Friday, March 27, 2020

The Chair Man

It started with me enjoying the texture of the trunk, and then I noticed the rocking chair in the background. Hmm I thought. I do that sometimes as Rusty drags me along trailing his nose. I think hmmm...
What if I see a few more chairs around town. Remember this was before the coronavirus lock down and I wasn't sure if I could find empty seats. Actually I'm joking, as I rarely see people sitting on their porches in this age of cheap air conditioning.
I have saved up a bunch of pictures to keep this page going and digging back through my files I remembered my planned chair essay. Including a hammock.  Key West was founded in 1828 and in those early years many people slept outdoors on their porches and balconies where there was a chance of a breeze and of course an encounter with a yellow fever bearing mosquito.
 In the next picture you'll see the pale blue ceiling which by tradition discourages insects and ghosts if you feel so inclined. The tin bird I'm not sure about.
Traditional deck seating. I actually like proper chairs as rockers inflict a fatal need to rock back and forth and with my obsessive nature the rocking tends to get away from me.
I was delighted as we sniffed our way down Angela Street and I spotted a bench in the cemetery.  I have an affinity for the Key West cemetery as it's above ground and the traditions of sharing the grave with the family is familiar to me from my Italian childhood. Sitting out with your dead relatives may look odd to some people but I find it very endearing. 
 One thing I don't do is sit in coffee shops with my MacBook Air and type.  I'd rather sit in the cemetery than sit elbow to elbow in a. coffee shop, but I accept I am in a minority. I posted this picture to show people in Key West weren't quarantining themselves. My wife and I were but I had a hotline to the Italian mess and I was worried about what was to come. All this has long since ended:
Walking Duval that early I peered into the sales booths and saw just how rough some people have it at work! 
In the 911 center we get to sit for pretty much the whole twelve hours on shift and we get to sit on expensive 24 hour chairs and I am very grateful! 
Looking back at these photos comparing Key West then, less than two weeks ago, to the city's tourism face now it's suddenly very apparent how much we have lost.  Everybody could hear an argument that tourism is over sold but I don't think living with no visitors at all is going to be tenable for long.
The low wall isn't technically a seat at Mallory Square but that's what it's used for! Not now though, the parking lot is open for cars if any, but the square itself and the money making celebrations are all closed for the time being. It's awful seeing a barrier across the square.
And of course you can still find the occasional abandoned chair which always warms my heart in Key West. I am finding the city is achieving a level of cleanliness and order that I had always hoped for and to my surprise with that Disneyfication comes a loss of quirkiness. I feel idiotic really as I can't seem to find the non conformity and be satisfied with newly tarted up Old Town. It's one or the other obviously, and not both. This town is becoming a millionaires' playground and they don't pay to live in quirky disorder. And yet we can slip a little through the net:
And at the end of all that walking around I should have taken over the green recliner.  
But I had to go home.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Idiocy Overheard

