Sunday, April 22, 2018

No Fixing Stupid

It was a lovely day and I had a few hours before I had to go in to work so my thoughts turned to the great outdoors and the Sugarloaf Loop in particular. Its a fifteen minute drive from my house so I like to have plenty of time in hand to walk the woods there.
There is a roughly hewn canal cutting through, a relic from years past and an attempt at development that today would be banned by all the agencies under the sun. Back then if you wanted a canal you dug it through the living rock if necessary.
 The development may not have happened around the Sugarloaf Loop but the canal does connect a few houses to the sea and boats do run the fast currents here:
Odd to imagine  a  suburban subdivision lining the water. Mind you that's the case for thousands of homes built on canals blasted the length of these islands to make way for development. I live in one such house myself.
I was not expecting to find myself sucking my rubber Crocs through a giant puddle of the most viscous soft slippery goo left behind by high tides and rain. Had I not been struggling to keep up with my happy dog I might have enjoyed the sensation between my toes.  
I paused to clean my feet in the canal and took off after Rusty who was waiting for me. I have to say hubris is a terrible thing but if the ancient Greeks were discussing human pride (and not thinking much of it) then you know arrogance has been in our make up for a very long time. So you will understand when I tell you I was shocked and annoyed to see a trail break out among the bushes where I had never previously noticed a trail. Well, I thought I had better check it out. I have to admit to that it was on my mind that this "short cut" might clip a  chunk off the walk on this increasingly warm afternoon.
Naturally when the trail expired a few hundred yards in hubris took over again and I figured it would not be far to the paved road, the road that loops through the failed subdivision...It was a ridiculous position to be in - again- blundering through thorns and poisonwood and heaps of rotting leaves and tangled downed saplings and so on and so forth. I did this a few weeks ago in spectacular fashion and here I was again. Once a fool always a fool. Rusty was having fun without me. He appeared briefly and took off again as though the impedimenta of forest was nowhere to be encountered. I expect 18 inches off the ground, where he operates, its a different world. Up here five feet above the ground the place looked impenetrable.
I did get a bit exasperated at myself as the Rider Haggard scenario played itself out. Soon I was bleeding from scratches on both arms and both legs,  death by a thousand cuts I told myself grimly as I gave up the struggle to mop up the oozing blood. Unlike my previous foray off the beaten track near the KOA when I got lost and ignored my phone, this time I whipped out my iPhone immediately and started checking the map. What I did last time was veer too far, going parallel to the road and ended up blundering extra distance in the brush. This time I was determined to push straight at the paved road without deviation so I kept an eagle eye on my electronic tracker.
The maze went on and on. And on. I felt like a total half wit and I was reduced to bargaining with a higher power whose existence seems less and less likely the more misery I see in the world. I put myself here so it is no credit to me that I'd have been happy to be helicoptered out of the woods, handed a long cold quinine flavored drink and told to sit back while my car was detailed for me prior to my arrival at the parking lot.  I imagine there are a fair few Syrians might feel the same  way with infinite more justification than me in my self induced predicament.
 B-b-b-b-ut you can see clearly on the map that there should be a path here- it has a name and everything. I never did find Sikes Lane but one day maybe I will come back to look.
I lurched out onto the Loop Road and got walking. I knew exactly where Rusty was as he would be waiting for me on he way back to the car. That's what he does on the rare occasions when we get separated. I met some youngsters on the bridge and they looked at me as though I was the monster from the swamp, bleeding from numerous cuts on arms and legs, clothes looking like they had been dragged though a  hedge backwards (they had) and my hair plastered on my head like the dome of a yeti... "Small brown dog..?" I croaked through parched lips. A young woman gathered her wits and pointed down the road as her companions continued to gawp. Then she jumped off the bridge perhaps in an effort to get away. I staggered on.
 There he was a neat trim brown triangle sitting on the trail happy as a clam and impatiently waiting for me to catch up. Then he set off trotting along, tail held high, ready for me to catch up. 
He might have been ready for more but I wasn't so we went home and he reluctantly followed me to bed, me to mine him to his. I'm pretty sure I fell to snoring before him.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Rainbow Rage

