Monday, May 30, 2011

Cemetery Trees

Standing in the shade on Frances Street, waiting for Cheyenne to catch her breath in summer heat I was contemplating the trees dominating the cemetery skyline. It's been hard lately for me living in a state that seems hell bent on devouring itself. Our Governor, one of the most successful corporate crooks in history, is determined to sell out what is left of the Sunshine State to his former cronies in a breathtaking sweep under the carpet of social mores and middle class rectitude. He hasn't created one single job, indeed has driven out the proposed rail jobs offered by the Feds. He has announced a privatization campaign that will funnel public funds to private stockholders across the board and the modestly unbalanced budget is to be set right on the backs of the poor not the rich. God forbid. So I take solace in the shiny fronds of the palms towering over the dead. The sun still shines in the sunshine state and I am snug in the Southernmost City so i suppose it is esoteric in this selfish age to worry for my less fortunate citizens. If they can't afford the lifestyle let them find another! I've got mine and my wife has hers and that's all that matters.Eventually things will change and from change comes improvement, eventually. One could argue that without World War Two industrial drive such as that seen in post war Germany would never have been possible, but consider the cataclysm that the people went through to get to their modern unionized manufacturing prosperity...And I ask myself how it is that Germany manufactures, pays high wages and provides an ample social safety net - and work even for Turkish migrants!- and we in the US languish with our best paid jobs sent overseas.The latest proposals to wreck Medicare and Social Security while cutting taxes on the very wealthy all the way down to 25% top rate seems like such a blatant attack on the middle class one wonders how it's authors can survive a public lynching. Instead, in the process of breaking every promise made to the middle class we see our people rolling over and leaving it to the protesters in Syria and Spain and Sendai to do the heavy lifting for us. I am told I should bargain with Medical providers when the Federal government gives me medical vouchers to tend to my old age medical needs. I wonder how exactly those negotiations will go. They certainly don't go well now when we face absurd medical bills and the promise of an ever worsening situation.And like I say we are the lucky ones, to some modest degree. Child free, employed and with medical benefits we sit in the sun and watch the glare on the palm fronds and the ripples on the ocean and read how it seems Michigan's Upper Peninsula is too remote and under populated to be worth spending any money on. The rich don't need da U.P. so the Peninsula can go hang. As long as there are palms and sunshine and fish in the ocean ready to be caught and killed they won't let us go the way of the U.P. They will need us to tend to their safe back yard tropical playground. Therefore we thank the palms for looking so good.

Wong Song Alley

The first time I got a call for service from a resident of Wong Song Alley at first I thought she was joking about her address. She sighed, "People never believe me when I give them my address." Convinced of her authenticity I then had a terrible struggle trying to figure out where she actually lived.In cases like those I take time in my lunch break or the next time I'm downtown to check out the location so I know the layout in my mind for next time. There's always a next time, except there never has been for Wong Song Alley.Wong Song Alley: I have no idea where he name came from, except it sounds like something out of The Mikado or South Pacific, depending on your musical tastes.Instead Wong Song Alley is just another leafy lane off the south side of Truman Avenue half way between Simonton and White Streets.The street sign is irresistible to thieves and souvenir hunters apparently because it is rarely in situ. But when you have found it you will know the place for it's magnificent stone wall located half way into the alley.The alley is rather delightfully filled with leaves dead and living, and colorful flowers whose name, as usual, escapes me.And across from the endless rows of apartment houses we have's head? Very Cosa Nostra I'm sure. Lacking any other sign to confirm our location Cheyenne, hunting for shade, found this:And emerging on Virginia Street Wong Song Alley looks like this: Also unmarked and mysterious from this end. Look for it across from the Mini Storage building on Virginia Street.

Minimal Regatta Loungers

Schooner Wharf's Minimal Regatta is a load of boating action that takes place on the water but in back of the bar and away from the scene there is the limbering up area.
You might think this is just a bunch of people drinking but what they are actually doing is putting the finishing touches to their weirdly ill assorted craft. The boats are made of a wish and a prayer and get points for being unseaworthy or fast as the designer chooses.As a result there is a line of would be contestants sitting around dealing with butterflies in their stomachs as they wait for their number to be called. It's a well know fact that the best way to kill off butterflies in your stomach is to drown them in either Captain Morgan's or Corona so that is what is really happening behind the Schooner Wharf Bar. Some vessels look decidedly unseaworthy. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility to meet a contestant known to you. Donnie fixes my car on Big Pine when he's not risking life and limb by drowning in Key West Bight. A couple of years ago I caught his business partner Dave in action in the regatta in this essay: and sure enough Dave was back out for more punishment:
Drowning the butterflies before the main event. He's off to a new married life in Indiana in a few weeks. As Donnie put it this was his "last hurrah." Which, sometimes is life in Key West.

