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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Key West Community vs Mainland Mentality "One Human Family" ... plus, Traffic Headaches

^ Listen to the benefit as you read the blog! Recorded by Gary Ek via the streaming video^

Key West Community vs Mainland Mentality “ONE HUMAN FAMILY”

Talk about a great community! Two newcomers to the island jumped two employees of the Green Parrot at closing time. Knocked Adam “Dude” out cold and Tim “Mookie” Grandy’s ankle was actually crushed to the point that he has two plates in it and his leg has 17 screws on one side and five on the other. The town is outraged. This is something we’d expect to hear of from the mainland. A common phrase we hear on the island is “This is not the real world” and when the real world came crashing into our island, the community all bonded together for a HUGE fundraiser for our fellow Conch Republic citizens at the Green Parrot last Saturday. My guess is that there had to be at least 1000 supporters over the afternoon benefit. Both Dude and Tim were able to attend the event as well. Performers The Muse Gurus, Caffeine Carl and Nick Norman, Key West Chris (thanks Edwy and John!), Ericson Holt, Robert Albury, Richard Crooks, Tim McAlpine, and Fritz handling guitar duties as well as sound. Tom Luna was the MC for the event and had everyone in stitches and kept the ball rolling throughout the event. Auctions were held throughout the event, as well as three 50/50 drawings. One note on the 50/50 drawings: Each of the three drawings would award the winner roughly $500, with the other $500 going to the cause. Every winner of the three rounds tossed their winnings back into the cause!

In addition to the Green Parrot, bars across the island also were giving their bar tips to the cause during the event at the Parrot, which I find just amazing! Additionally, bartenders from other bars were helping out at The Parrot outside in front on the sidewalk selling beer. I saw Vicky from Schooner working her tail off. Also, prior to this event being held, bars such as 2 Cents, did likewise for special fund raising events of their own.

Key West all came together in support of their own and to support the values we collectively stand for, as well as our own island way of life.

Note: Center picture in the collage of Tim (in wheelchair) and Dude is by Johnny White and


Key West has revised its speed limit over the entire island to 20 MPH. In my viewpoint, this makes sense. It’s safer and with so many pedestrians and bicyclists around, it’s really the only way to go. Besides, if you’re in Key West, what’s the point? There’s no rush, you’re on “Island Time”.

The Florida Keys are always rated as one of the most scenic drives in the United States. Over one hundred miles, island hopping on a highway that spans the Florida Keys , with the Atlantic Ocean on your left and the Gulf of Mexico on your right, as you travel south. This is a great way to see the Keys and I highly recommend it to anyone who is headed this way. Even more than that, I suggest if you’re coming to Key West this way, to take a couple of overnight stops and experience what Keys Tranquility really is, After all, Key West to us is actually “The Big City”.

Once you get to Key West and check in, the absolute smartest thing is to ditch your car and don’t dream of using it until you plan on leaving the island. Parking is a pain in the ass. If you park in a residential spot, just count on being towed. If in desperation you find a parking spot on the other side of the street and park against traffic, you WILL get a ticket. Parking in a pay parking lot is WAY TOO EXPENSIVE!!! Park your car in the hotel parking and forget about it! Please do yourself this favor. You come to Key West to relax, so like the song goes “You came here to unwind, so why get all wound up?" So, get a bicycle, or walk. Forget the scooters. The hospital is full of people who never rode a scooter, or do so infrequently and end up with a bad case of road rash, or broken bones… sometime making the ultimate sacrifice in the quest of the next bar.

Speaking of a related subject (and yet another reason to ditch the car), the State of Florida has embarked on completely revising N. Roosevelt Blvd/Truman Ave. from White Street to the beginning of the island, just off the Cow Key Bridge from Stock Island. Regretfully, instead of repaving, which would have taken several weeks, City Hall voted that an entire make over was due. So, instead of a three to five week inconvenience, we’re looking at a two and a half year major project that will severely disrupt traffic all over the island. I had been saying this for more than a year, as it will affect businesses throughout the island, regardless of their proximity to the construction area. Traffic right now is complete chaos, with detours and long traffic jams everywhere.

Back when the Conch Republic seceded from the U.S. it was because there was a road block at the Last Chance Saloon, in Florida City, at the end of the eighteen mile stretch, hence, the northern most boarder of the Conch Republic is The Last Chance Saloon. The U.S. government was searching all vehicles for “Illegal Aliens”, looking in trunks, back seats, under seats, and glove boxes. This, of course resulted in miles and miles of long delays. Naturally, there were no delays whatsoever heading into the Keys. Make that of which you may, as that’s another story unto itself, however at the time the Florida Keys earned the motto “The Florida Keys: You can get in, but you can’t get out”. Tourism plummeted.. and for those who might not know, Tourism is the #1 business in Key West.

