Friday, January 15, 2021

A Cuban Lunch

I had not eaten a Cuban sandwich in a long time. I debated the exact amount of time with my wife and we couldn't decide if it had been one year or three and decided it was most likely two. Let's face it: a sandwich filled with meat cheese mayonnaise and lots of salt is not a health conscious choice so abstinence is not all bad. But once you have that flavor on your mind it's hard to dismiss it. 
Florida Keys
It happened that I was on foot on White Street and looking for lunch. I thought about the new sandwich shop at the other end of the street, Ingrid's Kitchen offering Czech food to rave reviews. However I had to be at this end of the street in not much time. I tried the Polish Market next to the gas station but Covid has shut their kitchen temporarily according to the babushka at the counter. So at that point I fell back, not unwillingly on the old stand by and they did not disappoint.  
Wild Chickens of Key West
Sandy's had had a falling out with the employees who moved everything but the store up the street and opened a rival coffeeshop in a flurry of lawsuits and accusations over naming rights. Fernandy's came and went and the original Sandy's is still here and still delicious. A large café con leche and a heap of meat and cheese and calories and I was set to head across the street and deal with the title transfer on my scooter.
I like Sandy's and when I worked night shift at the police station three blocks away a strong Cuban coffee in the middle of the night was just the ticket sometimes. At the moment I work days and they are no longer a twenty four hour operation but every time I drive by that's what I think about, coffee and darkness.
The Harvey Government Center where I was bound was harboring the usual collection of dubious characters:
These guys failed to make the deadline for my chicken essay earlier this week so here they are parading around the grounds of the old school building at Truman and White. It's where we pay taxes, renew registration if we miss the mailing deadline and buy assorted permits. It's organized, the staff are very helpful and everyone wears a damned mask without arguing about it. I am so tired of mask protestors; if I'd wanted to deal with kindergarteners I'd have had my own.
Stuffed with food and one hundred dollar bills I waved good bye to the Suzuki Burgman 200 and while I was at it I also waved good bye to Sandy's for a while. You just can't eat there every day you know. I mean you could but there would be consequences...

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Sugarloaf Mangroves

I interrupted a kettle of turkey vultures at lunch when Rusty and I pulled up in the Ford Fusion to go for a stroll. They lifted themselves laboriously off the ground and perched in the trees watching us balefully as we walked in small circles below them.
Not to put too fine a point on it but they were enjoying a pungent meal and death hung in the air over us when we got out of the car. I can't imagine what had died to provide their lunch but it was reeking. The mangroves looked nice though:
I have to confess Rusty enjoys this trail on Sugarloaf Key far less than I do and he wandered with a lot of sniffing and not a huge amount of enthusiasm.
He was fine, we had already walked an hour elsewhere and I wanted to look at some red mangroves up close, so I did.
This narrow trail used to be a road, State Road 939 and  it is built on a firm rock surface winding for four miles to the very end of the island, across from Geiger Key. Look east from Geiger Key Marina and here we are.
New young mangroves shooting out of the thick shiny leaves of the red mangroves. The trees thrive is slat water by sucking up the ocean and spitting out the salt onto it's leaves which is why some of them are always going yellow, dying off and taking surplus salt with them.
Hurricane Irma exacted a high prices in drowned trees around here in 2017:

Four miles later it still looks pretty much like this. We went about 200 yards before Rusty pooped and demanded to be taken home.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

The Birds

Florida Keys

I wasn't expecting to see flocks of birds when we got out of the car, Rusty and I. You take what you find.
West Summerland Key
Winter is when the birds are enjoying the mild climate, just like the people. 
Florida Keys
I kept seeing more of them and I kept pointing my camera at them.
I am not by any stretch devoted to wildlife photography, but I do like to record daily life as it happens.
Florida Keys
Bird photographers spend thousands on massive lenses and top of the line camera bodies on tripods.
Florida Keys
My camera has a long lens but I can't be bothered to use a tripod and all the rest of it. I like the birds.
Florida Keys
But I really like how the birds give me a focus to record the keys just looking colorful and good.
Look at the horizon line, the low tide pushing up the brown rocks and the white egrets flying together.
In the picture below the unremarkable flight is hovering above a white ghost - Fat Albert ten miles away.
Not a bird but a mural previously shown on this page. I still like it.
There is a bird in there, down low over the water, possibly a pelican flying into the sunrise.
Old Bahia Honda Bridge
Pelicans flying low:

A lovely morning away from work and enjoying the flight. Not alone.
West Summerland Key

