Monthly Archives: January 2013

Key West Wildlife

I fear that the Wildlife Photographer Of The Year Award may not quite be within my reach, but I still wanted to put those up 🙂

Pelicans being tossed chunks of fish

A raucous gaggle of pelicans being tossed chunks of fish after one of the sport fishing boats returns to the docks.

A manatee feeding off the weed growing on the ropes holding my friends' houseboat in place. It's a big male, over 7ft in length. We  could tell it was a boy by the giant...erm... appendage trailing underneath, which, unfortunately, didn't come out in the pic

A manatee feeding off the seaweed growing on the ropes that hold my friends’ houseboat in place. It’s a big male, over 7ft in length. We could tell it was a boy by the humongous…erm… appendage trailing underneath, which, unfortunately, didn’t come out in the pic

Key West Iguana

We spotted this iguana in a parking lot. Iguanas, stripey ones like this 5ft specimen, as well as bright emerald green ones, are very common on Key West. When they take flight, they tend to lash out with their tails. Not pleasant if you get whacked across the legs, I should imagine. I didn’t dare go up too close…

Key West was once awash with giant sea turtles, but this pretty much is all that's left of them :( The guy in the Turtle Museum said stocks were slowly recovering.

Key West was once awash with giant sea turtles, but this pretty much is all that’s left of them 😩 The guy in the Turtle Museum said stocks were slowly recovering.

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Outing to Sunset Key

Today was a perfect day for a lunch outing to Sunset Key, a ten-minute ferry ride away from Key West. No more wordage needed, methinks…

Key West Seaport, where we caught the ferry. You can see the tiny island of Sunset Key in the distance

Key West Seaport, where we caught the ferry. You can see the tiny island of Sunset Key in the distance

Sunset Key Beach

Sunset Key Beach

The terrace of Latitudes restaurant where we had our lunch

The view from our table

The view from our table

Sunset Key Beach

Sunset Key Beach

Sunset Key

Sunset Key

Sunset Key

Colourful Key West (Part II) – Painted Cars

My last post featured some funky Key West buildings, but it’s not only stationary items that dazzle on this island – there’s also a fleet of elaborately painted cars cruising around.

Key West Painted Car

Same car, but different location

Same car, but different location

Key West Painted Car

Maritime themes are among the most popular

Maritime themes are among the most popular

Colourful depiction of a coral reef

Gotta love those turrets...

Gotta love those turrets…

Key West Painted Van (front)

Must belong to a musician 😉

 You could go for an equally cheerful buggy instead...

You could go for an equally cheerful buggy instead…

...with a wee trailer to cart your belongings around in

…with a wee trailer to cart your belongings around in

This one's not painted, but embellished with stickers. Seems it hasn't been operational for quite some time

This one’s not painted, but embellished with stickers. Seems it hasn’t been operational for quite some time. The shack behind is actually a restaurant called The Fish Camp, and, despite being a bit on the rustic side, the food there is totally delicious!

Another one, just as knackered

This has got to be the craziest one of them all!

This has got to be the craziest one of them all!

Same again, from the front

Same again, from the front

Colourful Key West – Part I

Time for more pictures, methinks.

The Strand Theater, once a cinema, now a Walgreens pharmacy

The Strand Theater, once a cinema, now a Walgreens pharmacy

A very pretty house, of which there are many, many many in Key West. I can't possibly photograph them all, sigh.

A very pretty house, of which there are many, many, many in Key West. I can’t possibly photograph them all, sigh.

The most important building on the entire island. To me, at least. Ooooooh, the sticky buns
.!

The most important building on the entire island. To me, at least. Ooooooh, the sticky buns
.!

Key West houseboats. My friends, Vicky and Ian, whom I'm staying with, live in one of these

Key West houseboats. My friends, Vicky and Ian, whom I’m staying with, live in one of these

More houseboats in the warm light of the setting sun

More houseboats in the warm light of the setting sun

A painted wall in Bahama Village. None of the people are real ;-) I like how the scooters in front blend in with the mural.

A painted wall in Bahama Village. None of the people are real 😉 I like how the scooters in front blend in with the mural.

Not so colourful, this one. More on the dilapidated side. But full of character, nevertheless

Not so colourful, this one. More on the dilapidated side. But full of character, nevertheless

And coming up in the next instalment, Key West painted cars! I bet you can’t wait, can you?!

Is There Crime in Key West? Yes. Of Sorts.

Life on small islands usually bears little reflection of how citizens of the same country experience their daily lives just a few nautical miles away on the mainland. Key West is no exception. With an area of just seven and a half square miles and a population of twenty four and a half thousand, it is very much its own microcosm. The pace of life is slow, its inhabitants are laid back, class backgrounds and socioeconomic disparities pose no barrier to socialising together. Miami, famed city of vice and ginger haired serial killers, is three-and-a-half hours by car and 40 minutes by plane, but it may as well be on a different planet.