Minimal Regatta 2011

The Coasties were on hand, always ready to help out any boaters in this absurd race who might have bitten off more than they could chew.However they also had their own dog in this hunt, a spectacularly powerful and determined paddler flying the Semper Paratus flag to victory in the first heat.His boat was properly built and properly equipped with an anchor on the bow, ready to be deployed! The Minimal Regatta is in it's 20th year as a Veterans fund raiser on Memorial Day weekend. the rules are pretty simple: build you own boat from the same identical inadequate supplies, plywood, two by fours, duct tape and some screws... This was boat racing taken seriously. There are huge crowds traditionally at this event, ostensibly to watch people show up in silly costumes with silly boats and proceed to sink them. In reality it's an excuse to hang out and talk and drink.Schooner Wharf Bar hosts the fun event and supervises the entries. Results are reported in the paper, as all top flight sporting events should be. But the Minimal Regatta is a place to see and be seen.The crowds are thick and the heat is oppressive for some, in others it just brings out their peaches and cream complexion. For Cheyenne it was oppressive and she ducked between legs to find a shady spot away from the action.
Like so many charity fundraisers in Key West this one is a chance to find a really silly costume and pose for the camera. I had left my hard hat at home and was thus obliged to keep my distance.
Cheyenne did her bit for the camera attracting some healthy interest.

I found an available corner at the Shrimp Sound building overlooking the melee. The dock in front of Schooner Wharf was like hot sticky pudding, filled with sweaty bodies rubbing off each other and the air was like custard and just as hard to breathe.
There were actually plenty of free seats with decent views of the boating if you looked for them because the commentary of Evalena Worthington and the DJ Hoebee was broadcast far and wide across the waters...The pleasure of the racing and the sinkings will be paid for later by some incautious souls. And whenever I wonder why people discriminate against big dogs I see a pooch in a crate on the back of a scooter or in someone's arms...And don't let's forget the pirates keeping an eye on things.I just stood there in the sun pondering the slow start watching people rushing hither and yon on Lazy Way Lane looking for the best spot to watch or perhaps to meet a friend or perhaps, as I was thinking of, to go home.There was a lady passing through the crowd selling poppies for Memorial Day, a reminder of the purpose of the event.And the first boats got going to much acclaim.One sank, one didn't......and it was time to go home and get some rest before the all too imminent start of a holiday night shift for me.

Memorial Day Signs

The old Buy One Get One (Free) was a concept whose time came at a fortuitous moment in my Key West life when the idea of a sandwich for $8 followed by a second sandwich for no more money seemed like a lifesaver. Or a pasta dish with a second dish included for $13 made choosing dinner simple. Abundance worked at a time when time was short and money only a little longer. Memorial Day meant income for tourist related business and it's employees (or contract workers as the scam had it). Now the Truman Avenue hole in the wall is called Wingmasters but still and yet the ugly change of management sign refers back to the halcyon abundance of BOGO. The generosity of Buy One Get One is burned in my memory as the super abundance of a time before the sky rocketing of world food prices.
Cheyenne and I slunk past the sign on Olivia Street. "She's mine" I wanted to announce to any passer by who was not even listening, "I have her vaccination papers in my wallet." I hope Farley is happy wherever he is. I know whoever owned him isn't.Memorial Day and one's thoughts turn to hot dogs and summer fun when actually we should be thinking about some other more grounded stuff. It has always struck me as odd, coming from a world where Armistice Day was celebrated in the cold and leafless dreariness of a fast approaching winter, to mark death with the advent of summer. I have had my own unworthy thought: It's big paycheck time tonight as I'm working on an official holiday, and frankly I've earned it considering how much trouble the drunken celebration of summer has had me paying attention night after night in police dispatch this holiday weekend. And finally on the subject of death and resurrection a light note from Ace Summerland Hardware, the best ironmongers in the Lower Keys at Mile Marker 25:What possesses them to make passers by laugh I'm not sure but they are a cheerful helpful lot inside. I have a sneaking suspicion they will be open today to lend a helping hand. Some of us have to work.