Thursday, February 22, 2018

Simonton Beach

I got the feeling that this spot, never mind the southernmost buoy shows the end-of-the-road feeling that embodies Key West for many visitors. 
They gathered, they stood around and they stared at the waters of the harbor, as unattainable as the dark side of the moon.
The southernmost point as depicted by the buoy on South Street is where the tourists line up to be photographed but here at the end of Simonton Street you can stand and think unmolested.
There is a snack bar here taking up much of the beach which is small enough.
Loggerhead? Lagerheads! Not a bad spot I dare say to sit and sip and watch Apollo vanish for the night.
A whole fleet of southernmost anchor-outs bobbing at anchor beyond the reach of the land bound:

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Thomas Friedman


I can't say I am a fan of this New York Times columnist but when I read this column, published online this weekend I was shocked. Friedman married money and is in the one tenth of one percent crowd in the corridors of power which prejudices me against the likelihood that he can feel my pain, or the pain of people much worse off than me, so when I read this essay I thought to myself that this is as close as you can get to calling the President a traitor. I have no idea if he is over the top or spot on but I wanted to bookmark this essay here and now simply because the author isn't a  wild eyed radical or an easily labeled fringe nutcase. He is as mainstream as you get. And he says democracy is in danger of being subverted. 


Whatever Trump Is Hiding Is Hurting All of Us Now






Our democracy is in serious danger.
President Trump is either totally compromised by the Russians or is a towering fool, or both, but either way he has shown himself unwilling or unable to defend America against a Russian campaign to divide and undermine our democracy.
That is, either Trump’s real estate empire has taken large amounts of money from shady oligarchs linked to the Kremlin — so much that they literally own him; or rumors are true that he engaged in sexual misbehavior while he was in Moscow running the Miss Universe contest, which Russian intelligence has on tape and he doesn’t want released; or Trump actually believes Russian President Vladimir Putin when he says he is innocent of intervening in our elections — over the explicit findings of Trump’s own C.I.A., N.S.A. and F.B.I. chiefs.
In sum, Trump is either hiding something so threatening to himself, or he’s criminally incompetent to be commander in chief. It is impossible yet to say which explanation for his behavior is true, but it seems highly likely that one of these scenarios explains Trump’s refusal to respond to Russia’s direct attack on our system — a quiescence that is simply unprecedented for any U.S. president in history. Russia is not our friend. It has acted in a hostile manner. And Trump keeps ignoring it all.
Up to now, Trump has been flouting the norms of the presidency. Now Trump’s behavior amounts to a refusal to carry out his oath of office — to protect and defend the Constitution. Here’s an imperfect but close analogy: It’s as if George W. Bush had said after 9/11: “No big deal. I am going golfing over the weekend in Florida and blogging about how it’s all the Democrats’ fault — no need to hold a National Security Council meeting.”
At a time when the special prosecutor Robert Mueller — leveraging several years of intelligence gathering by the F.B.I., C.I.A. and N.S.A. — has brought indictments against 13 Russian nationals and three Russian groups — all linked in some way to the Kremlin — for interfering with the 2016 U.S. elections, America needs a president who will lead our nation’s defense against this attack on the integrity of our electoral democracy.
What would that look like? He would educate the public on the scale of the problem; he would bring together all the stakeholders — state and local election authorities, the federal government, both parties and all the owners of social networks that the Russians used to carry out their interference — to mount an effective defense; and he would bring together our intelligence and military experts to mount an effective offense against Putin — the best defense of all.
What we have instead is a president vulgarly tweeting that the Russians are “laughing their asses off in Moscow” for how we’ve been investigating their interventions — and exploiting the terrible school shooting in Florida — and the failure of the F.B.I. to properly forward to its Miami field office a tip on the killer — to throw the entire F.B.I. under the bus and create a new excuse to shut down the Mueller investigation.
To the contrary. Our F.B.I., C.I.A. and N.S.A., working with the special counsel, have done us amazingly proud. They’ve uncovered a Russian program to divide Americans and tilt our last election toward Trump — i.e., to undermine the very core of our democracy — and Trump is telling them to get back to important things like tracking would-be school shooters. Yes, the F.B.I. made a mistake in Florida. But it acted heroically on Russia. What is more basic than protecting American democracy?
It is so obvious what Trump is up to: Again, he is either a total sucker for Putin or, more likely, he is hiding something that he knows the Russians have on him, and he knows that the longer Mueller’s investigation goes on, the more likely he will be to find and expose it.
Donald, if you are so innocent, why do you go to such extraordinary lengths to try to shut Mueller down? And if you are really the president — not still head of the Trump Organization, who moonlights as president, which is how you so often behave — why don’t you actually lead — lead not only a proper cyberdefense of our elections, but also an offense against Putin.
Putin used cyberwarfare to poison American politics, to spread fake news, to help elect a chaos candidate, all in order to weaken our democracy. We should be using our cyber-capabilities to spread the truth about Putin —just how much money he has stolen, just how many lies he has spread, just how many rivals he has jailed or made disappear — all to weaken his autocracy. That is what a real president would be doing right now.
My guess is what Trump is hiding has to do with money. It’s something about his financial ties to business elites tied to the Kremlin. They may own a big stake in him. Who can forget that quote from his son Donald Trump Jr. from back in 2008: “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross section of a lot of our assets.” They may own our president.
But whatever it is, Trump is either trying so hard to hide it or is so na├»ve about Russia that he is ready to not only resist mounting a proper defense of our democracy, he’s actually ready to undermine some of our most important institutions, the F.B.I. and Justice Department, to keep his compromised status hidden.
That must not be tolerated. This is code red. The biggest threat to the integrity of our democracy today is in the Oval Office.

Greene,Simonton,Front

Well, I thought to myself, there's a not so pretty introduction to Key West. Half shuttered with metal hurricane shutters, dead plants and general decrepitude all says: Welcome to Key West! 
I took a few turns around Simonton and Front Streets following y dog who sensibly chased shade. It's turned warm during the  day, in the mid 80s though not searingly humid like summer.
More new two million dollar condos are almost done at Simonton and Greene. No worker housing here.
And they are selling.
I expect the part time occupants of the luxury condos will not be happy to see people living for free on the streets.
It never ceases to amaze me how one business is never enough. There are duplicate outlets of coffee shops, restaurants and supermarkets all over Key West, an island you might think too small for such repetition.
And then after thinking about that I saw this one of a kind machine. Not quite sure what it is, an electric scooter or mobility device or what? The line is getting very fuzzy between what gets treated as a motor vehicle and what isn't. Should this thing be ridden on the sidewalk? Should it have a license plate? 
I labelled this picture on Instagram as "exuberance." Old City Hall.
Just another hot walking day in Key West.
For me, my dog and a whole load of strangers.

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.