Friday, December 31, 2010

the 6th day of christmas

According to the song, today is "the 6th day of Christmas" and, if had a true love, I should be expecting "6 geese-a-laying" to show up. But since I didn't find "5 golden rings" under my pillow yesterday, I figure "true love" just ain't in the cards this year.
All the same, I'm forever an optimist and I'll be keeping an eye out for those
"8 maids-a-milking" to come knocking the day after tomorrow.
Anyway, on Christmas Day I made my way north to Sugarloaf Key for brunch with friends Joseph and Mary; Scrambled eggs, Belgian Waffles and a Sangriento Maria that couldn't be beat. Mary, it turns out, is fairly pregnant. So, it being Christmas and all, there was no shortage of good natured quips and comments about building a manger in the yard, moving to Miami for the census and whether or not to name the baby, you guessed it, Jesus.
We all had a great time.

After our feast I stepped outside to a beautiful day and decided, with nothing much going on until dinner back in Key West later in the evening, I'd explore a bit.
That's when I noticed the skydivers falling out of the clear blue sky and, a few minutes later, the perfectly good Cessna they'd just jumped out of on approach for a landing at
Sugarloaf Airport.

Naturally, I followed my nose down the old road beside Sugarloaf Lodge and past the bat tower to the well worn runway that is home to SkyDive Key West and Fantasy Dan's Airplane Rides.

As I was watching the Cessna taxi in for re-fueling before taking another group of jumpers up while the divers in the sky were growing larger as the fell closer to their drop zone, I got into a conversation with Ed, who I gathered, was one of the pilots at Fantasy Dan's.
Ed and I solved as many of the world's problems as we could in about 20 minutes until he mentioned that Christmas dinner would be served up pretty soon but there was plenty of time for a Christmas cup of rhum and something if I had a mind to join him.
Naturally, in the spirit of the season, I was obliged to accept.

Back behind Dan's I found a trailered old boat, the stripped fuselage of an even older airplane and an RV/trailer home from which came the delicious smell of the coming feast.
I was met also by four of Ed's friends; Beverly, Keith, Len and Tibo and with Captain and Coke in hand, I joined Len, Keith and Ed leaning on the bow of the trailered old boat to shoot the breeze while Beverly worked away on dinner in the RV and Tibo laid down at my feet.

The four of us spent the next hour or so giving up our background stories, finding common interests and solving a few more of the world's problems.
I enjoyed my afternoon visit to that anonymous little corner of the universe very much. . .

. . .As nearly perfect weather as you could hope for, the peace and good cheer of Christmas in the air and the welcome vibe of new friendships.

from left to right: Beverly, Len, Ed, Keith & Tibo down in front

At the end of the day, Len said it best (and I'm paraphrasing here), "in this world, the best you can do is find a quiet place to be and carve out a niche where you can live an easy life under the radar.
As for the problems of the world, it's really too late
to fix anything."

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

lunar eclipse

Earlier today, when everyone with any sense was comfortably tucked away in bed. . .

1:40 am

3:10 am

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

before & after

As happens more often than not, I found this frame
while I was on my way to shoot something else.
She (and her twin sister) are in meditation outside the entrance of Mike and Dow's floating Thai restaurant
next to CharterBoat Row on the boulevard.
I've eaten there many times and it's really good eats.

Anyway, she put me in mind of Buddhist mealtime prayers.
One for before meals and another for after. . .

The unsurpassable teacher is the precious Buddha.
The unsurpassable protector is the precious Dharma.
The unsurpassable refuge is the precious Sangha.
To these Three Jewels, we make this offering.

Through this goodness, may omniscience be attained.
May every enemy be overcome.
May beings be liberated from the ocean of samsara,
which is troubled by waves of birth, old age,
sickness, and death.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

fly navy - key west

The U.S. Navy's presence in Key West dates back to 1823 when a Naval Base was established to stop piracy in the area.

The base was expanded during the Mexican War (1845 - 48) and again during the Spanish - American War (1898). The battleship Maine (remember the Maine?) sailed from Key West to Havana Cuba where it sank, giving the United States government an excuse to declare war on Spain. At that point the entire U.S. Atlantic Fleet was moved to Key West for the duration of the war.

