When you walk around Key West, as opposed to driving, you tend to get up close and personal with the island. You see a lot more detail on foot rather than through a dirty window whizzing by. Sometimes that’s good, sometimes, not so much. But it is interesting if nothing else. Take the walk from my current home at the marina to US 1, a distance of about ½ a mile.
To start with, the marina shares the same entrance road as the local jail/sheriff dept./homeless shelter. If you go a walking out early in the morning you get to share the road with those who have spent the night, courtesy of the local law enforcement. These people have just been released on bail or whatever and are making an attempt to return to whatever pitiful life they left the night before. Usually they looked shell shocked, having not had a restful night of slumber, and a bit confused. They are still clutching a paper bag with all their belongings that were taken from them the night before and if they see anyone who looks remotely not like a cop, they will ask for a cigarette. A sure sign that the night they spent in stir did nothing to rehabilitate them.
Moving on, out of the entrance road there is a bike/walk path on the opposite side where I always trudge on my merry way. It’s narrow and you have to move out of the way for bikes as they don’t, but it’s usable. As you head out towards US 1 you go by the local golf course. Now you know how I feel about golf. I consider it to be one of the most useless endeavors known to man. But others appear to want to play. I won’t say enjoy playing as every time I walk by the course I never see anyone enjoying themselves out there. Everyone is swinging away at stuff, walking in the heat, and bitching. I have yet to see anyone smile or laugh out there. Maybe it’s all the ducks and iguanas that get in the way, whatever. It’s a damn stupid game.
There is one guy who takes advantage of the locality of the course. One enterprising urban outdoorsman has created a small business by riding his bike around the outskirts of the grounds and scooping up all the lost golf balls. When I saw him the other day he had several bags of said balls in his bike basket and was packaging them into handy smaller containers. He would then stand along the fences of the grounds showing his wares and presumably, golfers in need of more balls to lose, or looking for a bargain would come over and buy them from him. The only impediment he faced was some fat security guard who the golf course had hired to chase away all the other urban outdoorsmen who hung out along the fence line as it is peaceful, shady, and provides a somewhat protected place to catch some shut eye. And judging by the girth of said security guard, a few rounds on the course would not be a bad idea for his fat ass. It’s still a dumb game.
Moving on down the road, the next feature is not so happy. It’s the county SPCA. The SPCA has been in this one spot for many years. The grounds are poorly kept, cages are small, and the building way beyond any economical usefulness. When it rains heavily, the grounds flood and all the animals have to be moved out of their cages and into higher quarters. It’s muddy, dirty, and smells, even for a animal pound. The cages face directly on the footpath and when you walk by you get to see all kinds of dogs. Some growl at you, others wag their tail, many just look sad and forlorn. Many come down here with a pet when they move, and then abandon said pet when they leave. It’s a major problem. There is a sign they had to put up that says to please not throw the animal over the fence when leaving it. Instead they have an after hours drop off in back.
Despite the conditions the animals seem to be taken care of. Volunteers and those doing community service will walk the dogs every day. I don’t know how they are with killing animals, there is no such thing as a “no kill” shelter, but I do see many of the dogs wearing the tell tale cone which means they are at least getting spayed and neutered. As with any shelter they rely largely on donations to keep going.
There is an upside for the future though. The county has come through with some money and the shelter is to be moved to newer and less floody digs in the near future. Nevertheless, it’s a sad place to look at right now.
Just past the shelter is the bus stop. The one on the east side has a bench and shade. On the other side is just a sign and a large cleared out area. This spot is the staging area for the urban outdoorsmen who are seeking a place to sleep at the local shelter, which just happens to be located over beside the marina. Between the hours of 5:00 and 7:00 in the evening they all gather up to be counted and then with the help of some local volunteers, perform the march of the living dead over to the shelter. When they leave in the morning, many just hang at the other bus stop until they find bus fare, get hungry, or be told to move on.
The shelter is also scheduled to be relocated. The HOA at the marina, citing crime, noise, smell, and property values, successfully sued the county into moving said shelter away from the marina area. More then a few times I’ve seen some of the stragglers from the shelter hanging out at the free tables. The new shelter is to be built at a building right behind the bus stop meaning the parade of homeless will stay away from the marina grounds.
I should note here that for the most part, these homeless are harmless, but…they will try to hit you up for money, drugs, booze, a ride, or whatever else they need. They will try to start up a conversation for any reason. Ignore them, do not make eye contact and you will be okay. It’s a real problem on this island and the Keys in general with urban outdoorsmen and little is being done about it. Sure, some are just crazy, but many are burnouts who just want to drink/smoke/drug their way through life. Use some common sense and caution.
Next on this grand tour is a rather odd little place. It’s a small building surrounded by a fence. The sign to the entrance claims it to be a retirement home. But in all the times I have passed I have not seen one single, “resident”. There are what looks like rooms with small screened in porches but they all seem empty. There is also a small courtyard that must have been designed by a real sadist. No shade, and the two benches out there are painted solid black. In the heat of the day these things will burn the shit out of bare skin. I’m not sure what kind of “retirement” home this is but it looks scary and out of place. I’ve a feeling this is one of those places where one never leaves.
The last stop before hitting US 1 is a bit more cheerful. It’s a large botanical garden open to the public. I’ve never been in but it appears to contain many exotic plants and gardens that one can wonder through. During the past holiday they held a huge egg hunt that attracted hundreds of people. Looks like a pretty cool place to visit if you are into that sort of thing.
And finally, you are there, at US 1. From there to the east you can walk the path up, cross the road to get to all the small stores and such on the south side. To the west, cross over Cow Key channel and you are at the triangle of US 1, and North & South Roosevelt. The whole walk don’t take but 15 minutes but there is a lot to see in just a short time.
Still better than driving.