Monday, February 19, 2018

Circumnavigating East Martello

Key West has always been a military kind of town. Even today though you hardly see any sailors in uniform on the streets there are seven bases. In the 19th century brick was the military building material of choice. In addition to Forts Jefferson and Taylor there are two coastal watchtowers in Key West.
A man called Martello invented them in England where they are common enough along the south coast. Here in the US these are the only ones I have seen labelled Martello Towers. The West Martello Tower at Higgs beach houses the garden club and the brickwork is deteriorated as the Army used it (unbelievably!) as a target to exercise their gunnery skills. This one near the airport is pretty solid.
Rusty was bound and determined to walk round the tower and this is a dog not fond of traffic. He strutted off on the grass right next to South Roosevelt Boulevard and I tottered along behind. The tower is quite photogenic, let's face it, so I was not entirely unhappy with my dog's decision. 
Even from ground level the view due south is quite pleasant. The roof of the tower is available to the public when the museum is open and that gives you an expanded view: 
In the rear we butted up against modern reality of  the parking structure for the departure lounge. A trivia question you could win a bet on: What's the name of the lane that runs between the parking structure and the martello tower which allows traffic to turn back to the airport entrance without going out to South Roosevelt Boulevard? Why that would be Nancy Cherry Way. It's a street we dispatchers use to test new officers' geography. We send them to do an area check of Nancy Cherry Way and a few minutes later we get a frantic telephone call asking us where it is. No one knows. She was a dedicated city employee who got a street, albeit an obscure one, named for her.
 The tower is getting some work done  so one  hopes it will come back better than ever. 


Sunday, February 18, 2018

More Damages

I remember vividly an incident  when I was a child when we had a kitchen fire at home. I was away when whatever it was caught fire but the sight of our kitchen, essentially the hearth of our family burned black left its mark on my memory. We walked past the blackened walls fearful and unable to avert our eyes as though from a scene of elemental horror. The iodea of fighting fires has a similar effect on me. 
The central Fire Station is right next to the police station and sometimes at night wandering around to stretch my legs I get to see the equipment sitting there waiting for me to send it out. I find these symbols of childrens' enthusiasm to be reassuring symbols of civilization. You need help; we send it .
I also caught a glimpse of the generators used to power our complex of buildings these machines that keep civilization functioning in crisis. Hurricane Irma kept our police station without power for days and these stationary engines were all that stood between us and darkness. Not just the darkness of lights but what little communications we had, the ability to remain functional. That hurricane has left it's mark on me in many ways and one of them is a small prayer of thanks every time I walk past  the generator shed. I know people with home generators feel the same way. These machines at once fill a need but also highlight our dependence on them to stay human in a recognizable way.
We have gasoline for sale on Summerland Key but only one station is operational. The other one is a gutted shell that used to sell Dion's chicken and now looks bombed out. And the Shell that is selling regular and ethanol free gas doesn't look so hot: the roof is gone both over the pumps and over the building. Look at the force of the storm that landed here and tore off the metal supports: 
Last week I was walking Rusty and peered into the water to see what appeared to be a ghost rising up out of the ocean. I have no idea if this was an old wreck pushed ashore or whether a new wreck created by the storm. Creepy.
I think about Puerto Rico where half the island has no power, there are no jobs, and people go hungry for want of money. We are lucky but we still live within sight of blue tarps and in another four months the dance with hurricane season starts again.
We are recovered they say. Yet in the same way the land is scarred I find myself unable to allow the fuel tank on my car to go below half empty. I keep a jug of fuel in the shed at home to top off the Vespas. We have water containers in the office upstairs at home and my wife has a supply of long life and canned foods in the kitchen. We've always tried to be prepared but these days it is not very theoretical. We know exactly what we are preparing for and we don't much like it.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Banner Tire

