Sunday, June 28, 2009

artman's alphabet - S

nothing's new under the sun

Every day the sun comes up and if we rise with it, it's another opportunity for us to shine.
But the world seems to be in a mess of mayhem, manufactured by the banksters, pundits, politicians and preachers who are, apparently, so unsatisfied with their own lives that they've got to screw it all up for the rest of us too.

They're like nymphomaniacs, f#@king any and everyone, any and everywhere, any and every time. (and if you haven't noticed, they're bi-sexual) So it's tough to be bright and shiny, inspired and involved, confident and unafraid when "we the people" are getting screwed at every turn. Here in the Keys, we've been a bit more insulated but, after a full year of their nonsense, we're starting to feel it too.

My friends, I don't have all the answers. . . yet. (and when I do get them fully figured, those answers will come to you in a more personal way)

In the meantime, please try to stay inspired.
I offer two links to old Frank Capra flicks that seem to offer direction, "MEET JOHN DOE" and "MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON". Released in 1941 and 1939 they, more than any rant I can rage, demonstrate (from our perspective in time) that nothing's new under the sun and the more things "change", the more they stay the same.

cool water on a hot day

Of all the female life forms I've ever lived with, (and that's a handful) Maxine is the first to thank me for leaving the seat up.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

old school

Built back in 1909, the now 100 year old Harris School was Monroe County’s first public high school. Named for Confederate Civil War veteran and progressive educator Jepha Vinning Harris, the building stands today abandoned and is, as a Citizen writer once wrote, "a symbol of shame, obstinacy and poor judgment." (to that, I would also add greed) But for the protection of the Kapok, Palm, Mahogany and Bougainvillea trees that surround it, the building has been neglected and left to waste away in our unforgiving tropical environment.

Front Portico

Sadly, Harris School is now tattooed with the "DANGER" and "KEEP OUT" signs that usually presuppose pending demolition. (so much for the sanctuary of being listed on the National Register of Historic Places.)
So how is a perfectly viable renovation project left to waste to such a sorry state of disrepair? Again I reference the Citizen writer, ". . .obstinacy and poor judgment" (and again I add, greed).

Kapok Tree

It wasn't like there weren't offers on the property. . .
In 2005, School Superintendent Randy Acevedo recommended that the School Board turn down more than $11 million of private sector donations to restore the building and keep it in the public sector. Then later, the State of Florida offered to buy the building for $5 million through the "Florida Forever" program and lease it to the not-for-profit Rodel Foundation, which had pledged $6 million to restore the building with plans to establish an artists' colony and culinary school on the property.

Front Steps

That deal, apparently, was in the works for more than two years until the state added a caveat that $5 million of the funds be used for affordable housing. At that, for reasons no one understood at the time, (but that we all understand now) Acevedo shot down the state's deal, Rodel took it's business elsewhere and yet another bubba boondoggle was born.
The last thing School Superintendent Acevedo wanted, was the State poking around in School Board business while he and his wife had their hands in the School Board's cookie jar. (bilk and cookies anyone?)

Side Entrance

So there sits the Harris School, headed for hell in a handbag unless someone does something and soon. Who knows, maybe now with Acevedo on his way to the big house, those folks with the $11 million will resurface. I hope so. They seem to me to be the kind of good people who see historic places with the same "old school" eye as I do. They are works of art that need to be preserved for our children's once and future history.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

a workday on duval

So why, I had to ask myself, was this seemingly disguised guy with the Keys Energy truck spray painting the shell of a traffic light on the corner of Eaton and Duval. . .
Key West does, after all, have a Public Works Department whose "mission" is to maintain the health, safety, and beautification of our community and has a "vision" of the efficient operation and maintenance of the city's cemetery, facilities, streets and sidewalks. (it's on the city's website, you can look it up)

hmmm, i thought. . .
Maybe Public Works ran out of trucks with cherry pickers and borrowed a couple from the electric company. Maybe there's a notorious notable coming to town this weekend and in a effort to spiff up the town in time, Keys Energy and Public Works are working together to get it done. Or maybe there's something more nefarious going on; like a deceptive deal between the city and the utility company, grandfathered in to tax the already overburdened ho-moaners out of just a few more bucks, enough to pay off the city's debt to the Ducks.

Or maybe, just maybe, I've been spending too much time reading the "Blue Paper". . .

Monday, June 22, 2009

cool and courageous

I've spent most of the last few days designing and laying out a book for one of my clients. (Key West is replete with authors)
So it follows that while I was doing the work, I had books on the brain. Books I've designed, books I hope to write, books I've read and, books I owe it to myself to finish reading.
(that last thought brings me to the point of this post)

I did a little homework to find out who May Hill Russell was or is but came up empty. If anyone has a clue, I'd like to know.

Some time back in history, in a reality far far away, I was a 9 or 10 year old kid and among the other Christmas presents my parents (or Santa, depending on your point of persuasion) gave me was a new book.
That book was "Profiles in Courage", written by JFK and published by Harper and Row in 1955, when I was 3. Each chapter is a vignette of "cool and courageous" political personalities from American history. A heavy bunch of stuff for a kid, but all the same I dutifully dove in and struggled through the first chapter or two.

Where else but in Key West would you find a library with an outdoor reading room? A quiet garden for concentration, meditation. . .

Well, none of it was making very much sense to me and I decided that what "cool and courageous" meant to a then 40 something year old author/president was a world away from whatever it might have meant to me. (The most "cool and courageous" dudes I knew at the time were my uncles Gene, Jack and Andy. They all had cool cars and really good looking girlfriends) So when it snowed a few days later, I took it as a sign from the Almighty that it was time to ditch the book and pitch some snowballs. I ran for my life and never looked back but over the years have always remembered that book as a bit of unfinished business.

