Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Cow Key Channel

It may be my imagination but the community of people living suspended between Key West and Stock Island may be increasing.
It is quite a community of liveaboards, some of the homes neatly cared for and others not so much, just like on land.
There are times when one wants to take the scenic route, the only such route on my commute, instead of fighting traffic and pedestrians and traffic lights on the Boulevard (North Roosevelt Boulevard) which is when I drive by the boats. So it's inevitable that from time to time I shall stop and look out across the water.
Living on a boat as a form of cheap accommodation doesn't work for me. For all the years I did live on a  boat I was either in motion or if stationary for a period I kept my boat ready to move.
Anchoring a boat as a form of free storage ends up making the thing an eyesore but boats are private property and it takes massive efforts by the State to assume ownership and remove these derelicts. 
And even if they do the question then remains how to handle piles of indestructible fiberglass when disposing of piles of boat. Who pays for all this is the bog problem and even so Monroe County foes get rid of patently abandoned boats in county waters. The supply though, appears to be inexhaustible.
 Even defining abandoned isn't easy. You need somewhere to live in a county this expensive.
From a distance the boats afloat are picturesque and what I suppose, you expect to see when you come to visit Key West. This would be a strange little island with no boats dotted around it.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Change Of Season

Things have been tough for Florida fishing since hurricane Irma in 2017. The newspapers are saying the storm wrecked habitat and upset breeding cycles for crab and lobster and with stone crab season starting tomorrow fishermen are hoping things will be better this year. Fishing reminds me of farming, in that it's a trade you are usually born into and the weather is never quite right and when it is abundance of harvest lowers prices.
I am not a huge fan of lobster or crab as I would rather eat fish with fins but the economics of fishing are interesting in a  community like this where money rules every decision. The only fishing most people think about is sport fishing, an extension of the tourism trade, not least because commercial fishing is carried out away from tourist centers and largely out of sight.
Recreational boats fill the harbor and this year with only a few weeks of hurricane season left we can hope to skate by without fresh disasters. Stone crabbers are hoping their crabs have settled down and are ready to lose their big claws to the appetites of people who think cracking shells and eating cold crab meat wrenched from a living crab makes an ideal meal. 
This is also the time of year when people start to resurface in town. There was a massive storm reported last week in the Midwest and we heard of sudden temperature dips and snow  falling and sure enough snowbirds suddenly showed up around town. I met a spandex bicycle rider on a recent dog walk, a sure and certain sign of middle aged wealth fighting the good fight to stay fit in a town with a drinking culture. 
I try to stay upbeat in the face of the renewal of the tourist season, mindful that the reason they come is money and the reason they are embraced is money and it's what will pay my pension in the years to come. I used to wish that NASA had sent more artists into space and on the moon to send back reports of the true nature and effect of space travel on the human psyche. In the same way I wish snowbirds could bring more to town than money and overweening attitudes to local habits and customs. 
But this is the price one pays to live in a community where housing costs more than local workers can afford. It is good for one's humility to be reminded how little one matters when in a crowd of people think Key West as winter playground equals Key West as a place to live. So when you see pictures of sunny winter days you will know that the best time of year to visit is in the heat of summer when Rusty and I have the mangroves to ourselves and restaurants are breezing through low seasons before gearing up for crowds and lines from now through April.  
What is necessary is not always desirable and I must remember to be patient as speeds on the highway get slower and slower and lines everywhere get longer and longer.... 

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Birds, Dogs And A Person

Pictures without words, an accumulation of creatures observed at the White Street Pier  and on our walks. For a serene Sunday read.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

An Amble

Scooter versus chickens.
Bougainvillea, a reliable colorful frame for a picture. I want to visit the island of that name.
On Instagram I labeled this "Tropical Living."
Inner Stillness:
I notice this stuff nowadays:
And this seemed like a rather public setup but it lacked for nothing:
I posted this on Instagram pointing out the absence of straight lines and right angles. It's charms seemed obvious.
I have to force myself to remember that many Key West homes and thus streets are different from average modern construction:
Shy  rooster:
I find a lot of unexpected beauty in Old Town: 
And Bahama Village:

