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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Richard Crooks Memorial, Where is Key West Heading?

^ listen to “Key West Blues” while reading the blog! ^

Richard Crooks Memorial

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I recently blogged about the passing of beloved musician, Richard Crooks. Fellow drummer Mick Kilgos has organized a memorial, which he wrote to me about. I’ll put it in Mick’s words:

“Sunday Jan. 25th, a Memorial Parade for Richard Crooks will be starting at the Hogs Breath parking lot at 12:00 noon. A complimentary Bloody Mary will be supplied by bartender Art Levin and the Hogs Breath Saloon. At 1:00 the Parade with the Conch Republic Funeral Parade Band leading, everyone will proceed down Whitehead St. to the Green Parrot Bar, where we will be greeted by our friend John Vagnoni. Friends and fellow musicians are encouraged to take part in the Memorial Parade and the gathering at the Green Parrot, where we will share music and stories about our very talented and much loved friend Richard Crooks.”

For those planning on attending, understand, this is not an opportunity to suddenly be in the limelight and have an ego-explosion on the stage of the Green Parrot. This is a memorial for our friend and teacher, Richard Crooks, so please be respectful of that. His family is expected to be there as well.

Where is Key West Heading?

Last year Dani and I, plus the dogs, Cajun and Tooloulou, took a little road trip up to Marathon. Marathon is one of the Keys and is located at the halfway point between the mainland and Key West, or 50 miles (81 Km) north of Key West.

We had gone to The Dockside, a wonderful bar located right on the water at Boot Key Harbor. It started getting late and we were thinking of spending the night. I have a Dodge Conversion van, which has a fold down bed in it. I contemplated the thought of staying in the van right by the Dockside, which is on a back road.

A few years back, I had a friend who actually lived in his van in Key West for five days a week. In his job he would drive a city bus by day and park in an obscure spot at night. He had a trailer in Homestead, Fl on the mainland, that he would stay in on his off days. He had been doing this over the years and would swim and shower at the Key West Municipal pool, so it worked out well for him.

My first trip down to Key West was in 1978. It wasn't uncommon then to see people living out of their cars. Perhaps not on a permanent basis, but rather their place to stay while visiting for a few days, or a week.

Regarding my friend living in his van, as time went on, it seems the city of Key West was becoming less and less tolerant  of people bedding down at night in their cars. The police were instructed to tell the people that they had to move on. My friend would sometimes say "Oh, I got rousted from my spot last night" at which point, he'd have to leave.

So, back to us in Marathon. The thought of staying there in the van on the side of the road at the Dockside crossed my mind and I verbally expressed it, along with the apprehension of being rousted at four in the morning and forced to move on.

I said this to my pal Popeye, who lives in Marathon and formally in Key West. He laughed and said "This is Marathon! This ain't Key West! No one cares if you sleep in your van. No, this ain't no Key West, I'm tellin' ya!".

The comment brought back the thought of "Where is Key West Heading?"
I read a story the other day and it involved Jimmy Buffett during his early years here. It mentioned that he got an apartment on Waddell Street, on the water, and it was $75 a month

My guess is that today that apartment is around $3,000 a month.
While one expects things to go up over the years I think that forty times the original value is a bit strong.

The same piece also mentioned that Buffett would often play for people to buy him a beer. This is an expensive island to live on, as shown above, and while a beer is always welcome, a $5, $10, or $20 in the tip jar is always welcome and helps out greatly with monthly expenses... Thank you!

When I first arrived in Key West in 1978, it was filled with salty dog shrimpers, authors, hippies, and saloons. "A sleepy little drinking town with a fishing problem" was one of the humorous mottos people attached to it. It is still a mecca for authors. If you read the blog I wrote entitled "In The Presence Of Greatness", that  will attest to that.

Saloons are still here as well, although some have been replaced, or had their image changed.

The Red Doors Bar, was a hard drinking bar of shrimpers in it's heyday. A place where on occasional fights would break out. It was nicknamed "The Bucket of Blood". Today it's a lady's fashionable clothing store. I’m not complaining about this, but it certainly is a very odd transformation going from a place with say, a stabbing every week, to a ladies fine clothing establishment.

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(The Red Doors today)

Shrimpers have gone. You won't find one shrimp boat at Key West Bight today. Large multi million dollar yachts have replaced them. You can find about six of them, sequestered over at Stock Island, the next island north however. It's sad. Having a fishing fleet adds so much to the color of every coastal town. Key West has lost theirs.

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(The Provincetown, Ma. Fishing Fleet)

Back when Buffett arrived here, playing original songs were encouraged strongly by people such as Captain Tony, who, in addition to being elected Mayor of Key West, was also a saloon owner.

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(Captain Tony’s Saloon)

It’s not easy finding a bar here that actually encourages original songs. Personally, I think there’s a market for it.

When I came here, be it on vacation, or when I moved here almost seven years ago, one of the things I loved were the street musicians!  It’s called “Busking”. It was just such an offbeat, beatnik-style freedom that one found in places like Key West, Provincetown, Greenwich Village. Pull a guitar out on a street corner in Miami and they’ll run your ass to jail! I recall reading about one such guy who spent a week or so behind bars there.

I played the street a couple of times when I was here visiting and had a great time doing it too!

Today however, it’s quite different. Gone are the days that one could just spontaneously go out on the street, with a guitar and an open case to collect tips. These days, in order to do that, one needs a permit.

It used to be the permits were applied for in November and could be picked up in December. The reasoning for this was the city only wanted locals playing the streets. Fair enough…. if you go to the point that you need a permit to play.

A few years back, it was decided that the street performers required insurance! At the time it ran about $300.00 per year. In order to get a license, a street performer required proof that they were insured and that $300.00 had to be paid up front. I don’t know what it costs today, however, it is required.

The city has a group called “Code Enforcement”. What these people do is walk around town, usually in pairs, and stop at various restaurants, bars, and stores and make certain that they are adhering to the city’s code of ordinances.

In addition to these, street musicians are often asked for their permits by the code enforcement officials. It’s a lot like the scene in the classic movie Casablanca, where the officers of occupied France stationed in Casablanca were asking for one citizen’s papers.

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Then there's the Conch Train. It's been running for about sixty years. A little tour that is loaded with fantastic, historical information. Apparently there are some in town who are now complaining about the speaker system on them, as they drive through their neighborhoods. I'd be willing to lay odds that these complainers have not been living with the Conch Train for sixty years. I'd wager that these idiots moved here while the Conch Train was well established and today want Key West to be just like it was wherever they came from, be it Scarsdale N.Y., Newton Ma., Atlanta, or Michigan.

What they should do is move back.

This ain't the mainland.

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I could go on and on. with things that are shaping the island into something new. As to whether it’s for the better or not, I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

However, one thing is abundantly clear: The overall quest of the island’s goal is to be more and more like the mainland cities in Florida, such as Tampa, St. Petersburg, Ft. Lauderdale, or Miami. 

Personally, I think they are not seeing the island's niche, that being an island at a far outpost from civilization. 

Jimmy Buffett saw this thirty years ago and left because of it. That was thirty years ago! A LOT has happened since then.

To obtain my music:

My CD is available on iTunes, CD Baby, CD Universe, Rhapsody, and Beachfront Radio.
Search: Key West Chris

Thank you everyone!!

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