Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Key West and Music

I'm "chillin" to the My Chill playlist that Apple Music offered up to me on Sunday.  I get a new chill list in this position every Sunday, along with many other suggested playlists, based on what's in my own iTunes library and what I listen to regularly at the A-M site   This Chill play list has 25 songs and plays for an hour and 39 minutes,

I have quite a few songs and other audio in my own iTunes library that connect me to Key West.  Besides much music performed by Key West musicians, I also have  a lot by artists and bands who have appeared there during the 15 years of our residence.

I really like Apple Music.  I've tried Spotify, Pandora, Livestream, Amazon and Google, among others.  Apple Music has the best combination of streaming music and connection to my personal collection.  Their curated music services offer me a chance to explore things that I might like and a way to add them to my own collection with ease.

Those who know Key West know that it is a great place to hear live music, day and night and especially in Old Town.

Janet and I are planning to be there in mid-September to celebrate our 55th wedding anniversary.  We'll soon be planning out our music calendar, hoping to catch as much music as we can in five short days.

Tempus fugit!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Key West Connections

It's Sunday morning here in Fort Myers.  It rained again today, but that's not been unusual over the last two months.  During June and July, at the nearest rain gauge to us, the one at Page Field, shows 15-½  inches in June and is approaching 8 inches this month.  Those aren't extreme amounts, but what's important is that it has rained something on most of the 60 days since June 1.

I called the Key West Citizen this morning.  I wasn't able to log in to the digital edition, as I do nearly every day whether at home or away.  We've been gone from our little island home for more than two years now but I maintain a strong interest in what goes on there, because it was for more than 13 years, our home.  We put down roots in 1999 and over the next 15-½ years despite a two year gap between 2003 and 2005, we flourished there.

There are many ways to keep the connection.  The papers, obviously.  The Citizen is a daily.  My next favorite information source for solid news is Key West The Newspaper, aka The Blue Paper.  Each of them is worthy of being supported  by our money.  We have a rolling, six month, on-line-only subscription that renews automatically for $48 at present.  I support the Blue Paper by making frequent small contributions via Pay Pal.

There is a plethora of on-line sources, especially on FaceBook where the number of participants via individual and group memberships must number in the many thousands.  By following these a reader gets a gamut of opinions on a broad swath of what happened, is happening, and will be happening.

There are blogs too, like this one,  some which are uniquely Key West and some which are tangentially so.   I haven't taken inventory lately so I can't say whether all of those in the right-hand column are still active.  Two that are, My Diary by Conch Scooter and My Life in Key West by Key West Lou are still being updated with some regularity.  I particularly like My Diary because the blogger writes very well and he is very knowledgeable of Key West, writing since 2007.

Now that I've established a foothold back here, I'll see if I can update the inventory of sites.

Welcome back, if you're returning, or welcome if you only found The Real Key West lately.  There are memories buried here, and some stories that can withstand being retold.

Walk beside me and I'll fill you in.
Comments are allowed.
Questions will be answered respectfully.

Listening to The Doobie Brothers at Apple Music

Monday, July 24, 2017

If he only knew

"The character of the Keys have changed. The old way of life is gone, forever. Whatever vestige of the past remains is being overwhelmed by the bulldozer, the dredge, and gaudy commercialism. Fortunate is the person who has been able to hang on to enough land and hammock to tuck away his residence in an atmosphere the Conchs and Crackers once knew." 

Nicknames and Conch Tales, Walter H. Norman, 1979

Back to the Island

O dear God see how he rises,
Timothy rises from the bed.
With a bottle of whisky at his feet
And a bottle of porter at his head.

Traditional Irish ballad

And, as did Timothy, Robert also rises, to return to The Real Key West, prompted by several things that took place in the week just gone by.

On July 21, I read in the Key West Citizen about what former City Commissioner Harry Bethel is doing with regard to the Monroe County Tourist Development Council.  The TDC is a board established and supervised by the Monroe County Commission.  The TDC's mission is: ...  to set an overall direction for the Monroe County tourism marketing effort in a manner that will assure long-term sustained growth in tourism revenues while also guaranteeing the sustainability and improvement of our product, including both our man-made and natural resources, and improvements to the quality of life of our residents. [Emphasis added.]

More recently, John Donnelly of Key Largo wrote an article for The Blue Paper headlined 
Vehicular Assaults, Gridlock & Environmental Destruction…Endanger Our Lives & Islands…

The two articles resonated in me.  Janet and I have been discussing a trip back to the island in mid-September.  We'll be celebrating our 55th wedding anniversary on September 22.  We have two remaining $99 vouchers for round trips on the Key West Express between Whiskey Creek, where we now live, and Key West.