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Carsten Lane

I am sorry the Fiat 500 is no longer being sold in the US. My wife's convertible has 111,000 miles and since she teaches from home I have taken to commuting in ours  and thoroughly enjoy it. This one is in rather cleaner shape than ours, parked across from Carsten Lane.
A block long with a  weird right turn in the middle, lots of foliage and lovely light.  A  few pictures:

Monday, January 11, 2021

More Cruise Ships

I have given up hoping things will return to normal soon though I do enjoy hearing from economists predicting a Roaring Twenties type of economic boom when the virus finally goes back to the hell hole whence it came. That time can't come fast enough for the cruise industry I dare say as ships have been parked for almost a year already. If Key West activists got their way they wouldn't come back at all, those big bad behemoths carrying 3,000 passengers at a time. I have to say their absence has been noticed downtown where storefronts are closing all over Lower Duval. The tea place on Greene Street is still open with an urgent message:

Indeed local stores are definitely feeling the pinch from the lack of shoppers as the signs tell the tale.
New hopefuls will show up with a business plan and probably not enough money to face a year's worth of very high rents, $30,000 or more  a month for small Duval Street shopfront. It is said some stores survive on Duval Street thanks to outside income processed through the legitimate if underperforming businesses seen on this street.
Thus when city luminaries decided to start a three pronged petition drive to limit the size and frequency of cruise ships opponents saw a future with fewer jobs, more store closings and less money coming into the city. Predictably the referenda passed, even as the pandemic shut down the industry in 2020. Some people thought the depopulated downtown inspired people to vote yes in an effort to keep Key West less frenetic on these few blocks of shopping.

The main reason put forward for the referendum to ban cruise ships was to preserve the reef which is threatened by, among other things, cloudy waters silted up by deep draught ships churning their way into Key West Harbor. People sometimes ask me if they should snorkel the reef and I tell them that if they have seen tropical coral elsewhere in the world not to bother doing it here. On the other hand if this is your first foray onto a tropical reef I suppose better to see this than nothing. I have seen prime tropical reefs with clear waters and stacks of bright colorful coral and schools of fish darting around and to end up here with dead and dying coral and a few purple stags of coral is a sad contrast.
The reef had never been properly protected before the creation of the Marine Sanctuary and despite desperate efforts to repopulate the waters in new and creative ways thanks to Mote Marine Lab, warming seawater and increased turbidity is not doing coral anywhere any favors. The question then is whether it is worth killing off cruise ships and their money to try to get a last leg up on saving the dying coral. Emotionally speaking the answer should be yes. However the State of Florida doesn't seem to agree.
Now lawmakers upstate are proposing to void local shipping restrictions statewide even though Key West is the only city to pass a restrictive referendum. If the law passes and it is apparently well funded by business interests it will override the will of 60 percent of voters in Key West. Here's the thing: I have a suspicion the state law may end up saving Key West from itself. The photo below is of the 200 block of Duval Street. Feel free to put in a  bid to rent the spaces if you like: they are all quite empty. It would only be the shortest of walks to Ricks or Sloppy Joes to get a drink and figure out how you are going to pay your exorbitant rent.
Key West
Starbucks was a mainland concept a decade ago with not one outlet in Key West. Now they have arrived here and spring up around town all the time, but this one on Front Street is gone. I am the first to agree that Duval Street is not a place to go shopping for useful things. That sort of shopping you do on North Roosevelt at the four shopping centers if you want to go buy things in person. Locals sniff at the idea of visiting Duval Street unless there is some acceptably enticing restaurant they may go to once in a  while (when times are normal and virus free). However shops selling suggestive t-shirts, cannabis products and jewelry do not act as much of a draw to someone seeking a light bulb or a head of cabbage. 
Key West, Florida, Night
And it is in that spirit that I suggest that most of us who live here suffer zero impact when thousands of eager visitors are walking around lower Duval with cruise ship boarding stickers displayed in lurid colors on their chests. Indeed businesses further down Duval Street used to protest regularly that cruise ship passengers were being funneled to Lower Duval exclusively. 
Mostly these are crappy stores, ill maintained relying on people rushing through with no thoughts of encouraging repeat experiences. What they do offer is jobs, benefit-free low paid  and dreary. Yet you need three of these jobs to have a hope of meeting your rent needs in Key West. To live in Paradise. 
A friend of mine sniffs disdainfully at the proposal to keep cruise ships away, describing the pro voters as wealthy and unemployed with time on their hands. I'm sure there is a lot of truth to that but that's democracy for you, messy annoying and occasionally provoking, but we are supposed to follow the will of the voters. Apparently Key West's peculiarities aren't impressing elected representatives elsewhere and this little blue speck in a  red ocean is about to get it's cruise-ship-free lunch handed to it.