Saturday, August 8, 2009

Changes in Attitude & Changes in Latitude or South Florida Vacation Pictures (Part I)

OK, let's try this again ... my internet connection has been fine the past two days. I may cancel the technician's visit scheduled for Tuesday if there are no more problems.

Yours Truly seated on a kind of wrought iron bench inside the West Martello Tower of the Key West Garden Club, Key West, Florida, nearly noon Sun time, July 31, 2009


What follows is the first batch of picture from my South Florida trip with my dad between July 29 and August 4, 2009 that included three days in Key West and another three days in Deerfield Beach (where I have now gone three times this year despite the never-ending impending doom of my financial situation). They were all taken on my crummy cellphone. They are given mostly but not entirely in chronological order.

I end this entry with an update on things going on more immediately in my life.


Spirit Airlines flight 310 about 35,000 feet, approx. 50 miles off the South Carolina or Georgia coastline en route DCA to FLL, 11:40AM, July 29, 2009.

We took off on the downriver path, so I didn't get the good view of Washington, D.C., although I got a right-side window seat in case we had done so.


Here the jet was descending into Ft. Lauderdale - Hollywood International Airport, just crossing the Florida coastline just north of Ft. Lauderdale.

Concerning the above aerial image, thanks to the wonders of Google map's satellite view, I am able to identify the body of water cutting across the arrow-straight Intracoastal Waterway* as Lake Lettuce just north of an area called Terra Mar. The southern edge of the Hillsboro Inlet where the lighthouse of same name is located is visible on the upper edge of the picture). Deerfield Beach is several miles out of view of this image to the north of the inlet.

*Yes, it's "Intracoastal" and not "Intercoastal" even though the Google map of this area itself spells it incorrectly.


There were some big thunderstorms just inland about 10 to 20 miles to the southwest of the airport. I saw some incredibly dramatic rain shafts and startling bolts of lightning. The jet did a sharp banking turn to land toward the east and I got to see that. I didn't take any pictures of them.

Here is the view of that line of inland thunderstorms as seen from I-595 (the spur that runs between I-95 and FLL airport at 1:54PM, July 29, 2009. We turned south and sort of skirted around them on I-95 and then the Florida Turnpike, although we passed through some downpours around Florida City.

About the drive to Key West, my dad had left his place 180 miles or so north in Flagler Beach around 830AM and his arrival at the airport at 1230PM was timed almost perfectly with my flight.


A large cumulus congestus cloud in a stormy sky, seen near mile marker 20 on the Florida Turnpike about 20 miles west of Miami, 2:36PM, July 29, 2009.

Less perfect, though, was he got confused where he parked in the parking lot -- he confused "5h" and "5b" and there ensued a nearly 45 minute search that took us on a big circle around the airport into an adjacent parking garage. Recall I had my stuffed duffel bag with me, walking with it over my shoulder, in the broiling Florida Sun. The strap of that bag is going to break one of these days.

Eventually, with the help of a parking attendant in a go cart -- rather than security, which I had called -- and the key-activated car alarm, we found his 2004 burgundy hard-topped Wrangler jeep.


So we eventually reached Key Largo and the start of the Florida Keys, which is around mile marker (MM) 120 on Rt. 1.

Here is a picture of yours truly in the jeep, 3:36PM, July 29, 2009 somewhere on the upper Keys.


A palm tree-cloaked large house on Craig Key near Mile Marker (MM) 72 as we were heading toward Key West, 4:24PM, July 29, 2009.

We left the rain behind over "mainland" Florida, and it was dry by the time we reached Key West. However, the sky had a high overcast and it was completely still, making the sultry late July night in Key West that followed all the more unbearable -- and possibly contributing to my dad's decision to remain in Flagler County.


Key West, a.k.a. the "Conch Republic," is frequently very expensive, especially on the tiresome, crowded, even chaotic Duval Street. We went to Willie T's, where it was (surprise) karaoke night. My dad -- "Good Time Bobby", his moniker from his North Carolina OBX days and the "Alan Ross Karaoke Roadshow" racket there.

