Saturday, October 1, 2011


One of the big noises earlier in the year concerned the animal rescue operations of the Middle Keys. Stand Up For Animals went by the awkward acronym of SUFA and took care of the Monroe County needs around Marathon and Big Pine. Splendid stuff. However things went a tad bit wrong when SUFA asked for a raise in the fee they were paid by the county. The county did an audit and came back with a bunch of accusations against SUFA. The thing was tried in the public arena and the accusations flew back and forth and the County was looking for missing cash and SUFA argued the money from donations and the money from the County all went to animal welfare one way and another. It seemed to me the worst that could be said of SUFA was bad book keeping, not bad animal husbandry which is what matters.

It was a sad thing to watch not least because the reason for the sudden witch hunt wasn't at all clear. SUFA shut down and the county had no plans for what exactly to do having vanquished their latest nemesis. Finally a new contract was issued and now we have SHARK, Safe Harbor Animal Rescue of the Keys by way of a much more amusing acronym and in any event they seem to be doing okay. The SUFA fiasco appears to have come to an ignominious halt with the release by a judge of the SUFA funds frozen by the county and now returned to the not for profit which is operating a shelter Up North I believe.

The Florida Keys do that sometimes. Things are just trundling along and then for some reason thing get turned upside down and everything is suddenly completely unpredictable. I just wish more people would pick rescue dogs instead of buying puppies. While we are on the subject of hopeless wishes I wish people wouldn't throw their dogs away. But but there we are and we should be grateful someone is available to pick up the pieces. I'm sure glad I got Cheyenne from the Stock Island SPCA.

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Alternative Living

In the photo below the actual house is clearly the one above, and the one below is the reflection of the actual house. Obvious no?

I have seen a surprising amount of activity in the housing market in the Lower Keys with repairs, sales and promises of sales pending. Whether they are real sales or the mirage of bank sales, or repos I don't know.

The recent video of a private trader (a man who bets his own stash only) telling the BBC that economic collapse is imminent and thus presents a huge opportunity to any and all, followed by a prominent Hungarian banker saying the same thing, in greater detail, has set some public teeth on edge. Yet each one of us hopes that coming cataclysm will spare us, after all what have we done to deserve eternal poverty and deprivation? We are Americans and have always lived in privilege. I am as guilty as any. My hope is that somehow the storm will pass the Keys by, as these islands are a playground for the privileged. And by God they really do seem that way. People, who I would categorize as insane are building homes even as our economy continues to slide with unemployment rising, production numbers crushed and bail outs continuing apace.

On the edges of this island playground these benign waters accommodate all sorts of floating appliances as a way to get by on the fringe of it all. Be eccentric, add color to the myth of the alternative Keys lifestyle sail with an electric motor and a lawn chair. Life is good when bills are small.

Petroleum based energy is the true currency backing our paper money no matter how much they tell you a gold standard is what we need. We can't do without oil and gas and plastics and electricity and even on Utility Free No Name Key they burn propane. They burn diesel to make electricity and solar panels are just an afterthought. I lived with a solar panel on a boat for many years and it works but just barely. No air conditioning, no hot water unless heated by the sun refrigeration, modestly, by burning propane. It can be done.

As long as the propane company accepts dollars the wheel continues to turn. We seem to be caught in a spiral of diminishing returns from which there is no way out. No one wants to hear the truth that things need to change and suffering will be our portion. The difference between suffering and adventure is all in the attitude and looking around me I don't see middle class adaptability. When I lived off the grid I had no day job and washing clothes in a bucket and drying them in the sun was a day long activity. And they weren't business suits we were hand washing. Dig for Victory was a quaint World War Two phrase no longer appropriate in the age of the smart phone. Sacrifice is not noble they say, and working together is anathema in the land of individualism exasperated. The bears tell us the coming crisis will be an order of magnitude greater than that of 2008, the liars of the mainstream press tell us all will be well, soon. The politicians tell us that their plan will work, their opponent's plan has no hope and ne'er the twain shall meet.

No Name Key still has it's two "experimental" utility poles but the whole huge debate about shipping mainstream electricity to the island has faded for the summer, presumably until the noisemakers return in the winter. I've never really viewed the utility-free island as alternative living because they fuel generators to power the suburban creature comforts the rest of us enjoy thanks to Keys Energy.

And yet pedal power could be viable. But to accept that notion is to turn one's back on all one has known all one's life. Gasoline power rules! Anything else is less, is deprivation. But is it?

Trash is overwhelming us but recycling is a complexity that pushes our buttons. Damned hippies, making life complicated unnecessarily. It's unAmerican isn't it? The trouble is perhaps that recycling, reducing, re-using and conserving should be made most American. Perhaps we should lead the world in figuring out a better way to live, that is to say do with less to live as well. It would take a lot though, to force us to slow down, to change the pace of life. It's almost as though we have to go through wrenching change to force us where we have to go, because there is too much complexity to allow us to let go voluntarily.

