Friday, November 30, 2018

Don Quixote And The Fire Alarm

Layne got home late from work as must happen when your job is educating adults. They have jobs and at least a few classes need to accommodate students with adult schedules. I sat in my wheelchair and recounted the day’s doings, lunch with Nick, a few stories I had heard, physical therapy and that sort of thing.  How was your day dear? asked the homebound man in the wheelchair. Rusty chewed his chew and waited, like me for dinner. 

It happened that garlic toast was on the menu to use up a baguette in danger of hardening beyond use. Well, it did that all right. In the pirouettes between pasta, water, oven and salad something went awry. Suddenly a voice screeched:”FIRE! FIRE! FIRE!” at the top of her tinny lungs. The garlic bread! Layne pulled the oven door open thus allowing one more copious gust of black smoke to issue forth like the dying grunt of the Titanic’s submerging boilers. The smoke, as though possessed of diabolical intelligence snaked across the white ceiling and wreathed itself round the screeching whistling smoke alarm. In vain I told the freaked out voice there was no “FIRE!” as she kept bellowing at the top of her lungs from the little white box. I rolled to the balcony and pulled the sliding doors open. Layne propped the front door open allowing cubic yards of freezing night air to sweep through the apartment like a cleansing breath of sanity. No dice. “FIRE!” The bitch in the box kept screeching.

You’d think living in a collection of rabbit hutches nearby residents might appear at our place, concerned for their safety or that of their property. With the door wide open and the cold north wind howling through our apartment you’d think someone would have noticed the stentorian bellowing of that single deadly word “FIRE!” over and over again accompanied by a piercing whistle announcing the imminent doom of all within hearing. Not one person appeared. That left my wife and her cripple in his wheelchair to handle the emergency. Great. Layne got a kitchen stool and took the box off the ceiling. I got the broom and waved it around over my head in circles not sure if I was trying to smother the deadly box in smoke-free air or expressing the inner Quixotic helplessness of the handicapped in an emergency. I wheeled back and forth riding my broken backed Rosinante waving my lance at the offending voice still screaming “FIRE!” at the top of her artificial lung. Layne couldn’t detach the box from the wires that powered it and I couldn’t articulate to her how to do it. Between us we deserved to be burned to a crisp for sheer incompetence and ineffectual bleating in the face of that voice which now sounded more like a command than a warning. “FIRE!”

With the back up battery removed I got to the fuse box almost set too high for a cripple to reach. I flipped switches, slowly at first but in an increasing frenzy. Finally she shut up. “F—-“ and as I slumped on my Rosinante I supplied the requisite Anglo-Saxon expletive to complete the phrase.

Dinner was a subdued affair. Rusty had restreated to the bed, easily able to resist joining in the fun and chaos at the front door. Layne and I ate pasta with untoasted bread glancing at each other as though we were the guilty survivors of some secret yet deeply immoral disaster. I announced I had better call my colleagues at work. Chelsea answered. Umm I said, have you got a call yet from a fire alarm company? No she said. Well I said if you do you can disregard. Oh she said clearly begging for details. I could hear the Fire Captain’s call so often over the radio announcing with a tired tone to his voice “Outdoor grill, Key West.”  I, answering the fire radio as “Key West” would grin as I acknowledged and made the appropriate notation in the fire call. “Ten Four Engine Nine. Ten Nineteen.” I pictured the homeowners prostrate with embarrassment as the firefighters clumped away from the source of the smoke. False alarm secure. “Okay” Chelsea said and I could hear them all laughing. “Burnt garlic bread, copy. We’ll handle it if they call for your address. We can spare Layne the embarrassment,”  and I thought to myself Don Quixote would be totally immune to embarrassment. I am not even up to his standards. So instead I poured myself a jigger of Ron Zacapa and called it a night.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Honey Do

When my wife and I were out sailing around Central America we discovered an unalterable truth: there are blue jobs and there are pink jobs. Aboard Miki G she cooked and I washed up. I navigated and maintained the engine. She prepared the laundry and I carried it to the laundromat in whichever city we happened to be. I carried the drinking water aboard, she choose the shopping and the food we ate. Blue jobs and pink jobs; the antithesis of modern feminism and 21st century gender neutral living. It just worked that way as my wife and I reluctantly agreed once we noticed ourselves living  like tenth century peasants. We did it for two years from San Francisco to Key West via the Panama Canal. 

