Saturday, December 31, 2005

New Year's Eve Key West

Just a quick post to wish everyone a good new year. Hoping for a quiet 2006 hurricane season (despite the fact that a new tropical storm formed yesterday...the latest on record).
And if you'll be on the island for the big celebration, have a happy Key West New Year's Eve. If not, look for us on CNN as Anderson Cooper fawns over the drag queen Sushi being lowered over the Duval Street crowd.
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Friday, December 30, 2005

Real World Key West Business Goes Bust

What a fitting end to MTV's version of the real world.

We all know that in the real real world, no one hands us a job, a free swanky pad, and an unlimited bar tab. Apparently, MTV doesn't think that a show titled the "Real World" needs to have anything based in reality.
As such, the producers of the show went as far as creating a spray on tanning business named Mystic Tan for castmembers to work at while taping the upcoming season in Key West, going as far as opening an entire business for their benefit. Many locals shrugged at the idea of needing a tanning business this far south into the Sunshine State. And from the looks of things, they had very few people through the door.

Now it appears that the whole idea had about as much sense in reality as bringing sand to the beach. The whole tanning business is gone...not a trace of it left. Here are photos of the now empty building. I wonder if they'll include Mystic Tan in the plot line. Oh wait, there isn't a plot least according to court testimony by the producers of the show.

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Monday, December 12, 2005

Real World Key West Cast Works Wedding

Not sure how this fit's into the plot line, but the cast of the Real World Key West were employed to work as servers at a wedding here on the island a couple days ago.

Guests were told that the camera crew were hired by the family to film the wedding keeping the cast's identity a secret.
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Sunday, December 11, 2005

More from Fantasy Fest 2005 Key West

Last night's big parade for Fantasy Fest was nicely attended and too much fun. Maybe it was the more manageable crowd, or the good company, or the free-flowing refreshments, but I found it more enjoyable than the last few years. And the floats were very creative and funny. Many beads were tossed, and I even managed to catch few that bounced off my head.
One thing fully annoyed the crowd and me: a group of religious extremists that show up each year to yell, with bullhorns, at everyone for being such heathens. At one point, everyone started throwing beads at them, which was a light punishment for being such a party pooper.
For everything these people were condemning (drunkards, fornicators, yada yada yada), I thought it strange that pedopheliacs weren't on the list - given the church's penchant for buggery, especially with alter boys. To me, anyone yelling about how everyone should live their lives are more likely to be hiding (compensating) for something sinister.
Key West Travel Guide has posted some more excellent 2005 Fantasy Fest Key West photos
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Friday, December 09, 2005

Fantasy Fest 2005: Light Crowds for Key West's Big Event

Maybe it's no suprise, but the rescheduled Fantasy Fest has seen some very light crowds. Events are generally seeing less than half the normal attendance. For example:
  • The Homemade Bikini contest at the Hog's Breath Saloon drew only 3 contestants. Normally there would be more than 10.
  • Pretenders in Paradise, a competition of large elaborate costumes, only had 10 entries...less than a third of normal.
  • The Headress Ball had more open seats than filled.

For a Festival that has grown into something a bit overwhelming, the mellower scene reminds me of years past and, so far, has been very enjoyable. Key West Travel Guide has just posted some pictures from today's street fair. Here is the link: Key West Fantasy Fest 2005 photos

More will be added as events continue.

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Thursday, December 08, 2005

MTV Real World Key West Still Filming

Finally, Key West is celebrating Fantasy Fest 2005. Hurricane Wilma caused the event to be cancelled from it's regular schedule around Halloween. Fantasy Fest was started over two decades ago as a way to drum up business in what was typically a slow part of the Key West calendar. These days, it's a big bash, with many revelers wearing body paint for costumes and uniquely Key West events (like the Homemade Bikini Contest). The whole thing culminates with a massive street Parade which draws tens of thousands of people.

Fantasy Fest is also the biggest fundraiser for Aids Help, a local organization dedicated to "ensure and maintain a respectable and comfortable quality of life for persons living with HIV/AIDS in Monroe County". Funds are raised for the non-profit organization by candidates seeking to be crowned King and Queen of Fantasy Fest. The candidates that raise the most money are crowned King and Queen. And that brings me to the MTV Real World Key West connection. After seeing some Real World cast members surrounding the winning King at last weeks Goombay Festival, you couldn't help but wonder how did they become part of his entourage? Word is two of the male Real World cast members have been helping with Stripp's campaign and contributing money. Supposedly, they frequently accompany him - especially to anything public and film-able. Expect Fantasy Fest to be a real part of the Real World Key West, and the Real World cast to be riding on a float during the big parade.

By the way, Stripp's website credits Mystic Tan, a new Key West business created by MTV producers for the cast to work at, as a sponsor. So, did MTV buy the cast's way into the Fantasy Fest spotlight? I hope's for a good cause.

Also heard on the 'coconut telegraph': cast members went to Spain when Hurricane Wilma hit, allowing producers time to fix the flooded Real World house.
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Monday, November 21, 2005

Key West Thanksgiving Dinner

For those in town for the holiday, here is a list of advertised Key West Thanksgiving dinners:
  • Hot Tin Roof, Elegant Waterfront Restaurant and Bar, 0 Duval Street, 295-7056 for reservations (5-10 p.m. seatings)
  • Bagatelle, 3-course meal at $45 per person, New-American/Carribean Cuisine, 115 Duval Street, 296-6609 for reservations
  • Cafe Sole, inventive Key West restaurant located in an Old Town neighborhood, Thanksgiving Menu is $25 (regular menu is also available), 294-0230 for reservations
  • El Meson de Pepe, Mallory Square and N. Roosevelt locations, Cuban restaurant offering "Deep Fried Turkey" and other Thanksgiving menu items, 295-9448 or 295-2620 for reservations.
  • Turtle Kraals, casual Key West restaurant/bar offering Traditional Thanksgiving Day Turkey and Football, $16.95 per person, 231 Margaret Street, 294-2640
  • Sheraton Suites, S. Roosevelt Boulevard (across from Smathers Beach), hotel's restaurant, $24.95 per person, $9.95 per child, 292-6213 for reservations.
  • Nicole Seafood, 601 Front Street at the Hyatt, Thanksgiving Buffet noon - 5 pm, $36.95 per person, 809-4000 for reservations.
  • Also offering Thanksgiving is the Hilton hotel and it's sister property Sunset Key, but I'd rather eat my hand than patronize them.

There are no doubt others that will have a Thanksgiving offering. But either way, I would suggest reservations be made sooner than later. Also, the good folks at are a good source for anything to do with a Key West vacation.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Turbulence At Town Hall

Last nights city commission may be most known to residents for it's decision to not reschedule Fantasy Fest, something the working public overwhelmingly supported.But for me what was most obvious was how wobbly the commission dealt with the stress of the issues brought before it. The Key West City Commission looked like a vehicle whose lug nuts were not tightened enough...wobbling and appearing ready to lose a wheel and careen out of control.

The stress was brought on by the weight of it's agenda and the packed house - most there to support keeping Fantasy Fest as scheduled. (Fantasy Fest won, and will be held December 7-10.) The meeting began with a report on the city's finances, wracked by hurricane damage, business interuptions, and clean-up costs, and set the commission on edge. As the meeting progressed, one by one, the commissioners each seemed out of touch and rattled.

  • Rossi was confused as to what he had seconded
  • Bethel enraged the crowd by suggesting they were outnumbered by the anti-Fantasy-Fest-in-December "silent majority"
  • Menendez delivered more than one meandering sermon with no punch line
  • the Mayor/Chairperson threatened that the public shouldn't make this personal (and even scolded one resident who mentioned Bethel's name during her allotted 3 minutes)
  • and most menacing of all was Kholage who stared down the crowd and threatened in old-fashioned Bubba style, that if you push the commission, next time the commission will push back (later he would apologize for the comment, and tried to tone down his rhetoric).
I can only imagine how they'll deal with the real problems coming down the pipe.
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Monday, November 14, 2005

Fantasy Fest Timing Offends Some Key West Residents

As if things weren't enough up-in-the-air for many Key West Florida businesses and their employees, the rescheduled Key West Fantasy Fest is going to be debated at tomorrow's Key West City Commission meeting. The organizers of the event must still get approval from the city to hold the event - which requires permits for street closures, open container laws, and suspension of noise ordinances. Without the City's o.k. Fantasy Fest cannot happen.

This whole mess started when Hurricane Wilma forced the cancellation of the annual Halloween festival, something most residents never before thought would happen. The new date chosen for the Key West events were December 7-11....Pearl Harbor Day. Almost immediately some residents complained and thought it disrespectful to hold the festival on such a somber day. In response, the organizer sent out a poorly thought letter suggesting that we all show our reverence for the date with an all out "Red, White, and Blue" Fantasy Fest. Even the local press jumped on the public roasting - and declared the organizers insensitive and dim-witted. The organizers retracted the letter, and now have themed the event "Wilma's Freaks, Geeks, and Goddesses", a sort of mutation of the original theme, with the addition of "Wilma's".

