Sunday, October 06, 2013

The People United

... Will Never Be Defeated.

This is the kind of stuff you learn when inspired by a piece of music.

I'm on iTunes shuffle rotation, in a large playlist that's part of my library.  The song, "¡El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido!", performed by Inti Illimani w/ Manu Chao, came up and immediately caught my attention.

We have two bumper stickers that we feel reflect the essence of our philosophy.  I keep them on the portfolio that I take with me when I'm going to need to take notes on paper, which isn't so often any more.

The first is the One Human Family sticker, which in its fullness reads: All People Are Created Equal Members of One Human Family.  It's the Official Philosophy of Key West, Florida, adopted by resolution by the City Commission in October 2000.

The other sticker reads Can't We All Get Along?  The sentiment, of course, came from Rodney King of Los Angeles, who was brutally beaten by a gang of LAPD officers in 1991. The sticker was introduced at the Key West Chicken Store and was handed out or sold there.

 (King actually said, "Can't we all just get along" but that wouldn't have fit as easily on a standard bumper sticker.)

The Apple sticker, which we also have on our car, shows that we are an Apple Computer family with a preference for using Apple Computer products.  Most of us do.  

Years and years and years

75 years:  not yet, but soon.  I'm finding it a little hard to get hold of the idea that next year I'll be 75 years old.

51 years: in September Janet and I celebrated our 51st wedding anniversary.  Unlike last year, number 50, this was no big deal.  We exchanged cards, enjoyed a dinner at The Grand restaurant (50% off the entire bill for locals), met a couple from Ohio who were celebrating their first anniversary, first day that is, not first year.

They bought us each a dessert, we chatted for a while, and they're coming here today for drinks and lunch on the deck.

14+ Years: since we arrived in Key West the first time.

12 Years:  that we've actually lived in Key West, since we left for two years between 2002 and 2004.

2 years:  since we bought the first home we've ever owned here in Key West, our houseboat, the Betty Sue.

Abandonment? No!

Really, followers, I didn't mean to abandon you the way I did.  Nothing new here since February.  I won't blame you a bit if you've moved on, as I seem to have done, to other places such as Facebook, Linked In;  to other devices such as smart phones and tablets; and to other pursuits such as Netflix and getting out in real life.

But if you're still here, and you really want to Jones on the Key West vibe, I have suggestions.

ConchScooter's Key West Diary
My go-to blog for Key West and its environs from a location viewpoint is still ConchScooter's Key West Diary. Michael (for that is his True Name) has been writing consistently about Key West and the lower Keys since 2007.  He practices photojournalism and decorates his very good writing with much very good photography of what he sees as he travels about the area with his faithful canine companion, Cheyenne.

You can read about Michael here.

Sloan Bashinsky's Good Morning Key West
Sloan Bashinsky is, at first, a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. *  His approach to Key West, its citizens, its politicians, and its institutions is rarely gentle, often confrontational, and sometimes bordering on cruelty.  But he is honest even, it would seem, in his belief that he is guided by a band of angels who direct his actions.  He is prolific.  He speaks constantly and at great length, and like the walrus, about many things.

Bashinsky presides over three primary blogs:  Good Morning Key West; Good Morning Florida Keys; and Good Morning Birmingham.  He has a dense network of collaborators and informers in his circles. His detractors consider him to be either crazy, stupid, or rude -- sometimes all three at the same time -- but I find his ruminations helpful in understanding some of what goes on around here in the back channels, outside the mainstream.

I have many other sources for gathering and receiving information about what interests me about -- well, just about anything -- but in particular about Key West.  Newspapers, web sites, mailing lists.  I've mentioned many of them over the years here.  Some are still around, some are not.  Regretfully, we lost one of the best ones when the Citizen newspapers closed down Solares Hill for economic reasons.

I began this blog in 2002, just after leaving Key West to go back to New England.  I wrote in it a lot more between 2004 when we came back and 2009.  I also started several other blogs dealing with things other than, specifically, The Real Key West.  You'll soon find a list of them over in the right column under links - as soon as I update them.

If there's a reason for me to keep this blog alive and active, it's in the graphic.  Even without an update in over a half-year, the blog still gets about 500 visitors a month.  I've never thought seriously about ways I might monetize that kind of traffic.  If I had an extra couple of thousand dollars right now, I'd think about replacing the aging MacBook that Captain Outrageous bought for me in 2007.

Anyway, this is what I decided to do on a fair Sunday morning, with gentle breezes blowing, my massive iTunes library shuffling song in the Jazz genre, and bacon, eggs and biscuits digesting in a coffee bath in my gut.

