17 June 2009


“Jó reggelt” is what I say if I wander into the Starbucks here. I can greet shop assistants with “Добрый день.” I can even walk into a bar, say “dzień dobry” and order piwo. I was planning on learning Spanish when we came to Key West (there was also something about kayaking to Havana); it turns out that I can practice Romanian and Russian just as easily. I hear as much Russian spoken around the island as I do Spanish. What’s up with all the Slavic Conchs?

They all came here to work. It started in the ‘90s; someone secured a labor contract to bring workers to the big hotels and restaurants, and it continues today. Mostly, they are here legally, working as cooks, dishwashers, waiters, bartenders, chambermaids, bellmen, receptionists, and shop assistants. Some have been here so long, they’ve gone native: Zbyszek Gallery on Fleming is owned by a Polish artist and his American wife.

There are even two Eastern European markets one right next each other on White. I can find Georgian wines, Russian and Czech beer, good cheese, real sausages, and the usual selection of caned and pickled goods that every Eastern European market stocks. We can have sarmale this Christmas without having to pickle our own cabbage! I just have to convince them to stock some Romanian wines, and we're set.

14 June 2009

This time, last year

back home - pool, shopping, margaritas, and Sedona with G

09 June 2009

Good Ideas

"I was drunk and I thought it was a good idea." I keep hearing this phrase when I read the Citizen (KW's newspaper) crime reports. I imagine this was what the man that jumped off of a cruise ship said, long after the annoyance of all the passengers who missed their mangrove kayak tours wore off. Perhaps the guy who lost his black oxford in the ocean (found by a sour faced old lady in the morning) said the same thing after he went in forgetting he had shoes on, or threw his shoe at the ocean in protest, or...

I cannot stop laughing at some of the "I thought it was a good idea" moments (and there are a lot around here): trying to fight off the sheriff deputies with a sword (unleashing his inner pirate?); welcoming the new year by hitting another man over the head with a champagne bottle (I guess a kiss may or may not have resulted in the other guy hitting him, preemptive, right?); 98 people joining a 100 person bar brawl (I am assuming only two people actually knew what they were fighting about). Anyone who tells you that there is no thought going on just before these decisions are made is wrong. There absolutely is thought, just very impaired thought. Thought that leads to a sudden realization that you are a super hero and you are only now figuring this out. And, of course, you need to test out your super hero powers.

Walking home in the heat from an evening out, I had a good idea. I was not drunk, just increasingly hot and annoyed that I had to walk three miles back in the heat just to avoid the possibility of a DUI. After just two drinks, technically, my blood alcohol level would be close to or above the legal limit, even if I am fine to drive. So, either I stick to one drink, or we walk. Brad won't drink at all if he's going to drive - probably the best approach, but not my approach (maybe because I am always the one that has to drive). I thought, why suffer through the heat all the way home, and instead ride bicycles. Great idea, right? Everyone rides bikes around town.

Apparently, drinking and cycling is illegal - almost everywhere. It is still considered driving under the influence, or driving while intoxicated, depending on where you live. So, we're now in the same situation as before. Either we walk or we drive. But, there is a parking problem in Old Town - there is none.

So, what if the DD rides the bike, and the other simply rides on the back? It is after all just a few miles. Still illegal? Probably... a safety issue, or something like that. What about a tandem bike? Does the drunk on the back still get a ticket? "But, officer, I wasn't pedaling." Frankly, the one in control of the bike (the one steering), not the idiot on the back sticking his legs out (because you know it's going to happen), should be the determining factor. I don't see passengers getting DUIs even when they are doing things that will end with the phrase "I was drunk and I thought it was a good idea" the next morning.

Or, to make it all easier, we could just drive and I can stick to one drink...

05 June 2009

This time, last year

Grand Canyon North Rim

We spent the last two nights of the Road Trip at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The first day we got there, we set up camp, hiked for a few hours, and then enjoyed a very nice evening by the fire. We thought the best way to end the trip would be to roast hot dogs and marshmallows on the fire our last night before coming home. 

The next day we hiked around the North Rim; it was sunny with no signs of any storm all day long. When we came back to camp and started the fire, the sky grew ominous, and then... dumped monsoon type rain drops, then hail, and finally snow. We climbed in the tent, listened to the thunder, rain, hail, and then the silence that comes with a snowfall.

We started to worry about roasting our dinner when the hail turned into snow with no signs of letting up. This was not just an early summer storm. We also had nothing to eat other than what we had planed to cook on the fire and a of couple apples. We waited. Finally, after reading, playing cards, and some general thumb twiddling, we gave up and had our hot dogs unroasted in the tent. It was one of the most unappetizing meals I have ever had. 

At the camp ground, we were one of only two groups sleeping in a tent. Everyone else had campers or RVs. The couple right next to us was watching TV inside their RV, probably admiring the snow fall! I cursed them (my comments becoming increasingly inappropriate) each time I had to climb out of the tent to go to the bathroom and then shake the snow off of me before I got back into the tent.

We spent the night listening to the storm and arguing about wether we should just leave and drive back in the middle of the night. At one point a thunderous crash woke us up - it was still snowing. We spent a while trying to figure out if something fell on top of the Jeep, but neither of us wanted to get out of our sleeping bags to see. The next morning I saw it: a 5 foot long, 1 foot wide branch had fallen about six inches away from the tent. At least the car was OK.

We got up around 4 the next morning and, in near silence, literally threw everything into the car (we didn't even bother to fold the tent after we took out the poles). The other two guys who also spent the night in their tent were rolling up their camp just as hurriedly and grumpily as we were. All the other bastards were still asleep in their warm campers and RVs. I didn't mention the giant branch to Brad until we were 3 hours away drinking coffee and eating McMuffins, thinking it best not to start the "we should have just left last night" argument before we had something to eat.

Not exactly the way we wanted to end the Road Trip. But, the June snow was pretty....

dinner in the tent - cold hot dogs, cold beer, and apples - and heavy duty sweaters, hats, and gloves. We never did open up the marshmallows. 

01 June 2009


Hurricane season officially starts today. But, supposedly, June's too soon (to worry?), and in July we're meant to only stand-by. Even so, tropical storm season has definitely started. I am timing my runs based on what weather.com tells me, and the forecast says thunderstorms for the next 10 days. 

I welcome the clouds! The first few weeks here were so damn sunny I couldn't go outside without sunglasses or else I'd be blinded. That might sound dramatic, but it's true, really. I didn't think it was possible for a place to be brighter than Phoenix - I found it. In Phoenix, there are at least mountains and tall-ish (everything is relative) buildings and trees that break up the landscape. Here, nothing is taller than a palm, which offers little shade from the stupid, stupid sun, which seems to be directly overhead all day long. 

I especially welcome the thunderstorms. When we lived in Portland, I really missed the monsoon thunderstorms in Phoenix, and that smell right before the rain starts (which is even better in the desert). There are no real thunderstorms in Portland, and I never smelled that smell there, even with all of that Northwest rain. A real thunderstorm rattles all of the windows, lights up the sky, and drops more than 2 inches of rain in an hour. Here, there are real thunderstorms - with brilliant lightning, and with rain that pounds the house so hard I wonder if the roof is going to collapse. And this is just the beginning! 
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