Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Photography Outing

Noel wanted to take Rachel on a photography trip through the Lower Keys so they called on me to show them the way. Rachel's car has a camera all it's own, pointing backwards. This was the view of my driveway boxed in by the car camera. That piece of technology wigged me out right away.Exposure and light metering and all that stuff. The sky looked cloudy to me so I put my pocket camera on "cloudy" and wandered off behind my dog.
Rachel and Noel dispatch the day shift on the same days I work nights so our days off coincide but at the same time our ages don't so our interests intersect sporadically. Listening to the two young'uns discuss their days reminds me why I like working nights, with less traffic through our dispatch center, no senior police officers in the building and no administration my life is quiet and well off the beaten track. The youngsters enjoy the busy-ness of day shift. Cheyenne likes having me home during the day. She obliged the photographers by doing her usual plopping into the water to cool off act. My view of life in the Lower Keys is quite different from theirs. Rachel's family lives in town and she has the support of parents and siblings, family reunions and outings and all the trappings of a regular family life. Noel's family also lives scattered through the suburban islands and he too has the support network of an organized and close family. One sister-in-law works in dispatch and the other is a police officer. He doesn't think of himself as Conch as he was born on the mainland but in my book if you graduate Key West High School, that's what you are. From my own observation, having been educated in Europe, High School in the US is the defining culmination of one's social life as a teenager not simply the pinnacle of early education. Peoples' experiences in high school define their outlook on life when they become independent adults. I am astonished by the weight that popularity or lack of it carries among grown men and women, the power of anger expressed in school and carried into later life. To be born in Key West is no trick at all, but to graduate High School here will leave it's mark. Rachel was born in England, has an English mother and like me has a British passport. And she likes proper tea as well, but with her American accent she is frequently disbelieved, which is actually very funny because her off center upbringing has given her unusual insight into the way people work.We pondered the seaweed and talked of trips planned to the Land of the Mouse in Orlando. Noel is one of life's optimists, I loved working with him because not only is he capable he is also funny and cheerful. An unbeatable combination at two in the morning in dispatch when all hell is breaking loose on Duval Street.Rachel and I have worked together on and off over the years we have been in dispatch- she for ten and myself for just seven. She has sen me cry at the console and I have seen her do the same and we've disagreed and unusually for me she is more often a better judge of character than am I. When I have doubts I call her and ask her opinion and I can't remember an occasion when she was wrong about an issue or a person.My contribution to the outing was to scout locations. My preferred spots are dry and withered in the drought but they had never seen Key Colony Beach so we drove the streets of the funny little town in the middle of Marathon. They loved the cleanliness, tidiness and order and the manicured gardens and brightly colored flowers and huge imposing mansions and condo towers. "Just like the mianland..." they muttered in awe. All the reasons I prefer the chaos and confusion of the Lower Keys...

We had lunch at No Name Pub which high calorie intake knocked me flat on my back so they went on home to Key West to burn off a few more juvenile amps, abandoning the old man to his shady retreat and a nap at home.

Key Deer

"They look like a gang of toughs," Noel said as we say a crowd of deer approaching feloniously down the street.It was a bit of a Mexican stand off, us in the car unwilling to squash key deer before lunch, them lining the street and not letting us pass. Not that we were in a hurry. "Ooh, a baby deer," Noel squealed adjusting his angle in the driver's seat and pointing his telephoto at the fearless fawn.If this wasn't curiosity it was begging or damn close to it. Key Deer were nearly wiped out by the 1950s thanks to development and hunting but a group of wealthy snowbirds from Up North hired a ranger to preserve the deer in the back woods of Big Pine Key. Jack Watson did such a good job the deer are back and thriving.And, let's be honest not everyone is thrilled about it. Key deer are protected and in their search for nourishment they will eat any plant am improvident homeowner will leave out for them to graze. As a result there are some hard feelings about the free range deer.Naturalists say the deer emigrated to the keys eons ago and developed into the pint sized animals we see today. Critics dismiss them as small white tailed deer and think of them as little more than pests.When I have guests who want to see Key deer i take them out to the end of Watson Boulevard, named for Ranger Watson, and in the outer darkness of No Name Key there they are. Drought is an inconvenience for us humans but it can be quite deadly for the deer.

One has to wonder if this photo opportunity came not out of curiosity but simply hunger and hope for the deer. Feeding the deer is illegal and no doubt their critics are happy with that this year, the year of no rain, ever.

The Dogs Of Marvin Key

The birds on the sand bar are more likely to be frightened off by the sound of the boat arriving than the sight of a trio of domestic dogs setting tentative feet on the sand which was a short while earlier, underwater.To think Chuck and Wayne's Vizslas spent the first four years of their young lives sitting in cages breeding expensive puppies like cattle...

They had no idea how to be dogs a year ago. The boys trained them.
And when they tire of running back and forth and leaping like reindeer they lay down to rest on the sand and let themselves go completely. Cheyenne got into the spirit of Marvin Key and swam out to me mid current a couple of times, grabbing on to me with her massive claws and setting her hind legs down on my thighs, using me like a rock to catch her breath on before turning and heading back to shore. For a dog never trained in her first eight years to enjoy the water she is making progress. On our way home we passed a boat parked on a neighboring sand bar and i thought, oh look they have a dog enjoying the water too.Actually it wasn't a dog but just one more human passenger.

I doubt she slept as soundly, or as noisily as did Cheyenne by the time she got home.

Blue Hole Gator

The alligators in Big Pine's Blue Hole have survived tourist high season in fine fettle and appear to be getting bigger, as they should.Their predecessor survived many years in the former quarry before succumbing to the temptation posed by a child's dropped plastic toy which Bacardi swallowed and, unable to digest it, starved to death.They look fearsome these dinosaurs, but as usual they have much more to fear from we humans then we humans do from them. Which is not to say you will catch me swimming in the Blue Hole any time soon, but these creatures are freshwater swimmers and they are only found here. American crocodiles, said to be much less brash than alligators, are saltwater swimmers but they are found in Florida Bay and the surrounding islands, principally creeks around Key Largo.On the whole life as an alligator in the Blue Hole seems somewhat tedious to an observer like myself but perhaps viewed from the vantage point of the reptile it's not so bad, even if the range is somewhat limited and the company narrow in scope. There is but one other alligator in the pond... ...and if they should find themselves unable to get along they would have only fish......or turtles to pass the time of day.And in point of fact even though this freshwater pond is called the Blue Hole...
...the waters have only ever appeared to be green to my eyes.

Highway Vignettes

I was a passenger in the back seat, a rare occurrence for me, so I took advantage and poked my nose into the conversation going on in the front seats- who's sleeping with whom was the favored topic- and poked my camera lense out the window.I wondered if the motorcycle was a 30 year old Honda perhaps, and watching him as he flashed by I thought about how versatile a motorcycle is on the roadway. Illegal perhaps because I don't think photography rates ans an actual emergency to allow stopping on the Seven Mile Bridge...but anyway. He had stuff to look at.Every day there is something to see out on the water and in the flat calms of summer the tidal waters get a surreal calmness about them, they take on the smooth look of a billiard table.
Yesterday was overcast and the heavy sky promised long awaited rain, so the usual primary colors of the Florida Keys were muted for a change.Seeing this young man trundling hopelessly too much luggage along the shoulder we wondered if he had given any forethought to his move to Key West.Then we saw the guitar on the second cyclist's back. Aha! Key West, paradise at the end of the road of dreams. Something like that!
I hope they find what they are looking for- without breaking too many city ordinances.