Let me be quite clear: I was just sitting there minding my own business with my dog rolling in the grass nearby,  my book open on my iPhone, my camera set down next to me, and they came along. I wasn't listening to them but short of a Navy jet passing directly overhead I couldn't help but overhear them. Boy, they were worth listening to though, especially if you are sick and tired of being talked down to about the dangers of the virus and refusing to social distance yourself.
One starts off by saying, as they line up at the bus stop that she's thinking about joining her daughter in New York (please yes I'm thinking). Besides her friend said this panic is all excessive. 5,000 people die every year of the 'flu and this thing hasn't killed anything like that. (Bloody hell, I'm thinking, they really don't get it.) The conversation went on like that apparently endlessly, my toes curling, thinking about all the stuff going on around us, across the world, the people unknown to us dying and these two were annoyed they were being inconvenienced. One told the other to go to Canada, she could continue on anywhere from there. (Wow, I thought, Canada is closed as tight as the US is- you can't get there from here.) I loaded Rusty and the camera into the car and was about ready to load myself when another car pulled up and a woman popped her head out.
Is the Greyhound office open? she asked.  I guess I was feeling a bit pissed off because I wanted to say do I look like a coronavirus information center? But I said yes, it sure looks open doesn't it? I think Beni Hana is open up the street too if you need lunch. She looked a bit taken aback at my sarcasm. I was about to snap at her get out of the car walk across the lot and read  the paper taped to the door. I bit my tongue and got in the car. She waited for me to leave before she did just that. I'd have checked Google before asking a stranger about something of which he knew nothing. Leave me isolated please and figure stuff out by paying attention.
I have to say the area in front of the airport and around Pines Park and the old Boys and Girls Club looks bizarre. It is packed with rental cars in storage, all makes and models and colors waiting for tourists to return to the Keys. I'm guessing there will be some astonishing deals to drive them back to the mainland if the pandemic ever moves on. It really does start to resemble a zombie apocalypse some days in some small ways.
I drove round Dead Man's Curve (where people used to drive or ride off South Roosevelt and die before they built up the corner with signs and barriers) and doubled back on Flagler driving into Key Plaza (not Keys Plaza please) and wandered in to Publix, the one known to people in Key West as the new Publix, as opposed to the old one up the road at Searstown. In the general panic of reassuring themselves by overdosing on shopping people seemed to scatter all the carts thus our local supermarkets were having trouble stocking the damned  carts. The kind lady out there sanitizing them told me they brought in a hundred extra. I believe it: never seen the lobby so full of carts!
 Dried beans were in short supply as was branded milk and a lot of meats but things were very quiet with all the dreaded Spring Breakers gone, and with them their money...Toilet paper is apparently the first thing people buy but there were some paper towels on the shelves. The latest issue I've heard about is how the macerators in our new sewage system are being asked to chew up all sorts of towels, paper and sanitizing towels and other substitutes for missing toilet paper. I see a sewage problem looming. Great stuff isn't it? Unintended consequences. Luckily we bought some bog roll a couple of weeks ago on our last trip to Miami so we are set, which makes watching the great Bog Roll Disappearing Magic Act look pretty funny from our thrones.
Aside from all the coronavirus madness, Rusty and I did walk around Old Town a bit and I got some of my pre-pandemic black and white pictures taken to make me feel more like old times.
I love having the time to peer down empty alleyways and lanes, but I am not a huge fan of putting people in the pictures anyway.
I'm finding it hard to find quirk on the streets of Key West, gentrification doesn't hold hands very well with nonconformity and weirdness so I have to hunt around for colors and shapes and public artwork where I can.
 At the end of the vacation I have I admit it, been getting up late and enjoying the morning sunrise on the buildings, lots of shadows and shapes on the houses.
Southard Street at 8:30 yesterday morning, a few cars a few bicycles a few scooters but not much.
Pleasant enough for now but how this ends who knows? I'm very glad my wife and I are working.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

My Town

I met a guy from New York yesterday. "Meet" is a loaded term and we talked from a distance of about 20 feet, almost neighborly in the time of plague! I learned something too, as in his retirement he came to live in the Keys and spends an all too brief summer on a lake in the Adirondack Mountains.  I described him as a "reverse snowbird" which left him a bit confused.
I agreed he will be better off down here but as is often the case an upstate New Yorker separates himself from the city we all know and either love or hate! He told me people are apparently fleeing the city to stay in their second homes in the mountains, small communities far from anywhere. 
Florida is apparently receiving some of those fleeing the epicenter of plague in New York and not everyone is happy.  Supposedly new arrivals are self quarantining for two weeks and one hopes they aren't bringing Covid-19. with them. I don't really understand the outrage about people trying to find safety in another place. And lets be honest Florida isn't bad at the moment as a refuge.  
Unless and until they stop airplanes and close highways I don't see what Florida is supposed to do to stop people coming. Hotels and overnight accommodation is all closed but if you have a second home here you can't be stopped from showing up even now they are putting check points on entry into the Keys. We are now told in fact, that as of tomorrow there will be checkpoints on Highway One and Card Sound Road to prevent non residents entering.  But the Internet allows us all to manufacture outrage so that is the emotion that predominates.
My Key West is still a small town of lanes and alleys, of year round blooms, of colorful sunrises, all the shapes and shades and beauty that I always see when I walk Rusty around. And yet we are living under all these weird restrictions. 
The Supreme Court ruled in the early 20th century that Americans cannot be prevented from moving across state lines and what I love about this country is how we create these rules by which we choose to live. People were fleeing to California to escape the dust bowl and economic ruin. The Supreme Court ruled to overturn California's attempts to stop the migration That decision has remained in effect ever since. So how does Florida's governor stop this latest wave of refugees from Up North? 
But beyond all that we need to work together and I have to say I feel bit guilty getting caught in place  in these delightful islands. We swim in our canal, I walk my dog on lonely trails, places where people don't go even when there is no coronavirus in the air.  My work has enacted some serious lock down mentality to keep dispatchers isolated in our office so I feel pretty good about going back to work on Thursday. As usual the police department steps up and I am grateful. So what do I do now? Yell "outsiders go home!" online? I can't bring myself to do that.
I wonder about people spring on their neighbors. This virus isn't bringing the best out in us for sure. We've seen people in Britain and the US failing to act sensibly and stay apart...but now I read online comments from people complaining about short term rentals in Key West. If people are renting vacation stays they need to be turned in to Code Compliance not. snitched out online. Again its a matter of manufacturing outrage, not of being effective. From my perspective at this point we know enough and we have the tools to look after ourselves. Let the idiots be idiots.
I'm trying not to worry about running out of pictures because I want to keep posting here, I want to remember the time I live through as always even when things aren't bizarre but I also feel like we need to be normal.  Not everything is off the chart. I'm taking a hint from Rusty by simply keeping on keeping on. I hope you do too, whether you are snowed upon, rained upon, locked in at home or free to infect your neighbors (but don't!).
 Live well and stay alone and get fresh air and don't be mean and so forth, now more than ever. I'll try and do the same. See you tomorrow as always.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Statues Zombies and Social Chatter

