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:

Monday, April 16, 2018

Key West The News

Dear Readers,
Unfortunately The Blue Paper has not been able to reach its financial goal and I have decided to step down as the Editor in Chief.
A heartfelt thank you to the 99 people who have pledged monthly support to keep this important mission going. Thank you to those who have contributed through one time donations, large and small, over the years. Without you we would not have been able to continue our efforts for this long.
I also want to thank those of you who have contributed to TBP’s mission with articles, letters, poetry, photography, and your own important investigative journalism work.  We have greatly appreciated your contributions and are proud to have shared this platform with you.
There is, of course, still much to be investigated and reported on: affordable housing, hurricane Irma recovery, school safety and discrimination, hospitals and health care, overdevelopment, immigration enforcement, animal welfare, accountability and transparency in government…
Arnaud Girard is still exploring the possibility of keeping TBP alive.  Arnaud welcomes any support and creative ideas that would help him to keep the mission going. You may contact him directly at 305-731-7299.
[Patreon billing will be halted [no further auto payments will be incurred].  I will contact Paypal patrons individually to ensure their billing is individually shut down. Anyone who feels they would like to receive a partial refund for their most recent [April] monthly donation [since we are halting publication mid-month] please contact me directly at]  
My best to you all!
~ Naja Girard

The Blue Paper in it's latest incarnation, electronic, was the last survivor of the era of ferocious journalism in the Lower Keys.  There is still the six-day-a-week Citizen that just underwent some rather tight pruning of upper management presumably to restrain costs by giving the publishing family direct control, but the Keynoter, the local edition of the Miami Herald publishing empire recently folded it's print newspaper and is operating electronically with two reporters. The Herald itself stopped home delivery not so long ago and the Citizen has expressed concern about it's inability to find delivery people. Of course in a true capitalist economy wages would be increased but in the Keys lamentation increases in inverse proportion to the wages offered.

In the good old days the weekly Solares Hill was a paper I enjoyed with its irreverent look at the week's events and its occasionally odd obsession with the President Kennedy murder and the tentacles of  corruption that spread through Cuba and Miami and...Stock Island. The Blue Paper was a feisty piece of journalism even then at the hands of the irrepressible Dennis Reeves Cooper who either blasted the locally powerful with recent scandal or lacking any ammunition he would fill his pages with repeat performances of past scandals. No one read the paper but everyone who was anyone knew every word it printed and hated it. Now it is pretty much done. 

From distant November 2007 this essay I wrote about the publications of the time:

When I travel I like to pick up the local paper to hold in my hands the daily goings on. At home where all the print is available online, I still cherish the pleasure of messing my fingers with newsprint, connecting to a 250 year tradition of formalizing gossip and word-of-mouth on a properly printed page. My face isn't online- its in the broadsheet!
As small towns go Key West has lots of papers to choose among for information. I've assembled a modest selection which I like to read each week, and though there are others, the only publication dedicated to gay goings on has gone out of business (in a flurry of predictable accusations of non payment etc among the principals. Small town scandal on the front pages).
The Key West Citizen has focused on local news and does a decent job of afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted, as the saying goes. Page Two features the Citizen's Voice, a column of anonymous call-ins from usually upset neighbors. Page Three includes my all time small town favorite feature the "Citizen of the Day," fully dressed of course.The Citizen is the only daily published locally, which is delivered in the early hours to my driveway for $102 per year. It is the paper of record and Cooke Communications, an independent publishing family, has assembled a modest empire in the Keys. They also have an interest in 104.1 US One radio in Big Pine which has a modest local news operation including interviews with local bigwigs (Very Important People Only!) at 8am with the local voice Bill Becker, an interviewer who wouldn't know a hard question if it forced itself down his throat.

The Citizen isn't a bad paper with its steady diet of local news from around the Keys. From time to time it'll avoid offending VIPs on particularly touchy issues, so sometimes its more a matter of observing what they've left out rather than included, to get an idea whats going on. The Citizen's Voice is the source of irritation among Important People, and the anonymous comments are the first place we all go after we open the paper. Each Thursday the Citizen also puts out a harmless Arts supplement called Paradise! which I find rather bland and generally goes the way I send the daily sports section- into the recycling bin. But that's just my taste.

The other outlets from Cooke Communications include a Marathon- based free weekly, the Free-Press, which comes to Lower Keys subscribers each Wednesday.Its a way to fight back against the inroads of the Miami Herald which sells and delivers all around the Keys. The Citizen does a much better job of covering local news, not least with the Friday free offering of Solares Hill.
This paper started out as an alternative weekly aimed at irritating the powers that be and sounding an irreverent voice against the all powerful Citizen. It was a paper that barely made economic sense in a town where people fished or drank as expressions of intellectual activity. When Cooke bought Solares Hill its imminent demise was widely predicted, but that never came to pass. Now under Nancy Klingener's leadership Solares Hill has flourished as a source of in depth prickly commentary and real arts news. It is the highlight of my newspaper perusal, arriving every Friday, carefully wrapped inside my Citizen delivery.

What to say about the Blue Paper? More properly known as Key West The Newspaper, the free weekly that describes itself as the home of "Journalism as a Contact Sport"? This is the critic that anybody who is somebody in Key West wants silenced, even more than the Citizens' Voice column in the daily paper.
Dennis Reeves Cooper is seen around town wearing a ragged beard, as every rebel should, accompanied by a black Labrador who rides alongside him in his silver convertible. Cooper is an old school style of yellow journalist, always criticized, though never do critics succeed in proving that he gets his factswrong though his idle speculation often falls wide of the mark. For instance when he wrote that a past police chief had had a previous sexual liaison with a juvenile boy he was never shown to be wrong. When he publicizes the embarrassing sources of funding in election campaigns everyone involved screams blue murder but they can't show he's wrong. He exposed to all and sundry a tawdry sexual affair the mayor got invovled in, and no one could contradict him because it was true, apparently. He's not someone I'd have round to dinner, he's rather too abrasive, but his paper is a must read in Key West, and one prays never to find oneself the object of his scorn.These days the current Key West Police Chief is his target, and Cooper's attentions make life for the rest of us inside the police station a fair resemblance to hell on earth.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is the good news paper, a sickly publication called Conch Color,published by Tom Oosterhoudt a well known Conch:He wants to spread good news which generally means kow-towing to the rich and powerful and filling the broadsheet pages with lots of color pictures in the style of a social diary. Its pretty saccharine stuff, harmless were it not responsible for yet more mulched trees, and easily ignored.

I'd rather read Key West, another all color publication that comes out monthly, features excellent photographs and a decent attempt at literary journalism even though it describes itself as a lifestyle publication.Its the sort of magazine I thumb through in doctor's offices and the like, as it has lots of pictures of hip people being hip, in hip island homes. From time to time it features people I can claim a passing aquaintance with, which I find shocking.

The Miami Herald has a bureau or two in the Keys and attempts a few column inches of local news. those efforts are supplemented by the twice weekly Keynoter a paper that bulges with classifieds but is of limited interest to a Citizen subscriber, who gets updates daily, The Keynoter comes out afternoons and can sometimes publish events the same day they happen, thus scooping the Citizen.I like the Keynoter on our streets mostly because it shows that the two paper concept is struggling to stay alive in the Keys where most American cities can't claim that anymore. Its not an even struggle and as long as the Citizen stays hard on the heels of local news it remains an indispensable read to keep a finger on the pulse of local affairs- literally and figuratively.

And they are all presented on the Internet, because the modern Keys live and die online. And for some strange reason people everywhere want to know whats going on in the island chain.
I love my news when it comes in print, so many words to fuss over.