Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Dead End

Overcast skies and restless waters.

A small submerged hulk.

In the distance Fat Albert on the ground, a sign of strong unfavorable winds. No aerial interdiction today.

On shore, at the turn around my Labrador spread herself across the surface of the Earth, connecting with her Mother, were she articulate enough to express such a New Age thought. That or she wanted

a rest.

A boat anchored just off the end of the boat ramp.

Blimp Road, a straight shot south back to the Overseas Highway. All side roads off the main road end in dead ends. Its the nature of land communication in the Florida Keys.

 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Vespa Restored

Gene handed over my 1979 P200 today. I took a short test ride, he tightened up a few odds and ends, gave me some sound advice about breaking in the new motor and sent us on our way home.  Scooters Originali have done me proud. Now I want Gene and Andrea to do me another one! He had a rather nice restored Lambretta in the chop. My wife now thinks Lambrettas are prettier than Vespas. 
I picked up the trailer from the storage locker where I had left it and went over to the Allentown scooter shop. The whole operation went amazingly well.  Gene basically did a frame up restoration, all new fasteners, carburetor, clutch, cables, suspension and crankshaft and piston related gubbins. Like new I hope with a halogen headlamp and new wiring as well! 
And now time to start the 1500 mile journey home to heat, sunlight and lots of commutes to get this brand new motor ready to burn up some roads. I am hoping for some touring too, ambitious of course but that's me. 

My Island Life

I heard on the radio (because I don't have TV reception) that some "expert" has decided 46 million Americans will be on the road this week. Well, bugger, I hope they see me coming and get out of my way; I've got a Vespa to pick up in Pennsylvania before turning around to enjoy a leisurely traditional Thanksgiving with friends at Jekyll Island in Georgia. All of which means Cheyenne the wife and I have left the November warmth of the familiar for the frost studded steppes of the wastelands of mainland America. Brr.

I told a friend that Key West is a great place to live if you have to work and he looked at me, puzzled. Most people, he said, say Key West is a great place to on vacation. True enough but when faced with the daily grind I by far prefer it frost free and easy. I like sunshine, it makes me happy.

I get to work where people come on their time off. A visit to Key West is a hard fought privilege for many people and for me a walk among the orchids is a lunch break.

You've got to get yo the very end of the road to find half a town built two hundred years ago, and maintained just so. The other hundred miles of islands are a jumble of free range unplanned neon chaos, but Old Town Key West is this:

I admire people ready to pay hundreds of thousands to spend a few winter weeks in these architect-free structures. Just because they are among the costliest houses in Florida doesn't mean they are nests of modern conveniences. What you see is often a lot more than what you get. Straight floors...right angled corners...central air? Nah, not needed in 1828 so not really useful now. Enjoy! I like my modern conveniences in a modern, weatherproof house on a canal twenty miles out of town, but I'm weird. Long live suburbia.

The best free entertainment in this high cost town is taking your dog for a walk, and she will thank you. But there's so much more. Live music, education, restaurants, theater, parties, movies, fund raisers masquerading as events and gatherings called to raise money for community needs. If being a social butterfly is your thing and you have time and money to spare and a powerful alcohol-proof liver, Key West is your oyster. But Key West is a hard taskmaster for most people. Living among beauty and culture and copious expensive alcohol often requires a punishing work week from two or more part time, benefit -free jobs. I have been feeling the heat lately working too much overtime to fill holes in the schedule desperate for a couple of trainees to get trained to take the heat off. Not much free time left over...
I still get a chance to check out some of the odd corners of this great little town. Left over paint brush strokes anyone? Typical of this lovely little town the devil is in the details, not clean, not spiffy, frequently shy of maintenance, not displaying a city cherished and loved by its residents. There's a big debate ruffling the city at the moment about Fantasy Fest. A coalition of city residents led by native born prominent citizens is pressing for an end to raunchy nudity and displays of middle aged flesh on Duval Street each October. The rules are clear but this event is a money raiser and now we get to see if money talks over the wishes of the bubbas who feel this event has gone too far. I figure that if someone could guarantee all nudity was youthful and sexy all objections would evaporate, a conclusion that bothers me more than tasteless displays of poor costuming. In the end whatever they decide works for me but I shall watch the process with interest. Money versus morality, the ultimate capitalist dilemma, made public.
I miss it when I'm away. I love traveling, but I like coming home to the Keys. I miss my friends at work, we deal with life and death every night but we laugh at each other a lot. It's natural that we we do, because life is contrasts and we see a lot of shit in people's lives every night. Key West is beautiful but it's not easy, it's not cheap, though sometimes it looks it. It's got problems on display for all to see, it never makes a best place to live list, it's population is graying and getting steadily wealthier and less creative. But I'd rather live here than Montpelier, Burlington, or any of those podunk little towns that national magazines profess to love as best places to live. I get to ride my Bonneville year round. Beat that, snowmobilers.

