Monday, February 27, 2012

wayward prayer

Remember being a kid and grown-ups asking, "what do you want to be when you grow up?"
I always thought that was the dumbest-assed question
in the world.
What does a kid who's age is still in single digits know
(or care) about careers and job markets?

But when my age got to early double digits, I got it in my head that I wanted to be a Catholic Priest.
I mean, it made perfect sense. I was already an alter-boy, could recite the Mass in Latin and just loved the smell
of the incense.

That notion of becoming a Catholic Priest stayed with me for a few years until two things happened. . .
First, I discovered girls.
And second, I learned the definition of the word "celibate".
My hormonally charged, adolescent response was, "you've got to be f*#kin' kidding!!"
And so began my lifelong study of comparative religion. . .
(There just had to be a tradition where I could be a Holy Man and still get laid?)

painting of Augustine by Botticelli

Well yeah, there were plenty, of course, but none of them climbed the fléche and rang my bell.
Then by and by I discovered Buddhism; and I knew for sure I was no longer Catholic. (if I had ever really been a Catholic in the first place)
"God" was no longer some figment of my imagination living up in the clouds;
"God" was within. . .

As an adult, I've been blessed with two inspirational spiritual teachers; Paramahansa Yogananda and Joseph Campbell.
Enlightened by what I've learned from those two men, I took up Yoga and Meditation and the search for "Nirvanic Bliss" was on.

The trouble, as I discovered, is once you cross "the Rubicon" to Nirvanic bliss, you either couldn't or wouldn't want to come back. It's a one way trip!

I've come pretty damned close to the water's edge more than a few times in meditation but for one reason or another, (like a good Cuban cigar or a SuperBowl party or another pretty young woman coming along) I haven't climbed aboard the Mahayana to sail to the yonder shore.

All the same, one day during this incarnation, I know I'll put my earthly desires (Kama) down and make the
Nirvanic crossing.
But until I do, to keep my options open, I've adopted
St. Augustine's "Wayward Prayer". . .

"Lord make me pure. . .
. . .But not yet."

Saturday, February 25, 2012

at the end of the day

I'm guessing it was two years after I came to live in Key West before I saw my first proper sunset, (and by proper I mean, lounging out on the Gulf shore for the hour or two it takes to watch the day turns to dusk as the sun sinks into the sea).

You see, the second or third thing I did when I got to town was land a job in the at the Citizen (and for my out-of-towner readers, that's our local daily newspaper, the Key West Citizen).
Anyway the gig was from 4pm - 12am so, I'd be inside while the sun took it's ride.

After I'd finally freed myself of that mess I thought, "living in Key West and not seeing sunsets was as take it all for granted as living in New York City and not visiting the Statue of Liberty." So from every angle I could think of: Mallory Square, Fort Zach, Sunset Key or a barstool at Schooner Wharf. . .
I filled my head with sunsets.
"It's a beautiful time of day", I thought, "small wonder all these folks come down to see it."

Ever since I've made it a point, at least once or twice a week,
to find my way to the west edge of our island
at the end of the day.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

henry flagler

When Henry Morrison Flagler was born in Hopewell New York in January 1830, he didn't have a "silver spoon"
in his mouth.
Thomas Jefferson had only been dead for 31/2 years, Andrew Jackson was President of the United States (there were only 23 states), Davey Crockett was a Congressman and the battle at the Alamo wasn't about to happen for another 6 years.
This is some really old old stuff and I love it.

Flagler statue beside the SteamPlant in Key West

With an 8th grade education, at age 14, Henry went to work at his uncle Lamon G. Harkness' grain store in Ohio for really grunt wages, $5/month. Within 5 years though, he was promoted to the sales staff and his salary rose to $400/month.

Smelling the odor of opportunity, in 1862, Henry left Ohio to start the "Flagler & York Salt Company" in Michigan.
See, there was no refrigeration back then and so to keep meats fresh, it was packed in salt. Sensing the increased demand for salt packed meats with the American Civil War going on, Henry got in on it. But when the war ended in 1865, the demand for salt ended with it. The "Flagler & York Salt Company" collapsed and Henry was $100k in the hole.
But what does he say, "hells bells I'm a failure" and plant his head in the sand? Nope, he tells himself he must be more thorough when investigating possible investments.

