Sunday, November 29, 2009

a light on the horizon

Breathless, weightless, floating, peaceful, safe, rested, relaxed, content, quiet, awareness of being, one.

A shocking sudden crash through the surface to an aggressive awakening of bright morning light of day. The raw smell of salt, the roar of waves and wind, the taste of the sea. Eyes blinded by sunlight, a gasp for air and the struggle to stay afloat.

Yards away a skiff, deserted, drifting on the tide. A frantic struggling swim for the rail the dry embrace of her hull; the illusion of safety.
"Take bearings and stock", his instincts rose. "The way of the wind, the run of the tides."

The sun rose in the Eastern sky bringing its welcome warmth. A gentle swell on the ocean's face and the comforting calls from laughing gulls riding on the air. "Land nearby but where away?"

The sky to the west still dark, the uplifting swell extended his view and there away, a light on the horizon. It sank from sight as the sea exhaled but he knew. The next rise of the swell would name the light his "Home" and he would make for it.

She was miles off, he reckoned, within line of sight for sparse seconds at a time and fading fast in the spreading daylight. Spirit renewed, he spread the main and charted his course.

In the rush of the morning, no time to think, "Just do."
In the warm afternoon, the hunger, "Just eat."
Ever west, the skiff made way in fair winds.

The sun at its height, stole his wind. Equatorial calms turned the tide and the skiff drifted in the doldrums, "Just row."
A long breathless afternoon, the sun at full fire, "Just row."
Mindless melancholy so far from his home, "Just row."
But for the splash of the oars, hour after endless hours, the deafening silence of the sea, "Turn the glass, just row."

The sun well into the west, the sea began to stir. A cool gust captured in the sail and she made way. From the south, off to starboard, a squall.

The wind and sea rose; the sky darkened, again he took his bearings, again the swell revealed her. Clearly now in the gathering dark; his light, his desire, his "Home".
Nearer to him than before but not near enough for shelter from this. . .
"There's nothing for it, ride her out!
Batten down, shorten sail. . ."

The rain came on in torrents.
"With all your heart, all your power and all your love, take to the tiller, slacken the sheet, sail!"

A merciless war of wind and water, rigging straining against the gale; he held fast. Tossed in the swell, provisions washed to sea, she was taking on water; alternations of bailing and sailing, clarity and confusion, fear and excitement;
Still, he held fast.

Then a whisper. Softly spoken as if through all eternity,
"O God, your sea is so great and my boat is so small."

In prayer, he had realized, become aware; the trials and light that lead him, had lit the light in his heart.
Then, as fast as it had come over him, the storm was past.

The moonless dark made her clearly now. Fair winds prevailed and clouds cleared. He looked to the stars and knew their names; Orion, Polestar, Southern Cross. They too had been his own.

On the horizon, "Home". Westward she sailed, the light of new life drawing ever closer to his eye. Yet the more way the skiff made, the deeper she drank. The day had come at a cost, he knew. All delusion purged, only his faith remained.

He tied off the sheet to hold his heading; still nearer she drew. He lay back in the stern, a tired hand on the tiller, his gaze fixed ahead. He felt the warmth of the water, then sank quietly into a deep, dreamless sleep.

Breathless, weightless, floating, peaceful, safe, rested, relaxed, content, quiet, awareness of being, one.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

thanksgiving according to artman

I was remembering an old nun I had back in grade school. She had a thing for making her students write "themes". Her favorite topics (which she would assign) were "what we did for summer vacations", "the miracles of Jesus" and "holidays".
One year she assigned a theme for "Thanksgiving". . .
I didn't write it and instead faked being sick and got out of school for a few days. (I was not the model inmate) Anyway, as long as the old girl was on my mind, I thought I'd make it up to her.
So here it is Sister Mary Francis, "Thanksgiving according to Artman. . ."

