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La Floridiana by Will Moriaty
   Now in our fifth calendar year
    PCR #223  (Vol. 5, No. 27)  This edition is for the week of June 28--July 4, 2004.

LA FLORIDIANA
Will's Key West Adventure -- Part Three
 by Will Moriaty
THIS WEEK'S MOVIE REVIEW
"Spider-Man 2"
 by Mike Smith
ODDSERVATIONS
The Amazing Lonnie Dohlen: The DPB Database Continues
 by Andy Lalino
THE OGRE
Exhibitor Corruption
 by Clayton Smith
CREATURE'S CORNER
Salem's Lot....Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban....The Chronicles of Riddick....The Devil Rays....Our Lizards Are Back
 by John Lewis
MATT'S RAIL
It's The 4th!....He's Just A Horny Bastard
 by Matt Drinnenberg
MIKE'S RANT
Getting Better....What's It Mean....It's Not A Law, Dammit....Bad Guys....Meet The Beatles, Part 23
 by Mike Smith
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Will's Key West Adventure -- Part Three

Sunday morning June 13, 2004...
The radio alarm sprung to life at 8:00 A.M. that overcast morning. I dressed up and went downstairs to enjoy my complimentary bagel, crème cheese and coffee on the verandah at Marrero's Guest Mansion. I picked up a copy of the Miami Herald and lo and behold, read an article about the same Cuban musical group I had seen at El Meson de Pepe the previous Friday night.

Yes Virginia, there is a Cheesetta...
As I was munching on my breakfast, none other than Cheesetta, the black and white cat at Marrero's, silently crossed over the verandah and into the adjacent Ixoras and Frangipani's.

Soon afterward, John called the Friendly Cab folks on my behalf so that I could attend the Florida Urban Forestry's Trees Florida Conference tours of Key West's gardens. One tour started at 9:00 A.M., the other at 1:30 P.M.

I made it to the Wyndham Casa Marina Resort where the event was being held, but made a stupid mistake. I had left my digital camera in the cab! Within moments after realizing this, I called the company and talked to the driver, Brian. He said he would return the camera to the front desk.

As the tour bus was getting ready, it became apparent that I would not be able to photograph the most important part of this trip, and the primary reason why I came down!

The Key West Garden Club and West Martello Tower
Our first tour, which was led by a fourth generation Key Wester, Cynthia Snell, who works for the City's Parks Department, was of the Key West Garden Club and West Martello Tower. The Tower is a Civil War fort and a National Historic Site, which serves as the home to the Key West Garden Club.

One of Key West's few art deco buildings is the Polaris Hotel on Duval Street.
The brick structure has several courtyard areas complete with fountains, waterfalls and a gazebo, while the interior of the tower functions as the Joe Allen Garden Center, the Club's meeting and educational facility. At the Fort I saw what had to be the largest Strangler Fig I've ever seen. Upon first gaze I thought that this monster native representative of a tree native to South Florida and the Keys was a Banyan Tree. In addition to the Garden's colorful orchids, a 30' tall Ylang Ylang tree perfumed the air with its scented blossoms.

By 10:00 A.M. we were back on the bus heading to the next garden. When in Key West you owe it to yourself to visit this historic fort and its botanical treasures. Admission is free and the hours of the garden are Tuesday through Saturday 9:30 A.M. through 3:15 P.M. Located on White Street next to the Atlantic Ocean, call (305) 294-3210 for more information.

Nancy Forrester's Secret Garden
Possibly the most impressive garden in Florida that I have ever seen that was created and operated by one person (with the help of a dedicated relatively few others) is Nancy Forrester's Secret Garden, located at 518 Elizabeth Street in old Key West. It is a lush tropical oasis that is the remarkable work of 65-year-old artist Nancy Forrester.

The one-acre tract is virtually devoid of pervious surfaces, but is populated with an incredible array of orchids, palms parrots and a Spanish Lime Tree estimated to be over a Century old. The palms are breathtaking in size and appearance and come from tropical areas through the world.

In addition to the use of recycled mulch for the paths that wind through this collaboration of art and science, there is also Ms. Forrester's one-eyed black cat roaming this peaceful cathedral of blooms, foliage and shifting shadows. Everything about Ms. Forrester and her remarkable works bespeaks of a spirit intent on the nurturing and healing of our planet.

A landmark in the Old Key West section of the island is the La Concha Hotel, the tallest building in that section of town.

The Garden is open daily from 10:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. and admission is $6.00. Feel free to bring a lunch, but no car, dogs, parrots or cell phones. Patrons are also encouraged to support Ms. Forrester's efforts through tax-deductible contributions to the Manna Project, Inc. For more information, visit the organization's web site at http://www.nfsgarden.org/

By 11:30 the first tour was over and our bus headed back to the Wyndham Casa. The second tour I would take at 1:30 P.M. was to the Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Gardens and was led by a long time acquaintance, Ms. Meg Niederhoffer, who I initially met in 1988 when living in Gainesville, Florida. Ms. Neiderhoffer was the City's Forester, a position she maintains to this day. I will always fondly remember when introducing me at a 1992 Florida Urban Forestry Conference in Orlando she stated, "I bloom wherever I am planted."

