Saturday, January 22, 2011

Nomad Feet Around Key West

When you last saw pictures from your intrepid Parrothead he had just returned to the Disney Magic from his walkabout/barcrawl in Key West. Because the Mouse charged an arm, leg, along with a very important part of his male anatomy for wifi access on the ship he was forced to limit the pictures from his adventures that day.  Never fear! I have long since returned to the confines of evil suburbia and will now share a few of the images I took.  The above picture, which for unstated reasons I liked a lot, was taken outside the Key West Museum of Art and History at the old Customs House. There were several other pieces of art outside the old Customs house with this one the most provocative. In fact it was so provocative it was a test of "moral" standards as the throngs of passengers from the ship passed by and fanned out across the island. As I hung around I saw actual families guide their kids away from the statues and restrict their children's  wandering eyes. I guess this is one of those situations where personal judgment comes into play but folks, this was Key West after all.  
There is much that draws me to Key West beside the obvious, and frankly overdone, Jimmy Buffett connection. Another draw for me to this nearly spoiled paradise is the history of artists and writers that have come to the quirky island seeking sanctuary from the stifling normality that pervades most of the United States. I have heard many say that spirit of unbridled creativity and original thought in Key West has suffered as the greedy developers and uber-rich have moved in forcing many locals and other more subversive elements out. Yeah, I can see it because much of the same thing is happening on the coast of South Carolina as the building of outlet malls, golf courses, and seaside suburban developments destroy centuries-old fishing villages and wetlands while running running poorer working folks inland. Still though holdouts remain, as I was walking down Whitehead Street I noticed this serious cool cottage and thought to myself the small house something akin to heaven. For those who do not know my usual addle brain dropping I regularly offer up I don't need any damn McMansion wedged between anal retentive A-holes who hold up inside their homes not too unlike the insane and late Unibomber. I'd rather live in a small home like that in a warm place with the ocean nearby.

But anyway, if you look at the left-side of the picture you will notice the beginnings of a large hedge that almost obscured from view of the next small cottage. As I moved on down the street my super-duper army training (yeah, I'm serious) allowed me to see some small movement behind it. Standing very still on the sidewalk I saw an old man sitting at a patio table painting a picture. My position had me directly behind his canvas so I have no idea what his painting looked like although to my dying day I will wonder. The artist's palate, placed beside his canvas on the table, was full of colors and while to me the artist looked beyond ancient for about a minute I watched his steady hand apply color to his work. I almost took a picture of him then I realized, thankfully, it would have been a huge and unforgivable invasion of his privacy. This might seem silly but as I moved on I realized this would be one of the highlights of my entire trip.           

Key West has been the center of several controversies as forces of freedom and liberty battle the prudes, greedy developers, and the perpetually uptight fearful that something will come and threaten their special position in the status quo. One of those battles was over the continued existence of the Key West "Gypsy" chickens. If I have the story right by 1890 over half of the population of Key West was Cubans seeking refuge from strife in their home country. The Cubans brought their love of "cockfighting" and I guess a few of the birds escaped. The escaped birds linked up with freed domestic chickens and after Mother Nature took her DNA encoded course created the birds that still strut around the island today.

