Saturday, August 19, 2017

Rusty On Sugarloaf

It wasa two hour walk through the mangroves, early in the morning before it got too hot.
 We started before seven after I got home from work and walked  a couple of miles to the old burned out bridge at Sugarloaf Creek.
 Rusty doesn't swim but he likes to cool off.
 And I like watching him.

 There were surprisingly few mosquitoes. Probabily owing to the lack of rain.
 Since my return from vacation Rusty and I have fallen back into our tight bond. I think he missed these wide ranging walks.
 It was a lovely still morning, humid and warm.
 We hugged the sahe on the walk back to the car.

Friday, August 18, 2017


Chelsea said to me "You get a lunch break tonight don't you?" So I did, because I had worked overtime I had accumulated enough hours answering 911 to get a lunch break and I had forgotten all about it. Nick covered my position, my Vespa keys were in one pocket and my wallet in the other and before I knew it I was outside the police station pondering my next move at eleven thirty two pm.
The thing is that when you have sixty minutes to burn in the middle of the night in Key West and you aren't sleepy there are limited options.  It's unsurprising really when you consider the shortage of landmass and the limitations of being on duty in a police polo shirt and the requirement that you be back at your desk in 58 minutes ready to deal with whatever crisis is gripping the mostly sleeping city.  Usually I pull out a hurricane cot from the emergency supply shelf and get a blanket I keep in my locker and I nap for 55 minutes on my break in the early hours.  At eleven thirty this line of napping won't work. Sitting on the break room balcony watching Netflix on my phone seems generationally incorrect for a man of my years. So I go for a ride and a think. 
Perforce destinations are limited and I thought about Smathers Beach for a bit, or the White Street pier watching people fish. And then I thought perhaps I'd like to walk the docks at Key West Bight so I headed that way. A ten minute slow ride and I reached the edge of the continental landmass. Earlier this week we had a ghastly murder in Key West of a brutality that beggars belief, the details are repeated in the paper every time the (alleged) murderer's picture appears on the front page. A gun was discharged but the victim died after being stabbed in the eyes, having a shard of wood stomped down his throat and a piece of broken wood was used to club his head and neck. Then the (alleged) murderer jumped out the window naked with a back pack. It took two hours for officers to close in on him, Slowly and carefully closing in on a man who they believed might be armed and ready to shoot. These are the times that stress a dispatcher with worry. 
So you sit there and ponder with all the misinformation of the early investigation at your fingertips wondering what could prompt a human being to treat the man they were in bed with a few seconds earlier to try to murder them.  Of course there is no answer so you keep on keeping on and try to figure out  how to explain to the caller with the noise complaint why we have no officers availble to help him with his emergency.  The fact that there is a major emergency under way cuts no ice with the citizen who can't sleep.  And I can't tell him he's lucky no one is murdering him right now. I get to see all sides of a problem and it wears me out. Walking the docks works to get some distance.
When I got married 24 years ago I never really thought about it as an act of political rebellion but now it turns out if you hate Jews in America you have our President's backing and I can hardly believe what a weird state of affairs the country is in. I have no doubt, mostly that the institutions of state will survive this weirdness as they did the Civil War and the ructions of the anti war 60s and 70s but it feels decidedly odd to find myself observing a total social meltdown.  I know my history but I don't know the future and living in a country where the President speaks as this one does leaves me profoundly disappointed. 
I've heard rumors the next target is the university at Gainesville so if the rumor is widespread hopefully the authorities can scotch that plan. I can't imagine dispatching a situation where people are gathered to beat each other up.  And cops are of course bound to be in danger of physical harm and quarter backing by citizens who know everything about crowd control.

I don't know where the country goes next because I don't believe polls showing low public support for the President. Those same polls predicted a win by Clinton last November and as lukewarm as I was for her at the time right now I wish the polls had been right. I wish they were correct now but I'm not convinced there aren't a lot of people in this country who think that sacrificing civil rights and decency to support their goal of ending "globalism" is somehow a worthwhile exchange.  I want no part of that. I'm no fan of multi national corporations and corporate tax evaders but I don't believe the end justifies the means and I certainly don't see any moral equivalence between fascism and fighting fascism. 
I don't understand ambivalence about our President anymore just as I don't understand violence as a solution to anything much. Yet this is not the time to step back and let these people have their way.  I hope the Democrat party pulls together and gives us a constitutional and peaceful way to fight back against the President and Steve Bannon and all his plans for a fourth turning.  I miss the calm and certainty and even the unfulfilled promises of President Obama's hope and change.  We live in a country with huge potential to lead the world in developing alternative energy to combat climate change, we have a history of struggling to figure out citizens' rights and obligations in our multi cultural society, and we've shown the world how to get it right by getting it wrong first and I see no future in sliding back on our technology, our collective morality or our hope for a better future. Boy, things look bleak.  Time to get my mind off this stuff and get back to work and hope no one kills anyone tonight in Key West. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Landmarks Of Key West