Here is a very blurry image from inside the open-air, overheated Willie T's as these guys sang some boy band song. I think it was from N'Sync or the Backstreet Boys. (It really doesn't matter.)

My dad praised this nasty old black man with a bad attitude who had sang a song well and he touched him and the guy barked at him not to touch him, so my dad yelled at him and said "FUCK YOU!" Just a typical night.

Of note, about three quarters of the staff in all the Key West restaurants and bars are from central / eastern Europe or Russia, specifically, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Russia.

This is true basically along the entire U.S. Eastern Seaboard from at least Rehoboth Beach, Del., to Key West. Why is that? What kind of mafia is running this?? Maybe it's some kind of indentured servitude or white Slavic slavery thing. (Doesn't the word "slave" actually come from "Slav"??)


As for our lodging, we stayed at El Rancho Motel on Truman Ave.

Here is a picture of Room 43 in El Rancho Dumpo Motelo where we stayed. This was actually taken just as we were checking out at 1036AM, Aug. 1, 2009.

The room was miniscule in size (as are most places in Key West) with two cramped small beds perpendicular to each other, the small refrigerator blocking the air conditioner, and a TV with few watchable channels located over the bed I slept in. In fact, I actually changed the position of the pillow to the other side in the event that TV stand broke and the television came crashing down, probably killing me.

Let me say, though, that the air conditioner worked quite well and we actually intentionally went back to the room during the day to go into the cool darkness that contrasted so much from the ferocious heat and intense sunlight of Key West in high summer.

There was tremendous, scary banging on a door and yelling the first night we were there as some pair of guests were having what was probably a drunken fight. I was going to go to the front desk where a man was intently bent over a computer surfing the internet to say I was going to call the police, but when I went outside, all was suddenly silent. Kinda spooky.


The next set of pictures were taken on our first full day in Key West. That would be Thursday, July 30, 2009...

A coconut palm tree growing along Margaret Street, Key West, Fla., 12:10PM, July 30, 2009.


As I mentioned, my dad decided NOT to move to Key West after all but to remain in Flagler County on the Atlantic coastal side of Florida. He is planning on moving from Flagler Beach to an unincorporated part of Palm Coast known as "The Hammock."

Part of the reason for his decision was the tremendous heat -- this is basically Caribbean-style pure tropical in Key West that while a nice change in January (even from north central Florida) is actually rather stultifying from May through October.

Additionally, his would-be neighborhood, Stock Island, just east of Key West, turned out to resemble a sort of hybrid Port-au-Prince slum and Texas trailer park (as I actually once lived in in 1981 at the age of 11).

This was probably one of the nicer trailers on Stock Island along Maloney Blvd.

We witnessed two strange happenings on Maloney Blvd. In the first one, a weird bird-like woman with a raspy voice that I initially thought was a 12-year old boy on a bike collide into a park car, tumble off the bicycle, and start screaming at herself incoherently in a kind of crow-like cawing voice as she got back on unscathed and rode off.

We also witnessed what was very likely a drug deal between a scrawny white woman standing on the sidewalk and another scrawny woman who came bicycling at high speed down the Sun bedazzled street that actually is not identified by ANY street sign. There was also a scrawny man we saw as we drove off with the two women. I'm assuming it was a crystal meth exchange.


We drove back to Key West ...

Here we are riding along South Roosevelt Blvd., on the southern edge of Key West island, 2:10PM, July 30, 2009, with some kind of crap on the front windshield.


We went back the motel room before going back out later in the afternoon and walking around the central part of Key West and over to the marina area on the Sunset Key side of the island.

The famous Key West Custom House that houses a museum and the Key West Art and Historical Society (KWAHS), 4:24PM, July 30, 2009


Yours truly and the Key West Custom House / KWAHS, 4:25PM, July 30, 2009. God, my ass is fat. I could balance a wicker basket filled with whatever back there like you see those women in Africa.