In 1620 a small wooden boat called the Mayflower and 100 or so God fearing folks of the Puritan persuasion, sailed west from Europe toward the Americas. Puritans were a fundamentalist Christian sect who couldn't work and play well with the Anglican English or the Catholic Dutch so they boarded a boat bound for Virginia.

On the way they were blown off course and, as we all know, instead made landfall at Plymouth Massachusetts in the dead of winter where, there in the snow without shelter nor anywhere else to go, very nearly half of their company died of exposure.

By the time spring rolled around, the survivors were hard at work building, planting and developing a dubious friendship with their neighbors, the Wampanoag Indians, without whose friendship they might all have perished. Fortunately for the Puritans, all their hard work through the spring and summer of 1621 paid off and after a bountiful autumn harvest, they celebrated with a Harvest Feast that rocked the house for three days.

(and of course they invited the Indians. . .)

But they couldn’t celebrate every year because in some years the harvests weren’t so good and the next big three day soirée didn’t happen until June of 1676 at the Charlestown Colony. (in those 55 years Puritanism had become a franchise).
But wait, you might be wondering, how can you have a Harvest Celebration in June? Well, you can't. They were celebrating their military victory over the "heathen natives". So the inspiration for celebrations to give thanks moved from harvests to politics and the next, and first nationwide, thankful celebration was declared in 1777 and all 13 colonies celebrated the Colonial Army's victory over the British at Saratoga.

So, you ask, is that the start of our annual Thanksgiving Celebration? Nope.
After the war everyone got back to the business of fulfilling America's Manifest Destiny and the collective shine for a National Day of Thanksgiving wore off.

The fact is, we wouldn’t have a National Day of Thanksgiving had it not been for Sarah Josepha Hale, the first female magazine editor in America and the author of "Mary had a little lamb".

Her connection to Thanksgiving is a letter writing campaign she commenced in the 1820s. She petitioned Governors, Senators, Congressmen and Presidents encouraging them to proclaim a National Day of Thanksgiving but none of them were interested. Still, Sarah persisted and through the 1830s, 40s, and 50s, her letters just kept on coming.

Finally, in 1863 with the Civil War not going so well for the north, Abraham Lincoln thought, “hmmm, it might be a good idea for all the people to have something to celebrate” and he proclaimed a National Day of Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of every November. That was the start of Thanksgiving for the likes of you and me.

By the time the twentieth century rolled in, the face of the American landscape had changed. There was industry, more people lived in cities than on farms and mass communications were better. Thanksgiving, and the way we celebrate it began to take shape. In 1932, the depths of the great depression, FDR had an idea. . .
Since Thanksgiving was already thought of as the official start of the holiday gift buying season, let’s move it forward one week to the third Thursday in November and add another week to the buying frenzy to stimulate the economy. Well, that idea didn't sit well with most folks (a Democrat overruling Lincoln? The audacity. . .) and it became known as “Franksgiving”. Finally, by an act of Congress in 1941, Thanksgiving was permanently moved back to the fourth Thursday in November.

So the table was set, Thanksgiving with all it’s myths and traditions laid out and ready to go. . . Pilgrims and Indians, turkey with stuffing, giblet gravy, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie, Macy’s Parade and Alice’s Restaurant Massacree. . .
All future generations would have to do was enjoy the day off and make it better.

. . .But, but wait! What about football? (I knew you'd ask)

In 1934, a sports writer named George Richards bought the Detroit Lions but, back then, baseball was still America’s game and with the Tigers in town, filling the stadium was a problem. So Richards devised a scheme. . .
He invited the Chicago Bears to Detroit to play on Thanksgiving and, not only that, he convinced the NBC network to broadcast the game nationwide.

. . .and the rest, as they say, is history.

Monday, November 23, 2009


Some people
see things
as they are
and ask,

Other people
see things
as they could be
and ask,
"Why not?"

Too many people have to "get to work" and don't have time
for all that. . .

