Saturday, October 5, 2013

Fort Jefferson Closed


I got a comment from logbookwasilla - logbookwasilla to the effect that Washington DC shutting things down doesn't matter much on the Last Frontier as they are going into hibernation in Alaska soon anyway. In the Florida Keys hibernation is replaced most frequently by drunken stupors and they can come on people at any time. For the rest of us who earn a living here the shut down is shutting down jobs.

Thursday I took my break by walking around Fort Zachary Taylor a state park, and yesterday I went as close as I could to the Dry Tortugas National Park which is closed as part of the Federal government shut down.
This rather lovely model on the docks at Key west Bight is all we have to look at right now.
The newspaper ran a story on the making of this amazingly detailed model of the military Fort in it's heyday and I promised myself a visit. I did not expect to drop by when the fort itself was not available.
I've been to the fort several times as a search of this blog will reveal. Key West Diary: Life At Fort Jefferson whose most famous occupant is of course celebrated in the free museum they have built.
The man whose name was Mudd is depicted in a diorama. His cell at the fort was a corner room and though not terribly comfortable seems quite pleasant nowadays considering how much people pay to visit the island and camp there! He tried to sneak on a ship to get away, and that's hardly surprising as there were 1500 bored soldiers in wool uniforms in Florida heat and humidity stuck on that small piece of sand guarding him. They could not have been much fun for the man who set the leg of President Lincoln's assassin.
As a prison the Dry Tortugas were nicely isolated seventy miles west of Key West. Which makes them impossible to visit without a boat or plane and now that the Feds have closed the place we have no access at all.
I spoke with a woman at the ticket booth supposedly selling rides to the Dry Tortugas on the Yankee Freedom, the sole franchised ferry service to Fort Jefferson departing at eight am and returning at five thirty pm daily... But not anymore.
She said they are mostly giving refunds right now and trying to sell tickets for the Christmas season. Basically they are hoping Congress hurries up and gets the job done. Unlike the boat crews and the operators of seaplanes to the island, the ticket sellers still have work.
I feel very lucky to,work for the city and I am thankful for my job every day. I get paid well, I live in the Keys and I have time off. I feel privileged. Almost a like a member of a Congress who are paying themselves even as many other federal employees not only don't have work and don't get paid, but who will never get back pay for the days they missed.
Running the ferry has to be a pretty good job too, spending all day on the water and seeing the Fort up close every work day isn't bad. It would seem like reliable year round work in a town that doesn't always offer such a commodity. Until now it was reliable.
I said to the Historic Tours of America ticket seller at the Yankee Freedom booth that we seem to be living in an alternative universe. Rather grimly she agreed.

So Republicans don't want us to have access to cheap health insurance, with all its flaws, they don't want to tax the one percent, and now they don't want the rest of us to visit the National Parks. Whose universe is this?

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