A weird thing happened when President Trump came to town for a few hours. The gay community got mad. I don't mean individuals but there sure was a lot of shouting on Facebook. I was quite surprised.
It happened that in 2003  a rainbow flag was made that stretched  on and a quarter  miles to reach all the way down Duval Street. It was  held across Key West to mark the 25th year of the creation of the gay symbol. This gesture gained a notoriety all its own far beyond the simple extravagant display of the flag which has been housed at the Key West Business Guild, which is known in shorthand as the Chamber of Commerce for gay business in town. Like so many labels it may be a little too broad or not specific enough but you get the idea.
It cannot be said today, if it ever could have been said, that Key West is a bastion of progressive left wing culture in the Keys. Certainly there is a higher percentage of registered Democrats than Republicans in town but not by much. Like so much about this town a lot has changed but the perceptions of Key West change least of all. So it was that when that most polarizing of presidents came to town half the population wanted to cheer and the other half wanted to boo. And curiously enough in the middle of this line sat the Business Guild.
How that happened is hard to say but that flag got caught up in  a giant row, so big that even I who lives on the margins of society noticed it. The left wing voices in the gay community wanted to display a portion of the flag along the clearly marked route of the very secret motorcade through town. The guild said no in a very stern tone. Outrage ensued.
I am not gay and I have no idea what the internal machinations of this feud will look like. The "One Human Family" banner has been looking increasingly tattered as the demographics of Key West slant to the one percent, but I was sorry to see this public row around the guild and the flag and so forth. Neutrality was the goal of the guild and polarization seems to have been the result. Further proof if needed that we live in difficult times.
The good news was that my Vespa sold to a nice paterfamilias who had longed to replace his Kymco with a genuine Italian Vespa. The scooter will be cherished and they promised me first refusal in the unlikely event they sell it. I was sorry to see it go. And I cannot refrain from juxtaposing the formerly my crisp orange scooter with the mobile junk heap of some Key West character who got left behind in the rush to gentrification:
From the Key West Business Guild website:

The Key West Business Guild (KWBG) is a nonprofit organization devoted to promoting Key West to LGBTA travelers. We provide comprehensive information about Gay Key West and promote our member organizations to a national and international travel market. This work helps to attract about 250,000 LGBTA travelers here each year, earning Key West the well-deserved reputation as one of the most appealing gay-friendly destinations in the world.
Begun in 1978 to encourage summer tourism and support Key West’s gay community, the KWBG was the nation’s first gay-oriented chamber of commerce. From a small original membership, it has grown to include more than 450 enterprises representing virtually every facet of the island’s business community.
Today, the Key West Business Guild ranks among the nation’s leading gay business associations, and its marketing efforts, supported by the Florida Keys Tourism Development Council, incorporates a gay marketing specialist and an award-winning advertising campaign. 

Friday, April 20, 2018

Black And White

I was reading about monochrome photography and the author suggested you have to be able to see the color drain away from a scene and picture it in tones and shades. 
I like figuring out which scenes will look good in black and white.This one below was an accidental exposure while I was angling my iPhone for a picture. I got the angle just so and the top of the trail faded to white. suggesting infinity. I was surprised but I took it anyway.
Also with my iPhone there I was,  wishing there were more dramatic clouds as I wasn't sure these would do. But digital photography costs nothing so I tried anyway:
A house under construction viewed through the telephoto of my "big camera" a Panasonic FZ300:
This shadow on the bridge reminded me of Norbert Leo Butz best known for playing youngest brother Kevin in Bloodline.
The view south From Sammy's Creek on Sugarloaf Key at very low tide, mud to the left and water to the right. This picture suggested the heat of summer to me.
The jumping bridge also on Sugarloaf, white cement slicing through black mangroves.
Rusty loves this creek which is where one trail ends. It takes us half an hour to walk here from where we leave the car. He arrives, runs madly through the mangroves and he fully expects me to be there when he pops out. Then he sits in the water to cool off whereupon he guarantees himself a bath when we get home as its all mud.
In color you see the water is the color of coffee. The creek looks like what could be the headwaters of the Gambia River to me. I have an over active imagination.
I stopped for photos on my way home one night. Sometimes I like to stop on the highway after a short shift ends at two in the morning. There is a depth to the darkness, a loneliness that can grip you out in the middle of nowhere. And then oddly enough the iPhone can photograph a scene of almost no color.
I used the flash so the windshield looks like it is in urgent need of a clean.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Joyous Rusty

