Friday, September 30, 2011

Earth Ball Dreaming

That's Roger's home my wife said as we drove by. Roger is currently working on some projects with a friend and a nice chap he seems to be too.

He's done some rather decent carpentry work in our friend's very normal house on land, though his home is somewhat different, anchored in Bow Channel.

There is a website as you might imagine, in which the artful Roger explains how to build your own home for use on water or land.

It is rather tempting some days, isn't it, to tune in and drop out. Better that than sitting around waiting for Greece to demolish civilization as we know it.

I couldn't help but notice the comparisons between the very clever and useful Earth Ball and the slightly ridiculous floating "iceberg" used for entertainment at the campground.

I'm not sure I'd be ready to circumnavigate in a ball like this but I can only imagine what a Bahamas cruise might be like floating down the Exumas in a simple, light, inexpensive craft like this. Oh dear, dreams are dangerous.

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Big Pine Sky

Walking Cheyenne, she with head down sniffing, me with head up looking, I saw an astonishing sky overhead.

I can see rainy season ending soon and all these clouds will soon be swept away by the cold dry air of winter.

Cold is a relative term around here but I have seen temperatures hovering, briefly around 40 degrees in deepest winter.

Summer heat and humidity pile up the clouds, thunder is a constant companion, rain is localized.

I wondered if we might not get brained on but the threat passed.

I don't think Cheyenne even notices thunder very much at all.

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Washington And William

A trailer nearly submerged by bougainvillea; is that the Key West take on entropy?

Cheyenne causes a certain wariness in wild animals, but it generally doesn't take them long to figure out she likes her prey dead, and preferably processed.

I saw this cactus on the terrace at the back of El Patio Motel and suddenly I conceived a desire to stay there. Which is silly because I live 28 miles away.

Sign painting in Key West and Monroe County is an art form unto itself. Street names are misspelled - Galvaston Poincianna and Carsten or Carstens are my current favorites. However the use of upside letter stencils drives me crazy.

I must be way too compulsive because I'm sure no one notices or cares like I do. A backwards N? No problem! Sometimes I am a pill. How does my wife put up with me?

The front of El Patio was looking a bit waterlogged as was much of the city the other day.

Woolwich Arsenal Football Club. I haven't seen that name in a while. They called them Arsenal because the original team was drawn, a century ago from workers at the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich (pronounced: wool-itch, appropriately enough). What it's doing in Key West one dreads to imagine.

Above we see a silent cyclist getting in the way. Below we see the object of picture, one more welcoming pineapple.

Here's a sign we like to believe.

These days 'pending' seems more hopeful than promising what with no credit, no banks, no loans and nothing much in the pipeline. And then they tell us to act surprised when we are informed we are back in a recession. No duh.

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Impromptu Boating

Cheyenne got to stay over at the boys' palazzo with the Vizlas, dogs that have cushions named after them, unlike my animal who has nothing named after her, not even a blog.

We adults piled picnic supplies into the cramped confines of the 21 footer and took off, with not a care in the world.

It was crisp and bright out on the water with a light southwest breeze blowing the humidity away. It was lovely.

Wayne was busy working on his tan at thirty miles per hour,

... while I was nattily attired as usual for an afternoon out on the water. I really need to pull out the brand new Crocs Amanda kindly sent me from the Virgin Islands. I am hoarding them.

I missed Cheyenne who was definitely not out with us in her accustomed place:

Captain Crabmore (aka Chuck) hardly needed the mapping GPS but he is nothing if not cautious. Water is quite thin in these parts.

Out we went down Sugarloaf Creek, previously explored in this blog a couple of days ago.

And we found the waters of the Straits of Florida were just rather too rough for swimming. It wasn't tempestuous or anything dramatic, but the fresh southwest breeze that was blowing away humidity and cobwebs was also whipping up uncomfortable waves in the open water, so we retreated.

It was tough but we coped in the protected waters behind the mangrove islands. Wayne started getting plaintive about needing food so we interrupted the swimming and bullshitting session and my wife retrieved her hard fought fried chicken.

It was actually Dion's fried chicken from Summerland Key but we forgot to stop to buy it on our drive over from our house to the boys's place so she had to turn around and go back the ten miles to pick it up, so it really was hard fought. And it tasted good according to Captain Crabmore:

He snuck my camera and took a picture of me having an unaccustomed good moment in the Florida Keys. It's not always like this, let me assure you.

But often it is.

Thunder rounded out the afternoon but then rain stayed away. Our abbreviated program was a good time, an excellent time for the boys who had never previously bothered to just stop and swim and ignore the call of a planned destination. Which times are best I find, the impromptu ones, though Cheyenne does like to share them.

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Change Can Be Good

Carolyn Fuller's house on Angela Street at the cemetery has undergone a minor cosmetic change for a major improvement in appearance.

The late artist was a curmudgeon of the highest order and
lived a reclusive life that anyone with my disposition would seek to emulate, but was cursed with an attractive home in a popular area and had to suffer the attentions of far too many tourists passing by. Yet she never did install a fence around her well known home preferring instead the bottle wall that subsequently suffered so much damage she changed it into a mirrored wall, which remains.

A new fence was installed after her death to gain some privacy though in my world a fence six feet tall would be preferable. It was a bright yellow garish thing which has been stained in some way and from being an eyesore it is now a rather nice addition to the home. How odd it is that Fuller's home has captured so much of the public imagination and interest in this town. I hope she is enjoying true retirement in whatever other world there may or may not be.

