Saturday, September 24, 2011

New Lamps For Old

I had no idea Yamaha had produced a new style of Zuma motor scooter. This is the old "regular" 50cc...

...and this is the newer looking one I came across parked on Wall Street. The differences are subtle.

The way I can tell the 125cc model (which requires a motorcycle endorsement in Florida) from the 50cc, is that the bigger Zuma has guards covering the handlebar grips.

The newer model of 50 has a clunkier rear end in my opinion, as shown above compared to the old model below.

And a rather odd instrument pod...

...compared to the clean lines of the older edition:

The new Zuma has a sensible tank filler cap on the floorboards, an elegant solution that puts the weight of the fuel down low on the bike and makes access to the filler cap much easier than under the seat or under the luggage rack on the earliest models.

The disc brakes on the front wheels look as close to identical as a casual glance could suggest though I do like the red trim on the new version, though I don't know how long the paint will last in that vulnerable spot.

The older scooter has been well used which is not surprising as Zumas are as much admired for their sturdy performance as they are for their style in cost conscious Key West.

I owned an early model for a while, induced to try one thanks to it's enviable reputation and popularity.

However I found the steering geometry too tight and my wife thought the Zuma was so squirrelly it was impossible to ride. We sold it after three months at no loss to a keen new owner. I am sure the new model will be just as popular as ever in this town.

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Another Gorgeous Weekend

Sometimes the theme of daily life in the Keys gets overwhelmed by the crappy stuff that people insist on finding in their lives. Jet skis are a case in point.

Some anonymous author has spent a large part of the summer complaining bitterly about the jet ski tours that apparently circle Key West daily with their buzzing engines and rooster tails of spray. I am a fan of peace and quiet, hence my residence outside the city itself but endless complaints about rain clouds might be as effective as daily anonymous complaints about tourist activities in a tourist town.

At some point one has to take the advice of the other plaintive voice in the ever amusing anonymous Voice column which was to see the pleasure in living here and not the aggravations.

As we ended our shift at work last night, twelve long hours sitting up and paying attention, all three of us spontaneously expressed a hope for fine weather this weekend. All three of us it turned out had plans, vague it is true, but plans nevertheless, to get out on the water.

It is as it should be: quite lovely out there.

The water won't be warm enough for most people who live here to swim in by November probably, give or take a few weeks depending on the weather, so now is the time to swim as much as possible in anticipation of those cold gray fronts of winter.

I have been enjoying the past several weeks of perfect weather, light breezes, low humidity and lots of sunshine between dramatic thunderstorms. And winter in the Keys is a relative term, cool, never frozen, with plenty of sun to keep the gray at bay.

As lovely as it is, one always needs to pay attention when cruising the extraordinary Overseas Highway.

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Key West Pix 13

I saw this absurdly cute golf cart on Solares Hill. On the one hand they are irritating because they reinforce the impression that Key West is an extension of Disney World.

On the other hand they are childishly charming machines pretending to be real, so perhaps Disney is an apposite similarity. This next sign I have photographed before but it remains a visible reminder that bicycles are subject to the same road rules as cars, real and golf cart adapted:

I wonder at the patience of a person ready willing and able to stick their finger in wet cement with no greater aim than to leave behind a visible reminder of their passing:

I wonder who Bubba, Sooty, and Mookie were or are. I hope they are in good health. The least I could do was take a picture of their endeavors, for posterity.

I wish I had learned to skateboard. This next picture of an elderly dog took but an instant to take though I stood and watched her anxious pirouettes for a couple of minutes as she circled and staggered, getting in a morning walk in a small circle.

She seemed immensely old and I admired her perseverance.

Orange whit and green in picture above were a pleasant variation on my preferred Key West colors of green white band blue. And a pretty, two tone Buddy 150 below.

Genuine's automatic scooter, made in Taiwan and imported to Chicago is selling well in Key West as it should. It has a fine reputation. These towels indicated to me a good day at the beach was had by all. I hope so.

A line of elegant green shutters, hiding all in their shade.

And a puddles reflection reversing the sense of the letters captured on the surface of the water:

I liked the spray of rain droplets on this dark colored roof:

And this thanks to alert reader David we know is a Lignum Vitae, wood of life.

And this isn't.

It's a date palm which I am told will never produce fruit in Key West as the tree needs aridity to produce dates and at about that time in the year it starts raining around here.

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Eye Test

"Has it been that long?" the eye doctor said in surprise as he checked my chart. I hadn't been back to his office in the refurbished Professional Building since 2008.

You can't park where you'd like to, in the shade under the building, but when you arrive by Bonneville you park under a convenient sea grape and the plastic seat won't burn your backside when you get back 90 minutes later.

The old Dennis Pharmacy of fond memory on Simonton Street lost the café which tried to exist independently and closed, but the chemist's half of the business continues to operate inside the cement palazzo here on 12th Street.

New Town is a good place to put a business, wide streets, plenty of (sunny) parking and not too much traffic compared to the lanes of Old Town.

I arrived early and enjoyed free Internet access which just reached the waiting room. The economy looked as bad as ever and made for somber reading as Greece, the country that gave us so much of what we know, centuries ago, prepares to be the key that wrecks Western Civilization tomorrow. History is Irony.

