Saturday, April 9, 2011

Key West Evening

I was struck by the notion that Key west as a walking/cycling/scootering town might be hard to believe looking at the photograph below, snapped in front of the Green parrot Bar at a peak motoring moment.In many respects Key West is the city of paradox, heavily regulated, yet frequently lax in enforcement, a city filled with people who know each other far too intimately, yet leavened by hordes of total strangers who descend on the city every winter and who claim residence based on four months of fresh air seasonal life in the little city. I have no idea what tarot skin care is but I did like the bold unconventional approach to city signage: Across town the school district has sneakily built a new school more than twice the height permitted by city regulations. Judging by the furore you'd think they threw up the building overnight when no one was looking. City engineers checking the plan for safety failed to notice the projected building was 56 feet tall. The school district simpered disarmingly and said they thought they were exempt from city zoning regulations. The city manager shrugged and said, oh well, spilled milk and all that, moving on...The county accused a private group of bilking them in their contract to take care of stray animals in mid county. An audit tried to prove Stand Up For Animals used county money inappropriately. All it seemed to prove was that the woman who ran the organization is a rotten book keeper, but nothing worse. Speaking as one such myself (my wife won't let me near a check book) I sympathize with the accidentally mingling of private donations with public funds. A friend said SUFA was found guilty before the trail was even scheduled. The fact remains that dismissed in disgrace, a replacement agency for Stand Up For Animals at the same cost is proving hard to locate. And bidders are crying Foul! and Rigged! about the new bidding process. We are entering a new phase of Empire it seems, the part Edward Gibbon, writing about the Romans, called Decline and Fall. There is a belief among our leaders, eagerly adopted by their followers that the principle of something for nothing can continue to be adopted even after it was proved disastrously, to be untrue in 2008. We used to enjoy living on credit, nowadays we believe the debt can be paid off by cutting expenses, maintaining services at the same level even though fees are cut, and continuing to live well all the while. In Florida, where public indebtedness is a very small proportion of the state budget, 4 billion of 70 billion, the Governor is moving ahead with plans to cut programs he doesn't like while expanding unregulated giveaways of public monies to the private for profit sector as a way of "cutting expenses." It seems odd to me that private corporations that have to pay stock holders can do anything for less money than publicly operated agencies. Until one remembers that cutting wages and benefits is how they do it.Key West has weathered the financial storm quite well so far, but I wonder what the future will bring as we spiral down into an unequal world of lower wages, fewer benefits and even less paid vacations. You can't sustain a consumer economy on unemployment and wage cuts.I feel fortunate to have a good job in a great place to live and even though my wife faces major wage cuts we know how to live with less, having spent years enjoying living on a boat. many of our neighbors, even in the Keys, are far more rigid and I see signs of social stress all around me.My dog doesn't mind. I was at The Pines park on South Roosevelt enjoying the warmth and the glow of sunset over the Straits of Florida. Cheyenne, who is living retirement as it should be lived, was making new friends. That they had a roast chicken and a loaf of bread was purely coincidental to her interest in their well being.She was quite cheerful about the intruder, he less so, but it took me grabbing my pig in a fur coat by the collar and dragging her back to the car to separate her from her dreams of roast chicken. Stress for Cheyenne has a whole different meaning.