So today we have history not only repeating itself, albeit in a different guise, but also actually augmenting itself, as not only can one not get out, but additionally, one cannot get in either! Good morning! Personally, I feel that repaving and patching the sea wall where needed and that would have been acceptable. However, for this complete makeover is just a folly. The inconvenience factor will be paid by the tourists, citizens, and businesses. “Key West: The City You Can’t Get In Or Out Of”.



Tuesday, August 7, 2012

SEAPLANES!! CUBA and Jonell Mosser!!!


^ Listen to the demo of “The Things We Always Knew”, which a proper version is slated for the next CD^

Seaplane and Prop Update

Back in March I reported, after reading in the local paper, that the American Eagle turbo props, the last prop airline servicing Key West, would be discontinuing their turbo prop service to Key West as of April 5th. Well, here we are in August and the American Eagle ATR 72’s continue to serve Key West. In checking on the internet, it seems that at this point, the props will continue until around November, or so. As I suggested back in March, I strongly recommend that some airlines should look into the Antilles Seaplanes G21 Super Goose to serve both Key West and perhaps the Caribbean, based out of Key West. A brand new seaplane featuring turbo prop engines and state of the art electronics, housed in a classic design.(On a curious note: That particular blog gets the most hits from all over the world week to week!) Pan American started here serving Cuba via Key West as America’s first airline. A Key West to Ocho Rios would be ideal, as would Key West to Grand Cayman, not to mention other ports of call throughout the Caribbean. Key West, in many ways, is akin to stepping back in time when one visits. Adding a prop service to and from the island would be such an enhancement to that theme, not only for those flying in, but also for everyone who has the opportunity to see the planes flying in as well. Add to that, we’re also talking about a seaplane and it just augments the idea one hundred fold. Like the Phil Collins lyric goes “Is anybody listening?”


How does Cuba have a tie in with Key West? Prior to the English taking possession, Key West, then known as Cayo Hueso (say “cai oh WAY so”, which translates to Bone Key), was colloquially known as “North Havana” in Cuba. Only ninty miles apart, Key West and Havana are naturally sister cities. To this day, the Cuban connection with Key West is very strong and old. In the 1800’s Cubans had over 150 cigar factories in Key West and also set up a school for their children on Duval St. named The San Carlos Institute. Though no longer a school, The San Carlos Institute exists to this day and is a majestic building open to the public. On a related note; we recorded the rhythm section to “Shanghai’d and Marooned In Key West (things could be worse)” in the auditorium of the San Carlos.*(see end of blog)

To start with, myself, I am no supporter of a communist system. In essence in its true form when broken down to the essentials, it’s the same as a fascist system, in that you have one guy who dresses up in a military uniform and runs the country with an iron fist, to his liking. Hitler, Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, Pinochet, Castro, Stroessner, Mussolini, Samosa, Ortega, Ceausescu, Franco, …. Communist or fascist, it’s all a one man ego show and in most cases, the only way to get them out of power is if they die, be it natural causes, like Mao, Stalin, and Franco, or die a violent death as a consequence of their failures, as in the case of Hitler, Samosa, or Mussolini. No, I prefer a democracy, thanks!

Having stated that, if I wished to go on a vacation to Red China, as a U.S. citizen all I need to do is get a visa and I’m off to see that fascinating country, Great Wall and all. I would stay in hotels there, eat at fancy restaurants, travel the country side and meet all kinds of interesting people. I can do the same with Viet Nam. As a matter of fact, a childhood friend of mine, Robbie Eddy, has lived in communist Viet Nam for years and years, has a business there as a recording engineer and is finishing up a new studio. It’s not as though he went there and was seeking asylum. He went there and started a business and comes back to the U.S. at his discretion and remains a U.S. citizen working abroad, an ex-pat, if you will.

Then of course we have Cuba. I find it odd that as a U.S. citizen, I cannot travel to Cuba without jumping through hoops of fire, yet I can travel to other communist countries, live and even start a business there, fairly easily. One of the key rules we, as U.S. citizens have in traveling to Cuba, is that technically we can go, but we can’t spend any money. In other words, if I actually traveled to Cuba I could be tossed in a federal prison if I so much as bought a five cent Cuban Coffee in Havana. Point is, you can’t last a half a day anywhere without spending money, so Cuba is off limits and if you go you’re automatically guilty, most likely will be arrested on your return to the U.S. if you are honest and say you went there.

