Hi. Barb here. I am back in Key West and ready to sing another ode to my favorite small town newspaper, The Key West Citizen. And most specifically, Page 2, the best page in the paper because it tells us all, residents and visitors alike, everything we need to know.
Will downtown be crowded? Check the cruise boat schedule. It tells you how many are in town today and what time they are arriving and leaving. All cruise boats have to leave the pier before sunset, and often it’s fun, while having a libation and watching the sun go down, to see one of those sideways skyscrapers pull out of port.
Need to get in your car and go somewhere? (A rarity in Key West.) What will the traffic be like? There’s a listing of all the local road projects on Page 2.
There’s the ever amusing crime report, something I’ve written about before. I think most mystery writers read their local crime reports, but criminals in South Florida are equal parts imaginative and stupid. Carl Hiaasen has made a good living from writing about them and believe me, he’s not making anything up.
And then there’s the Citizen’s Voice column where people call in or e-mail comments. Anywhere I travel, I find reading these columns in any paper a bit scary. The anonymity gives people license to be a little nuts. But Page 2 never fails me. Lately there was someone complaining about a tourist driving too fast and running over an iguana. Then, of course, someone else had to say the iguanas were an overgrown, overpopulated, invasive species and he was sure the driver was not a tourist but a local who was aiming for it. Someone else complained about the dogs running loose on the beach, saying Florida was both an open carry and a stand your ground state and he wouldn’t hesitate to shoot if a another dog jumped on him. Then someone else suggested leaving the iguanas and dogs alone and running over or shooting the tourists who are the most invasive species of all.
Also, leaf blowers. Necessary, evil, or necessary evil?
Page 2 also contains the This Day History Column, and this year, they’ve been running the daily entry from the diary of William R. Hackley. Hackley lived in the Keys from 1829 to 1857 and kept a diary most of that time.
Here are some of last week’s entries.
January 26, 1855: William R. Hackley recorded in his diary: Rose at 5:45 and walked to the Salt Ponds. Bath. At 9 a.m. barometer 29.42, thermometer 72, wind south southwest moderate, weather clear with flying clouds. Last night having the symptoms of a violent cold coming on took a glass of hot whiskey toddy which I do not think did any good. The steamer Star of the West came in last night about 2 without a pilot. The schooner Activa also got in bringing the quit claim deeds to the ends of Eaton and Caroline streets executed by William C. Greene.
January 27, 1855: William R. Hackley recorded in his diary: Rose about 6:30 and bath. At 8:30 a.m., barometer 29.46, thermometer 70, wind north northwest moderate, weather clear. The roads are so muddy that I did not walk this morning. Last night my throat being sore put a wet bandage on it. Matilda, Hattie and Annie all have sore throats and colds. The winter has had many changes from hot to cold and a great deal of water has fallen, every northern has been preceded by heavy rainfalls attended with thunder and lighting. Read papers. At 4 p.m. went up to see Mrs. C.C. Adams with Matilda. The children had gone up to the Barracks earlier to see Capt.Israel Vogdes’ children. I went to the church with Matilda to practice in the choir.
January 28, 1855: William R. Hackley recorded in his diary: Rose at 5:45 and walked up the beach to the Salt Ponds and back the same way, went on the Fort to see the work they are getting along fast. At 8:40 a.m., barometer 29.36, thermometer 69.5, wind east southeast moderate with flying clouds. Read papers. P.M. Read Harper’s. A seaman who died yesterday on board the Princeton was buried about 3 from the wharf,a detachment of men and officers landed with the corpse.At 4 p.m. barometer 29.32.5, thermometer 77, wind south southwest fresh with flying clouds. Walked to the Fort with Matilda and the children.
I really enjoy these daily views of what someone in the same town was doing on the same day 161 years ago.
But, as always, the final word goes to the Citizens Voice column, where some wag posted:
Arose at 5:54 a.m., wife still snoring softly. Bath. At 7:55 a.m. barometer 29.54 and rising and falling, light winds outta nowhere, thermometer smashed by leaf blower enraged person. Walked to town, attended city commissioner meeting and watched semi-normal people morph into Bubbas. Home to lunch, wife on again about no visible means of support. Placated myself with two hard lemonades and a snooze. After dinner, walked around salt lick ponds (counter clockwise) then home and noticed iguana poo on my crocs. Can’t the city do something? Then read Citizen’s Voice and fell asleep immediately.
I have avidly followed our police blotter in former times. No longer subscribe but haven’t forgotten the person who called police about a spider trapped in a parking meter, a man spotted naked in his own house, the mysterious nocturnal creature with glowing golden eyes, the escaped kangaroo, and the person who came to view a house for sale and spotted Christ in a lawn ornament.
We don’t need to make things up!
Those are fantastic examples, and remind us that a lot of what our local police have to put up with is crazy citizens with Too Much Free Time (and the animals that haunt them.)
Love your blog, Barb! Next series in Key West?!
I don’t know about that, Lea, but I do enjoy reading my friend Lucy Burdette’s Key West mysteries. I read one every year and then leave it in the house we rent for some lucky guest to find.