Now cue up the City Commission. Senior Commissioner Harry Bethel won't have anything to do with Fantasy Fest in December. He voiced that it is family time, and something so bawdy (read "deviant") should not be in the same Holy month of December.

But where are all the local freaks, artists, and other fun characters that made Key West known as a laid-back, non-conformist community? Seems most are long gone, leaving a new island demographic rearing it's conservative head. More and more religious residents are belly-aching about the devilish Fantasy Fest invading the sacrosanct December. All the while, the working residents are stunned. Most are barely hanging on due to the combination of skyrocketing housing costs and hurricanes interrupting their ability to work. For workers and more than a few businesses, Fantasy Fest is critical.

On top of everything else, Goombay festival was rescheduled for the same night as the Christmas Parade. Residents of Bahama Village are understandably upset that the event organizers rescheduled their big party for the same day as the Christmas Parade, forcing them to choose between the two. Finally, organizers of Fantasy Fest have stated that if the event doesn't happen in December, it may not happen next Halloween. Somehow their funding is in jeopardy if they don't spend the money in the year it was allocated for.

All this is scheduled to be heard at Tuesdays commission meeting. With an 80% turnover on the commission after the elections, no one is sure what they will decide.
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Saturday, November 12, 2005

$30 Million Dollar Yacht Damaged & Aground in Key West

Now that Hurricane season is over (it's over right...twitch, twitch), and Key West is cleaned up and again looking like the idyllic island it is known to be, I took a ride up to the backcountry with one of the best Key West flats fishing guide for some flats fishing and a post-storm look around. The mangrove islands north of Key West were no longer lush green. The lashing they withstood has left their leaves the Burgundy color of autumn, as if autumn actually occurs in the Keys. These islands saw a storm surge of 8+ feet, submerging much of their branches, browning their leaves and scouring the bark. Mangroves are built for this environment - able to tolerate a salt water environment, and anchored to the soft bottom with a network of aerial roots. So it is no surprise to see the new green leaves starting to sprout.The water is still a little bit silty, although some of it is due to the breezy conditions we have had lately. Plenty of seabirds were chasing the pilchards, mullet, and other small fish schooling near the islands, and mangrove snapper and jack crevalles were ambushing them in the pockets of deeper water, especially next to the complex mangrove roots.Next, we moved on to get a closer look at a 162 foot yacht that had been torn from it anchorage during the hurricane and pushed far onto the flats. During the storm, many boats at anchor were damaged, sunk, or destroyed. But this boat is of a caliber that usually takes great precaution when a storm nears. The boat is estimated to be worth more than 30 million dollars. She is a beauty, and appears to have been built with no expense spared. Having survived the rest of the hurricane season where it was, just northwest of Key West harbor, she tempted the storm gods one more time. Two crew members were onboard, and I can only imagine the ride they had. The contract to remove the boat from the shallows is said to be 1.5 million dollars. The damage is severe, with both masts snapped, and the keel (probably at least 10-15 feet tall) stuck in the bottom. To get a sense of the scale of this massive luxury vessel, notice the man standing in the 1 foot deep water under the bow. Ouchey.
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Saturday, November 05, 2005

Pre-Production Photos of MTV Real World Key West House

Here are photos of inside the house MTV is using for the Real World taping. These were pre-production pictures (taken before MTV renovated the house, and before Hurricane Wilma flooded the house) that were part of a website that advertised the property for rent. That website is now unavailable.
Pool & Jacuzzi Indoors
A View From The Water
Enclosed Porch Overlooking Water
Kitchen Area
Another Pool & Jacuzzi Outdoors
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Sunday, October 30, 2005

Hurricane Wilma Damages Key West Real World House

It appears that Hurricane Wilma seriously damaged the Real World Key West house.
The morning after Hurricane Wilma passed north of Key West (Monday), a 6-7 foot storm surge from the Gulf of Mexico flooded Key Haven and other low-lying neighborhoods in the Lower Florida Keys. Residents homes were inundated with sea water, and automobiles on the street were ruined by the windshield level saltwater. And nearly as quickly as it came it, it receded back in to the ocean. What it left in it's wake is breathtaking. Entire households' furniture was soaked and ruined, flooring buckled, and nearly everything was out of place. A drive through the area clearly showed the damage - with piles of furniture, rugs, mattresses, and other possessions deposited in front of nearly every home.The Real World house, on Driftwood Drive, had its stylized gate ripped free, and left lying by the road. The mailbox, a statue of a manatee, was stained with mud and had a hand-written message propped in front of it. It read, "Security guard 'Manny' on duty!" Even Manny couldn't stop the damage: the door to the mailbox Manny was missing.The house is still boarded up, with it's aluminum hurricane shutters in place. There is no sign of anyone there. This house has a pool in the living room. With the sea-water flooding the house, I can only imagine what that looks like now. My guess is that Bunim-Murray/MTV lost their ability to film there due to the extensive electrical, lighting, and other systems vulnerable to the water. If they have to re-wire the whole production, this would likely take approximately 6-weeks. So, that is probably the end of things for the Key Haven house. Looks like Ed Swift got his wishes to come true...MTV is gone. Is he so powerful and connected he called in a favor with mother nature?
Here are photos of the house post Hurricane Wilma:

Here is the house as it stands yesterday, still boarded up and sandbagged. Half of the large driveway gate, adorned with airplane parts, was torn off.

The damaged gate, after being ripped from its hinges, lying beside the street. Notice at the end of the street, a pile of ruined furniture in front of a neighbors house.

In front of the Real World Key West house is a manatee
statue that appears to have been shot in the neck with a mailbox. Yep, this kind of Florida kitsch is still produced today. The sign, in the scrawl of a madman, notifies the public of security.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Key West Hurricane Wilma Photos

By morning, the media looked like they spent the night on Duval
More Hurricane Wilma
photos from Key West courtesy of

With a week of press coverage before the storm, many complained of hurricane fatigue. For me, it was hurricane coverage fatigue. Looks like some in the media felt the same way.Mallory Square Post Hurricane
Mike Sydel from the Weather Channel keeping the worry going
After the storm, Mallory Square had a coating of sand, and some of the bricks had floated up and out of position. The Weather Channel and the rest of the media did an excellent job of keeping the worry going.
Key West Aquarium sharks swim away
Down on Whitehead Street, the historic Cistern (yawn) lost its entire metal roof. Must have been 100 8-foot sheets of metal in the street.Hilton Marina totally destroyed
The best fish sandwich on the island survives another blow. Go BO!
The Hilton Marina was totally destroyed. All of the docks and wooden walkways were jet ski in front of the Casa Marina smashed to bits.
Fortunately, B.O.'s Fish Wagon (my favorite fish sandwich on the island) surivived the storm...I think better than Hurricane Georges. At least the shack is still in one piece!
Strange things floated into shorefront streets, like this jetski.
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Key West: A Violent Change of Seasons

National Weather Service Office in Key West Displaying Hurricane Warning Flags

Wasn't that a mighty storm in the morning? Fortunately it didn't blow all the people away (as it does in the song). The good news is that the Florida Keys wasn't destroyed by Hurricane Wilma. However, the islands were flooded with a storm surge that occured after many thought the worst was over. Some residents in the middle Keys were begining to clear limbs from their yards monday morning, when at 9 am a rapid storm surge came in. One friend told me the water came in from the canal at over 20 knots, swept everything from the first floor of her Cudjoe home, and eerily like a mini-tsunami, receeded with the neighborhoods posessions.Residents of Key West who live in low lying areas were also flooded. By some estimates, 50-60 percent of Key West was under water. Many cars were ruined from the saltwater flooding, and the city is very slowly coming back together.Some of the worst damage to the island of Key West was along it's waterfront. The Hilton's marina was totally destroyed, the sharks swam out of the aquariums outdoor holding pens, Atlantic Shores and Ocean Key House both lost most of their piers, and Louis Backyard lost it's backyard.Power has come back for many residents, and it comes as a suprise given the severity of the storm and the widespread outages across southern Florida.Economically, the damage is being estimated as immense. Fantasy Fest has been postponed, and the businesses and their employees are suffering from losing the busiest week of the year. Goombay was also cancelled/rescheduled.Finally, the biggest suprise might be the cold front that followed Wilma. Usually, post-hurricane weather is miserable - hot, muggy, and without a breeze. But this storm, being so late, ended up being directed by a cold front - something no islander can remember happening in the past.Though many have lost a lot, it could have been a lot worse. The island will re-open for business shortly, and for visitors, everything will once again appear as before: an idyllic island surrounded by gem-colored seas.
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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Judge: Key West Real World Can Continue Filming

