Thursday, August 27, 2015

Water And Light

 The light has been fantastic lately. 
Clouds are burning up with reflected sunlight when Cheyenne and I have been out in the early morning.
 The clouds then reflect the light back onto the mirror surface of the still waters.
The Navy Basin which was supposed to be handed over to the city. Luckily the Navy decided at the last minute to keep the space for itself, allowing the National Parks and NOAA boats to stay docked at the Eco Discovery Center. The city had been considering a cheesy expensive marina to be built here. Personally I prefer the Navy plan which appears to be to do nothing.
Across town at Smathers Beach the number of joggers in summer is down to a handful so anyone who feels like hanging around watching the water gets to do it mostly by themselves. In winter the beach sidewalk is a freeway of competing interests, jogging, power walking, ambling, skating and cycling...all at once
In summer the water gets so flat that when the haze builds up you can't see where the water ends and the sky begins. It is quite lovely. 
This peculiar platform is described by the city on the impenetrable cement wall as "beach access." Lovely passive aggressive nonsense in this city full of surprises.
Ahh, summer!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Afternoon Thunder

Key West has been getting soaked but just a few miles away I was basking in afternoon sunshine. Rainy season has struck though and clouds roll in pretty easily. I love these summer days with temperatures rarely much above 90 and afternoon breezes. 
I've started riding to work after a prolonged absence from two wheels and I can feel the heat increase as I get to the cement jungle of the Big City. On my canal I I need air conditioning to live indoors but spending time in the shade over looking the canal it feels pretty comfortable. And then suddenly it rains!
Summer weather in the Keys gets dramatic with sudden downpours, temperatures dropping twenty degrees and then equally suddenly its all over and blue skies and sunshine reassert themselves. 
Even the prospect of winter doesn't bother me as winter is dry season and even though temperatures drop from time to time winter day are lovely, short perhaps but sunny and frequently quite warm. A cold day of zero humidity and 70 degrees is entirely bearable. Well, I suppose they would be as I find 100 percent humidity and 90 degrees entirely acceptable. Better than 120 degrees of dry desert heat. 
It's also the time of year when fewer people spend time in the Keys even though that doesn't necessarily mean there is no one around. These people were loudly discussing the relative merits of Clinton versus Briggs and Stratton small engines. Not really a conversation to which I could add any opinions of merit. I left them to it and followed my dog on her search for the meaning of life.
The photograph annoys me technically, as I hate sloping horizons, but in the picture I captured what my ideal summer season means to me.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A-Lobstering They Will Go

August 6th through March 31st is the season for commercial lobster fishing and these traps will be crowding the waters around the Florida Keys until then. Every year there are calls for the two day mini season to be abolished or modified but every year the mini season, a two day hunt by non commercial lobster hunters ravages the Florida Keys.

There is some primitive madness that grips people who spend, I dare say thousands of dollars to kill a handful of lobster from their own hosts with their bare hands. Some people take pleasure in the fact that law enforcement can't be everywhere so they slaughter lobster well beyond their limits. Mini season is a great thing for hotels in the middle of Hurricane Season, so I foresee no end to the madness of mini season.

Everyone likes to eat lobster they say. Snobs prefer Maine lobster, the ones with claws, though I cannot tell the difference. I am not a fan of lobster, I have compared it to fish flavored string cheese, though I eat it out of deference to the generally held belief that eating an animal that will, unmolested, outlive humans imparts magical powers to the person eating it. I think cats should hunt lobster; it would be a fair fight.

Walking Cheyenne of an evening in Marathon I was reminded once again how pixpcturesque the business of farming can be, in the Keys represented by harvesting fish from a stressed-out ocean rather than by tilling fields. It's the way people harvest food and left to themselves this would be as organic as a pesticide- free garden but the fishing industry these days is mad.

Industrial fishing is crazy, with much of the world's catch being shipped around the planet after being plucked from the ocean. We exchange fish with other countries. I heard an interview on NPR's Fresh Air on the subject and it is fascinating and rather disturbing! Yet our industrial leaders want to sell themselves as "farm fresh" in everything. Check out this industrial art:

Lobster hunting is a hard life, and just as I fled from a life in agriculture in the old world I'd never make much of myself in this life. They prepare traps, they paint buoys to identify their catch, they check the pots and hope no one steals their trapped lobster. Like farming when the harvest is abundant the price drops, and when there aren't many lobster the price rises.

And for me this is old world Florida, so I like to take pictures of it.

Imagine taking strips of wood and staples and banging all these things together.

Thousands of them.


Oh and they have some traditional nets!

Good money, independence and a life on the water...any takers?

