Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Girls Night Out!

Yesterday was a good day. 

First, I got to pick up three of my paintings newly framed from Melissa at Stone Soup. She did a great job and they looked really good. After I got those, I rode on down to see Ken at 7p7 Ceramics Gallery and handed them off. He picked out a wall to display them on and we hung one up to look at it. It was exciting to see them up!

Afterwards, headed on over to my good friend Cricket's house to share the good news and catch up with her and the cutie patootie Seava, her four month old daughter. We went to Sandy's got an egg and cheese sandwich and headed for the beach. Sat down by the water and watched the sky turn beautiful colors as Seava slept soundly on her mamma's lap.

After our beach chat, I stopped by the Studios of Key West to sign up for a class and check out the latest exhibition there. It was a portrait / writers exhibit. The writers looked at the photo portraits of people they didn't know and wrote a bio for them. Really cool stuff.

Later on, met back up with Cricket and Seava to head over to Louie's backyard. We went to the opening of a new wine bar upstairs. Beautiful views and the wine bar comes complete with open kitchen and a great tapas menu. Took in the sunset and Seava even scored us a cookie when the chef came over and offered her something other than her fist to gnaw on. Way to work it, Seava!

Headed back to Cricket's place and walked to Dions gas station to pick up a 6 pack of Amstel Light. As soon as we turned the corner you could smell their signature fried chicken. It is scarily the best fried chicken you'll ever have. 

After returning home, had a beer while enjoying the hot tub in Cricket's backyard. Sitting under the stars with Seava splashing around trying to conjure up her first words, we listened to the Ipod shuffle away. The hot tub felt amazing especially after Monday's workout on the water at the kayak place. 

Cricket made us some chicken soy burgers which tasted really good and a lot like real chicken. Probably much better for you than the gas station chicken we had smelt an hour before. Life definitely does not suck.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Been cooped up the last few days ever since a cold front moved through. I know, I know - suck it up it's so much colder up here, right? When you're used to being out and about to be shut in for a few days seems like an eternity. So I was pleasantly surprised at how warm it was today. Time for a ride out to New Town to exchange a tripod!

Key West is basically split up into three parts: Old Town, Mid-Town and New Town. Old Town is where I live and it consists of old historic houses, neighborhoods and lots of local businesses. New Town has all the big chain stores, some more newer neighborhoods and Mid-Town is a hybrid of the two.

I don't ride out to New Town too often but when I do I see the coolest things. It's reflection of what is out there which is a mishmash of stores, businesses and things that don't fit into Old Town. A kind of dumping ground if you will. Ironically, there are a lot of stores that are staples in cities across this country - Home Depot, KMart, Albertsons, Sears but they look completely foreign down here. Big anonymous faces. 

In Old Town lots of locals own businesses. I try them first before venturing out to New Town. If you have local support you're going to survive. They tried to open a Hooters on Duval Street way back when putting a call out to girls everywhere but here in the Keys cause they didn't think they were pretty enough. Well that sealed their fate and it went down in a short period of time. Maybe if they had filled it with Drag Queens it would have survived.

Point is that when I go to my local burrito place, I know the owners who are behind the counter making said burrito. They work their asses off pumping love into their business and it shows - I see it first hand. We chat and I ask them how they're doing as they do me. It's nice to have a face with that burrito. 

Ultimately anyone who puts themselves out there producing something of value for the community has it's support. Isn't that the way it should be? 

It's funny that our little network of people is considered strange and quirky to most people. Something I thought of when I went in to get a lightbulb today at Home Depot. I was in search of light and there was no warm and fuzzy feeling you get when you give your money over to someone you actually know and like. It had a very empty hollow feeling. Disposable.

The local network supports most in many different ways. When we go out to local restaurants and bars, you tip big. It's a simple reason really, that money cycles to all of us and comes around right when we need it. Locals also tell tourists their favorite places cause they always want to know where to go and those businesses benefit from the support. A patchwork of people and places. If you're dealing with a local, chances are you're gonna be alright. It's good to see a face you know come through your door.

So onto New Town and the Strip Mall graveyard. I look into one store to see it had moved out only to land in Old Town. Very cool and even more so when I see their slogan "A celebration of life". Maybe that's why they moved. After a quick exchange, I walk out to see this guy selling what I originally think are pinwheels. As I get closer I realize they're are planes made out of cans. "Recycled art!" he says with a proud smile.

