Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Seven Year Cycle Ends

This year I started my eighth set of seven year cycles in my life. I will be 57 this month and I have never felt better, physically or emotionally as it happens. I have come to terms with the fact that I enjoy solitude and no longer feel it necessary to pretend to enjoy crowds, which is a huge relief after decades spent trying to learn small talk. My wife has taken the time to understand my Aspergers Syndrome which helps me in turn to accept myself after a long life spent apologizing for being inept. I have a great innate capacity for pissing people off, and my standard defense that I was just being practical throws fuel on the flames of their ire. Telling them I have Aspergers produces the inevitable accusation that that is an excuse not a useful explanation. So when I say I am changing the way I post on this page I hope no one will get angry. After seven years of daily essays I need a change, as much as I love Key West.
I do not propose changing the look of this page nor its address but the daily planned essay must end. I have published 3700 of them since June 2007 and as the late Bob Leong once predicted I have run out of words. Not exactly run out as I am a wordy bugger, but the burden of composing a coherent 500 word essay daily has become tedious. I am constrained by the realities of daily living in a small town so I cannot be the the muck raking journalist I once was and I cannot keep describing Key West in the generic terms I have used so far. If you need to know what a street or place looks like enter it in the search function in the white box in the top left hand corner of the page. Unfortunately a few years ago I had an accident and wiped out a picasa picture album so a few of the older essays lost their pictures. It still irks me today, but that the loss is my own fault. Other than that, my pictures are all here, to be seen as wanted.
When I look back over my life I have seen the seven year cycles play themselves out and while there is a lot of mystical jumbo jumbo surrounding this concept the view I get from my perch is that every seven years I shift my perspective. Scientists will tell you not all your cells regenerate every seven years and the chakra merchants will offer you a bargain in life affirming nonsense if you give them money but all I'm saying is I get an itch about every seven years and - check this out! - my blog is seven years old.
I have stopped following Facebook. I tried it for a few months and found it to be exhausting. People post endless streams of stuff that they glean from other websites and that has no more relevance to their lives than a billboard on the street. I figured Facebook allied with ubiquitous pocket cameras would open up dialogue of a more personal kind. Wrong on that score! Facebook masks reality, no one posts what's really going on in their lives and most likely we wouldn't want to see it if they did, so instead we get aphorisms and mottos and platitudes about living life to the full. Posted on Facebook such exhortations ring richly of irony. I have lived my life as richly as I could, as mindfully as I am able and I don't need to be told to get out there and get on with it, thanks.
Furthermore the notion that Facebook would facilitate communication with distant relatives or friends proved elusive for me. My brother-in-law died this summer, a decent man I had come to know over the past few years, a man I had exchanged some profound thoughts with. A man who married my wild, irritating sister and made her happy, so on that score he had my respect. He died of cancer from which he had been suffering with periodic remissions and I found out He had croaked during the course of a phone conversation with my non technological 90 year old aunt. She had no idea I didn't know. So what the devil is the point of communicating by Facebook? It's just a page on the web, and no more. My relatives are as much strangers as ever frankly, and I dint blame them as it was me that chose to emigrate. But Facebook won't bridge the chasm.
I tried Instagram but soon gave that up for a bad job. Streams of pictures with no words overwhelmed me and there was the whole reciprocal liking thing. I dumped that.
I have been thinking about this for a while and I guess what I like about my page is that I don't expect anything from you the reader. I get between 25,000 and 30,000 hits a month, more in winter when Key West looks much more interesting (!) but I don't want to feel that dropping in here is an obligation And you will never be pestered with pop ups or requests to like me or any of that connectivity that everyone pretends to need. I post what I post for fun, to relieve some of the pressure created in my head by the constant stream of thoughts that clutter my over active mind. I deliberately avoid advertising and I do not wish to create a sense of reciprocity with other people online. If you enjoy good, if not never mind. If my politics offend you, political opinions I have supported and can defend from a lifetime of living mindfully in the world, too bad. I am a social democrat, a progressive, a voter who has voted for President Obama three times and have felt sorely let down by him. Not because he's black or a Muslim or a Kenyan or whatever the conspiracy theory of the day is, but because he hasn't followed through. Like all of them. As Gore Vidal said by the time they are elected they are bought already. But I remain a progressive because I hope, and when I no longer hope I shall become a political as well as a religious atheist.
I doubt there will be much political content going forward, what I am thinking about doing is posting about these places as I go, pictures with or without commentary, comments with or without pictures. Lots of random photos of Key West, the Keys, Cheyenne, my motorcycles and my riding life. In a sense I think this will be more of a diary, even if not daily and unless I feel like it I shall not feel obliged to compose and create a coherent series of thoughts and pictures. I take as my inspiration this blog by Richard Holt in England. Though perhaps I shall write more words to accompany my own pictures! All too often I come across pictures I enjoy taking but that fit no story and I would like to keep a record of them here. My riding life is a case in point; I ride daily but you don't know it here as my rides are not stories though they often make great pictures. That does not a diary make! Cheyenne will always be here as long as she lives and so far she is strong and healthy. I intend to keep her so.
The other areas of my life wherein I start to live a fresh seven year cycle are less clearly defined. We moved to a new house and a happy neighborhood this year which has been excellent. Work for my wife and I has been good, though they never seem to pay us enough to get ahead! I have steady friends at work who make my nights great fun, and unsteady friends by day when I live a confused cycle of work and sleeping hours. And now I have to learn the break habit of what seems a lifetime and let the blog flow, rather than forcing it to be directed. Wish me luck as I wish you all the best wherever you are, whichever bridge you are crossing.
To seven more years.

