Monday, August 31, 2009

In The Navy

Today I am posting a short essay with just three pictures to make room for the guest essay below. I was on Truman Waterfront last week and spotted a rather ugly military ship tied up to the Outer Mole, also known as the Navy Pier.I don't mean to be rude, and I'm sure this magnificent dry cargo ship is a great place to call home but it looks to me like a child's drawing of a boat. However this ship has a particularly close connection to Key West which I thought was worth mentioning. The ship was built in California in 2004 an christened in 2008 by a Key West Judge.
I was surprised to learn a few years ago that Circuit Judge Peary Fowler was Robert Peary's great-granddaughter. Actually I wonder how many nerds other than me even know who Admiral Peary was or what he accomplished. I do know, thanks a modest amount of research that the ship pictured costs around $400 million dollars, and can travel 14,000 miles at 20 knots (24mph). It is designed to carry supplies for other Navy ships that travel around with guns, which the Robert Peary doesn't appear to have.The other nice thing about Truman Waterfront is people can come out and get their exercise, at least for now. The city has its collective knickers in a twist about what to do with these 34 acres handed over by the Navy which decided it no longer needed them. Like all gifts awarded to fractious families, this one is managing to piss off every single faction and group in the city. For now we should all rush out and mill about here while it is open, undeveloped and available for free. pretty soon it will be a better place with, no doubt and entrance fee and lots of instructional signage telling us what to do and what not to do. Progress will not be denied.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Florida Mountains

I wanted to do this last summer but windy conditions and a general lack of humidity made it harder to find towering thunderheads, and I lost interest. Not this year.
It was the perfect afternoon. I left home early with an appointment to meet my wife in Searstown for coffee, con leche actually, to set me up for a long night work.As I got dressed to leave I could hear thunder rolling off to the north, in big cracking waves of sound. From Highway One it seemed likely I could get to Key West ahead of the rain which appeared to be mostly paralleling the highway. This, I figured was my opportunity to get some pictures.As they are in most places, thunderstorms are localized in the Keys, the difference here is that with the small elevation offered by the highway, an observer can see for a long way across the open waters. It's possible to look ahead, unencumbered by hills or forests and get a good idea of whether or not one needs to put on waterproofs. Checking the National Weather Service radar (that would beBig Gummint functioning perfectly, contrary to stereotype) also helps. I can see with my own eyes there's no rain down the road here, just castles in the sky. Or as Florida photographer Clyde Butcher calls them, "Florida Mountains."
If I remember correctly this was out in the Saddlebunch Keys west of Sugarloaf, and the rain was hammering down a long way north. As I stood astride the Bonneville I glanced down at the thermometer and it was reading dead on one hundred degrees (38C). It looked a lot cooler in the rain.The sun was dodging in and out between the clouds as they rolled over and over themselves. Summer in the Keys is the season for rain and thunder and lightning and spectacular displays of what Radio Nacional in Havana calls tormentas electricas, "electrical torments." So that is what I like to think of the roiling black clouds, writhing "torments", in the picturesque language of the communist weather forecasts.It doesn't take much time for the snowy white mountains to somehow pick up moisture and transform themselves from benign and white to a dark foreboding gray:
Still looking rain-free on my way to Key West, by now about ten miles to the west.
Looking to my rear the rain clouds were roiling over Sugarloaf Key after my passage:
To the south there was no sign of rain thunder or electrical torments, just those lovely white puffy piles of cotton wool:
Approaching Shark Key the rain seemed to closing in and shutting out the sun:But from there I kept going, ignoring temptations to take pictures. I was supposed to be at Conch Scoops in Searstown a little after five for the café con leche, and time was running out. As it was I got there thirty seconds before my wife and had tie to take a picture to the south- no rain showing behind Outback Steakhouse, but rain aplenty was coming from the north still:
Somehow I managed to make it to work without either a) getting wet or b) bothering to drag on my waterproofs.
My favorite picture of the afternoon's ride to work was this one:I stopped on the shoulder near Baby's Coffee and parked for a quick picture that I think expresses the fun of taking the motorcycle when your wife thinks you should be sensible and take the other car. Motorcycle versus the Storm. How elemental, my dear Watson.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Randy Acevedo Goes Down

It didn't take the six members of the jury more than a couple of hours to find Randy Acevedo guilty of three felonies of abetting his wife's theft of public funds, and off to jail he went. He since posted $15,000 bail according to the paper and he is free until sentencing at least next month.

I was hoping for an aquittal but the jury has spoken and that's that. In reading the comments at the anonymous vituperation is flying around full force. I've heard it too from numerous people who think that a guilty verdict is one in the eye for "the Conchs." Lumping people together and make this an us-versus-them is becoming a popular sport in public life around here. At least this case is now closed as far as the schools go. I hope the interim superintendent just appointed can make headway and offer leadership in the face of a school board that has shown none so far.