Monday, August 24, 2015

Slackers, Key West Style

I work with youngsters who are Conchs mostly. A few of us came from Up North but for the most part people who stick at these jobs are people who have roots in town, people with families, homes and history. Its just not that easy to go through a prolonged hiring process to get a city job, especially in dispatch, when you live far away and the process takes numerous tests and interviews spread over several months. Those of us who do survive the process become welded into a tight knit group of people who can do a stressful job reliably and well, and half a dozen of us relish doing it at night. The Slackers in the title does not refer to us, I took it from the movie of the same title which was a character study, more or less, of night clerks "slacking."  
 We get pretty intimate in these dispatching jobs. We learn to have conversations interrupted by calls on the radio or 911 calls and the conversation resumes without a glitch after the activity does down. Sometimes it doesn't die down and the stories get put on hold, perhaps indefinitely. We are used to not being able to finish a thought. So the stories I have gleaned I have heard over months of working with JW, the bald one, and Nick the  one with hair...So they both went to Key West High school and they recognize names all over town. I;m sitting there minding my own business and they start going off on someone arguing family history...wasn't she the one who used to go out with him before he got caught borrowing his brother's car...He used to be married to my cousin's half sister, the one whose brother owned that store. It's like listening to the people in the village where I grew up talking about their neighbors, marking the passage of time by natural disasters (the year the cows stopped milking etc...) and connecting people through marriage jobs and childbirth. 
 They also see people wandering around town all the time. There's that old Haitian lady who walks near 14th/ Apparently she carries her stuff old school style, neatly balanced on her head. JW who is endowed with a colorful way of thinking remarked that passing her on the street makes him fell like he's stepped into the pages of National Geographic, one of those third world countries. I say nothing and think about the women in my village where I grew up, doing just that!
Then there was the case of the convenience store clerk who created a bit of a wave one evening when Nick stopped by to picked up a soda. She was married to someone ..blah ... blah...anyway she is known to the Boys from her past in Key West and she has a reputation a certain class of people. Now Nick would never tell you but he's part Cuban himself so when the clerk gets mad at a Cuban who makes a mistake and accidentally tries to short change her she goes off about "Them Cubans..." Well, Nick says, "That was awkward. I mean what do you say standing in line with a bunch of people...Yeah, I hate those Cubans too....Especially when I am one?"
 JW likes to drink Monster energy drinks and after his break he likes to stop up the street on his way back to work and get afresh ice cold can of high energy sugar water. The trouble is...the clerk at the convenience store has taken a fancy to my married colleague. "Man," he announced in frustration, "I gotta get my Monsters somewhere else, the Lion came onto me again and it makes me uncomfortable," he said, grimacing. Apparently the clerk has a mane of brightly dyed blonde hair so they call him the Lion and he has proclivities that JW is not anxious to participate in. Mind you JW got propositioned in line at Disneyworld last vacation so I suppose he should be used to it. I think his wife thinks its pretty funny. 
My colleagues are anxiously awaiting the opening of Taco Bell which closed in 2009 and has apparently been missed greatly. It is supposed to open today and I have no doubt there will be lines. I am no particular fan but I hope they hire some of the more colorful clerks I hear about from my colleagues. There was one guy at the Burger King who announced himself on the drive through intercomm "Bee Kay- wha-da-doo" and offered to add "chee chee" to your sandwich if you wanted cheese with it. JW had to ask him where he was from ("I knew I was going to regret this" he sighed as he told the story about getting involved in the guy's story). Turns out he speaks French Creole and a few other languages I can't remember." He allowed as the young clerk must be pretty smart, but not smart enough to take his languages somewhere other than Burger King.
I like that side of life in Key West, not least because unlike the village in Italy I grew up in, no one knows me here and I navigate the strange connections as an outsider. And that suits me very much. I like listening to the stories and when JW  tells me he's been reading Game of Thrones I know I'm going to hear something to my advantage. "I don't read a lot" he says but Game of Thrones caught his interest. So how was it I ask, genuinely interested. "Oh man," he says "I'm not liking it as  much as I expected. So when I read the book the characters, I know should be talking with proper English accents. Thing is, in my head they're all speaking Conch. I'm telling you; it just doesn't sound tight." 

My life, the well regulated life of  a middle aged man alternating between work and home is nowhere near as colorful as the young Conchs I live around. However I did see Papa Smurf the other day in the check out line at the supermarket. 
He said nothing but he looked like he was going fishing. I wonder what he caught? A tall story perhaps.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sunday At The Beach

I was astonished to see no one at Veterans Memorial Park last week well after sunrise. In winter this spot, at the south end of the Seven Mile Bridge is packed, and photographers  often show up to watch the sun show up over Marathon. 
I woke up late, still fighting pneumonia and Cheyenne and I were alone, with the usual epidemic of abandoned footwear. I don't know how people lose their shoes all the time. Mind you, reading the Key West Yard Sale Facebook page you'd be even more astonished how many people manage to lose their dogs. 
 We got back to the car animal and footwear intact.
Another beautiful day in the making, not too hot around 90 degrees with a cool breeze to mitigate the humidity. I know its been the hottest summer on record and I know the west is in major drought and burning up but in the Keys the summer has been perfect. All I have to do is shake off my endless bloody pneumonia.