This is one of the many sculptures by the artist J. Seward Johnson that are placed outside the Key West Custom House. This is a giant one called "Whispering Close" that is (I'm guessing) about 25 feet high.


The Key West Marina is on the east side of the Custom House.

Here is the Key West Marina, 4:11PM, July 30, 2009


There was also a huge-ass cruise ship docked in Key West that afternoon at the marina.

This is Phil's yacht. Just kidding. It's actually the MS Majesty of the Seas.

A quick internet Wikipedia searching turned up this article on the ship. It's an 880 foot long, nearly 74,000 gross ton weighing cruise ship owned and operated by Royal Caribbean International. This Galaxy Class Starship Sovereign Class ocean-plying cruise motor ship is registered in Somalia, Liberia, Equatorial Guinea, the Republic of Minerva, The Bahamas.

Here is the cruise ship compared to a small boat in the foreground.


Other Key West pictures ...

Yeah, yeah, yeah, Sloppy Joe's Bar.


This is the weird sculpture of a bull at the bar called The Bull (or The Bull and Whistle) in Key West at Caroline and Duval Streets. It is a black painted Plaster of Paris sculpture of a bull with horns and red lights for eyes to make it look demonic.

The place has a Web site linked here.


A pretentious pastel-hued little inn called The Artist at 534 Eaton Street, Key West, Fla., 4:54PM, July 30, 2009. There was no vacancy there.


Not quite a Cheeseburger in paradise ...

We had dinner at a placed called Cheeseburger Key West on Duval Street where the servers (male and female) wear ridiculous straw skirts over their shorts. The restaurant itself was fine and the food was decent, but at the end our big burly waiter -- who was also bartending in the back outdoor area -- seemingly intentionally spilled blood red Grenadine all over my right wrist when I asked him for a dash of it in my rum and coke. It almost got on my white shirt, which would have ruined it. He threw a napkin at me. It seemed so passive aggressive intentional that I went to the manager to say I would not be leaving a tip.

A quintessential American couple ready to enjoy fine dining at Cheeseburger Key West in Key West, Fla., 5:56PM, July 30, 2009.


A view of the 400 and 500 blocks of Duval Street, Key West, Fla., 6:47PM, July 30, 2009.


The weird part of the evening was my dad stopping in the gay bar called Bourbon Street to sing karaoke. He knew it was a gay bar right down to the shirtless (but unattractive) bartender. The odd thing is the ONLY other gay bar my dad ever was in in his life was this very same bar -- way back in Jan. 1994 when he and I came to visit Key West. But he only popped in and midday to go to the bathroom and didn't even know it was a gay bar (I did).

Here he is smoking a cigar at Bourbon Street bar, 7:11PM, July 30, 2009


The next set of pictures were taken the following day, Friday, July 31, 2009. This was our last full day in Key West for that trip.

My dad at the El Rancho Stinko Motel on the second floor, 11:41AM, July 31, 2009. Actually, overall, it was OK.

Oh, but there was one bad incident: the Hispanic woman who oversees the maid services for the rooms was VERY belligerent when I simply went up to her to ask for a wash cloth, yelling at me to go "to the office." I told her she had a fucking bad attitude.


Here is Yours Truly standing at the base of a very large banyan tree growing outside the Harvey Government Center along Truman Ave., in Key West, Fla., 11:56AM, July 31, 2009. My ass is about the size of one of the folds of this banyan tree's trunk.


The Key West National Weather Service office.

Had I actually become a meteorologist, perhaps I would have one day worked there. Actually, I doubt it. I would have just been fired from whatever job I got.

Forecasting the weather in Key West must get kind of boring for much of the year.

The Keys basically have a summer wet and winter dry season, but overall, they are actually drier than you'd think with Key West International Airport receiving 38.94" of precip. on average and Key Marathon receives 40.92". Source here.