During World War I (1914 - 1918) the base was expanded again. The project involved dredging the land leased from from the Florida East Coast Railroad Company for construction of station buildings, a hydro generator and barracks. Because Key West offered such easy access to open sea - lanes and usually ideal flying conditions, construction also included a dirigible hangar, three seaplane ramps and a submarine base.
Now known as Trumbo Point, the base's mission, at that time, was to spot and block German ships from reaching Mexican oil supplies while supplying oil to the U.S. fleet.

After the war, the base was decommissioned, most of the buildings were destroyed and the station remained inactive until two years before the United States entered the 2nd World War. Fortunately, the government had retained the property and the base was reopened and designated as a Naval Air Station to support Navy destroyers and PBY aircraft.
After that war had finally ended, NAS Key West was kept alive as a training facility.

By the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962), NAS Key West sites included Meachum Field, Boca Chica, Harry S. Truman Annex and Trumbo Point. During the Cuban crisis, NAS Key West flew reconnaissance and operational flights in support of the blockade and reinforced Key West's title as "Gibraltar of the Gulf" as coined by Commodore Porter a hundred
years earlier.

Today, Trumbo Point is used mostly for military housing but is also home to the U.S. Coast Guard Group - Key West, a Naval Research Laboratory, Naval Legal Services Office and the U.S. Army Special Forces Waterborne Operations Division.

Monday, November 29, 2010

foreclosure - proof. . .

. . .and it also helps solve our affordable housing problem.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

an attitude of gratitude

I'm gonna start off telling you something you already know. . .
Life ain't perfect.

Still, there are one of two ways we can live through it and walk this world. . .
Oncely, grousing and grumbling about how fracked up it is.
Twicely, being grateful for the experience.

I guess most of us cross the tracks between grousing and grateful every once in a while; none of us are all one thing or all the other. (except maybe saints, but I'd doubt that too)
In my experience, grousing and grumbling gives me a sour stomach, while practicing an attitude of gratitude keeps my heart healthy.
So which side of the tracks would you guess I try to stay on?

as we used to say in the old neighborhood, "enjoy the bird."

Believe it when I say that I'm grateful to live in the Keys where most "Keysters", especially the friends and acquaintances in my life's sphere feel the same. And I'm grateful for my friends and acquaintances, their respect and appreciation for my talents and skills and the faith that, when I employ them, it is God working through me. I'm grateful for God's love and the human loves I've known - both romantic and familial - That both my parents, my siblings (all 5 of the knuckleheads) and children are all still above ground and doing alright. I'm grateful I've lived long enough to see grandchildren born to me. I'm grateful for my lifestyle of peace, relative prosperity and good health, that my mind is imaginative and usually smarter than the average bear and that I have a heart of compassion and warmth. I'm grateful for all the cool stuff I've seen and experienced that were unique to my time alive. . .
Mickey Mouse, Rocky and Bullwinkle, Beatles, moon landings, computer technology, a Mets/Yankees Subway Series and a black President of the United States. I'm grateful for the swirls of chaos and mayhem I've managed to whip up now and again and the profound peace I find in deep meditation. I'm grateful that whatever bad habits I have are small stuff and that the "angry young man" I used to be is long gone. I'm grateful for all the help I've gotten along the way and all the help I've been able to give to others. I'm grateful for God, Guru and my keen awareness of nature. For sailboats, bicycles, baseball and
girls wearing short skirts.
Finally, I'm grateful for the great Thanksgiving feast I'll be picking up at Small Chef at Large a little later today and the the hopefully hungry dudes coming by to help me devour it.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone.

Monday, November 15, 2010

power to the people

When you live on an island that's connected electrically to the mainland by a 160 mile long extension cord, you have to expect that every once in a while someone or something is gonna accidently trip over it and kick out the plug.

I think about that every time the power goes down, like it did for about 10 or 15 minutes last night and, in a more creative state of consciousness I can almost see the Incredible Hulk lumbering across Long Key, gettin' tangled up in the power lines and tearing them down .
(it's an artist thing)

One never knows when the power will crap out or how long the outage will last so one always has a flashlight handy, makes their way around the home lighting strategically positioned candles and sits out on the porch or patio with a cocktail where it's always sure to be cooler.