The controversy developed as fears of bird-flu increased these last few years (mid-2000's) with the always proper and stiff normals scared the birds might be feathered Grim Reapers putting an end to their social affairs and golf excursions. I read about several round-ups and outright calls for extinction of the free feathered fellows. Thankfully I ran into many of these Key West residents and all I can say is FIGHT THE MAN, dudes.         
My original intention once Dragonwife and Miss Wiggles had left the ship for their visit to the butterfly garden was to make my way down to the Southern most point marked by the red and black buoy. When I got down there the line to pose for a picture in front of the icon was about as long as something you would see in Disney World, if not longer.  It was damn near chaos as well with people doing their best to pose next and in front of each other. The crowd seemed good natured enough and friendly but it was more of a hassle that I wanted so I walked further down to the nearby beach. 
As I drifted around I found this sign saying Tennessee Williams hung out here back in the day. Truthfully, there are many great things about this era we find ourselves living in like the internet and other really cool things. But our numbers and inventions have overwhelmed the planet and created a pace of life, here in America, that I believe is literally driving people crazy. While I completely and totally realize there is not a damn thing I can do about the situation other than soldier on and try and do things to make the world a better place I often find myself wondering about those times when things were simpler and in many ways better. It would have been totally cool to be on Key West back when Williams, Hemingway, and President Harry Truman were part of the local scene.
I have promised many times to post a few pictures of various ladies sunning themselves on the beach. This was taken on a cement pier jutting out into the water. South Beach is freaking small and far too packed for my liking, While I was sitting out on that pier I noticed this man at the end talking with a young couple who were fishing. What got my attention was that the young couple were sharing a two-part fishing pole. The young lady was using the lower half of the pole with the reel still attached and the guy was using the upper half with the fishing line tied to the bottom guide and strung through the others. It was a strange sight but believe it or not they were catching fish just minutes after throwing out their baited hooks. The kicker in all this was the old gentlemen standing next them singing 1940's love ballads. After each song he would say something about his lost love then move on to another tune. Since this was a public place I began recording the singing fella with the video function of my camera but I had a group of people start to walk in front of me and it destroyed both the view and sound.
On my way down to the ocean I passed Ernest Hemingway's home, I had every intention of going inside on my way back up but by that time the line to get inside was longer than at the Southern most point marker. Just something I have to look forward to on my next trip. Its something I need to address but I have yet to fall in love with Hemingway's writing, I enjoy it now but I have yet to have that religious experience several of my friends get when they read his works. When I returned to work I told my buddy "Tina" about skipping his house and the woman actually threw her french fries at me. Yeah, she is one of the Hemingway worshiping religious types.

After leaving Hemingway's house behind it was then I actively went on my bar crawl that I mention in the last picture post.
Saw this sign and just thought it was really cool to think the late Pan American airlines started in Key West on such a "simple" flight. Despite what others may think I am not anti-capitalist, I find nothing wrong with people taking their ideas, talents, or inventions and making money off it. Yes, I do believe capitalism does unlock the creative potential of the human spirit but I trouble with the concept is how people sell their souls to the god Profit. As much as it will piss off one of my brothers and many other people I know the United States is not, and has never been, a Christian nation. The teachings of Jesus have long since been superseded by the zealots for whom squeezing the last possible cent of Profit out of everything is the sum total and only meaning of their existence. I personally live by my easy going, beach bum, Bob Marley-influenced  attitude but I figure the Jesus dude would burn down Wall Street if he was around today.

Whoa! Talking about digressing in the extreme but moving back on point. Hooking up with Pan American back in the beginning of the golden age of aviation would have been a totally seat-of-the-pants adventure not too far off from some Indiana Jones movie. There was some smart and brave men in women back then. I hope we still have people like that, although from watching the news and seeing the strange lifeforms that parade around on reality shows I have serious doubts.

Okay, calling it quits on this pictorial adventure segment, I can tell must of you have already drifted away and while I have close to 400 more pictures I promise that I will not only keep most of them to myself, I will wait until I get the underwater camera developed before I show anymore.     


Windsmoke. said...

Very creative statue as for the people dodging this statue it just goes to show their ignorance towards art in general. Greedy developers are every where ready to kick you out of your home just to satisfy their bottom line to their share holders. I hope that cute little cottage survives. Most enjoyable post i'm looking forward to more of the same.

Jessica said...

I think I need a cute little cottage like that one day for my garden spot. :)

Marja said...

Oh what a wonderful place once full of writers and artists. As you said less attractive now because of developers and to many tourists. I love the art and find it strange that parents chase their children away from it. Many painters have always honoured the human body.
I love the cottage and you most come to christchurch one day as 50 % of the city contains of wooden cottages.
I also love the nice white sand on the beach but to many people to my liking. Cao

Beach Bum said...