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Static Bonneville

It would seem obvious that after four years and 54,000 miles it is time for a change.

In a society where newer better faster is the mantra and where we are encouraged to keep buying to improve the economy, I find myself entirely content with my Bonneville.

I have found the 2007 Triumph to be the ideal ride for me, powerful enough to deal with slow distracted drivers, comfortable in stock trim for prolonged rides and reliable enough that I would recommend it without a second thought to anyone seeking a daily rider.

Flatistan is not the ideal countryside for motorcycling, it's true, but the climate is as close to perfect as it gets, so that makes it easy to get on at the least excuse to go for a ride.

In and around Key West two wheels make more sense than three or four, and a motorcycle agile enough to maneuver through congested streets (no lane splitting allowed in this retarded state) light enough to be easy to push and park while still being economical enough to compete with scooters when one considers the utility of a full sized motorcycle, is what makes the Bonneville an ideal ride.

I like the look of the new Triumph Tiger 800 and the new Suzuki 650 V-Strom both with tons of luggage options and other accessories to add, more horsepower and modern water-cooled fuel injected engines, but neither with enough of any reason to replace my perfect Bonneville. Besides we are in a Depression. Who needs more debt?

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Cemetery Walk

With the USS Spruance dominating Key West these days it's hard not to spare a thought for the Maine destroyed by explosion more than a century ago in Havana harbor.

Key West was the location of the investigation into the explosion, wounded sailors were treated here and the dead were buried as shown above. They never did figure out for sure why the Maine blew up in 1898 but the best guess is the coal got wet producing explosive gases in the bunkers, and the resultant bang became the rallying cry of the Spanish American War.

Key West's cemetery is an astonishing repository for history in this town, yet many visitors, terrified of Death and unable to see past the ghoulish stereotypes ignore the cemetery's treasures.

I always find pleasure in wandering here with no greater goal than to see some beauty and to reflect for a moment on the transient nature of life. It does me good.

The other thing I like about the cemetery is how much this place means to survivors. In Italy where I grew up the cemetery was a place of pilgrimage on All Souls Day, similar to the famous Mexican holiday if less lurid. In Key West it seems every day is All Souls Day for some of the graves.

Take the time to read this headstone and understand a little of what I mean about history filling the graveyard.

These three tombs gave me pause.

Roger Ek Senior, born in 1926 and fought in World War Two. Junior meanwhile was born in 1947 and served in Vietnam. He preceded his father in death, and there through it all was the "loving wife and mother," now all laid out side by side.

There are lots of stories here.

And not just well known ones.

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USS Spruance

A brand new Navy ship has sailed in to Key West amid much fanfare. In the arcane language of Navy numbering the guided missile destroyer is labeled DDG 111.

I spent a confused twenty minutes trying to unravel the druidical mysteries of the Navy numbering system in Wikipedia and all I did find was that the first two letters are repeated as though to give the class emphasis.

Thus DD is a destroyer and G presumably because it is armed with guided missiles. And this one point two billion dollar machine is come to Key West to celebrate it's birth, or 'commissioning.'

Saturday evening I and four thousand of my closest strangers will be gathered somewhere on the Navy Pier while they go through the ritual and pomp of the start of the new ship's career. In so much of daily life I find people mix up routine and ritual in the order of their day. A ritual is more than the routine of making coffee first thing, a ritual is following a script and imbuing an occasion with importance.

Key West is all atwitter with the ritual of commissioning and on a weekend when the city mercifully has no public money-making activity scheduled the commissioning will make a pleasant ritualistic variation. The community will pause and contemplate en masse, before getting back to the important business of business.

The ship is named for a man who has been described as one of the greatest Admirals in American naval history. His name was not DDG111, but Raymond Spruance, born in Baltimore in 1886 and dying in California in 1969. He commanded the US side in the Battle of Midway in June 1942. He beat the superior Japanese forces and was roundly criticized for not chasing their Navy after the battle, though historians studying the tactics came to agree with Spruance's thoughtful prudence.

Those days seem far away when one considers how huge were the battleships and cruisers of the time and how lithe is this modest little destroyer that packs a disproportionate missile punch.

The Outer Mole is now home, temporarily to the Navy's newest ship yet the inner basin is still home to yesterdays heroes, coastguard cutters of another era now relegated to museum status tied up at the former Navy waterfront.

The little gray Mohawk served in World War Two escorting Atlantic convoys.

The white Ingham cutter newer and bigger is still miles behind the Spruance in size and sophistication.

They've got the bunting ready for Saturday and then who knows what they will do with this miracle of modern technology.

Out on patrol no doubt. We hear Cuba is preparing to drill for oil in the Straits of Florida using a Spanish company and amazingly enough the embargo is still uppermost in the minds of the maniacs who write policy for this country. So instead of talking to Cuba and preparing to deal with a spill the US Congress is proposing legislation to penalize any oil company doing business with Cuba. The Monroe Doctrine in 21st century guise.

We look back and the world appears to have been a simpler place. It's not true of course but we admire the modest little ships of yesteryear and what conclusions are we supposed to draw? That ships like these that ruled the waves could only have ruled waves more easily dominated than the seas of today.

The miracle perhaps is that they chose to commission the ship in Key West thus giving us cause to celebrate this new symbol of old power in a rapidly changing world.

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