A pet dog costs money and eats better than the lowest ranks of human beings on our overburdened planet and Cheyenne adds her own methane quotient to the gases of global warming. I am fond of saying I wouldn't have a dog if people didn't throw their pets away and burden the SPCA, but I am also fond of saying I prefer dogs to people.

I hope extend and pretend keeps going for a while and our crazy unsustainable way of life persists for a few years longer. I'd like to die without seeing another Great Depression in full force or another global war. I'd like to die fat and content in my bed in the same way as my neighbors, if they ever contemplated their own death, would like to go. However the chances of us pressing on without being forced to press the economic reset button seems to be getting slimmer and slimmer. My last hope is that we in the Keys will somehow have that cup of economic misery taken from our lips. I find it terribly ironic that the country that gave us so many of the precepts of Western Civilization may be the same catalyst that brings bus down. It feels as though Greece will only stand as long as her neighbors bail her out, and reports have it European banks have been hunting for spare cash anywhere they can including the pockets of US billionaires. When Greece falls expect more standards of living to decline with it's bankruptcy.

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A New Day In The Keys

The calendar is filled with dates, anniversaries markers and due dates. We have the solstice and equinox, birthdays, seasons, and those infamous red letter days. They grew out of the religious calendars of centuries past. Weekdays were in black, holidays, including Sundays were in red. A red letter day is therefore a special day.

Today is October First of course and that means we are entering the Fall season, but in the fashion of the Keys the season comes in late, with a whimper and no discernible change.

Dispatches from Up North tell of changing leaf colors and dying gardens as the new season kicks in and the cold temperate earth starts to settle in for a winter of sleep.

Down here the changes are mild and pleasant with the of better to come. The sun shines, it's hot and humid though not as humid as before and tomorrow a cold front comes, the first of Fall and thus unlikely to produce much actual cold.

With a little camera fiddling I can make a grassy patch look like an actual field with tractor tracks cutting across it, see below, but there are no fields in the Keys, no crops, no agriculture and thus no ripening orchards or fallow fields.

There is no fog though we can fake some with the camera, and there is no frost and of that I have no desire to create any, fake or real.

Driving down to Key Wet a motorist might see a scene like this, snatched through the side window of the moving car.

Scenes like these won't change much and as winter progresses we will see more and more cars with tags from all over North America. And as Canadians, impoverished Socialists from Up Up North on their winter vacations, invade the Keys the grocery stores will pull out their cans of Crosse and Blackwell in time to celebrate the holidays with mincemeat and custard and shortbread and other weird delicacies imported to Canada from the mother country. And by extension the Keys, their winter home.

Things don't look like they do in the comics, where seasons follow regular unchanging patterns to keep newspaper readers happy. No snowballs here, no scarves, no leaf raking. We live apart.

That's okay, once you get used to it.

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Feed The Deer Already!

The National Key Deer Refuge was reporting starving Key Deer a couple of years ago. This year they seem well fed, abundant and frisky.

In case it isn't obvious the title of this essay is meant ironically, not least because God's Own Private Property Owners and the interest of the Awful Gummint are aligned for once.

And if that isn't ironic I don't know what is. The refuge is labeled with the little blue and white signs, which the deer are able to read.

I was hampered in my efforts to observe the deer bu loud signing and grunts from the back seat indicating a well walked Labrador was ready to get home and take nap, now please!

Oh, and in case you had any doubts, "don't feed the..."

It's unlawful because they don't want them to get tame and approach humans which could end badly for the deer, if not the humans in cars. They want the population to live naturally and essentially cull themselves in the lean years.

That plan got a bit of a public going over a few years back when starving deer were tottering out of the woods with all ribs showing. Dachau In The Keys did not go over well with visitors and some residents who wanted to intervene. Hot button debate ensued until the starvation crisis passed.

In winter this place, No Name Key's Watson Drive, is packed with cameras and the residents are prepared. Remember, "don't feed..."

I am no friend of the iguana a creature that rivals Superman in it's ability to climb walls, fly, swim, dive and survive in the wilds of South Florida. Compared to iguana Key Deer are pikers when it comes to wrecking peoples' gardens.

Besides they are much better looking than iguana. However absolutely no one wants you to forget the mantra "don't fee..."

Up North riding into deer kills riders. I have no doubt they would do the same here. However the only statistics we get are the number of deer killed by cars.

I'm going to make a wild guess and figure that were a rider to die in a collision with a Key Deer it would make headlines, and so far I've seen no such headline.

Keep an eye out in any event when riding around Big Pine and No Name Keys. And don't forget never ever to feed the Key Deer, while you're here. Trust me, there will be lots of reminders of the cardinal rule.

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Essay Without Words

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