I ask him what he uses to get such smooth edges on the cans when we start talking about business. By the way, I love that you can get into an economical discussion with a guy who makes a living through cans. 

He's been slow lately but he also sells down at Mallory Square which is good except for the fact he's not allowed to collect tips. Most times he moonlights as a babysitter when people leave their kids with him while they watch mesmerized by the plane making. Leaving your kids for a can with a can - nice...

Cool, thanks for the update dude. All in a days networking.

Been thinking about Facebook a lot lately. I joined hesitantly because I have never really gotten the whole allure of things like MySpace and Facebook. You really can't bag on something till you try it so I joined. It's some serious entertainment. I like to people watch and this is the online version.

It's so interesting to see what people think you need to know. "Jane is washing dishes." "Dan is wondering why people wear socks." "Mike is going to bed with a hangover."  I'm just waiting to see one of my friends proclaim they are going to take a dump. I fear that day is quickly approaching.

Facebook, like any application can be good or bad depending on how you use it. I've seen some friends find jobs or houses on it. I've also seen other friends completely addicted to it. To be honest, it is constant entertainment to see what people are going to put up next cause half the time I can't believe they actually do it. I've found that when I get into conversations with people about what is really happening in their lives instead of the inane updates, the conversation stops. It's a lot different than when you have an actual conversation.

Something I discuss with some co-workers after work last night at a local bar. There's just no substitute with talking to people face to face. Afterwards, they want to check out this local "swingers" bar but that's not the type of networking I'm looking for so I say goodbye and head on home.

I think that it's easier for some to be close with people at arms length but that's exactly what you get in return. It's kinda hollow. So ok, let me see what you want me to in bits and blips but at the end of the day nothing beats a face with that burrito or a man with a can.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Elks Lodge

Watched the swearing in at the local Elks Lodge. The best part was after it ended the jukebox started playing "It's All Right" by Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions. 

Very fitting.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Yacht Week

It's yacht week. What does that mean? The snotty yachties have arrived. 

Temperatures drop, winds rage and men who like to wear nautical shirts blow into town. Lots of blue and white horizontal stripes. Land HO!!

Pretty much just imagine the scene from Caddyshack where the Judge is dressed up in his nautical best going to christen the flying WASP. 

Time to shake our booties on the poop deck!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Welcome to Fantasy Island


"Hello I am Mr. Roarke and welcome to Fantasy Island...."

Woke up this morning to find out that Mr. Roarke had died. Ricardo Montalban played one hell of magical dude who lived on an island where all of your dreams could come true. Got me thinking about how much a power hour of ABC television could plant a seed into the psyche of a child.

Saturday nights growing up were the best. Sitting with Grandma and my sister we got settled in to be transported to the other side once the Love Boat / Fantasy Island power hour began. Good God how I loved those shows! My Grandma did too but that was because she had the hots for Ricardo Montalban and cooed whenever he appeared on screen. She also liked Bob Barker but that's a whole other story.

Anyway, I watched in wonder as the Love Boat docked in exotic ports and the crew helped all their passengers realize the good things in life. Right after the boat docked it was island time which began with one simple phrase and a whole other excursion to a quirky, unexplainable spec of land in the middle of an ocean. A place that people visited in order to have all their dreams come true. 


Many people ask what it's like to live down in Key West - I'd have to say it's a lot like the Love Boat and Fantasy Island. Got me to wondering... How much of my love for those shows got me down here?

Key West is a magical place where dreams can come true. Everyday I look up as a plane flies over and gauge what the work week will be like depending on how many planes I see. 

The cruise ships dock daily and people flood the island for a couple hours scouring it with a fine tooth comb. There are a quirky cast of characters that live down here and we all connect, affecting each other while providing entertainment to all that visit.

The final nail in the coffin was recently looking at a photo of a guy I dated after first arriving down here. He was toasting friends in his formal white Carnival cruise ship suit and I did a double take as I started to see an odd resemblance to Gopher. 

Oh ABC and Aaron Spelling, what did you do to me?? It could explain why I love this place so much and find that magic happens everyday when you're living on Fantasy Island. 