Friday, October 11, 2019

Plans And Alarums

Many years ago, in 1979  to be precise I rode a motorcycle across West Africa. I traveled across Tunisia, Algeria, Niger, Nigeria and got sick in Cameroon whence my travel insurance flew me home with a severe case of hepatitis A, jaundice and a nasty tropical fever. I was diagnosed in Douala by a French military doctor whose job it was to take care of French Peace Corps workers in the country. I flew home to Italy and spent three weeks in the hospital, for the only time in my life  a walking skeleton unable to eat, yellow as parchment and weak as a kitten. I was 21 years old. It was a hell of a journey undertaken by someone not prepared for the rigors but who camped alone in the wilderness, relied on the kindness of strangers and in the most desperate of circumstances never lost the feeling this was  exactly where I was supposed to be.
A photo would sure be nice but my camera broke early on, exposed to sand and the rattles of riding on a Yamaha SR500 a notoriously vibration filled single cylinder motorcycle. Thus I have no pictures of that epic six month journey. No photos of me in the Grand Erg Oriental surrounded by sand, nor in the Hoggar Mountains outside Tamanrasset in Algeria. But I did read a book about a man with many and similar travels to my own. He traveled in the style we all did in those days, improvised luggage and too much of it all bungee'd to the bike: 
His book Desert Travels is well worth a read if you are interested in the place and the era, as he was quite the expert where I was a rank amateur. A film photograph of me on the Great Siberian Railway, October 1981, taken by the Russian sleeping car attendant who found me excessively Western and made me out to be  a spy:
A couple of years later when I went around the world I was careful to document the journey much more carefully even though, looking back I wish I had been more focused on who I was meeting and not where I was riding. All of this by way of preface to my next thought: I want to get the picture taking right on my next planned break out.
Digital photography is a world unto itself and I have been trying to learn it's secrets thanks to the Internet and YouTube. I used to own a Minolta digital camera with several lenses but I got tired of film photography and its attendant uncertainty. Strangers processed my pictures and they never came back how I had hoped, whether because of my incompetence or their lack of attention to detail who could say? In the new century the idea of a camera in my phone was brilliant and even though early digital was not very good the idea of free easy photography was enticing. And so the blog was created as a place to store my digital memories.
Below I took a picture of a cobweb strand highlighted by the setting sun, and that tells me digital photography, even with my modest Panasonic FZ1000 is as good as I need it. Technology is something that amazes me in a world of constantly evolving technology. When I traveled by motorcycle as a youth 40 years ago I was lucky to have a small transistorized short wave radio and i traveled out of touch with my family for months at a time. My family and I were not fond of each other so that was liberation for me, not a loss. Nowadays I read on forums how leaving home without a pocket phone is unnatural. So it is. For me, leaving home without a camera is odd,  and my slightly out of date iPhone 6 camera  does a fine job and I look forward to getting a new phone before I retire.I have seen pictures from the iPhone 11 and they are quite excellent and qualify as a pocket camera.
My project with this blog was to photograph Key West as it changed and evolved around me and as much as I was able I did that. I can't say photographing people has ever done much for me and I'm not much good at it.  I have posted pictures of people on the street to no great acclaim which leads me to think no one really needs me to capture candid moments around here. When I take 911 calls one important question, in certain situations is "What are they wearing?" And when the reply comes "White t-shirt and tan shorts" I am tempted to describe that as the "Key West uniform." So in my pictures of Key West the people are incidental. I enjoy the architecture and the atmosphere I walk through in leafy picket fence neighborhoods with quirky architectural notes, odd signs and bright colors. In the woods I miss slopes and streams and views and the wide variety of plants in deciduous forests. Prickly Pear In Sunlight (Looking Like A Sputnik):
But on the other hand I get to see trees that many people in temperate climates never get to see. I have coconuts growing in my yard and when I take my dog for walks readers worry that we may get eaten by alligators. Excellent. Of course in twenty years of mangrove walking the most dangerous thing I have seen is either a) a cloud of mosquitoes or b) a dead rattlesnake that smelled really awful. Your choice of  danger....
I mentioned to my wife the other day that I want to set aside some money for a camera fund just in case I feel the need to get something before we take off. I have already determined the need for some sort of laptop computer to store pictures and to make writing this blog easy. I have an app to post on my phone but if you look at my entries from the hospital last year you'll see it wasn't very consistent. Well the phone  screen is small and the app is laborious but in the phone's defense I was flat on my back and only able to use my right hand so maybe that had something to do with the difficulty as well. In any event  I don't want to risk missing a thing in the journey ahead.  
In the meantime I'm pondering how to go about making a record of my retirement. I like this page a lot but in doing my research I find I enjoy web pages that allow me to look at a nice clear index. Take this website for instance: The Road Chose Me Look at that page and enter a country and look at his videos or his photo essays about that part of his journey. Travel planning is a big part of my thoughts and a website like that one is really quite helpful. I would like to be able to offer similar accessibility. It is a thought swirling through my mind as I read an essay and get to the bottom and the title of the next in sequence  shows in a link at the bottom of the page...
I have very little desire to move to anew platform or change too much but the stream of consciousness that is this page is not search friendly. You can certainly enter a topic or location in the search window at the top left but I haven't made best use of the layout as a  landing page. I see a future with time spent re-organizing and I dread it.
Meanwhile back at Retirement Headquarters herself is busy pondering clothes storage. I made the argument that everywhere we have traveled people eat and we are reasonably adaptable. Let's face it: multinational corporations ship processed food all around the world and as long as you aren't fussy about name brands you can shop and eat quite well. There are other compromises to be made when on the road but you don't have to eat guinea pig in Peru and the classic travelers' horror stories about eating gross body parts to satisfy some atavistic need to show hospitality are largely rubbish in the 21st century. We aren't going to be sitting around a campfire plucking sheep's eyes from a pot of bubbling stew as local residents look on waiting to hound us for not respecting protocol. It was in Guatemala I remember eating the best fried chicken. My wife still makes fun of me"Because they fried it in lard!" she laughs at me. Terrible for one's health but let me tell you it was delicious. The dogs enjoyed their scraps too on that sailing trip.
So as we figure out how to best use the limited storage in the van my argument is that we need more room for clothes and less for food. We will carry emergency freeze dried food in case we get stuck somewhere because obviously going hungry isn't on the cards. However clothing is a different matter. There is nowhere where you can buy clothes as cheaply and easily as in the US. Sizes aren't an issue and your clothes can be as rugged as you like. Furthermore we now find ourselves facing a future that will involve cold rainy weather from time to time so we will need a four (or maybe three) season wardrobe. We will attempt to drive ahead of the seasons but Fall will catch up to us from time to time. My plan is to keep replacement clothes in our storage locker so when Layne comes back to the US she can pick up some replacements to take back to the van wherever it is, but we will still need to store clothes onboard. More thought. Much thinking...pans here....clothes there...food here...flavors and spices there...and on and on. And then change it all up again at three o'clock in the morning of a sleepless night.
Rusty, the chief security officer lives blissfully unaware that by this time in three years he will be driving up Highway One for the last time for our shake up cruise to Alaska. A year will be a long time in a small dog's life. The subsequent long drive south will test his adaptability and ours.  I think he will do fine and I know dog food is sold everywhere and if that doesn't work out  this will substitute, I am sure.