This afternoon, Monroe County Court judge Mark Jones decided that MTV can continue filming its reality TV show "The Real World", despite the complaints of wealthy and powerful neighbors. After three days of evidentiary hearings, the Court found that although the neighbors may have had some of their tranquility disturbed (though possibly impossible to please), since the production is temporary and serving a greater value to the tourism-dependent County and that MTV producers have been trying to be a good neighbor, the complaints didn't rise to the level of an injunction to halt filming.The Swifts, who are use to getting there way, looked noticeably disappointed. Their attorney, Jim Hendrick, tried his best to convince the court that it wouldn't be too much of a burden to have MTV move the production to another house. MTV attorneys detailed the large amount of planning, work, and money that go into making a Real World house, and weren't accepting any idea of moving. It would be "so cost prohibitive...we would cease production" testified MTV producer James Johnston. "The house is the eighth cast member." He explained that contrary to Mr. Hendrick's assertions, the difficulties include 6-8 weeks of time needed, losing most of the crew, running into Christmas (which he said wouldn't work with the season's story..."There are no holidays on the Real World"), and he claimed that "we don't have the money". Hard to believe that MTV's producers are short on funding, but that is for them to claim. Johnston was adamant that this was an unscripted documentary, and therefore if forced to change production locations, it would be to the detriment of the story. Johnston stated "to stop taints the documentary", "affects people in front of the camera", relationships change, and the story would be missing a chapter (the eviction) and wouldn't make sense. The Swifts' attorneys argued the show was not unscripted, and wondered why an "unscripted" show would have such a contrived plot, complete with free rents, arranged jobs, and residence that although not actually on the island of Key West is being made to seem like it is a typical "fabulous" Key West home. MTV responded that the house is in the same area code as Key West, and that's good enough for them. Still, Swifts attorneys wanted to know why eviction couldn't be part of the story and said in closing arguments "in the REAL real world, kids get evicted." Both sides presented their argument: lighting evidence. One side had pictures, the other still photos. Swift, a once professional photographer, testified that his photos clearly showed the light monster invading his property. On cross examination, however, he was unable to explain why the photos appeared to grainy and off color, blaming his shaky hands. And he did admit, that since the producers had turned off some lights weeks ago, it was no longer bright enough in his bedroom to read.
In the end, the judge decided:
  1. MTV cannot increase the lighting presently being used
  2. cannot use the tennis court lighting
  3. must refrain from any further use of helicopters or other aviation devices,
  4. the lease, which ends December 1 with a 4-week extension option, could not be extended beyond those terms.

Clearly, the show is a temporary thorn in the side of the Swifts, unlike the tours his company sells that permanently wander residential neighborhoods to the annoyance of many residents. MTV has won and Ed Swift has lost. The production will continue, and in the end become the biggest commercial for Key West and benefit the tourism of the island. He will also benefit, of couse unless the fans of the Real World organize a boycott of his businesses. Then again, maybe he's losing his mind.

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Sunday, October 16, 2005

MTV Lawyers Defend Real World Show

The battle between MTV and the Swifts, a wealthy and powerful Key West family, will resume this week in county court. The Swifts complain that the filming of The Real World is ruining the tranquility and enjoyableness of their fiefdom, er neighborhood. Ironically, the Swifts have made a massive business of doing just that: invading the tranquility of a residential neighborhood with a stream of tour vehicles. Many have complained, with no sympathy from the tourism tycoon.
MTV is learning just how influential and powerful this family is, and has found itself in a fierce battle to save the upcoming season's production in a country court. MTV has already invested millions into the project, and was quoted as saying they would leave Key West entirely if forced from the present filming location.
All I can say is, be careful what you wish for Mr. Swift. Couldn't the argument you are making against MTV be then used to shut down your commercial operation in the residential neighborhoods? Wouldn't that be the ultimate payback. Maybe MTV should buy a house in the historic district, and file a lawsuit against the Swifts for ruining the tranquility of their neighborhood.
Of course, I think this is nonsense. Goodness know why the Swifts have their shorts so much in a bunch. The production is within their rights, as far as I can see. I mean, the show has usually been filmed in a residential neighborhood. And MTV went out of it's way to get feedback from the neighbors & officials, and just about everyone thought this was o.k, including the county attorney and mayor. Supposedly, the Swifts were against it from the start, and just couldn't be satisfied.
In a tourist town that many have complained is favoring the Swifts' businesses, this slap at free publicity is being met with incredulous responses. He's about the last person that people will accept a "not in my backyard" from.
What's MTV's defense?
Below is an abbreviated and edited part of the Defendants' (Bunim-Murray/MTV producers) Response to Plaintiffs Request for Injunctive Relief, part of the public filings for the case:

I. Introduction and Factual Background

A. The Real World

"The Real World" is a television program that is produced by
Bunim-Murray and broadcast on the Music Television Network (MTV)...The concept
of the program is that seven people who have never previously met are brought
together to line in a single house, and cameras continuously film them and
document their transition from strangers to roommates...In the upcoming season of
The Real World, seven people will work in Key West, Florida, and reside at a
house Bunim-Murray has leased in Key Haven (Monroe County), Florida.
Bunim-Murray has also leased the grounds adjoining the house. Filming at the
house and grounds in Key Haven is scheduled to end in December 2005.

B. Bunim-Murray Is a Conscientious And Good Neighbor.

Bunim-Murray has leased a house and adjoining ground in Key Haven...Renovated and remodeled the house and grounds to suit its film the seven people while they are living in the house, as is its right.
Bunim-Murray wants to be a good neighbor and, as good neighbors are supposed to do, it complies with all applicable laws and continually strives to peacefully co-exist with its neighbors. To that end, Bunim-Murray met with high ranking government officials of the City of Key West and Monroe County for the purpose of (a) informing the government officials that Bunim-Murray planned to do in Key West and Monroe County, and (b) providing the government officials with an opportunity to educate Bunim-Murray about what needed to be done, from a legal and logistics standpoint, for Bunim-Murray to lawfully conduct those activities...Bunim -Murray also met with its neighbors to explain what it planned to do on the property, and to address and resolve any concerns the neighbors might have...Bunim-Murray stressed to the neighbors that if they ever had any problems with anything going on at the property, then they should bring those concerns to Bunim-Murray's attention and - working together - the neighbors would be able to solve any problems that might arise.An Assistant County Attorney attended the neighborhood meeting and...Research the issues of restrictions on the proposed activity at this location...The Assistant County Attorney issued a written opinion that no conditional use permit is required, no occupational license is required, no home occupational special use permit is required, and their is no "single family" designation or other restriction against unrelated people living in the same house...(and) did not indicate that there was anything unlawful about the proposed activity...For three days...Bunim -Murray canvassed the neighborhood, again asking the neighbors...if they had any questions or concerns about The Real World...The neighbors who were at home during these visits overwhelmingly indicated that they had no objection to Bunim-Murray's presence in the neighborhood, and those neighbors signed forms saying so.

C. The Neighbor Who Is Impossible To Please

The are some neighbors who will never like you no matter how hard you try to please them or how accommodating you are. Plaintiffs Ed and Nancy Swift are those kind of neighbors. From the moment they learned that Bunim-Murray was moving into the neighborhood, the Swifts decided that they did not want Bunim-Murray there and were determined not to let anything change their minds.Indeed, instead of discussing their concerns with Bunim-Murray and trying to reach some sort of accommodation - as neighbors are supposed to do - the Swifts raced to the courthouse and filed their Amended Verified Complaint, asking the Court to enjoin Bunim-Murray from using and enjoying the property that Bunim-Murray has lawfully leased.Plantiffs' Amended Verified Complaint is noteworthy because for all of Plaintiffs' bluster they fail to identify any conduct capable of supporting the drastic injunctive relief they seek. The reason for Plaintiffs' inability
to identify any actionable conduct is simple: there is none.

D. The Nature of Plaintiffs' Amended Verified Complaint

Although Plaintiffs' Amended Verified Complain contains only one count, it nonetheless appears to assert multiple theories. Specifically, Plaintiffs mention both "private nuisance" and alleged violations of the Monroe County Code, but it is unclear whether Plaintiffs are traveling under a single theory or, if they are traveling under multiple theories, where one theory ends and the next begins.Regardless of how many theories Plaintiffs are proceeding under, they seem to be complaining about five things: (1) Bunim-Murray will be conducting allegedly commercial activities that are not permitted...(2)on three consecutive days in August more than twenty cars were allegedly parked on two vacant lots Bunim-Murray has leased...(3) too many exterior lights have been installed...and some of those lights allegedly shone into Plaintiffs' home...(4) Bunim-Murray has installed exterior cameras on its property, some of which allegedly are directed at Plaintiffs' home...and (5) on August 21 Plaintiff Ed Swift heard people performing nighttime exterior carpentry work...and, in the future, unidentified noise may come Bunim-Murray's house...As discussed below, none of these complaints, individually or collectively, are capable of supporting the injunctive relief Plaintiffs seek. E. The Relief Plaintiffs SeekPlaintiffs seek and injunction that, if issued, would completely stop the filming of The Real World at the property
Bunim-Murray has leased. The relief Plaintiffs seek is breathtakingly overbroad,
with absolutely no attempt having been made to tailor the requested remedy to
Plaintiffs five specific complaints, as the law requires.For instance,
Plaintiffs allege that on one occasion lights shone into their home, but instead
of asking that those lights be turned down or off, they ask the Court to
completely stop...filming The Real World. Plaintiffs allege that on three
occasions too many cars were parked...but instead of asking that the number of
parked cars be limited, they ask the Court to completely stop Bunim-Murray from
filming The Real World....Plaintiffs allege that some cameras are pointed at
their house...they heard exterior carpentry work......completely stopping
Bunim-Murray from filming The Real World - is fatally overbroad in light of what
Plaintiffs are complaining about.