Sugarloaf Land Preservation

The bald facts are enough: 928 acres preserved at a cost to the Florida Forever program of $3.6 million dollars. It just so happens our embattled anti-environment Governor Rick Scott can see an election in his near future and the outcome is uncertain. So we get to see some good out of the election already. 
Florida Forever and it's predecessor Florida 2000 is the largest public land acquisition program in the US (Florida can be surprising can't it?) with nearly ten million acres preserved forever, they say. And now dormant private land on Sugarloaf joins the preservation program. I am quite fond of the Loop Road, worth visiting with an agile dog or better yet a bicycle. The map below photographed in the Citizen newspaper illustrates the lands recently purchased in orange.
With 3700 illustrated essays on my website a quick dip into the search function in the top left hand corner of the page pulled up this old essay. 

Friday, May 22, 2009

Sugarloaf Loop Road

Sugarloaf Loop Road is another of those unknown open spaces in the Keys that you only find out about by osmosis (word of mouth) or by curiosity (poking around). I wrote about a walk I took in this area on the 25th October 2008, an essay I titled Sugarloaf Wilderness which included part of the loop road.This time I walked the whole bloody lot in one afternoon, and it was ninety degrees (32C) so it was hot...and I didn't just walk the object of this essay, Loop Road, but I took in a chunk of the old State Road 939 as well so I spent three hours tramping around south Sugarloaf Key. Granted it's not the Mojave Desert but that's a lot of big sky to be roaming under:And did I mention it was hot?I did much better this time because I did remember to use sunscreen and mosquito repellent, though I did forget water and a hat, so in the heat of the early afternoon my shirt had to serve double duty. My wardrobe seems to be coming in for unusual scrutiny these days, pink crocs and all, so I feel obliged to point out that one can do a lot more than most people imagine, with even not ideal equipment. I felt like Gassim in Lawrence of Arabia, crossing the Nefud desert on foot after falling off his camel in a stupor. Lawrence proved he was as tough as the Bedu by turning around, against their advice and rescuing the stranded man. Of course later Lawrence had to shoot him because he initiated a blood feud that threatened the whole expedition. And people wonder why I am an Ironist. In the event I did survive the Loop Road crossing, even without a camel.I have no knowledge at all about Loop Road's history or it's raison d'etre, though one can assume that this place was built to further development, which is the usual story everywhere in Florida there is something inexplicable. However what exactly they were planning to develop is unfathomable because the road is surrounded on both sides by salt water, in the form of a sound or lake:Or by boggy ground that becomes water in the rainy season:The house visible in the distance is on the other side of a massive canal dug through the rock alongside the homes on Sugarloaf Boulevard and is thus unreachable in a direct line short of flying (or swimming). Loop Road seems like it was a massive boondoggle of some sort that has become an abandoned roadway serving no visible purpose other than recreation:However my fellow travelers only started to appear after the sun was obscured by a thick layer of clouds and while they were all busy improving their physiques, I was the only person I saw ambling along the road looking at this and that and pausing to take pictures of whatever I saw with no strenuous benefit in mind. Like observing pretty flowers:Sea grapes here are doing a lot better than mine, which have taken to shedding their fruit as though in an act of self destruction:I first heard, then saw this woodpecker even as the exercise enthusiasts were whirring by, heads down, no time for subtleties:And I'm pretty sure I saw a rabbit-like creature bounding through the scrub, too fast for my camera. There were several sticks in the roadway of which this was the most tortured and artistic:And I think the heat must have been getting to me but I was pretty sure I could the face of a rodent in this dried up coconut:I took a few detours across the mud, wetted this week by some heavy summer thunderstorms and found mysterious paw prints, hopping along in parallel pairs:And I also found this recliner, delightful presumably in the cool sunlight of winter, though a torture rack in the heat of summer, surrounded by freshly minted mud:
This is the side path I followed last October when i rambled down alongside the canal:This unknown trail hacked out of the bushes I was too tired to follow:
The road went on and on, winding hither and yon:I passed a trim boat snug at anchor, quite possibly a liveaboard as the bimini was up shading the cockpit, who knows perhaps someone working on Lower Sugarloaf, quite the castaway:Not impossibly far from the bright lights of Highway One if equipped with a powerful dinghy:
But certainly isolated enough for most of us:
Loop Road and Old State Road 939 are closed to motorised traffic these days but the asphalt is starting to deteriorate:Though some enterprising soul has carted out surplus cement to patch what they could:And somebody else has been painting mysterious code in the roadway:BS? Quite possibly, though I'll tell you what I think is BS, it's speed limits. In the days of motor vehicles traveling this loop the speed limit was 35:Meanwhile on the enormous, wide and very straight modern Sugarloaf Boulevard the county has seen fit to impose a thirty mile an hour limit on modern vehicles. I mentioned this in my October essay and since then nothing has changed and the speed limit on the Boulevard remains at a piddly 30 miles per. Amazing!
Post scriptum:
Reader Keith Krensberger has sent me these pictures from an automobile rally on Loop Road in 1974:
Delightful period pieces indeed. I wonder how many other such photos are out there deserving to be seen...