The library said to be the oldest in Florida. Key West was the most inhabitable town in the state in the early days before cheap air conditioning.
Fausto's "more thana food store" it's also a social center they say:
This tuxedo shop on Fleming Street has been there forever. Amazing how there must be a market for tuxedos in this most informal of towns.
On Stock Island Yahman's for take away food is becoming an institution in my life. Jamaican food is very welcome:
Conch trains: aside from their clogging effect at slow speed if you want a  90 minute introduction to Key West you couldn't do better than taking this ride:
Cuban Coffee Queen entered the crowded con leche scene in Key West a few years ago and has established itself with two locations and a sterling reputation among the dozens of Cuban coffee shops in town:

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Night Key West

I like Key West in the early morning. Th bars have closed and no one is around.
Outside Harpoon Harry's Caroline Street is silent. And apparently filled with waves of energy, invisible when I took the picture...
WE walked a long way Rusty and I from the waterfront to Mallory Square, down Duval to Fleming Street to Margaret near the cemetery where I took this picture of dawn coming up behind trees: 
WE spent two hours meandering and he was tired by the end of it:
The other thing about being out between four and six is the amount of invisible work that gets done, like clearing out the huge amounts of trash generated by business and removed by government:
I thought the note about dough being baked was a bit of a  jab at the doughnut shop next door.
And the waterfront always full of smells I am told, along the boardwalk:

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Key West August

They hat as you age time goes by ever faster and there must be some truth in that. I can't believe it's mid August already and Fantasy Fest is barely two months away. On a walk with Rusty this weekend I saw a poster advertising the early rounds of fund raising for Fantasy Fest and that was when I realized it's closing in on us. 
 There is a new company running the event and there is some hope it can be less sleazy and more creative this year. It looked promising - the poster showed a Renaissance Fair type of event all costumed and so forth. Quite respectable in fact. I hope it works out.
I don't notice people so much when I am out and about with my mind miles away, and I was thus surprised when a voice called out my name from a  passing scooter. I haven't seen William since I guess last year's locals' parade at Fantasy Fest. He used to be my neighbor in the marina when I lived on a boat. He is still hanging in through new owners and plans to convert their parking lot into condos, a plan that sounds absurd. This however is Key West and depriving tenants of parking is quite normal apparently. William says he has no plans to move. We exchanged views about the new hotels springing up on Stock Island, the lack of proper permitting, a future heavy with construction. 
"I hate to say it," he said, but his thinking is there needs to be a major hurricane to clean everything up. In my experience when that happens the money moves in to fill he void and those with nothing end up with less than nothing and a one way ticket out of here.
I am okay if we get through the next three months without a storm. Of all the stress that's one nobody really needs.But I understand and share his frustration. When I drive up the Keys I see clusters of people waiting for the bus, servants going home to their row houses on the mainland. That option won't be quite so easy to implement down here when Stock Island gets rid of the last of the cheap trailer housing. Right now the future looks like a bunch of dormitory housing in hotels and worker housing in clusters further up the road. 
I enjoy my walks around town, and my photographs of what seems more and more like endangered living.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Car Free Key West

