Monday, November 11, 2013

A Word Of Thanks

Key West is the draw, hence the pictures, but one million is a far larger number than ever I would have expected to see drawn to this page. And yet by the end of the year if things continue as they are this blog will either be very close to, or will have surpassed one million page views. How is this possible?
I can say this, whatever it is that draws people to this site will continue as is, because I am loathe to change and I enjoy taking pictures and adding words. Some people pursue sporting efforts, some few people actually participate in them while others find other more esoteric ways to relax. Me? I found a quiet corner to call my own on the Internet. And share it with almost 40,000 page views a month, much to my astonishment.
I'm told blogs are yesterday's news and twittering and Facebook are the way of the future. Maybe. But I don't like limiting myself to just a few words or a single picture. Pictures tell me stories and I like to explore the pictures with words. So the blog format works well for me and my page won't change. I like the layout of red on yellow as it find it restful to my eyes and it is unique. I have never come across a page that uses the same colors. My banner picture isn't changing because I guess I grew up in a time when banner pictures were viewed as identifiers in print especially and weren't supposed to change. So the look will stay the same so when my page appears you will know where you are.
I tried using google Adsense and made ten bucks a month to prostitute my page. I make no money and that frees me to say what I want as I want and it gives you a single solitary space on the internet where no one, not even me, is trying to sell you something. You can give me your name address and phone number and no one will ever know. At work I have access to twenty million Floridians most private information and they have nothing to fear from me either. I am not trying to sell the Florida Keys even. This is a page that sees the world with a measure of either irritation or ironic detachment depending on my mood. I occasionally do over praise something but that is because I like it, not because I am paid. The Polish Market needs a visit and this picture is just a foretaste of my planned visit (when I remember!):
I get grief because I live on Ramrod Key not in Key West, but like my wife's cousin who lives in a suburb of Chicago, ask Lyn where she lives and the answer comes pat: "Chicago!" I get grief because I don't know the name of plants. Fair enough but like so much of modern life I know where to find the information and I have other uses for my brain storage capacity. I don't really care what plants are called frankly unless there is a story attached. I know my opinions and politics are rife on this page and if you are a Tea Partier who wants pictures of Key West I suggest either a) not visiting or b) just looking at the pictures. I am not interested in debating my beliefs. I am interested in venting from time to time because this blog helps me relax, it also gives me destinations to visit and as I get older my politics you may be surprised to learn are getting mellower. So I ride around, take pictures, look for the history, fulminate a little about the wealth disparity wrecking this country (Al Quaeda only wishes they could be as effective as the Koch brothers) and then I earn a living elsewhere.
And then there is Cheyenne. Oh my goodness I get grief for letting her hunt crap, letting her drink puddles, sit in puddles and be a dog. The vet says she is doing remarkably well for a Labrador of her advanced years and I attribute that to her own stress reduction. I figure when we are out walking it's her time. I take her someplace I think she'll like and I follow her once there. If she doesn't like it we return to the car and try someplace else until it's time to go home. If she wants to stop and sniff you will never see me tug her, because interrupting a good read is a crime against humanity, for dogs as much as humans. Where I can I let her roam off leash, where it can't I don't but she is a happy dog and she knows that makes me happy. See how much stress reduction I get out of this page? Who needs Ricks or the Red Garter?
Apparently my pictures cover a multitude of my own sins and omissions and I am not so stupid as to think that without photogenic, sun drenched Key West my blog would attract a tenth of the readers. I also know that there aren't too many (any?) bloggers that take the time to post pictures of their home towns elsewhere in the world. I've seen blogs come and go in Key West but apart from Key West Lou who seems to enjoy selling his radio show on his daily page more than selling Key West and Doug Bennett who attributes his weekly flood of pictures on This Week on the Island to my influence, sweet man, blogs don't seem to have legs around here. Or if they do they don't seem to tell a Keys story oddly enough. My persistence comes from within. I sometimes back up a week's worth of stories and I start to get antsy when I'm not taking pictures and tapping out words on my iPad. I have thought about quitting this from time to time but really I can't.
There are parts of Key West I don't much like. The need for all public events to be lubricated by alcohol tires me. I like to drink but getting falling down drunk in public embarrasses me. This town has a ton of winter cultural events to enjoy and the best water oriented outdoor activities in summer, so the need to drink to seek oblivion seems misplaced. But Key West prides itself on attracting misfits, though these days poor misfits are not entirely welcome. Better to be eccentric and rich than expecting to come here to be a Bohemian. That's the nature of change and the inevitable consequence of too many people on a small energy depleted planet. I get tired of people wanting to be eccentric so desperately, and are so anxious to radiate a bohemian vibe that they adopt a Key West pose. I particularly dislike part time residents and visitors who claim to live here but don't. (Not you George you are the most sensitive snowbird!). Key West is a lot more than Hemingway and sun drenched alcohol and pirates. It is actually a very pleasant place to live and work if you get it right. Even commuting isn't terrible here. And don't be fooled, this is not a laid back tropical island, unless you have enough money or can stand enough poverty not to need to work.

I am lucky that I got a good job, a supportive wife, a few strong friendships and my very own tiny corner of the web to live out my final years. To those I have pissed off here since 2007 my sincere apologies, including a few Moto bloggers who think (correctly) I am an opinionated asshole. I am opinionated about riding and I wish I could blame my Aspergers but it's just me... Key West Diary: My Life With Aspergers Syndrome. In summary I invite you to ask if you want pictures of something and if you want to buy me lunch when you are in Key West my number is 305 587 1904. And if you want to leave an anonymous comment telling me I will burn in hell or ought to burn in hell my comment box is free of word associations and number games and all those other weird tricks people play because they worry about spam. Another thing you didn't know about me is I love Spam, with fried eggs and ketchup especially. Keep on visiting you never know what you will see here.

