Monday, June 13, 2011

Gone Boating

My wife and I arrived in Key West on Valentine's Day 2000. We left San Francisco on our Gemini catamaran in August 1998 and when we arrived we had plans to move on. I had lived previously in Key West and ever since my first visit in 1981 I had determined I wanted to see more of the world before I could live on a small speck at the end of the road. That we settled in Key West and found a measure of happiness here was in spite of, rather than any plans we had made.When I stand on the beach and watch the kids run in and out in their dinghies all self sufficient and boaty I know they look right through me, the boring old fart standing on shore being a commuter drone on vacation with camera in hand, while they are living the life of high adventure at sea. Part of aging is role reversal. And sometimes friends who know our past ask if we miss sailing. Yes and No like so much else in life.We both agree that we are very glad we sailed San Francisco Bay and spent weekends with our dogs exploring the bay and the city for years, commuting weekends from our home in Santa Cruz. Those windy days on the water and unsupervised anchorages in odd corners of the bay taught us how to cruise much more than we ever realized until we were thousands of miles from home relying on our own anchors and our own intuition. We traveled with far fewer electronics than our neighbors but we never missed the radar and we always appreciated our instincts.The fact is that to every desire in life there is a season and perhaps my season for sailing isn't gone completely, and I have been casting envious thoughts of sailing the Exumas in the Bahamas. They are close to home, the waters are fantastic and you can sail off the anchor, cruise half a day in protected waters and anchor for a swim in the afternoon without ever turning the engine on. We did that nine years ago before we essentially quit sailing and turned to rebuilding our battered family economy. I think I'd like to do a Bahama charter before too much more of my life passes: rent a boat, sail, give it back and fly home. Too easy.

I spend a fair bit of time thinking how lucky I have been. We chose the right time to take off, the economy was booming and re-entry jobs were easy to find. We got work in Key west when reliable employees were much sought after and now that the economy has tanked we appreciate every day living in this funny little town doing what we enjoy and reliving from time to time the memories of adventures in places most people around us have never even heard of. It's the memories that will keep the youngsters going when they too have to move back ashore and do all the tedious things that need to be done to grow old gracefully and with no regrets.

Smathers Sunrise

Rachel relieved me a few minutes earlier than scheduled so I had a slight head start on the usual sunrise I see as I ride home. I went by Smathers Beach to see if at 6am there was anything to see.I took these pictures in P mode (Pro Automatic which allows for some light settings) on my pocket Canon SCX100. These two I took holding the camera, and I liked how they came out.
There were a few boats anchored south of Key West likely fishing boats resting and they looked terribly inviting, oases of human habitation far from the rest of us. For these next two pictures I set the camera to a 13 second exposure and put the Canon on the seawall. Usually I set a two second timer to allow the camera to settle and be still for the long exposure but this time it appeared to be unecessary. This one I used a ten second exposure because the sunrise seemed to be lighting up the sky more efficently.
This last one was hand held in P mode again. I could have dallied here and used shorter exposures to put more color into it but bed was calling and I hadn't seen my Labrador since 5pm the evening before. Night pictures take a lot longer than daytime pictures to shoot. Looking toward Stock Island at Dead Man's Curve.Regular readers know I don't generally talk much about my pictures and how I took them because I don't use fancy equipment and don't consider myself a photographer. I prefer to have my camera to hand and take what I get to tell a story. Very rarely I adjust contrast and crop the pictures in the Microsoft picture mode but these were as the camera took them. I figure my Diary is about what I see, not I would like to have seen so my pictures include the Keys warts and all and most of the warts are the aggravating power lines...

The point of this explication is two fold. One is I loved what I saw, as usual, on my way home, and I wanted to record it. Point two is you don't need a giant cannon of a camera to take pictures. Take heart, a pocket camera does way better than you might imagine. There are too many well written blogs with few or no pictures and to me pictures add immediacy and depth, and not everyone wants to read my words. I keep the resolution low on my blog so they are easy for me to upload but that also makes it fast for viewers to open the blog. My technique is to take lots of pictures discarding as I go so only the best are in the camera when I get home and I don't have to sift through a pile of useless pictures to know what I want to upload to my new post window. I am usually thinking of the story as I take the pictures though not always, sometime I take a picture of something that appeals viscerally and I find a story develops from the picture rather than the other way around.

I hate giving advice as it is rarely taken but if this helps anyone develop the nerve to take pictures and post them despite the self concious obstacles I would be delighted. From one rank amateur to another.