The case resumes on Tuesday of this week. I just hope that MTV doesn't cave in and somehow benefit the Swifts or their businesses. Otherwise, it may appear that the powerful and wealthy Swifts have blackmailed their way into a sweet deal.

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Saturday, October 15, 2005

Rock Climbing in New Mexico and Beyond

Living on an island that rises to no more than 18 feet above sea level, and a part of the flattest state in the nation, it may come as a suprise that I care about rock climbing, backcountry skiing, mountaineering, and ice climbing. I do! I'm just putting that part of my on hold until I can resume my mountain life. If you want to check out a world-class guide service out west, you can do no better than Suntoucher Mountain Guides. They offer excellent:

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Thursday, October 13, 2005

MTV Threatens to Cancel Key West Series

The court case between MTV Real World producers and a Key West tourism millionaire is underway in county court. Ed Swift is seeking an injuction to stop filming of the show. If he succeeds, MTV producers threaten to leave Key West entirely, according to this morning's local paper. This is not the first MTV show to be filmed in Key West. In the past, MTV has filmed its Beach House and Road Rules episodes on the island, and this has resulted in a lot of publicity for Key West. And in the business of tourism, good publicity yields more visitors.
One might think that the free publicity that the popular show is likely to give Ed Swift's tourism businesses, including the Conch Tour Trains and Trolley tours, is well worth the alleged nuicance of a 6-month taping next to his posh Florida Keys home. Plus, many people who live in the neighborhoods that his tours creep through every day all day, have made similar complaints. Nope, he's playing hardball, and in his complaint requests:
  • A. Defendants, their agents and employees be temporarily enjoined from using Subject Property to film "The Real World" television series.
  • B. Plaintiffs be awarded all costs, expenses, and attorney's fees incurred in this action; and
  • C. Plaintiffs be awarded such other relief as this Court may find just and proper.

In court documents for the Swift on file, one nearby house complained that the production's lights are so bright, her 3 macaws (parrots) who live in her glassed-in porch "did not know when to roost". How much pain and suffering for that alone? I mean, caged birds unable to live naturally!?

Other complaints include:

  • the increase in boat traffic
  • a waverunner tour operation now making the waterfront homes a stop on their trip
  • boaters not adhering to the "No Wake" zone and causing resident's boats to "bang against the seawall"
  • waters are now unsafe for swimming due to the added boat traffic.

From the local paper Key West Citizen, written by their excellent reporter Timothy O'Hara,

"Nancy Swift testified about the amount of light coming from the home, a
helicopter taking video images of the home and the increase in the number of
vehicles and boats that come through the neighborhood. Swift also told the judge
that they were unable to have a "sweet 16" birthday party for their daughter at
their home. They did not want their daughter and their friends hanging around
the MTV house, because it was occupied by strangers, she said.
Bunim-Murray attorneys reminded the judge that the Swifts are partial owners of Historic Tours of America, which operates Conch Tour Train and Old Town Trolley tours that travel through residential downtown Key West.
Nancy Swift testified that the family does not live in Old Town because they wanted to live in a neighborhood that didn't have tour operators and other commercial activity.
"I wanted to bring up children in a family neighborhood," Nancy Swift said.
Bohrer referred to her attitude as one of "not in my backyard," as he asked
the judge to dismiss the case early Wednesday. The Swifts have no problem
subjecting the rest of the community to thousands of people tourists driving
through their neighborhoods, Bohrer said.
Monroe Circuit Judge Mark Jones refused to dismiss the case, meaning the defendants had to put on their side of the case.
Two producers and the director of photography testified Wednesday
about why the outside lights are kept on all night. They also measured the light
near the property line abutting the Swift home and results determined the light
in that area was minimal, they said. "

This all comes at a strange time for Key West and it's biggest businessman. A recent court case has leveled a $13.5 million judgement against the city, largely the result of Ed Swift's monopoly of land-based-vehicle tours and Key West creation and protection of that monopoly. Angry city officials have been calling for an end to the sweetheart deal between the city and the Historic Tours of America/Conch Tour Train/Trolley. Is Swift just trying to slap back at the city? Is it a big payoff he seeks from MTV? Most of all, is he really that ignorant in the irony of his complaint "not in my backyard", when that's how he makes a living: running a commercial operation in residential neighborhoods?

Next post, I'll fill you in on MTV's defense.

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Saturday, October 08, 2005

MTV's Idea of Tanning in Key West

With the way they do things, maybe MTV should rename it's hit reality show "The Unreal World". I mean, putting a bunch of strangers in a house that, even together, they can't afford, then adding a bunch of booze, in the real world this would lead to eviction, not fame. But then again, it's entertainment...or so the mantra goes.
Continuing it's reality show in an imaginary world, MTV has decided that the cast members will have a job in Key West: working in a spray-on-tan salon that producers created for the show. Producers needed to create and open the salon because Key West didn't have one, or as many pointed out, doesn't need one. If you want a tan, most people have the good sense to just step outside. This place is all about boating, beaching, and partying outside. We've got plenty of sun. I'll leave the spray painting to household projects.
The tanning salon is open for business. Here is their brochure:

Here is the front door:

But be warned. Should you enter, you will be agreeing to be filmed. Here is the warning posted at the front door:

More later.
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MTV Appears in Key West Court Over Real World

Local Key West tourism mogul Ed Swift had his complaints heard in front of a judge this week in Key West Florida.
Swift is suing MTV producers over the filming in "his" neighborhood of next season's Real World. Swift complained that "There is no doubt that it (the Real World house, very near his house) will become a tourist site." The irony of this statement wasn't lost on many Key West residents, who have long complained that his Conch Tour Train and Trolley have invaded their neighborhoods peace and quiet with a near constant stream of gawking tourists, and noise pollution in the form of bells, whistles, and a sight-seeing spiel broadcast over the touring vehicles' loudspeakers. One comment printed in the local newpaper's "Citizens' Voice", a "forum for you to tell us what's on your mind", summed up many residents view of Swift's complaint:
"Hello, I hope that Judge Jones tells Ed Swift the same thing Ed Swift told me when I complained about the Conch Trains waking me up in the morning and having gawking tourists looking at my house 24-7. Ed told me essentially to count sand. Well I hope the judge tells Ed to count sand, too."

In court, Swift, along with his wife Nancy, complained of the productions bright lights and the show's fans driving through the upscale neighborhood, apparently curious for a peek at the cast and house. The court case seeks to stop the production from filming, but I have heard from one good source on the "coconut telegraph" that the shrewd Swift is looking for a payoff.
The case will continue to be heard this week.
Visit for more Key West information.
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Saturday, September 17, 2005

Key West Real World Jobs: Spray On Tan

Looks like the Key West Real World cast will have a unique job for the tropical island. Plans are underway for the castmembers to work in a spray-on tanning salon which is being created just for the show. Here is a sign presently in the window of the future salon:

The owner of the house where the show is being taped, Andrew Lippi, also owns a building on upper Duval Street that until recently housed two art galleries. One of the galleries is still there, but the other, named The Pineapple Gallery, has closed its doors and is currently being refashioned into a tanning salon. Word is they'll only have the salon open for 6 months, and when production is over it will close...maybe to turn back into a gallery again. More about Key West is at
Here is the Key West building permit displayed in the window of the future salon:

In reality (no pun intended), Key West is one big tanning booth. Step outdoors and you will be blasted with intense sun-tanning rays: all free. Why anyone would want to spray on a tan while in Key West is beyond me. It rarely rains for long, much less days at a time.
Unless, maybe they'll be trying to push the definition of a spray-on tan and do body painting for Fantasy Fest. That would make some good television.
For MTV's Real World producers, this is one stop shopping. One owner for the castmembers house and job.
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Friday, September 16, 2005