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Poppy Day

As today is Veteran's Day, which is known in the civilized world (where they have universal health care like socialist Canada) as Armistice Day. It was founded in 1919 and marked by a minute of silence at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the moment when in 1918 World War One went silent. In the Commonwealth of English Speaking Nations it is traditional to wear red paper poppies to commemorate the day by remembering the poppy fields of Flanders where the slaughter of the Western Front took place. The poppies were sold to raise money for veterans causes and wearing the poppy was a point of pride in November when I was a child. We remembered.

Nowadays, almost a century after it began most people have forgotten why we get the day off today, but a bunch of generals decided the eleventh of the eleventh etc.. was the proper moment to end the endless slaughter of the war to end all wars. Then they all went to Versailles and signed the official paperwork punishing the Germans for starting it and thus laying the groundwork that would lead inevitably to World War Two, fifty million dead and wounded and more endless destruction and then the nuclear bomb and it's sole use as an instrument of war.

World War One was a horror beyond anything we can imagine. Men stood in mud and water up to their waists, ice and snow in winter, and shot each other. Post traumatic stress disorder wasn't known and men who lost their heads were labeled cowards and tied to a post between the trenches to die at random. Deserters were shot, the wounded had no penicillin, opiates were in short supply and field hospitals resembled butcher shops. Pensions for survivors were unheard of and a whole generation of women missed out on marriage and families. There weren't enough men to go round in peacetime.

From time to time the Generals organized attacks and the men in the trenches went "over the top" and slogged through barbed wire, mud or dust and walked into machine gun fire from the opposing trenches. They died in droves and no one served just one tour of duty. You volunteered or were conscripted and you served until the war ended or you died. This massacre went on for four years.

This endless slaughter produced some amazing art, great stories and later movies by the ton. From the German side you can read or see the immense classic called All Quiet on the Western Front, or a lesser known book which amazed me years ago and is available on Kindle by Walter Bloem, Advance from Mons which tells how the Germans felt as they advanced on Paris in 1914. I enjoy the sarcastic humor of Derek Robinson's novels of the air war on the British side but if you think I am a curmudgeon they may be too much for you.

War poetry is the best. It conveys the utter awfulness and despair of thinking men caught up in a disaster they cannot escape and which they are forced to participate in with all their strength to hold on to life. People like Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves, Rupert Brooke among others. My favorite anthology of World War One poems is not on Kindle. Poems of the First World War: Never Such Innocence (Everyman): Martin Stephen: 9780460873505: Amazon.com: Books You may reasonably wonder why on Veterans Day I think back to a war four generations old and almost forgotten, God knows we've had plenty since. On the first day of the first battle of the Somme in 1916 sixty thousand British troops were killed and wounded. That was the first day of a battle that lasted 141 days, and there were two more battles later in the war over that same ground. Troops were gassed, drowned, blown up and died in ferocious hand to hand fighting. They came home and never did they put bumper stickers on their model Ts "I survived the First Battle of the Somme" or "My son sailed at Jutland." They did the fighting and lived modest lives thereafter. They deserve to be remembered after all this time. They died for freedom and never even asked for a pension for their wounds. If you want to read modern poetry in the same vein you should read Amazon.com: Here, Bullet eBook: Brian Turner: Kindle Store. Here Bullet is profound in the tradition of the War Poets and it's written by an Afghan War veteran with an amazing way with words.

The man who was arguably the greatest of the War Poets died five days before the Armistice, shot down by a machine gun as his company crossed the Sambre Canal. Everyone knew peace was coming and the minute when the fighting was to stop but they didn't stop fighting until that exact eleventh hour...Wilfred Owen wasn't the last to die, that "honor" went to George Lawrence Price a Canadian soldier shot and killed in Belgium at 10:58, two minutes before all guns were laid down for the last time. However to Owen goes the poetry honor while Price's death is marked with a plaque in Belgium. Of all Owen's poems I like this one best to honor all those for whom today is named, before and after the war to end all wars.

Apologia Pro Poemate Meo - In Defence of my Poems, by Wilfred Owen.

"I, too, saw God through mud -

The mud that cracked on cheeks when wretches smiled.

War brought more glory to their eyes than blood,

And gave their laughs more glee than shakes a child.

 

Merry it was to laugh there -

Where death becomes absurd and life absurder.

For power was on us as we slashed bones bare

Not to feel sickness or remorse of murder.

 

I, too, have dropped off fear -

Behind the barrage, dead as my platoon,

And sailed my spirit surging, light and clear

Past the entanglement where hopes lay strewn;

 

And witnessed exultation -

Faces that used to curse me, scowl for scowl,

Shine and lift up with passion of oblation,

Seraphic for an hour; though they were foul.

I have made fellowships -

Untold of happy lovers in old song.

For love is not the binding of fair lips

With the soft silk of eyes that look and long,

 

By Joy, whose ribbon slips, -

But wound with war's hard wire whose stakes are strong;

Bound with the bandage of the arm that drips;

Knit in the welding of the rifle-thong.

 

I have perceived much beauty

In the hoarse oaths that kept our courage straight;

Heard music in the silentness of duty;

Found peace where shell-storms spouted reddest spate.

 

Nevertheless, except you share

With them in hell the sorrowful dark of hell,

Whose world is but the trembling of a flare,

And heaven but as the highway for a shell,

 

You shall not hear their mirth:

You shall not come to think them well content

By any jest of mine. These men are worth

Your tears: You are not worth their merriment."