We'll be checking in to familiar places and seeing friends.  They're all part of The Real Key West.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

In case anybody is still checking in here, or if you landed here from some other place and wondered why there are no recent posts -- let me tell a little story.

Janet and I lived in Key West for 2+ years, from January 1999 until the Fall of 2002, and then again for 10+ years, from June 2004 until April 2015.  We moved to Fort Myers in April 2015.

Through 12 of those years, I've maintained this blog, The Real Key West, pretty much in its present form.

This is the pre-blog, from 2002:

The Real Key West

I wrote these posts after learning how to make a blog using Google's web app, called Blogger.com.  I still use it because, like an Apple product, it just works.  It got improved a lot after I began using it (no, I'm not claiming cause and effect), and many other 'blogging systems' came along; WordPress, notably, became one of the more popular and is still in wide use.

But, to get more to the point, I managed to figure out that we've been 'on the rock' for 12-½ years out of the last 15, and 'on the cloud' with the blog for virtually all of that.  I also now know that 125,000 visits to The Real Key West occurred during the last ten years.

The domain name, which I have owned since 2002, has some value.  And domain names can be bought and sold on the 'world wide web'.  It's embedded in our online persona. But I'm sentimental about the name and I think I'm going to hang on to it for a while longer.

I thought what I might do is to use this largely dormant space to get some steam up to resume  blogging.  As I figure out how best to do that, you may expect to find things here that bear little or no relationship to Key West.  Meanwhile, I'l be looking at the Trackers to see who comes back or who just drops in for a visit.  Fear not:  I can't tell who's posting unless you choose to identify yourself.  You can, if you wish, register an ID with us.  It helps us to remember that we have a correspondent relationship if you do.

So, without further ado, here it goes.

Bob (with an "o").

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

South Florida's Rising Seas - Sea Level Rise Documentary

An informative documentary discussing sea level rise in South Florida.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Sam Kaufman

Sam Kaufman at Key West City Commission Meeting on February 18, 2015

Monday, December 08, 2014

Key West City Attorney

I wrote this post in 2006 to comment then on the selection of Shawn Smith as City Attorney.  Now, eight year later, Smith's contract has been renewed for a third four year term.

The Key West Citizen and Florida Keys Keynoter both reported on Smith's bid to the City Commission for the contract renewal.  It's very likely that he'll get it.  He got it.  Smith does his job well.  He quietly counsels the Commission and the individual commissioners.  Unlike some past City Attorneys, he steers clear of controversy.  More importantly, he helps the Commission to avoid making mistakes that might lead them to do anything controversial.

The one exception to that posture came last year when he involved himself directly in a conflict with then City Manager Bob Vitas.  Smith accused Vitas of engaging in extra-legal ways and that he  effectively cut him, Smith, out of matters that should be the province of both.

So Vitas is gone.  Scholl is back.  And Smith will be around for four more years, good Lord willing and if the creeks don't rise.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

How to Get Approval for a Development Plan

I sometimes amuse myself by watching my governments at work.  It's a government geek's pleasure to observe such events.

The video above is a good example of the Key West city government cooperating with a private citizen to do something good.  It's also a great example of that citizen doing a bang-up job of presenting his ideas to the city in a way that almost guarantees that he'll get the approval he seeks from the City Commission.

510 Eaton St. Key West

That church-like and theater-like building on Eaton Street has been largely vacant for the fifteen years that we've lived here.  It was once a performance stage featuring a variety of entertainments, including as a "discotheque".  (You remember discotheques, don't you?)

There's a second building on the property that was once offices, but they became vacant too.  The owner-applicant intends to tear that portion down and to build a single-family residence there.

The agenda item at the City Commission hearing was the culmination of a process designed to carry the application through all of the required approvals, and was guided by Trepanier & Associates, a local firm that does that kind of work for many developers, large and small.  

The segment that begins at just after 2:00 minutes is what impressed me most.  It's the owner's plea for approval.  He could't have done it any better.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Rockin' in Key West

They're really rockin' in Boston
In Pittsburgh, Pa.
Deep in the heart of Texas
And round the 'Frisco Bay
All over St.Louis
And down in New Orleans.

They're rockin' in Key West, too.  At least they were last night when The Doobie Brothers played a concert at the Truman Waterfront to a crowd estimated at 2500 - 3000 people.  

