Monday, August 6, 2018

Key West And I

I have been reassessing my relationship with the digital world lately and I have come to the conclusion that I am no friend of Facebook, an account I keep for the occasional contact with my family and a handful of friends. Facebook is a useful research tool at a time when pages like this very one are falling out of favor and Twitter, Facebook and all the youthful replacements have taken the venerable blog page's place.  To have a Facebook account is to be able to send an occasional note to a family member to say you know they are there. But  as a forum for conversation or as an exchange of ideas Facebook is not for me.
Twitter is more of the same only worse, especially since the number of characters was doubled. Now the vitriol is verbose. Where the struggle to express a  coherent thought in 140 characters had a certain elegance modern Twitter has descended into a  drawn out shouting match. That is no more for me than Facebook is but I have a Twitter account to follow and read from time to time but infrequently.
I like Instagram though I find the service to be annoying in that I get tons of pictures from a  few accounts based on my likes where I have much more wide ranging interests than Instagram seems to be able to accommodate easily. At least it is pictures not words so I can enjoy looking around and seeking out geographic locations that interest me....distant islands, off the beaten path places and so forth.  So I enjoy using Instagram and wish it had a broader base of pictures for me to look at.... My Instagram pictures are at predictably enough. 
This page has always been my diary a record of things I see and want to remember, a journal for the digital age. I have kept it up since June 2007, an age in Internet terms, but it has been easy and fun mostly. Because I have done it for me and not for money and because I want a space to store my pictures for my own pleasure this page has been good for me. It is not going to compete with Facebook or Instagram for anyone's attention and that suits me just fine. We had  lunch with friends last week and I was struck by their surviving  dog sitting bolt upright next to a statue as though the porcelain dog was sitting in for the dead sibling. People like to tell us dogs have no feelings but they do. I've seen them. I am more than a meal and walking ticket for Rusty.
He makes eye contact with me across the room all the time. We have our bond. I look back at this page over the years and I see dogs past and present and I am glad for this place to store my memories.
My time in Key West is drawing inexorably to a  close. I am planning on retiring from the police department November 1st 2021 and as far away as that seems, just over three years, my wife and I are planning for our combined retirement that year.  Indeed sitting still these years is very hard for me to do. I have no desire to grow old in one place, to buy a cemetery plot in the expectation of dying where I stand now, to plan out a nursing home for my old age. I have some traveling to do before then.
But already I am withdrawing from Key West. It is commonplace to hear people say a community has changed and they feel alienated from it, but in my case I feel I have changed. I never expected to be 60 years of age but here I am still eager to live and to see and to experience and I need more than Key West. I am surprised to find my interest in politics waning. My political positions have not changed but with time comes wisdom and I am pretty certain the next generation will have things in hand, and I also feel pretty certain the institutions of government will outlast the peculiarly self centered administration of Donald Trump. I don't need to be on the barricades to defend my beliefs. 
Key West has changed in my twenty years here and from my perspective some things are better and others are worse. The thing I miss most is the tolerance that came to the fore in the years when outsiders took over Key West and made it a haven for eccentrics and outcasts of the generation of the 1980s. Over the course of it's history Key West has been a refuge for all sorts of rogues and loners but it has now been discovered by ordinary people who aren't put off by it's isolation because it is no longer isolated. Electricity and communications are reliable and this is a town on the mainland map of overnight deliveries - UPS overnight is commonplace. You can be a millionaire, you can run a business, you can live in Key West and import your mainstream entitled attitude with you. After all if you paid an exorbitant amount for your little house in Paradise you should be able to tell people around you how to behave. Shouldn't you?
And with that demand for conformity the beauty of key West is kicked to the curb. Even if I weren't beset by wanderlust I would be planning my escape. As it is I have to stay at work to earn my pension but I am champing at the bit to get going with the last phase of my life. It will come soon enough but in the meantime I have to bear myself in patience. I go to work. I walk my dog. I see my friends. I wait for liberation day.
I am finding myself less and less interested in Key West. How people keep coming back on vacation to visit just one place I'm not sure. I rather envy them because I am more convinced than ever that vacationing is how best to enjoy this town.  I keep wanting to see what else is over the horizon but clearly I am in a minority when it comes to rehashing the familiar versus exploring the new and unknown. I live a life circumscribed by work, overtime and filling un-staffed shifts. These days I see my overtime boosting my pension and earning me greater credit for the moment when I stop working and that's what keeps me going back to work almost every night. I have little time and less energy to spend downtown. Each winter I tell myself I need to take advantage of living here but it doesn't always come true.  Live theater, music and museums...what are they? What a waste of my time it is not to be exploring downtown while I can. I should be playing tourist in my own town but in my free time I need to sleep. Absurd but true.
Walking Rusty is my entertainment, exercise class is my social hour when I sweat mercilessly, my camera is my favorite tool, alongside my Suzuki scooter and my dog leash (which I rarely have to deploy as I wander open spaces alone and far from the madding crowd).  This is my life. My diary will reflect this. And when we are in our van pointing at the horizon this page will become a reflection of that reality, at home and abroad.