key west-ward

[note: this blog post was written and published on January 14, 2010 as part of a now-retired half-heartedly-started blog. All Bonar Family Residency Updates will come from this source from now on.]

hello friends

well, here i sit, about 5 posts behind from where my mental blogging has been, but oh well.

if you want to imagine what those past posts are, or maybe i will get to them in the future (no promises) they were titled something like this:

  1. “And then there were 14”
  2. “South Florida is the Best Florida.”
  3. “Miami Vice: Art Basel is weird”
  4. “Western Massachusetts is the Best Massachusetts.”
  5. “Lightning Fast: The Bonar Family Residency’s first visiting artist”
  6. “twenty-ten: awesome”
  7. “We Ate a Lot of Pancakes”
  8. “Arctic Pet Shop: They’re ALIVE!!”

I guess I’m 8 posts behind. anyways. Weren’t those great updates?

Now I’m here! Welcome friends, to January 14, 2010. What a great day!

Where am I? In Key West, of course the end of Route 1, and a mere 90 miles from Cuba (julie!! come visit me and we’ll build a boat to sail to cuba!). I’m in the Business Lounge of the Courtyard Marriott Waterfront!!! I am really falling in love with this business lounge. Sorry, it’s the Business Library (but, shhhh, the only books here are Nora Roberts, Island of the Blue Dolphins, and To Die For by Linda Howard.)

I’m volunteering this week at Sculpture Key West, a public art (set in a tropical paradise) project that my former-supervisor and mentor and friend, Julia Handschuh recommended I get involved with, especially since I’m already in Florida (it’s in the same state so it’s nearby, right?). So I called up the coordinator, Vera, and told her I was up for assisting. She got back to me with a job: manning the Info Booth. I thought, ok, so i’ll take it on for real, like, “Info Booth” as art piece — over the top, flags, information about all kinds of things, really, lots of information. She thought that was kinda interesting. So anyways, I’m here as a general volunteer. Actually, my nametag says “Administrative Assistant”. Not quite what I was looking for, but it sounds really official so I’ll take it. And, I love nametags. So official.

We got here yesterday (wednesday). I picked up Julia and her partner Andrew in Miami and we drove forever down to the farthest southern point of the US. I can’t say I’ve been a huge fan of the keys during my span as a Florida Resident. I kinda avoid them. But they are incredibly beautiful. the water is so blue, it’s unreal. and I do love the extremely floridian trees and birds and architecture and residents. I think after moving away and then coming back I’m more attune to the parts of my floridian life that are really (really) Floridian, and what that even means***.

We got here… and then Vera told me to relax and we’d start tomorrow. Ok. Awesome. We checked into our room (free hotel room! awesome!) and settled in. The hotel has a free shuttle service into town every half hour, and a bowl of mints, a Business Lounge (with internetz!) and a coffee/tea/hot chocolate table. I especially like their concierge booth. It has a sign that in big letters says,

Concierge (in big letters)
… usually (in big letters)

so from far away it looks like “Concierge… usually”. “We care…. but not that much.”

Ok ok. so anyways. we settled into room 107. I don’t want to complain, because it’s a free room, but we got the “reduced rate room”. Just out of curiosity, we asked if we could switch rooms. The ladies at teh front desk sorta muttered to each other, “It’s room 107 — they want to switch from room 107.” “Oh, 107?” “yeah, 107.” “Oh.”

So I guess we’re in a haunted room. I mean, a reduced rate room. whatever, it’s awesome. It’s too bad we don’t get a prime view of the Tiki hut (on the way down, we discussed what exactly a “tiki hut” is: turns out it’s the thatched roof. Any more info y’all got, lay it down in the comments.), but we got a place to sleep and a shower and a microwave!!

