Monday, April 21, 2014

Big Coppitt Cemetery

I think I should like to be buried here. If I didn't want my ashes scattered at sea, that is.

BIG COPPITT KEY: For storied Keys graveyard, new life and owner - Top Stories -

The Key West cemetery is a repository of history and is well known as a tourust destination, much to the annoyance of family members of those buried in that public space. Big Coppitt by contrast is serene, wide open and free of hassle.

Key West Diary: Key West Cemetery 2013

These plots have stories to tell, though of less well known characters than in Key West so who knows...




I put Cheyenne in the car for a drive through as most cemeteries don't much appreciate dogs. Wasn't I surprised to see this sign in the middle of the field?


Aside from a headstone in the Aweekly family name the only other one I recognized was this one, of the well known artist recently on display the Customs House.


Key West is considering spending a quarter million or more on a new sexton's house, here the quarters are more modest.

They make their win headstones here which I found quite fascinating and when I wandered by I actually met the sexton but she declined to be photographed so you will have to imagine a cheerful woman urprised by my interest in her cemetery.

It's easy to find, simply turn north off Highway One at Bobalu's Restaurant in Big Coppitt. And take your dog, it's a great walk.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Jet Noise

It was nothing particular in mind that I took Cheyenne to Boca Chica beach for a walk. The mornings have been getting hot as soon as the sun comes up and small furry Labradors aren't huge fans of summer's heat, even if it arrives in April. A shady stroll at what passes for a beach in the Florida a Keys was just the ticket.

I was surprised to see construction work underway on the Navy side of the Boca Chica Naval Air Station perimeter.

The base has picked up a lot of training since Vieques closed to the US military, and year round mild weather helps training schedules especially when the base is surrounded by open water...They teach pilots from all over the world hoe to take off and land from aircraft carriers here. Apparently they need more runway or something:

To me this is the Straits of Florida, to the Navy it's open space where no one will complain if planes fly out here and break the sound barrier with a crack like the herald of doom.

Hurricanes have washed out the old state highway that ran along the waterfront here and the county has closed off the worn out pavement reserving it for walkers and cyclists. Cheyenne isn't terribly keen on making the long waterfront walk these days but I miss the exploration.

Key West Diary: Boca Chica Beach is the story of a long walk with a new dog eager to see everything. She ages gracefully!

Jets were doing their thing while we were there, zooming up with a ground shaking roar and a roll of thunder loud enough to feel like the four horsemen of the apocalypse were paying a visit. The newspaper had an article on these things and when I got home I discovered they are F-5N Tiger II aircraft of Composite Zfighter Squadron III. The thrust of the newspaper article is that training will be picking up through the end of June and these "composite" flyers will be playing the enemy as visitors learn how to kill them.

The issue of jet noise is one of those local thorns that get people around here all worked up. Boca Chica has been a major naval base since World War Two yet people who choose to live nearby are surprised by the noise created by powerful jet fighters screaming around the skies. When one of these planes come in to land or take off the noise will drown out conversations, radio, TV and music in the homes nearby and because they are practicing take off and landing techniques from a pretend aircraft carrier the activity goes on quite a bit during daylight hours when visitors are at the base. Which is why I won't consider living between Key Haven and Shark Key to avoid this issue. Other people choose to live under the flight path then complain about the noise.

Being as how this is a military base there is a lot more than common sense in play here, as always among fallible humans. Supporters of the military take the position that to oppose "jet noise" is to be somehow unpatriotic and they call jet noise the "sound of freedom" in the typical hyperbolic fashion of people who aren't too fond of explaining why they believe what they think. I view the recent Supreme Court rulings on campaign finance as the death knell of freedom but flying jet fighters are a fine distraction from that threat. The noise issue keeps the complaints flowing from people who chose to live next to the air base, the bright sparks! And this wouldn't be the Florida Keys if someone somewhere weren't complaining, and introducing common sense into the debate will earn you no friends. I live outside the fly zone and let them get on with it.

This is a good spot to ponder the relative merits of the Second Fourth and Sixth Amendments, but it's also a good place to enjoy the view.

On a day when the mosquitoes and no see-ums are away this is the perfect place for a picnic.

Personally I find insect bites to be far more aggravating than momentary jet noise. I thus find it ironic that yellow fever has been responsible for far more deaths than war. I know why my neighbors get up in arms about expensive government jets flying around, while the gradual dismantlement of the public health system takes place under their noses and not a peep do we hear. The obvious is easier to shout about, but Dr Joseph Yates Porter, the Army doctor turned unglamorous public health director responsible for eradicating yellow fever in Key West deserves more consideration in this age of declining public service. I've never seen someone die of yellow fever, for good reason, but I wonder when that might change?

