Monday, June 18, 2007

Preparing for Flight

Wouldn't you just love to be able to flap your wings and lift off for a new destination. And so we do we middle class, middle world people. We burn tens of thousands of gallons of aircraft grade kerosene in order to stretch our wings and plop ourselves down a few thousand miles away. With all the fuel I could run my 70mpg Vespa, full speed several times around the world. It would be a gruesome, achy way to travel but the fuel would go a long way using my scooter.
I hate flying. Its crap standing around in lines like sheep, taking off our shoes in honor of Richard Reid the mad bomber who pissed on his own bomb, and then spending hours wedged into plastic seats breathing everyone else's germs All the while burning a giant hole in the atmosphere, or looked at more apocalyptically, when we fly we clutter the overburdened atmosphere with more burnt gasoline gas.
But every cloud has a silver lining and my wife has procured for us, by the alchemy of airline mileage credit cards and persistence, two lovely business class seats to Vienna. Comfortable travel it seems even as the plebs in the back of the plane burn kerosene wildly in their narrow plastic-lined torture buckets.
There is some other thing that is vaguely wrong and troubling to me. I'm starting to look forward to this trip. All those fears and niggling worries about being back in the lap of my family, the root of all the trouble in my early life, is melting away, perhaps because I am truly tired of being at work. Perhaps because there is nothing to fear.
So, in a few hours we flap our wings and head east, like eagles soaring into the old world. The home of Vespas, and Etruscans and American tourists in gold pants and tour buses.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Putting My Vespa Away

Today I managed to lock my Vespa up in a dark stuffy cell. I rented the storage locker for a month while I'm off galivanting in Italy and my scooter will sit still in the dark. Its tough picking a time to leave for a summer vacation when you live in the Keys, hurricane season works up to a crescendo in August and particularly September, so I'm off hoping June/July will be quiet.
I never cease to amaze myself how much I enjoy riding the scooter through these islands. Its not a motorcycle, nor do i want it to be a motorcycle. I've had quite enough of riding along, my feet and legs out in the breeze, a hot engine nestled between my legs,my feet slipping ever-so-slightly on the foot pegs and my pant legs flapping horribly in the breeze. I have to remember to shift gears, an annoying habit as it takes my attention off the road and the views and the general pleasure of riding in the tropics. Yes, the tropics, the subtropics, the heat. I love the heat especially sweeping through the green and the blue and the warmth on my silent, smooth Vespa. I am going to miss the daily
ride.
I am glad I have a commute because it gives me an excuse to ride. Its just a one road county around here but its one hell of a road. Bridges give way to causeways just a few feet above the sea. The views off each side of the road show flat waters, clumps of green mangroves sprouting out of the water like toadstools. The road itself is lumpy with lack of maintenance and the roadside attractions are pretty rough. I mean this is a corridor that absolutely screams out for some urban planning...Shacks superimposed on shacks, neon, landscaping that more resembles a junkyard than anything else, all sidling up to the long umbilical that is US Highway One.
And then there's me, sweeping happily along on my gearless 250cc buzz bomb. The great thing about the Vespa GTS for a middle-aged man like me is that its comfortable. I can sit, have sat, on the broad black seat for 12 hours and been able to walk away at the end of a trip. That was ona recent trip to the Everglades. I did a similar trip ast year on my cruiser motorcycle and my ass hurt aftre one hour.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Weather or Whether