I dashed to the front desk of the Wyndham Casa where my camera had still not arrived. Panicking, I called "Dash", the cab driver for Friendly I rode with the evening before to see if he might help in retrieving the camera, but little did I know that the camera had been dropped at Marrero's by Brian long ago.

Before the final tour left, I ran into my D.O.T. work associate, Susana Thompson, who I had dinner with the evening before. We bid farewell as she had Conference business to attend to. Ms. Thompson is an exceptional and gracious lady, who, along with the likes of Nancy Forrester, Meg Niederhoffer, Cynthia Snell and Carol Ann Sharkey, personifies the spirit of protecting and fighting for the natural world as well as enhancing the quality of life for humankind in this noble quest.

The Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden
There is only one area of the continental United States where freezing temperatures have never been recorded - - the lower Florida Keys. Situated closer to the Tropic of Cancer than any other city in the contiguous 48 states, the climate is for all intents and purpose tropical.

This gives Key West and its neighboring Keys the ability to support a vast array of life seen nowhere else in the country or the world. The vast array of life that comprises vegetation and birds in this part of the world is wonderfully displayed at the Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Gardens.

Located on Stock Island, the Gardens was created in 1936 through the Federal Emergency Relief Act to help Key West recover through the great depression. It was originally a 55-acre tract with an amphitheater, greenhouses, aviary and tropical gardens showcasing over 7,100 plants, largely developed by landscape architect Ralph Gunn. With a perimeter defined by rock walls, and paths made of stone, the Gardens went into disarray during the Second World War. Portions were deeded off for development and what used to be invasive plants and decay soon overran a local landmark.

Efforts to revitalize the Gardens began in 1988, and through the vision, hard work and insight of people such as the Garden's Carol Ann Sharkey, the reemergence of this Botanical Garden as a major player appears to be a promising prospect for the future.

The Gardens has three basic tour areas comprised of a Pond Loop, a Western Loop and a Boardwalk Loop. The Pond Loop takes you into a freshwater pond habitat where native trees such as Pond Apple, Wild Cotton, Joewood, Lancewood and Buccaneer, Silver and Thatch Palms.

The western loop includes native and Caribbean trees such as Long-Leaf Blolly, Dildo Cactus, Inkwood, Wild Bamboo, Pigeon Plum, Poisonwood, Geiger tree the introduced Indian Tamarind, and possibly one of the largest introduced Screw Pines in the country.

The Boardwalk Loop includes plants such as Limber Caper, Lignum Vitae (or "Tree of Life"), Black Ironwood (the world's heaviest wooded tree), West Indian Mahogany, Gumbo Limbo, Jamaica Caper, Paradise Tree and Strangler Fig, while offering the flamboyant blooms of the Royal Poinciana, the rare Cuban Lignum Vitae, and Florida Champion Barringtonia's and Arjun Almond, as well as butterfly gardens. .

In addition to the rare and unique trees, bird life is abundant here year around including both indigenous birds as well as a plethora of migratory birds, and rare, threatened and endangered birds, such as the threatened White Crowned Pigeon. There is even talk of possibly reintroducing the American Crocodile to a portion of the more remote areas of the Gardens.

While in Key West this is a definite must see for the botanist, birder and nature lover in us all. The garden is located at 5210 College Road. For hours and admission information link to http://www.keywestbotanicalgarden.org/ or call (305) 296-1504.

A Visit To A Haunted Fort

I told you this place was haunted! The spirits of three pirates gloat over their ill-gotten gains at the moat around Fort Zachary Taylor.

Although the stagnant hot weather at the Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden approached dizzying, the tour wrapped up by 4:30 P.M., and we returned to the Wyndham Casa.

I called Friendly Cab and Brian in order to ride back to Marrero's where my digital camera was waiting for me. I rested a little and then gathered my snorkeling gear for a last splash this trip into that portion of the Atlantic known as the Straits of Florida at the beach at Fort Zachary Taylor Park.

I decided this trip to visit the actual Fort, where readers of this column may recollect my story of it being haunted (see La Fla, PCR #186). Well I found out that it is - - by pirates!

The fort is a beautiful structure built in 1845, but not completed until 1866. It was originally built 1/4th mile out into the Atlantic and accessible only by bridge (this explains the deep drop off at the beach as the land there now was all dredged fill). After the adjacent area had fill added to it, a moat was created surrounding a portion of the structure. As I walked toward the fort, some shiny objects caught the corner of my eye. It was a metal sculpture of three skeletons, one standing raising a fist, and two squatting, looking over a treasure chest.

If there was ever any doubt, I told you this place was haunted!

After walking the fort, I went on my longest snorkeling venture to date, over an hour and a half, and spotted a 2'-3' Barracuda about 3' off my "starboard" side.

After snorkeling I rambled past the scented Frangipani's and colorful Royal Poinciana's of the Truman Annex back to Marrero's, finishing the last evening of my vacation feasting at El Meson de Pepe on Picadillo Haberneros, yuca and great salsa music.

I bid Duval Street adieu in a late evening walk, taking in the unique, liberating and incredible charm and character that is Key West, a city in the United States (and the world for that matter) that is unlike any other.

All in all, the trip that almost wasn't ended up being one of my most treasured memories.


"La Floridiana" is ©2004 by William Moriaty.  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2004 by Nolan B. Canova.