Thursday, September 15, 2011

Marine Portaloo

I was standing on the beach contemplating my navel as it were when the squared off shape of the city's marine pump out boat hove into view. I know the pump out boat because I used to use it when I lived on my boat in Sunset Marina. It will visit any boat in a marina, at anchor or the city mooring field, for a one time visit or on a regular schedule and empty out the boat's toilet waste tank.


I seem to recall it was about ten dollars a go, so for a boat at anchor to be legal and not pollute forty bucks a month would be a small price to pay to do the right thing. Furthermore the pump out boat can come by and empty the boat's holding tank even when the owner is away. How simple and sensible. Everyone should use it.

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Vroom Vroom

Oh dear yes, as predicted, they are coming. And my nerves are also predictably shattering, for I am not of them.


I find the etiquette of bike week very difficult to manage. Even though my motorcycle with all it's luggage impedimenta looks as though it has arrived from far away, I am in fact commuting from Mile Marker 27 when I get caught in the ebb and flow of Bike Week on the Overseas Highway.


These motorcycles all look the same because they are the same, the American Spirit enjoying a prolonged weekend of mild debauchery...


...beer and no stakes contests on Duval Street, in the land of perpetual summer and low stress motorcycling.


The views are lovely but Flatistan does not challenge a rider with curves in quick succession or hills or complex map reading skills.


This is novice riding heaven, straight lines, low speed limits and perpetually warm weather. And they come in droves this weekend, to get tiddly on light beer and instant fleeting friendship.



Me? I am stuck in my own awkward world of trying to fit in, not to pass clumps of pirates even when know I can because I don't want to seem rude by apparently challenging the nice, monied visitors.


I behave by riding at the back of a long meandering line of slow moving orange and black clothing and underdressed women perched like dead fish trophies high on the hogs.


I ride a motorcycle therefore those that know me assume this is my weekend, not the Conch Blowing Festival, the Beer Festival or the Taste of Key West Festival, or Writers Week or the Lobster Festival or Lesbian Week or the Seafood Festival. No; bike week is when I revel in the company of like minded riders. Moi? Hardly.


I ride because I enjoy it and I enjoy it mostly alone. When Chuck gets back from Asia we will ride somewhere I am sure and if Riepe gets his life back perhaps him too next year. If not it will continue to be my lonely pleasure.


Not that I have anything against everyone expressing their individuality en masse, but it just isn't for me. I am not an individual, I am a misanthrope and I ride my own well muffled ride.

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Big Pine Burning

We had some hot calls last night at work and my trainee did quite well. When I train I give it all I've got because I want to know if the trainee can stand the stress of working dispatch and I want to make sure when I unleash her on my colleagues she will know what to do and how to be a full team member in a room that works as much by training as by protocol when the 9-1-1 calls are all lighting up. So training for twelve hours a night wears me out.


As a result I stepped out of the house feeling rather bleary after breakfast especially as my dog was mad keen for her second walk of the day. The dawn walk when I got home was forgotten already and Cheyenne the Wonder Lab was irritatingly frisky.


And much to my surprise Big Pine Key was on fire and roasting quite nicely to judge from the horizon.


There was actually a very small inconspicuous notice posted outside the CVS pharmacy explaining the prescribed burn, designed to clear undergrowth and allow new growth to sprout.


It is also I have no doubt a useful time to train firefighters in ways to protect the Keys when the burn is decidedly not prescribed.


Fire is always a little scary to see, except to people who actually enjoy that stuff. I remember when I was a small boy our kitchen caught fire at home and the blackened charred room was quite frightening and my mother covered my eyes when we walked by the same way she did when there was a bad wreck on the autostrada.


Some people like fires And enjoy the challenge of exerting control.


Not to be tragic but I've told my wife if ever I am really badly burned to please finish me off as I cannot imagine the agony of surviving extensive burns. That these people, photographed on the fly, do these acts of bravery for a living is beyond my capacity to imagine.