Windsmoke: I find such uptight and prudish people funny. Down around my hometown on the South Carolina coast is an old plantation given over to the arts back in the 1930's. Its walkways are lined with statues of naked figures and I've heard mumblings of discontent from some who want the figures covered over.
Such people are sad examples of ignorance.

Jessica: Except for a couple of big houses in Charleston south of Broad that cottage would be perfect for me.

Marja: I'm not an expert by any means but Key West's past isolation well away from the mainstream of "civilized" and accepted life was an important part of developing its creative community. With so many people traveling now and rich people owning second and even third homes that small island didn't have a chance.

Oso said...

what a fun post! As soon as I saw the cottage pic I had the same thoughts you did, reading them just reinforced my own reaction. I can imagine sitting there by myself or with a friend or family member or a girlfriend/wife, enjoying the peace and temperature and the surroundings.

If only people of similar temperament would be able to guide the nations of the world, sadly leadership seems to preclude decency, or at best hide it or strip it away.

First pic - I thought it was you on break at the hospital.

Lowandslow said...

"But our numbers and inventions have overwhelmed the planet and created a pace of life, here in America, that I believe is literally driving people crazy."

Couldn't agree more!

I think if you go read up a bit on Juan Tripp, the guy who cobbled together the original Pan Am, I think you'll find he was Wall Street through and through....totally ruthless. Nothing idealic about him. Sorry to burst that bubble. ;)


Pixel Peeper said...

Thanks for all the pictures of Key West! Brought back fond memories.

You can't go to Key West without getting a picture of the chickens. I think it's a law.

I need to go back, just because I have to get a picture of a gravestone in the cemetery downtown. You know, the one that says, "I told you I was sick."

Beach Bum said...

Oso: I just wonder how much such a cottage would go for these days? Even with the real estate crash I'd bet it still very expensive.

LowandSlow: No problem, Wall Street types are needed but I just cringe at how they have been made the supreme class these days. I want to puke at the groveling I see the business journalists give them on all the business news channels.

Pixel: I wanted to do more, and if I had stayed out of the bars I could have, but I was on somewhat of a tight schedule. I had to be back before my wife and daughter returned from the butterfly garden and stow (hide) the stuff I bought. Even with the issues Key West faces its still a wonderful place.

Liberality said...

I don't have a problem with the art sculptures at all. What I want to know is where are the ones with naked men?

Beach Bum said...

Liberality: Sorry, sort of ignored those for my own personal tastes. I freely admit men are pigs and I am one of the biggest porkers.

Mr. Charleston said...

I like the first one... entitled "A Boys Dream"

Randal Graves said...

Those birds are obviously Cuban spies.

Beach Bum said...

Mr. Charleston: Its my dream as well.

Randal: Yeah, I thought that bird looked a lot like Fidel.

Ranch Chimp said...

Nice set of pic's here too Bum .... I havent been down to Key West/ Largo in many year's ... since I stayed briefly in Miami. But it had such a laid back atmosphere back in them day's and you still had a saturation of Hippies (late 1970's).

Later Guy

Beach Bum said...

Ranch: Those were the good old days.

lime said...

man, i needed this on a miserable ice storm day. the sculpture is hilarious. i think i would have posed me entire family in front of it, or on it, or that you laying under it?

the cottage sounds just about right to me.

i'd probably piss off the locals though because i can't stand hemingway.

Beach Bum said...

Lime: I would have out Dragonwife and Wiggles in front of the statue but by the time we all linked up again on the ship we were close to moving out.

I really liked that cottage, its strategic position in the middle of three nearby bars and with the beach nearby would be perfect for me.

As for Hemingway I have really tried to like his stuff but except for the "Old Man and the Sea" it just ain't working.

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