If you are a musician or an artist, why not settle in a place where tourists arrive daily by boat, plane and car. We have met many, many folk on Key West who have some sort of artistic talent. Two of my favorite people are Suzanne Pereira and her husband Tortuga Jack. Suzanne comes to volunteer on the mural most days and is a wealth of knowledge about the art happenings in the area. She and Jack took Baily and on on what we now refer to as field trips to different mural sites, art galleries, poetry readings, churches, and some really amazing ceramics at the community college. We are feeling somewhat spoiled with all the attention but can’t say no to the company and experiences.
Suzanne is a very modest artist. She took us to a restaurant where she worked on a collaborative mural with several other artists. The wall is short but wraps around the seating area. Every artist was allowed to create a piece on the wall in their own personal style. Her subject matter, honoring the life of “Reefa” a graffiti artist who was tased to death by Miami Police in 2013, is a beautiful, colorful tribute to how his life impacted others.
Suzanne also worked as a volunteer on another mosaic with children which is on the outside of a CVS drug store (12 Duval Street: go around to back wall) Very playful with bright color and local sites depicted.
A really hidden mural is all the way to the very end of the Island where the USCGC Ingham Maritime Museum is located. (The only Coast Guard Cutter afloat today to receive two
Presidential Unit Citations for extraordinary heroism) Look to the right and you will see a not so appealing white Navy building. walk down bit and look behind it fora surreal mural that was done during the Key West Chalk Fest.
Suzanne showed us another painted mural on a wall opposite the Blue Heaven restaurant:
We have been invited to many events, boat cruises, and art parties by neighbors and people just walking by the mural site. Key West feels very friendly and open that way. I bump into runners in the morning and they are happy to converse. Mary, who walks her dog daily by the mural, invited us to listen to her play guitar and sing at a French Restaurant called Bistro Sole. We enjoyed the low lit garden atmosphere with hints of formality. Two glasses of wine, a bowl of clams with bread and a bike ride back to the van for a cool night sleep. Pinch me. This is January is it not?
Baily and I decided to take the day off of tiling. The weather was going to be poor all day with rain on and off. First we headed to a local roller hockey game where George Robert her nephew scored the first and last goal of the game!
They won but it looked like all the kids were having a good time. We then headed north towards Big Pine Key. A stop at Baby’s coffee for a java fix is a must about 15 miles out of Key West. A local roaster with many varieties of beans.
Baily, among other things, is doing a master garden course back in Philly. She thought Grimal Grove would be the perfect place to do a presentation on and I am glad she brought me along. Grimal Grove was founded in 1955 by Adolf Grimal who transformed 2 acres of cap rock land into a Garden of Eden.
There are rare fruit trees that he collected from all over the world, a gravity fed rain water irrigation system, and more. The place fell into disrepair after 1997 when Grimel died but now Patrick Garvey has taken it over and turned it into a grassroots organization, Growing Hope Initiative. http://growinghopeinitiative.org/
Patrick was very kind to show us around the garden and point out the different varieties of fruit trees. They do have a situation with deer eating the smaller trees and are working to get a fence put around the whole of the property. Bugs are another problem with a nasty one called Sri Lanka weevil eating all the cocao tree leaves.
Still there is a sense of calm in this garden with fruit peeking behind many of the tree branches. A true visionary can see the possibilities of the place. Volunteers come from the local area to help and even friends from the North who came down in a tour bus. Josef Crosby and Alexander Fedoryka members of the Celtic rock band Scythian, were helping their friend Patrick while taking a break from touring. http://www.scythianmusic.com/
This was what you call a sunrise to sunset kind of day. It started with a 10 plus mile run that led Paul and I off the Island toward Boca Chica Key. It had rained hard overnight and the roads were speckled with puddles of water. We were pretty hot and sweaty but the winds across the bridges kept us out of that uncomfortable zone where you feel like you are melting. Still, it was super hot and humid so when we arrived back at the van we both got into the canal to soak our tired legs.
Mural progress: Sorting of tiles, breaking tiles, trying to figure out what background to have when your supply of tiles does not arrive! Looks like extra mirror will be added.
Joe Weatherby, who’s house the mural is going on, is a gracious host and a Captain to boot. This evening he offered to take us all on a sunset cruise. The catamaran was pretty large and could fit way more people than we had going on the trip. Besides a fine captain we had 2 lovely crew ladies, a guitar accompaniment and a full bar. There is quite the celebration in Key West every night when the sun goes down. Many sail boats set out on the sea, people line the shore and decks cheering, singing, playing music and drinking varieties of alcohol. The real lucky ones get to feel the water beneath them and be carried by the wind seemingly closer to the sun. Then it happens so quickly, the sun disappears below the water and the sky illuminates with a pinkish orange glow. Now the show belongs to the moon and stars.