Back on land we still talk about pink jobs and blue jobs though out of hearing of others, who might be easily offended by our casual imposition of gender rôles in the traditional mold.  Thus when it comes to changing the shower head in my bathroom do you rate that a pink job or a blue job? Gold star if you agreed it’s a blue job. That my wife thought to do it rated it as a traditional “honey do” as long as we are imposing gender rôles...

Here’s the difficulty...I can’t do blue jobs! Blame my legs, blame my love of motorcycles, call me lazy but there’s no way I could stand in the tub and screw in a new shower head, one lengthier and more flexible than that installed. Indeed the only reason for a new shower head was to enable me to wash myself more completely in my current state of limited mobility. It’s all about physical independence for the family cripple. I swear I will never see the world the same way again after these brief months of dependence on the kindness of others. 

So, being the naturally brilliant dude that I am I got myself invited to lunch while my wife worked and took Rusty to the Marathon Vet Hospital to get his tendon bandage changed. She works in Marathon so it makes sense, quite aside from the fact that I can’t drive until the doctor says I can. So what has lunch got to do with the pesky shower head? It served three purposes. 

I got a ride to physical therapy where Teresa put me through my paces for an hour (Percocet! Please!) and stretched my swollen painful leg and got me to strengthen those still atrophied muscles. Nick met me there and slid me into his car. Off to lunch. We lingered over Mexican pizza (him) and caldo or soup for me, see above. We talked at some great length and the server flirted very kindly with the man pushing the walker such that I got Nick to fulfill part two of the program in a good mood. He drove me home. Part three was having him fill in for me and completing the blue job for me, Mr Helpless. 

Allow me to point out that it was my bold and pushy wife who asked my friend to do that which I would never have the nerve to do. I am weak as well as helpless.  Nick cheerfully did the installation and never came even close to falling over or otherwise hurting himself. Result! 

We sat on the balcony chatting as the cool north wind blew around us and through us. Nick is a Conch and thus loves cool weather whereas I am not at all fond of goosebumps. I maintain my equanimity as I know with a fair degree of certainty that in a couple of days we will be back to 80 degrees (27 Canadian) and my dry itchy skin will calm down with a return to proper levels of humidity.

Let’s face it. Being helpless is a pain but thanks to friends pitching in and cheery comments from you lot this too will pass. And I shall look back with fondness remembering the kindness of you all helping me through these dreary days. Eventually I fear they will all become purple jobs unless I get on and heal. As a mere man I need to have my jobs whatever color they may be. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Cold Weather

It is a habit among people Up North to mock those of us who choose to avoid seasons and live in an endless summer among the alligators and palms. South Florida is home to weirdos and eccentrics, failures fleeing Protestant ethics of hard work and success. Ethics lived out through gritted teeth in dour brick cities lined with leafless trees on damp cold winter days compressed by gray skies and early darkness. And here we are in mid winter in colorful shirts and shorts on permanent vacation with a Cuban coffee and hot sweaty sunshine. Enough to make you grind your teeth, right?

And then my relatives in California ask me provocatively what do I think of climate change and sea level rise, knowing full well I live within feet of the high tide mark.  Here I am and there they were staring at a massive forest fire roaring down the hill toward their home. They were saved by a river so all was well but I’m not sure the non linear nature of life and misfortune is yet apparent to the youngsters in the scorched Sunshine State. 

I have lived through enough hurricanes to know what it feels like to stare disaster in the face but I don’t see easy answers out there. Every region has its problems  and surviving a hurricane seems a lot more likely considering how many people died in the fires. And for my part ice storms power outages and snow drifts don’t do much for me. Yet when we in the Sunshine State find ourselves facing a sudden chill we become the objects of callous mockery.

The cheap shots come flying from the peanut gallery. It’s 27 and snowing in Cleveland they moan. It’s a free country I reply, so move south and learn to live with less while you enjoy the bright light of winter sun. The thing that’s hardest to explain is how cold a damp 60 degree day with a strong north wind feels on skin which is  used to 80 degrees and humidity. Especially as one doesn’t have winter clothes. 