Key West Employees Forbidden From MTV Show

Solares Hill, the Key West weekly free-for-locals paper, reported that Ed Swift has forbidden his employees from being filmed by MTV's Real World.
In this weeks Soundings column, Mark Howell wrote:
"A memo addressed to all "cast members" at Historic Tours of America -
meaning its Conch train and trolley drivers, attendants and ticket-takers - was
sent out this month by Linda Test, director of HTA's Key West operations.
Headed "MTV 'Real World' Filming, it instructs:

"At no time will it be acceptable for any castmember to be filmed or
interviewed during work hours or while in unifrom by anone of MTV's 'Real
World.' Any requests for photos or interviews must go through Piper Smith,
marketing director.
"Should you decide to participate in any filming during your personal time, no reference to HTA or its affiliates may be mentioned.
"Failure to comply will be grounds for disciplinary action and
possible termination."
I have a feeling this is not what it at first seems. Maybe Ed Swift, owner of HTA, wants controlled & free publicity, and is going to negotiate a "settlement" with MTV if they'll use his brands tastefully. Also, maybe he doesn't want an employee to say something he'll regret - this is, after all, a huge television show coming to Key West.
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Key West Real World Begins Filming

Despite a local businessman's legal challenges, the Key West Real World has begun filming. The cast members are in the house and production has begun. A hearing is scheduled in the County Court for Wednesday September 21, 2005 where a judge will hear decide on whether to issue an injuction to stop production.
I would guess that this will not happen. My suspicion is that the local businessman, Ed Swift (owner of the biggest tour operation on the island - the Conch Tour Train and Trolley), will be satisfied if he can get MTV to include his business in the production...maybe have the cast members take a Train tour. Just my speculation, but I wouldn't put it past him. He known as a very aggressive businessman.
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Monday, September 12, 2005

Rare Look Inside: View the House Lease for MTV's Real World Key West

I have had a chance to look at the lease agreement between MTV producers for the Real World and the owner of the house where the upcoming season of the reality show is planned. With rent of $25,000 per month, this is anything but a "real world" scenario.
I couldn't put the lease on this blog - it would be unreadable with the built in Blogger image optimization/reduction. So, I've posted it at my online guide to Key West.
Click the link below to see the lease
The lease is very interesting reading and a rare look behind the scenes at MTV. If you want to see more of this kind of information, let me know. If there is interest, I'll post the entire complaint, filed by a local businessman, against MTV for disrupting his peaceful neighborhood with the upcoming production.
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Key West Real World: New Date Set for Hearing Against Production

The date has been changed for the hearing of Ed Swift's complaint. Instead of the previous date of this Tuesday, the hearing has been rescheduled for Wednesday September 21, 2005 at 1:30 pm. This is a hearing to be held at the Monroe County Courthouse in Key West Florida. The judge will decide whether to issue an injuction against MTV against filming the upcoming Real World season in Swift's neighborhood.
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Sunday, September 11, 2005

Key West Real World Producers Due in Court This Week

Here is where things are as far as the Key West Real World. Filming has not begun. Things are on hold until a local complaint is heard by the county court.
On August 24, 2005, Key West businessman Ed Swift and his wife filed a complaint against Bunim-Murray Productions. The Swifts live across the street from a house MTV producers have rented in order to film a season of their reality show Real World. Naming a list of nuisances they anticipate, the Swifts have thrown a big wrench in the taping schedule. As of now, there is a motion for a temporary injunction.
The hearing is scheduled for this Tuesday, September 13 at 3:15 pm. I'll post what I learn.
Also, thanks for visiting my Key West blog!
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Friday, September 02, 2005

Locals Lash Out At Swift Over MTV Show

When word got out of Ed Swift's lawsuit against the Real World, MTV's popular reality tv program due to be filmed in his neighborhood near Key West, islanders were quick to criticize the mega-tourism businessman for ignoring their similar pleas. Though a couple were sympathetic, overwhelmingly Key Westers had little sympathy for Swift. Here are a few of the comments, as printed in the local paper:
"So MTV is filming a reality video next door to the Key Haven home of Ed Swift. I hope they're able to incorporate into the video some of the reality of living in Old Town Key West. Such as the Conch Train or the Trolley's loudspeakers and tooting horns."
"Mr. Swift, I really object your trains running by my house on Elizabeth Street four times an hour every 15 to 20 minutes broadcasting how pretty my plants are."
"I've watched every season of MTV's 'Real World' since the beginning in 1993. I know every house and every cast member but I cannot tell you a single thing about any of their neighbors, their neighbors' lives, their children's lives or their houses. Ed Swift just needs to chill out and be tolerant for three months as I am every half hour as the Conch Train passes slowly by and pictures are taken."
"Ed, I feel your pain. Tell you what, let's do a survey of all the residents from Key West to Key Largo and see what they think. Then we can appoint a county committee to study it. After that we may want to do a quality of life study. We'll get to the bottom of it, I promise."
"It seems that Ed Swift would appreciate the publicity that MTV will bring to the Keys. More people riding his trains."
"Give Ed Swift a break. If you live in Old Town you live in a mixed residential/commercial area. Key Haven is a residential suburb. When you move to the suburbs you have an expectation of peace and quiet. If the Real World house was next to mine, I'd let my dog poop on their lawn."
"I don't care if Ed Swift has every license under the sun and MTV doesn't. This is still funny as hell. Go 'Real World,' go."
"Come on, let's be fair. Having a Conch Train go by your house the last 47 years is not the same as having MTV move in next door to you 24-7. The Conch Train shows off what's positive about Key West. Is MTV's The Real World the image we really want to portray anyway?"
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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Front Page News: Key West Real World Lawsuit

The local Key West press, the Key West Citizen, has picked up on the lawsuit story that was reported here at
They included a great photo of the house, taken by an excellent local photojournalist Rob O'Neal:
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Sunday, August 28, 2005

Upcoming Real World Key West House Photos

I stopped by the house that MTV is preparing for the upcoming Key West season of The Real World.
It is impressive and situated in a neighborhood of very big and expensive homes.

Below is a shot of the street showing the type of homes in the area:

Next, below is a picture of the house, looking at the front gate. The gate is made from parts of airplanes, and the house also has a few more airplane adornments.
Key West houses
The house is made up of two structures - I believe the second structure houses a raquetball court. Here is a picture, below, of the main house, showing a little more of the house (the gate would be to the right in this photo)
Key West Real World
This next photo, below, was taken even further down the front of the house, showing the driveway and the vacant lot next door that is being used for production parking.
Real World Key West
Below is a picture of the tennis court, with the Real World house behind it. This was taken from the street as you first approach the house.
Key West tennis
Want to go inside? Who doesn't! It's pretty amazing and should be a great set for the show. Check back tomorrow, and I'll post photos of the interior.
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Saturday, August 27, 2005

Key West Businessman Suing MTV Real World

Wow! I can't believe it. Local tourism mogul Ed Swift has filed a lawsuit against MTV over the upcoming production of the Key West edition of the Real World.
Here is a little background, and the reason why this is soooo ironic: Ed Swift is the owner of the Conch Tour Train and Trolley, the islands biggest tourist business. He has become an empire, and even has had the luxury of having the city in it's back pocket (they signed an exclusivity deal years ago that prohibited any other tour business from operating on land - a recent lawsuit had the city on the wrong end of a 13.5 million dollar judgement for it's monopoly abuse practices and the harm it did to the small Duck Tours business). Ed Swift also owns numerous other attractions on Key West, including the Key West Aquarium, the Shell Market at Mallory Square, a couple tall ship schooners, and the Dry Tortugas ferry. Bring up the name Ed Swift in Key West, and more times than not, you'll get an emotional opinion - many think his mass-tourism ideas have over-run the city.
O.K...enough back-story.
Ed Swift is suing MTV because his Key Haven house on Driftwood Drive (just outside of Key West) is next door to the Key West Real World house.
I've included a picture of the Key West Real World House. Swift's house is next door.
According to the lawsuit, MTV has leased the property from June 28 until December 1. The house is approximately 6000 square feet, has a tennis court, and also includes a lot next door with a canal and open water views. Swift claims that the MTV production is "an unbearable nuisance". According to the lawsuit, Swift claims that it not legal for this type of commercial operation be conducted in this residential's zoned that way. In the lawsuit, Swift says his family "can no longer enjoy entire sections of their home for fear of ending up on national television", and that the production would prevent his family from "enjoying normal daily activities including sleeping, relaxing, reading, working, and quiet conversation." He has requested an injunction to prevent filming until his case is heard. Basically, here are the complaints in his lawsuit:
  • too many lights - supposedly 70 outdoor lights have been installed
  • cameras that can point at his house
  • more lighting complaints including the installation of commercial halogen floodlights, mounted 20 to 30 feet high
  • five commercial air-conditioners (that are supposedly necessary to keep the house cool from all the lighting)
  • sponsor advertising around the tennis court (again, a commercial appearance for a residential neighborhood)
  • the producers signed a "commercial" account with the electric utility
  • too many cars parked - up to 30 cars are alleged to be using the vacant lot.
It's all kind of ironic, given that Ed Swift has had a deaf ear to many Key Westers complaints about his Trains and Trolleys. Many bemoan that these trains invade their neighborhoods, with a public address system pointing out the sights, and a slow pace holding up the traffic. Yet now he is the one demanding that his neighborhood is off limits to commercial activity.
Stay tuned, I'll update things as I get the info. Also, I promise more photos of the house!
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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Real World Key West