Henry Flagler, wife Mary (behind) & her sister Isabelle, c.1850

Anyway, Henry headed back to his uncle's grain company in Ohio where before too long he met John D. Rockefeller. Rockefeller needed capital to start an oil refining business in Cleveland (at that time the oil refinery capitol of the world). Flagler borrowed and invested $100,000 and, in time, the venture became the monopolistic "Standard Oil".
I'm guessing that at this point, money was no longer an issue for Henry.
This was the beginning of was America's Guilded Age.

Toward the middle of the 1870s, Flagler's first wife (he'd ultimately have 3) Flagler's first wife, Mary, became seriously ill. Her doctor recommended the couple travel to the warmer climates of Florida for the winter. They did but Mary continued to fade and after a few years she died.

Henry in his prime

After a couple of years Henry remarried. This time to Ida who was one of Mary's caregivers. For their honeymoon, the couple traveled to St. Augustine, Florida. He loved the place but found it's accommodations and transportation system wanting.
So he invested in and built the "Ponce De León", a 540 room luxury hotel and then bought three short line railroads to carry visitors to it.
And that was the start of the "Florida East Coast Railway".

Over the next several years Henry expanded his holdings in Florida; buying a hotel here building a hotel there and, all the while, extending the range of the railway south along the Florida coast until by 1894 the Flagler franchise stretched as far south as West Palm.
Still, 60 miles south was an unincorporated little town. Henry again extended the railway, dredged mangroves, built roads developed a city and opened the "Royal Palm Hotel" in 1897. That city? Miami.
Henry is remembered as the "father of Miami".

Now it was time to take a break. Henry divorced Ida on grounds of insanity and married his third wife, Mary Lily and built her a 55 room home in Palm Beach as a wedding present.
The year was 1902.

Flagler disembarks the train in Key West

In 1905 the U.S. Government started digging the Panama Canal and again Henry Flagler smelled the odor of opportunity. If he could extend his railway to Key West, he might cash in on trade from Cuba and South America and from the west, that the completed canal was sure to bring.
Key West was the closest deep water port to the canal.

So down went another 156 miles of track, mostly over water, and in 1912 one of the most ambitious engineering projects, the "Florida OverSeas Railway" was complete.
Henry took the train ride himself that same year and Key West gave him a hero's welcome.

Key West turns out to greet Henry Flagler

The next year, 1913 at age 83, Flagler fell down a flight of marble stairs in his home in Palm Beach.
(God, it hurts just to write that!)
The fall ultimately killed him. He is buried in St. Augustine beside his first wife Mary.

a matured & successful Henry Flagler

The year Henry Flagler died, Woodrow Wilson was President of the United States, the U.S. Government introduced the income tax, the Brooklyn Dodgers opened Ebbets Field, Charlie Chaplin began his film career and WWI was still a year in the future.
This is some really old old stuff and I love it.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

artman's alphabet

E-Book is available at
Click the image to download

nancy forrester's secret garden - VIDEO

I met Nancy Forrester about 8 years ago in a time of crises.
Her "Secret Garden" seems to be in a state of constant crises between not enough funding and pressure from the covetous developers who continuously try to weasel the untouched tropical acre away from her.
All the same, with a little help from her friends, Nancy's been able to beat back the mayhem, time and time again.

The place is a living rainforest museum, out of the day-to-day line of fire for weddings, environmental education or a quiet hour of meditation under the canopy of trees.

I like to think it's what Key West would look like without humanity or if humanity was, at least, a bit more user friendly.

Click arrow to start video. Run time, 7:16

Here's a link to Nancy's website. . .
Nancy Forrester's Secret Garden

Friday, February 17, 2012

only in key west

Where could you find a row of rentable apartments living over a laundromat, next door to one of the best Cuban Cafés in town, all in the same building?
Only in Key West!

When I moved to Key West, the first two places I rented were without a washer or dryer. Well no, the second place had a washer/dryer but they were broken. I fixed them once but the fix didn't take. The rust was just too much (down here, the washers and dryers are kept outdoors) and the landlord, some kind of shyster management company, wasn't gonna spring for a new one.

Back then, I still had the T-Bird (my vehicle of deliverance) so I'd pile my dirty laundry in the trunk and haul them five minutes to the closest laundromat, M&M Laundry,
on White Street.

