Saturday, June 29, 2013

Lightning Strike

I was at work Wednesday taking my CPR class when someone mentioned a lightning strike earlier that morning. Lightning strikes are fairly common in Florida and I know of at least one police car that has been hit in the past few years. It turns out this time, the strike that made headlines was a friend of mine riding his motorcycle, a police Harley Road King. The officer ended up spending the night at the hospital.

From the Citizen:


The lightning bolt made a Taser feel like an ant bite.

That's how Key West Police Department motorcycle patrolman Deglys Chavarria described the strike that hit him after apparently bouncing off a nearby sailboat Wednesday on North Roosevelt Boulevard.

"There was a big flash that came right out of the handlebars that knocked my hands off," Chavarria said Thursday afternoon from his room at Lower Keys Medical Center. "There was a small pause, and then my adrenaline got going and I looked at the newspaper lady I was just talking to -- her face, she had this look -- and I knew I had to get the bike out of the street."

Somehow the 27-year-old on-duty officer kept his motorcycle upright and moved it near the sidewalk at the Shell Station at Palm Avenue and First Street.

Out of traffic, he quickly checked to make sure he still had all his digits, and then "searing pain ran from my shoulder all the way down to my seat."

Chavarria found a way to chuckle about it.

"The ironic part is I was on my way to the station to get my patrol car because of the weather," he said.

The officer was awaiting MRI scans after being under observation for 24 hours, but hoped to be out of the hospital by Thursday evening and back to work soon.

"My vitals are fine," Chavarria said. "They've had a heart monitor hooked up to me since I got here. Everything is good so far. I just want to get back to work."

He was happy to apparently be OK.

"I'm very, very fortunate and grateful to everyone who stopped and helped," Chavarria said. "The (Citizen) hawker who helped me and everyone who came out of the gas station and the drivers who stopped; it was very reassuring. Really awesome."

The hawker was Lou Ann Carnell, who described a flash of light so close she turned her head away

Chavarria is an active Police Athletic League officer who has been a visible volunteer at many youth activities in the past few years.

"I didn't get any superpowers, that's for sure," he said of the lightning strike, laughing.

Chavarria, who was a police Explorer in high school, started at the Key West Police Department as a dispatcher in 2005 before becoming an officer in 2009, said police spokeswoman Alyson Crean. He's a native of Nicaragua who grew up in Key West.

Meanwhile, also Wednesday, a construction worker in Naples, Fla., died at the scene after being struck by lightning while climbing down scaffolding, according to The Associated Press.

The National Weather Service has recorded two fatal lightning strikes in Florida so far this year. The state led the country in such deaths last year, with five, AP says.

It was a few years ago that Deglys and I rode over to the DMV in Marathon where he took, and passed his motorcycle endorsement test. He was a dispatcher at the time and waiting for his citizenship papers to arrive. He was born in Nicaragua but came to the US with his parents as an infant and became a US citizen. He joined the explorers a decade ago and policing has been in his blood, so I was not surprised when he quit dispatching to beocme an officer, which is known as "going on the road," in the police station.

He talked about riding all the time so I wasn't surprised when he applied for the traffic officer position and was trained to ride a Road King for the department. I don't think he will be off the road for long, lightning strike or no.

In the event of a thunderstorm the general advice in south Florida is to get out of the water and take cover. A car is considered an excellent Faraday Cage to safely dissipate lightning's electrical power but a motorcycle I figured would be neutral, especially as it runs on insulating rubber...I guess I was wrong! Live and learn and I'm grateful to Deglys for another lesson learned -half my age and twice as smart.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Artichokes, Alligators, And Duck Dynasty