Saturday, April 19, 2014

From The Archives: The Top At La Concha

The Top is the bar on the roof top of La Concha  hotel, which at seven stories is the tallest building in Key West. It's  a bar I have actually enjoyed visiting,  and  getting there is half the fun as The Top opens to the public at three and the elevator on the ground floor is programmed to reach the top floor at that point in the afternoon but the bar at The Top only opens at 5pm. Here's the bad news, tomorrow is the last day of operation of The Top as it is scheduled to be remodeled as a massage center and spa. Actually I had thought it was long since closed and haven't been back, as these plans were announced months ago. Now the newspaper is full of the closing and Facebook has a page calling for one last party, and it all ends Sunday night, so I figured this was the right moment to replay my 2009 essay on The Top.
If you ask me, this is the best place from which to view Key West's famous sunsets, though even of a sunny afternoon it's a pretty pleasant spot to hang out for a while:
La Concha hotel guests have access any time with their room keys in the hotel elevator, but the elevator will take anyone, even without a key, to The Top after 3:00pm. The bar opens at 5:00pm and you can watch the world go by in style, if you don't mind drinking your wine from a plastic cup:
I usually drink red wine but tradition has it that suicides who choose to leap from The Top are found to have left behind a glass of Chardonnay. If you don't believe me take the Ghost Tour which leaves from La Concha's lobby at 8:00pm, they will tell you the unvarnished truth. I took myself up to the The Top, and there took a moment by myself, on graduation day last week, so it seemed churlish to spoil the evening by taking a swan dive. I drank the wine and admired the view, including St Paul's Cathedral spire and Fleming Key:
A trawler chugging through the harbor en route to the Gulf via the Northwest Channel:
A tourist with Mule Key in the background:
The harbor:
As you can tell Key West is pretty much surrounded by boats at anchor which are most likely lived aboard:
One soon to be occupied by the fish is the Vandenberg (which was sunk that year):
There's Duval Street driving straight for the Gulf:
And here are some visitors touring the town on scooters, at Duval and Eaton, with a delivery scooter in pursuit:
A less energetic visitor enjoying a book on one of the terraces inside the building:
My colleague Noel described this as the coolest apartment in Key West, and as it's on top of the Kress Building and it is owned and occupied by Key West's original developer David Wolkowsky, the man who started the waterfront hotel craze by building the Pier House: I wasn't alone in enjoying the views from the top:

I decided to walk back down to the ground floor, but once you decide to take the stairs management makes sure you know there is no going back:
Until you are back in the lobby, pausing a moment:
Before you step out into the heat, noise and confusion that is downtown Key West.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Mike Ruppert

A lone slash pine burned in the uncontrolled Bif Pine burn a couple of years ago. A charred survivor.
My blog the last couple of days has contained enough words pictures ideas and feelings to last the rest of the month. Today I am taking time off from thinking and feeling. Cheyenne will be the beneficiary no doubt.
I wouldn't mention it except the last time I forgot to post a daily essay I received word that my death was feared. I am quite alive thank you for wondering. However Mike Ruppert isn't. If you want to think today, think of this troubled man who taught me a new way to view the daily irritations of modern life even as he went off the rails. He went far off the rails of conventional thought and I stopped following his descent but I am glad he showed me a different way to see the world, so I can decide for myself when I read the "news."

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Best And Worst Of Times

Spring and Fall are the best times to visit the Keys in my opinion. We are just now entering the first best period of 2014, Spring. The Overseas Highway is no longer crammed with cars coming and going twenty out if the 24 hours and what traffic there is tends to flow a lot faster than preferred tourist speeds of less than the speed limit, which tendency prevails all winter. The next large flow of visitors starts in a couple of months when schools get out and families come looking for long sandy beaches, poor things, and find rocks and seaweed.

One of my preferred short walks, the Ramrod Pool, a deep rectangle of water dug out as a canal for a failed development is no longer filled with people when Cheyenne and I visit early in the morning. Niles Channel looked unruffled yesterday morning and on the gravel shore my dog and I were alone. In winter it's not unusual to come across campers here, deluded souls who imagine they were the first and only passersby to decide to camp illegally here. Like most such people they lack the wit to get up early and move on before their presence is known and aren't they surprised to going my elderly determined Labrador nosing through their debris...

For a while last winter there was a magnificent fire ring here and I would come across wisps of evocative woodsmoke and warm ashes at dawn. Then it was gone, swept clean and an official "No Open Fires" sign appeared abruptly. I came across a disheveled young man one night, incandescent with rage at the disappearance if the fire ring. Beer and seduction had been in his mind apparently and his own inner fire was directed at snowbirds, whom he said had complained to the builder of the outdoor fireplace saying it was dangerous. Well, I said, don't worry soon the snowbirds and all their Up North regulatory zeal will soon be gone, and then we can get back to normal, not that I am at all interested in sitting by the fire here with the nightly groups of gossiping drunks. Too late he said, I have to leave in a couple of weeks. Well I thought to myself one snowbird kettle calling another pot black.