Yet, yet yet. For all that I've lived in interesting places Key West remains the best place to earn a living. I have a great job, dispatching at night and by day I get to enjoy more sunny days a year than I deserve, warm waters all around, fantastic views and a few solid friends. Is that all it takes to make me happy? Guess so. Can't wait to get back.

 

Monday, November 24, 2014

White Street

When push comes to shove leaving Key West is always a bit of a wrench, despite the fact that I do enjoy a road trip and my poor old Ford Fusion has the miles to prove it. We seem to have racked up 70,000 miles in no time on the car that we bought with a mere 8,000 miles on the clock. And here we go again...leaving Key West as you read this, due north on a mission to liberate my restored Vespa and spend Thanksgiving with friends. I am excited to be retrieving my 1979 P200, I am looking forward to Thanksgiving, one of my favorite holidays. and this time I am rather pleased to be leaving town for a week.

I was on White Street pondering the fate of the former Navy Housing at Peary court, now rented out to anyone who can pay two grand a month for "Old Town Living" which is supposedly on track to someday be developed into housing compatible with the surrounding neighborhoods. So far no luck and the most recent plan was rejected by the city. Peary Court was taken back from the city by the Navy when it was a baseball diamond and an empty space. And that act of Navy spite seems to have left this place floundering under a bad star. The Navy has at last done what it should have done in the first place and built Al Quaeda-proof housing on the Fleming Key base and left this space as aa delightful park. Old Town living this is not but there are chickens to mess up your yard and keep you awake.

And the housing is cookie cutter "Key West style" behind more or less secure fences. Tall enough to keep me out unless I use the front gate which is wide open, but probably not secure enough to keep out a moderately athletic youth with a determined agenda. I doubt anything will change here in the week I'm gone.

The former home of The Studios at Key West, a southernmost cultural success story is apparently being transformed even as the Studios have moved to the former masonic building on Eaton Street. Here again even as I struggle with frost and cold Up North things will doubtless chug along as they do. The armory has been through transformations and doubtless one more will give the building another chance to do something useful.

In some respects this seems like a good week to be gone. My place of employment is under fire in the pages of the newspapers relating to an in custody death almost exactly a year ago in Key West. I wasn't working at the time, I have not read anything other than what has been reported in the press and I have no special knowledge of what happened in the death of Charles Eimers.

 

However a lot of anger is directed at the police department these days, led by KWTN and none of it reflects the place where I spend so many nights working, nor do the accusations reflect the officers I dispatch. I hope the events of that day on the beach are explored thoroughly and thoughtfully and any and all wrongs and omissions are discovered and dealt with appropriately. I cannot imagine how awful it must be for the Eimers family to be coping with this situation a full year later, and with their civil suit underway who knows how much more time will pass before this chapter is closed.

I have seen hard times before in my work place and I suppose I shall see more in the future, though I wish this controversy were long since behind us. I keep plugging away doing my best and trying to concentrate on that which lies ahead, a sunnier future, fresh explorations of the place I like to call home. I plan to use my time machine which reminds me of times past which, when viewed from the present always appear happier. In my memory my old two stroke Vespa was the epitome of solid reliability. We shall see. My 1979 Vespa before the restoration:

 

Meanwhile I'm taking a road trip, much needed, a broad circle to Pennsylvania and back, and will look forward to coming home with a renewed sense of purpose and optimism that things will work out as they should. For everyone.

 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Cheyenne

She's doing great, just about five years since I got her. She's 13 now and still loves to walk every day twice a day. The cooler weather has woken the inner puppy and I enjoy her company as much as ever. She seems to like my company too, even though every now and again her inner stubborn Eeyore comes face to face with my implacable deadlines of daily living. She gets grumpy when I need to end the walk before she's ready. "Come on Cheyenne!" I can be heard to implore from time to time, trying to hustle the old impostor ("Look at me, I'm so old, so slow, so tired!") back to the car. When life gets tough, the tough walk their dog. And their dog can be pretty tough too and determined to have her own way.

She has been a bit anxious about being left behind as we prepare for our road trip. The plants I can leave behind with a house sitter, but not my Labrador. She comes with, but she'll only beleive me when she is tucked up on her bed behind the driver. Her previous owners have a lot of unhappiness to answer for as I don't think they treated her as one of the family and that's what dogs crave more than anything as they are pack animals above all. Cheyenne rules her roost.