Last night I decided to do some business work in the Business Lounge…. sewing stuffed animals. I trucked my sewing machine into the lobby and set up shop, sewing 9 (nine!) stuffed animals on the little coffee tables near the big tv. I only had one person stop and ask me what the heck I was doing. She told me how her daughter – well, now she’s 23 years old and way beyond this stuff, but — used to make stuffed animals with her back when she was little. so funny! aren’t kids weird! yep. ok. anyways. 9 stuffed animals! and I know that i’m doing something right because each time i finish one, even though they’re all the same model and pattern, each time i finish one i think, “oh!!! it’s so cute!!!” they’re just so cute! really.

I need to come up with a good species name for these animals. thoughts? please. let me know. they look like horses/bison/three-legged things/zebras/dogs/polar bears/ant-eaters/fun-lovin-machines? All i know is that, as a group, they are a HERD. or maybe, a HEARD. (as in, they are heard and listened to?)


this morning, I get up, ready to tackle the whole freakin island. I walk to the Business Lounge in my Business Pajamas and do some Business while watching the news about Haiti (can’t comprehend it all. weird to be here doing my thing while whole worlds are collapsing/changing/forcing their way into new worlds). I called Vera… and she said to give her another day! she’s not ready for me!! Ok, here is a classic example of people not knowing what to do with volunteers. a classic situation really (I can say this as a seasoned veteran, knowledgeable in the realm of “having other people do your work for you”). But frustrating! I mean, Vera is clearly stressed out and has a lot on her plate, and she thinks its easier to just do it all herself rather than have me do something!!

I was a bit bummed, I mean, I took half the week off to be here and volunteer, and she was saying that I should just hang out? I’m ok with hanging out, but to an extent. I don’t vacation easily really. Especially when I thought I’d be working.

Breath in: why am I here? to make connections. to be a working artist. to volunteer, to be of service to a project to others’ visions and meet people. to have a fun vay-cay! while making art!

I took a trip to the lovely exercise room, showered, made a peanut butter jelly rice-cake (sally cake) and then a tuna fish tortilla wrap. but, shoot! how the heck do i transport a kinda sloppy tunafish wrap?? no baggies, saran wrap…„ ok i’ll just transport it in my belly. it was like 2 people were there, the me that knows i have a tiny belly and can’t really eat 2 sandwiches in one meal, and the me that didn’t know how else to handle the sandwich that surely would be soggy and gross later. I ate the damn sandwich. And then felt lame. of course. I hate tunafish. oh well.

And off to downtown! walked around forever. I went to the fort (where julia’s art piece is), to the cafe where we went with my family back like 3 years ago, to the giant banyan tree, to the main street with so many chain stores, to the million different locations of the “Key Lime Pie Factory” — like 1 per block it seemed. I went to the historic fort, where most of the art pieces are located, and walked around a lot. I saw this family scene: a brother (maybe aged 12? 13?) video taping his sister (aged 8? 9?) who was speaking in another language (french? or some kind of japanese? or a mixture? does that exist?) about the fort. she was the most un-animated narrator in an extremely boring documentary about this fort ever. but it was also hilarious because she was maybe 9. anyways. it was a beautiful fort. it felt very romantic. for me and myself. i am very good romantic company for myself.

I sorta half heartedly tried to assist other artists setting up for the sculpture key west project. but i didn’t know where they were and kinda just wanted to walk around. I sat on the rocky/coral beach, and combed through their shells/rocks. I love how the shells are SO SO SO different from the ones in Delray Beach, even though we’re really not that far away!

went to the Discovery Center of the Florida Keys. it was beautiful. I loved the light-up map of the keys, with different lights to signal the light houses, the ship wrecks, the diving areas, the historic sites of where indigenous people used to live, the patterns that the water flows in, the lights to mark each of the 42 bridges that connect all the keys together in one long highway.

I thought of a motto for myself, my life, my future job: “Looks like y’all could use some community up in here.” or “This could probably use some more community.”

walked back to the hotel shuttle pick up point.

