Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Hurricane Matthew

I find the practice of calling Key West "the Island" to be pretentious. As in "I'll be on the island next month" or "Does anyone on the island sell hand cuffs?” In the first place it's a peninsula, you didn't take a seaplane or have to take a ferry to get here, and secondly you need to travel a lot further away than Key West to turn your journey into a true adventure. The natives who inhabit "The Island" speak a form of English, mostly, and use US currency when they can get their hands on it and occasionally have access to electric telephones and the Internet. Imagine that. And we rarely stick bones through our nostrils. Get over it, the most exotic thing about Key West is the flora.
Oddly enough it may be that in the next day, possibly two, Key west may very well actually become a temporary island. The National Hurricane Center has issued a Tropical Storm warning for Dade County and the Upper Keys as far as the Seven Mile Bridge, but here in the Lower Keys we are apparently far away from the immense winds generated by the huge and slow moving storm called Matthew. Which incidentally is a force of nature and is thus gender-free. It's called Matthew for convenience not because it dangles testicles. So we are not going to introduce young Rusty to the joys of hurricane evacuation this time. My status as a 911 dispatcher means I always have to be at work. My wife the teacher usually evacuates when they close the schools and goes to stay with her sister in Asheville. The late Cheyenne used to love the cool Fall weather in Western North Carolina. Seen here in the gardens of the Biltmore Estate in 2013:
I am still planning to take a week off in the middle of the month to go walking around Asheville with my buddy. Rusty the Carolina Dog is much better adapted to southern heat but I suspect he will enjoy it too, being up in the mountains. We will I am sure miss the Keys and the domestic life but the break will be nice as I like Asheville and it will be good to see some mountains, which I missed this summer owing to my wife's gallbladder misbehaving.
My colleagues at work tell me panic stricken callers are already calling 911 to ask police dispatchers what the prognosis is and what to do. Like we are the National Hurricane Service...Matthew the gender-free hurricane is massive and powerful and is not likely to hit any major mountain range which would reduce the strength of the circulating winds. Furthermore the storm is moving forwards relatively slowly, less than ten miles per hour which allows the circulating winds to maintain their strength. Fast forward motion tends to reduce the wind strength. None of which is good news for the Bahamas which are going to raked by winds stronger than 115 miles per hour. One hopes it will stay well offshore from Miami and Ft Lauderdale.
The problem for the Keys is a breakdown in infrastructure in Dade County. We get our tap water and our electricity from Dade County. The only roads in and out pass through the knot that is Homestead. So it seems prudent to anticipate loss of water electricity and supplies possibly for a few days. I envision that as the worst possible scenario. That and some wind and rain. And lots of fearful calls at work. It's been a long time since the Keys were this close to a major storm and the are lots of people who haven't a clue.
For now the skies are clear and blue and Rusty and I are out and about as my wife carries on teaching in Marathon as usual. We walked Summerland Key recently and I enjoyed looking at the various lavish gardens and stilt houses. So peaceful, so quiet in the low season.
I have enjoyed the past decade of hurricane-free summers. Hurricane Matthew is a reminder that storm season cannot be taken for granted.

Meanwhile I watch the NHC forecast. Some people look at the Weather Channel or Weather Underground but as they get their information from the National Hurricane Center it seems more sensible to me to go to the source. Dedicated weather watchers pay to read Crown Weather Services put out by a grouchy guy in Maine.
I hate to think what's happening in Haiti and I am none to keen to think about the fate of Rusty's former pals stuck on the streets of Homestead. It's easy for those of us well housed with money to spare to buy supplies to forget there are those who live on the streets or in shacks with no resources. To me a tropical storm such as we shall suffer means no motorcycle riding for a couple of days. Oh well.
If that's as bad as it gets we shall be lucky. I'm not sure we deserve such luck more than Haiti but that's the way it seems to be going. It's ironic but Hurricane Matthew, that soulless force of Nature seems to prefer to wreck Third World lives. Had the hurricane a human sensibility one might call it a coward.

Watching Casa Marina

I overheard a tourist once in Key West while they were studying a map of the city and when that long distant voice comes back to me I hear surprise that a town as small as Key West has distinct districts. Key West is a small but potent melting pot of districts and cultures, languages and histories.
Casa Marina surrounds the hotel that name on the south west corner of the island, and though boundaries are generally not well defined you will know when you are in Casa Marina. You will see the usual mark of affluence: trees.
Robert Frost, an occasional winter visitor to Key West wrote a poem whose most quoted line refers to good fences making good neighbors. I have read that the line, usually quoted as an obvious truth, was meant in irony. You don't have neighbors if you have an impentrable wall. Like this:
Casa Marina is where you find trees and walls and American-sized houses on suburban lots. Gardeners and pool trucks cruise the broad streets and in winter here like elsewhere in town, life returns.
If you have ever seen closed circuit television pictures, or wanted posters with fuzzy images you wonder what reassurance these loud notices give to homeowners in the Hamptons or at Davos or Wherever it is they over summer. I trust the jerky images of Rusty and I ambling by gave them all good cheer.
It's like a park, is Casa Marina, especially in the heat of summer. The shade trees, the abundance of green, the lack of ownership and thus responsibility, I might as well be in a perfectly tended public space. Casa Marina gives me time and space to think. No dodging cars or tourists bemused by oddly shaped Key West. Casa Marina is normal.
There are no convenience stores here so if you are hydration-obsessed this is a place where the ubiquitous plastic water bottle seems remotely necessary to me. But then I stand and stare and the need for the practical is replaced by wonder.
Crime watch. Judging by the sign it doesn't seem to be a priority, watching for crime in a neighborhood of walls becomes an individual responsibility. So Rusty and I walk and enjoy our park.
And here and there slivers of older Florida mix it up between the modern homes and gardens. Of walls there are none:

Rusty, the best neighborhood watcher; Casa Marina just another neighborhood to watch.