They say the mission is to make it easier to dump your car and walk ride a bike or take a bus in the Southernmost City.
It seems natural in a compact flat urban environment and I know long time residents of Old Town think cycling is as natural as breathing but it doesn't work that way for other people who feel threatened by their car being taken away. I have my doubts not because I think it's an unworthy goal I just don't see Key West as awake enough to embrace the alternatives to the car. Perhaps I'm short sighted; I hope so.
For the longest time, perhaps 40 years Key West has enjoyed a reputation as a home to the "uniquely gifted" the eccentrics seeking refuge from mainland USA, propelled by the gay guesthouse craze of the 70s and 80s which in turn was fueled by the assorted liberation struggles of the hippy era. However Key West no longer has a place in the gay firmament as house prices are too high and the rest of the mainland has caught up with the pioneers of gay liberation. Obviously discrimination exists but its equally obvious being gay is no longer enough of an issue t drive members of the gay community into refuges to escape mainstream harassment. This fact alone means Key West itself has become mainstream, especially as the other driver of Key West's eccentric reputation has been wrecked by the house price wars driven up by moneyed mainstream America seeking nothing more eccentric than a second home in the sun.
The powerful literary voices that settled in Key West have also fled, driven out by prices that no longer permit marginal living. Rents are ridiculous and people have paid millions for their winter homes are in no mood to look out the window and stare at street people mooching free tropical lifestyles at their expense. So Key West lives on skating by with a reputation for alternative living and it seems to me missing the boat entirely. This is a very conservative town.
It's true, drinking and partying are encouraged in this town, this is a place where unbridled gluttony is actually promoted as a civic virtue but the reality is that it getting drunk is a release. This isn't  a town that promotes civic involvement or radical free thinking. The apple cart is very finely balanced and upsets are not part of the program. There is a lot of money to be made the way Key West is set up and change makes the people at the top nervous. That the path this city is on remains unsustainable is of no interest.
People ask if they should swim the reef and my answer is along the lines of: if you have swum coral reefs elsewhere don't bother, because this reef pales in comparison, literally as bleached and dead coral is everywhere. So, aside from drinking what is there to do? Tons of stuff all involving motorized transport, paragliding, jet skis, etc... Cycling as an activity in Key West is not my idea of fun. Traffic is tight and angry. Drivers hate cyclists because they "break the law" by running stop signs and stuff the car drivers cannot emulate. Streets are narrow and Americans are not well trained in driving narrow spaces. So nervousness is high. I noticed the difference in Italy once again, where personal space in the street is not a requirement and squeezing through is second nature.
The mayor had this vision of a city hall on White Street in the old school building, a sensible location in an imposing structure. The chorus of criticism must have come as no surprise and they were so loud. Mayor Cates pressed on and his burst of creativity surprised me. Nineteen million bucks later it's done and it looks great. Of course the solar panels - a little sustainable touch- came in for their share of grief too.
They tell us recycling has reached almost a quarter of the waste stream in the Lower Keys which strikes me as suspiciously high. Take a look in any recycling can and you will see more garbage and plastic bags than recycling. Essentially it's all trash. And these are the people who are supposed to dump their cars in favor of public transit bicycles and walking. Ok then.
My own vision of a forward looking Key West would include a pedestrian-only Duval Street with a revival of interesting local businesses. I have seen other pedestrian streets in truly progressive cities an they are a place you won't to be. Duval Street is not appealing the way it is now frankly and that could change, not easily but the ship of chain stores and boring pseudo-art sales could be presented as something better.
The other issue is if you dump the car you have to make transit rational and frequent and inexpensive (free would be best). I have looked into using the Lower Keys Shuttle to commute but it simply doesn't work. The schedule is weird, the buses infrequent and I don't want to spend an extra three hours commuting. The bus schedule downtown is impenetrable. As an alternative to driving I don't see it working real well.
If cycling is the alternative there is going to need to be some street modifications, one way systems, proper bicycle paths and the lumps of aged abandoned bicycles will need to be cleaned up and destroyed. Not only are they a blight but they choke up the bike racks. Beyond all that cycling in Key West is a sweaty business and as odd as it may sound office workers in the Southernmost City are not encouraged to show up with perspiration staining their clothes or their faces. There are quite a lot of hurdles here.
A recent round of righteous indignation concerned proposals  to build two parking structures downtown. One was to be built next to the new two million dollar condos off Simonton Street so you can imagine how that went over. The other was further inland on an existing parking lot as I recall. Both were shot down.The trouble with all the indignation is that these cars pouring into the city need somewhere to park. Furthermore if a car free Key West really is in the future there will be a need for a lot more. 
It all just seems intractable to me. There is a rising tide of sentiment against advertising for more tourists to visit the Keys as the feeling is we are pretty much full up for nine months of the year. And yet we all live on the fine edge between too many and not enough. So how do you give up the certainty of the present state of affairs and take a leap into the dark of trying to make a better future? I have no idea. And what bothers me is our leaders don't seem to even be posing this issue to themselves, never mind coming up with a  comprehensive plan to carry this small middle of the road little town with a real estate problem into the bright sunlit uplands of a future filled with sustainable traffic, affordable housing and enough room to breathe.