I am drawn to running. The simplicity of throwing on a pair of shoes and exploring a new environment. So of course I was excited to find out Key West was having an annual half marathon on the past Sunday. I woke Paul up early and we ran to a spot where we might see the lead runners. We got to 1st street just in time to see runners rounding the corner. The race energy was contagious and Paul and I got caught up in the flow. We met a local man named Jaro who did the race every year. I kept him company through the final 7 miles and was rewarded in the end with a gracious hug. My first time being a race bandit and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Mural progress: Every day there is a constant parade of people on bikes whizzing by over the canal. Many stop to comment and converse with Baily and I on the mural while others just throw verbal accolades. Standing on top of the scaffolding this morning Baily spied an egret parade coming down the street. Birds rule in this tropical land. They didn’t pay us much attention but looked more interested in finding food.
The sun can sometimes be brutal mid day. I decided to take a break and get my desired swim in. I went down to Higgs beach on my bike, locked it to a fence, and jumped in the water. I think I may have been the only one swimming but I thought the water felt perfect. I swam over to a dilapidated pier and submersed myself into the watery world of key west fishes. Ahhhhh……
Real slow Key West start to the day. Paul, Baily and I stayed up a bit later exploring some of the Key West night life. We went to a charming outdoor cafe called 2 cents for dessert and drinks. Walked till our feet hurt.(Baily even bought socks at the Green Parrot for her blisters)
Baily’s brother George and his wife Carla own and operate a business called Key West Eco Tours, http://keywestecotours.com/ We were invited to kayak in a mangrove filled Geiger Key in the middle of the day.
I wore my bathing suit thinking I could jump in the waters but its very shallow. You could pretty much stand up at anytime. The tour was slow and relaxed as we winded our way through old growth.
Looking down you could see plenty of fish, cassiopeia (upside down jelly fish), star fish, and sponges. There was an area where the pelicans all gathered and hung out in the trees. I was lulled by the water, sun and wind and felt super relaxed.
Not a whole lot of mural work done today. Paul and Baily whipping up a fish dinner. On my first beer. Got to go.
I keep hearing the phrase,”Welcome to Key West” as an answer to some of my silly questions about why things are this way or that. You have to go with the flow, slow down, and relax. Consuming alcohol and/or other vices can happen at any time of the day. No need to worry, things will get done.
My friend and mosaic partner Baily Cypress invited me to Key West to help her work on a mural that is on the side of her brother’s house. It is a pretty massive project which she intends to finish in a month’s time. So far it is just Baily, myself and Suzanne (a local artist) who have been doing the tiling. We have had some adorable neighborhood children putting up a fish here and there.
The site is situated on a dead end street next to a canal. There is a small foot and bike bridge over the canal the has a steady flow of people going by all day. Its nice to hear all the comments and talk with everyone. It really is a social place and I am loving all the interesting characters. I feel like I should be doing more but this Island reminds you that its ok to stop, head down the canal on a kayak, run along the beach, drink a mojito, listen to some music or just look at the stars.
so when it rains it pours. We were about to leave on our trip when things started falling apart on the homefront. First the heater broke and with temperatures going down into the teens, we needed to take care of that immediately. Next came the plumbing! Our van was all packed to go and I did one last check of the house and found water leaking in the basement. Not leaving just yet. Plumber came and fixed the situation the next day and we left Friday January 9th.
First stop is the outer banks, N.C. where my sister Laura and Dan live. They were gone on vacation but offered their beach house to stay in. It was pretty cold when we arrived so the house came in handy complete with a toasty fire. We stayed the weekend and enjoyed the quiet, a few good runs and tasty dinner at Blue Point.
Monday we headed for St. Augustine. We joined a group called Boondockers and were able to find a driveway to park in for the night. The couple, Kirk and Nancy, were a very interesting, free-spirited. We had a lot of common threads and enjoyed comparing each others Sprinter vans.
Tuesday up early for coffee and the headed South. We stopped enroute at Jonathan Dickinson State Park and did a hot, sandy, and scenic 5 mile run. Wish we had more time to explore. Did some food shopping at Whole Foods in Boca Raton, (we are not in Philly anymore) and spent the rest of our day/night driving to Key West. Arrived around 11 pm.