Thursday, July 31, 2008

low tide

Bahia Honda State Park, about 40 minutes north of Key West, had been at some point voted one of among the five most beautiful parks in the United States. I didn't get to vote on it but I agree, it is what natural tropical beauty is all about.

Yes, there are parking lots and picnic tables, bathrooms and a gift shop, snorkeling party boats and a buoyed beach for the kiddies but, turn left where most folks go right and you find an amazing place.

The Atlantic beach is pristine, completely untouched by any kind of governmental intervention or engineering to make it more hospitable for humans.
Beaches heaped with washed up seaweed, coral and an occasional lobster trap. If, as I've seen it happen, a storm season washes away the beachfront, it stays that way until the next storm season puts it back. The air is fresh, the water is clear and all the while the tides roll in and out as regular as nature's breathing.
My spirit is quieted, reassured every time I walk it's length.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

elopement

. . .and I imagined that two hours later, when the sun was finally tucked safely halfway 'round the world, in the streetlight lit darkness, an 18 year old girl named Julie would be whisper-shouting down to the dark street below, "Ramone, where's the freakin' ladder!!"

Monday, July 28, 2008

on the rocks

A few of my marriages have been "on the rocks", more than a few of my investments are "on the rocks" and sometimes I wonder if my sanity isn't a bit "on the rocks". But I will never ever ask a bartender for a double tumbler of 14 year old Barbancourt "on the rocks". That would be a sacrilege.


click cartoon to enlarge

Saturday, July 26, 2008

between here and there

During a recent road trip a little way up the Keys, I pulled over just long enough to find a few good angles of this old bridge just south of Bahia Honda. It's a section of Henry Flagler's "wonder of the world", The Florida East Coast Railway. Built between 1906 and 1912, several sections still parallel the Overseas Highway, which replaced it in the mid-1930s, from the Continent to Key West.

I've got a peculiar "organic" connection to this section of the historic railway and that's why I notice it, more than other sections, every time I'm up the Keys.

Years ago, a friend and I were out walking on the short section of the bridge that's open to pedestrian traffic. It's a moderately steep grade that climbs pretty high (I'm guessing a couple of hundred feet) as it ends out over the water where the view is fantastic.

It had been a hot sunny day but as we made it up the span to the end, the sky was a gathering of thick dark clouds with an occasional flash of high lightening. As we were looking down over the edge at the water below, my friend commented on the darkening day. When I looked over to reply I noticed her hair was all standing out on end and so was mine and everyone else's.

Remember, as a kid, rubbing a balloon on a wool sweater and then orbiting your head with it?

Who'd have thought it? Electrically charged air, electrically charged water and an exposed metal superstructure between here and there. . .
Static electricity!

I thought it was pretty cool but it freaked her out so we beat feet out of there and spent the rest of the afternoon watching other people's hair stand out on end from the relative safety of the nearby coffee shop.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

cactus fruit

Someone told me that these bite sized bits were edible. . .
So, true to my childlike spirit of adventure, I had to try one.
(the one that's missing)

It was yellow. . .
But no, it didn't taste like lemon and actually it was pretty bitter.
I don't imagine the orange one would taste like orange or the red one like cherry either.
I guess if you were castaway on a desert island with nothing else to eat, you'd thank God for these nasty little bite size bits.
But when you know you've got leftover pizza back home in
the fridge. . .

Friday, July 18, 2008

above the tree line

Coming to you live from far above the royal poinciana and palms, it's LPTV!
Local Paradise TeleVision (formerly Lynn Parker TeleVision) ran for years only on VHF channels. Mostly ghostly broadcasts of ancient John Wayne serial episodes and re-runs of "I dream of Jeanie", it somehow got bought out by Comcast, the cable company.
They built this transmitter and the story goes that some poor guy fell off it during construction. For his sacrifice, we now have crystal clear broadcasts of ancient John Wayne serial episodes and re-runs of "I dream of Jeanie".
. . .T.V., Technology without Vision.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

. . .a word from our sponsor - VIDEO

video

card sound road

Card Sound Road was paved through the mangroves and flatlands that skirt the southernmost end of the Florida Everglades as a toll road shortcut between Key Largo and Florida City.
I imagined that this is what it would look like if I were a beagle hanging my head out the passenger side window at 60mph.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

rook

Looking very much like the chess piece, this is the top of a tower that rises above the Baptist Church on the corner of Fleming and William Streets.
I couldn't escape the contrast between shadow and light nor the contrast between the defensive battlement attitude of the architecture and the welcoming joyful noise singing out
from downstairs.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

public enemies

I've lived in cities all my life and every one of those cities has had it's "wildlife". . .
In New York it was pigeons, rats and roaches.
In Philadelphia (where we lived on the suburban outskirts) it was racoon, wild turkey and deer.
In the southernmost city it's free-range chickens and "snowbirds".

