Saturday, December 31, 2016

End Of The Year

I am not much given to year in review thoughts because I don't really see time cut up into chunks the way convention requires. Life would be impossible if we didn't have ways to measure time in daily life but I don't see any difference between January First and today. Different month, different year etc...but at a practical level no change. To wish someone a good 2017 seems ludicrous to me but I do it anyway because convention says we should.
So when I look back on 2016 all I can really remember is the mad election campaign we lived through and what may be the start of a major shift in the ways the world works.  I am sure in a few years we will look back and wonder why we didn't prepare for this or that outcome but right now the future seems extremely foggy to me. There are many people prophesying Armageddon because Donald Trump won the election though I doubt the institutions of this country will collapse under the weight of his considerable ego. However that may be I have admit I thought his slogan "Make America Great" wasn't that bright. The America I inhabit is doing okay thanks, and it's pretty great already. I guess I missed the bit about how bad it is for many other people in the snow belt Up North.
 I was wandering around the pump house on West Summerland Key, Rusty was chasing demons in the long grass and the bushes and I was prompted to consider what the people who built this structure for the new water pipeline to Key West were thinking in 1942. I expect some of them were hopeful for a better future and some of them had cause to be downright gloomy about a world so utterly at war. Some must have been confused by the new alliance with the Russian communists and some  must have wondered how long they had to live with so many deaths all around. So I figure no matter how odd things seem to be we are still better off: reason for optimism.
 I don't count my vote for Hillary Clinton as my finest hour. I did what I felt I had to do and I did it because I want things to stay the same for a bit longer, stay calm, stay in the rut of what we have accepted as normal. I look back on my vote with regret, perhaps it was an act of cowardice or of pragmatism, I'm not sure, but I did not want the revolt Donald Trump was promising. Now that we see his cabinet choices and his unending stream of invective against anyone who disagrees with him I wonder if I may be over thinking my vote. Trump's revolution is being led by Goldman Sachs, the vampire squid on the face of American business. Not that different from the repugnant bankers in the Clinton camp.
So Trump seems less and less a revolutionary and more and more an incompetent politician. He is a useful reminder of what it takes to run for public office in this country. You can expect to be heckled and insulted, your motives will be questioned and your integrity may be compromised by the requirements of the job. Trump is the embodiment of why we need a professional politician class in this country. Being President is not a job for thin skinned sissies with a Twitter account. Or is it?
 The Republican Party has spent decades telling us we need to have a government that runs the country like it was a business. Well we got that leader finally and everyone is writhing just a little bit. I wish Trump had shown himself to be a true revolutionary and had he done so I would have really regretted my vote, as it is he is falling short and I doubt his millionaire sidekicks give  a toss about the miners of West Virginia or the steelworkers of Pennsylvania or the auto workers in Michigan. Had he been the embodiment of Teddy Roosevelt he would have cast off Republican dogma and chosen a cabinet of technocrats, people with real life skills, scientists, businessmen and diplomats, not a bunch of second rate opportunists. We are told that business executives want to hire the smartest and the best and if that were being done here Trump's cabinet would reflect life skills not a bunch of warmed over second raters. This won't be a revolution it looks much more like a kleptocracy. So, the thieves run the place for four years and then we hire a different bunch. Plus ca change...
 In Key West 2016 had its own turning point. This was the year I think that we are going to have to start coming to terms with the notion that climate change is real and its happening and that the city of Key West is closed to working stiffs. I have an idea how climate change will affect low lying coastal communities now. Flooding will happen with greater frequency and greater severity but not all at once. High high tides will keep creeping up and waters will then retreat. We will slowly get used to them. Storms may get stronger and not all the time. Droughts will dry land and kill crops and people will go looking for better places to live. A little at a time and always worse. 
Streets are flooding with high tides, callers to 911 report a  smell of sewage but its just the ocean. The city commission has made noises about mitigating sea level rise but it's hard to imagine what Key West can do when the governor of the state won't allow state employees to use the term climate change. Fear of change is a terrible thing.
This was also the year I noticed a massive change in the commuting patterns on Highway One. I ride home at six in the morning and nowadays I see a string of headlights all the way home to Mile Marker 23. The working population has been squeezed out of  the city so effectively the commute to Big Pine and points in between has become the new normal. A lot of people like to live in Key West to avoid car use and commuting (something that has not bothered me as I like to ride my motorcycle) but now the cost of renting in the city is exorbitant and living out in the suburbs gives a better quality of life. A stilt house offers parking, low crime, boating and peace and quiet not to mention the possibility of a garden and even access to a canal with a dock...All for less money than a ratty apartment with window air conditioning and noisy neighbors in Key West.
2016 was also the year when Fantasy Fest outdid itself in terms of pointlessness and lack of taste or sophistication or humor. The organizer of the annual display of tastelessness has retired which gives the city a chance to refashion the event into something other than a display of genitalia and drunkenness. I'd like to see a return to costumes, local political satire and an emphasis on carnival not bacchanal. Fat chance, the artists can't afford to live here anymore...
The sun continues to shine, temperatures never dip much below  70 and we haven't seen 50 degrees in years. Yes I know local weather isn't representative of climate change but warm winters seem to be the norm now. It is weird and the occasional chilly day with prolonged low humidity and strong fresh winds would be a pleasant change from summer.
And 2016 saw a new dog in my life. Rusty the street fighter has adapted perfectly to life at home. He and I fit as though meant to be together.
But that doesn't alter the fact that Cheyenne broke my heart when she laid down and died on February 12th. She too came from a terrible life, and like Rusty, defied the commonplace reason for not adopting dogs in that they must be abandoned because they have character flaws.  Its not the dogs that are flawed, but as usual it's the humans.