Flames are scary and I'd rather try to return broken merchandise to a big box store than deal with this stuff.


Big Pine Key looked quite beset.


I'm glad they knew what they were doing.

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Slow Pirates

They are already starting to trickle into town, the big throbbing v-twins, and the flat six purring Honda Goldwings. Nothing like my Bonneville out enjoying the quieter reaches of the Lower Keys.


This weekend the hard core riders leave Miami on the motorcycles they trailered to South Florida, or rented in town and ride 130 hard fought miles to the Southernmost City where they present the poker hand they picked up on the way.


Above we see the roadside sign already in place at Boondocks on Ramrod Key, my home island which the decades cannot improve. Everyone o getting ready for the swaggering cowboys on motorcycles who will fill the void of an empty month in Key West, touristically speaking.


And I wonder if anyone might get just a little tipsy with beer on sale outside from noon to eleven pm all across town? I' working Saturday night with a trainee who is learning to run driver's licenses and vehicle tags. I expect Lisa will be quite busy as I stand over her and check her work...


Loud mufflers, noisy drunks and motorcycles. What a weekend to be on vacation if you live in Old Town. By Sunday night they will all be gone leaving trash, the smell of used beer and lots of lovely money.


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Visiting Key West

Lower Duval is called that for some reason I don't know. Perhaps because the street numbers start at the northern end and thus the numbers are lower. It goes against my instinct, because this is the North end of the street, and thus somehow "uphill." However this is the end of Duval Street that appeals to the lower...appetites of visitors.


Pirate Soul a museum that closed, was around the corner just off Lower Duval and the building is still empty and unused. The associated rum bar is still there and functioning, as one might expect. It seems people in St Augustine, Florida's first city appreciate the museum approach more than the bar approach.


And while Horne's Harley Davidson on Truman closed down years ago, a victim of exhaustion not finances, leaving Key West without a dealer you can buy Harley lifestyle accessories on Lower Duval. Great - no actual bikes, just bandannas!


For all that it is dedicated to alcohol and nasty t-shirts and pointless shopping Lower Duval could be pretty enough were it allowed to be.


Ah yes, alongside Harley Lifestyle Accessories we see surfboards on Lower Duval. They remind me of the story of the sailor tired of the sea, last seen walking inland with an oar on his shoulder. When asked why he replied, when I get to where they ask me what it is, I'll know I have arrived.


Waves in Key West are pathetic thanks to the extensive reef system. Just how we like it when hurricanes threaten. This next sign adds to the ambiance of Lower Duval.


No, really? You mean we aren't going to reward thieves with frequent flier miles and an all paid night of love with one of the beauties from Teaser's strip club? Or you can buy something for five dollars if you have drunk your spending money and don't have the nerve or stupidity to shoplift.


"I shit rainbows'" the ideal sentiment for Lower Duval. Anyone who sells these t-shirts should be made to wear them at all times in city limits.


I have no doubt Shortys, the only sensible useful store in this part of the world, sells fine meals to go, but it's too bad someone didn't proof read their very elderly sign. Perhaps a new sign will get occassion spelled correctly next time. And they don't have autocorrect to blame either!


I loved this correctly spelled sign "Cuban Leaf." I hope not because we don't want to break the embargo and trade with Godless Commies do we? Not Cuban ones anyway. Chinese Godless Commies are fine. Cuban leaf probably comes from the Dominican Republic or something...


'No port left in the bottle,' left is red on a ship's navigation lights but it's 'red right returning' in the Americas for buoys marking channels. In Key West the lights mark the outline of a store seeking a nautical motif.


Well, look at that; the customs house has spouted a smoke stack. Not exactly, it's just a cruise ship unloading a few thousand bright eyed t- shirt customers.


I am told, repeatedly, that many people who come to Key West, even on repeat visits, never see more than that which is contained in this essay. I can hardly believe anyone could imagine this is all there is to Key West.


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