Posted by: Barbara Evanhoe | May 15, 2011

Seafood and Fine Art

Friday the 13th turned out to be a very lucky day for Keith and me!

For almost a month now, we had been waiting for a “sign”.

Nothing fancy, that’s for sure….just a simple white sign with black letters.

The sign would read “Shrimp”, and it would introduce us to a legend in Cedar Key…and give us the opportunity to purchase the best shrimp available ’round these parts.

You never know when the sign will go up, so you have to keep your eyes open and “strike while the iron is hot”, or you may miss your chance.

Last Friday morning, as we were making a trip into town to the Post Office, we saw “the sign” posted on the corner of Cedar St. and State Road 24.

Nearby, an elderly gentleman was sitting in the shade of a brightly colored umbrella, surrounded by coolers which held his wares.

Classic country music playing on his truck radio kept him company while he relaxed and waited for customers.

A quick check of the wallet proved we weren’t carrying much cash, so we went back to the campground to raid our tip jar.

Once funded, we headed back down the road ~ camera in hand ~ to purchase some shrimp and meet the proprietor of the seafood stand.

His name is Charles “Moe” Beckham.

Keith and "Moe"

Mr. Beckham is famous around Cedar Key for his seafood…huge, fresh, cleaned and deveined shrimp, smoked mullet and mullet dip, at very reasonable prices.

He’s also famous for being a lifelong Cedar Key resident who turned 77 on March 4th of this year, and has lived and worked hard in Cedar Key all of his life.

We were not disappointed by his seafood…we bought two lbs. of the nicest looking shrimp we’d ever seen, for a mere $12. Try doing that at the grocery store!

After icing down the shrimp in our cooler, Moe asked if we were interested in Mullet Dip. I told him I’d only eaten it once and that it was terrible.

He immediately asked me where I had tried it, and then advised that what I had eaten was nothing like his dip, and he pulled Ritz crackers and a sample from his cooler.

I couldn’t refuse a taste ~ and he was right.

The mullet dip I had previously tastes was mostly mayonnaise with fish bones and skin mixed in, along with a little mullet meat, and was so salty you could hardly eat it.

Moe’s mullet dip was delicious. A creamy mix of finely shredded mullet ~ meat only ~ and just the right seasoning to bring out the fish flavor, so we pulled $7 out of the wallet and added a tub of Moe’s mullet dip to our cooler.

(Footnote: That dip was so tasty that we ate the whole thing in one day!)

From the number of vehicles that pulled up to Moe’s stand while we were there, it was obvious that we weren’t the only ones on the island who appreciated his seafood….so we made our purchases and moved on, to check out another “sign”.

We had spotted this sign a few weeks earlier. It was tacked to a tree on Cedar St.

It had a quirky, island feel, and we asked the folks at the campground if they knew anything about it.

That’s when we first heard of Moe Beckham ~ he is the “Seafood” part of the sign.

His neighbor is the “Fine Art” part of the sign, and it turns out that both of the men have their stories.

You see, Moe lives just around the corner from where he hosts his roadside stand.

When the “Shrimp” sign is up, he’s fully stocked and in business.

At other times, if you get a craving for his smoked mullet and/or dip, you can drive to his home…press the buzzer beside the door…and if he is in residence and has what you are interested in, you can make a purchase there.

After spending time with Moe, we decided to check out the “Fine Art” offerings.

The entrance to the Schwartz gallery is almost hidden by lush vegetation and flowers, and we hesitantly walked through it into a wild and exotic landscape inhabited by clever creatures assembled from old car parts and other odds and ends.

Scene from Chick Schwartz's Sculpture Garden

In the midst of the garden, which rambles out to the water’s edge, sits an impressive mosaic tile birdbath surrounded by bronze sculptures of voluptuous women frolicking by a pond.

Women Frolicking by a Pond

We wandered through the garden for quite some time, enjoying ourselves in what seemed a guilty pleasure since the artist was not present, even though there was a small sign that declared it was “Open to the Public”.

At some point, we heard a door open from above, and a large curly-haired dog began descending the stairs, followed by a good-natured looking man we soon learned was the artist ~ Chick Schwartz.

We visited for some time about his work and life, and were offered the opportunity to come upstairs to see the rest of his collection.

We followed Chick and his dog, Buttercup, up the staircase and entered his home, which is the gallery.

It was ~ fabulous!

The walls were covered in an array of beautiful pieces created by Chick and his wife, Marsha, along with artwork collected on their worldwide travels.

But that’s not all…even the furniture was art ~ the most beautiful kitchen island I’ve ever seen was the setting for a creative mosaic…while a buffet which served as a bar displayed decorative hand-painted designs…why, even the shower was art!

Chick’s painting and small sculpture studio is located in the upper portion of the home and we were given the opportunity to see the piece he is currently working on for a local Cedar Key couple.

Chick Schwartz in his Studio

It was impossible to miss the brightly colored assemblage that hung in the studio, and Chick explained was the type of work that kept him going through the years.

There are more than 300 pieces of this type located throughout the world, and I can understand why.

The images depicted are colorful cityscapes inhabited by tiny sculpted figures doing all manner of things from painting portraits  to selling hot dogs, and each piece is adorned with a 3-D clothesline complete with laundry flapping in the breeze.

I can’t do justice to the work in my description. Perhaps this photo will give you a better idea…

Chick's Signature Piece

We had to drag ourselves away in order to let Chick get back to his work, so we gave Buttercup one last pat on the head and made our way back down the stairs.

It was incredible good fortune that brought Chick Scwartz and Moe Beckham into our lives on this Friday the 13th, and we are so grateful to these men who took the time to share something of themselves with us.

We wish them much success in their future ventures, and will never forget the day we spent following “the signs”!

Advertisements

Responses

  1. Barbara and Keith — Love this blog — we miss you and are so sorry the ‘sign’ appeared after we took to the road !!!!
    Gail

    • You would have LOVED it! Come back and we’ll make a return trip!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: