Monday, January 21, 2013

Waterfront Walkabout

This is the 3000th essay I have published since I started this Blog in June 2007. I have no idea what significance that statistic has, as recorded for me by Google Blogger. Cheers!

It was dark when we arrived downtown after dropping my wife off at work. and Cheyenne leapt from the car like a rocket launched from a silo. She loves downtown exploration.
I was talking with a friend on the sidewalk later in the morning and Cheyenne laid herself down at my feet, chin on the ground, paws splayed in what I call her alligator pose. A pedestrian came by and got my attention asking tremulously if it was safe to step past my dog. Huh? Not over her but behind her as though my limp leash was holding back a baying hound. I am astounded by most people's lack of what the military call situational awareness. No clue what's going on around them. I saw this piece of artwork, photographed below, and I figured I am not alone in shaking my head at the way the world around me works.
Life has always been complicated for human beings, and though we like to think our lives have been made more complex by "labor saving" devices I don't think life was easier when ambitious people had fewer choices. Emotionally perhaps it was easier not to know what was going on across the world but part of that Blinkered approach to life came from the fact that physical labor kept the peasants going all day long. Sunday mornings they praised God and gave thanks for another week completed without catastrophe, which fear was ever present, and they girded their loins for another week of hard labor and no lifestyle choices.
Myth makers tell us the original human inhabitants of this continent lived in the Garden of Eden, and perhaps by comparison with the restricted lives of fearful European peasants it was a whole lot better but the philosopher Thomas Hobbes famously described their lives as solitary, poor, nasty brutish and short. So then the few appalled by the European Conquests reacted by over blowing the life of these "brutish" savages and they described them as noble, famously incapable of lying. With the benefit of hindsight I figure things must have been somewhere in the middle, a few good and a few bad and whole bunch of people in the middle muddling along. And I guess in that we are pretty much in the same boat today. I cannot imagine living on the streets and it never ceases to amaze me that people manage to do just that.
These reflections were prompted by my visit to the former Waterfront Market after a reader asked, some long time ago, for pictures. He's probably dead from old age by now but here they are, painted by a world class marine artist known by only one name, as all egomaniacal artists prefer to be known ('Conchscooter' could be construed as two names but I insist it be treated as one...).
I crossed paths with a serious city employee focused on his job emptying the meters. There was an appalling scandal a few years ago that sent people to jail for pocketing the coins, rolling them up and depositing them in the bank, over and over again. They were busted by a curious observer who saw a senior employee doing the menial work and wondered why. And the book keeping we are assured has tightened up so stealing tens of thousands of dollars (!) is no longer quite so simple. The best part is the cons were caught setting up phone scams from their jail cells while serving their sentences. Amazing stuff and proof positive leopards don't change their spots.
Wyland's artwork was impeccable of course, not that I know anything about art, murals or fish.
It just looks good, including the odd orange band around the top which seems to represent sunset as the building faces west.
There's lots of stuff to look at yet it doesn't look crowded.
I want to go back now and take more time to enjoy this astonishing aquarium on a wal..
Inside there hasn't been much movement towards the promised brew pub. Peering through the dusty windows all I could see was a construction site. I am looking forward to getting a beer here. The owner is expanding from The Porch pub and Two Cents, a restaurant on Appelrouth Lane. I like The Porch when it's not too crowded but Two Vents is too youthful and too pricey for my taste. I hope if this place happens we can eat value for money. Itll be tough to beat Finnegan's Wake, but I am a stick in the mud.
So there I was staring at this tremendous monument, top flight mural on the outside and a nice middle class drinking and eating jointin the making inside. Could be nice in Key West especially with the new hotel coming in alongside and street gentrification planned on Caroline. And there they are at Schooner Wharf rebuilding the part that burned down a good few years ago. All this energy and enterprise and while I was here this elderly couple slowly pedaled by on their tricycles. The old crone in the rear cooed at my dog as she stumped by and we exchanged smiles.
How is it, I ask myself that we haven't been able to give everyone a place at the table in this banquet that is America. I don't mean that everyone has to be an entrepreneur, only a died-in-the-wool Ayn Rand acolyte could make that argument with a straight face. I wonder how it is that we allow American corporations the right to have "personhood" in this country yet not allow them to feel an obligation to serve this country. It blows my mind that none of the cruise ships that stop in Key West have any American crew on them. How is it these cruise lines rely on Americans for their revenue, can have their headquarters in Ft Lauderdale yet not hire any Americans? I understand the flag of convenience rule perfectly, I just don't understand why we put up with this. It's our money they want.
I don't believe everyone deserves money, which is the line you'll hear from those same Ayn Rand disciples when they talk about leftists like me. I do believe though that everyone should have a chance to help build this great country. Someone has to do the janitorial work and someone else needs to run the company, but instead despised janitorial work is farmed out to shady contractors who hire foreigners, usually without papers, and they say Americans don't want the work. Is it really that simple? Perhaps, but I wager a living wage would help, respect for the work wouldn't hurt and a sense of shared commitment throughout the company would change the way our rather flat corporate future would look.
The service economy is limited in scope and we can't all be shuffling paperwork for each other. And at the same time I understand some people will evade work at all costs: you can't legislate ethics, though we seem to try all the time. I suppose I would like to see an economy based not on the lowest common denominator, the way Walmart hires people, but I would like to see something more ethical than the pursuit of money as the goal in and of itself. I believe it's possible and the more we go down the rabbit hole of profit at all costs the more likely there will be a correction sooner rather than later. The great thing is hat the American xperience is self correcting, the unfortunate part is that people suffer needlessly as the ship of state and it's corporations change direction.
I work for the government because I want job security, benefits and I like working for a boss who makes perhaps four times my wage. If the private sector gave me security, purpose and a sense of shared commitment I might have given it consideration. Just like you, I don't want to end up on a tricycle on the streets, even though I have no hope of becoming a great restaurant entrepreneur or a world class artist with the world at my feet. I jus want a chance to do a decent nights work fr a decent nights pay. And that is what I have. Is that too much to ask of corporate America?