This compares to 57.39" for Miami (MIA) for the current 30-year normal. Coincidentally, the Key West total is just about equal to the Washington, D.C. (DCA) total of 39.35".


The really weird White Street Pier, an over-sized concrete and asphalt structure extending out into the flat, bathwater warm waters off Key West's southern side (that is actually the Gulf of Mexico and Straits of Florida you are looking at). The air was intensely hot with only a bit of a breeze off the water. The pier itself was deserted when we walked out there. The whole scene was a bit post-apocalyptic surreal, as if along an abandoned city along the sea.

Key West "beaches" are nearly non-existent and the water so warm and turgid. The clear waters that makes the Keys so good for snorkeling and scuba diving are actually offshore where are located the tropical reefs. These same reefs basically nix any significant wave action, although this time of year in South Florida, barring a tropical system, there isn't much wave action even on the open Atlantic Ocean side.


We then walked over to the Key West Garden Club (KWGC), a fenced in, secluded, lovely spot next to Higgs Beach.

Inside the West Martello Tower that houses the office of the KWGC, July 31, 2009.


Right about here would go chronologically the lead image for this entry of me seated on a wrought iron bench in stripes of sunlight and shadow.


Strangler Fig, KWGC, July 31, 2009


A Fiji Island Palm growing at the KWGC, July 31, 2009


Here I am seated inside the fenced-in grounds of the KWGC looking at the nearby Higgs Beach through palm fronds, July 31, 2009


The same spot, KWGC looking at Higgs Beach, July 31, 2009


Later that day we went on a late afternoon / early evening snorkeling expedition that we had been talked to instead of the midday one. It cost $45 per person for a three hour affair that included going offshore an hour out from Key West into the Gulf of Mexico to one of the protected reef areas. It also included a return trip open bar happy hour.

The snorkeling expedition on the Sebago Cubed (Sebago^3) hybrid sailboat and catamaran was quite crowded with about 40 people.

Here is an image from the Sebago Cubed as we were heading out to the reef area, July 31, 2009. I don't know why the image came out so blue.


This was a hot but straight guy named Matt who was one of the passengers. I found out his name his step mom who was also on board. I never actually spoke to him. He was on board with his younger brother. Matt is apparently with the Coast Guard in Key West.


I wore a t-shirt into the water since I didn't want to get a sunburn on my back. Additionally, I'm not in very good shape and I prefer to be shirtless in public as little as possible, if ever.

This was the view as we were leaving the snorkeling area, 7:05PM, July 31, 2009. It's probably better to do this activity earlier in the day when the sunlight shines more directly into the water and you can see more on the reefs.


This is the captain of the Sebago Cubed. I can't recall his name, so I'll just refer to him as "Captain Jesus of Nazareth," fisherman of dumb tourists.


Another picture of the Good Cap'n Jesus of Nazareth.


Here is a picture of my dad and I on the boat heading back.


A picture of my dad aboard the Sebago Cubed during the happy hour. He looks pretty good for a 68-1/2 year old guy, don't you think?

Oh, yes, the guy in the straw hat in the background getting his picture taken in a group photo is Matt. The lady in blue is his step mom that I mentioned. She said her own son is actually in jail. I didn't ask why.


Yours Truly on the Sebago Cubed off Key West, July 31, 2009


The next day we left Key West -- probably not to return for quite some time -- and ended up going to Deerfield Beach. My next blog entry will feature that set of pictures, although there are fewer than in this entry.


Big Pine Restaurant near Mile Marker 30, Big Pine Key, Florida Keys, Aug. 1, 2009. We had breakfast here.


Key West Final Thoughts

The motto on the Key West Police Department cruisers is "Protecting Paradise." Well, while Key West is quite nice in a unique kind of way, I'm not exactly sure it is paradise.

The place is too isolated, too hot for too much of the year, and, well, just too weird with too many strange characters that includes more than a few homeless / street people. Prices are too high and the traffic patterns are too chaotic with FAR too many people blithely riding bicycles and motor scooters on the sidewalk in unexpected ways, not to mention all the deafening motorcycles.