Now, pigeons and rats and racoons and deer, somehow figured out how to co-exist harmoniously. But free range chickens and "snowbirds"?. . . not so much.
The reason is, "snowbirds" are humans (imagine that, humans who can't get along).

You see, every year, just after the holidays, a flock of these "snowbirds" migrate south to our tropical paradise to escape their primary nesting places like Minnesota, Wyoming or New Jersey where the winter weather gets "too cold" for them. They stay for three or four months and then migrate north again before the sub-tropical summer kicks in and it gets "too hot" for them. But while they're here, with too much time, money and northern anxt on their hands, they declare war on the chickens.

The gaggle gathers at Old City Hall to whine in a unified voice. . .
"The hens and chicks dig up our professionally fine-trimmed lawns and gardens!"
"The rooster's early crowing wakes us long before our hangovers have worn off!!"
"Make it stop or we'll sell our houses and never come back!!!"
(lions and tigers and bears, oh my!!)

With a greedy eye on keeping the property tax money flowing, the City Commission bends for the bucks and hires a "chicken catcher". At a bounty of $25 a head, he or she sets traps to capture as many of the public enemies as they can and ship them to a safe haven "chicken ranch" in North Florida that no one has ever found. (I promise, I'm not making this stuff up)
Of course it never really works, the chickens are still, and always will be, here. But for a couple of months every year it's a great show at the local taxpayer's expense to keep the "snowbirds" coming back to poop in the pond.

A dear friend of mine, Katha Sheehan, owns and operates "the chicken store" here in town.
She is the expert and the chicken's champion. Take a look at
The Chicken Store.com

Monday, July 14, 2008

artman's alphabet - C


mangroves

Mangroves are like miniature forests that grow in the shallow salt marshes around the islands.
Some grow in smaller clumps like in this picture and others, like in the next picture, sprawl over acres.

Looks like a farmer's field that you could walk across but, you can't. While mangroves are a great place for birds to roost on the tops, down below live all manner of fish, crabs and alligators.

I've heard a couple of versions of a story from Key West's "bad old days". . .
About thirty years ago, a drug smuggler named Bum Farto,
(no kidding), got caught by the cops and agreed to rat out a few of his gangster friends to keep himself out of prison. But just before the trial, he disappeared and has never been seen or
heard from since. . .

. . .One version of the story says he grabbed the money, changed his name and moved to South America somewhere. Another version says his gangster friends caught up with him, did him in and at low tide one dark night, tied his body to the roots of a mangrove patch. So, when the tide came back in, so did all those hungry critters and, as quick as you can say "bon app├ętit", there went the evidence.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

liberty

No more calls, no more walls at the end of the day,
a mild breeze, a light chop and you're out on your way.
Their surveillance is useless out here on the sea;
and when no one find you, that's liberty.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

hi-biscuits

For the past few weeks, my neighbor's 5 year old grandson, Tyler, has been visiting from Chicago. While I was setting up this shot his focus shifted from playing with Smokey (the cat) to what I was doing. Our conversation went something like this. . .
"Are you taking a picture?"
"I sure am, Ty."
"Of this flower?"
"Of this beautiful flower!"
"What kind of flower is it?"
"It's a hibiscus."
"hi-biscuits???, we c an eat them!!!"
"No Ty, I don't think so."
"Yes we can, yesterday my gramma made hi-biscuits for lunch! She said she made them out of flower and we ate them with gravy!"