Hello, is there anybody out there?  Is there anybody in there?  Just nod if you can hear me.  Is there anybody home?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Word of Warning

We who live here pretty much know this.  Tourists may not.

The suggestions of alternatives are spot on.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

An Outrageous Memory

Yesterday was the sixth anniversary of the passing of Captain Outrageous, a.k.a. Norman Taylor. Some people know that Norman Taylor, born in Ohio on April 13, 1940, changed his name legally to Captain Outrageous in 1999. He did so in order to have that name printed on that year's mayoral election in which he ran against four other candidates - and in which he finished in third place with only 339 votes against the winner, who had 3,125.

It was a Quixotic campaign for the Captain, driven largely by the impending loss of his trailer home lot on Green Street to developers.

Taylor claimed to have come to Key West in the early 1980's as a dropout from a successful business career in Ohio. I know for certain that he was here in the 1990's because he opened and operated a small café, restaurant and bar on White St. called the Last Straw. But I've yet to meet anyone who knew him in Key West prior to the 90's.

At any rate, yesterday was a day of remembrance for me and a few others who were his close friends at the time of his death. He was my age, 4-1/2 months younger. We got along well and spent many days and hours working together at the art gallery he opened on Caroline Street around 2004.

The times we spent working side by side were often punctuated by discussions about many things philosophical in nature. I believe that we were mentors to each other in a variety of ways and that we both gained something from our relatively short (two years) friendship.

So yesterday was a day to remember those times and to honor the memory of a good man.

Monday, January 28, 2013


Total Visitors 109,002
30 December 2006 - 28 January 2013

Whoa, I didn't know that I passed the 100,000 visitor mark
some time during the last year.
In roughly six years, that translates to 18,000 a year.

Not insignificant.


When I was in the fourth grade I joined the boys' choir at Our Lady of Pity (Notre Dame de Pitié) church in North Cambridge, MA.  We were called Les Petit Chanteurs de Notre Dame and sang both in church and outside of it.  I was a soprano then and learned to sing well enough, but teaching musical at a theoretical level wasn't part of the program.

Later, in high school, I joined the band, having failed to make the baseball team as catcher, nor anything else.  They at first gave me a baritone horn as my instrument and then a clarinet, but my lack of a musical background and an inability to read music led to me being reassigned to carry the front end of the bass drum in parades and at football games while the others played.

Yet I soldiered on, and after settling down in family life and the world of work, I tried to learn keyboards, drums, violin, guitar, harmonica, and tin whistle and came up with the same result.

So I decided to become a musical audience and to try to understand music from the listener's side, and to learn more about the structure and form and function of music that way.  I remember listening to the radio as a vary young child in my grandmother's kitchen as her aunt worked there doing laundry, cooking and such while Memére worked outside the home.  This was the 1940's so the songs played on the radio were of that era and so were the singers.  To this day I remember the lyrics of many of those tunes and can sing along when I hear them played.

By this time you might be thinking, "What has any of this to do with Key West?"

Here's the bridge.

Key West is a great place to listen to music.  Live music, the kind that really matters (IMHO).  Last night we went to a birthday party for a local musician, Jimmy Olson, at his home.  Jimmy is a pianist of some accomplishment and performs locally, playing and singing the standards of a different era than this one.  He appears to know a very large catalog of music by heart, and can play and sing almost anything, given sheet music.

Fortunately there are venues where performers like Jimmy can perform for appreciative audiences.  He also has a wide circle of friends who are similarly talented and gives them the opportunity to sing along with him, or to take over his seat at the piano and perform on their own.

We enjoyed such a performance last Saturday at the Gardens Hotel and it turned out to be thoroughly enjoyable.  A visitor from Cleveland, Joseph Iacobucci, sat down and regaled the small crowd with songs he wrote about Cleveland, Los Angeles and Washington, DC.  He made me think of, and I told him so, the Capitol Steps.

Gianna Skyy
Jimmy is also mentoring a friend of ours, Gianna Skyy, as she begins to develop a following among the musical cognoscenti.  Gianna had three performances last week, first at a fundraising event on Friday at Cowboy Bill's, on Saturday at the Gardens Hotel, and then with Jimmy last night at his birthday party.  She has a strong voice and can belt out a song, and now she's building up her songbook with covers of Adele and others, and some of her original songs.  She's definitely a budding talent.