I could not for the life of me find my own pictures of Banner Tire, which I know I have  as this place was an institution North Roosevelt Boulevard. So I took pictures off the web of this shop that used to be and is no more.
Businesses like people have life cycles and sometimes there is no one to pick up the reins of the outgoing generation. My wife and I once wondered for a weird week if our destiny was to take over her uncle's furniture store in the mid west as none of her cousins wanted to do it...We both were very fond of Uncle Stanley who had made a good living owning Hyman's of Rock Island, but it was not us. The Illinois institution closed when he finally retired a few years before his death.
Banner tire had an air of the 1960s or maybe even the 50s  about it, somewhat chaotic but always welcoming into it's dingy offices. There was nothing fancy here but they did work that needed to be done. And now rumor has it this building will be replaced by restaurants or some such. All very well but that only leaves Sears for a tire shop and their reputation is abysmal.
The closure of Banner is another step in the direction of the loss of all useful services in this city dedicated to the tourist functions that serve visitors and winter residents only.  I am lucky inasmuch as I live half way between Marathon where my wife works and Key West where I work.
I have a shop in Marathon I like very much for my tires so I found already alternative to Banner when they closed. 
I know the hole will be filled and in a few years Banner Tire will be a faint memory but I see this sore spot every time I come into town and I wonder how Key West can go tearing up it's own infrastructure in pursuit of bed rentals.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Key West Harbor In Pictures

Today is a good day to re-visit Key West Harbor and enjoy pictures of boats.
 80 degree air temperature, 75  degree water temperature (too cold for swimming for me) low humidity, mild breezes.









Thursday, February 15, 2018

Hurricane Remnants

The notion has been announced in the newspaper that hurricane clean up roadside is complete. Except it isn't.
Friends came to visit last week from California and they remarked on the damage and debris they saw. In these cases one makes polite noises while inside one wants to scream that they should have seen it a few weeks ago. That was bad, this is nothing!
Except of course you can't do that, good manners require you to make polite noises and ask how things are going at home.  Besides you have to be mindful that California got scorched in some areas and mudslides wrecked other areas, while Puerto Rico and the Vorgin Islands are living a permanent dystopian hell.
The Florida Keys really aren't so badly off.  We have a Republican governor and in these partisan times we get better treatment from our President than if we were  a blue state. Weird but true.
Hurricane Irma only side swiped Key West with modest 140 mph winds so damage was modest, mostly trees and wires. As well as signs and some siding and so forth. Just seeing someone up a ladder with a hammer leads one to the possibly erroneous conclusion that hurricane damage is being repaired.
Some damage clearly isn't.  I have been bracing myself to go back to the worst hit areas but I have to confess Big Pine Key and Bahia Honda are hard to face. There is so much that was familiar that has been wiped out and I wonder when I'll be ready to take a look. One day I will I keep promising myself...

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

My Kind Of February

The  cold fronts that have comprised winter appear to be vanquished,  at least for now and we have days near 80  degrees and nights near 70. My kind of weather. 
 The effects of Hurricane Irma  are still apparent, though not as bad as the effects in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico that are still suffering horribly.  Washington Post Article.
Tourism is down in Key West but that is not to say people aren't here. They are and they are glad to be here, enjoying the mangroves and the birds and the sunshine and the opportunity to sunbathe. Can't do that Up North.
 The tire shop on North Roosevelt has gone and not because of any storm. It was time to retire and I guess no one wanted the business. They say a couple of eateries will be moving in.
 I don't really understand the future of this town, where the practical aspects of life get replaced by an unending stream of tourist related facilities that don't answer to the daily needs of life for those still trying to live a  full life here. I noted recently the closure of the Hospice Facility this month leaving 30 people without help. Duval Street is a shopping center without a useful shop unless you count the abundance of chain pharmacies. Worker housing is to be built on Rockland Key at Mile Marker 9 in an effort to keep pushing people out of town to make room for people with millions to spend on absurdly inadequate homes in Key West.
It all adds up to a peculiar vision for a town that proudly marches forward without a vision or a plan and tries to cope as things happen. There is an underlying philosophy, powered by immediate profit for people with stuff to sell, that says markets will take care of everything. I am an interested observer of this process. 
So while we grapple with lack of staff and too much overtime, as prices never cease to rise, the stuff that remains that is free for all makes  some of the hassle worthwhile.