On the flip side; if a Cuban refugee who sailed on a raft, landed, say in Key West a few years ago and wanted to go back and visit their relatives, it’s no problem! They can get on a plane in Miami, (soon to be added, Key West) fly to Havana, see their relatives, spend money, even give relatives money. In addition to that, that same Cuban refugee living in Miami can wire money, the exact same U.S. dollars that say natural born U.S. citizen Christopher R. Rehm, born January 3 in Newark, N.J. is forbidden to use in Cuba, to their relatives in Cuba.

As an American citizen, and someone who fully supports The Constitution of The United States of America one hundred percent, I find all of this appalling. We’re dealing with double standards on every level.
As a citizen of the United States of America, I was brought up that this is the land of the free! However, while I’m more than welcome to go and actually make investments in communist Beijing, I cannot go spend five cents in Havana on a Cuban coffee. That’s not being “Free”.

Meanwhile my neighbor, who floated across the Straits of Florida (God bless him) for a more prosperous life here a few years ago, can go there with fistfuls of cash to spend or give to his relatives.

A very accurate phrase which can be used to describe that situation is: “Discrimination against a U.S. Citizen by the government in Washington D.C.” . Plain and simple: The United States Government is offering a much higher level of freedoms (Note: Plural) to a foreigner, than they are to a natural born United States citizen. What’s wrong with this picture?

Let’s be clear on this; I’m not suggesting we take away the refugee’s abilities to visit and support their families in Cuba. What I’m saying is that I, as a United States Citizen demand, at the very least minimum, the same rights, if not more than are currently offered to the Cuban Refugees.

The rules have been relaxed to a minor degree about a year and a half ago, pertaining to educational and religious trips, but it’s still a major fire hoop you have to jump through to do it. It is not as though you just get your passport and hop a jet to Havana, as it was pre 1960 and granted, perhaps it shouldn’t be that easy. However, the restrictions put on the American citizen regarding traveling to Cuba in this day and age, need to be seriously be revised.

Meanwhile, as Communist China is in the process of launching a nuclear aircraft carrier, multiple nuclear submarines, stealth fighters, and a military space program, Cuba is a poverty stricken country, with most of the people looking to where their next meal is coming from. Their system sucks however and I am of the opinion that if money filters into the hands of the people, the system will change, just as it did in Poland, Russia, Hungry, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Ukraine, Belarus, Bulgaria… ex.

I have never gone to Cuba, but as you can see, I’d love to go. My first wife was from Cuba and I find the idea quite alluring. On the flip side I consider myself a law abiding citizen and I’ll wait for the rules to change. Additionally, I think the embargo and restrictions originally put on Cuba by the US, was justified for four decades, or so. However, times and conditions change. So, in the meantime, I’ll hop on my soapbox to voice my opinion. I may be discriminated against the way things are currently; others have the freedom and I don’t, but I still have freedom of speech to voice my opinion.

Jonell Mosser

On the music front we had a big buzz going on around town as Jonell Mosser hit the Hog’s Breath Saloon. The word on both the street and the Coconut Telegraph was that Ms. Mosser is the female vocalist of choice for producer Don Was. Quite a lofty accomplishment when one looks at Mr. Was’ productions which include The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, John Mayer, Al Green, Bonnie Raitt…the list goes on and on.

I wandered over to the Hog’s Breath to catch her show and Mike McAdam, who divides his life between Nashville, Key West and the road, put together a band for her, which also included Ericson Holt on keyboards. Jonell Mosser was indeed a treat to listen to! What a great show she put on as well. Later when I talked to her on the break, was a delightful and fun woman, who laughed easily. The only disappointment was that she doesn’t live in Key West because she’d make a great fit here!

One complete surprise was her smoky, slow version of “Stop In The Name Of Love”… quite different than the version made famous by the Supremes. All I could do was smile ear to ear! Her recorded version of the song was produced by… you guessed it! Don Was.

Something like this also just reinstates what an amazing place Key West is as far as music goes. You can walk into a place like The Hog’s Breath, Smokin’ Tuna, The Green Parrot, Schooner Wharf and catch world class music. There’s no cover charge either. If a place started charging a cover charge, there are a plethora of other options to choose from that wouldn’t. Consequently, the place that charged a cover would close their doors in a month. Welcome to Key West!

Key West Chris’ Website:

Key West Chris’ CD “Shanghai’d and Marooned in Key West (things could be worse)” is available for download from iTunes, CD Baby, CD Universe, Rhapsody, and Beachfront Radio. Physical copies are available from CD Baby, CD Universe search under “Key West Chris”. Also available at Greenworld Gallery and The Key West Bait and Tackle Shop, both in Key West.

*Anyone interested in recording at the San Carlos should contact Dan Simpson at Private Ear Studio