We still love places like The Green Parrot, Smokin' Tuna, et al.  Yesterday we even travelled to Boondocks on Ramrod Key (MM 27.5) to hear Bill Blue and the Nervous Guys perform at a benefit for Habitat for Humanity of Key West and the Lower Keys.  Bill Blue is kind of the house band for Marlin docks and the rest of Houseboat Row, one of our own, and a venerable blues man since back the 1960's.

All in all, the incredible music talent here blesses me, fascinates me, teaches me, and sustains my life-long interest in music as an art form.

Maybe I'll join a Kazoo band.  I think I could handle that.

Or I could just whistle a happy tune.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Key West City Website

The City's website has undergone a transformation, and it seems to be an improvement.  One interesting feature I noticed is that it is available now in dozens of languages.  Here's Vietnamese:

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Key West the Newspaper

The Blue Paper, as it has been known since the beginning of its 20-year run in Key West, died at the end of last year when its first and only publisher, Dennis Reeves Cooper (PhD) threw in the towel.

Now we hear that it will be revived, at least in name, and will take on a new role as an on-line publication focused on investigative journalism.  Arnaud and Nadja Naja Hansen Girard are the power couple behind the revival.  They purchased rights to use the name from Cooper and are preparing to re-launch the 'paper' sometime in the near future.

The Hansens Girards were behind the investigation that led the Federalistas to declare that ownership of Wisteria Island remained in the hands of the United States, and that the claim of ownership by the Bernstein family is moot.

I look forward to the re-appearance of the Blue Paper.

NAS Key West


Here's the Navy discussion in particular.

Military Leaders Warn Congress of 'Hollow' Force |

NAS Key West is a major Naval facility here in Key West.  It's importance to the economic well-being of Key West and the lower Keys is large.  In addition, the U.S. Army maintains its Special Forces underwater training base here, and the U.S. Coast Guard also maintains a significant complement of forces here as well.

A large measure of what goes on here involves training  -- fighter pilot training, Special Forces training, and more.  The expenditure of Federal dollars in the Keys is in the many millions, and much of it flows into  City, County and State coffers in the form of salaries, local expenditures for infrastructure services, and sales taxes paid by the military and civilian workers who make up a significant portion of the local population.

But it's almost a foregone conclusion that the military budget will be reduced to a smaller portion of the American economy, as wars wind down and dollars are shifted to areas of greater needs and more productive uses of our national investment capital.

The overall impact of the Navy and its allied branches on the Key West economy is much larger than that of the cruise ships that ply the harbors here.  It might well be time for City leaders to contemplate the impact of a diminished military presence here.  The last time it happened, the City was left desolate and broke.  If it happens again the results, although perhaps not as dire as those of the 1970's, will be felt throughout the Keys.

And, lest it seem as if I'm arguing on behalf of the military leaders, let me point out that they are describing the effect of budget cuts, and it appears to me that they are really saying that its the failure to fund budget increases that will impact its missions.  I'm all for a strong military defense capability.  Not such much for wars of adventure.  We should NOT be the world's police.

Remember old Ike and what he said about the military-industrial complex?  No doubt that Chuck Hagel does.

You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.

Monday, June 18, 2012

What is so rare as a day in .. February

Written February 9, 2011.  Another previously unposted draft.

I like it when Saturday comes.  Weekends are break in the routine, a chance to do something other than what one must, and to do what one wants.  

On days like the one we have today -- 71º, sunny, dry -- I generally think of the first line of a poem by James Russell Lowell:

And what is so rare as a day in June?

To which I am inclined to answer, a day in February, in Key West. 

In truth, these February days in Key West remind me much of the days of early June in our native New England.

We ventured off-island last night to help with our fellow members to celebrate the 75th birthday of the Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden.  It was a nearly perfect night, cool but not cold, a band playing on the Garden stage and outside near the parking lot, a steel drums performer laying down island music.  We enjoyed libations, hors d'oeuvres, and as it fell dark at 7:00 PM, champagne for toasting and cake from Croissants de France to  enjoy.

We came home early, before 8:00 PM.  Janet went out with friends to dance at the Green Parrot.  I stayed at home and watched The Motorcycle Diaries on Netflix.

This morning I'm at my desk, getting caught up on e-mail, FaceBook, blogging, and a variety of other things that call for my attention.
Here, in no particular order are some of the things I love about my little island home:


Life Goes On

Written a while back.

This blog has for sure grown stale.  I'm on Facebook daily.  I rarely even check in here at Bloger any more.