 We were rockin' too, earlier today, when the wind kicked up and the tide was changing.  The
Betty Sue
Betty Sue was rocking pretty good, although not uncomfortably. 

The weather that caused this has passed over us now and it's quite a spectacular day.  Bright sun, blue skies and high, wispy clouds, fresh breezes, and a temperature of 79º combine to make today a perfect day to throw the windows and doors open and bring the outdoors inside.

Even though the Truman Waterfront is still just a scarred stretch of waterfront land, waiting for the city to actually do something to it, the venue is still a pretty great place for events like the one last night.  It was called "Keystock", like Woodstock -- yeah, it's a corny name but it'll probably catch on.

Tickets were $45 general admission and there was VIP seating at a higher price.  Parking was $10.  I'm waiting to see who posts pictures and to see how it was laid out.

Bill Blue told me that The Doobie's performance was quite good, better than he expected, and that it brought to mind all the great music that the group wrote and performed over the years.  

It's hard to imagine that a band of old men can have a 45-year career and still pack in the crowds; but then I remember that the Stones have already done their 50th anniversary tour.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Keys Hospitality

We're noticing a spate of news about hotel properties in the Florida Keys lately.

Today we spotted a press release announcing the purchase of Parrot Key Resort in Key West by Hersha Hospitality Trust, a Philadelphia-based Real Estate Investment Trust that is traded on the New York Stock Exchange.  Hersha owns and operates high quality, upscale hotels in urban gateway markets. The Company’s 51 hotels totaling 8,120 rooms are located in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Miami and select markets on the West Coast.

The 148-room resort was purchased for $100 million dollars from its developer, Pritam Singh.

Another article in Travel Weekly  reports on changes in the Keys hotel markets as new resorts open and existing properties get refurbished and rebuilt.

Key West hotel availability has been constrained for the past two years as five hotels along South Roosevelt Boulevard, the gateway road into Key West, are demolished and rebuilt to open in the summer under new names and management.  These will restore 519 rooms to availability.  In addition, a new downtown hotel being constructed at Key West Bight by The Singh Company will also open later this year.

These openings are very likely to further tighten already-high apartment prices as the hotels staff up crews to operate them and service guests. In the upper Keys workers are already being bused in from mainland Florida between Miami and Key Largo.  No one seems sure where lower Keys workers will be found and where they will be able to afford to live.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Evil Phone Companies

One might think that living on an island 160 miles from Miami could at times be inconvenient.  And one might be correct if thinking that.

These things are many and varied. We should say something about that. Maybe we will.

But here's an inconvenience that exists independently of location.  It has to do with Sprint, the mobile  service provider.

We have stores here for three of the four of the major nationwide service providers: AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint.  There's also a store for Metro PCS, now a subsidiary of T-Mobile, the fourth nationwide major company.

I wrote the following note on January 25th:
I have been without a phone for over two weeks now, due to the misleading information provided to me by SprintCares representatives and the company's intransigence in dealing with people who are out of contract and who want to take their phones to a different service provider. 
Here's the background:
I called Sprint at around the time my two-year contract expired and asked to know how I would go about unlocking the two iPhone 4s models we had on contract.  After being given a run-around by several Sprint representatives, being told different things each time I called -- that the phones could be unlocked, that they could not, that they could in certain cases; and after reading that Sprint had signed on to a CTIA agreement to allow unlocking once contracts were fulfilled; and after enlisting the support of the carrier I chose to migrate to (T-Mobile if you must know), I proceeded to ask Sprint for the unlock codes that would allow me to have the phones unlocked, and -- wonder of wonders -- they sent me two such codes, known as MSL Unlock codes in an email that read, in its entirety:  
"Can you please email us at SprintCares@Sprint.com with your phone number so we can provide you with the MSL to unlock. *AJV"
From @SprintCare on Twitter 1/9/14 
The two unlock codes, one for each phone number followed. 
But Sprint refused to tell me how to use the unlock codes, so I once again turned to T-Mobile to see if they would help.  They were eager to do so, but told me that until Sprint updated a database at Apple known as the Activation Data Base.  They even went so far as to call Apple on my behalf and confirmed that the phone was not unlocked in the Activation DB.  ONLY SPRINT CAN UPDATE THE ACTIVATION DATA BASE, AND THEY REFUSE TO DO IT!  It is allowed and done for someone who wants to use another phone service internationally, but absolutely not for domestic use with any other carrier. 
After 15 years as a mostly satisfied Sprint user, and after asking for a reduction in my monthly cost to something close to what T-Mobile offered me to switch (and who do not lock the phone to their own network), I made the move.  I relied on the fact that I had the MSL codes to begin the process of transitioning, and now I have a phone that doesn't work with Sprint and can't be activated at T-Mobile until the unlock is completed. 
I filed a complaint with the FCC, similar to what other customers have advised doing, but that doesn't give me a useable phone. 
Once I am free from the evil practices of an evil company I will NEVER again do business with Sprint and I'll advise everyone I know to do the same.  
It's a hell of a way to run a telephone company.  It's a hell of a way to run any kind of company.