Rusty is slowly recovering from having his torn tendon stitched up. His pain pills slow him down so he sleeps a lot and isn’t keen to be too active so he must be in pain. Next week his stitches come out and he should have a complete recovery. Just like me only for me it is a rather longer process. Rusty at least enjoys the cold weather. We sat out with him in the grass yesterday to allow him to enjoy the cool breeze and watch the world go by. Not walking so not stressing his front paw. 

All of which means we are cold in weather that Up North would never give you goose bumps but were you down here you would be saying “Well actually it is quite cold isn’t it, even though it’s just sixty degrees.” I think it’s the damp salt air that makes it feel so cold. No one believes me until they experience it so I might as well stop trying to convince you right? 

Don’t worry; I can’t get out much anyway. I’m not riding these days so weather doesn’t mean that much. I’ll survive this cold front just in case you were worried for me. You dress up and face your frost and hail and snow and I’ll keep on keeping on down here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Running On The Spot

With my wife back at work this week I kicked my rehab program into much higher gear. There’s only one way out of this handicapped life and it’s through exercise. Some people view physical therapy as torture but for me it is simply an extension of my Broga life, not as interesting, but effective nonetheless and I embrace it. 

At the Tropic Sunday we arrived early for the movie so I wheeled myself around the lobby while Layne bought the tickets. I’ve never been fond of high tables in bars and restaurants so these days as I’m forced to sit at waist height I loathe them even more. I need to get out of the chair. At home yesterday I applied myself to the exercises my Key West therapist Teresa had given me for homework. 

I saw her again after I had lunch with a friend and she sent me home with even more homework. Lift my legs, stretch my legs, stand up without using my arms, squeeze my thighs and so forth. I took the illustrations home and set up my elastic bands and my straps and my inflated ball. Then I went for a walk round the pool with my walker. Then I came home for a nap before Layne and a Rusty got home from work. Tuesday I am at home with Rusty and my therapy equipment. I shall sweat in private. It’s the only way to learn to walk again and I can’t wait. 

Rusty heals his torn tendon with rest and he must hurt because resting comes  easily to him these days. My plan is to exercise as much and as often as I can stand it so I can get to my walking life as soon as possible. It’s all I think of at the moment 

Friday, November 23, 2018

Rusty’s Black Friday

Rusty came to my wife bleeding from his front paw. She wrapped it in a towel and drove to Marathon on Thanksgiving Day. 

The day started out normally with his usual walk and plans for a afternoon with friends at dinner. I stayed behind and got a picture showing a happy dog. 

My wife has been really good about bringing the outside world into my rehab life. Lots of pictures. A while later she said she was taking him to the twenty four hour hospital in Marathon. That took me aback a bit but on arrival with the blood flow dried up and the back of the car looking like a slaughter house they took him in for surgery almost immediately. 

He tore a tendon on his walk and they said they weren’t sure if they could put it back together. An hour later they said all was well and with care he would be fully restored. 

At this stage he is pretty quiet and we are watching his bandaged paw for signs of swelling. 

Thanksgiving evening Rusty slept in the car while we ate. Layne slipped out repeatedly to check  on him but he was passed out.  

I’m not good at selfies but it was a grand evening as Thanksgivings big should be. Sid and Deborah have interesting friends in the arts. My enjoyment of motorcycles was viewed rather dimly. Especially now. Is life to be lived or merely survived?

Cow Key Channel

If you want to live free on the water you could do worse than drop an anchor in the shallow mud flats between Key West and Stock Island. 

You will find a wild assortment of floating fiberglass that one can hardly describe as boats if by the term you mean a conveyance that moves. They are living quarters shaped like boats. 

As always the dinghies to get to shore tend to be unnaturally large compared to the mother ship. Those are the boats that move and the larger they are the drier their occupants remain. 

To go to town people tie their assorted landing craft along the sea wall that used to be occupied by houseboats which gives this stretch of South Roosevelt the name Houseboat Row. 
A waterfront view. 