My hair gets cut every few months whether I need it or not. My wife likes it longer, I like it shorter so I end up growing it out as long as I can stand and then I get someone to hack it off. It's a simplistic approach to my hair that works well for me. Among my genetic attributes I have a thick head of hair, caterpillar eyebrows and a beard that grows like crab grass, so cutting it back on a schedule gets to be important. That I had a barber who spoke little and cut well was a wonderful thing, a soothing twenty minutes in the chair, a meditation in the midst of the bustle of an otherwise average day.
I went by the shop on Tuesday next to Winn Dixie in Big Pine and when I tried the door a passer by grunted they were closed. Really closed. Dusty and abandoned closed. Well bugger. I am not a great fan of change and finding my quarterly barber closed highlights the shortcoming of infrequent cuts. Things happen between visits. Well, double bugger. Now what?
My ever helpful wife suggested the shop on Southard Street near the courthouse. My young blonde colleague goes there too and she approved. He was, she said, a former TV star on an early reality show called "Blown Away" starring Bobby in his salon. Something like that and he is a big butch straight guy and very capable with hair. Sounded perfect to me. Except that to get there I'd have to ride right across town. Now for some people a cross town trek to get the perfect cut would be the obvious course of action. For me its a redoubling of a pain in the ass. Bugger that. Bugger everything. My hair was long and uncomfortable and I had nowhere to go. Is this what post apocalyptic Armageddon feels like? Do we all end up looking like shaggy yaks when civilization grinds to a halt?
There are hair dressers in the Lower Keys and I picked one at random much closer to home than Southard Street. She was bright and perky, my age or older and happily not at all freaked out when I told her I had no particular desires, just to make it shorter. She got to work and the scissors started clicking. She was not one of the quiet ones and I sank in the chair, my back stiffening as she started a rapid fire questioning of my accent. Luckily, she is one of those people who like to talk not listen, so once she got going on the accent I reversed the flow by asking where she was from. I have found in my limited repertoire of small talk that asking this question can buy you a great deal of time especially as in the Keys people are from somewhere else. She was from Detroit where she learned to speak Ebonics, ha ha harty har har... I ate in Greektown once I piped up to save my Liberal neck hairs from stiffening too hard. Oh yes she said, unenthusiastically. This was good, she didn't follow up and ask what I was doing in Motown. I went to Windsor once I piped up, thinking about how civilized Canada is across the river from Detroit, a town in the throes of dissolution. That got her on a rant about Canadian accents. She thought I sounded Canadian. Huh? I shrank deeper in my chair and then I heard a voice, my savior, pipe up across the room from far behind me.
It is my practice to take my glasses off  when I let the barber at my hair so I cannot see much of anything in the chair. Besides I don't have eyes in the back of my head and I rarely look around and take stock of a room when I enter. I am phobic about making eye contact and I rarely do it unless absolutely necessary. I had no idea who the dude was who was stepping in to announce that he thought Canadians sound like Australians. From that extremely odd statement the conversation in the room became general and took a decidedly surreal turn. I expected Buñuel or Dalí to pop out of the back room carrying a cine camera and cackling like hyenas at my predicament. LUIS BUNUEL DIES AT 83 - FILM MAKER FOR 50 YEARS -
Then the hairdresser started on about Canadian accents again and this time Newfoundland came in for scrutiny, funny accents of course and weird music. "Celtic," I suggested feebly, "Irish," I tried to be more specific. Oh, she said, that would explain it. "Hey" said the male voice across the room, I'm Irish he went on and our music doesn't sound like that. I wondered if I could make a break for it with only half a head of hair cut. I heard some Irish music someone said, carrying the free form conversation into a new arena, cooking this time. Oh Gawd, I thought. What now? Gators, that's what, eaten at a folk festival doubtless a memory brought on b y talk of Celtic music. I've eaten alligator and I maintain the flavor is in the breading. The idea of eating an animal that eats animals puts me off however hypocritical that may be but they were into it. Oh yeah, I love gators my diminutive hair dresser gushed. She would make barely a mouthful for a medium sized dinosaur. Chicken legs the male voice said. What? My uncle, he went on, had a medium sized gator and and he took the legs (How? I wanted to scream) covered them in buffalo sauce and they were as good as chicken wings. Gosh I thought. Nibbling on chicken wings double handed. There's a thought.
I drifted off at some point in the discussion of gator cuisine and when I came back it was at the prodding of my hair cutter who asked if I had seen Duck Dynasty. Duck Dynasty - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Happily she had no interest in knowing I don't have cable (a confession that usually raises eyebrows among devotees of the medium) as she and the male person started laughing about a television program based on a family of people who made a fortune from manufacturing duck decoys. God bless America! Now they have, naturally, a reality TV show. The conversation was an education for a middle aged culturally clueless nitwit. Imagine, the show nearly got cancelled when the network asked them to stop praying and shooting guns on the show. The Clampetts refused to great acclaim from the occupants of the barber shop who assured each other (and me) that they wouldn't watch the program without the praying and the guns. Or the lawn mower races. As reality shows go it sounds fairly innocuous. I was a little worried to learn that the woman wielding scissors around my head had been up all night on a Duck Dynasty marathon. She didn't sound sleepy.
As they silently considered their entertainment options I felt the need for small talk. I have learned that in these occasions you ask people about themselves. "So how did you get into hairdressing?" Smart huh? No, small talk 101. Well she's been doing it for 39 years or more perhaps. She started when she was a kid cutting her family's hair and she wasn't quite born to it she said but she knew what she wanted and she got a lot better after she attended beauty school. Apparently her mother got a crap haircut when she asked for a fashionable style known as an "artichoke." Which according to the web looks like this:
Apparently artichokes were all the rage in the 1960s as they produced a sort of layered look in defiance of the less fancy styles common to the post-war years. I was learning stuff I never even imagined existed, and it turns out my hairdresser's Mom got a layered look that someohow exposed the very white skin on the nape of her neck. It was an accidental cut that caused much merriment when the victim's family gathered to admire Mom's artichoke, so much so that Mom insisted her daughter cut her hair from then on. And that is how a career in hairdressingwas born.
It was quite the change for me from my usual quiet meditation in the chair for twenty minutes with some gentle adenoidal male wheezing and the soft insistent clicking of scissors and the faint aroma of male cologne on the air. Just thinking of it puts me into a deep meditative state. Now instead I am bound to return to the new and active hair dresser, the short deeply tanned long time Keys resident who loves her job in this place as she gets to meet so many different people from many different walks of life. "An open air insane asylum," she says, quoting the well worn maxim about the Keys. If my experience was any guide I have no idea how she knows anything about her customers but perhaps others are more forthright than I, and manage to make themselves heard.
 I am actually looking forward now to my hair growing out a bit so I'll have an excuse to go back. I wonder what wild and wonderful turns the barbershop conversation will take next time?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Puddle Search Across Key West

