From the Edge/Bill Dixon
Breakfast with Blanche
We are breakfasting with the usual trio: Blanche, Sludge and Ted. Susan is my “Significant Other”, or more practically, SO. The SO and I motored down to Key West from St. Pete, early Saturday morning, Christmas week. On Sunday, we are joined by our traditional Christmas week breakfast club, comprised of Susan and myself, and Ted, Blanche and Sludge, all three of whom are birds, and all of whom show up for the festivities every year. We are celebrating the Holidays together for the third straight year. Sludge, the newest member of our club, is back for year number two. There’s a diverse spread, with something for everyone; we have leftover yellowtail snapper from yesterday’s lunch at the Hogfish Bar and Grill on Stock Island, fresh Tangerine Juice from Yellow Bank Groves in Largo, and a perfect Comice pear, sliced at its peak of flavor and aroma, which lasts for approximately one hour before it declines. I have a croissant from the French bakery on Duvall, and Cuban coffee from Cuban Coffee Queen, down on the docks. The SO is having a slice of gluten-free bread she brought from St. Pete. Blanche, Sludge and Ted are dining on crumbs scattered on the balcony floor, as per usual. We are all merry, and enjoying the Christmas decorations on the boats below us in the marina.
I should introduce the honored guests. Ted is Canadian, in Key West for his annual vacation. He is a warbler by trade, roughly the size of a standard cosmetic cotton ball, and interprets my morning whistle toward the coconut palms in front of the balcony as his personal invitation to join the breakfast club each morning. Blanche and Sludge are local Key West pigeons of good families. Blanche has celebrated Christmas with us for at least three years, perhaps four. She’s beautifully distinctive. Of her eight toenails, three are white, as are most of her feathers, and three of her toenails are jet black. Her eyes have black pupils, surrounded by cadmium yellow irises, and ringed by a clear, bright orange. There are a few random, red/brown feathers on her lower back. She and Ted arrive a few seconds after I whistle for them, and Sludge, Blanche’s second-year SO, arrives seconds later. Sludge is unlovely by my standards, but he’s Blanche’s Prince Charming. He’s the same color as dirty, big-city sidewalk snow, beady-eyed and grimy. Ted, on the other hand is always immaculately attired, dapper, with a gray-green/yellow back, and dark bars on his thumbnail-sized, buff-colored breast. If I haven’t whistled him in, he chips from the coconut palm to remind me that he has arrived, and is awaiting invitation. As soon as I do whistle, he flits over to the railing, and looks down to verify that his breakfast has been served. Usually, he cocks his head, and regards me with baffled interest: what kind of huge, ugly and deformed bird am I?
I can whistle, at least, and I have spilled crumbs for him. He shrugs, and drops to the tiled floor with his tablemates, Blanche and Sludge. They ignore each other, and eat with speed and gusto, as is their way. Ted is always the first to excuse himself, and returns to the nearby palms to hunt for bugs, I suspect for the kids’ breakfasts.
Susan has walked to the French bakery for my morning croissant, and stopped at the Cuban Coffee Queen to bring back a café au lait for herself, and a double colada for me. I’ve set the patio table, warmed the leftover snapper fillets and poured the juice. Her brought-from-home gluten-free bread was in the toaster, ready to go down. On her return, I’d shake out the crumbs in the pastry bag onto the balcony for our three guests, all of whom arrive promptly, bringing appetites. When Ted leaves, he’s usually gone for a while, but Blanche and Sludge are fairly likely to follow us into the timeshare living room, and perch on the lampshade, like Poe’s raven. We shoo them out, but they’ll walk right back inside, unless we close the door, or seat ourselves on the balcony to keep them company. In the latter scenario, they settle down on the tile, near us, and wait for more food, very patiently.
From the balcony, we watch some of the semi-tame tarpon cruise slowly through the open water in the marina below, looking for a hand-out of left-over bait from the fishermen tied up to the dock or filleting fish at the cleaning tables nearby. The roving Key West cats, all named, snooze in the sun, or sit impatiently under the fish tables. Each of them seem to know that they will be fed their scraps in turn, and there are no arguments between them as slivers of raw fish are distributed to them by the fish cleaners, ministering to the faithful.
There is a sharp-shinned hawk perched on the mast of one of the larger boats in the marina, also looking for dining opportunities. He looks at, then ignores the breakfast club guests. Ted is too small to bother eating, and Blanche and Sludge too large to consider, when there are right-sized mourning doves in abundant supply nearby. After surveying the options in our immediate vicinity, the hawk flaps aloft, and then soars away, seeking breakfast elsewhere.
After breakfast, we close the doors to the balcony, and go for a stroll down Duvall Street. It’s sunny and mid-seventies: the people we pass on the sidewalks are cheerful, and as glad to be there as we are, but Key West offers plenty of traps for the unwary. A week there suffices for us. Two weeks is a bit too long, at least for me. There are bars on almost every corner, it seems, and plenty of folks who appear to have stayed in Key West just a little too long for their own good, hovering in the shadows. Early walks take you past ragged people sorting through the trash cans along the street, periodically extracting a half-eaten sandwich or an unemptied cup. Homeless people congregate in the out-of-the-way spots, here and there, and ask for spare change, smokes or your take-home bag. I suspect that Paradise isn’t all that far from hell, if either actually exist, and Key West might just be that spot, if it does.
About the author:
Bill Dixon is a contributing columnist to Ragazine.CC. You can read more about him in About Us.