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.
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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...
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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.

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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...
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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...