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La Floridiana by Will Moriaty
   Now in our ninth calendar year
    PCR #406  (Vol. 9, No. 1)  This edition is for the week of January 1--6, 2008.

The Keys To A Great Vacation, Part Two  by William Moriaty
The Best of 2007  by Mike Smith
VHS Grindhouse: Starchaser: The Legend of Orin, Hooters  by Andy Lalino
2007: The Year That Was  by ED Tucker
2007 - The Year the Tampa Film Community Became a Family  by Paul Guzzo
I Guess It's Ok If You Miss .... Welcome To The Hall .... Happy Birthday .... And The Oscar For 1976 Should Have Gone To...  by Mike Smith
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The Keys To A Great Vacation, Part Two

Monday November 19, 2007
I walked my final walk westward along Periwinkle Way on Sanibel Island to get a bite of breakfast at the local cafe. After that, Karen and I would be faced with over 200 miles of driving down to America's southernmost city, Key West.

By 10:30 A.M. we were on our way merging onto I-75 from the Daniels Parkway east of Ft. Myers. Our trip was flawless until it happened while we were south of Miami on the Homestead Extension of the Ronald Reagan Parkway (a.k.a. the Florida Turnpike).

Not the Calling in Life We Wanted
Before our trip we had consulted with a building contractor to assess the condition of our 87-year-old house in Plant City. As we were passing through the palm-lined interchanges in Homestead on our way to U.S. Highway 1 and the Florida Keys, Karen's cell phone rang - - the news was not good.

A panorama view of the Blue Hole at the Key Deer National Wildlife Refuge in Big Pine Key. The Blue Hole was originally a quarry dug to provide beds for the roads comprising Big Pine Key. With the passing of time, and like a giant cistern, the top portion of the quarry filled up with fresh water, made possible through rain, hence attracting freshwater dependent life forms such as alligators and Key Deer, while the bottom portion of the quarry filled with salt water, forming what is known as a lense.
Healthy post-Hurricane Wilma South Florida Slash Pines at Big Pine and No Name Keys were most common in areas containing typical Pine Rockland understories such as these Thatch Palms and Poisonwoods.
Due to the presence of a slow-draining fossilized coral known as Miami Oolite, that is the common soil of the lower Keys, fresh water from rain gathers in depressions, in this instance a slow moving shallow water body known as a slough, at the Watson Trail of the Key Deer National Wildlife Refuge. North of Marathon, Key Largo limestone is the common soil type which by comparison is more porous, and as a result, makes fresh surface water more scarce and salt-tolerant life such as the American Crocodile more abundant.
Dead South Florida Slash Pines in Big Pine Key were observed in areas that had very little typical Pine Rocklands understories beneath them.
Due to the severity of dry rot and termite damage that the foundations of our house had sustained over the years, major restoration work was needed that might require us to leave our house for up to a year.

Well, that was some great news as we headed out Card Sound Road towards Ocean Reef and Key Largo... Sadly in a matter of about a half hour's time, any luster and joy that this vacation could bring to us came crashing down.

Where will we live when the work is being done?
When will we need to leave our house?
How severe is the damage and much will the total costs for restoration and temporary living arrangements run?

This would be the latest round in William Moriaty's life-altering experiences. You wanna know something? I'm gettin' pretty tired of "life-altering experiences."

Once the "shock and awe" of this bombshell started to wear off, Karen and I came to better terms with the situation. We determined about halfway down to Marathon that we couldn't really do anything about the situation 400 miles from our house, and that we might as well try to enjoy the remainder of our vacation.

Big Pine Key Revisited
Long-time readers of this column might recall my first foray to the Big Pine Key in the fall of 2004 in PCR #151. Home of the Federally endangered Key Deer, Big Pine Key is also home to an abundance of South Florida Slash Pines. One facet of the Big Pine Key that always amazes me is how it looks like someone dropped the piney woods of South Georgia smack dab into a Caribbean archipelago, which is basically what is going on there. The island's limestone roads, some lined with mobile homes and the occasional Confederate flag, further set apart Big Pine Key from the other Keys.

Needless to say, being conceived on a Caribbean island abundant with pine trees, I am always fascinated to see this tree of basically temperate origin thriving under tropical conditions. In large part, South Florida Slash Pines and Caribbean Pines define my image of home and sense of place.

What Killed the Pines of the Florida Keys?
About one year after Hurricane Wilma ravaged the Florida Keys, my good friend Richard Bailey , an arborist from Riverview, Florida remarked about the almost catastrophic death of naturally occurring South Florida Slash Pines on Big Pine and Sugarloaf Keys. He believed that the cause was over-wash of salt water from storm tides. Undoubtedly, the lower Keys have been hit with hurricanes before, but did an almost uniform destruction of native pines occur then as a result? I decided to investigate the effects of this most recent storm and draw my own conclusions.

On Wednesday November 21, I left our Key West lodging at Marerro's Guest Mansion and took the 60-mile round trip jaunt to Big Pine Key.

From a distance the destruction of pine on Sugarloaf Key looked almost total. Big Pine and No Name Keys were a different story however. I noticed almost without exception that the largest concentration of death occurred in areas where the typical Pine Rocklands understory was absent. As a matter of fact, I was astonished to see that the understory vegetation of the areas of destruction consisted of shoreline vegetation such as Green Buttonwood, Jamaica Dogwood and Seaside Purslane - - plants not indicative of where pines should typically be growing in the first place!

Conversely, dense, healthy stands of pine continue to flourish where typical Pine Rockland understories of Thatch Palm, Silver Palm, Poisonwood, Wax Myrtle, Pond Apple and others are abundant, such as adjacent to the Blue Hole.

Either the pines over hurricane-free years migrated to lower-lying areas that avoided prolonged salt water inundation during such periods of inactivity, or a possible rise in sea level may be occurring and this may be signaling the possible reclamation of the land by the sea.

Like the Key Deer, which was at one time near extinction, I feel that with the passing of time that the namesake tree of Big Pine Key will rebound and continue to reinforce the unique character of this and surrounding keys.

Next Week: Will goes on a Mid-Century Modern Architecture review during his last full day in Key West!

"La Floridiana" is ©2008 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 ©2008 by Nolan B. Canova.