Monday, March 21, 2016

No Snivelling

Papa would have hated it. Tourists packed shoulder to shoulder through the halls of his home. His hangouts filled to bursting with folks who thought that it was cool to be there, getting sloppy. The haunts of his Lost Generation replaced by the likes of Burger King and Salt Life.

He'd have freaked as he moved down Duval, carried along like just another head of cattle in the herd of beefy tourists sporting all manner of Steeler paraphernalia. I swear to God, upon landing at the docks, the gargantuan mothership hovering in the harbor had disgorged half of Pennsylvania, clad exclusively in yellow-and-black. I'd probably have retched too.

(No hate mail, please, all you Pittsburgh fans and Keystone State residents. Some of my best friends are so afflicted, bless their hearts.)

Ernest would have chaffed at the noise and the glitz and the commercialization he'd encountered as he moved down the main drag (and I use that term quite explicitly - not that there's anything wrong with that, it's just not my thing) and I expect that he'd quickly have jumped over a block, west, probably no later than Eaton, to avoid the Duvallian circus. It's a bit more sane on Whitehead.

For those very same reasons, Mary and I took that route and, at the corner of Whitehead and Southard, just three blocks from Ernest's Key West home, found The Green Parrot. We stopped. Papa might have stopped too, wondering where the grocery store had gone.

Let me say, right up front, that the term parrotheads, associated with another Keys-based celebrity, was not generated here. That particular term, actually, originated in Cincinnati. Ohio. Enough said.

The Parrot was packed, but with a vibe unlike the cacophony of Duval. It was a happy buzz, generated, as it turns out, by a fun-loving mix of locals and "regulars" to Key West. Best blues joint on the island, the guide had confided in us as we sat up next to him on the front wheel well of the overpacked tour bus, getting the insider's scoop.

And while blues was not the musical genre for that particular evening, the band (Jeff Clark and the Rondo Rigs, an amalgam of local musicians, our bar mates knew the bass player) was a blast, full of unpretentious country and rock covers that they effectively and entertainingly made their own. Not an easy thing to pull off well. The crowd held a few first-timers, like ourselves, but it seemed many of the folks were regular island visitors who, like Papa and us, had learned to avoid the sightseer flash and landed here. A good crowd, at least the new best friends that surrounded us, and we happily drank and sang the evening away.

There were, of course, a few accommodations made in the name of tourism. Acknowledging the baby boomerish nature of the throngs that wash over the island, the band did two shows that night, starting at both 5:30 and 9:00. We old school rockers don't go as deep into the evenings as we once did.

The early show packs them in.

So after bitching and moaning all day over the state of Hemingway's beloved end-of-the-chain retreat, we finally found what we were looking for in Key West. Good folks and good times that filled the building and spilled out into the street. We could no longer complain, nor could have Papa, as it was plainly posted over the bar - there's no snivelling allowed at the Green Parrot.

None was warranted.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

End of the Line

Overseas Highway

Jewfish Creek, Lake Surprise, Key Largo, Tavernier Creek, Islamorada, Plantation Key, Snake Creek, Windley Key, Whale Harbor Channel, Upper Matecumbe Key, Tea Table, Indian Key Channel, Lignumvitae, Lower Matecumbe Key, Craig Key, Channel #5, Long Key, Fiesta Key, Conch Key, Toms Harbor Cut, Duck Key, Grassy Key, Marathon, Vaca Cut, Pigeon Key

Seven Mile Bridge

Little Duck Key, Ohio-Missouri Channel, Ohio-Bahia Honda Channel, Scout Key, Spanish Harbor Channel, Big Pine Key, No Name Key, North Pine Channel, South Pine Channel, Little Torch Key, Torch Key Channel, Big Torch Key, Torch Ramrod Channel, Ramrod Key, Niles Channel, Summerland Key, Kemp Channel, Cudjoe Key, Bow Channel, Sugarloaf Key, Park Channel, North Harris Channel, Harris Gap Channel, Lower Sugarloaf Key, Harris Channel, Lower Sugarloaf Channel, Saddle Bunch #2, Saddle Bunch #3, Saddle Bunch #4, Saddle Bunch #5, Shark Channel, Shark Key, Big Coppitt Key, Rockland Channel, East Rockland Key, Boca Chica Key, Boca Chica Channel, Cow Key Channel

Key West

The End of the Line

Monday, March 14, 2016

St. Augustine Textures

The tourists gave me a wide berth, changing sides of the street as they approached. Like I was crazy or something. Mothers gathered small children tight to their legs, hurrying them along the sidewalk to get past without making eye contact. Mary walked ahead with that determined "never saw him before in my life" stride that I've come to know so well.