It's called The Pines, a clump of Australian pines with picnic tables and usually a few aimless clods spending their entire winter day here next to the airport. I saw no "campers" so I stopped to start my cunning plan to wear Cheyenne out for the day. Chickens run wild and they showed no apprehension when I loosed my fearsome hound amongst them. She prefers her prey dead and smelly.
The plan was to spend a few hours in Key West exposing my eager dog to the smells and excitement of the big city. I enjoy watching her pass out at home worn out by the surfeit of activity and emotion. She tends to exhibit temporary heat exhaustion by plunking herself down wherever she can find refreshment.
This prime spot was at the north end of Duval exactly where one might prefer to drink one's bah water. Cheyenne is a martyr to summer's heat and humidity. In winter she'll stump along for three hours without pause but in June it's the start of her slow period. Which gives me a chance to stand around and admire the peculiarities of the latest in cycle fashions. Tires this big put one in mind of snowshoes. In Key West.
Tour buses have reserved parking at Clinton Square along Whitehead Street and it's here one can admire their sheer bulk towering alongside the little houses.
From my position they seemed to block the view worse than the cruise ship tied up at the Westin Pier. A person could get to feeling wedged in around here...
Passing the courthouse with my dog I saw an apparent Vespa theft in progress. I thought my P200 was supposed to be undergoing renovation in Allentown..? I got a message on Modern Vespa from some dude who apparently has a white P200 in town. Modern Vespa : Scooters Originali
The photo he posted didn't show a rack and top case like this one. Perhaps now here's a third vintage Vespa in town?
Cheyenne wanted to keep going Soith on Whitehead Street but I put a stop to that. I lime t give her her head when we're out walking but sometimes she likes to overdo it so we turned east on Fleming. I liked the new parking ticket metering in front of Fausto's Food Palace. Faustos Key West | Home. I've never really noticed the street sign explaining the lane separation so who needs it?
I dragged my hound due north on Simonton and she came willingly so I guess she was figuring it was time to cut the exploration short. The Methodist church does a nice job of providing shade for the living and the dead. Check out this blog for daily pictures around the Keys with my irritating commentary replaced by smiley faces, exclamation marks and endless effortless good cheer. Key West’s LONE Roadside Grave | Shoestring Weekends Blog.
I read Dale Carnegie's book years ago and enjoyed the central premise of pretending to be interested in people to make it easy to sell them shit they neither need nor wanted until you showed up on scene. That and Death of A Salesman by Marilyn Monroe's husband along with Amusing Ourselves To Death by Neil Postman convinced me I had no place in my life for a salesman's patter. Cheyenne couldn't find a puddle here in the shade so she took a dust bath instead. Clearly I was going to have to get the shampoo out once I got home.
I had called it right by heading back to the car before Cheyenne thought she was ready. Three blocks beyond the church the we were again, in pause mode.
Here I had the joy of reading this bit of arrant nonsense. What in the name of all that's holy is an "Impactful Presentation?" I might have a better sense of these "core values" posted for all to read if they made any mention of their workers ( 'team members' or 'associates' in the modern meaningless jargon of mindless middle management), those would be the poor sods actually entrusted with EXCEEDING EXPECTATIONS... Barf.
Now this I liked: fiberglass resin holding a metal car fender in place. My wife and I after years spent traveling by sail boat discovered that when things get repaired, said repairs never tend to last. Everything is repaired "for now" against the day they will break again. We also have learned to enjoy cruising solutions to various breakages. Bailing wire duct tape and fiberglass resin make the best cruising solutions to repair stuff "for now." This repair is the perfect cruising bodge and I love it.
I've photographed this bodge previously. Why even the most drunk of visitors would imagine that a gas tank, even one likely no longer in use, is a garbage can. Oh but they do and the stuff crap into instead of walking a further fifty feet to a city garbage can on the street corner.
Oops! Heat stroke imminent...but by now the car was just a few steps away and Cheyenne was actually just trying to stretch out the walk for as long as she possibly could.
By the time we reached the end of the street Cheyenne realised there was the puddle to end all puddles and she lumbered in.
Standing there i noticed a small group of men looking serious and waving their arms around and pondering a future that looked like change might be in the air. That there was a passed out residentially challenged citizen right in front of them summed up the challenges facing tourist development in Key West.
The good bit about Key West was out there in the harbor steaming by. Tourists having another great day on the water in Key West.
An exhausted dog was just a bonus for the rest of the day at home.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Summerland Seascape

