I have been struggling to accept that this week we live under a vast giant gray cloud of rain, like Seattle but much more annoying as this isn't normal. Intense prolonged summer rain interrupted by prolonged drizzle followed by heavy overcast and wind followed by another cycle of rain. Thanks but no thanks.
The good news is that summer is actually being delayed by this weird weather pushed over us by strong east winds. The winds are dropping temperatures enough that it actually feels cool early in the morning when I leave work before dawn.
It's been a tough few days at work, short staffing caused mostly by high priced rental properties makes it tough on those of us who have figured out living situations and hang on in our jobs. One of the most important criteria for hiring when all is said and done: do you have a secure living situation? There is a lot of talk about workforce housing and they mention teachers firefighters police etc.. but it's a struggle to get people to work as officers or dispatchers in a town where buying a house looks increasingly impossible.
I love living in the Lower Keys as I find myself a stranger in a world where I have less and less in common with my fellow travelers. I came to the US to live more or less by accident and slipped into a life after my student days that settled me in a country that was exciting and forward looking and leading the world in the arts, business and diplomacy. I end my working life in the same country upended in it's ideals. I find it extraordinary that official policy talks about coal when renewable energy powers the rest of the world. Whoever would have thought scientists would take to the streets to protest their exclusion from the menu of solutions to world problems?
In a few years I will slip away to retirement and like so many before me I will leave the Keys and plod off looking for some other place to call home. Personally I hope the search takes years and years. It's not an economic departure as my retirement will be well funded after a life of government service mixed in with union pension plans. No, I find myself marginalized by a community that has drifted too far from the ideals that made it interesting for me. These days social events are powered by people older than me (wealthier goes without saying!) and Florida the Aged seems to have slipped into Key West in a big way.
Young Rusty will age alongside me, I hope. After he dies if I outlive him I wonder how I shall cope with another dog. I will be north of 70 by then and unlikely to outlive, never mind walk a young dog. I remember when I was a youngster how old people complained about how we lived, bell bottoms long hair and a lack of seriousness. Now I see youngsters looking for well paid part time high tech work, no commitments, no unions no permanence. I just see a new generation with new plans and different ideals. Good for them.
I like Key West because I am comfortable here. Fashionable clothes and expensive cars still don't make a social dent here even with people who care about or can afford them. It remains desirable to be a little down at heel and for someone like me who equates fashion with dictatorship (strong I know) Key west accepts me in ways the outside world doesn't.
I am already starting to come to terms with my transition out of the working world into a place where my time will be mine own, and I have no fear of boredom or pointlessness. I wonder where I will live eventually when the wanderlust dies down (around my 75th birthday maybe..?) and warmth and medical facilities will rate high on my scale of values. Perhaps by then I will no longer need my surroundings infused with diversity and tolerance and art and eccentricity. Maybe I will be content with conformity.
I blame myself really for not having the inner strength to know how to enjoy living anywhere. Were I stronger in my convictions I could live anywhere instead of needing to surround myself with what matters to me. I have friends who are convinced there are ghosts in Key West and maybe they are right but I don't believe it. What I do believe is that places affect us, for reasons I cannot easily put my fingers on, but I have known deep agitation in certain places and profound serenity in others. Just like that. These feelings irritate me because they tend to control my decisions about where to live and how well I will cope while living in a place that doesn't suit me. I feel I should rise above such chimeras but I can't.
So when I see more and more people excluded from this place simply by the cost of living here, and therefore the difficulty of finding a way in, I feel a sense of regret myself. I know it's not my problem, I know there are other alternatives and some people fight the good fight to live here and succeed. But there is my belief that a city that can't for whatever reason house it's workers faces a dismal future. Perhaps it's as well that my retirement plans call for a tour of the Americas rather than sitting here watching the city evolve to suit its current crop of empowered residents. When I return I dread what I may I find but there again what I find will be what those who keep on living here want this place to be. And I have to deal with that.