I have not been drawn to downtown Key West much lately and I'm not sure why. Perhaps its the crowds that are now proving Key West to be a year round destination. Perhaps it's the heat which has been stifling us for the past month. I love the heat and sunlight of the Keys but I have to say that this year the heat and humidity have sapped my will to do much.
Every time Rusty and I go for a walk I come home saturated in sweat. Thank God we have a washer and dryer in the house because I use it every few days, between going to the gym six days a week and walking Rusty twice a day and then keeping back some clean-ish shirts and shorts to wear around the house without me smelling more than usually feral...All that going on so you have to consider my consumption of sweat free clothing is enormous.
Air conditioning is what makes the southern United States bearable, that and cheap electricity. Let's face it: without cool dry homes to live in and cool dry cars to drive most of us would give up. Some people take pride in not using air and they are welcome to their pride. I enjoy being outdoors because when I get warm I have a cool cave to retreat to, and you can call me weak but I like it that way.
Rusty does the same thing. He hangs out outdoors where we have no fences and no restraints but he likes to park himself in the driveway, sunbathing on the bricks for a while. Then he retreats to a shady bush and later he will pop back into the house, his magnetic plastic dog door sounding a characteristic slapping noise as the magnet closes the plastic flap behind him. Home Depot sells a variety that fit in sliding doors, LINK HERE.
Anyway I got a bit side tracked there, let the night photography continue. The pictures in The Meadows I took with my iPhone 8 in black and white mode, while the second half of this essay was photographed around Duval and Front Streets which pictures I took in automatic mode with my Lumix FZ300 bridge camera a couple of nights later.
A lot of these homes in Key West are cooled by window units which work but they are decidedly loud and rather crude as they blow air pretty much continuously and thermostats don't work really well with them. As we roll into another hurricane season and watched New Orleans sink under the weight of all that water I wonder how we will get through this 2019 hurricane season. Storms don't really get serious until late August and September when the ocean waters are nice and warm and conditions are ripe for us to get pasted.
I have to say I would be really happy if for the next three years we skipped any hurricanes in the Keys. I'm hoping to retire in 2022 when I will be eligible for Medicare (health care coverage has suddenly increased in importance in my retirement planning!) and I will admit I've had enough of dealing with storms. At least when I'm retired I'll be able to button up our rented home as I don't need the headache of owning a house in a hurricane zone thanks, and drive off in our future camper van to watch the proceedings from higher ground. That will feel luxurious.
I was looking back over my collection of Hurricane Irma pictures remembering what a colossal pain in the backside it was to not have running water or electricity or fuel for days on end and I was lucky in that I was in the police station with a generator and food even though I had to sit up all night standing by to answer 911 calls that were not very frequent as there was no cell coverage and not many functioning land lines. It was an interesting experience but, like my time in the hospital I've done it and I don't feel a need to repeat it. Speaking of which this landline at Bayview Park looked solid but there was no dial tone:
I do not lament the passing of the payphone. I still think of the pain it was to use, even with a calling card which at the time seemed like a brilliant innovation instead of throwing coins in the slot. I hear people grumbling about always being connected which seems like a silly argument to me, as all smart phones come with an off button. If your job requires you to be available I hope they pay you properly but for the rest of us cell phone time outs are socially acceptable as far as I know.
It may be because I like to travel that I love my cell phone. The ability to use mapping to almost never get lost is wonderful. I like being able to look stuff up when I'm on the road too and my wife is a demon when it comes to finding decent lunch joints when we are on the road. There is no need to eat crappy tourist roadside junk anymore, not when you are equipped with apps and ratings and reviews like my wife is these days.
Come to think of it Key West itself is actually a much lusher and prettier place than it was formerly. I know one is supposed to revere the past but if you look at pictures of Key West a hundred years ago there was not a lot of greenery. I am told lack of water was the problem which is understandable when you remember people had to collect their own rain water off their tins roofs and store it in cisterns. There wasn't much motivation to water plants and grow ornamentals when you risked running out of water and the horse drawn water supplier charged an arm and a leg to tide you over a drought.
In World War Two Key West became an important Navy Base and the whole collecting rainwater game was considered inadequate for the increased troop deployment and activity at the Naval Base. So a water pipe was built from the mainland aquifer to the city of Key West, shared between the Navy and ultimately the civilians too. In wartime so many innovations spring from the spigot of military invention and war funding. With a secure supply of water, increased in 1982 with the new wide road and a larger diameter pipe, trees shrubs and gardens sprouted on the formerly barren island.
So when I find myself tooling down the road at ten miles per hour under the speed limit straining to get to work or the gym on time I have to remind myself things are better than ever and success requires we all pay a price to live in this flourishing tourist destination. And really if I get used to allowing an hour for a 23 mile journey, as absurd as that sounds, I can always get to town on time. It's funny really how the big wide highway has ended up producing travel times much closer to the old narrow awkward roadway built directly on top of Flagler's defunct railroad! I remember it took me five hours to ride to Homestead in 1981.
I was walking around Simonton Beach watching a sailboat glide into the harbor at four in the morning and there was a crew member on the foredeck lighting up the foresail with a flashlight. It actually looked quite magical even though I knew what he was doing. Rusty was investigating a man sleeping in the sand who was so deep in shadow I couldn't figure out what had attracted his attention. And then as I turned around I noticed the Pier House hotel overlooking the little beach, and it was lit up in a particular symmetrical way. So I photographed it, above. There was one person on a balcony nearby but Rusty and I and the sleeping drunk were pretty much alone on the ground.
These last two pictures illustrate something that struck me as we walked, Rusty and I. The truck making the delivery on Telegraph Lane at six in the morning is a reminder that sometimes streets are blocked in this narrow little city. City workers, utilities, delivery vans, trucks, tour trolleys garbage collectors, they all work on narrow streets and if you drive you need patience. Or useful knowledge of alternatives.
And then of course we have garbage. It's hot as I mentioned and these bags must be moved daily. I walked away pondering how much stuff we throw out, me included. I am not at all convinced recycling gets recycled as everyone around the globe seems to be overflowing with garbage everywhere around the world. But I keep doing what I do and it helps me feel good when I see the huge blue bin at the kerb all full, while the smaller black bin is not close to being full of actual garbage. Maybe we're doing some good with recycling that ends up who knows where, but we do throw out a lot of trash.