Monday, December 22, 2008

Mesa Redonda

I listen to Radio Reloj from Havana from time to time (950 or 570 AM) and they frequently announce public debates of current events on FM Radio Rebelde which they call a Mesa Redonda- or a roundtable. (I don't receive FM broadcasts from Havana anymore so I haven't heard the stultifying "debates" on Radio Rebelde for a while). I don't think Key West Mayor Macpherson could possibly be a fan of Radio Havana but he recently called for a round table to discuss Key West's future in a slumping economy. Solares Hill, the weekly alternative (published by the mainstream Citizen) carried a two part report by the editor Mark Howell. He's very skilled at reporting the flavor and the comments of public gatherings and I was interested to see what this Mesa Redonda bajo El Nuevo Cayo Hueso would come up with. I needn't have worried; reinventing Key West means more of the same old same old, by the same old cast of public characters.
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Faced with the implosion of economic values and total absence of leadership from Washington it should come as no surprise even to one as naive as myself that local leaders are still plowing the same old furrow hoping for the best and planning for it too. The tired old voices called for a Vision Thing, Keeping the Tourists Coming (unemployed bankers and auto workers and their scared neighbors at their head no doubt looking for carefree diversion on Duval), Art Above All, Innovation (unspecified but vaguely eco-green), Cheap Housing (1506 Petronia is advertised elsewhere in the paper at a modest One Million Dollars!), Diversity of Economy (Make Films Not Just Bars!).
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Part of the attraction of Cuban radio broadcasts is their Stalinist old fashioned stodginess. We hear crop reports and visits by Left Wing Luminaries (Chavez and Morales at their head) praising the creaky and moribund Revolution. I feel like I'm travelling through time. It's unfortunate when I hear our civic leaders giving me the same feeling. It seems to be completely outside their world view to imagine that this crisis may grind on for another five years of declining wealth and shrinking budgets and lurching industries. Interestingly enough the Schools Superintendent is taking the message to heart and is trying to cut his budget in anticipation of no relief through 2010, but the city? Not a bit of it. We're still hunting for upscale art oriented tourists with disposable income and a penchant for nouvelle cuisine. Weird.
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I have thus put myself in the position I don't want to be in, which is to make suggestions. I feel obliged as I don't just want to be taking cheap pot shots. Fortunately my suggestions if they were ever considered would never be enacted so I can afford to be decisive. If I were Mayor doubtless I'd have to stroke business people the right way and reassure them that the cancer of the body politic isn't terminal and pulling together we'll be right as rain in no time.
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My first suggestion is to Spend No Money. At home my wife and I would like a new kitchen to replace our worn pressed board cupboards circa 1970. We'd like a fence to define our property. We'd like solar cells and solar water heating. We'd like to spend money without worries. We Spend No Money. The city needs to do the same. I know its bad for the economy but the economy sucks right now and if the big players are afraid to disburse their taxpayer funded capital (TARP) we at the bottom of the heap should figure on doing the same. Spend No Money.
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We should gear up to grab whatever redevelopment funds the Feds may eventually hand out, because public works may keep people employed. Grant writing is a skill that should be encouraged. Meanwhile our leaders could try to explain to us just how bad things are going to get. Someone needs to talk to the Governor and find out what effect Florida's 7 billion dollar deficit is going to have on local budgets. Someone else needs to figure out and announce publicly what plummeting real estate prices will do to public income. With some real numbers in hand planning is possible. Hoping for the best is a useless planning tool.
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Encourage civic activism. Let's make it fashionable to clean one's sidewalk, make the town pretty so even as we learn to live in reduced circumstances we can do it in a well mannered way. It's going to be a drag no doubt, but less money means more interaction with one's neighbors and we'd better start getting used to doing more than just throwijng money at a problem. Also the broken window theory works two ways. A shabby town is going to look more vulnerable to escalating crime, so an ordered clean town may not. Let's plant gardens and learn to grow food, and do it together so black thumbs like me aren't alone in trying to figure out how much Florida sunlight our vegetable beds really need ( more than I planned apparently...).
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The problem for leaders all the way through our society is that they are bred not to tell us the harsh truths. When they do they get voted out of office so it's going to take someone exceptional to break the pattern of fibbing and sugarcoating we are addicted to. I don't really expect a small town leadership round table to lead the way. I'm sure they all felt better when they went back to work hoping for the best and accentuating the positive. I just hope, that like the rebellious listeners to communist radio propaganda, not all my neighbors think we'll be back to normal by next Christmas. I wish I knew what to do to prepare for whatever really is coming in 2009. The Round table was as close to reality as Stalin's Five year Plans.

Red

I was thinking to myself that this is the time of year when people put up Christmas decorations and perhaps I could photograph them.And then I saw this simple juxtaposition of traditional pine needle and palm with the red stuff:And I thought this gutter ball was imaginative. My sisters would have slapped me had I had the imagination to suggest putting Christmas ornaments outside the house (they were the Gauleiters in charge of decorations in my childhood):On White Street I spotted more Xmas ribbon alongside a strong sartorial statement from the hip youth:And then I got bored. So I thought what about just celebrating the Christmas decorative season with photos of red stuff? Like these red shorts on a person I'm guessing wears a parka at home this time of year:And while I'm busy guessing I'm going to stick this dude in the same category. People come to Key West to let it all hang out and tie dyed may have gone out of fashion long enough ago that even I am aware of it's passing, but so what?On a more traditional note I figured Old Glory at the White Street Armory gave the picture enough red to be included:And it seems I am not the only fan of Netflix. I wanted to borrow the envelope and see what this stranger enjoys watching but I limited myself to a picture of the red bordered envelope bound for their Fort Lauderdale warehouse:This next is a bit of a stretch but there is something vaguely pink about this formal interior spotted as I walked by:The figurehead on the old sponge warehouse on Fleming Street is a redhead I think. The convenient green stuff is algae or seaweed or something:I have learned to despise publicly the ubiquitous bougainvillea thanks to the contempt expressed by a Man who rides a scooter in Turkey, but secretly I still like these bushes: I added to my collection of kids art on city fireplugs:And the Haitian Art Gallery on Southard Street is still going out of business slowly, slowly. I keep telling my wife pretty soon he'll be gone for good but she is resisting making another purchase for now. Not that a suppurating crucifixion would be likely to find it's way into our home, but I can add it here as the figure bleeds red. I am going to miss the gallery when it finally goes:In my pursuit of red of an afternoon I thought a simple old fashioned stop sign said something particular against a blue and green background:I saw this card in the window and though I don't know who Molly might be, she has to have done something right to be greeted like this when she arrives: What this contraption might be, found loitering next to the library I have no idea. A parrot's gymnasium perhaps:A Fleming Street view with a red bumper sticker. I took my self imposed "red mandate" fairly lightly: And a red brick chimney on top of the Spottswood building at the corner of Fleming and Simonton Streets:You never know what you'll see when you look up in Key West. This next one I think must be some sort of chain store coming to the 400 block of Eaton Street. It was just getting stocked as I strolled by and I believe all the merchandise is stuff...advertised on the box. I guess someone must care about that sort of thing:And in closing something I prefer over another doodad made in China, is a prickly pear made in Key West:Which reminds me I need to go out and fight the doves for some of the rapidly ripening sea grapes in my yard.