Monday, October 3, 2011

UnGodly Hour

The alarm woke me this morning at five in the morning and it will do so again tomorrow in less than six hours. I hate working day shift even though I am learning a lot about how to be a better police dispatcher. My suggestion that we hold the classes from four in the aft noon till two in the morning got no traction at all. Cheyenne is adaptable a dog as any but she was a little surprised to go for a pre-dawn walk in total unusual darkness. But she was game.

She loves her walks but she was disappointed when I showered and got dressed to leave the house at an hour when normally she and I would be snuggling and going to sleep, each on our own bed. By seven am she was alone.

Boy was she happy to see me when I got home at six thirty this evening! And there was no way she wasn't getting a good long walk...

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Riding By

I see people out and about with their cameras in Key West and I hope I blend in somewhat as a tourist when I am wandering the streets looking interested in all I see. However most visitors like to take holiday snaps of each other in prominent places.

My idea of a good snap is something funny or ironic or iconic, or just pleasant to look at. Like happy strangers scooting Key West in full Technicolor.

Some people find motorcycle seats too thin for their butts so they add padding, with greater or lesser elegance.

A whole squadron of cyclists came at me up Caroline Street...

...and it took me a moment to realize they were more happy tourists on a...tour; as they should be.

Locals ride with luggage, and the is no better way to get whe you need to go in Key West.

Lots of bikes attest to that.

Except maybe by small internal combustion engine, like my wife.

Ride Key West any way you want.

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Wheels Of Desire

The announcement that my colleague had bought a new car came as something of a surprise to me. For years he had complained of his car payment on the previous staid four door sedan he had owned. Now he has this:

I can only imagine the payments on this lovely Camaro put the payments on the old car to shame, especially as it must have been free and clear by now..

So one could be critical and say that no payments are better than a fine new muscle car, but we all know that's not true. We can imagine sitting hunkered in the bucket seat zipping down the Overseas Highway. A new car is a fresh start, a make over, new dreams, new aspirations, a new self.

His boyfriend is gone, he lives in a new place, he's on a diet and now he has the gay equivalent of a chick magnet.

Not a bad deal I'd say for a few hundred dollars a month.

I have never seen my wife get passionate about a car until, four years ago we were in Italy and the new Fiat Five Hundred (Cinquecento in Italian) came on the streets. I was afeared she might have plans for a life makeover, putting the old hubby out to pasture and bringing in a new cute car.

Here it is, "her" car, a convertible on these very streets of Key West. And she says now we wait for a used model to show up at Carmax in a couple of years when Greek debt is rolled over permanently and employment figures are back on track, then we'll get a Cinquecento.

That is the drag of being middle aged. Grand gestures and impulse purchases are limited to shopping at Costco and only after all bills are paid...

She likes her Vespa ET4, 150ccs of raw power disguised as a puny little moped. She enjoys blowing off cars on the Boulevard shocking them with it's surprising power and acceleration. I have seen 70mph on the open road on her Vespa and it's freeway legal!

Following her on my Bonneville I was forced to evaluate my own lack of desire for a replacement for my motorcycle. I guess I am happy where I am.

These are strange times for all of us, on the one hand we wonder where our economy could possibly be going, with 50 million medically un-insured, similar numbers in poverty and one in five kids on food stamps. Unemploymentbis officiallyaround nine percent and unofficially arpund twenty two percent courtesy of Still we hope for the best and we dream and scheme and consume, work and hope and wait for the best. I like seeing that brand new symbol of confidence and hope when I arrive at work on my well worn Triumph Bonneville.

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Keys Pix IX

We went to the Tropic Cinema on Eaton Street to see The Help. It was a moving and instructive movie, pitting white Southern housewives against their black maids in the turbulent times when change was sweeping the land.

It did put me in mind of our own ongoing changing times as we find ourselves labeled the modern maids to our banking overlords. The modern irony of black churches opposing civil rights for gays hasn't escaped me either. In 40 years perhaps they'll make a sentimental movie about that.

We had a good time my wife and I she with her overly flavored popcorn and me with my more masculine cheese flavoring... Better living through chemistry at the popcorn counter. Then after the movie we rode away, she on her Vespa 150 and me on my Bonneville. No parking issues there.

Key West packs a lot into an island four miles by two so it is rarely quiet and peaceful. The airport's runway is set at an angle exactly placed to direct aircraft over old town as they land onto a southeast wind.

But the views overhead are quite pretty of you remember to look up.