. . .and a few hours of undisturbed sleep. I let this guy fleece me for a couple of bucks because, after all, "there but for the grace of God. . ."

Well, with all that in mind and the first draft of my book project back off to client for proofing, I had a little time to kill and headed down Fleming St. to the library to put my once and future boy-ish boring book issue to bed for once and all.

Yes, yes I know. This sculpture is not in the library's outdoor reading room. But it fit so well with the set, I had to keep it in.

These few days later, I'm a third of the way through the thing and, you know what? It's not a bad read. John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster and Sam Houston were pretty interesting guys but, at the end of the day, they're still not as "cool and courageous" as my uncles.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sunday, June 14, 2009

old key west

I was talking with my good friend Barb Wright the other day. Barb is a beautiful spirit, 20 or 25 years in Key West and owner/operator of BW Promotions, a public relations business that organizes, promotes and sponsors so many of the races (like the upcoming July 4th Crime Stoppers and Hemingway 5K's) and special events we enjoy during the year. She was, in fact, heavily involved with all the happenings going on last month surrounding the sinking of the Vandenburg.

Anyway, our conversation turned (as so many locals' conversations do) to how so much has changed in our community. Well change, I reminded her, is as inevitable as taxes and death and though she agreed, it was true that some changes are for the better while others are not.

For example, when I came to town on February 9th of the year 2000, (funny how you remember the day you came to Key West as clearly as you remember where you were when JFK was shot), the city was in the middle of replacing it's underground sewer and water lines. The air was clouded with coral dust, streets were closed for days at a time and the noise was everywhere. A painful process but, at the end of the day, a change for the better. A change for the worse, perhaps? The city's contrived demise of BoatHouse Row to justify those designed by McCoy monstrosities that currently line the Atlantic shore of the rock.

So where is the "old" Key West? That sanctuary of sanity (or, in some cases insanity) so many of us came here to find.
Well, there's a very similar question in verse 113 of the gnostic gospel of Thomas where the clamoring crowd asks the Christ, "where is the Kingdom of God?" and his answer, common to both questions, was ". . .the kingdom of the Father is spread out upon the earth, and men do not see it."
So it is also with "old" Key West. Between the new construction, beyond the marketing hype and below the radar of the tour trolleys, old Key West is "spread upon" the island and, unless we're looking for it, we don't see it.

Old Key West is alive and well, thankfully overlooked by "urbane" sprawl. Look for it, welcome it, embrace it. It's who we are, when we arrived and what we imagined it would be.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

a creative day to be born

Just a little fun with iMove, GarageBand and my new age.

click arrow to start video, run time 1:10

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Thursday, June 4, 2009

mid-week musings

So it's Thursday again and while I'm waiting for Doc Cooper and Mrs. Saunders to put their finishing touches on the BluePaper's editorial content for this week and before I get the call to come by and do my magical mischief to get it all prepped for printing, I thought I'd set a few of my "peripheral pictures" free.

Peripheral pictures, of course, are the shots you shoot on your way to some other subject. . .
Something catches your eye, in the moment it's "Keys unique" and hell, it's a digital camera, take the damned picture!

I've always liked the look of Mac's. It's seemingly old Key West rustic, my friend Linda works there and if you walk by when there's a breeze, the bamboo wind chimes, hanging just under the roof, offer an orchestral wall of sound to rival Phil Spector.

What caught me at the Banyan Resort was the distinct reflection in the window. While I was shooting a few different angles, a Conch Train came by behind me and the driver was announcing to his passengers that the Banyan tree I'm shooting through here was somehow connected to the Bayan tree at the back of the same property. "Hmmm" I thought, all one organism like the stands of Birch trees I've seen in Colorado, how cool and I'll have to look into that.

The cruise ship, I think it's called "Empress of the Sea", caught me at just the right angle to inspire me to see it (or is that sea it??) nesting in the treetops. But mostly what grabbed me was the color relationship between the thick, rich greens and blue we see almost every day down here with just that spark of white, literally floating between heaven and earth.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

penthouse in paradise

Every week, for the last 10 years worth of weeks, after I've finished up my Art Director gig at KWTN, I cut through the parking lot below our penthouse newspaper office on my way to our post-production "staff meeting" at The Meteor, (best spot on the rock for ribs). Almost every time, I make a minute to muse on how great a place this "penthouse in paradise" would be to live (there's probably a great view of the ocean from up there and I do love that clay chiminea).

Of course my musings are mostly not practical. The place is the upper rear floor of the allegedly haunted Marrero Guest Mansion on Fleming St. and since the room rates would have me broke as a joke in no time and Max (the cat) is easily spooked by spirits, it just wouldn't work out.

The short story on the ghost in the guesthouse, as I remember it from my time guiding ghost tours around town is, back in 1889 cigar czar Francisco Marrero built the mansion for his new wife, Henrietta. Her love of the place was second to nothing and the happy couple lived there long enough to have 8 kids (Catholics no doubt). At some point Francisco headed to Cuba on a business trip, during which he died. Heartbroken Henrietta stayed in the home she loved so much with her children, secure in the knowledge that her late husband's massive fortune would sustain them all without worry. Six or so months later however, a woman named Maria Marerro appeared from Cuba, claiming to be Francisco's first wife whom he somehow forgot to both mention to Henrietta and divorce before he re-married. Maria sued for the Marrero estate, won and Henrietta and her kids were out on the street.

Years later, long after Maria sold the estate lock stock and barrel, took the money and went back to Cuba, Henrietta and all her children died and Henrietta's spirit once again took up residence in the home she loved so well.

It is said that visitors to the mansion have seen Henrietta's harmless spirit wandering the halls at night or have caught the scent of her Lavender perfume or have been awakened from a sound sleep to find her sitting on the foot of their beds.