Sunday, February 11, 2018

Flying Fat Albert -- Grounded!

During the time we stayed on Cudjoe Key last year we enjoyed seeing Fat Albert in the sky. It was a great way to see wind direction and just cool to see a blimp aloft.

We looked forward to seeing it again this year but Fat Albert has been grounded. Too bad, just think what a dramatic addition it would have made to the planned military parade. ; - )

See details below in article from the Florida Rambler.


Oh NO! ‘Fat Albert’ is biting the dust

Fat Albert on Cudjoe Key
Fat Albert
Fat Albert, the iconic blimp that has hovered over the Lower Keys for more than 30 years, is being grounded, the apparent victim of Pentagon budget cuts, according to the Key West Citizen newspaper.
The blimp, actually a blimp-shaped Air Force surveillance balloon, has been tethered to its base on Cudjoe Key since 1980, cast a watchful eye over Cuba, the Florida Straits and the Gulf of Mexico.
The demise of Fat Albert, as its affectionately known, has long stirred the imaginations of Keys residents and visitors, feeding the notorious, saloon-fed “Conch Line” with speculation on its “real purpose.” It was once accompanied by a twin that transmitted signals into Cuba in support of TV Marti, the U.S. State Department’s propaganda machine.
Fat Albert
 It is generally accepted, though, that Fat Albert supported radar that sweeps surrounding seas for smugglers, military movements, refugee boats and other maritime activity that have frequently plagued this sprawling web of islands at Florida’s boot.
Coast Guard Capt. Al Young told the Citizen that they would have preferred that Fat Albert remain in place to assist the Coast Guard with its anti-smuggling activities.
“Its presence has deterrent value to illicit trafficking here in the area — both human and drug trafficking,” Capt. Young told the Citizen. “And it also allows us, here at the Coast Guard, to maintain real-time visibility of air and surface resources.”
Keys residents launched a petition drive to save Fat Albert via the White House’ “We The People” online program, but the petition fell far short of the 100,000 signatures needed for action.
For more on the story, go to Key West Citizen article  on 

The Coraline Christy Family in the Florida Keys

Meet Coraline and her parents, Sarah and Brian. We invited Cora to visit for a few days and she asked her parents to accompany her.

It has been a fun visit. We've had our picture taken at the "Southernmost Point," walked the length of Duval Street, checked out Captain Tony's, strolled along the marina boardwalk, had dinner on the waterfront at Geiger Key Fish Camp, visited Bahia Honda state park, played on the backyard beach, and went for walks to the neighborhood park and playground where Cora enjoyed the swings and the slide. She especially loves the hot tub. Yesterday we celebrated her ten month birthday.

Her mom and dad are less than a year into the parenting experience but have taken the addition to their twosome completely in stride. They are confident and at ease dealing with the daily demands of an infant. For her part, Cora is quick to smile and laugh and, if she is frustrated or otherwise believes there is a cloud in her sky, the smile is back in the next instant.

Cora is the first "grand-niece" on my side of the family. (Her counterpart on Billy's side of the family is Caroline, the one-year-old daughter of Kathy Cipriani Trobee and her husband Ryan. We hope to see her this summer.) It has been a joy to get to know her a bit. Hope you enjoy getting to meet her as well.

Celebrating Cora's ten-month birthday.

Unhappy with the news of the day -- woman after my own heart. P.S. - Check out the Key West tie die shirt.

Early start to her yoga practice.

Enjoying a Corona with lime wedge - a woman after her father's heart.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

An Evening with Arlo Guthrie and Family


The Key West Theatre dates back to 1848 when it was build to serve as theBaptistt Church of Key West. It later became a dance club and a concert venue before being transformed into its current status as a fully working performing arts center. As such it presents music, concerts, theatrical, productions, comedy & variety specials and locally produced Key West events.

Small venues are my favorite way to see musical artists so I was happy to discover Arlo Guthrie would be in concert there during our stay in the Keys.

The surprise was the cabaret style of seating at narrow table set perpendicular to the stage with individual seats small enough to rival coach on an economy airline. Could be OK if you were with a group of friends, but otherwise too cramped and vulnerable to inebriated fans who alternated between shouting at the stage and bouts of ululation. My immediate neighbors were fine, Billy's not so much.

Nice concert from a musician who feels like an old friend and his extremely talented daughter, Sarah, Lee, and her husband.

This family has a rich musical history and has continued to be immersed in its development and performance.

Arlo established the Guthrie Foundation and Center. According to him  "The Foundation and the Center are dedicated to all those around the world who believe that there is one truth and infinite ways to approach it. As the world becomes smaller we must find ways to embrace the spiritual journeys of those whose traditions are different, without abandoning our own. We must also seek ways to preserve our greatest cultural heritage and find ways to support one another in difficult times. The skills needed for a healthy future are different from the ones needed to preserve the past, and both are required to live in the moment."

The following are excerpts from his official biography.

Arlo Guthrie was born with a guitar in one hand and a harmonica in the other, in Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York in 1947. He is the eldest son of America's most beloved singer/writer/philosopher Woody Guthrie and Marjorie Mazia Guthrie, a professional dancer with the Martha Graham Company and founder of The Committee to Combat Huntington's Disease.