All understandable, I suppose, considering I was facing relatively blank walls, inches away, intently focusing my camera on nothing. That's how they saw it, anyway. But I didn't notice as I was digging the textures.

St. Augustine is quite possibly the oldest city in the US. The climate is fantastic, the architecture's fascinating, and this particular evening's light was perfect. We had stopped for dinner and a quick overnight at an old-town B&B, breaking up the drive from home to Key West, and wandered along St. George Street to work the kinks out of our driving legs. Camera in hand, I became fascinated with the old walls (and probably a few that were just made to look old).

Old or faux, I was captured. So here's what came of that stroll. Pictures of nothing.

I might add, one night's not enough in St. Aug. We'll definitely go back and spend a few additional days as there's plenty to explore. History, architecture, gastronomy...

...and, most importantly, a lot more walls for the crazy man to stare at.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Photo Bin - February 2016

Feast or famine, here at the bin. Last month, almost nothing. This month, there's Abaco.

It's a fitting way to end the barrage of Bahamian posts that I've subjected you to, here of late. Hopefully, Spring's finding its way to your doorsteps and you no longer need these palm tree and bonefish fixes to start the thaw. Besides, you're probably tired of them by now. And I suppose that I, too, need to move on lest I get stuck forever in dreamy remembrances of paradise. It's time to come back to earth.

So a few final images from Abaco. A handful from around the lodge and the flats that, in true Photo Bin fashion, have no context but I thought I'd share just the same.

It's how things work around here.

So, be like my little lizard friend here and get out on the deck to find some sunshine, some Spring paradise of your own, and we'll see what next month brings to the Bin.

Feast or famine.

What is a Photo Bin?

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Tuesday, March 8, 2016


Mary typically asks me, as I’m packing my duffle, if I know any of the guys I’m flying off to fish with. The answer, more often than not lately, has been “No.”

But that’s not a problem because what I do know is that they are guys who are willing to jump on a plane and roll the dice on weather, winds, and the finicky nature of gamefish. There’ll be no crying if conditions are bleak or the prey is absent because they accept that plunking down hard-earned cash for airfare and lodging guarantees nothing. Most importantly, they understand that if the journey and the company alone won’t satisfy them, they might as well stay home. They roll with it.

With such companionship, I’ve been seldom disappointed.

Last month’s trip to Abaco was no exception and for that I’ll thank my week’s fishing partner, Dave. Connected only by a quirk of timing and a common friendship with our (sadly absent) host, Oliver White, we spent a week chasing bonefish together out of Abaco Lodge before he returned to Sun Valley, Idaho, to prepare for a season guiding with Natural Retreats and I returned to, well, this.

So a simple, heartfelt thank you is in order. I enjoyed the hell out of it, my friend. Let’s do it again sometime soon.

Monday, March 7, 2016

The Abaco Lodge

If it's good enough for Lefty, it's good enough for me. In truth, "good enough" doesn't begin to describe it. It's wonderful.

Sitting just outside of Marsh Harbour on perfectly-named Sunset Point, Abaco Lodge is a Bahamian escape that's not to be missed. From the comfortable accommodations, to the incredible food, to the out-of-this-world fishing, it's the best way I know to shake off Old Man Winter.

Breakfast to order at 7:00am. On the flats with world-class guides by 8:00. Lunch on the water and dinner, 6:30ish (if you're not too full from the copious hors devours that constantly appear throughout the happy hour). A quick pass (or three) by the open bar as you wander to and from the fire pit. Casting to late-night snapper and the occasional bonefish from the lighted dock. Kicking back with great new friends from around the world. Good times.

I think I'll just let the pictures tell the story.

The Buccaneers

The Shoreline

The Morning Start

Hell's Bay - Hell yes!


The View from the Deck

Bird Watching

The Food. Oh my God, the Food.

What's Your Pleasure?

The Fire Before the Fire

Waiting for Tomorrow

A Little Help with the Cast

Sunset Point


How I Found My Room #5

A Fine Bahamian Night

Valesca and Matt - Our Most Excellent Hosts

My thanks to the whole crew at Abaco for a great week. I came home with a February tan, a couple of extra pounds, and renewed strength to finish off the cold season. Just what the doctor ordered.

The bonefish were bonuses.