So thank you Mr. Roarke. I hope you find seats of soft, Corinthian leather in heaven. 

And if you happen to catch a little Spanish woman who loves Sanka and makes the best apple tarts in the world copping a feel, don't worry, she's just trying to make all her dreams come true.

If you'd like to see how many people are affected by this little spec of magic we call home, check out Kim Narenkivicius's Secret of Salt - now in newspaper form! 

A very talented lady, she weaves together stories and images from this inspirational island.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Boat Day

Followed by pig roast.

Full Moon Fever

Catching a luminous full moon over the graveyard.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Taking the Path

"Often people attempt to live their lives backwards: they try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want so they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then do what you love to do, in order to have what you want." -- Margaret Young

Full moon madness. It's really intense down here and got me thinking the past few days. Well actually not thinking as much as doing. 

I got the strong urge to finish out things I had been putting on the backburner. It was so strong I couldn't do anything but and had to see it through. A finishing touch on the magical 2008. Things that included sending a much needed care package to my relatives in Spain to say hello and thanks for the trip of a lifetime. Is sending a 92 year old salt water taffy wrong? 

The other I have been putting off in anxiety and just plain old stubborn habit. I took three of my paintings in to Stone Soup gallery to get framed so I could hang them for sale at a local gallery. I gave every excuse not to take them in - money, time, exhaustion - but ultimately it's fear. As soon as I saw it, I recognized it. I had taken this path before and I didn't want it anymore.

A bunch of really interesting things have been sprouting up to show me the path I've created this last year. One that truly speaks to who I am and I have been forever grateful for it, bumpy road and all. Had my past show up before the year's end and I got a good look back at what I was when I was denying what I really wanted. It was an eye opener. 

Choices made that didn't speak to who I truly was and the results weren't pretty. It usually ended up in some demolition of my life to nudge me in the right direction when I begun the process to start over yet again. 

2008 began with a simple statement after another tough readjustment: "2008 is going to be my year." Boy was it. 

Once that statement was uttered, it began to lead me in so many directions that I felt like I had won the lottery. All it took was allowing the real me to start coming through. I've spent plenty of years trying to figure out who that was but it's always been there ever since the beginning and I just had to accept what I am - an artist. 

My grandmother had been such an influence in my life right from the start when she gave me a brush, a piece of paper and the invitation to join her in creating. We'd study things in her backyard and make from what we saw. She was simply magical. 

I'd constantly show her things I was doing and we'd examine it together. It happened all the way up through college until she died. One of the hardest things I had to go through and it affected my life in many different ways. I just couldn't cope with her death and the loss of my creative inspiration for she was who I thought of every time I drew. 

So I ran. Let my rational mind make up excuses like you can't make a living at this and a career in advertising was born. Still wanting to be a part of something artistic, I wound up doing something that was creative but chose the least creative part of it, the business side. Torturous, I can now see after one conversation with some artist friends about changing a piece of art in order to sell it to someone. I went off. 

A really strong emotion came up for me and I said it was compromising the artist's voice and tried to explain how horrible that is even for a small change. Still arguing with the nice gentleman who couldn't understand what I was saying since the goal he thought was to sell something, right? I tried to explain that I saw it daily in advertising and it used to get me really upset. 

We'd go off create something amazing and give it to the client who would pick things apart one by one. Make little changes until you didn't recognize it anymore and eventually thought it was a piece of crap. I continued to argue with the man: "Once you let someone change that, your vision,  you lose your sense of self and it's a hard way back."

A light bulb went on. Wow. 

One thing I realized was that I was a really bad advertising executive. The other is I was an artist all along, I just didn't want to see it. 

I used to argue with my clients all the time when they changed things - I fucking hated it. Not a good career move when you're an ad exec but really good when you're an artist. 

I realized the detour I took gave me conviction which I am now harnessing to put my works out there and not worry who thinks what about it. I like it. It's what I see. It's what I feel and that's all that matters. 

In finally accepting my path, I have chosen places and people that ultimately support me. I realize that the energy and love you put out is equal to what you get back. I love the places I work at. Whom I work for and with - all which feeds me and in turn feeds my art. Things can still be challenging but it's much easier when its in tune with what you care deeply about. Something I ponder as 2009 begins. 