Like I said, last night's power loss was 10 or 15 minutes; no big deal. But sittin' outside in the streetlight-less dark, without the ambient glow of the city, more stars were visible and the buzz, that you can feel more than you actually hear, from the power lines over the houses, just wasn't there.
It's really quite romantic.

But even so, if at first blush the lack of electricity makes the world feel like there's more room for romance in the air; candles burning, no computer, telephone or TV and less energy coursing through the ether; after a night or two, once the flashlight batteries start to fade and the beer in the fridge gets warm, being without electricity is very much like romance itself, once the novelty has worn off; a real pain in the ass.

So my thanks to our friends at KeysEnergy for always being out there to face down the Hulk (or whatever mutant force is tugging at the extension cord) and always restoring
power to the people.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

odd bits

I don't have one of those mindless desk jobs that afford me tons of time between things to do for blog babbling
ad infinitum.

So when my world gets "interesting", which it often does, my attention re-directs towards whatever new project, situation, madness or mayhem is calling my name. And even though I was a master at multi-taking back when I lived up north and was really working for a living (seems like 100 years ago) multi-tasking just doesn't fit in with my laid back
island lifestyle.

So now, it's one thing at a time but, as a result, time spent on other things means time away from Key West the Blog.

All the same, I am forever jotting down notes and shooting pictures that may or may not be blog-able for when the time for blogging comes back around to the top of the
"things to do"
Like it has today. . .

teabaggers, pachyderms
& jackasses

So, we've just lived through two weeks in the "habitat for insanity". (rhymes with Sean Hannity)
Two weeks you ask?
Sure, one week of our local fantasy festivities followed by a second week of national election mayhem. Of the two, this year I must admit, I enjoyed the latter week more. For me, this year's political circus of teabaggers, pachyderms, and jackasses was much more amusing than Capt. Morgan and his ship's compliment of painted titties.

The bad ads and rudderless debates, finger pointing and name calling, fear mongering in the face of reason and every male candidate looking dumb as a post when his female opponent threw the most over-used phrase of the season at him; "man up!" Frankly, I was a little disappointed that none of those guys had the imagination to shoot back a sarcastic, "yes dear".

graphic by art winstanley

It was fun. . .
Bigot Teabaggers, bumbling Republicans and clueless Democrats with no cojónes.
An obtuse Angle in Nevada and a witch in Delaware, the 5 o'clock shadow and Queenie Loudmouth from Alaska and a weeper with an orange tan for Speaker of the House.
What else could you ask for?

It was amusing as hell but now it's over and at the end of the day, it really doesn't matter which functionaries fill the seats in those hollow halls, (yep, I said it that way on purpose) because nothin's gonna change.
The long term course for America was charted long ago by the men behind the curtain and all the morally bankrupt bureaucrats, newly elected or not, are handsomely payed to play along.
It's nothing but theatre.

wax paper

Living life should be easy. An effortless going with the flow. Grass grows, flowers bloom and critters are born and die as easily as breathing. Only humanity complicates the process.

In my life, when I come across things that won't go easily for me, I steer clear. (why deal with stress, right?) Examples of things that won't go easily for me are water skiing, playing the oboe, understanding legal-eze or accounting, can openers and, saran wrap. (you know that cling-ie roll of plastic crap used to cover leftovers and such; tear a sheet off and gravity, static electricity or the slightest breeze from a ceiling fan folds it back on itself in a hermetically sealed ball of frustration)
So, to keep life simple and easy (like it's supposed to be), I've always used wax paper. It's easier to use in the kitchen and does double duty as a pallet liner when I'm painting.

I've known about wax paper since I was a kid and like most things in this life, knowing about stuff is learned by example. Maybe, as a kid, you watched how your mom or granny set up their kitchens; me, I watched my Aunt Lu.
The pots go here, the pans go there and, always always, among the knives, cleavers, spoons, ladles and love, was CutRite wax paper. She'd wrap leftovers with it, use it to roll out pie crust and cookie dough or fold a sliver of it over a comb to make a kind of kazoo. In all these years, whether I've been married or single, I've never, ever had a kitchen without wax paper.