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

tiga

This pretty girl belongs to my dearest friend in all the world.
We have something of a love/hate relationship, she and I.
One minute she'll let me hand feed her shrimp from my dinner plate and the next she'll hiss and growl if I come into the same room with her. One day she'll claw at me if I sit too close beside her on the floor and the next day, same floor same space, she'll pose for pictures.
I've come to realize that when Tiga is calm, there is no deeper love. But when she is not, all the hissing and growling are just a protection against the memory of old hurts.
Our personalities are very much alike that way and that, I believe, is why we both seek safe harbour in our one dearest friend.

Monday, July 7, 2008

dog bight

One of the ingredients necessary for living a laid back life in Key West is acceptance of it's quirky diversity.
Spend a few hours at Schooner Wharf Bar and you'd never know if the person on the stool beside you is a millionaire or a working stiff. Whether the guy at the juke box is a circuit judge or a sea captain or if that good looking girl, winking at you from across the bar, is really female or a drag queen.
Just outside, the bight is an eclectic collection of historic sailing ships, luxury yachts, forty year old fishing boats and carolina skiffs. The yachts are guided to their overpriced slips by the Harbor Pilot but for the smaller boats, "Sparkie", the family dog will do.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

masthead


It's a quiet, early Sunday morning. A handful of still sleepy sailors carry their coffee in paper cups from the early morning market back to the comfort of their boats. The masts of the tall ships, in this particular harbor, tower above the deck-hands below who are preparing for another day of two hour cruises. Set against a blue sky with wisps of high clouds, a fair wind whistles through
the rigging.
It's a good day for sailing.
Before time and tides changed, these were working vessels; laying trans-Atlantic cable, carrying blocks of ice packed in sawdust from Maine to the Keys, shipping cattle and produce from Cuba and South America. That long gone life at sea is like a distant memory in my mind's eye and in this world of Go-Fast boats and vapor trails I can only imagine that I remember how it used to be.


click the cartoon to enlarge

Saturday, July 5, 2008

sine qua non

I offer this picture of flags.
The lower, the flag of the Conch Republic, my home, seeming no worse for the wear.
The upper, the flag of the American Republic, also my home, looking just a bit more tattered than it did a dozen
years ago.

Yesterday was the fourth of July and I was fixin' to put up a beautiful picture of fireworks and wish everyone well and happy but I couldn't do it.
The trouble was, I couldn't get behind it! (and everyone who knows me knows I won't do anything I can't get behind).
With all the mischief that involves our present government, our way of life is in deep voodoo. Words like "INDEPENDENCE", "LIBERTY" and "FREEDOM" don't seem to carry much weight when balanced, (on the scale of justice), against bar-b-qed burgers, one too many Miller Lights and "spend your stimulus check at WalMart".

This site was not designed to be a political forum and will not become such.
But I am a thinking man and on this the 232nd anniversary of our failing American Republic I wanted to share my thoughts, via these links, with my readers. . .

THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE

INDEPENDENCE DAY: LET US REMEMBER WHO WE ARE

THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION


RON PAUL - STOP DREAMING


AMERICA FREEDOM TO FASCISM - AARON RUSSO INTERVIEW

AMERICA FREEDOM TO FASCISM


RESTORE THE REPUBLIC

LIBERTARIAN PARTY

Thursday, July 3, 2008

sea king

I stopped in at one of my favorite old haunts on my way home from work this afternoon.
B.O.'s Fishwagon is such a laid back seafood restaurant that you wouldn't recognize it as a seafood restaurant unless you already knew it was a seafood restaurant.
For me it's a great place in the shade for a handful of conch fritters, a grouper sandwich on Cuban bread and a couple of cold ones on hot summer afternoons with my sketchbook.
B.O.'s is a ramshackle, tiki lookin' place on the corner of Caroline and William Streets, decorated inside and out with still lifes of "found objects".
There's a rusted out old bike here, a bunch of used-up marker buoys there and a naked lady mannequin waves a welcome to all the world from the front seat of an old junkyard pick-up truck parked in front of the place.
The rafters are tiled with expired license plates from some of the thousands of folks who escaped from the "real world" and found sane and safe refuge in paradise.
My old plates are up there too.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

view from the hammock


So there I was, swinging in the hammock at the end of the day, wondering what I would take my next picture of. . .

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

past, present & future

So then I thought; if the past is a shadow on the wall and the present is what's in my face, then the future could be a reflection of what's coming up behind me.