I saw the rumor about the location of the Key Haven home for MTV Real World Key West - that the house was owned by local big-name the "Spotswoods". The Spotswoods have a bunch of properties, but their main house on Key Haven (a really grand house) is not going to be the cast's house. My sources tell me the cast house is on the next street, called Evergreen. Not yet known if the house is owned by the Spotwoods. Residents in Key Haven have been noticing more cars in the area, especially from "young people" driving around with cameras in hand. As of right now, though, there is nothing to see beyond the normal neighborhood.
As soon as I can, I'll put up a photo of the cast's house.
For now, for those who can't wait, here is a photo of the Pineapple Gallery on Duval Street. Early word is that this is the location that the cast members will "work" from.
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Tuesday, August 09, 2005

MTV Real World Coming to Key West

My sources have informed me that the next season's taping of MTV's Real World will be in Key West Florida.
The deal has been signed for the cast members to live on a nearby island called Key Haven - about six miles from Key West. Key Haven is a residential community that is quickly attracting bigger and bigger dollars. Some home that have been built there are owned by some of Key West's biggest names. So, as is usually the custom on Real World, the cast members will likely have an amazing house to live in (just like the real world...right?).
My sources also tell me that the cast members will work on Duval Street at the Pineapple Gallery. I've heard that it might stay a gallery, or it might be converted into a different type of business for the cast members - maybe a tanning salon - as if that's something you need in Key West. Usually, if you want a tan, just walk outside.
One thing seems certain: Key West is a town known for it's excesses and quirky ways. I bet we'll see plenty of sparks flying. Plus, if any of the cast members behave like jack-asses (nah...on MTV?!), our local police will be happy to incarcerate them.
Most likely, they will be embraced by the party atmosphere of the island.
Anything I hear about Real World Key West I'll report here at . Count on seeing some candid photos of the cast and antics.
Stay tuned.
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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Key West City Commission Meeting

Tonight, the Key West City Commission met and is played live on local televisions. It is part comedy, part country politics, and part tragedy.
Put up before them - a proposal by owners of affordable housing developments to further restrict the affordable provisions about to expire. In exchange for a ROGO unit (a building permit that has become the ultimate currency of the Keys) they'll keep the units affordable for 25 years more. Commission moans, then groans. Developer offers 50 years. Commissioner Menendez asks for someone with a magic wand to come forward and fix the housing problem. Mayor is satisfied...Motioned, 2nded, passed. The city doesn't really realize that it's foundation is shaking. At one point in the discussions, a commissioner decried that it would cost a billion dollars to buy up the property necessary to solve the affordable housing crisis. Someone replied, nah - but it will cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
This is what needs to be done. The sooner, the better. Is still don't understand why the city can't appeal to the state, get some rogos for affordable housing, and buy some land and build the units themselves. Forget the private developers doing anything other than big ticket housing. And couldn't we do it cheaper anyway? The city will get some money back in rent...Actually, since the city is in perpetuity, it will eventually get paid back. And in the process, it could save the community's ability to function. So, in the city's future is spending hundreds of millions of dollars for housing, they just haven't come to terms with it.
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Monday, July 04, 2005

Independance Day Key West

Happy 4th of July to everyone. Tonight fireworks will be launched off the White Street Pier at 9 pm- on the south side of the island of Key West . Many boats will anchor just offshore, a festive place to watch the show.
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Monday, June 27, 2005

Images Now Available With Blogger

Key West Thank you google, and thank you blogger (actually, they are now one and the least ownership-wise). Now images can be directly uploaded to blogger blogs. In the past the images had to be hosted on a third party server (like photobucket). I found it to be too much of a pain, so I never added photos.
What's my first image going to be? Do you really have to guess?
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Sunday, June 26, 2005

Alumni Guestbook for UMASS Economics Dept.

The University of Massachusetts Economics Department has a guestbook for Alumni. They are just getting it started and have a few entries. If you are an alum of the econ dept, drop by and let the the world know what you have been up to. Your entry will be manually approved to keep the phoney entries at bay.
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Friday, June 24, 2005

Warning For Housing Market Disaster: No-Principle-Mortgages

It's amazing to me, a sidelined economist, that everyone isn't recognizing the coming disaster in the housing market. The most basic notion in market-pricing theory involves supply and demand. Too much demand and prices rise. Too much supply and prices fall. One would think that, looking at the nearly decade-long rise in housing prices in the nation, that supply cannot keep up with demand - hence the rising prices. But much of this demand has been created by an entirely new (and temporary) type of demand. And here is the danger: temporary, cyclical demand will exaggerate the swings in the market. The name of this unstable and temporary type of demand is the no-principal mortgage. It has allowed countless numbers of people to speculate in the housing market, hoping to "flip" the property before the real payments kick in. And if rates continue to stay low, the game continues: new buyers are being created with the lax lending practice. There is even a show on TLC called "Property Ladder", chronicles amateurs' attempts at speculating on renovation.
But, of course, rates will not stay low. They can't: they are tied into the cycle of the economy. And once we are in a definite and noticeable rising-interest-rate environment, what happens? Lower property pricing. It's then that the loans are no longer offered. Once you remove the loans, you've removed a ton of demand. Less demand, prices go lower. Plus, precisely at that same moment, banks start to see the trouble they have created as the interest-only loans turn into much more expensive loans, and those speculating (and anyone else who got lulled into the game) get overwhelmed with the rising cost to carry the mortgage. Many end up defaulting on the house, and the bank ends up with losses. Those houses are sold at fire-sale prices.
I mean, how can housing starts continue through the roof? Some have said it's the "second home buyer"? They aren't in it for the long haul. They are, by majority, hoping to sell the home within 5 years...Speculating. Here in Key West, we get a front-row seat.
So, in a nutshell, we are in a dangerous housing bubble. It will burst, likely sooner than later. Oil at $60+ a barrel is enoughpressure on inflation that the Federal Reserve will have little choice but to raise rates and cool the markets, reigning in demand. Less demand, lower prices.
When no-principal mortgage, no-money down mortgages, and all other aggressive schemes are not offered anymore, everyone will be scrambling for a seat as debt consumes them. I expect the media will be harping about the housing surplus for years to come. I think it will be devestating to many communities - especially those who sold off their tax base.
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Saturday, June 18, 2005

Polarized fishing sunglasses

The right pair of sunglasses for fishing is a crucial piece of equipment for any angler. The main ingredient you need is polarization - microscopic horizontal lines incorporated into the lenses. This important feature will remove the glare created when light refects off the water.
Why is this important? First and foremost to the angler is being able to see a fish hiding below the glare. Inshore gamefish: snook, bonefish, tarpon, and permit can be almost impossible to spot without a pair of polarized fishing sunglasses. Even with them, it is a challenge to focus in on the fish.
Now that I've guided a few hundred people fishing the inshore flats, and having suggested polarized sunglasses to any guest who doesn't show up with a pair, I've decided to offer some excellent suggestions for sun glasses for fishing to all anglers.
The best names are Costa Del Mar sunglasses and Maui Jim sunglasses (and Ocean Waves). Right now, there are recommendations for the Costa Del Mar and Maui Jim brands. I've linked the pages to a vendor that sells these very high quality sunglasses at a discount.
All of the suggestions are well worth the investment. Not only will you see a few more fish, but your eyes will also be protected from the intense light on the water. Plus, these rugged and stylish frames will have you looking like the smart angler you really are. All of the fishing sunglasses are recommended by me, a Florida Keys charter fishing guide. Also, while you are at it, if you are looking for suggestions for shoes for fishing, I've put up a good selection of recommendations.
If I've overlooked something, please leave a comment and I'll get to work on adding the appropriate clothing and equipment for fishing.
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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Key West Commissioners Stunned

