect on Key West one way or another. Consequences be damned.
Its the curse of every tourist town, you want to kill the goose that lays the golden egg because it makes noise and a mess and it annoys. The problem is you need the eggs so how do you kill the goose? The mayor ran on a platform of less mass tourism and more wealthy thoughtful tourists. Well, here we go.
She got 60% of the vote and though she won so handily, the paradox is that by re-electing the mayor the city has chosen the path of change. Mark Rossi the bar owner was the candidate of no change but his haphazard campaign and rather down at heel style  only persuaded twenty percent of voters he was the stability they wanted. So now Key West faces a push to make Duval Street a pedestrian zone and the cruise ships to be limited to small eco boats with passengers fll to the brim with curiosity and the intention of spending money in town. 
I can't wait for the pandemic to be over. People will come out of their caves, mask-less and ready to  take on the issues of the new day.  That will mean lots of meetings, tons of discussion and feelings running high was everything as usual will be at stake. And the city will abide anyway.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Summerland Sunset

I realized with a  jolt that winter is closing in on us. I don't doubt that Up North this fact is being brought home with a  vengeance and traces of frost. Around here it remains strangely humid despite a fresh east wind blowing all day and all night as Hurricane Delta marched across the Gulf Of Mexico. It feels like it should be wintery and dry under crisp clear skies but it isn't.
Florida Keys Sunset
One indisputable fact is that days are getting shorter and I noticed that fact Thursday night when my wife worked late (from home) and Rusty's evening stroll was my responsibility.  By the time we drove to the trailhead it was ten minutes before seven and night was decidedly falling. Fat Albert, the Air Force Blimp on Cudjoe Key was silhouetted in the sunset.
Summerland Key Florida
A lobster fisherman's work is never done. They sit out in the shade and the heat repairing traps. It is in a way the agricultural work of the Keys, labor intensive and physical similar to my memories of work in the fields when I was growing up far inland. It was not my cup of tea so I ran away from the farm.
Florida Keys Fishing
Commercial boat names are not always comprehensible to me but I thought there was potential for beauty in the lines of this hull high and dry. The rest of the stuff was just colorful.
If you have the misfortune to find yourself lost at sea a red colored life ring could and should make you more visible. Failing that it makes for an effective if gaudy decoration on land.

This, below is what I think of as a winter sunset, a season when humidity is banished till summer and with the humidity go the clouds so the sky is clear. Which also cuts down the color and drama prevalent in summer sunsets. 
The rain keeps coming at random to remind me it's not actually the dry season yet. In two weeks we turn the clocks back and instead of dusk at seven we start to enjoy dusk at six, about the moment I leave the office. 
One thing I do miss in northern latitudes which I enjoyed in Michigan this past summer are the very long periods of twilight. The closer you get to the equator the less difference there is between summer and winter time and furthermore light and dark alternate very rapidly. Around here one minute it's daylight and the next it's night. Twilight is a very short part of the evening.
I am of the thought that year round daylight saving daytime would be good but I fear there are many unintended consequences that would accompany such a change. The European Union is trying to implement such a change so perhaps we can wait and see how the experiment goes. I have no children but daylight  saving time would give us extremely dark mornings all through winter  and I wonder how parents would deal with that for instance.
Winter cometh. Glad there is no frost to look forward to around here.