I am not a collector by Nature. Probably one of the largest collections I own is the essays and associated photographs in this blog, and i don't mind if anyone uses the pictures as long as they mention Key West Diary.I don't collect stamps, or the names of flora or fauna, I don't care to own piles of old magazines and a couple of times a year my wife and I troll through the house and have a clearance, armed with plastic bags and useless discard piles versus stuff we can drop off at the Salvation Army. I keep my books and stuff that i actually use, otherwise I struggle not to accumulate useless stuff. And even then stuff gets away from me and piles up in the corners of my life like snow drifts. So it is I observe how others collect and hoard. For me a car is a tool and I want something reliable, as fast as my wife will allow and inconspicuous. For my neighbors a car can be an object of decoration and I look on in amazement:I cannot imagine any circumstance that would have me parading around town in something as gaudy as this: I will willingly hop in my Ford Fusion, load the dog in the back and drive almost anywhere- to California (last year) to Mexico perhaps next year? But to be seen in a wildly decorated piece of art... that would be asking a lot. I saw this guy riding a Piaggio MP3, supposedly a safer way to scoot. I tried on in Miami a few years ago and it was very clever but it seems like an engineering solution to a problem that doesn't exist. I plan on having another go soon and seeing why people want top ride three wheels so much these days. Orin says it's because riders are getting older.
And here's another former vehicle masquerading as junque:And this may be a junker masquerading as a vehicle...

...which appeals to me a lot more because I fear I like spartan utility in my vehicles. That must be why my motorcycle has no name. Frothy the Bonneville. Ugh!Never let a day go by without a visual reminder that none of you critics take pictures of women, as much as you goad me. This is a study, #34578 as Bill Hess in Wasilla would say, of a young woman brightening up Schooner Wharf Bar.

Lazybonz Scrimshaw

Walking down Greene Street we spotted a man and a dog and a scooter, and a whole bunch of bones.He calls himself Lazybonz and he moved to Key west in 1980 when he went to work as a commercial fisherman.
Scrimshaw is the ancient sailors' art of carving designs on to bones, original whalers making long dreary passages across oceans to their fishing grounds used whales' bones for the job.Lazybonz uses the bills off swordfish for the longer pieces and beef bones as well. He says it's a fairly complex involved process to get a piece of bone carved. The bone has to be cured and it has to meet his standards because if the bone is too soft it acts like blotting paper and the ink runs and smudges. GarytheTourist led the questioning...Lazybonz says his design showing the islands of the Keys is very popular but he can Dremel and ink pretty much any design anyone wants but that takes time. Even his own name:And in color:This next one was my favorite, and I thought it would go well in our living room. I have yet to accost my wife with the idea:Lazybonz says he usually works around Hogfish Restaurant on Stock island and this was his second day in key West as an experiment. I was glad I spotted him.

Ambient Photography

I wonder how much I would pay were I to lose Cheyenne? Of all the scenarios simply losing a dog would be quite terrible. In fact when my wife and I were cruising Central America my worst fear was losing a dog overboard or ashore and freaking out wondering what had happened. The one time one of our dogs did fall overboard we were at anchor in a deserted cove in Costa Rica and Debs was sitting on the beach soaking wet when we woke up to find him off the boat. He was a husky who hated to swim, and he was watching the boat waiting for us to wake up and take him home. Which we promptly did and made an appalling fuss of him. Another time Emma our yellow Lab got fed up walking the baking hot streets of La Union in El Salvador and stepped onto a bus without our noticing. We retraced our steps at a run and there she was sitting next to the driver waiting for a lift. We hailed a cab and rode back to our dinghy in style; she had made her point.I don't miss living at anchor though sometimes I miss being away from civilization away from deadlines and obligations. But then I wouldn't get to walk my dog at the Bat Tower on Sugarloaf.And I wouldn't get to drift past the Salvation Army store on Flagler Avenue and ponder the ease of a life spent chatting on a sidewalk. I am not a man much capable of small talk. the weather bores me after a while, sports mean nothing to me, and where-are-you-from seems invasive. I'd rather have a drop down drag out debate about politics or religion but that just offends people raised in the milquetoast tradition of not causing offense. So I wonder how people sit around and talk about nothing all day.And they watch the world go by. Sometimes they have an interesting collection of CDs at the Sally Army. The city commission has managed to avoid taking action ion several issues of great moment. Previously I mentioned the parking changes recommended by the expert the city commission hired to organize parking, whose recommendations they subsequently ignored. The business of city employees using blowers was debated momentarily, in the paper and out and then the matter was hastily dropped.The plan was to test the possibility of banning city employees from using leaf blowers but the thin end of the wedge was quoted and a Bilderberg plan to outlaw all such machines was envisioned. It's hard to imagine a town that can't get whole heartedly behind recycling summoning the nerve to ban dust blowers outright but the fear was raised. Key West as Aspen seems an unlikely future. I watched from outside city limits and listened to the storm burbling in the tea cup. Key West: city of a 23,000 inhabitants and a million angry opinions. About everything which makes it even more puzzling to consider how much pointless weather related small talk goes on on the sidewalks.