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La Floridiana by Will Moriaty
   Now in our sixth calendar year
    PCR #251  (Vol. 6, No. 2)  This edition is for the week of January 10--16, 2005.

Will and Karen's Cabbage Key and Key West Kraziness, Part Four....Comet Machholz....Thanks, I'm Semi-Outta Here!...And The Winner Is...
 by William Moriaty
 by Mike Smith
"White Noise"  by Nolan Canova
The Best Albums of 2004
 by Terence Nuzum
An Afternoon With Chris Sarandon
 by Andy Lalino
Pimp Is Not Evel....Wade In The Hall, But Who Are These Voters?....Bizarre Sports Note....The People's Choice....Just Some Updates....Goodbye to the Godfather, Will Eisner
 by Brandon Jones
WMD And Me....Happy Birthday To Me....Lizzie Borden Took An Axe....Football Playoffs
 by Matt Drinnenberg
Happy Birthday....Also In This Issue....Movie Notes....Censorship -- A Good Thing?....How Do You Spell Punk? M O S S....Jaws: The Story, Part 1
 by Mike Smith
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Will and Karen's Cabbage Key and Key West Kraziness, Part Four

The Blue Hole on a cool late November morning at the Key Deer National Wildlife Refuge in Big Pine Key.
Friday, November 26, 2004, An Incredible Keys Day
The rains of Thanksgiving Day gave way to an incredible bright blue day where a cool front managed to press all the way past the Florida Keys.

That morning I climbed into "Phooka" and began a sixty-mile round-trip trek to Big Pine Key in order to visit the Key Deer National Refuge.

My largest regret was not pulling over and photographing the incredible array of colors and clarity evident in the waters of the Florida Keys. In all of my previous trips down there, none highlighted the stunning Caribbean character of these waters more than this trip.

A World Apart
Once I arrived at Big Pine Key, I turned left off of U.S. 1 onto Key Deer Boulevard. As I proceded several miles northward, the following began to dawn on me - - Big Pine Key was a world apart from Key West. In a word much of this island was desolate by comparison, and the abundance of South Florida Slash Pine made me feel more as if I was traveling the back roads of South Georgia than the Florida Keys.

When they says "Caution", they means "Caution". In addition to alligators and poisonous snakes, the woods are filthy with the Poisonwood, a native tree that is related to Poison Oak and Poison Sumac and leaves a nasty rash if brushed upon or handled. Leaves of the plant are in the upper right hand corner of the photo.
The first stop in the Refuge was the Blue Hole. The Blue Hole is a former rock quarry that was created decades ago for the use of adding substrate in the building of the roads in the lower Keys. Once dug, it initially filled with salt water. After several years of rain, fresh water filled the surface of the pond. Fresh water is lighter in weight than salt water, so henceforth begins to rise to the surface through a liquefaction process known as "lensing". This phenomenon is in large part due to the type of soil that exists there known as Miami Oolite. As this fresh water at such a lens becomes available at the island's surface, species of flora, such as South Florida Slash Pine, Dahoon Holly and Pond Apple, as well as species of fauna such as Key Deer and the American Alligator, are able to sustain life far from the Florida mainland in otherwise hostile saltwater environment.

After stopping at the Blue Hole's interpretive center, I began to walk the trail, which circles the former rock quarry. The South Florida Slash Pine, Brittle Thatch Palm and Silver Palm were abundant, but so was the native tree known as Poisonwood. As signs and brochures for the refuge state, stay on the trails whenever possible as the Poisonwood, along with Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes and American Alligators are abundantly nearby.

Growing on a snow-white limestone and coral floor are these South Florida Slash Pines (Pinus elliottii var. "densa") seen growing adjacent to the Watson Trail parking lot at the Key Deer National Wildlife Refuge in Big Pine Key.
After circling the water body (no 'gators or deer to report), I headed back to "Phooka" and dusted the black Firehawk with a film of white due to the limestone soil comprising the parking lot and adjacent land. These pines are not growing on white sandy beaches - - they are growing on white limestone and fossilized coral! Quite a feat for a tree typically fond of acidic soils!

I proceded a mile and a half north of the Blue Hole to the Watson and Manillo hiking trails, which take you through the most pristine Pine Rockland Forests, left in the Keys. There are also Pine Rockland Forests visible in the northern distance from U.S. 1 on Sugarloaf Key, and if you proceed northeast of Big Pine Key, out on No Name Key.

The hiking experience was incredible. A cool breeze with absolutely gorgeous blue skies blew through the Slash Pines filling the senses with the scent of evergreen. In my mind I could just as easily been in the middle of the piney woods of North Florida, but the tropical understory reminded me that I was only thirty miles east of Key West.

After my hike I then took "Phooka" out to No Name Key. On the way I finally saw two Key Deer about 500' east of Key Deer Boulevard on one of the firebreak roads. The Key Deer is a subspecies of the common Eastern White Tail Deer. It differs in that it only attains a mature height of 24"-28", often first giving an impression of being a medium-sized dog until observed closer. There are an estimated 300 Key Deer still roaming the southern Keys, primarily on Big Pine Key. Over hunting, habitat destruction and automobiles have threatened to exterminate this animal, which is found nowhere else in the world. The best time for viewing the Key Deer is typically early morning or late evening.

