Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Looters Galore

I recall that after Hurricane Wilma drowned a large part of key west in 2005 there were no reports of looting. Even after K Mart flooded with three feet of water homeless people in Key Plaza gathered up the floating merchandise and stacked on the window ledges at the store. On the other hand help wasn't long in showing up. Hurricane Katrina had hit New Orleans a few weeks earlier and Florida Governor Jeb Bush had the National Guard in the Keys as soon as the storm blew by. We had truckloads of water, food and ice available by the next day. Chef Boyardee never tasted so good! In New Orleans it was another story and the entire city was left to it's own devices for days. People starved, drowned and dehydrated in the submerged city. Then we heard stories of "looters."
From the AP archives.
What I wonder were people to do, abandoned and impoverished anyway in a city that had literally drowned. I wonder how many of us would have resisted the temptation to take food and water (and beer) off the surviving shelves? Reports of widespread shooting and violence were apparently greatly exaggerated though who was to know at the time? Now in Chile people are being accused to "looting" in the city of Concepción that has been flattened by an earthquake, I'm not sure toilet paper would be my first priority were I destitute but to each her own:
From Reuters.

And so it is one has to wonder what the protocol is when civilization has broken down all around you and the normal transactions of daily living have ceased. I suppose everyone wanted to believe that Haiti would end up a cesspit of violence after their earthquake, and this picture from a survivalist blog would reinforce that prejudice:
Yet we hear from rescue services that despite the horror, people in Haiti have behaved with admirable fortitude, restraint and self reliance. I guess people will steal given the opportunity, God knows our bankers have managed a grand theft of historic proportions right under our noses. About that I could do nothing but protest. I hope that when disaster strikes my hurricane supplies will survive intact and I will be able to hold out relatively comfortably until help arrives. I would hate to be labeled a "looter" were I forced out to hunt and gather supplies after a disaster.

Hawk Missiles

Little Hamaca city park has grown a bit recently and I never noticed until this week. The park is a small area of open space between the Riviera Canal to the north and the airport to the south and one enters off Flagler Avenue right the Urgent Care Clinic, The road into the park is called Government Road and it is long and straight and it feels endless at the mandated 15 miles per hour (25kph).It is used by cars and scooters but it is also a pedestrian path and a bicycle route as well and fifteen miles an hour is a good speed to stick to as you never quite know what you might meet on the roadway in the park:A hammock (hamaca in Spanish) in South Florida botanical talk is a small rise of high ground above the flood plain that allows hardwood trees to take root. You'll see clumps of tall trees among the mangroves all over the Everglades and in the Keys and Little Hamaca in Key West has been preserved as open space for city residents. A good job too. In 1962 this place was a key component in the front line defenses against Cuba during the missile crisis. (As an aside the film Matinée starring John Goodman is set in that period and worth a view). The US military set up mobile missile launchers around key West and also erected towers who purpose I am not sure of. In this period picture from the State Library archives it appears the towers were used to house tracking devices or radar of some sort for the hawk missiles which would be launched from their trailers:The towers and the buildings and the protective berms are still there as we shall see in a moment. Before we return to the present there was one other Hawk Missile picture from the Cuban missile crisis that I really like. It was featured in the Citizen newspaper a while back and I've never forgotten it. It shows three women and a baby walking past the missile batteries on Smathers Beach apparently unsupervised and without a care in the world. I wonder if these days with all the terrorist paranoia we will ever learn to trust each other again like this:
For the longest time the old Hawk Missile base at Little Hamaca was closed to the public.I first came out here on a ride along when I joined the police department. The K9 officer putting up with me in his patrol car brought his dog out here for training, teaching the animal to hunt for contraband hidden among the ruins. These days my more pacific dog likes to stump around sniffing on her account.There are tons of these platforms all over the place: This side of the island (the southeast corner) is rather lower lying and wetter than other parts of the city. The airport runway is built out across the salt ponds, very conveniently pointing right at the center of town to make sure flights in and out pass over the heart of the city at low altitude. Happily they don't seem to have forgotten any ordinance or left any spare missiles behind but these old oil tanks reminded me of epic industrial struggles to break up monopolies in the early 20th century, lessons forgotten today.Chevron is a common enough logo. Anyone remember Standard Oil? Don't worry, Esso (S.O.) became Exxon, Chevron, Mobil, Marathon, Conoco, Amoco and Mobil were all originally part of Rockefeller and Flagler's Standard Oil Company. Makes Goldman Sachs look like a piker!I expect that sooner or later this area will be organized and become defined by what one can and cannot do. For now it is pretty much open to anyone that wants to wander.Check out the picture of the Hawk Missile launcher above, for a resemblance.
These creatures are absolutely everywhere these days even where tourists rarely tread!
I did meet a few wanderers on scooters and bicycles looking for an exit, of which there are none here.
It never ceases to amaze me how a city as small and constrained as Key West manages to find space for so many activities. There are tennis courts all over town, a skate park on Flagler Avenue, the PAL program in Bahama Village and now a paint ball field out here:There used to be people complaining about paint ballers in the salt ponds so instead of getting all legislative they built them a place to enjoy their sport in peace. This is Key West though and we do need a fair amount of signage to get through the day. My dog is a daredevil.Views are hard to find in the Keys so when presented with a berm rising up above the mangroves, Cheyenne and I were nothing loathe. The Missile Farm in all it's abandoned glory, looking west:Looking east towards Las Salinas, Oceanview and South Roosevelt Boulevard:And south at the airport:
To the north across Little Hamaca Park are the canal side homes on Riviera Drive:
And more antennae to the northwest. It's an absolute forest of them around here.
This old monument looks like the southernmost buoy that predated the one currently in use. Perhaps they had nowhere else to put it.
In 1981 when I first rode into Key West the point was marked with a sign but I guess that wasn't good enough as time went by and the city "upgraded" to a buoy. Another reminder to take pictures because things are always changing.