I thought the fireplace could cause no conceivable harm in this wet and watery place but it is true, winter visitors do get a poor reputation for being bossy and having things done their way. So no more fires. I come for the sunrises and my dog enjoys the smells. So far the snowbirds haven't figured out how to prevent us enjoying those modest pleasures.

My own life has taken some rather odd turns in Key West over the years and I have enjoyed new experiences which I might never have otherwise lived through. I got tired of being a boat captain, dealing with people under the hot sun, ashore dealing with boat people who lived in Key West on the edge and expressed their apartness by hanging out on the waterfront bitching about land dwellers. I got tired of being a wharf rat partly because I could see Key West had more to offer than sun and sea. My wife meanwhile was delighted not to be a California lawyer anymore and loved being a Florida teacher, so in pursuit of respectability and predictability I applied to work at the police department. I did not expect to get the dispatch job and furthermore I did not expect to enjoy it, thus my ten year career there has been something of a shock to me.

Lately the police department has come under fire, and as usual I am outside the information stream, where I like to be, so what I know is what I read in the paper. I deliberately avoid knowing anything that does not pertain to my job, and I don't hang out with my colleagues outside of work. I read the newspaper, I read stuff online and I marvel at how my favorite place of work is portrayed. The police department I know is composed of people almost all younger than, more conservative than me and committed to the rule of law. I work with cops, not on the street, not supervising them, nor yet being one of them. Most cops loath the idea of doing my job which they see as stressful, sedentary and powerless, talking to people endlessly on the phone. Me? I love figuring out how to, and where to send help and then they hang up and I am done. Cops have to meet these people, deal with them and find solutions. I would rather eat worms than go out among the public and try to help straighten out their lives.

Case in point. The newspaper has been filled with stories about a visitor to Key West last Thanksgiving who was arrested on a Key West beach and who died there and then. The circumstances are being investigated by the state and the dead man's family is suing of course. Them there is the peanut gallery, people who hate the police department and take this miserable situation and use it to further their agenda.

The Blue Paper is an online publication after it's founder sold it to new owners on his retirement from publishing. They published a 54 second video of the arrest and the KWPD critics treat this as a smoking gun, proof positive that the department killed Charles Eimers on the beach. I have watched it and though I am not trained in arrest techniques I can't for the life of me figure what gun is smoking here :

Arrest Leads To Death: Thanksgiving Day 2013 Southernmost Beach Cafe, Duval St., Key West - YouTube

Police, family await report on in-custody death |

The thing that gets me about this is how, before any conclusions are reached, before the results of any investigations are made available Sloan Bashinsky has decided the entire department is damned. And not just damned, but damned because KWPD, as an institution hates the homeless and the Eimers case in some manner reflects KWPD mistreatment of the city's homeless population. As far as I know Charles Eimers was connected to his family in Michigan and was in a car because he drove to Key West, as one does. He had a loving involved family and a home and a life away from the Southernmost City. However Bashinsky has anointed himself protector of Key West's downtrodden homeless population, Eimers died in police custody, therefore there is hay to be made for Bashinsky's cause.

In my youth people like Bashinsky were known as remittence men, scions of wealthy families who got a check from time to time to live elsewhere. Bashinsky's family made its fortune in Birmingham Alabama from potato chips,Golden Flake Snack Foods which have kept Bashinsky far from the tiresome need to earn a living. Speaking as one who was born to wealth and turned my back on it to make my own life, I wish Bashinsky had done the same. It's the only path to human growth, making your own life whatever it may be, and it is one philosophical reason why I favor estate taxes. Bashinsky prefers to attribute his decisions to dreams and spiritual visions which doesn't add to his credibility. However I am less interested in his angels than I am in his agenda.

Thanks in part to his issues Bashinsky has spent time living on the streets in destitution however now that he is back sucking at the family teat he has become a lightning rod for the professional homeless, the romantic hobos of yore. In Europe they call them travelers, in the US, puritanical land of the work ethic they are "bums". As far as I can gather Eimers was none of those, but Bashinsky refers to him as a "suspected homeless man" as though being homeless were a crime of which he stood accused. In fact Key West not only adheres to the letter of Florida law by offering the homeless a safe place to sleep it also, as a community offers services above and beyond what one would expect of a community of 23,000. No one in Key West need sleep on the streets, go without nourishment, an education or help to get back on their feet and productive. Yet the tax payers of this town have approved laws that forbid sleeping in public places after eleven pm, or sleeping in one's vehicle on city streets. Police officers enforce those laws as demanded of them by the residents of the city. Police Chief Donie Lee is caught in an intractable squeeze between the demands of the law as required by the citizens of his city, and the endless sniping of people with no stake in this community. I don't know the chief personally, as I don't hang out with colleagues after hours, but he's a decent man and as far as I can tell a decent committed cop devoted to the town he grew up in. He's been nothing but supportive of dispatch and beyond that I can say nothing because I know nothing but I doubt he is a blood sucking vampire intent on hurting the homeless as he goes about his life. If something went wrong in the Eimers arrest Chief Lee won't duck the implications. I just hope he doesn't throw up his hands and tell the city and his critics to go fuck themselve, as would I if I were in his position. I don't have the patience to be a cop, a job that is endlessly criticized by people whose grasp of the nuances of the law are about as strong as their grasp on the realities of scientific investigation or of history.