In the end I was unable to make the switch and had to crawl back to Sprint to get reinstated on their service.  At some point I'll be free of Sprint and I've vowed to never consider them as a supplier.  That will probably come when it's finally time to upgrade phones.  For now though we'll continue to use the iPhone 4s' that we both have.

UPDATE 5/2/14
I am distressed to read recently that Sprint may now buy T-Mobile.  If that happens its likely to lessen competition and will probably destroy both Sprint and T-Mobile.

Ma Bell anyone?

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Customer Service

I got an email this morning from SunPass.com thanking me for my patronage and allowing them to serve my transportation needs.  They also wished me "happiness, joy and safe travels this holiday season."

That was nice of them, I guess, but it left me a little puzzled.  After all, I haven't gotten anything similar from the Garrison Bight, and I paid them almost $6,500 this year.  Neither did the good folks at the electric company acknowledge  me and thank me for buying all my electricity from them and paying them almost $1,000, and always on time.

SunPass is Florida's Turnpike's preferred method of collecting tolls from its users.  Over the past couple of years the turnpikes have eliminated pretty much all of its toll booths and switched over to an electronic combination of SunPass, and Toll-by-Plate for those not using in-car transponders.

The Florida's Turnpike self-identifies as Florida's Turnpike Enterprise, a term I don't remember seeing before.  They've also adopted the motto, "The Less Stressway".

This got me thinking about a conversation I had last night with a neighbor here on Marlin Pier who just recently sold the houseboat he and his wife have owned for several years.  Their decision to sell was motivated partly by some frustrations they've had with city management of the marina and experiences they've had in interactions with staff  up to and including the City Manager.

My neighbor owns and operates several large rental properties in other parts of the country, one of which is a very large campground (several hundred campsites) located in the midwest near the Canadian border.  He told me that he regards the people who rent from him as his customers, and that he owes them the duty of great customer service in exchange for the rents they pay to him.

My own experiences in dealing with employees of the city (and that includes members of the City Commission since they are paid for their services) have been decidedly mixed.  In general, I find that the higher one reaches into the hierarchy, the more authoritarian the interactions become.

Here's one example:

Several months ago, someone decided that the large Waste Management trash compactor that services the 90+ boats that are moored here, had to be turned around so it would be easier for the haul-away trucks to exchange the compactor when it became full.  At the same time, the city added four large recycling bins for paper, glass and other recyclable trash.

Over time, I noticed that people were leaving large items next to the compactor, things like furniture, appliances, construction materials, and the like.  I went to the marina office to ask what was happening  with those large things left on the ground, sometimes obstructing easy access to the compactor.

It just happens that I know,  from previous property management experience, both private and public, that Waste Management's contract with the city for residential waste includes a requirement that WM pick up what they call Bulk Trash from residences at least once a week.  WM provides that pickup with a large dump truck equipped with a hydraulically-operated clamshell bucket.

The Marina Manager told me that at present the bulk items are loaded by marina staff into a city-owned truck and driven to the Waste Management transfer station on Stock Island, where it is dumped for further processing.

I suggested that it might be more efficient and cost-effective to carve out an area near the dumpster as a bulk items area, and then to have WM pick it up on their regular routes around the city.  The manager agreed with me, and he called the local WM general manager, who also agreed that WM should pick up bulk for integration into the recycle stream.

However, when the Marina Manager told his chain of command manager, an assistant City Manager, of the budding agreement, the Assistant City Manager negated it.  I asked the Marina Manager if he knew why; he said that he didn't.

Meanwhile, the compactor sits in an area that's been excavated for several weeks and surrounded by barriers.  Bulk trash continues to be dumped around the compactor.

And so, coming back around again, it makes me wonder why governments don't interact with citizens as customers, but instead, do it as the Hoi polloi, the great unwashed, the public, the rabble.

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.
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