We passed the long abandoned house on the edges of civilization, and as we did a voice called out from the road in the distance, warning me to beware of horseflies. "Better living through chemistry," I replied, grateful for the spray that keeps all manner of biting insects away. In conversation later with the man in the white shirt he was well protected by his clothes from flying bites but they sure landed on his face did those horseflies.
Bryan it turns out works for the Monroe County Mosquito Control District whose employees wander around putting out traps to check on populations and Bryan was carrying a long handled scoop to "check the tides" which I assured him were probably still there...I've walked to the wet and muddy end of the trail some distance north and to my surprise Cheyenne took the left turn at the fork and headed in that direction so I fell in with the long legged Bryan and we got to talking as Cheyenne stumped off ahead.
Bryan is a man with a plan and he seems to have skills that could make it work if only he get anyone to listen, which to me is the dubious part. Apparently he spent nine months in the Middle east with Special Forces doing something called logistical support which involved in part feeding starving local populations. He remarked how one time a crowd surged round his truck and tried to pile on and tip it over so desperate were they to get to the food. "Starving people do strange things," he said as he explained his plan to help local people unable to help themselves.
On one point we were in total agreement, which is to say the idea of closing the homeless shelter just pushes the people out into the streets of the city where no one wants to see or deal with them. Bryan's idea would be to convert the Easter Seals building on Stock Island into a shelter and facility to assist those in need. His version of running it would be along military lines with ID cards, and jobs to keep the people busy. He is a great believer in Noni a tropical fruits said by its supporters to cure all manner of ailments and Bryan takes a triple jigger shot of the stuff every morning for breakfast. He seems fit and active and doing fine on the stuff, so whether its that his genes or his outdoor lifestyle...who knows.
It seems like a great idea to do something about an issue that drives housed residents of Key West crazy with irritation. Yet I see a couple of flies lurking in the ointment of his enthusiasm. He has spoken to county Sheriff Ramsay, a man not much known for his support for social programs, unlike his much admired predecessor Sheriff Roth."He's a hard man," Bryan smiled not at all put out by initial failure to convince. He said he had an appointment with city mayor Craig Cates, who has himself proposed a shelter for the homeless in this style and who has been roundly abused for suggesting "coddling" the homeless. One can hardly imagine gobs of support for the intense cheerful man from Mosquito Control. I wondered if Bryan might have contacted Steve Braddock the minister whose efforts to help the homeless have led him up a dead end in consultations with lawmakers. Perhaps fortunately that's one avenue Bryan hasn't followed. It could dent his optimism.
I suppose when you have seen people in the throes of starvation being driven to do the impossible may not seem so hard but as he talked I found myself wishing him well. I think his idea is actually a good one, a humane one, and sensibly based on his own actual knowledge of how to do these complex operations. I particularly liked his idea of approaching the hospital for the use of a dedicated nurse, the idea being treating people at the shelter would actually save the hospital money on indigent admissions. He knows how to be persuasive I guess.
The other big fly in the ointment came at the beginning of the walk we shared, when he announced rather happily that he has only three more years in his job before he retires to Ohio to raise mules. I thought at first he was joking but he wasn't. It hurts my brain to think of being in the Keys while simultaneously looking forward to livestock rearing in a snowy climate. I guess I know where I want to live. On that note though there is at some level a self defeating tone to any project with an open ended commitment from a man with a very short time line ahead.