Front Street

This is the tourist zone, and to my amazement Key West continues to be busy downtown during the over heated month of August. Europeans are here spending their powerful Euros, American families are pulling in their vacation horns and instead of going somewhere exotic (ahem!) they are coming to Key West to spend their convertible yuan. We thank them for not going to Europe or South America and staying close to home in these uncertain economic times. Here they are on Front Street enjoying the uncertain flavors of fried food at Red Fish Blue Fish. Big Sales are a permanent feature of these fine stores, places where "Going Out For Business" signs are always in evidence to lure visitors in on the promise of special cut price offers. Despite the alluring sale I figured I might not do such a fine sun dress justice so I passed. At least this guy isn't texting while driving: Key West has a tree commission, a group of volunteers who get ravaged frequently in the Citizen's Voice for being over or under protective of Key West flora. I don't have a dog in that hunt, happily, but as attentive readers of my pictures will have noticed I am quite partial to a nice tree now and then.
Yes, even I heard that the child molester died, and now I know it's true, there is a t-shirt on sale to prove it. He and I were the same age more or less and I can't help but feel that he made a horrible hash of his opportunities. Still, why dwell on the negative eh? Buy a t-shirt, feel better, and conveniently forget he paid $25 million to silence the little kid who shared his bed. What a strange world hero worship is. Personally I though Paul Newman was a true hero, married to one woman raised money for real charities and mocked his own stardom. And he was an ace driver.
We all need heroes don't we, as we go hunting for stuff, fulfilling our evolutionary potential.One more t-shirt and happiness will suffuse me.This may be a deprived Key West youth enjoying the last of summer vacation with "nothing to do." Perhaps he hasn't been trained properly to hang out in shopping mauls.
No parking on the sidewalk! "But Officer, I'm not parked, I'm just hanging, Key West style!" I can hear his defense now were he to be challenged. I'd let him go with a warning and a smile if I were a police officer. This could be anywhere exotic like Europe or somewhere less strait laced than North America. Two guys hanging and bs'ing while sitting on a scooter. An image from my youth. A scooter and a friend and nowhere particular to be (maybe).
I like Rooftop Café and don't get to go there often. It is in my top tier of Key West restaurants for service and ambiance as well as the actual ability to get food cooked right. ( I am not a tour guide please note, I am a curmudgeon who knows what he likes, thank you).
I hope those stupid slider fad things go the way of all flesh (DIE) soon. A clever way to add bread to a national diet already overflowing with starch and corn syrup. Dinner is much more interesting here, sitting out with a candle on the table. And even though the view is just that of Front Street, the overhanging trees and stuff really makes this place more pleasant than you might expect.Did I mention people shop on Front Street on their way back to their cruise ship? Check out these Key West economic engines, helping to keep me in paychecks, bless their hearts:
Brick is not that popular in Key West, mostly because it was inordinately expensive to get bricks to the island during the 19th century building boom. This is the Sawyer Building and yours for a song, no doubt.
Hog's Breath of course. I still have yet to take a drink in any bar on Lower Duval. It is my not-so-secret ambition to go to my grave without ever having drink taken below 300 Duval. So far so good. I do my drinking at home, because I like my home.
I hope this picture at the Haagen Dazs ice cream booth warms your heart, I see a child and wonder: what possessed those parents? I am sure anyone can agree it was a great thing I did for humanity choosing not to reproduce myself.
Don't just walk, shop dammit!
This is the time of year workers in key West wish they had year round jobs like mine. In winter they make my paycheck look like spare change. I am told HTA recently cut employees to half time status to avoid buying health insurance for them. If true I hope they are actively campaigning for no change in Health Insurance laws.Too much chatter, just buy it.
This woman's job, standing in the doorway all day long shouting "Everything five dolla'!" is something I need to remember when I am lamenting my fate at two in the morning as I try to reason with a drunk.
Front Street can flood during hurricane season. This is what is meant by taking precautions: This woman is riding with too much aplomb to be a renter, though I could be wrong. I was wrong once, my wife tells me, back in 1998.
I was right when I got the Bonneville though. 28,500 miles and still purring like a cat seen here parked in the shade of Fitzgerald Street:
My buddy Bruce bought a Tiger recently in Santa Fe. I'm glad he dumped his unreliable BMW 800, but I wonder why he needed a 33 inch seat height? Oh that's right he's an engineer and he needs the complexity of water cooling, three cylinders and a hundred horsepower to drag him through the airless altitudes of New Mexico. Congratulations Bruce, I know you will be as blissfully happy with your Triumph as I am with mine. They are great bikes and I am only slightly envious of you.