The saying goes that the weather is what makes life so appealing at latitude 24' 30" North, and, assuming you like warm weather that's no lie. The ranks of the residents swell every winter with legions of snowbirds who flee south to escape winters they've lived with all their working lives. Winter weather in Key West is alternating patterns of what feels cold to me, 60 degrees (15 celsius) and windy rain with the arrival of a cold front followed by a tolerable 75 degrees (18 celsius) and bright wintry sunshine.
In summer, when the snowbirds have long gone it just gets better, and I revel in heat and humidity leavened by breezes and airconditioning. While the snowbirds dandle their grand children in 100 degrees of 100 percent humidity I duck out of bright sunny 90 degree days, and sit on the porch in the breeze after a swim, or I choose to lounge indoors and set the air conditioning to 76, cool and refreshing and shady.
The best of the weather is the rain, and for the first time in my life I don't dread the onset of the rainy season. Unlike most places where precipitation coincides with winter and produces cold damp, muddy, or God forbid snowy conditions, here in snowbird's paradise summer rains bring a welcome chill, a refreshing flood which passes through and disappears in half a day leaving more sunshine, more puffy white clouds and rising steam from the wet blacktop.
Then there are days like today when I want nothing more than to ready for departure putting away outdoor stuff and...it rains, it pours, it buckets down and nothing can be put away wet not even for a brief absence of a few weeks.
Wet garden cushions and wet Vespas will moulder gently in the dark. So I sit and wait and write a post, wishing for bright hot sun, and instead wave after wave of thick black clouds, pelting rain and gusts of cool wet air hold me captive indoors, watching the trees swaying and drinking outdoors- a jolly green festival, a soughing ode to rain. Time's awasting and there's a plane to catch Monday morning, whether I'm ready or not. The stress of sub-tropical life.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Continuing My Test

I decided to set up this blog before my three week vacation out of town. I expect to come home refreshed and supplied with stories and pictures for my amusement.
Meanwhile another thought about Key West:
There are four commonly told lies about my home town. Key West is NOT:
an island: its a peninsula connected to the mainland by 42 bridges;
tropical: it lies in the sub-tropical belt, the Tropic of Cancer is between Havana and Key West;
in the Caribbean: its in the Atlantic, and America's Caribbean Islands are the Virgins and Puerto Rico, not Key West which lies well north of the Caribbean Sea;
laidback: this is the worst lie propagated by Jimmy Buffet's popularization of "island time." Most people hold down at least two jobs to allow them to struggle by here.

Key West is the best place I've ever lived, and I moved here from California with little or no understanding of the Parrothead phenomenon or the Mid West obsessiveness with Key West. I just wanted warm air and water and a good jumping off spot for travel by land (that peninsula thing) or air (Miami International). It has turned into a place that for the first time in my nomadic life speaks to me as home. Key West warts and all.
Oh and then there's my Vespa. Key West is America's most scooter-friendly city: might as well have my scooter featured as well. I've been riding motorcycles for years and around here I can pretty much leave the car at home. So I decided it was time to go back to a Vespa, after years away from scooters, riding bigger machines. Riding my GTS gives me an armchair seat to watch the Keys go by.

Day One June 13 2007

This dude dies. There's a promising start for a blog. Well, anyway he dies and goes to heaven. St Peter meets him at the Pearly Gates and says:
"We have choices nowadays in Heaven. You get a free trial period in a choice of places. In your case you get to try out the celestial sphere up here, or you get to spend the rest of eternity in Key West.
Day one, among the clouds sipping ambrosia, tinkling the odd harp, lounging around chatting of this and that with the hosts of heavenly angels.
Day Two, our hero gets sent down to Key West to check out the scene. He starts the day with a proper breakfast at Turtle Kraals, fresh eggs, strong coffee, crisp bacon and a view across the Key West Bight Harbor. Then he heads to the beach at Fort Zachary for a swim, a read in a hammock under the pines and a leisurely bike ride back to civilisation for a refreshing smoothie on Duval Street while checking out the passing scene.
After a lunch on the beach at Salute restaurant he takes off from Smathers Beach dangling from a parachute, whips round the harbor and back on land takes in a ride across town to Half Shell raw bar for oysters and a frosty.
In the evening its back to Duval and a night of drinking and carousing.
St Peter barely has to ask.
"Dude," our Hero says, panting from his exertions in Paradise, "its gotta be Key West for me." Nodding gravely St Peter puts him down for eternity in Key West.
Our hero drops off to sleep under a freshly laundered sheet, a fan swirling slowly round above his head.
He awakes in a lather of sweat, the sound of hungry female mosquitoes fills his ears. His lip is swollen from a nighttime mosquito feast and his ears are filled with gritty sand.
"Hey!" A voice roars and the sound of cracking whip fills the air." Get up you lazy bugger! Work! Get to work!"
"Hey, I'm spending Eternity in Paradise!" comes the indignant protest.
"Yeah, yesterday you were a tourist. Today you're a local."