Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Monroe County versus The Navy

Every now and again the Navy issues a report called AICUZ which impossible acronym stands for Air Installation Compatible Use Zone. In a town reduced to one bookstore, Island Books, I fear this tool we call the Internet is impeding our ability to reason by way of eliminating thoughtfully printed word. AICUZ is an example of my fears becoming real as our leaders react and don't pause to think.

The Navy issues a map from time to time, perhaps every ten years, outlining areas where they expect their jets to fly over local communities. The idea is that local communities take these flights paths into account and limit development accordingly. It is such a transparent, simple system that you'd think it's would be quite hard to mess it up.

The funny part is that this simple system is nothing but a cause for controversy in Monroe County. Boca Chica Naval Air Station has been where it is forever and they have been flying and training flyers there since Methuselah was a busboy in the officers' mess and yet some few people who live around the base complain about the noise. I chose not to live between mile Marker Four and Mile Marker 15 exactly because I don't like jet noise. They do their thing over the Lower Keys and I sleep my days away at Mile Marker 27. Smart, no?

Thus when people buy existing homes without doing their due diligence and they miss the implications of the widely publicized AICUZ, blame is easy to apportion. Supporters of the Navy abound and claim they don't mind jet noise. Good for them.

What gets my goat though is when our local elected officials argue with the Navy demanding permission to allow development inside the AICUZ. A recent newspaper headline sounded the alarm "County, Navy debate flight zones." Huh?

Shuffling through the newspaper article it seems the county is afraid to adopt the Navy guidelines because they may change in the future, no really, and because if land is rated as not suitable for development there will be lawsuits from dipshits who wanted to speculate on land parked in jet flight paths. Imagine the lawsuits that would be generated if a jet failed and crashed into a home built under the flight path....

The county will be meeting and talking and negotiating this month and I ask myself whether anyone notices the benefits of thousands of Navy salaries in our community. Yes I know they are just more government workers like me, not producing widgets and thus not appreciated by the Tea Party members in our community. This is a government program and of course our leaders are brainwashing us into hating government programs but for the rest of us rational thinkers does anyone think building a house under a jet flight path makes sense? Why is this even being debated?

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New Style Hurricane Shutters

I like proper hurricane shutters like these pictured below. These are bog standard, aluminum sliders that fit into a frame screwed into the wall above and below the window.

The aluminum sheet slides into place and is normally secured by wing nuts so that you can tighten them by hand. The aluminum shutters should be strong enough to get you a break on your hurricane insurance policy too, but they have a major drawback. What if your window is hard to get to?

My little house is surrounded by a comfortable deck so I can get my aluminum shutters in place in less than an hour with no ladders and very little in the way of balancing acts. For inaccessible windows these modern locking sliding shutters are excellent.

They live in place outside the window and when needed they can be slid across to cover the glass and keep flying coconuts out of your house. You can see the sliders for traditional aluminum shutters in the photo below:

Before a hurricane hits lazy reporters will usually head to the hardware store to get their cheap and easy stories of storm preparations. That's because those without the money or foresight to buy stronger purpose built shutters will make do with plywood drilled into the walls. It works.

Some places use nothing at all. I have come home after a storm and found little pieces of grass blown under the shutters and wedged against the glass as though some giant lawnmower had flung grass clippings against my house at two hundred miles an hour.

There is a lot of power in the winds of a hurricane, not least because hurricanes spawn tornadoes in their midst. Flying debris is a real problem when the winds start howling and when I'm stuck at work I like to know I've done what I can for my home.

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The thing about your annual vacation is that it has to sustain you for the rest of your working year. So it had better be good. Happily mine was very good this year.

My wife and I drove Giovanni's magnificent BMW car across Umbria to buy some wine to take home to the Keys. Reds from Montefalco (Falcon Mountain) are some of the better known wines from Umbria which is overshadowed in world renowned wines by neighboring Tuscany. Actually Tuscany outshines Umbria in most tourist categories which is fine by me.

Sagrantino, the staple in this area, is a thick strong red with lots of alcohol as a result we prefer simpler, lighter Montefalco Red (Rosso di Montefalco) and at four Euros a bottle ($6) it's ridiculously cheap. Yeah! Finally something cheap in Italy!

With a few potable souvenirs in the trunk we had to look for lunch and we decided to move further afield and see something new. Giovanni said not to miss nearby Bevagna so that was where we went.

These are real towns lived in by real people some of whom prefer not to use expensive paper towels in their kitchens. Very picturesque.

It looked like performance art but he was just shading himself from the noonday sun while he worked.