Sunday, November 22, 2009

artman's alphabet - Y

1400 duval street

Set down on the south end of Duval is a beautifully renovated Queen Anne style mansion known as the Southernmost House.

It was built in 1896 for Dr. Jeptha Vinning Harris, a former Civil War sawbones who married Florida Curry Harris (a daughter of the famous and filthy rich Curry family) and it remained their family home for the next 40 years and some.

The Harris’s took great pride in their magnificent oceanfront home and were quick to invite many guests, family and friends. But as much as they enjoyed hosting guests, they enjoyed their privacy more. So, as expansive as it was, the original home was built with only one bedroom and visitors were put up in an adjacent guesthouse.

In 1939, the Ramos family came from Spain, bought the Southernmost House and, through most of the 1940's opened it up as the wildly popular "Café Cayo Hueso", a Cuban Café where locals and visitors came in for cocktails, Cuban cigars and a bit of gambling on the second floor.

But by 1950 Mrs. Ramos had had enough of the smell and mess of smoke filled rooms and rhum soaked wooden floors. So they closed the café, did a massive renovation and, in 1954, moved into their beautifully refurbished family home.

The Southernmost House had a magnetic appeal all it's own and it wasn't long before the word got out and company came calling.
Writers, Artists and Celebrities, a laundry list of American Presidents from Truman and Kennedy to Nixon and Carter and their cousin, the future king of Spain, Juan Carlos.

It turned out young Juan visited Key West a lot (the night life, you know) but his family and security detail feared for his safety driving the 150 miles down the two lane US1 from Miami and tried to discourage his visits. To solve the problem, the Ramos' built a helicopter pad on the south side of the property so the Prince could fly down, no worries.

These days, helicopters don't land there any more but the pad still lives as a great spot to cop a sunburn by the sea. The Southernmost House itself is a 13 room Innkeepers dream and historical museum with a pool side bar and, last I heard, for five bucks Locals can still go over and hang in the pool.

Friday, November 20, 2009

magis psittacus caput capitis

I had an uncle who spoke Latin. (God only knows why - I mean, unless you play Bingo on Wednesdays with the Pope, who can you talk to?)

In all fairness, I think both my mother's younger brothers learned Latin but Gene, we'd be doing this or that or driving here or there and he'd bust into 20 minute diatribes. . .
". . .Amicitia Romanorum paganus commodo mihi vestri intentio. Ut est optimus vultus mulier ego fuisti umquam vultus procul, inviso illud magnus pectus!"

The only Latin I ever learned was the stuff you had to know to be an alterboy. (a long time ago, on a planet far far away)

Years and years later, long after I'd given up faithful following of Catholic-ness, it was Friday Poker night at my brother Mike's place. Of the 6 guys at the table, it turned out that 4 of us had been alterboys and at some point in the early morning hours we all started regurgitating the Latin Mass in unison. I thought for sure I'd forgotten it all but out of my mouth it came and, ever since, I've credited Jack Daniels as the mnemonic device.

The other two guys, a Baptist and a Jewish dude, waited for the rest of us to finally shut-up and got equal time with a rousing chorus of Amazing Grace and reciting Yehuda ha-Levi verses from the Book of the Khazar. (It was a strange night)

These days, the only way the arcane language of the Caesars comes around in my world is through my casual interest in birding. Mine isn't a long life list but if a steaming meteor of once and future roadkill falls from the sky and finds its way to my shoulder, I want to know who's responsible.

About 250 years ago a Swedish guy named Carl von Linné classified life forms of all sorts, including birds, with Latin names. (the knucklehead even Latinized his own name)

According to "Carolus Linnaeus" . . .
Pelicans on the White St. Pier are "Pelecanus fuscus", the Laughing Gulls on Smathers Beach are "Larus atricilla" and the white Egret I saw walking on Frances St. yesterday is "Casmerodius albus". Those Turkey Vultures over Mt. Trashmore are "Cathartes aura", Florida Cormorants are "Phalacrocorax floridanus" and Parrots?