Amazing. Today it was reported that Historic Tours of America had entered into a settlement with Duck Tours five days before the trial began. In that trial, HTA was being sued, along with co-defendent The City of Key West. This week, the jury ruled in favor of Duck Tours and awarded them $13.5 million, an island-rattling event. Immediately, commissioners were publicly asking "How much will they (HTA) chip in?". But today's press has revealed that HTA negotiated on it's own with the Ducks, and didn't include the city.
Probably the best piece of the story is Hugh Morgan, the HTA attorney. A week before the trial is set to begin, the City of Key West appoints him as their lead attorney for their defense. Strange, as it would seem to be a conflict of interest for him for him to not excuse himself from the trial. Oh, by the way, Morgan's law partner is Jim Hendrick, recently arrested by the FBI and IRS. And, Morgan is the Federal Magistrate for Key West.
Now city officials are hopping mad. Their favorite son, Historic Tours of America, has cost them a fortune. And the worst part may now be unfolding: they got cut out of a settlement. The attorney they went with may have negotiated a settlement for his other client/co-defendent (HTA) while not including them. Commissioner Harry Bethel, known for his tenacious attitude, is looking for blood. One thing seems certain: the fat-cat, monopolistic, overwhelmingly influencial days of the Conch Tour Train and Trolley is over.
Still yet to happen, the judge will soon rule on the validity of the contract HTA has with the City of Key West.
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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Key West Loses Huge Lawsuit

The Duck Tour vs. Key West/Historic Tours of America case has reached a verdict and award decision.
After 4 hours of deliberation yesterday, the jury came back and ruled in favor of Duck Tours, a small amphibeous, harbor tour operation who filed the lawsuit after repeated harrassment from the city.
In the decision, the jury awarded Duck Tours and it's owner, John Murphy, $13.5 million dollars.
City officials are stunned, and the mayor of Key West, Jimmy Weekly, said on this mornings "radio magazine" program on local airwaves, "This will definitely impact the citizens of Key West."
It is unclear how much Historic Tours of America, owners of the Conch Tour Train and Trolley, will be asked to contribute. One things seems certain: the city of Key West will need to raise revenue somehow. The mayor, when asked where the money would come from, seemed at a loss. Weekly listed possible sources as higher permit fees, more parking tickets, and higher property taxes.
Still pending is the judges decision on whether to invalidate the city's agreement with Historic Tours of America. It is this agreement that the courts have ruled is a monopoly abusing it's power.
Murphy, Duck Tour's owner and plantiff in the suit, said he wanted to immediately begin tours again. It is unclear if the city has the good sense to allow this to happen, or continue to throw money and lawyers up the appeal process.
Either way, this is going to change things on the island. The next city commision meeting should be lively, with commisioners split on whether to again appeal or to pay.
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Monday, May 23, 2005

Corruption Charges For Key West Lawyer

Federal agents have arrested one of the Florida Keys' most known names in politics and law: Jim Hendrick, last week. He is the former Monroe County Attorney and the current law-partner of Hugh Morgan, the lead attorney of the defense team for the city and Key West and HTA in the Duck Tour trial.
The arrest was made by both the FBI and the IRS.
Word on the cocunut telegraph is that is stirring up more than just Hendrick. Other arrests are rumored to be in the works. Suprisingly, this arrest hasn't been noticed by the mainland press. Here is the local coverage.
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Large Lawsuit May Cost Key West Millions

This is one of those stories that depending on the outcome, could shake the foundation of Key West.
For the past two weeks, Key West is defending itself alongside of the Conch Tour Train and Trolley owners, Historic Tours of America. The case was filed by a local businessman who created an amphibeous tour 10 years ago called Duck Tours, using vintage World War II vehicles. The Duck Tours went out of business after being harrassed by the city, the case alleges. You see, the Conch Tour Train and Trolley have an exclusive license to operate a sightseeing tour on city streets. A Florida superior court, on appeal, ruled that the Train/Trolley/City arrangement constituted a monopoly and was in violation of free trade laws. Hence, the case was sent back to the local district court where it is being reheard.
The details are a bit nasty, and from my perspective, look like a slam dunk case for the prosectution. The Ducks are suing for $14 million, a sum that could cause a fiscal calamity for Key West. Today should be closing arguements.
More can be read about it here.
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Thursday, May 12, 2005

Utah Rafting

Notice the big break in the posts? Sorry for the quiet time. To be honest, I was on a trip out west helping out a buddy. He live in Moab, and has a cool Utah rafting guide service. Having lived in Key West for a long while now, I'm used to water clear as gin. I now know what the opposite looks like. The part of the Colorado river that we did on our Utah river rafting trip has water the exact color of chocolate milk. Surrounding us were towering arches and formations carved from the red stone cliffs. Utterly amazing.
Here are links to his various pages:

There was a huge snowfall this season in Utah. Alta got over 700 inches! That hurts.

So, there will be plentiful flows of water on the river, and with it, whitewater.

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We Want a Neighbor, Not a Speculator (chant)

Well, I've come to a new conclusion about the future of Key West's real estate market. Let's call it a new level of extension, if you will.
For quite a while now I've been warning of the affordable housing crisis looming on the horizon for Key West. And recently, have been joined by a host of worried politicians, half heartedly stabbing at the problem with bureaucracy. Mostly though, it is a small town where many characters double as officials and interested parties. The crisis is here, and it may tear the town in two before it remedies itself. Remember, these are houses and homes...not stocks and bonds.
And this leads to the new thinking. The impending housing surplus! The city and county have no choice but to build a large amount of housing. They need the employees, and the state may have gotten the word. Rumor is that the county is about to get a sizable number of housing permits freed up in the name of more generous hurricane evacuation times (oh, yeah, and affordable housing...right).
The Key West real estate bubble is similar to the rest of the country. It is fueled by low interest rates, and especially, generous lenders. When rates rise, interest-only loans vanish and remove a large amount of the demand. Let's call it artificial demand. Eventually, when those loans disappear, we will be left with a lot of surplus housing. For a place with no building permits being allocated, there is an amazing amount of building in the Florida Keys...Probably 1000s of units in the past 5 years.
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Thursday, April 21, 2005

Speculative Bubble in Key West Real Estate Due to Pop

You know, an assurance from a realtor about the housing market is about the same as a stockbroker's view on purchasing stocks...pretty much biased. Seems that Key West may have hit an air pocket on it's jetlike rise to the hyper-inflated prices of today. For sale signs seem more prevelant than ever, mostly fueled by easy credit from the bank. Everyone in town is a speculator, if they want to be. Reminds me of the old saying: If your doorman is giving you stock advice, it's time to sell. To verify this in today's terms, a local masseuse shared with me that she is contemplating buying a "hotel-minium". Basically, she'll be buying a room of a small motel for around $500,000. She won't live in's just as an investment. She rationalized to me, that in a year, between the appreciation and interest rates, she'll be able to refinance and be able to afford the payments. I didn't even bother explaining that interest rates are rising and what that would mean. Why burst her bubble? Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm early. Either way, it's her roll of the dice.
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Saturday, April 09, 2005

Historic Key West documents

The Key West library has a great historian and room devoted to preserving a lot of history about Key West. There I found a fascinating text written in 1912, which appears to the one of the earliest detailed histories of the island.
The Historical Room has a lot more, and I hope to be able to add more of the information for display. For now, check out what I have uncovered at Key West Florida history . From hurricanes, to cigar rolling, and everything in between, it's a fascinating look at the island. Certainly times have changed, and some of the dim-witted mentality from that era may suprise you. Still, it is a commentary of the life, environment, and attitudes of islanders.
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Why pay a fare wage if the government will do it for you?

Blogger lost my entry...grrrrrrr. I wrote a nice and eloquent (as far as I know) entry about Key West's monopolist and tourism magnate Ed Swift. The owner of the Conch Tour Train and longtime "partner" to the City of Key West has taken up the cause of affordable housing in the most ironic manner. On the one hand, he is clearly pointing out that the sky-high real estate prices have squeezed out the workforce and created an impending crisis, not to mention torn the community apart. Yet, on the other hand, his help-wanted ads for Train Conductors offer a $10 hour salary. By my estimation, each train seats at least 30, and costs $22 per adult. I figure each train grosses over $600 for the 90 minute ride. And the conductor, the local worker who's boss is so concerned about, makes $15 for the 1.5 hours.
Housing is unaffordable for two reasons. One is the high prices. The other is the low wage. Ed Swift's cry for government action on affordable housing is an attempt to disguise his contribution to the problem.
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Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Seafood Restaurants in Key West

Just added a page for seafood restaurants in Key West. Many people ask where to get good seafood, and the answer can be pretty diverse. There is great sushi, traditional fish houses, and modern-cuisine bistros, all offering delicious local Key West seafood.
The best local fish are: hogfish, yellowtail snapper, dolphin (mahi-mahi),florida lobster, grouper, and stone crab. But don't think that a nice cobia or wahoo wouldn't make a good meal. Whether it's a fish sandwich, or a snapper burre blanc, my favorite seafood spots should satisfy. Here is the link to seafood restaurants in Key West.
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Thursday, March 17, 2005