Statuary and icons at the Key West Cemetery ranged from classical beauty...
...to a White Bougainvillea framed toy airplane.
Lunch Is Calling
After spending about two hours in a state of enlightenment in the most truly native and desolate portion of the Keys I had ever seen, it was time to return to the fun and frivolity of Key West. As it is more difficult to find barbeque or Southern food fare in Key West than on the mainland, the menu at Bahama Mama's Kitchen located on Petronia Street at Whitehead Street in the Bahamian section of town came the closest. I had an appetizer of Conch Fritters along with Florida Keys Pink Shrimp and Collard Greens - - dee-licious!

Hemmingway is the Only Way!
After Karen and I finished our scrumptious lunch at Bahama Mama's, Karen returned to our room at Marrero's Guest Mansion, while I strolled over to the nearby Tift-Hemmingway House where the noted American author lived part of his life and wrote several well-known novels. The house and grounds (for a photo, see last week's column), complete with a copious amount of polydactyl cats (see Part One of this story), are stunning in their tropical beauty and it's easy to see why Ernest Hemingway chose to live there.

The Dead Are Calling
The last afternoon of our last full day in Key West found me going to the unique and historic Key West Cemetery after my visit to the Tift-Hemmingway House. The cemetery is incredibly diverse, with plots dedicated to the island's Jews, Catholics, Protestants, Cubans, Anglos, Bahamians. There is even a plot dedicated to the crew of the U.S.S. Maine, the ship which was mysteriously blown up prior to the Spanish-American War.

City of the Dead on the Island of Bones. An overview of the Necropolitic skyline that is part and parcel of the Key West Cemetery (the prevous three photos are dedicated to PCR writer Mike "Deadguy" Scott).
I spent about an hour surveying this necropolis which looked more like a city of the dead rather than a typical cemetery and the dead are not buried here due to the low elevation but placed in above ground mausoleums. As my journey through the cemetery drew to a close I heard a female voice repeated utter the words "Help me!" The voice was definitely not in my own head. I looked into the immediate neighborhoods to see if anyone was indeed in distress, but didn't see a living soul who appeared to be in trouble. I just know that I heard what I heard...

End to a Great Vacation
It was Saturday November 27, 2004, our Thanksgiving vacation was behind us and a long drive to Plant City was in front of us. We would yet leave John and Cheesetta at Marerros again, looking forward to a stay at a future date with them in America's most unique and wondrous cities - - Key West, Florida.

Keep Your Eyes in the Night Skies for Comet Machholz
For those of you who are astronomy buffs like me, be sure to get a set a binoculars and look for Comet Machholz. On the evening of Friday January 7, 2005 I took PCR publisher Nolan Canova out to Gandy Beach where we both caught a glimpse of this visitor from somewhere else in the galaxy which is visible several degrees west of the Pleiades. For more information on this celestial voyager link on to the NASA site at: http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap041213.html

Thanks and I'm Semi-Outta Here!
This is probably the final "La Floridiana" column to be part of a weekly series for quite a while to come, though I do plan to check in monthly or so as time permits.

As announced several weeks ago in the PCR, I will be dedicating my time to the publishing of a book derived from select columns of "La Floridiana" over the past three years, fully titled William Moriaty's Florida - - A Collection of Sunshine State Folklore, Facts and Fancy from "La Floridiana" as seen in the pages of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" (www.crazedfanboy.com).

The manuscript was originally ten chapters then reduced to nine and was submitted to the Library of Congress where it was received in October 2004 for Registration. On January 7, 2005 the basic cover design, which was prepared by Orlando artist and graphics illustrator Lisa Clardy of F-Bod Studios was selected. From here the manuscript and additional graphic work prepared by Ms. Clardy will be converted into a ".pdf" form (i.e., Adobe Acrobat) in order to be taken to a publisher for printing. From there I will next find the means to finally distribute the publication to the public.

In addition to this I have two Annual Reports to prepare for my tree planting organization the Tampa Bay Reforestation and Environmental Effort, Inc., which I am most proud to say that after its twenty-two years in existence will finally have a paid staff due a recently awarded Urban and Community Forestry Grant from the Florida Division of Forestry. This grant will take up much of the time that I would typically devote to the PCR, so my day-to-day involvement with it has pretty much reached the end of the road. But, just when you least expect it, I'll be back.

And The Winner Is...
Outside of Nolan Canova, I have to concede a total victory to PCR writer Mike Smith who through all of his personal tragedies and triumphs has maintained his writer's integrity never missing a beat since the inception of this incredible publication and forum.

Mike brings an "everyman" Jimmy Stewart-like sensitivity to the PCR that forces all of the remainder of us writers to get our heads out of the clouds (or elsewhere) and get down to the nitty-gritty of the Great American Pastime of baseball and sports, shares with us the solemn recognition of pop culture icons before us who have passed on and gave us a great series on the history of the Beatles. In addition, Mike possesses a common-sense look at the world of pop culture that gives a sense of validation and anchorage to the now trademarked (congratulations Nolan!) world of the Crazed Fanboy®.

I may be flashy and dress funny, but you won the race for endurance, and you won it with class, aplomb and your typical reserved dignity. God Bless you brother! But my thanks and admiration go out to all the other regular PCR writers as well, each of which I could write separate chapters on - - Terence Nuzum, Vinnie Blesi, Andy Lalino (great article on Ms. June, goombah), Matt Drinnenberg, Brandon Jones, Drew Reiber and John Lewis.

Thirty, over and out.

"La Floridiana" is ©2005 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 ©2005 by Nolan B. Canova.