Friday, September 2, 2011

Energy Independence

I saw this magnificent Jeep for sale in Key West, untrammeled by dirt but covered in all sorts of specialized equipment to dig oneself out of the Sahara desert were it covering the wheel arches. With a local phone number and an asking price of $35,000 I staggered away wondering why cars don't excite me.

A colleague of mine drives such a machine and tells me it struggles to get ten miles to the gallon and she lives well outside the city limits so driving is part of her daily life. I get annoyed I can't get more than 43 miles per gallon out of my Bonneville at Keys speeds.

I heard a discussion on NPR recently discussing gas fracking in the North East. The suggestion by the industry flack was that poisoning the aquifer to get the gas would help make the US independent of foreign energy. The odd thing about that suggestion is that no one in power would ever support nationalizing the energy industry, and without state control energy independence isn't possible.

As long as oil and gas produced in the US is sold on the open market it will go to the highest bidder and that means anyone with the cash to bid can buy 'our' energy, even the wealthy Chinese. Imagine that. So even if we all drove high mileage cars and motorcycles energy independence is just a lie put about to fool the people into surrendering their environmental heritage. God bless globalization!

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Key West Life

We've seen the rentals promising Heaven on Earth in a Conch Cottage, 'live like a local' they entice the reader, 'sit on your porch and drink to the sunset' they suggest. You've read the brochures and dreamed the dream. I've read the brochures and wondered who is fooling whom.

Living like a local involves a few more compromises than sitting on the porch and toasting the sunset. It's not exactly blood sweat and tears but for most people who start a new life in the Southernmost City there are some realities to face.

The daily chores don't go away but they increase in volume when it takes three jobs to maintain the dreamer's life. On Labor Day, that most North American response to May Day, one might be inclined to give thanks for work, especially if one reads the shadow stats website which puts true current unemployment and under-employment around 23% well above the official numbers.

People ask me what it takes to move to Key West, as though I have particular insight, while I have none in particular my standard answer is one I've not heard given before. I advise the dreamer that it is wise to surrender all ambition. The good jobs are taken, and by 'good' in this context I mean the prestige jobs that confer privilege. If the idea is to move to Key West and upset the order of things the dreamer will be quite surprised. Key West does quite nicely thank you by not upsetting the apple cart.

The thing about Key West is that the cost of living is high and wages aren't which makes it tricky living for dreamers without private funds. Dreamers who come to town and expect to live as though on vacation had better have plenty of funds to so do. Those with a private income can drink and whore at will and dabble and enjoy the freedom conferred by money. Many do. Some come to town to be artists in a congenial environment and many thrive. For a lot of run of the mill dreamers life in Key West is an endless search for enough jobs to make ends meet. Porch sitting doesn't come in to it. Most of us work and go home to sleep and are happy enough that it never snows.

Labor Day is an ironic holiday when even official statistics admit one in ten workers is without a living. We reward bankers for shuffling money and excoriate the victims of their greed who see their unemployment charity (paid from their former wages) running out. We in the Keys are luckier than most. But we in the Keys cling precariously to the bottom rung of labor's ladder. Wen we lose our grip we leave and head north back to the bosom of our formerly unwanted families.

I am working Labor Day weekend and consider myself lucky to have but one job, and a job that I enjoy. I hope some economic miracle comes our way in the next year that things might improve for those that need it. It doesn't look likely as we seem mired in a world of economic unreality that makes Key West a shining jewel of serenity in a world gone broke. That should be good fortune enough for any dreamer.

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August Heat

Can you believe it's September already? Where did summer go? It really is true, as one ages time passes faster and faster, we are all galloping toward the bourn from which no traveler returns...

On that cheerful note consider how summer never ends in Key West and how September, that month of mellow fruitfulness Up North is simply an extension of summer here. Leaves don't change color, fields don't go fallow and frost will never descend to put a sparkle on the ground. This is Key West and whether or not it's Labor Day, heat and humidity shall follow us all the days of the month.

September is traditionally the quietest month of the year, when families are back in school, parents are back at work and even Europeans try to get serious and put in some quality time at the office before the Christmas Holidays. It's also way too soon in the cold season for people Up North to get antsy and start thinking about a vacation in the sub tropics. So Key West becomes a dead zone, brought back to life by the gaudy excesses of Fantasy Fest, which merchants applaud and many of us dread.

The heat of August persists into September in a way that annoys and catches by surprise newcomers to these islands. It is ingrained in temperate people to expect a change of weather, a cooling breeze with shorter days in September. Key West doesn't oblige those expectations with a little outdoor air conditioning.

If you want to park wherever you feel like, this is the time of year to be in town. If you want to find room at the bar in Captain Tony's you might consider braving the heat. Mind you, I think a lot of people prefer the crush and noise of a packed drinking hole.

September is also the peak of hurricane season, an irony that has not escaped me, considering how badly New England was ravaged by Irene last month and looks set for another dust up with the latest depression heading their way. Soon enough we'll have our first feeble cold front of the Fall, sometime in mid October, and then the second stronger front will come to town and the heat will retreat just a little, the awful snowbirds will start thinking about coming back and reminding us how important they are to the local economy and we'll have to go back to remembering how to tug our forelocks obediently when they tell us how it's done Up North.

By then the heat of August, even in September, will be forgotten and we'll be grubbing around looking for long lost sweatshirts and wondering why sixty degrees feels so cold. This weekend is the Labor Day holiday, the warning of cold dark weather to come. Except in Key West where summer is forever. Just the way I like it.

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All Shuttered Up

In between taking other pictures downtown it occurred to me Key West is home to a great many designs in the world of shutters. These on the 400 block of Duval are classic Bahama shutters.

As it happens so are these in the picture below. I think they look good but I'm told by those that have used them they tend to rattle in strong winds. I'm not sure I'd like the feeling of being permanently closed in by them.

These are the kind of old fashioned shutters I grew up with in Italy. Though we didn't have a bar to put across them to keep hurricanes out when we were away.

I like these shutters because on sunny days they throw a interesting pattern of light across the walls and floors when they are partially opened.

These next shutters aren't shutters at all but louvers I noticed high up on a wall on Telegraph Lane off Greene Street.

These seen on Ann Street are the proper kinds of shutters used to repel hurricanes, made of aluminum and bolted to frames set in the wall.

In modern America you'll see developments with vestigial shutters glued to the walls on either side of the window as a reminder I suppose of the past. In Key West shutters are useful and used.

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