A lovely moment wishing I could get my boat in the water. It's so bloody human isn't it. The moment was perfect, the heat not unbearable the water flat and smooth and there I was wishing for more...

Cheyenne doesn't care. She lives in the moment and judging by the difficulties of her early life it's a trick she has perfected.

I love summer in the Keys. The population thins out, bird watching grandparents are gone, spandexed active people are vacationing in Europe or running on the beach in Bali, instead of taking their winter exercise on these silent backroads. Besides it's not even that hot down here, maybe 93 with a fresh breeze while Kansas City is ...93. Hmm. So remind me again why people think its too hot here to send a summer by this tranquil ocean?

I know, there's more to summer than sunshine. There's rolling green fields studded with copses, hiking through dappled woodlands and cool summer mornings before the sun comes up at some ungodly hour, as happens in high latitudes. Down here it's mangroves and flatness.

We're off to North Carolina for a week soon so I'll get a sample of all that stuff of which I spoke. My sister in law said to me once that she couldn't believe she lived there one evening when we were standing on a ridge under Mount Mitchell watching the haze of a heated day turn to purple blackness in the valley below. I like Asheville but summer is too short and winters are long wet and cold.

Around here it doesn't change much, a bit warmer and a bit damper or a bit cooler and drier. Someone cut the little clump of mangroves in front of the launch ramp, managing to ruin their looks while not clearing what little they impeded. I used to worry about nature encroaching but these days I figure a nature has more right to encroach than we have to fight it off. if nature lease my house alone Ill do my best not to mess with nature's house.

It's the dog's way too. Cheyenne makes a great teacher. Even as she naps using Niles Road as a pillow.

What I have is enough. Indeed it's a banquet.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Toxic Triangle

Our computer aided dispatch system at work has the name of every business in town listed in its search function. You call 911 and say you're in front of say, a convenience store and we know exactly where you re. Clever, huh? Of course you could just give the street and number or the intersection but for tourists in particular the feature is literally a life saver. It's common in emergency centers everywhere, of course. You could tell me you are at the ferry terminal, 100 Grinnell Street or the Buquebus (boo-kay-bus), which was the name of the Argentine company that first ran ferries to Fort Myers from here. The boat shown below takes people to the Dry Tortugas, but anyway...It's the ferry terminal.

Then there are the weird places, and I find out they are weird when I tell a Trainee "It's at The Ramp," and the Trainee looks quizzical. That's when I know some people don't remember the old boat launch ramp at the corner of Bertha and South Roosevelt on the south side of the city. They don't usually know what the Buquebus is either. I love the mysteries of CAD.
Looking at two pigeons (not chickens at least!) chasing food particles invisible to the naked eye I became aware, slowly, that this spot is in CAD and is most likely not known of a lot of people as The Toxic Triangle. The electrical generating tation on her side of Trumbo Road used to spew left over nasty stuff into the waters here. Ooh, look! An old pipe...

The Steam Plant is now a bunch of unsellable luxury condos. They were offered initially for more than three million. They have six left according to the sign out front and one and a quarter million will get you one if you want. Plus taxes I guess if people like that bother with piddly details like the glue that keeps the community together.

The seawall at the Toxic Triangle used to be a free home to a motley crew of boats, homes floating in a peculiar sludge that was supposed to be seawater. I visited my friend's boat but never swam in the water. nowadays the water looks great and smells like ocean. And the US Coastguard lives across the water from the seawall that is now devoid of water rats eyeing out a living. This smart dude seen below was heading for the base half an hour before they broadcast the recorded national anthem over a tinny speaker to start the day. A proper military band would be much cooler, but everything is a victim of technology and budgets these days.
I enjoy Trumbo Road, a slightly shambolic street untrimmed and very useful as it gives access to e school district headquarters and the landing craft that ferry supplies to Sunset Key the true home of one percenters in Key West.

I like this side of the harbor rather than sterile Sunset Key. Had I the millions I'd buy an apartment here rather than over there. Here it's lively, chaotic from time to time, messy and yet no longer toxic. Who says there is no progress?