Wednesday, October 28, 2009

White Tin Roofs

Well another storm is brewing in the tea cup that is the southernmost portion of the Southernmost City. It has come to public attention that painting a roof white with a "new" white paint, called mastic as it is rather thicker and more glue-like than normal household paints, when applied to the roofs of homes in the southern latitudes has a dramatic effect on electrical consumption. It is said that a $2500 application of white mastic paint will reduce electrical consumption by around 25% and a comment in the newspaper recently mentioned a homeowner who accurately measured her reduction (during the summer months one has to assume) of 17% on a house that was already equipped with a metal roof. All to the good one says to oneself.
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I have to point out that we have seen similar electrical savings after we insulated the floor of our elevated home with about ten inches of insulation covered by sheet rock. So white mastic was on our list of things to try to take conservation a step further. We have reduced our propane consumption by an astonishing amount by simply insulating our 30-gallon (120 liter) propane water heater. We are up for any conservation measure that works, and that we can afford.
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The drive to conserve has now struck historic Old Town Key West, the tourist paradise of old wooden buildings, the largest such agglomeration in the United States and quite possibly North America. Canada has a walled city (where French is spoken, always a tourist disabling consideration in monoglot America), we have a clump of wooden homes (in a more-or-less English zone with some Spanish overtones much to the discomfort of jingoists), the like of which has not survivedanywhere else in the New World. Despite the Keys inability to zone the other islands with resulting forests of neon and unsightly dangling electrical wires and septic tanks fouling the coral, Old Town Key West has made it pretty much intact into the 21st century, while still accommodating real live people, busy living working 21st century lives. It's quite a feat, and I will be excused for congratulating myself for bothering to photograph it, one lane at a time.
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That Old Town survived is due largely to neglect, lack of money and some determined preservation when finally people woke up to the fact that this little area really was worth preserving. Now of course it's value is historic which is a vague concept in a country where yesterday's boy-in-a-balloon news is historic and George Washington could tell no lies while cutting up trees; however historic preservation to make money is a concept easily grasped by anyone with a storefront or a strip club on Duval Street. So the city created a commission of busy bodies called the Historic Architect Review Commission which reviews applications for exterior changes to historic buildings (all those west of White Street, more or less) and passes those recommendations on to the City Commission which makes the final decision. HARC does not decide, it's worth noting, it recommends. And it's done a pretty good job of recommending preservation if you bother to walk Old Town as I do and take a look.
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If like me you don't like gated communities and historic districts where they tell you what to do with your property, you buy outside these communities. Some people don't do their due diligence, buy in Old Town then bitch about HARC. So now, pulling together the threads of this very long, picture-less essay, what does HARC do about white roofs, the new eco-craze? On the one hand they bow to the popular opinion of the moment and allow people to cover their historic shingles with white rubbery paint, on the other they don't. They have already forbidden modern hurricane resistant window frames and apparently won that war. Now it's white paint on the roof which supporters fear could be approved and thus retroactively lose the window frame war.
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I liked the commentary by Citizen columnist Barbara Bowers in the newspaper today. She concluded, in opposition, saying there are other ecological moves the city could enforce while allowing HARC and the residents time to ponder the value of white paint. 1) Get commercial buildings to save energy as she says they use 70% of energy in the city. 2) Don't allow businesses to air condition the sidewalks which is an odd practice to say the least. Imagine the prices dropping inside the stores if they used doors to keep the heat outside! 3) Use alternatives to save energy that aren't visible from the exterior. Insulation is one.
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I have tried adding insulation to my attic where I have a fair bit already but it is an absolute bugger to pile up tons of it under the roof. I wish insulation came in bales instead of strips as layering ten inch strips of the stuff is itchy work, difficult to accomplish and...oh I forgot, I can paint my roof white as I don't live in the city. Another vote for the joys of suburbia I suppose. People often ask if I wished I lived in Old Town, the cool heart of the Keys. Er, no, I say and leave them to wonder why I am such a philistine. Now you know.

Pre Fantasy Fest

If one needed confirmation Fantasy Fest is the financial oasis at the end of a long dry summer check out the front of the bars on Lower Duval. Please come in and spend money is the message:
The theme for this week's celebrations is Villains Vixens and Vampires and there has been some discussion in the papers about what a vixen actually might be. I went downtown yesterday afternoon before work to get some practice photographing naked breasts but I had no luck on that front. I found some people enjoying the ambiance and whatever slop they serve at Sloppy Joes:For some people a trip to Key West isn't complete without the famous backdrop in at least one picture:Which when I turned around looked quite alluring, like this. This might have been a vixen I suppose staffing the trinket stall on the sidewalk:This couple passed me by on the opposite sidewalk and I was forced to one of two conclusions: a large endowment in the bank or somewhere else or just a real nice personality. She looked like a real woman too from what little I could tell though her breasts were covered.This next one at first glance looked like a fairy, but for all I know this could be the latest get up for vixens:The week is taken up with parties and events in various locations but the big parade comes Saturday night and Duval Street will be closed to allow the parade to go through.
Fashion comes and fashion goes but you will see a little of everything on Duval Street in the last week of October:I am not a great fan of Fantasy Fest, I have to work the night of the parade whether it's regular time or over time and that is the least of it. The parade of floats can be fun but lately they have added a ton of professional floats, mostly from the Tampa bay area that show all the imaginative creativity one would expect from Tampa and their floats add just a lot of hanging around time to the parade. Besides that, Fantasy fest is the first reminder that the quiet months of summer are over and a curmudgeon like me gets to feel a little grumpy at all the traffic and the cars stopped in intersections trying to figure which way to go. And all the happy scooterists:I know they are spending much needed money so I am not grumbling expect on my own personal little corner of the web, just a little. But the deal is they don't just get to look, they have to spend money too:And those that do spend some money get to walk around with their buttock cheeks hanging out:Or wear some low slung tops if they prefer:I'm not sure he was what I had in mind when I said that:Body painting booths are open for business, this one was in a discreet little corner off the street. The photographs of past successes were appealing......not least because the billboard was attached, rather ironically I thought, to an old election advertising poster for Mayor Craig Cates: What possessed this dude to venture out dressed like this we will never know, and probably just as well:And though I am not a gambling man (do I have any vices at all?) I would bet good money she wasn't here to fantasize about Fantasy Fest. I think home was where her mind was after a long day's work:
Fantasy Fest may be starting up but for some people the important stuff is what it has always been: drinking. These people were being entertained in the world's smallest bar. If you haven't heard of it this is the extent of it. No really, four stools and a very small awning overhanging Duval Street and that's it:
Walking back to the Bonneville in front of Old City Hall I saw this couple enjoying the relative peace and quite of Greene Street. She was texting, he was staring off into space while people shuffled back and forth on Duval a block away.
I took a short stroll along the waterfront and was pleased to notice the influence of Fantasy Fest extended away from the main drag.Colored hair and next to no clothes on. If nothing else a reminder that the end of October is not what you might call a cold month for the Southernmost City.