While I waited for the wash to cycle through, I surely did like the good food and coffee smells coming from Sandy's Café
next door.
Before too long there was no way to get the wash done
without a bocadillo de medianoche and con leché.

Later, I moved into a furnished apartment in Old Town near the bight, there was a washer/dryer on prem.
(and they did work)
So much for Sandy's, right?
Not quite.

Sandy's is halfway between Old Town and the White Street Pier where I like to spend an hour or so in the mornings.
(see "AT THE SPEED OF LIFE" for the back story)
So, naturally, Sandy's was the place I'd stop for my morning con leché along the way.

While I was still an advertising madman up on the NorthEast corridor, sometimes I'd ask myself "where is it even remotely possible for a power driven, over-achieving knucklehead ad man to find peace and quiet, to calm the hell down, make use some of that high school Spanish and, just be. . ."
Only in Key West!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

my shameless plug - VIDEO

Many of you have probably heard that the BluePaper is coming back to life again and that's a good thing. Key West needs it's "community watchdog".

But my plans to ramp up my personal Design biz are not going to change. So to generate interest and excitement, I've posted here, another of my video Design portfolios.

This video is the portfolio I designed to generate interest up in the Miami area and for nationwide account possibilities I find on Craig's List.
It's slicker and a bit more edgy than my other videos you may have seen and because this blog's audience has grown so much larger since the National Geographic article, it's an effective forum to attract Design contracts.

Thanks for your interest. . .

Click arrow to start video. Run time, 2:27

Sunday, February 12, 2012

at the speed of life

This is my bicycle. . .
My main means of transportation around the island.
It's parked here at the almost end of the White Street Pier while I'm sitting on a bench beside it enjoying my morning
con leché.
. . .It's a quiet way to start the day.

I've been riding bikes all my life, it's in my DNA I guess.
As a kid delivering newspapers and as a younger adult, racing and riding Centuries. (nut numbing 100 mile treks)
But in these old days, riding this hybrid like a mule
suits me fine.
Transportation to work or the sailboat dock, to the grocery store, for Saturday morning banking and post office chores and then the occasional speed demon workout up and down Smathers beach.

Bicycling is a healthy and sensible way to get around our little town. Involuntary deep breathing, unstructured exercise and no carbon footprint.

There's sort of a bicycle culture in Key West.
Like me, lots of locals don't own cars so, out and about on our bikes we meet.
They're all kind of slower going, calmer and more laid back. The kind of people I like, and strive to be myself.

I'll admit that for the year I took possession of brother Cooper's car after he got busted for DUI, a silver drop-top Miata, I got a little spoiled. It was easier to visit friends up the Keys on Summerland and Big Pine (although driving that cute two seater at 55mph on US1 scared the holy hell out of me),
I could buy more groceries in a single trip to Faustos, didn't have to time my weekly treks to do post office and banking chores between down pours on rainy days and I even got a few hot dates out of it.
(with my toned and tanned body behind the wheel,
the car was a "chick magnet")

But after a few months I realized I wasn't seeing my friends anymore. They were still in and of the bike culture and now I was driving. When that hit me, I parked the car in front of the house and got back on the bike. Suddenly all my two and three wheeled leg propelled friends were back on my radar.

The white haired guy who rides past on the pier in the mornings with a wave and his coffee in hand, Pete with the big straw hat, Jan pedaling along the sidewalk on her tricycle, Ray-Ray the beach bum, the lady who rides around with her African Grey (named Scorpio) on the handlebars and the gorgeous young girl heading home from her afternoon dance classes at CoffeeMill.
It was, and is, great to see and talk with them all again and, by the way, I never moved the car again. It sat safely in front of the house on my sleepy Old Town street for another 6 months until the court finally gave Dennis his license back.

The take away from all this, at least for me is,
friends happen at the speed of life.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

M*o*O*n - VIDEO

With respect for tonight's full moon that we can't see from here, due to overcast skies. . .

click arrow to start video. run time, 4:05

Sunday, February 5, 2012

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
and what people up north imagine when they dream
about paradise.

Yeah, 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 turn right and you find an amazingly peaceful 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 easily as nature's breathing.
My restless spirit is quieted and my faith reassured,
every time I walk it's length.