Key West has long been known as an artists haven of all types including literature, poetry & painting dating way back to Ernest Hemingway & Tennessee Williams. Here we’ll focus on the canvas connoisseurs, the purveyors of paint and the tainters of tint.
I’m sure the reference “Starving Artist” doesn’t apply fully to all of Key West’s street vendors. I’ve noticed a lot of these maintain a brisk business and constantly have crowds gathered around as seen in the photo to the left. I’ve been amazed at the speed, quality & ability that these so-called starving artists possess.
Seen here is one of the MANY artist that can be found throughout the “Old Town” area with a heavy concentration setting up shop on Duval Street or Mallory Square. These Picasso wannabes are happiest when selling their wares and are always excited when passers-by show interest in their work asking related questions. I’ve seen these finished ‘street-side brush strokes upon canvas’ run anywhere from $10 to the upper hundreds. Who knows, you just might purchase a future Rembrandt… then again, PROBABLY NOT! 🙂
Remember the Hollywood blockbuster movie from 1982 called Porky’s about a group of teenagers out for a good time with names like “Pee Wee”, “Meat” and a bar owner named “Porky”… well, this blog has absolutely nothing to do with that besides its ultra famous name! 🙂
From the outside you’d never be able to tell this is a local hot spot by the inconspicuous dilapidated wood-framed windowless hangout, but it is. Welcome to Porky’s Bayside known for its good food and friendly island atmosphere. Their unique location has hosted famous Florida Keys visitors since the 1950’s – including such notables as Ernest Hemingway, Elizabeth Taylor & Jimmy Hoffa. Jimmy Hoffa loved his meal and the Keys so much that he faked his own death and moved to the Keys and is reportedly working there cooking fries… known simply as James “The Fry King” Hoffmiester… well, that’s the rumor! 🙂 Since Porky’s inception its been the local place to be in the Keys and still is! So belly on up to a bench and order some of the sweetest swine you’ll ever stuff in your smiling stomach.
You can find Jimmy H. and his fellow compadres just before the 7-Mile bridge heading south at Mile Marker 47.4 bayside awaiting your arrival… just look for the pig butts (seen above) at the entrance… hmmm, let me think about this… ok I got! The asinine entrance, 9 pork butts, count them up there’s actually nine… ASS OF NINE! 🙂
Florida Key’s Historical Military Memorial
Welcome to the Florida Key’s Historical Military Memorial dedicated to this city’s role in our nations military conflicts and those who gave their lives in its defense.
Once called the “Gibraltar of America”, Key West occupies a vital strategic position in defense of the United States. Key West was an outpost long before it became a civilized community. The forts at East Martello, West Martello, Fort Zachary Taylor and Fort Jefferson attest to this locations strategic value. Military personnel reached its peak in Key West with 15,000 servicemen in World War II. Represented in a time-line (L to R) each pedestal features an illustration with text and photos addressing each military action beginning with the Anti-piracy Campaign, Seminole Indian War, Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Cuban Missile Crisis, Cold War and the Drug War which continues today. In each of these conflicts, military forces based in Key West played a vital role in training and in operations against the enemy on land, sea and in the air.
You can find the Military Memorial as far south as you can go in Key West at Mallory Square and yes it’s FREE and worth 30 minutes of your time when you’re in that area.
This is the only one of its kind still remaining in Key West! These bench prop photo-ops in past years were a dime-a-dozen strewed all over town but now relegated to this lone example of a lost type of attraction. On an earlier visit I noticed that the Boat Captain was gone while the bench remained and feared that it too had vanished into history as all the others. Upon returning on my next visit it miraculously appeared complete with a brand new shiny paint job.
You can find this photo-op Boat Captain permanently attached on a bench in front of the Key West Seaquarium located at Mallory Square just two blocks south of Duval Streets western end. Once upon a time there was a bench in Key West’s Harbor Walk where you could sit beside a box of chocolates next to Forrest Gump at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company… but they’ve long since gone out of business! So sad, that was really neat and I still miss seeing Forrest.
This of course is FREE for you and your family to partake in a photograph or two. So get your butt over and take that photo for posterity before this too is gone forever!
Woven Rose & Vase
Basket Weaving 101 is a class that most of us skipped in High School and College! Here in Key West you’ll find several places where you might pick up a hand-made basket, bowl, hat or even a ROSE. Look at the photo to the left and you can see the most creative rose and vase woven from a palm frond. Below you can see these talented (and patient) people at work honing their craft into sellable items for purchase… just don’t ask them to smile… they ignored me like the plague.
The photo of the two men behind the table are at Mallory Square where the single man on the street corner is in front of Sloppy Joe’s Bar. It’s FREE to watch, wander & ponder the wares for sale and could make a unique gift from your weekend in the Paradise of Key West!
An Author wrote: Boxing – You can press the language out of it. The moving machinery of ligaments. The intimate fray of rope. The men in their archaic stances like anatomy illustrations from an old-time encyclopedia. The moment in a fight when the punches slow down and the opponents watch each other like time-lapse photographs, the sweat frozen in midair, the maniacal grin like the teeth themselves have gone bare-knuckle. Was that Ernest Hemingway? Not sure.
This I am sure: The Fight Night tradition recalls a Key West history of boxing that was particularly strong in the 1930’s. Ernest Hemingway often spent leisure hours officiating boxing matches at a makeshift arena not far from his Whitehead Street home, and befriended and sparred with fighters from the nearby Bahama Village districts Blue Heaven. Hemingway himself was a big time boxer in his youth resulting in permanent eye damage so bad that he was turned down several times for enlisting in the US Military that he finally opted to join the Italian Infantry in WWI.
That tradition has returned to Key West in a oceanside series of bouts set at Mallory Square dubbed “Rumbles in Paradise” for live broadcasts on ESPN 2’s “Friday Night Fights.” General admission tickets begin at $35 per person and cap at $150 per person for VIP seats ringside.
I’ve included the 3 photos of Ernest Hemingway known as the Crown Prince of Key West Boxing (1 in Africa). Seen below also are 3 modern-day photos of the boxing ring, boxers & boxing complex located at DeKalb Avenue sandwiched between the main entrance to Fort Zachary Taylor and the rear entrance to the Naval Air Station Truman Annex.
Founders Park in Key West is a great place to visit, it’s neither a park to picnic nor a place to spend the entire day. It measures a mere 30′ x 60′ in the middle of the busiest section of town called Mallory Square just 3 blocks southwest of Duval Streets northern end.
Also called Key West Historic Memorial Sculpture Garden, it opened in September 1997 and is located on the original shoreline in front of the Waterfront Playhouse. As you enter through the wrought iron gates, a magnificent 18′ long and 25′ high sculpture entitled “The Wreckers” captures your attention and takes you back to the days when brave men would yell “Wreck Ashore” and risked their lives saving vessels and passengers in distress.
The pioneering spirit of Key West and its island people will dominate your experience as you wander along the shaded brick pathways. The Garden features 36 bronze busts depicting men and women who made Key West such a vibrant and important outpost of American culture and folklore. The entire $700,000 price tag to fund this park was raised by selling individual names engraved on bricks called the Walkway thru History.
I’ve personally looked at all 36 busts trying to find any link to either side of my family tree… no such luck. Though my father was Monroe County’s & Key West’s first Eagle Scout and one time honorary Mayor of Key West (for a day, true)… it wasn’t enough to get a bronze bust. Oh well, our family did however own prosperous businesses that helped spawn the island growth and well-being including restaurants and a number of gas stations. Founders Park or Sculpture Garden is worth a FREE 30-minute visit to check out Key West’s beginnings and prominent people throughout history.