Well, parrots are "Psittaciformes".

So, taking the artistic license I'm famous for, it follows that parrot heads (like these four beauties) are "psittacus caput capitis" but since I recently wrote a post titled "parrotheads" and didn't want to repeat myself, I've taken the long way around the block to title these guys "magis psittacus caput capitis". (more parrotheads)

My uncle would have known that.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sunday, November 15, 2009

key west 2010

Well, I finished them last week, approved the print quality this week (they turned out really well) and now their available for public consumption. Key West the Blog's 2010 Calendars, a "Key-zee" collection of some of your favorite photos posted to Key West the Blog in 2 great quality, designer editions.

The same way as last year's editions, I'm working through and man, don't they have their act better together. The 100# stock is richer, the colors are more vibrant and turnaround time is under a week.

If you care to, click the link at the top right over there and it'll get you to a full preview of each of the styles and a convenient shopping cart for ordering.

. . .and that's it for my shameless plug.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Saturday, November 7, 2009


Just when I thought it might be safe to get back in the water, the ParrotHeads have come to town.

ParrotHeads are the faithful followers of the legend of Jimmy Buffet and they're here in Key West for their 18th annual, four day "Meeting of the Minds".

It's a four day congress of colorful coconuts, complete with I.D. badges, a scavenger hunt and 5k walk/run, class clown and silly hat competitions, a street festival, lots of libation and live music (that mostly sounds suspiciously like "Margaritaville") and, of course, the Golden Coconut award.

Behind all the fun, an anxious under-buzz energizes the faithful like Christians waiting for the second coming. . .
"Is Jimmy coming?
, When's Jimmy coming??, Jimmy's coming!!!"

. . .and the truth is, sometimes Jimmy does show up.
(gives the ParrotHeads a better batting average than the Christians, aye?)

Now me, I'm not big on signing up, sing-a-longs, silly hats and secret handshakes. . .

. . .but I'll admit that I allowed a Jimmy Buffett album to swing my decision to move on down to Paradise and, tune by tune on a scale, the weight of the Jimmy tunes I like, weighs more than the ones I don't.

So I won't, chime in and pile on with the ParrotHead detractors (and I know a few) wailing "get a life!" from the wings.

After all, they're just looking to have a little fun and at the end of the day, it's only rock and roll but I like it.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

. . .a word from our sponsor - VIDEO

click arrow to start video. run time, 1:26

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

pie in the sky

Alright, I'm gonna spool out on a tangent today.
(what's new, right?)

The other day, while I was shooting the Fantasy Fest garbage (see, "these pictures are some of the worst garbage i've ever shot"), an old John Lennon song - "I found out" - started playing in my head. You know how that happens and only God knows why.

It'd been forever since I heard the tune so I was amazed that I remembered the whole damned thing. . .
"I told you before, stay away from my door, don't give me that brother, brother, brother, brother. . ."
"There ain't no Jesus gonna come from the sky, now that I found out, I know I can cry. . ." ,

"Don't let them fool you with dope and cocaine, no one can harm you if you feel your own pain. . ."
and of course. . .
"Keep you occupied with some pie in the sky, there ain't no guru who can see through your eyes. . .
"I, I found out! I, I found out!. . ."

What was playing in my head was a record. Not a cassette tape, not a CD or an iPod. It was a record.
And I know that because at one point in the playback, the record skipped.
"Keep you occupied with some pie in the sky"/"you occupied with some pie in the sky"/"some pie in the sky"/"pie in the sky"/"pie in the sky"/"pie in the sky". . .
I had to ask myself (I didn't want to, it just happened) "What the hell is pie in the sky?"

I thought about Kermit's Key Lime Pie Shoppe, but that's "pie in the street" and Soupy Sales, but that's "pie in the face" and the dudes at Mr. Z's spinning pizza, but that's "pie in the air" (sort of).
It'd been an all night shoot, I was beat, went to bed and tried to forget all about it but when I woke up a few hours later, I was still preoccu-pie-d with it.