The first restaurant we came across had a menu posted outside in English which surprised us as this didn't seem like a huge tourist trap of a town, but it also put us off. I don't want to eat where they cater to visitors, so we kept walking. Inside the walls visiting car traffic is banned as in so many towns so we parked outside and took to our feet. Eventually we found our lunch spot.

The Bar delle Mura did us proud.

Faced with giant portions we shared antipasto, pasta and dessert. And we ate indoors as there was no view outside while it was considerably cooler inside away from the sun.

Pasta with mushrooms and truffles, staples of Umbrian cuisine, which is meat and fungus based.

In the old days of my childhood, dessert was always fresh fruit but in keeping with expanding waistlines world wide, dessert these days is on every menu. We selected Tiramisu (pull me up) which I have only ever considered to be an Italian-American dish.

Time to walk it all off. Bevagna really was pretty and I guess the only reason I had never visited this town was because as usual when you live some place you never take the time to play the tourist.

That is really the reason I started my blog, to learn to take the time to notice and enjoy where I live.

This blog also helps me store my vacation memories. This really is my diary.

Look up high if you need to see road signs. 'Parking' and 'All Directions' are what the signs say. We kept walking.

And after a while we arrived back where we started.

Outside the walls we saw my wife's favorite flowers.

And other people working while we vacationed.

It was a lovely day.

Happy memories for a long sunny winter at home.

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Old Style Hurricane Shutters

"What do you when there's a hurricane?" is a question frequently posed to residents of these sceptered isles. One wants to be a smart ass and say we bend over and kiss our ass goodbye. What we actually do is make our preparations. Some people like to lay in a large stock of beer and call that all the preparation they need, while others take a lot of time and thought to protect their homes.

Which brings us to hurricane shutters, even though Tropical Storm Emily is scheduled to veer off into the Atlantic pretty soon, the arrival of a named storm in the Eastern Caribbean did get my attention and caused me to review my own schedule of preparations. Older Florida homes have built-in shutters that cover windows with no effort at all, seen half deployed above and totally removed below.

The shutters offer shade and rain protection allowing the home owner to keep windows open all summer long which is when rains threaten. Modern inexpensive air conditioning changed those habits for many of us but who knows what our post Peak Oil future will bring, and perhaps these energy savers will see a revival.

The old shutters are quite picturesque and I guess they work okay though I haven't lived in a house with louvered windows and old style shutters since I first stayed in Florida in the early 1980's and I wasn't paying much attention to those details back then.

There are lots of hardy Floridians who don't use air conditioning. I like a cool dry home and dread the day air becomes too expensive to use at will. Ten I too will keep my louvered windows open in summer. Mine are of a more modern air tight design when closed, but they work the same way as these shown below, when opened.

And before we forget there are the Bahama shutters which I think look really cool. However a friend of mine who has them says they are noisy when it's windy and they provide not much protection. I still think they look good.

From the sublime to the effective: proper aluminum shutters about which....

...more later.

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Fifth Street

It's called Fifth Street by most people but on the map it's called Macmillan.

It's not the only street in this city that has a real name and a fake name, 14th and Glynn Archer comes to mind as well. Cheyenne appears indifferent to the naming problem as long as there is some unaccountably nasty thing lurking at the root of a nearby tree to absorb her interest.

Ah yes 'a fresh approach' it's what we all want isn't it. And a candidate embracing his avoirdupois sounds like a down to earth character. Nicknames are a big part of Key West life, especially among Conchs. I don't vote in the city so unraveling the fresh approach from the stale,is one problem I don't have to deal with this time.

Fifth was renamed Macmillan in honor of the British Prime Minister's visit in 1961 just before the Bay of Pigs fiasco. He came with President Kennedy and they gave Harold Macmillan a street name, of course Kennedy got one too. In Britain he was known as Supermac, as they use nicknames there too, and is best known for his pronouncement that Britons had 'never had it so good' under his tenure as leader. In retrospect he was probably right.

Fifth is home to at least a couple of Key West's many churches. There is the more modest Seventh Day Adventist place...

...while further up the Fifth Street Baptist Church rises up in Southern Steepled Splendor. I suppose it should be renamed Macmillan Avenue Baptist Church but that would ring odd in Key West.

Fifth is actually a main connector between North Roosevelt where it is marked by the Yamaha motorcycle shop...

...and at Flagler Avenue by the traffic light.

For some reason Fifth Street always seems wider to me and more avenue-like than it actually is. Perhaps I just sense the ghost of Supermac hovering over his southernmost street.

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