My Aunt Lu died last week, she was 86. She lived her life with an unconditional love for everyone. Quiet and un-presuming, she touched the hearts of every soul she met along the way.
I know she touched mine.
Wax paper is just one of the many of touchstones I'll have for the rest of my days to recognize her ever present ease, warmth and welcome, lessons and love in my life.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Saturday, October 9, 2010

comtemplación del gato

Today might have been our brother John's 70th birthday.

Can you imagine. . .

Monday, October 4, 2010

higgs beach & tiki mythology

This Tiki dude hangs out on the side of the beach stuff rental hut on Higgs beach.
The beach was named for Clarence S. Higgs who I've read was a mayor of Key West but oddly, reading down a list of Key West mayors, didn't find old Clarence listed.
If anyone knows when Higgs was mayor, please let me know.

Anyway, "Tiki" is to Polynesian cultures in the South Pacific as "Totem poles" are to Native American cultures; the only difference being, Totem poles represent deities while a Tiki represents man (more exactly, the first man).
The carvings mostly served to mark the boundaries of sacred sites but these days, more often than not, tourist attractions and, are strongly associated with the origin sex.

See, Tiki mythology closely parallels our Judaeo-Christian myth of Adam and Eve. . .
God created Adam, the first man, from the dust and after a time Adam was lonely and craved company. So God created Eve, the first woman, from one of Adam's ribs.
The two lived in innocence for a while until the snake came along and tempted Eve to taste the forbidden fruit (sex) which she in turn shared with Adam.
(Christine O'Donnell would never approve)

Now the Tiki myth varies a bit from island to island in the South Pacific but mostly it goes like this. . .
God created Tiki, the first man, from red clay and after a time Tiki was lonely and craved company. One day, seeing his reflection in a pool of water, Tiki thought he had found a companion and so, dove in to seize it. Of course the image shattered and Tiki was disappointed. So God (compassionate fellow that he is) created Ivi, the first woman, from one of Tiki's bones.
The two lived in innocence for a while until an eel came along and excited Ivi. Her excitement turned Tiki on and the first horizontal mambo was the result.

At the end of the day, you've gotta wonder (well, you don't have to but I'm stuck with it) how a creationist myth born in the Middle East could so closely parallel a creationist myth born in the South Pacific nearly 12,000 miles on the other side of the planet; before the time of telephones or the internet.
Hmmm. . .

Saturday, October 2, 2010

bike week - part 2

One strange day during bike week, I was on my early morning way to and from 5 Brother's Deli for my daily dose of con leché when I noticed two little-kiddie bikes leaning side by side on the curb a few doors down from my house. Nothing unusual really, Key Westers have an unspoken recycling process. . .
Whatever you've got, if you don't need or want it anymore, set it out on the curb and before long someone who does will pick it up. (It's a win, win for everybody)

Now me, I'm a single guy and my kids are grown so, I've got no rideable use for little-kiddie bikes but as the day wore on and the shadows and light played on the things I thought I'd get some pictures before the bikes found their way to somewhere else. (it's an artist thing)

Anyway, while I was taking these and a few more shots, a friend of mine drove up.
I've known Danette Baso Silvers for just about as long as I've lived in Key West but we hadn't seen each other in a while and so spent a few minutes catching up on this and that. Then she asked me about the bikes. I explained they'd been there for the taking and that I had no use for them other than that afternoon's photo-op. She mentioned that her nephew was needing a bike and one of these two might be perfect.

Without much hesitation, we loaded them both into the back of her car and off they drove toward a little TLC and their new home. You've just gotta love the synchronicity of island life.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

bike week - part 1

I know I'm late to the party on this one but, what the hell, here goes anyway. . .

Personally, I'm not a big on motorcycles although I have every respect for people who are. My issue with motorcycles is nothing personal; just an aspect of my issues with unnecessary loud sounds. Other stuff like mopeds, car alarms, overbearing loud mouth women (you know who you are), garbage trucks, sirens, boats with motors (I prefer sail) and navy jet fly overs make me crazy too.

