Thursday, November 19, 2009

Fog of Peace

I feel an overwhelming sense of gloom as the holiday season gears up and we all ready ourselves for whatever Thanksgiving and Christmas are likely to bring. It seems churlish but I see many lumps of coal ahead, and I wish to goodness I were wrong. They tell us the economy is on the mend but I wonder how that can be as unemployment worsens, the health care bill weakens and Peak Oil bears down upon us all. Through it tourism in Key West still seems to be strong, albeit with lower prices for rooms. And yet, and yet this nagging feeling of all not being well won't leave me.

The recent revelation by the International Energy Agency that it's numbers for projected oil output are rubbish, at the behest of the US government, gives weight to forecasters of doom like J H Kunstler and his ilk who have long predicted a steadily declining standard of living as oil gets harder and harder to find, and thus more expensive. Cheap oil has under pinned everything about modern first world living and the end of cheap oil means...? Well, it doesn't seem like it has to mean an end to civilization as we know it but we have lost the art of the sensible debate in this country so we seemed to have doomed ourselves to march up to the edge of the cliff and will have to fall over it just on principle.

The national health care debate, that is supposed to move onto the Senate floor this weekend is just the latest and nastiest example of our need to ignore the glaringly obvious. Heath care coverage is deficient and expensive in the US, but instead of debating how best to make meaningful changes available to our citizens in need, half the debating team crossed their arms, shouted insults and left the sand box.

The war in Afghanistan that was needed a decade ago to respond forcefully to the 9-11 attacks got diluted by a crazy scheme to invade Iraq at vast expense on the flimsiest of excuses and lies and now the word quagmire rears it's ugly head. And we can't debate our way out of this one because no one knows why we are there in the first place. Are we bringing corruption and democracy to Afghanistan as an alternative to the Taliban whack jobs? At our expense? Why?

Climate change, now there's a subject that needs intelligent debate and all we get is denial on one side and no coherent plan from the other. If the climate is changing and scientists tell us it is we need to plan. If the climate is changing because of human actions we need to figure out how to change and what to change about how we live. instead we get people getting angry over the very possibility that anything may be wrong with the climate that gives us life.

I have no children and I see no point in my worrying about the next generation's problems if the parents of that generation are sticking their own heads in the sand. I just can't for the life of me escape the sense of unease that keeps prodding me. The economy is an immediate issue and while it acknowledges the unemployment problem the White House shows no plans to start a Works Progress Administration, preferring to keep on funding banks over people. State budgets are imploding all over the country, Florida is facing a 20% deficit and heaven knows where that will lead us.

And as we make our holiday plans a sense of unreality fills my active mind. Cheap oil is running out, unemployment is up. Wells Fargo Bank keeps retreating from refinancing my home, even though I have yet to be late with a payment, and they have calmly pocketed 25 billion in public funds. And one looks out of the window and life rolls on, apparently without a glitch. Am I dreaming or is there a giant glitch over the horizon?

Summerland Caribbean

If I had to see this cheery billboard every time I came home "...love for life!" I'd barf, but saccharine sentiments have never been my strong suit. Summerland Cove, despite it's arch "leave-it-to-Beaver" public sentiment is quite the neighborhood in the Lower Keys. It's rather hidden away from the Overseas Highway but the old Bahama Jack's restaurant is a landmark on the other side of the road. Slice of Paradise Pizza (the best in the Lower Keys in my opinion) is also found next to the bridge entrance to the subdivision whose street is marked thus:
The little bridge crosses the canal that separates Summerland Cove from the rest of the island:
I've been down this canal system in my boat, looking for fuel at the Chevron dock next to Highway One, but it's a bit of a chore threading your way back and forth through the maze of waterways at walking speed. Much better to cruise the neighborhood by bicycle, all the better to admire the architecture:
One could easily imagine oneself perched out here on the open water view on this glorious November afternoon:This enormous pile is available for seasonal rental, though I have to say it looked rather shabby and even unfinished.
It felt like every other house was for sale or for rent up and down the street.
It's a shame but this seems like a neighborhood falling on hard times. Not surprising really, considering the state of the economy, but this is a place where the modern McMansions were thriving during the housing bubble.
Everyone wanted their stilt home in the sun.
With attendant vessel of course:
And for some a whole island is barely enough:
For everybody else there is cheek-by-jowl island living:
Sometimes one dish just isn't enough.This next home had a "Beware of the Dog" sign tacked to the front, just to make the place look homely. I figured a "Beware of the Steps" might have been apposite, especially for a visitor with a heart condition.
I tried repeatedly with various exposures to get the proper shade of turquoise to shine through in this next picture. Had my wife come home to our slightly shabby house painted with the exquisite care of this one, but in this startling shade of teal I think she might kill me. For somebody this bright paintwork spells (winter) home:For somebody else lemon yellow is the right shade of house paint. This is apparently a year round resident, one of those charming people who like to inflict their very loud radios on the neighborhood. I got the weather forecast from US1 Radio (107.1FM) from this canal side residence. "For you boaters..." the woman's voice bawled across the water as she gave the marine forecast with all the expert knowledge of someone who wouldn't know a rudder from a prop shaft. Glorious noise pollution; come the revolution all transistors will be short circuited.
This Mediterranean-style home will do nicely until strong winds pick up hurling terra cotta tiles acorss the neighborhood. Metal roofs do best in hurricane country.
"But by all means dump across the street at my neighbor's..."
I'll bet this concrete block structure was one of the original homes built in this subdivision. they cost twice as much to insure as stilt homes, as they are subject to flooding in storms, but they are the typical Florida dwellings of the 50s and 60s, and as such worth noting:
This is modern Florida; an empty lot, a seawall and a giant pile struggling for an ocean glimpse from the top floor. Nearer to God and further from good taste.Old boats don't decompose, they just sink into the shrubbery:
And modern homes surrender to the weeds as banks foreclose and mortgage holders flee and entropy takes back the former American Dream of a home in the sun:
Florida, for the first time ever, saw more people leave the state, than move in, last year. Should we be glad, finally, or worried?