Fly Fishing Key West

Well, springtime has arrived in the Keys, and with it, warmer temps and the opportunity for flats fishermen. If you enjoy fly fishing Key West should be a top choice among angling destinations. Seasoned guides have helped develop the sport with their inventive fly patterns. Crab patterns can now be respectably tossed in front of a permit in the hopes that he'll bite.
A good source of info on saltwater fly fishing is here (flyfishermen) or here (fly fishing magazine).
The marine fisheries org has a great website describing the fish in Florida waters. Here is a link to their illustration and description of the bonefish: click here.
So, while many are heading to the Bahamas or elsewhere, smart anglers know that the action in the Keys is heating up.
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Thursday, March 03, 2005

Large Numbers of Dolphin are Stranding in the Florida Keys

Over ninety rough-toothed dolphins are stranding in the Florida Keys since yesterday. Many of the dolphin are young calves, some under 1 year old. Officials have reported that in canals and nearshore flats of the island of Marathon, many dolphin are struggling to survive. Marathon is an island located in the middle of the chain of the Keys. Local residents have been working round the clock to help the dolphins. Many of the mammals are weak and unable to keep from drowning, so volunteers are cradling the dolphin and keeping their blowholes above water.
Today and last night are chilly, with lows last night of 62 degrees farenheit. This in not very cold for dolphins, and I wouldn't think that it caused the stranding. More likely is some sort of virus or a toxic algal bloom. This year, another large bloom has been reported forming north of the Keys and stretching to the south of Tampa. Fishermen have reported a lack of fish and unhealthy conditions in the algal blooms.
Here is a link to the local paper's story about the dolphin stranding.
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Monday, February 21, 2005

Dry Tortugas Trips

Well, the busy season is here. For anyone who is thinking that they would like to visit the Dry Tortugas National Park and Fort Jefferson, you will need to make advanced reservations. Both the Dry Tortugas seaplane, and the Dry Tortugas ferry sell out at least days in advance.
Remember, the seaplane trips can be half day or full day. Most people opt for the half day at $179. The full day is $305. Includes gear and beverages. Meals are not included on the plane.
The ferry, on the other hand, is a full day trip and does include meals. A continental spread for breakfast and a beach-side picnic at lunch are provided on the ferry trips. The food is good, the trip wonderful, and the experience overall is out-island heaven.
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Key West Golf

For golfers, information about the Key West golf course is now available. Tee-times, directions, and other particulars about the course are available. But, even more valuable (especially when it's time to play) is the tips and secrets to playing the Key West Golf Club.
This par 70, eighteen hole course, features the unusual mangrove hole. This is a par three over a stand of mangroves. The green is completely invisible from the tee box, and the only clue to it's position is the extra-long flagstick.
It's a course that can be a lot of fun. It is pricey, but then again, what isn't in Key West these day.
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Key West Fishing

Well, the first big change has occured at the Key West Kayak Fishing & Eco-Tours site, Key West Fishing. Now the site has a whole new look and feel. Instead of being just a way to find out about the kayak fishing trips, the site is growing to become a resource about fishing in general in the Keys.
Key West flats fishing, Key West deep sea fishing, and Key West fishing charter pages have been roughly sketched out and will be added to. I hope to have information about species of fish: bonefish, tarpon, marlin, and everything in between. From tackle to technique, the site will discuss all aspects of Key West fishing. Local charter boats will be invited to contribute fishing reports as well. I'll bring on-board a bunch of charter boats, some from each discipline of fishing, to be featured. I especially want those local guides who are excellent and experienced, but have limited web presence.
Stay tuned if interested as much more will be added.
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Monday, February 14, 2005

Key West Fishing

Things are changing over at the Key West Kayak Fishing website. The site will be changing it's focus from being a kayak fishing charter to a sort of encyclopedia about fishing in Key West and the Florida Keys. Soon to be added will be extensive sections on all types of fishing trips: Deep Sea, Flats fishing, light tackle fishing, reef fishing, party boat fishing, spearfishing, and of course kayak fishing. I'm going to be really generous with the information. Suggestions and secrets to technique, equipment, and experiences will be included. Let me know if you would like anything else. I'm excited about the new effort, and can't wait to spill the beans. The whole site will also get a new look. Suggestions are welcome. Best Fishes!
Key West Florida
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Monday, February 07, 2005

The Real Estate Monster of Key West

Friends, last night, went on about the state of things in Key West. Change has sped up in a town who's once-most-endearing trait was it's slow pace.
The supply side of the housing equation has been rigged, driving the price of homes into stratospheric ranges. The Real Estate Monster of Key West has such an appetite, that it is beginning to eat the fiscal engine of the city: tourism. It has been quoted by city officials that 10% of the hotel rooms have applied to convert to luxury condominiums. When we sell off the hotel rooms, we sell off the visitors and all the amenities that go with it. Clearly, remove the tourists and you don't need three hundred fishing guides, twenty snorkeling boats, 40 attractions, and 200 restaurants and bars to service a population that isn't even on Key West for seventy percent of the year.
Maybe that does solve the affordable housing problem. Get rid of the industry, remove the workers, and you can have a retirement/speculator community, just without any businesses. There she sits, ninety miles from the mainland...Rising a few feet above the Gulf of Mexico and the Straits of Florida. No people=no problem.
Everything seems to be for sale, and for prices that make people rich or priced-out of the community. This threatens the city in ways that no other community has experienced.
So, friends are discussing the foreboding change on Key West. And I'm reminded of what someone once wrote about the island, termed "sliding baselines". Basically, everyone gets here, looks around, and says "This is great! Look at this place". But in five years, they are saying "Man, I remember what this place was like five years ago. It's going downhill." Yet someone new is always arriving, saying the same thing, "This is great! Look at this place!". Sliding baselines.
I think that I remember better days in Key West, and then a true old-timer tells me of fishing for yellowtail snapper off of Mallory Square, the water being crystal clear up to the docks. And I remember, that my complaints about the good-old-days fit into the sliding baselines formula. Like our new neighbor down the street who looks lovestruck. He's fallen for Key West, and is happy he spent the $500,000 for the 500 square foot condo.
One thing I'm pretty sure. Speculative frenzies end with a particular smashing fit. Realtors are rabid on the island, popping up like mushrooms from cow dung. It is not widely known that the realtors have cornered the market. Homes put up for sale have a very good chance of being bought by a real estate agent, only to be quickly resold with a hefty tax applied. These home would have normally been bought by a local, community member. Today, most sellers having held their home for decades, calls a realtor, and doesn't realize that they are dealing with someone who's interests are not aligned with their own. The realtor ends up with these properties that are marketed to out-of-state, second-home buyers. A real shame, and I suspect that the current mayoral administration hasn't grasped the consequences.
Buckle up boys and girls, my hunch is this sure bet has longer odds. It's only beginning to get wierd. Get your rubbery neck ready.
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Thursday, February 03, 2005

Key West Fantasty Fest

Well the party of the year, Key West Fantasy Fest, is still over six months away, but it's a good time to mention it. By the time the Halloween week is near, every hotel on the island is sold out. So for those of you planning on visiting us at our bawdiest, start looking at Key West hotels soon.
And what about costumes? I can't ever seem to come up with anything good by the time rolls around. Though through the year I think about it, and am reasonably sure that I'll come up with something, I've really failed these past few years. I usually blame the vague themes. I mean, how do you dress for "Delerious Dreams and Hillarious Screams"? There was a time a decade ago that the themes were easy to join in: "TV Jeebies" was a particularly good one.
This year should be different. The theme is "Freaks, Geeks, and Goddesses". Now I just have to pick one.

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Friday, January 21, 2005

Clintons Arrive in Key West

Former President Bill Clinton and his wife Senator Hillary Clinton arrived in Key West tonight amid suprised local islanders. Travelling in a motorcade of black sedans and SUVs, the Clintons were seen as they waved to revelers at Key West's famous Green Parrot Bar. The blues music thundering from the local hotspot brought a grin to the face of the former president, known for his love of soul music.

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Saturday, January 15, 2005

Audubon Prints

John James Audubon created one of the worlds greatest collection of scientific illustrations in his 19th century book Birds of America. These bird images are some of the most recognizable of any artist. Here is a good site to help you identify authentic Audubon prints.
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Friday, January 14, 2005

Author Annie Dillard Pens Poem on Key West Development

Local Key West resident and Pulitzer prize winning author Annie Dillard has witnessed first hand the rapid and drastic changes underway on the tiny island. In today's Solares Hill, a Key West newspaper printed once weekly, a poem by the writer comments on the state of her community.
Annie Dillard's Doggerel
From down Duval you see
A strand of open shore.
If a motel grows three stories
This grandeur we'll see no more.
Everywhere big buildings rise-
This fact fills me with awe-
Some few must have influence:
It's all within the law.
The scene gets poorer, while the rich
Find legal loops to use.
Richer yet, they still die bare-
Having wrecked, for all, the views.
The developer wants, the developer wants
The developer wants some more.
We can't say no! The city says:
Take wetlands, woods and shore.
HARC. HARC. The lark.
Contents itself with knickknacks.
HARC and TDC and Planning-
Could they be taking kickbacks?
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