Sloan Bashinsky has no idea how to accomplish anything as far as I can tell, beyond feeding his bored ego. Bashinsky is running for mayor, again, still with no desire to win, no desire to create a campaign, but simply to create a platform to surround himself with drama. Bashinsky will never make a mistake, never have to compromise, never have to apologize for an intemperate word to a colleague, never get written up or criticized nor will he ever get engaged in a debate, as when the going gets sticky he defers to his guiding angels who appear in his sleep. Bashinsky's world is his own and it has no impact on what the rest of us average slobs have to do to get through the day. He is only answerable to his insubstantial angels, who do not apparently recommend restraint, or good manners or simply taking a pause, nor do they recommend getting a job and learning to live for a day or a week like the rest of us, with the social compromises and tact required among people within a social cluster. The rest of us don't get to stamp our feet like infants and scream "I want..." when the mood grabs us, so we are perplexed when see a graybeard doing that in our midst while expecting to be taken seriously on issues of substance.

The odd part may be that I don't disagree on the content of Bashinsky's politics. I am probably the most politically progressive employee at KWPD but that notwithstanding I have seen anarchy during my 56 years of life, and I want the rule of law to guide my daily life. In the civil arena I have suffered defeat in debate within the legal system in a ruling that I believe was an incorrect judicial decision but by my moral compass I have to, and I shall, abide by the law. More broadly, for instance in the penal arena I understand the drive pushing the demand for the legalization of marijuana but the decision to legalize has to be made as has happened in other states, by the will of the people. What a lot of people don't or won't understand is that the police are enforcers of the laws. If you don't like the laws - change them! You want people sleeping in parks after hours? Change the law, but don't attack the police for enforcing the law. However to do that requires grit and tenacity, the ability to persuade and the persistence to make the case so that citizens who pay taxes see the change as being to their benefit. All of which is beyond the capacity of Bashinsky or his angels to accomplish. So instead he mocks, and attacks and takes no responsibility. That isn't politics, that's grandstanding.

As to his sidekick in this extraordinary drive to impeach the entire department in the death of the well housed Charles Eimers, Bashinsky has been exchanging missives with one Kurt Wagner and forewarding their correspondence to all employees at KWPD. Wagner is apparently a van dweller of some sort and has a low opinion of the police department. Van dwelling is becoming openly popular, hardly surprising in this depressed economy and the web makes the most of that. If sounds interesting my advice is to keep a low profile if you want to be a social outlier, but Wagner is now saying he wants to return to Key West, a city where he claims the department harasses him mercilessly and take a stand. More grandstanding to take a stand for the right to shit in a bucket in one's own vehicle while living on the plumbing-free streets of Key West. I have issues with gentrification for sure, but the opposite end of the lifestyle spectrum is insupportable if we all live with no regard for our neighbors. Anarchy is not an answer to any social ill in this country.

There is something odd about an accusation that Key West PD is some sort of reincarnation of the infamous Rampart division in Los Angeles. I love going to work and I wasn't born to be a concentration camp guard in some dystopian Fascist nightmare. Some nights I get to help people I only hear over the phone; most nights I hope I helped the cops do their work and some nights I come home wishing I had done better. If I thought anyone I work with wanted to do anything less than to protect and serve I wouldn't work at 1604 North Roosevelt Boulevard. Anyone who thinks these young dedicated cops are jack booted thugs has only to come by and ask to do a ride along and see for themselves that their agenda is as pure and selfless as the critics claim they are perverted and thuggish.

I don't usually write about my job on this page, which is my escape, my relaxation, my expression of joy in where I live and with whom I live, as far from work and city politics as possible. But if anyone imagines I am ashamed of my job or my colleagues this is my effort to set that record straight as the Eimers investigation continues. If anyone broke the law or department protocols in the Eimers arrest I trust the law to do what's right, but whatever the outcome may be, tarring everyone in my work family with the stench of rottenness is immoral and can only be a suggestion made by demons not angels and promulgated by a very uninformed human with a dark agenda of his own.