Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Vignettes XVIII

I graduate from Florida keys Community College this May and I had to get my paperwork in order for the event. It turns out it costs ten bucks to process my paperwork so I lined up at the business desk to fork over my ten dollars (cap and gown: $39) and I saw this intriguing notice of a forthcoming class at the college:"Now there's a trick," I thought to myself. The business clerk didn't share my amusement. Also this week Solares Hill, the formerly free weekly now incorporated into the Sunday paper, had an article describing the travails of the college president. Jill Landesburg Boyle has been the object of a whispering campaign because she has improved the college beyond all recognition and in so doing she trod on some well entrenched corns. One got the feeling from the article she may have reached the end of her tether which would be too bad.

We have been suffering through cold snap after cold snap, a pale reflection of the atrocious weather being dished out Up North. I saw Jack Riepe's pictures on Twisted Roads of immense blankets of snow across his Pennsylvania neighborhood, and it looked awful. Down here we have several nights with lows below 60 degrees (15C), which though it may not seem like much it saps the strength of people used to 80 degrees (27C). My Cuban American colleague Noel wore his very first scarf one slow evening at work and I commemorated the solemn moment.This was significant because he has never seen snow and has thus never owned a scarf:The scarf actually belonged to Paula who grew up in New England and is used to the cold. Or used to be used to the cold before she moved to Key West in 1988.She uses the scarf to keep out the blistering cold that the police station creates to keep our banks of computers cool and comfortable. We, the operators, just get cold, but it's weird to step out into even colder air...
I took this picture about ten days ago at the Big Coppitt Shell and it's got worse since then. Oil is still hovering below $40 a barrel and the price of a gallon of gasoline keeps creeping up.
I figure it's just another way we get to pay for the banksters' bonuses. On the other hand riding the Bonneville makes up for it, at least a bit.


I was walking by Solares Hill with my camera out and I saw a man peeing against a telephone pole. Why I took the picture I can't rightly remember. What I planned to do with it I couldn't say either:As I trudged up Elizabeth Street it became abundantly apparent he wasn't peeing at all, he was just standing so for some reason I can't fathom I took another picture, perhaps because she found him interesting...And as I crested the rise on Elizabeth Street (The Hill proper is 16 feet (5 meters) above sea level more or less, depending who you believe), all was explained:A solid citizen, a family man, out walking his child and their dog. He called out to her that there was too much traffic as I approached but as they toddled off I wasn't sure if it was generic traffic or my arrival that prompted their departure:No use, I suppose, telling them I am the police.
I found the Quebecois encampment in town at least during the day at Fort Zachary Taylor, all lined up and reserving a swath of the parking lot to themselves. Zut alors!They remind me of how Germans used to take over large chunks of camp grounds when I used to ride around Europe with a tent. I had a friend visit Key West last week and she was huffing and puffing at the numbers and sizes of vehicles parked along city streets. I tried to point out that a most people who drive Hummers in Key West use a lot less gasoline than she does circling Palm Beach County in her Honda Civic, because most drivers here are reluctant to even leave town. My point was lost on her but the conversation did remind me of just how many cars are filling the city even in this winter of a catastrophic economy:You'd think a cab would make a whole load more sense around town:The pink cab is leased from the Five Sixes Company on Stock Island. It's called five sixes because the phone number is 296-6666. In the old days when phone numbers were standardized to seven digits, all prefixes in Key West started with 29 so residents got in the habit of describing their pone numbers as five digits. 292-1234 would be reduced to 21-234. Thus the five sixes. Cell phones have wrecked that five digit system.
I went by the submarine pens, mentioned in an essay previously and found this shock horror at the entrance to the approach road:I guess picnickers and terrorists will now only be able to approach the pine forest by boat. Bummer.
Another bummer came up when the wife and I stopped recently at baby's Coffee at their shop at Mile marker 15. They keep inconvenient hours for my wife's commute and impossible hours for mine so we rarely stop in. That particular morning I was ferrying my wife to work a little later than usual so we stopped in. besides my wife needed some espresso beans and even though Baby's resolutely declines to stock Fair Trade or Organic beans my wife likes their coffee enough she was willing to buy a pound just for a change. I was shocked to see their products on the shelves individually wrapped in plastic bags:Why I have no idea.perhaps just for the fun of wasting baggies. I washed this one and stuck in the drawer smelling only sightly of delicious coffee (Sexpresso? Oh dear Lord). The drinks sold at Baby's naturally come in most unnatural Styrofoam,- sigh-the more ecologically correct paper, Starbucks style, has yet to penetrate the local consciousness. Besides Chris Belland had a column in the Sunday Citizen explaining exactly why Styrofoam is quite bad for one's health...
Finally I got a few water pictures while I was at Fort Zachary and I wanted to post them to remind myself that boating season isn't too far off. Cold north winds are not much of an inducement to go swimming so I haven't yet sanded and painted the bottom of the skiff, though I have changed the oil and spark plugs and the zinc. I looked out across the water and saw a cruise ship:
It turned out it was the Braemar of the Fred Olsen line, a smaller English cruise ship company that specializes in adult cruises, as in adults versus children, not pornography. I'd like to try the Olsen lines smaller ships, personal service and intellectually stimulating cruises, which is how they have been described to me. In this case the ship was doing it's bit spewing from the smoke stack as it parked downtown:There are still a few voices protesting cruise ship visits to the city but the budget is shrinking and port calls are a much more needed source of income than previously. Looking out across The Lakes to the west of Key West you can get the critic's point, this is a beautiful view:Some people enjoy the view from aloft:But my streak of envy was directed here as I stood in the cool north wind and photographed the statuary at Fort Zach:Jib and jigger on a broad reach- next stop Mexico! Or, more likely, Sand Key, seven miles to the southwest...


