Saturday, December 12, 2009

Land Of The Inexplicable

The State Department of Families and Children has offered activists in Key West three quarters of a million dollars-free!- to build accommodations to get 16 women and their children off the streets of Key West. The offer has been refused. Yup, we are people of principle in the Keys and we don't take easily to big Gummint handing us free money so we'd rather leave the women and children on the streets. This reaction caused some consternation we are told in the ranks of the state bureaucrats, but there we are.

Samuel's House is a women's shelter located in the city. It's address is not supposed to be public (even though they publish it on their fliers!) because women who have been battered by their partners take refuge there. It is a vital service in a city that sees way too much economic stress combined with enormous quantities of dutch courage induced by a constant diet of alcohol. It's director is a well respected woman with a long history of active devotion to the cause, someone who you'd think would get a hearing when she pipes up and says "I've got a barrow-load of cash and need somewhere to build a shelter." Her requests for land were rejected by the Catholic Diocese which owns an eyesore open space on Flagler Avenue next to it's soup kitchen. That rejection didn't surprise me, I have no doubt the princes of the church are going to hold out for absolute top dollar, as is their wont.

The city of Key West shrugged and said, "Sorry, we don't have enough time to get it together, bad luck!" which isn't surprising considering the city's recent decision not to put the trash contract out to bid as they couldn't find the time for that clearly anticipated contract. So when Samuel's House turned to the Southernmost Homeless Assistance League (SHAL) and got the bum's rush there too I was stunned. Apparently not just me either as the state is now reportedly royally pissed off and is intervening to get things moving. The Executive Director of the State Office on Homelessness (There is such a thing amazingly enough! In Florida!!) is getting involved and is looking for results. This embarrassing turn of events has pushed the sleepers at SHAL into gear and guess what? They are going to take a second vote on Tuesday according to the Citizen and I have no doubt they will support the state's grant with fervor and enthusiasm this time around. What a crowd! And this is a grant to actually help people who desperately need help and have no political voice of their own. Just when one is ready to despair of our leadership someone sticks a red hot poker up a few backsides and one feels hope once again.

Of course this is all just piddly local stuff down here at the sunny toe of the national sock that is Florida. In Copenhagen big issues are being mooted about how to stop climate change and in Afghanistan Danish soldiers are joining US soldiers in making a determined push against the Taliban in some godforsaken mountain range. I woke up this morning, my back burning horribly from some recent pain I inflicted on myself and had a vision of growing old in a country with no middle calls, no health care and no unemployment insurance and I said I wanted to emigrate. I want to emigrate to a country where someone in charge gives a shit about the little people. Perhaps then, I just need to stay in Florida where the Office on Homelessness may be able to come to my rescue when my weary middle class body gives out, I lose my job, my insurance, my home and I need help. It's not exactly socialism but it will have to do.

Winter Like Summer

I left home early, before five o'clock intending to spend a little time in Key West taking some pictures of I knew-not-what. It was to be photography on a whim. Instead I stopped on the bridge between Cudjoe Key and Sugarloaf and pulled the camera out of my pocket. Looking towards Mangrove Mama's restaurant at the end of the bridge, Mile Marker 20.Looking north I saw clouds piled up on a hot humid evening, hovering over glassy flat water, looking like summer time. Summer is the season of rain, thunderstorms and windless days when the water and the sky meet at an undefinable horizon. About like this, perhaps more so:The ability to go out on the water in perfect safety in a small boat is just another reason to enjoy the Keys. Surfing is not the sport where reefs keep waves flat:Swimming in December is best done with some kind of suit or skin. The water is under 80 degrees and even though visitors find it warm, locals don't necessarily.More clouds piling up:When the water is just a few feet deep, maybe ten (3 meters) if its quite deep, maybe three feet (1 meter) if it's shallow, means you can toss out an anchor anywhere. And if it really were summer you could jump in as you felt like, to cool off. The temperature gauge on the Bonneville betrays me. It doesn't feel like 85 degrees, though it is quite warm.The road ahead started to look quite threatening with stormy clouds crossing the horizon. I think storms are bets enjoyed from my home, looking out at the palm trees waving in the sudden wind, the downpour splashing off the leaves surrounding my tree house.All the drama of potential rain faded away as I pressed on towards work, but the low lying clouds looked good:Another boat ploughing a wet furrow across smooth waters......he curved across the channel and disappeared in the distance, never for a minute minding the traffic rumbling by on the Overseas Highway.And there was lots of traffic, a long line of cars interminably leaving Key West, with my side of the road packed with another line of cars, and the odd motorcycle streaming into the city. Perhaps they were down to enjoy the weather, such summery weather with Christmas snow and ice closing in Up North.