He grew up surrounded by dancers and musicians: Pete Seeger, Ronnie Gilbert, Fred Hellerman and Lee Hays (The Weavers), Leadbelly, Cisco Houston, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, all of whom were significant influences on Arlo's musical career. Guthrie gave his first public performance in 1961 at age 13 and quickly became involved in the music that was shaping the world. Over the next few years, Arlo inherited his father's friend Pete Seeger and the two toured together, between demonstrations, beginning in the late 60's. They continued doing over a dozen shows together almost every year for the next 40 years creating a legendary collaboration that continues to this day. The last Pete & Arlo show was in November 2012 at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

Arlo practically lived in the most famous venues of the "Folk Boom" era. In New York City he hung out at Gerdes Folk City, The Gaslight, and The Bitter End. In Boston's Club 47, and in Philadelphia he made places like The 2nd Fret and The Main Point his home. He witnessed the transition from an earlier generation of ballad singers like Richard Dyer-Bennet and blues-men like Mississippi John Hurt, to a new era of singer-songwriters such as Bob Dylan, Jim Croce, Joan Baez, and Phil Ochs. He grooved with the beat poets like Allen Ginsburg and Lord Buckley and picked with players like Bill Monroe and Doc Watson. He learned something from everyone and developed his own style, becoming a distinctive, expressive voice in a crowded community of singer-songwriters and political-social commentators.

Arlo Guthrie's career exploded in 1967 with the release of "Alice's Restaurant", whose title song premiered at the Newport Folk Festival helped foster a new commitment among the '60s generation to social consciousness and activism. Arlo went on to star in the 1969 Hollywood film version of "Alice's Restaurant", directed by Arthur Penn. With songs like "Alice's Restaurant", too long for radio airplay; "Coming into Los Angeles", banned from many radio stations (but a favorite at the 1969 Woodstock Festival); and the definitive rendition of Steve Goodman's "City of New Orleans", Guthrie was no One-Hit-Wonder. An artist of international stature, he has never had a 'hit' in the usual sense. He has usually preferred to walk to his own beat rather than march in step to the drum of popular culture. Over the last five decades, Guthrie has toured throughout North America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia winning a wide, popular following. In addition to his accomplishments as a musician, playing the piano, six and twelve-string guitar, harmonica and a dozen other instruments, Arlo is a natural-born storyteller, whose tales and anecdotes figure prominently in his performances.

Arlo Guthrie, Rising Son Records and The Guthrie Center & Foundation are on the World Wide Web at

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Visitors and a Visit to the Hemingway House

Bill's older brother Bob and his wife, Betty, drove down from their home in Simpsonville, SC, to stay with us for a week. Our time with them was made more special when Bob's daughters -- Jeni Russ and Deanne Fitzpatrick -- joined us.

We had a blast. A tour of the Hemingway House was the highlight of the day we spent together in Key West.

 The great man's writing room. According to our guide, Hemingway came here daily and stayed until he had written 700 words. At that point, he departed for his favorite watering hole to imbibe and recover from his exhausting ordeal.

 This large pool, the first in Key West, was constructed by his second wife, Pauline, at a cost of $20,000. The site was previously occupied by Ernest's boxing ring. She removed that while he was on an extended trip that involved a tryst with his latest lover. Perhaps a soupcon of revenge on Pauline's part?

As unhappy as Hemingway was to discover his beloved boxing ring had been replaced by a hole in the ground filled with water, the salt in the wound was its extragagent cost. Rumor has it he told Pauline if she was going to spend his money like that she might as well take his last red cent and ended his declaration by tossing a penny on the ground. Said penny is now embedded in the concrete near the pool.
Many cats, some with six toes, roam the house and grounds. This one is named Bogie

Cats are a major theme, even appearing in the curtains hung at the upstairs windows.

Then there's the urinal Hemingway liberated from a local bar and installed on the grounds as a watering dish for the cats. It fell short of Pauline's design standards so she added a large urn in an effort at disguise, or at least deflection.

Ernest Hemingway married four times. His wives are pictured below in the order in which they exchanged vows. 

A bit of a non sequiter but I found it interesting -- an antique birthing stool used as part of the bedroom decor.

Our tour guide -- she did an excellent job. Great voice and very knowledgeable.

I will close by intoducing you to three outstanding women: Jeni Bowles Russ, Betty Holloway Bowles, and Deanne Bowles Fitzpatrick. Bob Bowles is a fortunate man!

Friday, December 08, 2017

Fishing and Crabbing and a Surprise

Billy decided to try his hand at catching some blue crabs. My assignment was to be the "netter." This was a task I approached with some trepidation, knowing the likely consequences of failing to net one that was on the line. You don't want to disappoint the Captain!

Down to the dock we went. It wasn't long before one took the bait. The trick is to pull the line in very slowly and steadily and to get the net under them without them seeing it. The net has to be below the water's surface and then quickly moved under the crab in case he sees a motion that makes him turn loose the bait. I netted all but the first one which was kind of small anyway. Only male crabs can be kept and they must meet minimum size.

Mr. Blue Crab

Careful, they bite!
They chow down on the bait in short order so, in addition to pulling in the line when a crab was on, Billy had to keep the other line in to catch bait fish. That takes a smaller hook than the crab line. After a several bait fish and two large branches that were hurricane debris, something big hit the baitfish line. I grabbed the net and we were both surprised to see a nurse shark on the small hook. I netted him but he almost immediately started coming through the net. I got him on the dock and Bill took over to work on getting the hook out. No need, Mr. Shark took care of that, just like he took care of the net.
Checking out the baitfish

We hauled him back from the edge of the dock and Googled whether a nurse shark was good to eat and what size it needed to be to keep it. Turns out they are nothing special to eat and must be 54" long to keep. Bill estimated ours was about four feet. He was heavy; skin was thick with a uniform texture, like fine sandpaper but softer. We turned him loose.

The photos below were taken while the nurse shark was being reeled in -- a job well done given the light line and small hook.

The captioned photo is one from the site of the Key West aquarium and was included for comparison purposes.


Official Aquarium Photo

We ended up with about a half-dozen blue crabs and had a crab boil for dinner. Lots of work to pick out the meat but excellent flavor made it worthwhile. Earlier this week, the ocean provided a mess of snapper for supper. Also an excellent meal.