Walking Key West will get more and more pleasant as the weather chills and the humidity retreats. For locals it was a weekend of slightly cooler than usual weather with the arrival of the first cold front of the Fall, the mildest of fronts it was too.

An opportunity to walk the streets of Key West is always a pleasure for me, even if my dog had to be home that day.

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Post Office Parking

Here's the thing, you're cruising around old town Key West, desperate to park and go have fun on Duval Street, and all you can see is lines of parked cars, no open spaces and a few seemingly high priced pay to park lots. Then you see an empty unsupervised lot at the post office on Whitehead Street... Don't do it!

The lot is well posted but you would be amazed how many people ignore the signs and stop off here anyway. And the sign is in English, Spanish and Creole. So where's the excuse for stupidity and in what language is that written? In green, that's where.

Being a tourist is no excuse at all for being lame. Then the police get the call that "My car's been stolen!" Luckily the tow companies are required to check in with the police to make sure the car isn't stolen so dispatchers can tell the unhappy driver the vehicle has been towed by owner of the private property. That makes themselves really happy because it was never their fault they ignored the signs.

The sign says what you need to know, and they say the basic fee is $235. That or pay to park properly.

God knows the city has made it easy to pay for any meter west of Elizabeth Street. Cash or credit card, select the amount of time and get a receipt for the dashboard, good at any meter and if you move you can park at another meter as long as the ticket is valid.

Motorcycle parking is free in designated spots all over town, which is even better. If you have to part at 400 Whitehead Street there is paid parking in a lot across from the post office if you prefer that to feeding a meter about a buck fifty an hour.

Parking is such an issue in old town Key West it seems about as unlikely to be solved as the Palestinian Question or what to do with Greece's national debt. So we trundle on towing and arguing and disagreeing and getting mad at our neighbors.

I know commuting doesn't help climate change but it sure is nice to live in a stilt house in the 'burbs with ample parking underneath, and a motorcycle to ride to town to try to find some of that free motorcycle parking.

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Life And Death On Little Torch

Joy Williams' guidebook to the Florida Keys, my favorite such publication describes Little Torch (in my 2003 edition) as a rather off color secretive place filled with wild parties and several unsolved murders.

Which may or may not still be the case but this was the island where a walker such as myself, earlier this year found the clothed, skeletal remains of a man in the mangroves.

The mystery was solved soon enough and far from being a murder this time, it was a very sad story of lost love. The skeleton, after decades of marriage became a widower and upon the death of his wife the man just disappeared according to neighbors.

A pause in the story here while we contemplate these guardians of privacy who came storming down the drive when they saw me loitering in the street.

I told them I was innocent, that I was just waiting for my dog who was taking a mud bath and drinking the waters in the bushes nearby but they kept barking until a cheerful woman stumbled down the drive telling her guardians they were mad there was no one there and to go home.

Not so, I said, not enough people trust their dogs when they hear them barking. And they don't. You'd be amazed how many dogs get yelled at by blind owners when they bark wildly to warn them of our passing and because the humans can't see us they take it out on their dogs who are just doing their job, and doing it well. On the rare occasions Cheyenne barks I always go outside and check under the house.

Anyway, back to the skeleton found fully dressed in a rough campsite in the mangroves around here. He had been missing for months, and dead long enough for his remains to decompose and his bones to get gnawed by wild animals according to the story in the paper.

He was in his late sixties as I recall and he just gave up and died, unwilling to continue living after his wife died. We should all be so devoted.

So aside from it's reputation, Little Torch is just one more island off the great big Highway that runs straight through the Lower Keys leading tourists past these idle backwaters guiding them directly to the fleshpots of Duval Street 30 miles away.

I much prefer living in the Lower Keys than in the city of Key West. I enjoy the silence during the day as well as at night.

These islands represent to me the sort of living that used to attract people to the Keys, the luxury of privacy, hidden little streets with nothing to attract outsiders except weirdo explorers like me. There's easy access to the water and lots of wildlife.

The three Torch Keys, Little, Middle and Big are named for the torch wood tree which Williams says is extremely hard and burns with a green light. Might as well name three islands after something so peculiar.

Here's the challenge: who wants to find the big bad wolf in the dark wooded recesses of the Torch Keys? I promise it's a lot safer than being on Duval Street at two in the morning surrounded by people who have lost their minds to alcohol. It's a lot more peaceful too, and you'll only meet locals, some that bark and some that don't.

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