I first got glasses when I was twelve, forty one years ago, on the National Health in England where I was a blind little school boy. There was no charge and doctors made house visits and children's teeth were taken care of with no financial hair tearing by anyone's impoverished parents. One never had a bake sale to pay for medical care. Everyone's world is changing, and some worlds are changing drastically especially for those used to cradle to grave welfare. Pity them or gloat, but change is tough to take and I feel very insulated so far here in the Southernmost City.

I have been peering through instruments like these longer than most of the population of China has been alive.

Every year for decades my eyesight has deteriorated slightly and every couple of years the lenses in my glasses were strengthened, but now finally, after half a century of wear my eyesight has stabilized such that I got no new prescription. The cost of the visit was borne by my health insurance policy provided by the tax payers of Key West who rely on me to read accurately the computers at my job.

There was a measure of waiting in the office and the Internet connection didn't make it that far inside the building, so I pottered around enjoying the toys. It turns out my retina is sound, I have no incipient glaucoma though I have some shading of my lenses, victims of age and the modern polluted environment the doctor said.

We discussed aging and we agreed life gets better as you get older, if you have the good fortune to be endowed with good genes. A career spent in little Key West has my eye doctor convinced this is the place to live, despite the lower pay.

Quality of life is how you measure it. Just like eyesight. Luckily imperfect eyesight doesn't have to impinge on the quality of life.

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A Somnolent Mallory Square

I took a quick look at the coming attractions board at the Waterfront and I saw two maybe three plays that drew my attention. Hooray for snowbirds!

Winters in Key West are like summer camp for adults from big cities. They come to Key West for the sunshine and bring Art and Culture to the natives who have spent the summer in intellectual indolence swimming, fishing and drinking in the air conditioning.

In winter we seek our shirts with collars and shoes with laces and line up to see what the world outside has to offer. They sell us reduced price tickets, to teachers and military and students and employees of other worthy causes and we get to tug our forelocks and have a laugh in the stalls. It is great fun, then live performance, and gives a two world distinction to Key West that I have never enjoyed anywhere else.

The Waterfront Playhouse is a converted wharf building from the days when Mallory Square was a working waterfront, and in summer it, like the locals, snoozes until the time comes to gear up for another season of live performances.

Mallory Square itself has a live performance every night the sunset isn't blocked by a parked cruise ship, though when I am in town to work I have to leave before the action starts. Dinner time for pigeons is a pre-attraction event.

Stephen Mallory was an important person when they were casting around for a name. That he ended up most notably as the Secretary of the Navy for the Confederate States of America is unfortunate, such is the risk of naming things after living people. It curries favor among the powerful but the Romans, smart people, forbad the practice. Conchs should learn from them but history means little and even today landmarks are named for the living in these islands.

So much is history forgotten, who would wonder at the name of this place most famous now for a circus atmosphere at sunset?

Performers make a good living doing acrobatics accounted by comedic patter for a couple of hours before the sun goes down. Tennessee Williams is credited with starting the practice by standing somewhere here and toasting the greatest performance of the day as the orb sank out of sight. From the cheerful homeyness of a bunch of friends subduing boredom with alcohol the city has developed a must- see attraction on the waterfront. Key West never ceases to amaze me.

Movers and shakers want to spend millions to widen the ship channel to accommodate a new generation of ships that will haul 6,000 passengers, twice as many as the Majesty of the Seas, shown above docked at Pier B.

Opponents argue this move, like the introduction of mall shopping on Rockland Key will wreck Key West. Developer Ed Swift had a passionate editorial in the paper this Sunday arguing that the tide must be seized at the flood else the opportunity will pass and we will miss the next generation of income from super sized cruise ships.

Where I ask myself will the oil come from to build and power this super sized technology? Does nobody understand that the world's population has doubled in the fifty years I have been alive? How is infinite growth possible? I stand on the sidelines and watch and wonder.We are ingenious creatures, we humans, and most likely we will be surprised by the human drive to build and grow to exasperation. Some might say I lack imagination.

There is a lovely 19th century touch to Mallory Square at this hour. Away from the parking lot a raggedy-ass squad of performers who use nothing more technological than their human skills and a few simple tools entertain crowds every single evening who spend the rest of their humdrum lives sprawled in front of beeping glittering electrons in isolation at home and at work.

Here, the bicycles and wooden carts and pieces of string and metal tubes render the world magical for a little while for people who have forgotten how to gather in public spaces and walk and talk and marvel the same way their ancestors did, before technology overran us all and assigned us specific tasks in a world that doesn't allow our stories a beginning a middle and an end in our mundane daily tasks.

They stop and talk and lead the crowd by example. No rush to deadlines here, one imagines. However securing a prime spot on the square is extremely competitive and a very hard fought lottery behind the scenes. Laid back is relative!

And they come, in droves to watch and marvel and laugh in public. It starts as a trickle but by December it will be a thick swirling crowd of people.

Me? I have to go and answer the phones and talk on the police radio and listen to tales of misery, stories that have no beginning and no end in my life. They come and go all night.

Technology giveth, in my case a Bonneville, and technology taketh away, in my case the time, today, to stand and stare at the magicians of somnolent Mallory Square.

It's lucky I enjoy my technology driven job!

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