I asked my co-workers what they thought 2009 would have in store for them. Most didn't know yet, hadn't really thought about it, something that happens when your daily life kicks in. 

Last night at work the guys asked me what I had been doing. I guess I had a look, a smell or something - they liked it. I shrugged as I said I didn't really know until I thought of it this morning. I just bought a travel book for my next trip - Australia. I read a bit on the pier before work last night and got really excited about all of the things I started seeing. The possibilities for the next adventure. What I saw really resonated with me and is probably the reason I started hearing Australia just as I was wrapping up Spain.

I've had a past co-worker say exactly the same thing to me once - that I looked different. That was the day I started drawing again. I guess I had a glow. Something that happens when you do what you love and let yourself shine through. 

So bring it on 2009. 

I gave my statement for what this year will be for me and got goosebumps the moment it came out of my mouth. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Catching a sunset for the first time in a while. 

Shadows are fun.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Holiday Tips

Holy holiday exhaustion. I always forget what this week is like until the end of it.  

Been working a lot and the town is very packed which is good... to a point. Everyone who works in the industry down here hits that wall and when it happens, it happens HARD. Mine was last night. 

Funny how you want people to come down here for business but the holidays tends to bring the worst out of people and it only takes a few bad apples to spoil the bunch. 

All kinds of issues bubble up for people in the week between Christmas and New Years even when they are supposed to be happily on vacation. So here's a few tourist tips to help you out:

Tourist Tip #1:
Keep your homegrown holiday issues to yourself.

I don't know if it's crappy memories of holidays past or high expectations that are impossible to meet, but the craziness starts up the week before Christmas and no one seems to acknowledge it even though it happens, EVERY SINGLE YEAR. 

So let's be blunt. Just because you have unresolved issues with: your spouse, your family, your kids, your dog, your age, your allergies, or your overall choices in life. It doesn't mean you get to be an asshole to people you don't know.

Maybe it's hard to realize that another year has gone by and nothing has changed. Or that you find yourself trapped in a hell of your own making. That's all you buddy and I'd appreciate you keeping it there.

This week I actually watched a vacationing lady yell at a Walgreens cashier because the batteries she herself had picked out and purchased were more expensive than the ones sitting right next to them at the counter where she plucked the purchase from. She yelled at her basically accusing the cashier of pulling a fast one on her. Merry F@#king Christmas!

Bottom line: Being mean to people is like a virus, once it starts it's contagious and spreads quickly. So please keep your nastiness to yourself. 

Tourist Tip #2:
Know your surroundings.

You supposedly know your kids, friends, spouse or traveling partner, right? Well don't choose places that have everything except what you want and then expect people to cater your every whim just cause you want what you can't have. You are not the "King" or "Queen" of England while you are on vacation, even though I secretly know you want to be. 

Tourism is a service industry, yes, but when you purposely set yourself up to explode into anger, disappointment and self loathing what you're really looking for is a therapist or a good S&M club. 

Bottom line: Go somewhere that will make you happy and you get what you want. We ALL want this. If you don't know what makes you happy, that's a much bigger issue (see above paragraph for suggestions).

Tourist Tip #3
Give your locals a break.

While you are having fun exploring our little island, we locals give up our beaches, favorite places and spaces so you can enjoy. This also extends to the basic daily routines like picking up coffee cream at the grocery store except you manuver around a hundred extra people only to find it's sold out. It can be frustrating.

If you still can't understand why your locals have a case of the cranky kringleberries, I'll explain it a different way. 

Imagine being locked in a room with a whiny, needy, person that you don't really hate, but your nerves get grated with each unreasonable request. I imagine it's the reason you decided to go away for the holidays and not celebrate it with your extended family back home. 

Well, now you know why - except we're not related.

Many of us are working hard to make sure you have a good time. We are exhausted but very grateful you are here. Treat people like human beings and they will do the same for you in return. Didn't little baby Jesus say "Do unto others..." or some shit like that? Ok, try it. It works wonders.

Bottom line: All of us need a break over the holidays. These aren't just tourist tips, they can be used in Anytown USA and beyond. Ease up a bit on people and you will be greatly appreciated.

So that's it. I'll post more pics when I get a chance to revisit my favorite places.