It leaves me wondering whether the day of the blog has come and gone.  I began blogging Key West just after we left here in 2002.  It was a learning experience, but it was always about the writing, a way for me to tell a story that was important to me at the time.  Now, twelve years after first arriving in KW, while the passion I feel for Key West remains, my interest in writing about it has waned.

I watch the goings-on of government as well as I can, I grow weary of trying to have any influence on any part of it all.
All modern revolutions have ended in a reinforcement of the power of the State.
Could that possibly be right?

Who lives here?

Written -- a little while ago.

I still haven't got that haircut.  Maybe tomorrow.

Let me tell you about some of my neighbors here on Marlin Pier.

Diagonally across, between Blair and Beanie's houseboat and Tim's floating home, Bill and Bev Blue live.  They are retired, mostly, though Bill plays a gig at the Green Parrot about once a month and does a few other private gigs around town.  Next week, he and Bev will travel up to the mainland and go on up to a festival somewhere in mid-state where he's performed for years.

They manage to get by on Social Security and a small inheritance income, by driving a ten year old car, living quietly with their cat, Roscoe and a new Yorkie puppie named Buster.  They have the unique perspective of having lived right here on this pier before it was rebuilt, and during the time the transition of Houseboat Row from South Roosevelt Boulevard to Garrison Bight was going on.  They moved back to New Smyrna Beach while their daughter went to college and veterinary school, then got back here just about a month after we moved in.

I've become buddies with Bill.  We talk often about things that are going on here and elsewhere, because we're inveterate news junkies, mostly from the internet and the local papers.  Lately, we've been focused on what the City is trying to do with Garrison Bight, and especially with the four docks of the live-aboard section.  Like old men everywhere, we've accumulated wisdom and experience that allows us to see things more clearly than other, younger folks.

The City's plan hasn't been well thought through.  It seems to us to be designed to so enhance the marina so as to make it into something it was never intended to be.  The people who live here are mostly either retired, or working in jobs that pay the rent, utilities, buy some food and, in a good month, have enough left over to amuse themselves.

An interesting fact: the median annual family income for Monroe County in 2012 is calculated to be just over $72,000.  (I know).  That number is severely skewed by the wealthier, whose income is largely based on acquired wealth and not from daily labor.  I doubt that there are more than a few people here whose income is anywhere close to the median.

With our Social Security, and a small annuity that I got in exchange for cashing out a retirement plan from a company that I spent twenty years at, we do alright, manage to be generous to others, eat out a few times a month.  By dipping into reserves that we keep aside at the credit union, the proceeds of another IRA that we cashed in when we moved here, we're even able to splurge on a luxury now and then, and keep up with maintenance on the houseboat.

We've organized the live-aboards by selecting a dock representative from each dock to carry our message to our City Commissioner.  Through him, we expect to get the chance to show staff that their plan is not well thought out , and that there are other ways to fund improvements, and other ways to lower the need for additional capital to be raised on the backs of the good people of Houseboat Row.

Someone said something like, "eternal vigilance is the price of liberty".  Whoever said it, and whatever they may have said, the thought is there.  If we aren't vigilant, and if we don't assert our liberties, those who would rob us, who would manipulate us, who would suppress us, will ultimately defeat us.

We mustn't let that happen.

A Few Things I Learned About Key West

Written on May 26, 2012; delayed posting.

As May 2012 comes to a blessed end, I look back at some of the things I've learned about Key West this month.

1.  The local hospital, Lower Keys Medical Center, is a privately owned and operated hospital, the only such institution within 50 miles.  It provides an acceptable level of care for general medical patients.  Some residents who are able to afford to do so prefer to commit their more serious ailments to one of the major hospital centers in Miami.

     Janet was a patient there for 17 days this month dealing with her diabetes and some other issues.  We had a close-up look at the way the hospital is run and found it, as I said, acceptable.  The care team consists of nurses, nursing assistants, and the people who clean, deliver meals, provide security, and the like.  Janet had a run-in with just one bad provider, a nurse, who managed to get herself transferred off the care unit to another, further away, after Janet complained to the nursing manager.

     Janet is on a good path to a full recovery, albeit with injected insulin added to her medication regimen.

     The building itself grows old, though well-maintained.  Janet's room was a semi-private, but she had it to herself most to he time she was in there.

2.  Visiting the hospital twice a day, I learned something about the evening trek by residents of KOTS, the Keys Overnight Temporary Shelter.  They begin to arrive from their daytime locations in the early evening, and congregate on both sides of College Road awaiting the time when the Shelter opens at 6:00 or 7:00 PM, I'm not sure which.  Some sit in little impromptu camps, bicycles, some with trailers, all around.