Here is my dog, my American Dingo my companion on the trail with me. He brings joy into my life every day and I would be a poorer man without him. There is lots I would do without, but my dog never lets me down. He's one of the steadfast elements in my life, the ones that deliver laughter. 
I got him just over two years ago and we have settled into a routine of walks and naps all leavened with fun. He  and I walk all over the place, different places every day and on those days when I can't take him as far as he'd like he waits patiently for the next opportunity. He is my accomplice in getting me out of the house and making the bleakest landscapes places of exploration and fun. I laugh more with him than anywhere. He is a gift.
We are losing another experienced dispatcher at work and Shannon's shoes will be hard to fill, Her husband an air traffic controller got a transfer and she wants to go back to school, not to continue dispatching.  You can hardly blame her as she aspires to a new career, but the pressure is now tighter than ever at night with only three experienced dispatchers and two recently trained inexperienced employees to cover six positions. The idea has been to have two seasoned dispatchers on each shift so now to accomplish that we will have an increasing share of overtime to help each other out.
For Rusty this doesn't mean much except that I have less energy to take him into town for walks. I know he likes urban walks but early in the morning walks only come if I get two nights off in a  row and can rest,
 Fortunately there are lots of trails we can enjoy closer to home.
I am always amazed by the equanimity of this dog in the face of a past that I am pretty sure was rough before he was abandoned in the Redlands of Homestead. I get  hints every now and again. The other day I pulled a broom out of the closet and walked towards him simply carrying it. H scuttled out onto the terrace to get away. I had to take the time to convince him he wasn't getting a beating. I think he's over that PTSD trigger at least for now.
Gunfire freaks him out but with some justification as nursery operators in the Redlands hate stray dogs and poison and shoot them. It's had to imagine humans recovering from such abuse, but Rusty has turned it all around. He impresses me in ways most humans cannot.
I look at dogs walked daily on my street plodding along the same route day after day with no hope of variety or excitement or a break in their routine. Rusty gets a different walk every day. Every day we  hop in the car and take a short drive to a different trail or open space. This way I keep keep him fresh and alert and help to keep his mind active. 
I would miss him terribly were he to walk out of my life. I trust we have quite a few years ahead and for both our benefit we will keep walking.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

President Trump

There is an undercurrent running through the city ever since the Citizen splashed the announcement across the top of the page. The President is coming to town. Without getting into the politics of the thing (I am not a Trump supporter) the very superficial preparations for the royal visit are extraordinary. And in my lowly position as a night dispatcher at the police station I have nothing to do with anything. All I know is what I see.
But what I do see is a country reacting to September 11th in  ways that while necessary are saddening. I think back to stories of President Truman accompanied by a  very discreet bodyguard taking his daily walk through Key West stopping to talk to people and taking coffee with the citizens. These days the advance teams for the President sweep the route and meticulously prepare the smallest detail. I could not abide traveling like this, in a cocoon. But there's a lot about being President I could not abide.
It's a bit silly really to see all these restrictions posted because now we know exactly where the President will be driven even if no one has said exactly when, though the parking restrictions are from 8 am to 4 pm tomorrow. We can assume traffic chaos and even though the visit to the anti drug trafficking facility in Truman Annex is the goal, we don't know what else might be involved or where. We are told the visit will last a mere two hours. I sort of doubt that but however long it takes I don't think this will be an easy day to get around Key West. As he is flying to the Navy Base at Boca Chica the chaos will only start at Mile Marker 8 and related back ups. I shall sleep in and walk Rusty.
 I saw Fat Albert flying in these strong winds this past week so I suppose aerial surveillance will be in place and talking to a friend he told me he he was supposed to be meeting a noon flight on Thursday at Key West airport. He looked gloomy at the prospect of coping and I don't blame him.
It is a world we are being obliged to live in, one dominated by fear and the cult of celebrity. When performers show up in town they get similar treatment on a smaller scale, and no one wants their head of state killed by some assassin, as hard as such a thing is to imagine in Key West. I wasn't even alive then but I miss the world President Truman governed, a place of war changing to peace, of hunger and strife and change. Yet it was still a place where the President could walk the streets unafraid and open. I hate to think such days are gone forever.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Seven Mile Bridge

Seven Mile Bridge Memorial

I missed the actual anniversary so I am republishing this essay from March 2nd  2011. I am working pretty much constantly these days and have little time for interesting photography unfortunately.

I read in the Citizen today that this is the anniversary of March 2nd, 1981 explosion on the Old Seven Mile Bridge that killed the tender in his booth. The top of the new bridge (built a year later) has a memorial plaque for anyone driving slow enough to spot it. For those who don't drive slow enough I took this picture:The old bridge had a lift section to allow boats through and the story goes an aqueduct truck with a back hoe on the bed passed under the booth and wrecked the propane tank which supplied the bridge tender with gas. The explosion blew a hole in the old Seven Mile Bridge which was filled only temporarily until the new bridge was built a year later.The old bridge, built by Flagler's engineers still serves the trolley that runs to Pigeon Key from Marathon, and the southern piece is now a fishing pier. I rode the old bridge in 1981 but as I was on two wheels it was not all scary as it was for many drivers, and trucks were required to fold their mirrors so they could pass each other on the narrow roadway built over the original rail tracks in 1938.So the next time your drive the famous bridge you might want to spare a passing thought for the late Peter Fancher who died a grotesquely unfortunate death 30 years ago today.
For my complete essay on the Seven Mile Bridge from three years ago: