Wednesday, January 21, 2009

61 Degrees

I crawled out of bed at noon today and checked the thermostat. 61 degrees! (16C). @#$%^! My feet are cold, I've lost the will to live and I have to be at the college in an hour to take a class. Tonight it is supposed to get down to 49 degrees which considering the historic low was 41, recorded in the early 20th century means we are close to settinga record. It must be freezing Up North!


Bruce rented a trailer from U Haul in his hometown of Santa Fe, and in an act of holy faith, dragged his motorcycle to the Keys for a few days rest and recreation away from the cold and ice of the Sangre de Cristo mountains. New Mexico is far too dramatic for me, because if everyday I had to look out the kitchen window and remark on the shape of the Blood of Christ mountains I would feel obliged I am sure to ponder the origin name, a reminder of the universal reach of the Church of Rome of my Italian forebears. Bruce enjoys pinon trees and New Mexican cuisine and has given up trying to learn Spanish.Life is simpler for Bruce who has been retired for 14 years from a life of building secret whatsits for Lockheed Martin, a defense contractor that used to be reviled daily during the Cold War, but which paid Bruce a handsome war dividend in the form of secure employment and a proper, old fashioned pension. What's a retied engineer to do? Why tinker of course so he decided to get a motorcycle, load it up with computers, and then park it in his garage out of the blizzards blowing in off the Sangre de Cristo mountains for the winter.I suggested he and his wife rent a home in the Lower keys for a few months and do the snowbird thing but he demurred, worrying about driving so far with their dogs. The fact is that after a life spent fiddling with slide rules and micrometers Bruce has lost the drive to plan, so a nice slow road trip followed by a stay short enough to require but one visit to our washer/dryer is sufficient apparently to take the edge off a New Mexico winter. It was a pleasant winter afternoon in the Keys, the recent cold front had blown through with some force, leaving us basking in afternoon temperatures above 70 degrees (20C approx) and we took advantage to head out on the back roads of Big Pine Key. We checked for alligators at Blue Hole but finding none we spotted this one, in pink, on a seawall at Port Pine Heights, on the northernmost tip of Big Pine Key, where we took a stroll to admire the architecture and the balmy afternoon air. We weren't alone:These women peddled past and on turning around asked if the nice dog was ours, we shook our heads though when we strolled by this "nice dog" used a great deal too much energy yakking at us from behind his upstairs bars wherein he felt safe:Bruce and Celia's lives are dominated by an obscure breed of massive dog called Bernese, which look a bit like the animal in the Canadian comic strip For Better or For Worse (which the Citizen doesn't carry, unfortunately) and like most breeds of big dogs, Bernese are relatively quiet companions. This was not a quiet bucolic neighborhood. Someone was out being industrious with a weed whacker buzzing loudly and someone else parked their over sized pick up truck in their driveway and left the diesel engine rumbling cosily.

When I used to drive a tractor trailer I avoided truck stops like the plague and parked my rig in out of the way places where nothing could be heard for miles around, instead of the endless rumblings of trucks whose drivers couldn't stand to switch the things off and enjoy the thoughts in their heads. Some people though can turn it all off and enjoy the moment and I envied this character:This is a man who has spent altogether too long fighting snow drifts and fog and knows where he is well off, weed whacker or no. His neighbors were pleased to remind the rest of us where our place was, firmly out on the street:As though the fence somehow failed to carry the stern warning all on it's own. We strolled past a McMansion that had run out of steam. Bruce the practical engineer was convinced this was a duplex, thanks to the fanciful twin flights of stairs leading to the massive atrium:I thought he was joking at first but his precise mind couldn't grasp the concept of vastness for the sake of it, and he declined to believe this might be one person's (bankrupt) vision of ideal waterfront retirement:Carl's design seems to have fallen on hard times, but this isn't the only over sized home sitting on the delightful shores of Big Pine Sound:Bruce insists he enjoys the seasons, and it's true he is not climatically adapted to life in the Keys. The humidity irritates his skin, just as the desert dryness irritates mine, mosquitoes love his blood as much as they don't go for mine and Bruce loves to worry about the imponderable so hurricanes loom large in his mind as does global warming and sea level rise, things that I view as part of life in the islands. The fact that by his own accounting the mundane risk of getting hit by a drunk driver in Santa Fe is far higher even than in the Keys doesn't rate as a risk to him, as it does to me. Not to mention the need to keep everything under lock and key in a state with high levels of poverty and crime. He gets to ride much more interesting mountain roads than do I, even if summer lasts the bat of an eyelid in the Sangre de Cristos...Oh and we have Key Deer:Love them or loathe them, and they like to graze the edge of the roads through the Big Pine Key Deer Refuge. Some of them are more relaxed about posing for a picture:Hitting them while riding might not be so great even if they are half the size of a white tailed deer:I took a short spin on Bruce's 800GS BMW and he took my Bonneville for a tour of No Name Key:Of which comparison more later. It was a most satisfying, simple afternoon, for me a day off work for him another in an endless series of days off:Just messing about on motorcycles.