Stock Island

It’s strange living in a boat. The very idea of home becomes problematic. HOME IS WHERE OUR BOAT IS explains a little sign we found aboard, and in some way it is true. ‘Home’, the equivalent of ‘house’ is our boat. But ‘home’, the equivalent of ‘hometown’, where the mail gets sent to, or the geographical place where one feels one belongs is an ever-changing fluid notion.

Since we have been travelling we have become conscious of a peculiar occurring. As soon as we stop somewhere for two weeks or more temporarily living in a place, not merely visiting the touristic attractions, the place transforms into ‘home’. The transformation occurs slowly, by degrees.

As we learn where the local grocery store, park, beach, bus stop are; as we get used to the climate, flora, and fauna; as we establish relationships with new friends and temporary neighbors; as we learn bits and pieces of the place’s histories as remembered by the locals, the place becomes familiar to us. And we become familiar to the place too. We become familiar to the woman who sells us beer and ice cream in the grocery store, to the homeless guy who lives in the park where the kids play, to our temporary neighbors with whom we share food, drinks, and stories. It soon feels like home. We become locals.

Today, home is our boat Fata Morgana located in 3D Boatyard in Key West, Florida.

Actually (technically) we still haven’t visited Key West. The boatyard is in Stock Island, a small island which is part of Key West, Monroe County, but is also a separate city linked by a bridge north of the City of Key West.

Remember that big good-looking kid in fifth grade, with expensive clothes and a sleek haircut, smart, blond, and popular; and that other poor kid: dark, skinny, dirty, and mean, always getting in trouble, whose parents don’t speak English?

That other kid is Stock Island.

All the hotels, beaches, nice restaurants, nice bars, galleries and museums are in Key West. In Stock Island there is a military navy base, a sewage treatment plant, and a jail. All the fun-loving money-spending tourists go to Key West. In Stock Island live unemployed and low income families, mostly Cuban and Haitian refugees, no tourist comes here. The area is so poor that there is not a single full-scale grocery store (if we don’t count the small corner stores), but a food bank where the low-incomes can get loads of free groceries once a week. The jail is full with the Stock Island’s many homeless, who would do anything to spend more time there getting three hot meals a day, a bed, and good company.

In Key West you can visit the Light House, Hemingway’s house, or the Museum of Art. In Stock Island you can visit the trailer parks with no fences between trailers, laundry hanging out to dry, the smell of spices lurking out of open doors with dark interiors.

In Key West you can watch the sunset from Malory Square. In Stock Island you can watch Cuban fishermen gutting groupers at sunset.

In Key West you can sit in a coffee shop and admire the pink tourists in bikini and straw hats flip-flopping down Duval Street. In Stock Island you can walk down the side of a street covered with pieces of bleached corals and watch a group of black men in shorts sitting in front of the porch of a trailer, smoking and watching you back, suspiciously.

Here people have boats instead of cars parked in front of their houses. The ones who don’t have houses live in boats or repurposed motor vehicles of all kinds. And everyone rides bicycles.

If you were to wake up one morning here, say, fifty years ago, you would find the place pretty much the same: the same mangroves all around the shores, the same blue waters teaming with tropical fish, the same people and dwellings, only less. One change you might notice is that, in the old times, the bravest and most drunk party-loving tourists would come to Stock Island at three o’clock in the morning after the bars in Key West were already closed, because the bars in Stock Island would stay open all night.

This is the charm of Stock Island: its authenticity. If you are able to detect beauty in a pink trailer with an unhealthy stray cat sitting in front; in an old black woman with a wig and a bright orange dress walking down the street holding a heavy bag in each hand; in an old turquoise school bus turned house wild chickens running around; in a young Cuban boy helping his father clean fish on the pier; in a green iguana sunbathing on the edge of a boat; you will find Stock Island enchanting, like I do. It is home, really, for the time being.

Stock Island’s Dwellings&Dwellers

An old wooden house on pylons

An old wooden house on pylons

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Categories: Collection of Places, Key West Florida, Photo Essays | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

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14 thoughts on “Stock Island

  1. Pawesome photos! =^.^=

  2. Loved the reference to “the other kid”

  3. Nancy&pierrot

    Such beauty, much more beautiful than the eye can judge…. To see, to hear, to touch, to smell……
    Just be and let it be. You have captured such beautiful sights, that grey cat! Wow……
    We miss you guys and send love to you all…
    Xoxoxoxo

    • Thank you guys!

      Yes, the grey cat is probably two hundred years old…A bag of bones…One yellow tooth…but still beautiful!

  4. Thanks for sharing, I love your photos, especially the chicken

    • Thanks!

      “In Stock Island people are not afraid of chickens, they let them run free” (a quote from a song)

      Here chickens and rooster run wild on the streets, hide in bushes and around fences and houses, hatch babies and are so annoying at night…

      i love them!

  5. a great tribute the Stock Island atmosphere!

  6. Vivid evocation of place. I’ve never been to Florida before, but I feel like I have now. Great story and photo’s. Remind’s me of my recent haul-out on the Duwamish River, Seattle. I was completely charmed by the workman funk, taco trailers and friendly folk. Guess this scene could be anywhere USA.

    • Thanks!

      There are probably similar communities everywhere, but each is unique, and this is the best part of it!

  7. Nqkoi den,…..nqkoga…..makar i za nqkolko dni ….se nadqvam da moga da prekaram s vas edno prikliuchenie,koeto prejivqvate vie vseki den.Milion pregradki ot men:*

  8. Pingback: In the Background | The Life Nomadik

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