Well so, I looked it up and, what "pie in the sky" means is "a promise of heaven, while continuing to suffer in this life", "a fanciful notion or ludicrous concept" or, in my words, "a carrot dangling in your face while you're running in the hamster wheel."

The phrase was first coined by a guy named Joe Hill in 1911. He was a hobo and member of the "Industrial Workers of the World", an anarchist - syndicalist (there's a mouthful) labour organization, nicknamed the "Wobblies". (I guess even the professional homeless were union-ized back in the day).

Anyway, every member of the "Wobblies" got a little red book when they joined. It was called "To Fan the Flames of Decent" and was filled with parodies of popular songs and hymns.

Joe Hill wrote one of his own that was aimed directly at the Salvation Army who seemed more about drumming for money and saving souls than getting anyone, beside themselves, something to eat. Hill's song, "The Preacher and the Slave" was a red book parody of the Salvation Army's hymn, "In the Sweet Bye and Bye". . .
". . .You will eat, bye and bye,
In that glorious land above the sky;
Work and pray, live on hay,
You'll get pie in the sky when you die. . ."

It's not exactly all that subversive, I agree, but it must have gotten somebody's attention. In 1913 the Federal Reserve Bank took control of America's money and, for his creative trouble, Joe Hill got to be one of the many martyrs of the IWW union movement. He was set up, convicted of murder, on "dubious evidence", and the state served him up a big slice of that "pie".
Joe Hill was executed in 1915.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

artman's alphabet - X

These pictures are some of the worst garbage I've ever shot

So it's a Saturday night, you throw a party, all your friends and a handful of relatives come over in a really good mood for dancin' and drinkin' and meetin' and greetin' and eatin' 'til closing time.

The night rocks on, the tunes get louder and some folks get to dancing. Someone bumps Aunt Mary's drinking arm and her Beaujolais gets intimate with your beige carpet. Half eaten plates of hors d'oeuvres are piling up in the kitchen, Jack and Jean from across the street (you know, the enthusiastic couple) dance the Tiffany Table Lamp you found at the Big Pine Flea Market last spring right off the end table, Cousin Joe's building the world's biggest beer-can pyramid out back next to the pool and somebody took a leak an completely missed the toilet.

Still, everybody had a good time and at the end of the night as you close the door behind the last of your guests, you know it's time to clean-up. It's already late but you're not gonna wanna do it in the morning so, what the hell, get it done now and sleep in tomorrow.

This year's Fantasy Fest was a party and a damned good one! Thousands of people dancin' and drinkin' and meetin' and greetin' and eatin' 'til closing time.

Now, by the time the last of the die hard party people gets back to their home or hotel, crash land and sleep it all off, it'll be noon the next day. So by the time they've all crawled out of bed, dropped a couple of Darvon and headed back down Duval for brunch and a Bloody Mary, to jump-start the day, the street looks like nothing ever happened the night before.

Somebody cleans-up.
We all know "who" but, under the heading of "artists, go figure", I wanted to see "how".

Actually some of these made pretty fair incidental still-lifes. (or is that "still-lives? I was never quite sure on that one.)

A small army of city dudes and contractors starts at Front Street and one block at a time it's the same pattern. First the blowers and the guys who break down the barriers.

You've got to admire their energy and Spirit! It's 4:30 in the morning, the bars closed a half an hour ago, the lap dancers have all gone home, the streets are ankle deep in trash and these cats are bangin' a drum and dancin' in the street.

Then they bring on the heavy artillery.

It's landfill landscaping!

Next come the zambonis. . .

. . .and the sewer sump pumpers.

Then Toppino's truck dumpers.

I've gotta tell you, once they get the heavy equipment rolling around, the sound gets profound. But 'Ol Sleepin' Zeke here never heard a thing.

Curb your Captain?

. . .and that, is the way they do that.

What's next?