As for noise, I really would not want to be woken up by a damn crowing rooster at 4AM every morning. There are lots of roosters in Key West pretty much roaming free.

The bottom line is that I am glad that my dad has decided not to move to Key West. I wish he were going to move closer to Daytona Beach, or even ideally, to the Fort Lauderdale area, but instead it is going to be into the Palm Coast area north of where he is now.


Riding on the Sebago Cubed off Key West back to the marina toward sunset, July 31, 2009


Key West Addenda

Also, once again (as in my last trip there in Jan. 2008), I did NOT see the Zero Mile Marker for Rt. 1. It's actually located near the intersection of Whitehead and Fleming Streets.

I also did not see on this trip that "Southernmost Point in the Continental United States" buoy / marker located at the other end of Whitehead Street. That marker simply CANNOT be the southernmost geographic point because even a cursory glance at a map of Key West shows the adjoining, off-limits Key West Naval Air Station base to stretch farther south than it. Rather, it is the southernmost publicly accessible point.

Here is a comparison of the two locations (circled in lavender and light green, respectively). North is straight "up" this aerial image in the direction of the two arrows.


Returning to the present, I have actually been quite busy since I got back from Florida with my contracting job. I even went into the office for two days in a row during the afternoon to do some work there. That was a bit weird.

I have actually been quite busy yesterday and today at my contracting job as I went back into the office in Bethesda for the past two days. That has been a little weird. I'm still woefully underpaid for what I do and I don't think I can pay my rent beyond October. I would have to have to give up my new apt. and my credit being what it is, it would be difficult to get a new place without a co-signer. I guess LP would help me. I'm not going to ask Phil again.

Yours Truly in the jeep leaving the Florida Keys. We were going over Seven Mile Bridge at this point on Aug. 1, 2009 shortly before hitting an hour and a half traffic-at-a-crawl snarl.

I am also being harassed by creditors with the threat of as many as four legal judgments totaling $12,000 against me (though all of this is at least two months away) plus $4,000 in Macy's debt I have defaulted on. Then there is the $250,000 in student loans that will be coming due soon.


As it is, I cannot do a second Chapter 7 for another year on my credit card debt (student loans are non-dischargeable). I wouldn't even care about the judgments (it's not like I could get a good security clearance anyway). Rather, it's the threat of a wage garnishment on my paltry and irregular income and a lien on my checking account (though I don't keep much in it).

I have actually made an appointment for next Friday with a bankruptcy attorney in Bethesda to see what my options are in the mean time.


A hatted lady fishes off a fragment of the older bridge that runs parallel to Seven Mile Bridge near the Ohio Key side, Mile Marker 62 42. The older bridge was known by the tongue-twisting name of the Knights Key-Pigeon Key-Moser Channel-Pacet Channel Bridge. Good Lord. That older bridge was part of the train line that the legendary Henry Flagler built in the early 20th Century and it was later turned into an automobile bridge.

I can't explain it but I have this weird déjà vu feeling vis-à-vis South Florida, as if I lived a life there early 20th Century or briefly during World War II enroute to my untimely death at age 21 in June 1942 at the Battle of Midway.

Or it could just be that my paternal grandparents who raised me always talked about Florida and had been down there as far back as the 1930s.

That concludes this entry. My next "Part II" entry will feature the Deefield Beach part of my visit although there are fewer pictures. I will post that at some point early to middle next week.



к.нео.физ.де.му said...

regulus, :)

i really enjoyed reading this blog!

i don't know why - i've always enjoyed your stories about your trips with your dad!

btw, he does look good! :)

Regulus said...

Glad you liked my entry. Based on the lack of any comments overall, I didn't think I had much of a readership. Boo.

How are you doing?

rota said...

I'm sure you've heard this before, but if you are trying to minimize the size of your behind, don't wear horizontal stripes.

Rita said...