When yesterday morning I walked Rusty downtown and Key West was empty, more so than prior to the usual hurricanes of recent memory, I thought these statues of the late Seward Johnson would be the only inappropriate social gathering I might see. Wrong!
I fear that in the not too distant future our governor will join those who forbid sauntering outside at all, and in Italy and Spain I read you can only walk your dog within a quarter of a mile of your home. Fines are being levied. So when I saw a couple of newspaper readers on the waterfront at Margaritaville Resort I figured they knew enough not to get close and if they hadn't wiped down the benches more fools they.
 But of course not everyone was so aware and a gathering of yoga matted bicycle riders formed at the end of the walkway, next to Admiral's Cut to share endless loud stories and copious quantities of Covid-19 no doubt. I don't think they were Spring Breakers who have happily evaporated back whence they came to infect those closest and dearest to them. 
There were a few people out and about early in the day, mostly other people walking dogs, and a few joggers and cyclists of one sort or another.
It seems like social distancing has become the new normal and a very good thing it is too. When I get home after walking and neither sitting on benches or touching anything the first thing I do is put my clothes in my laundry hamper. Then I take a shower and get clean clothes. It's become a routine.
Some people might call it a ritual but I haven't yet cottoned on to the idea that a routine becomes a ritual unless some higher power has been invoked. Taking a shower is routine in my home. Ablutions before prayers might be a ritual I suppose if I believed in such things.
Oh and while we are looking at a lucky few jogging through an empty Key West I'd like to make one other point of what irritates me most today (aside from the world appearing to end). When did "multiple" become the only way English speakers describe more than one of anything? If you come nearby and start telling me about multiple this or that I do believe I will violate the six foot separation space and share Covid-19 with you. Try saying "many" or "several" or "a few" or find your own thesaurus. I'm sick of distracting myself on YouTube and hearing multiple speakers droning on with multiple rhetorical questions about multiple aspects of photography or vans.
The Bodyzone gym closed the other day. That was okay as my immune deficient wife and I had already agreed to stop going. However when the small local gym near our home on Cudjoe Key also closed desperate measures were called for. My wife got out her rendition tapes and started us on a course of CIA approved interrogation techniques. The label said it was home exercise plans but I can't feel my legs and I'm pretty sure I am ready to tell anyone who will listen whatever they want to hear. My wife ignores my protests and keeps pressing on. Apparently she doesn't think I am properly broken yet. I am allowed to swim in the canal of an afternoon behind the house and that relieves the aches a bit. A gin and tonic later does its part too, as we soldier on in isolation.
Nearly nine o'clock on a Monday morning and Greene Street looks like the epicenter of a pandemic. All it needed was a few zombies to start giving me the creeps. When I got home my wife yelled through the shower door that a virologist on the radio thinks this can go on for more than a year.  I was not terribly polite when I refuted that suggestion. There have to be better ways to die than watching humanity crumble. My friend Webb is not fond of social media so I thought of him, hunkered with his wife Up North under a blanket, a thin one, of snow. He sent me pictures of lovely leafless trees covered in snow.  Back at you sailor man:
Someone headed yesterday morning for Federally approved social isolation west toward The Lakes or maybe Fort Jefferson. There was a decent breeze too, which is better than snow I think.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Rusty Isolation

I would be lying if I said the bar closings affected me personally as I'm not that inclined to go out drinking.
 An afternoon spent being alone with camera and dog (not in that order) suits me just fine.
 I comply with the laws and directives because they are easy for me to follow.
 It's warming up but its not summer and the trail is a great place to get to of the house.






 An hour walking and he wanted to sit n the shade and watch and listen. Rusty knows what he likes so I let him do it.
Isolation that like this is no hardship for me. Yet.