In the shuttle, we listened to “98.7 Conch Country” which I wondered if the Marriott mandated the shuttle driver to play exclusively, as it’s been on every ride I’ve taken on the shuttle, and it’s so terrible I can’t imagine anyone listening to it voluntarily. I started writing down some of the lyrics of the, what I would describe as “pop country”, music. (For some reason, the only two kinds of stations you can find here are country and salsa. the salsa makes sense, but the country… it makes it seem more like gainsville than miami…)

here’s a sampling of the classy music: “I wanna kiss a girl, I wanna hold her tight, and maybe make a little magic in the moonlight. Don’t wanna take it too fast, just take it slow, but it shouldn’t be this lonely in this big ole world.”

went back to the hotel. fixed the sewing machine even though it was tired from sewing so much and never getting a tune up. resolved that i must meet an old man who knows how to fix sewing machines and will show me how to lubricate and keep good ole Elna happy. sewed 2 more animals. (I’m now known by the hotel staff as “the sewing lady”… sewing at 11pm in the hotel lobby on a wednesday night…)

then off to an artist potluck! I was so excited. Finally! I’ll get to meet some other people! I’m loving my vay-cay, but if Julia and Andrew weren’t here, it’d be mighty lonely in this weird hotel room/weird island by myself. So it was so fun! I love potlucks. It was so awkward too! I embraced it. “Hello! My name is Aliya, and I’m a volunteer here this weekend. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m from florida.” it was great! met so many cool people. Jennifer is a collaborative artist! we exchanged business cards (yes, i have a business card. i am a business woman.) I ate delish food and finally met Vera! she told me she still didn’t have work… and i said, look, i think you do. you obviously are really stressed out, let me do something! so, suddenly, my day tomorrow went from “take it easy! enjoy Key West!” to a very full schedule! Including, driving this lady with circle sunglasses (worn at night, inside) and white long hair and cheetah print leggings and black cowboy boots to a “chachkie store”, and then driving to Marathon Key to pick up the programs, and then making a Sculpture Key West facebook page!! yes, of course i’m totally useful and important.

Andrew, Julia’s partner, who’s obviously been to a lof of these “artist gatherings” came up to me at one point and said, “so, have you had enough of the artists yet?” and I said, “Oh no, this is really fun! they’re great to talk to!” and then he went straight into reinacting some of the conversations he’s heard at these kinds of things: “So really, my piece is about every person, every individual, and how we’re all a part of the whole. Really, it’s all about our connectedness, and how each one of us is a tiny grain of the larger mass of the world. So, my art piece is the sand: the whole beach is my art piece.” He was spot on. it was exactly how the conversations were at this event!! AND… I love it. No hating here.

met some other younger people! one of the artists got a grant from his school to bring 2 of his students down with him! they were fun. and they’re staying in our hotel! pool party!!!

SO. that’s where we’re at, everyone. In Key West, preparing and counting down 7 more days until I do a complete U-Turn and fly up to Minnesota to freeze my ass off! wow. so exciting.

i’ve missed you all, my blogging readers! if you still exist!! keep checking up on me! I have some things to say, even if they’re not that interesting.

um, GOODNIGHT! leave some comments. let me know you exist.



***((ATTENTION:: anyone who has recommendations of books or novels or other things set in Florida, specifically southern Florida, please tell me about them! I’m really interested in this southern florida culture, something I can instantly recognize and identify with to a point, but have not yet taken the time to really understand or pin point what makes one thing floridian or not.))


Filed under thoughts

3 responses to “key west-ward

  1. My mom knows of a ton of books on South Florida. She worked at the Delray Beach Historical Society for like 45456 years, I’ll give you her email if you want 🙂

  2. At my first high school, we had a South Florida unit in English class. We had to read Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston and The Barefoot Mailman by Theodore Pratt (I think). I can’t remember if we had to read anything else in that unit…it was a few years ago!

  3. Dangit, Aliya, I can’t believe it took me this long to get to your website. It looks fantastic, though, and I am jealous of your South Florida Lifestyle. To help you enjoy it more, I highly recommend St Lucy’s Home For Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russel, a collection of short stories that take place in and around the Everglades.

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