     I'm aware that there are plans afoot to build an expanded shelter, one that would operate twenty-four hours a day, furnishing beds at night, and what is being called day care during the daytime.  I view that as an opportunity to separate wheat from chaff, identifying those who are capable of getting out of the homeless system and supporting them with a variety of services designed to give a hand-up to help them do that.  That would leave the irredeemable to continue to return to the streets, where some will beg for hand-outs, gather at the beaches and elsewhere to party on for another day, hoping to perhaps return for another night's rest at KOTS.  The rest, those who shun KOTS entirely, head instead to their night-time hiding places, where drinking and drugging is still possible.

3.  There are people, believe it or not, who fancy themselves as travel writers and put themselves out there as knowledgeable about a place, when it is apparent to anyone who lives there that they really don't know much, and might not even have been here before.  One such is Isabelle Kellogg, who published a review of Key West and Miami Beach on Epoch Times, an on-line and in-print (only in NYC) news aggregator whose true purpose isn't all that clear to me.

     At any rate, this Isabelle Kellogg recommends The Deli restaurant as a top-notch place to eat in Key West, apparently unaware that The Deli went out of business at least three years ago, that it has been two other restaurants since then, first Eat n' Grinn, and most recently the Bengla Deli (now closed).  The building has been leased by Better Than Sex, a dessert restaurant the has been on Petronia Street for a couple of years.  Some locals question the judgement of the owners in moving to Truman and Simonton and enlarging the seating area.  Time will tell.

4.  When we were living on the Thompson Estate, we became interested in the life of Ernest Hemingway, and especially in the years that he lived here with Pauline.  We often sat on the same veranda where the Hemingways (Ernest and Pauline) and the Thompsons (Charles and Lorine) sat many decades earlier, entertaining each other and their respective friends.  I just discovered that there's a new Hemingway biographical film coming on HBO.  It focuses on his relationship with Martha Gellhorn, the woman who lured him away from his second wife, Pauline, and with whom he had a stormy relationship that ended that marriage after five rocky years.  The HBO movie is getting mixed reviews and, since we don't subscribe to HBO, we probably won't see it until it comes to Netflix.

  As I end, the rain has started.  On Weatherbug, the showers look to be widely scattered.  A rainy Saturday in Key West is the perfect kind of day to stay in and get caught up on things deferred for hospital visits.

An Inquiry About Houseboat Living

On May 25th,
Englsih Paul said...
Hi Bob,
My girlfriend and I are making our second visit to KW in Aug and I never thought to check to see what blogs are out there so I can understand more of the community life as opposed to just seeing things as a tourist. It seems perfect living in KW year round, but I guess it's not perect all the time but we have thought about it. Houseboat living sounds like fun so I'd be interested to take a look. Is there a local agent who specializes in houseboats?
I'll check back later so keep up the blogging.

Hi Paul, If there's anyone doing that, I haven't met him/her.  One finds a houseboat for sale in a variety of ways.  Craig's List is one, and here's an example.  It's easy enough to find a houseboat for sale.  The trick is in being sure that you have a place to put it.  Also, the definition of what a houseboat is can be tricky.  
Charterboat Row
Where we live, in the City Marina at Garrison Bight, there are actually four sub-marinas.  One is Charterboat Row, commercial docks and slips where charter fishing boats for hire are tied up and where one can book a fishing trip for as little as a 1/2 day, or for as long as you wish.

A second is the recreational marina.  Here are the pleasure boats that people use occasionally.  They may be occupied as live-aboards for up to eight days out of each month.  Third comes the transient docks where those who are just 'passing through' can secure dockage space for a day, week or month.  And finally, the live-aboard marina that some still call Houseboat Row, a reference to the time when those living on the original Houseboat Row along the sea wall along South Roosevelt Boulevard were forced to relocate by the state of Florida.  That's where we live.
The City Marina is one of only a very few places on the island of Key West that accommodates live-aboards, and it's the only municipal marina that does.
There are three kinds of 'boats' located here at the Row:  True boats, able to navigate under their own power or by sail (or both).  Houseboats, are those designed to be dwellings but having most of the characteristics of a vessel and built using principles of marine construction.  Some are capable of being navigated under power, but most are not.  And floating dwellings that are true residential homes mounted on a hull of some sort that can only be moved by towing.  That's what we have.
A good site to learn more is in their forums
Check back with us when you firm up your plans; maybe we can meet up to explore your interests further.
Bob and Janet
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