Friday, October 21, 2016

How To Cope With Fantasy Fest

My advice if you live in Key West and don't like the bizarre nature of public body art, drinking, loud late parties and thick crowds, then this is a very good time to take a vacation. Unless like me you are in a  reserved occupation and have to work. Then, like me, you take a week off ahead of time and try to come home well rested for the madness that is to follow:
But it's not all drunken nudity, as starting today there is Goombay described repeatedly  as "family friendly" and it is. Goombay is supposed to be a Bahamian type junkanoo festival featuring music and food from Key West's neighbors in the Bahamas.
They also have kids choirs singing and everyone is fully dressed. I like Goombay just fine. But Goombay on Petronia Street is the opening salvo in a ten day affair that offers various odd and very odd parties. If you like bondage orgies they are available, or if you want to strut in a peculiar hat you can do that too in front of a dedicated audience of hat admirers. The full schedule is here:
Image result for fantasy fest 2016
And each year the celebration has a theme. This year's vaguely political theme has had the habitual complainers banging on about all the terrible things that can happen in a bizarre election year with a political theme. I guess they have to worry about something but anyone who views Fantasy Fest as an opportune moment to get serious about anything, least of all politics, is missing the point. People dressed like this aren't making a political statement:
Well, I suppose that this year anything is possible, but Fantasy Fest is a celebration and it's not a time or place for people to get serious or violent. And they tend to do neither.
If you aren't ready for it the Fantasy Zone can be a bit surprising. It consists of Duval Street to Truman Avenue and the side streets on either side. Simonton and Whitehead are not in the Fantasy Zone. And the Fantasy Zone is where you can wear minimal clothing, female nipples and all buttock cracks must be covered even minimally and no genitalia showing. Seriously.
And you can carry alcohol around with you. An explosive combination you might think, but Fantasy Fest is quite peaceful and cheerful. The boundaries of the Fantasy Zone are clearly marked and please note: even inside the Zone you cannot have sex in public. No lewd acts as they say... seriously. That gets you arrested. Look for the signs if you are confused:
There are those detractors of Fantasy Fest who complain that participants are getting older and saggier as though the general population of Key West isn't getting older...There is a sexist and ageist tone to these complaints that doesn't really fit with the notion that Fantasy Fest is a fun time for all. But be warned not everyone is going to fit your notion of acceptable beauty. Some people you admire for their sheer ballsyness in a society dedicated to youth and standard dreary beauty:
Basically next week it starts out relatively quiet with a few people dressed up slipping through crowds of people ready with cameras, and slowly as the week progresses more and more people in less and less clothing show up and walk around. The idea is to get your picture taken so if you see someone you want to store in your camera, or post on your blog its perfectly acceptable, even desirable to show up smiling and ask to photograph their tits. If you are under dressed and don't want to be immortalized this is the week to stay home.
There is always a charity fundraiser underlying Fantasy Fest and associated activities of course which in Key West justifies everything.Originally Fantasy Fest was a few locals waking a couple of blocks down Duval to break up the tedium of October when sales were flat and hurricanes threatened and Key West was a money-free zone. Nowadays when the city is a practically year round destination and no one seems to get a break ever it almost feels like an imposition to have this week of faintly obscene over the top noisiness.
A fine example is the Zombie Bike Ride on Sunday which has grown so huge as to be unmanageable. How do you manage 20,000 drunk cyclists?
Or, maybe the question is: do you need to manage them?
I like most people take time to enjoy the locals' parade which used to be a celebration for locals on local political and social themes of the past year. It's been discovered so now its the Masquerade March and all are welcome and pile up around the cemetery on Frances Street at 5 pm today and march to Duval. It is still in my estimation the best part of Fantasy Fest. There was that year a particularly nasty nutter who walked around town with signs saying "Gods Hates Fags" and in proper Fantasy Fest style his message got...obscured. I love the locals' parade sense of humor:
If you need advice on how to handle this stuff all I can tell you is don't get too worked up. This really is a week to go with the flow. If you have accidentally booked a room and find yourself surrounded don't mind what you see. Leave the family values complaints to residents of the city well practiced in getting annoyed about drunken nudity. People make a lot of money off this stuff so it isn't going away. For myself I just try to remember we are lucky to have basically a week off while the rest of the country braces for snow. Fantasy Fest is stupid and sometimes not what you want or expect but in a world filled with anger and rage it is lighthearted cheerful and basically harmless. No "pussy grabbing," no rape, no battery. Just drunks having fun.
Sometimes you meet a friend, in drag and have time to catch up over a beer. That he is a woman and in heels and you are in the street makes no mind:
If you enjoyed the locals parade catch the Grand Parade Saturday night, the event that wraps up the whole ten days. The best part are the local floats that some years are outstanding with local commentary and some years you just get to see people showing off a bit...
And then after its all over finally there is the debris field which Cheyenne loved!
And some people are so feeble they have to sleep it off. Imagine that.
Till next year!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Celo, An Intentional Community