All that said, I did get out and about last weekend for a few hours to the annual bike week festivities and being of the "visual artist" and "all for fun and fun for all" persuasions was again excited by the bike designs and generous energy of the bikers who dig them.

For folks out-of-town, the thing that brings bikers to Key West is the last stop of the Poker Run at the Schooner Wharf Bar. Now, I was told by one biker I spoke with that the Poker Run is a mostly unknown event for folks outside of South Florida.
So, in a nutshell (or a conch shell if you prefer). . .

Every year thousands of bikers register for the annual, for charity event up in Miami and begin the rumble down the 150 or so miles of the Overseas Highway to Key West.
Along the way there are 5 (sometimes 7) stops where the bikers each draw a playing card and the biker with the best poker hand at the end of the run is the winner.

I tried, but never did, catch up with this year's winner so I don't really know what the prize for winning is (and if anyone knows, I'd be happy to hear) but, when the bikers roll into town, they get treated to a weekend with a hog roast and bikini fashion show at Schooner's and the Biker Bash at Sloppy Joe's on Duval.

Prize or no prize the events around town seem like ample incentive to come rumbling down the Keys.
There's my "all for fun and fun for all" thing again.

Still, with my loud sounds thing going on, I'd personally pass on it. But if there's ever a Poker Run for smooth cruisin', quiet riding drop top Cadillacs, I'm there.

Monday, September 20, 2010

hand rolled

. . . and what a smooth smoke it was.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

snail mail

Just a bit of fun with photoshop here.
(or should that be phun with fotoshop?)

Anyway, late last Saturday morning it started crazy raining and I put my plants out from under the porch roof to catch some of it. While I was gettin' it done, I noticed a snail climbing up the side of my mailbox and in my head, heard Curly Howard's voice say, "ooo! snail mail!".
He was about in the position you see him here but by the time I'd finished with the plants, grabbed my camera and got back out there, he'd moved to a place that didn't tell the story so well anymore. (either snails move quicker than we usually think or I was having a slow moving Saturday morning)

So I waited and watched and eventually decided the little bugger was not gonna give me another one shot photo-op.
So I shot one of the snail (yes that's really him), and another of my mailbox. Then this morning, with a little time to kill on my hands, put this image together.

Artists, go figure. . .

Monday, September 6, 2010

remembering labor day

Widely accepted as the brainchild of Peter J. McGuire, (general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor) Labor Day is "dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers."

The first ever Labor Day celebration was scheduled in New York City on the first Monday in September of 1882 but, for one reason or another, was held off for a day (probably called on account of rain) and so the parade and picnic were held instead on Tuesday, September 5, 1882.

Held as an annual "workingmen's holiday", by 1884 labor organizations in other cities joined the celebration.

The first governmental recognition of Labor Day came through local municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886 and from them came a movement to secure state legislation. By 1894, 23 states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers.

In June of that year, in the aftermath of the deaths of a number of workers at the hands of the US. military and US. Marshals during the Pullman Strike, President Grover Cleveland made reconciliation with Labor a top
political priority.

Fearing further strikes and riots, legislation making Labor Day a national holiday was rushed through Congress and unanimously signed into law just six days after the
end of the strike.
Cleveland also signed a bill designating the first Monday in September as Labor Day while hoards of hungry unemployed were marching on Washington to demand relief.

But here in the Keys, the first Monday in September
is notorious for only one event. . .
. . .The Labor Day hurricane of 1935.

75 years ago, on September 2, 1935 a category 5 storm made landfall in the upper keys at Islamorada bringing sustained winds of at least 160 mph and storm surge of 18 to 20 feet.

It would be the first of 3 category 5 storms to find their way to the United Sates in the 20th century (the other two being Camille in '69 and Andrew in '92)

Damage from the Labor Day Storm was estimated at $6 million (1935 dollars), it kicked the holy smoke out of Henry Flagler's Key West Extension of the Florida East Coast Railway and took 408 souls. Those, ironically enough, mostly World War I veterans who were "workingmen" along the rail line.

So to close out this post for Labor Day 2010, I'll borrow a line from local songwriter Terry Cassidy's tune,
"Henry and his Railroad". . .

". . .This morning we'll remember what not to forget."