bobskoot said...

Conch: I feel so sorry for Jack, trapped with all that snow. No motorcycle until March something. It just gives you the shivers looking out his window. I also feel for you too. imagine going down to 60F . . . you must be freezing down there, while we are basking in 2C temps. Daylight savings time this coming weekend. It's a sign that spring is nearly here.

wetcoast scootin

Conchscooter said...

2c to a polar bear is like 85F to someone used to key west. I wore my summer gloves riding to work tonight and my hands were cold. It's that bad I tell you.

bay point said...

I cannot speak for Baby's, but I am familiar with the styrofoam question as it comes up often there. They insist that paper costs some 3x as much as styrofoam and that it would necessarily lead to them raising the price of their product. Green individuals are therefore advised to purchase travel cups, which come with a free cup of coffee, and which they will cheerfully refill.

Wyl said...

Back in the Day (70s and 80's) You didn't even have to dial the 29, you just needed the last 5 digits. So you could be drunk out of your mind, hit 6 5 times and poof ther was a cab after putting a dime in the pay phone.

Anonymous said...

The gate to the "sub pens" area was locked back up because too many people were back there partying and causing problems. The last straw was last month when a departing partier struck and killed a pedestrian. The pedestrian is in the ground and the drunk driver is in jail. Too was a nice get away on foot or two/four wheels.

irondad said...

I seem to remember our dispatch center being a bit warmer and dark. Not that I was invited in there very often. However, their door was across the hall from our holding cells. One day I went in there and happened to notice a CCTV monitor. The picture was showing the patrol unit I'd just parked. Suddenly it hit me!

I often took the opportunity to re-tuck my shirt after exiting the car. Thinking I was by myself in the little sallyport, I'd unbuckle the belt and partly unzip the BDU pants. Turns out I was flashing the girls in dispatch the whole time. They had never said a word and I never even caught a snicker in their voices over the two way.

Ah, you dispatchers are the real unsung superheroes even if we got a little cranked at ours once in a while. You always seem to chafe at the ones who seem to control your life during work, I guess.

Bob Kelly said...

Anent the gas station sign at Big Coppitt, I was returning from Miami in a rental car about that same time. I had to fill the tank before returning the car and I did so there, for the same $2.099 a gallon.

When I got to the Circle K at Roosevelt & Kennedy later that day, I noted that the price there was $2.269.

Now what do you suppose the extra 17¢ is for? Whatever it is, they're keeping the differential the same, as I more recently paid something over $2.35 at Truman and First St.

Ah, the price of living in Paradise.

Conchscooter said...

Re Baby's- I still wish we had a more "eco" oriented culture in the Keys, and it's too bad we aren't.
Re phones: I wasn't in the keys when phone numbers were actually just five digits, but I do remember the use of just the last five with the the 29 assumed.
Re: the sub pens. Key West has given me new appreciation for the temperance movement. I see too much of the awful side of drunkeness at work and getting shit faced in public rarely seems to be that suave. Now the pens are closed. Great.
re irondad. watching you undress would inspire me. we just get to see officers standing around the back door on slow nights chatting unselfconsciously. Then we sned them to a call and they scramble which is bizarrely satisfying.
re gas: the only good thing about high gas prices is that one doesn't have to drive much around key west.unles syou like the commute as i do...

Anonymous said...

The coffee is placed in zipper bags for... Freshness????

7 am to 6 pm is a pretty long time to be open sir.

We love our baby's.