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Odd Man In

Robert came by with cheeseburgers and with that we opened the Outback bags and I tore into my share of meat and salad. People ask where locals eat in Key West and they think I’m being a smartass when I say “Outback.” That I am a smart backside doesn’t alter that fact that it’s true. The food is reliably and affordably good, the atmosphere is woody and bracingly busy, service is fast and efficient yet not intrusive.  It doesn’t mean I eat there every day but Outback is a great fallback position when seeking simple desirable food and you don’t cook. I love to wash dishes, truly, because I like order and efficiency, but cooking is not what you want me to be doing. I am impatient and tend to keep burners on “incinerate” until they accomplish the task. That or I cook on low and get bored and look for something to wash and put away. In fact I drive my wife mad seeking out things to clean when she’s doing intricate cooking that I am banned from the kitchen.  Rusty gets to hang with her but I have to retreat to the deck with a gin and tonic and ignore the smells.

Thanksgiving is the holiday we all love. Canadians love it so much they celebrate in October to avoid being frozen in situ by their igloo-building weather. My European family is fascinated by the national outpouring of emotional thanks. Typical juvenile North American public display of affection they sniff. But you know what? I detect an undercurrent of envy when they talk about an entire country taking the time to put down tools and give thanks. And they should be jealous. We can’t celebrate May First because that would be communist so we do Labor Day, and we can’t do time changes with the rest of the world and  thus cleverly give ourselves two weeks a year of extra daylight (of which I approve). But we do Thanksgiving. And we are the best at it. I love Thanksgiving. 

I have no interest in listing all those things for which I am grateful. I mean to say there are things and people that are obvious and therefore tedious to list.  If you ask me at table to say for what I am grateful I would much rather surprise you. If I replied that I am grateful to have been born into the top ten percent of the planet’s wealthiest would I offend you? That being the case you couldn’t say you knew me very well.  My wife and Rusty and surviving my accident are obvious enough aren’t they?  I am grateful for my accident.  Gasp.  Come on now, you know why. The ruin of my lower body has brought you all out of the woodwork. You had nothing to lose so you came out from behind the emotional barricades I had built around Key West Diary and told me you were worried about me.  Guess what? No chasms opened and swallowed me and I didn’t wake up with horns on my head. Instead I got tons of heartfelt messages of support from hundreds of people here and on Facebook. Wasn’t that a surprise? So if I say I’m grateful for you lot this Thursday you know what I mean and I don’t have to explain why I’m not listing all the usual suspects. I may have had a reawakening but I decline  to sink into boredom and normalcy. I reserve the right to be myself. 

I hope you have reasons to be grateful and if you are in one of those holes where it’s hard to think of anything good, you know you have my sympathy. I don’t suffer from depression and my health aside from this little problem, can only be described as robust.  The way old people used to nag on about good health being the only thing that matters has become paramount indeed in my 61st year! I expect I will have to work a few more years to sort out our share   of the bills and allow us to retire without worries. And I’m okay with that. My wife will retire in 2021 so I will get splendid care as I go to work and come home to a spotless house! If money has you feeling ungrateful this year I can tell you I have celebrated all my birthdays with the thought at the back of my mind that at least I didn’t go bankrupt that year. I have never had a facility with money, easy come easy go is my financial lifestyle. But I hope you like me have a treasure trove of memories. It’s what money and work are for. And doing some good when you can. 

Yes I’m lucky and I’m grateful for my good luck. I hope you can be thankful this year and if your Thanksgiving looks crappy you can easily use me. At least I’m not Conchscooter you can say to yourself as you spoon tinned cranberries into your gruel. 

Yeah. These few weeks have had their moments for sure. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Blue Hole

I took the photographs on this page on August 28th three days before my epic scooter crash. It was a gloomy damp day typical of summer rainy season and I was looking for a place to walk Rusty away from mud and puddles. Besides I hadn’t visited the Blue Hole, a freshwater former gravel quarry turned into a tourist attraction, in a long time. 

We were alone. And the hole is not at all blue even under sunny skies.

There are a couple of alligators in the water but there was no sign of wildlife at all. No turtles no dinosaurs no birds. Except himself. 

It was a pleasant enough interlude and I enjoyed strolling around with Rusty. I didn’t know how lucky I was to be walking...

It’s a short walk made shorter because half the circumference is closed to the public. The edges are vertical rock and not easy for a dog to climb up.  I know this as Cheyenne took an accidental plunge years ago and I hauled her wet 100 pounds out in double time seeing her as the most vulnerable and tasty of alligator bait. 

No drama necessary.