Allow me to point out from the top that I would never choose to live in an "intentional community." However my sister-in-law Geeta and her husband Bob were accepted into Celo Community near Burnsville about forty years ago and have made it their base of operations since. They would choose no other way to live.
I have had this drummed into me in my 22 years of marriage to Geeta's sister so I shall try to get it right. Celo is based on Quaker principles though it is not a Quaker community. Every decision affecting the community is discussed at meeting and voted on. Consensus rules. This alone would drive me crazy. 
The setting is lovely, off state highway 80 south of Micaville there is a large patch of forest crossed by a public  right-of-way called Hannah Branch Road. The community has petitioned the state to keep it gravel to slow traffic to the required twenty miles an hour- observed more in the breach in my experience. For instance one HUGE controversy my brother-in-law Bob still moans about was the state building an "ugly" bridge as the old picturesque one needed to be replaced. 

It's what I call an Old White People With Too Much Time On Their Hands problem. Frankly I'd vote to pave Hannah Branch as driving daily on pot holed dirt is a drag and bad for a car. But that's why I am only an occasional visitor. Years ago the community was in decline and my wife and I could have joined relatively easily. Essentially you lease land from the community and either build a structure or buy an existing home which gets sold back to the community when you leave or die.  You can get in with little money but you get out with little money too. Not a bad deal if rural living is your desire. And nowadays the waiting list is huge, just to get a consensus vote from the community to put you on the (consensus approved) waiting list before you can hope to set up house here.

There is land to cultivate, animals to raise, and children to educate at Arthur Morgan School. Crime is non existent, no locked doors no fearful parents and the only stimulants around here are smoked I'm guessing but everyone is very discreet as I work for the police. Celo is photogenic in a Hallmark sort of way and it makes for excellent walking on roads and on the innumerable trails that crisis cross the rhododendron woods. I am not ready to walk through people's yards but it is accepted practice at Celo. I never have and never shall. If a trail passes a house I duck into the woods.

There are ways to join the community that take less time. If you accept an undesirable house for instance. A single mother raised her two sons here very happily in a supportive community with a good school. How? She jumped the line by taking a home that leaked, that had no plumbing, that others had failed to survive in, and she made it a fairy tale jewel in the woods:
The range of talents and skills at Celo is not to be underestimated. It is a place that generates fierce pride and loyalty.
In a part of the world where Trump signs litter the highway in economically distressed white rural America, hope for these eccentrics comes in the form of a gun-free society where art and literature and beauty ( and Bernie Sanders) are the way forward. After decades of uncertainty between "mountain people" and "hippies" there is a cease fire I guess. These people aren't dilettantes at living off the land, they have survived and they thrive. They have to be respected even by people who live differently.  
Celo community has enjoyed a revival especially since 2008 when the economic flaws of a system based on debt have been revealed. The place is bursting with earnest millennials providing for their families in the fields. The young bearded men of the new generation have the hooded suspicious gaze of peasants the world over when an old man and his dog walk by, obvious outsiders. It used to be people recognized me as staying with Bob and Geeta but that generation is in cancer treatment and the young set are strangers. Good for Celo.
Summer camp for youngsters, very well attended as you might imagine:
Fire extinguisher to bring a touch of the modern to a byre: 
They swim in this pond in summer.  Brr...
Rusty is starting to feel at home here: 

I hit the perfect week, 80 by day 50 by night. No wind so it isn't cold, clear blue skies, bright sunshine.

And the changing of the leaves. A much sought after sight for many, an accident for me.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Hiking With Rusty

We were going to leave around ten but I got up early to a morning of mistyness and dripping trees. Western North Carolina is not the Florida Keys. I wore shorts but temperatures just below 60 degrees were bearable only owing to the lack of a breeze. Rusty wasn't at all convinced by the views outside the house. He went out and got nervous among the dripping leaves an creaking noises. He preferred to watch from safety:
His unfamiliarity with and fear of the woods surprised me but I figured he would learn to enjoy this open spaces, so different from the South Florida he knows so well. When we all got going for our lunch time hike around 10:30 he was ready.

Finally we reached the pasture at the top of seven mile ridge just over two hours after leaving the house. 
It was a hell of a view so I tried a panorama shot with my iPhone. The white dog showed up friendly as you like and ready to share lunch. 
Bob wanted nothing to do with him but I was ready to try to get him to safety from this lonely place. 
Rusty wasn't very enthusiastic and the way the dog followed us told me he had nowhere better to go. We go him back to the Celo community and the teachers at the school took care of him while they look for his owner. Sweet dog. Rusty wanted no part of him.
The walk was downhill obstacle course, a carefully negotiated obstacle course of slippery leaves, loose rocks and branches. It was easier than it looked fortunately. 
It was an excellent time and it quite wore out Rusty.  Perfect all round.