It should not come as a surprise that Key West criminals are a very special breed with their own set of priorities and particular ways of doing things. My friends, who I’m staying with here, told me of a recent bank robbery, where the robbers were discovered just a few blocks away from the crime scene, in a local bar, having a drink, the holdall stuffed with cash right beside them. I’d like to think that the round was on them, and that the cops stayed for a couple of cool ones before making their arrests.

Besides hearsay and local anecdotes, there is a much more authoritative source of criminal activity on the island – let me introduce you to the trusty Key West Citizen:

A couple of days after I arrived here, the thermometer reading plunged to 20 C, just so you get an idea of the "cold temperatures" that the islanders are forced to endure

A couple of days after I arrived here, the thermometer reading plunged to 20 C, just so you get an idea of the “cold temperatures” that the islanders were forced to endure

Every day, The Citizen features a Crime Report section. Here is a sample of the headlines and articles that have appeared since I got here on Jan 15th:

It takes some gumption to come up with an excuse like that...

It takes some gumption to come up with an excuse like that…

This one is my absolute favourite so far:

Key West Bean Feud

Key West Homeless

Yes, a broken window was the crime of January 20th. An antique broken window, if you please.

I’ve highlighted the amusing passage in the last two pieces:

Key West Homeless Arrest

Key West Duelling Veterans

Key West – An Island Under the Rule of the Rooster

Toledo has its scrawny street cats, and Key West, as I found out this week, is overrun with resplendent roosters. The reason they have taken over the island has something to do with Cubans, who arrived on the island in their droves in the mid-1800s, being partial to cockfights. But after these spectacles were outlawed back in the 1970s, the chooks were duly booted out into the streets – now talk about a fowl unemployment crisis!

There are thousands of them roaming the isle, scratching a living together. Public opinion on the “Key West Gypsy Chickens”, as the breed is officially referred to, is sharply divided – some love these colourful and resilient characters, others are twitching to have them all culled. But the upshot is that they are protected, and people who are not nice to them are prosecuted, as you can see in this news item I spotted in the Key West Citizen on 18 Jan 2013:

Key West Rooster Crime

It has to be said, the males of the species are handsome little devils. (See below, NOT above!!)

Key West Rooster

And it’s not only live roosters that are omnipresent – they’ve spawned a whole genre of idiosyncratic Key West art and, of course, merchandising.

Rooster Finials

Roosters as faithful gatekeepers

A fetching tranny rooster luring passers-by into a gallery

A fetching tranny rooster luring passers-by into a gallery

Key West Rooster Paintings

Rooster Advertising

This one was striking enough to land a major advertising contract

A stuffed specimen overseeing proceedings at a local outdoor café

A stuffed specimen overseeing proceedings at a local outdoor café

Rooster-shaped popsicles begging to be shoved into the mouths of babes

Rooster-shaped popsicles begging to be shoved into the mouths of babes

And while the boys are strutting about town getting five-figure modelling contracts, the drab clucking females are dutifully raising the next generation.

Key West Broody Hen

Note one chick poking out from under her behind, and two little feet sticking out at the front. She has five chicks altogether.

Project Trilingual: Feeling Chuffed About The Little Successes

I usually whine on about how hard this language learning malarkey is, how frustrated I am and that I need to do better.

As everybody who’s been through this process knows, it’s impossible to get a sense of your own progress on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis.

So, more often than not, it’s other people commenting on your level of linguistic competence which triggers the realisation that you might actually be getting somewhere, and I’ve had a couple of heartening pronouncements from unbiased strangers recently.

The first one tumbled out of the mouth of a friend of a friend when the three of us were having a drink together. The guy (who I hadn’t met before) asked me how many years I’d been living in Spain. That’s right, he said “YEARS”. I realise I’m willfully  misconstruing his choice of words into compliment on my Spanish, but,  I reckon, if he thought I’d been in Spain for a long time, then my Spanish must be getting quite good, right? On the other hand, he may have such rock-bottom expectations of foreigners acquiring a serviceable level of the language that he was impressed by me ordering a a bottle of tonic water.

A slightly less ambiguous appraisal from another complete stranger came last Tuesday, during a flight form Madrid to Miami. I got chatting to a chirpy Nicaraguan lady in the seat across the aisle from me. Although I’m unlikely to meet her again, I shall nevertheless love that woman for ever and ever, because she asked me if I was Spanish! Oh my, if I’m managing to fool a native Spanish speaker into thinking that, I must be making some serious headway!

As an aside, even though I’m not in Spain at the moment, Project Trilingual is by no means on hold. Key West is a stone’s throw from Cuba, and the island (the whole of Florida, really) is full of Cubans and other Latin Americans. Spanish is spoken everywhere, and I keep listening to people in the street speaking it in their various regional accents, and I don’t miss any opportunities to converse in Spanish with the staff in shops and restaurants. It’s great to be able to understand what’s going on around me. Only a year ago, this would have been impossible, and I find it very satisfying 🙂