My sister offered to use her surplus airline miles to buy my wife and I tickets to visit her in post-Brexit Britain next Spring. She lives in Scotland and is an ardent separatist wishing an independent Scotland were back in the European Union for her children's futures. She is living through tough times as farming subsidies vanish and practices sustained by the EU are withdrawn and her neighbors find their backs to the wall as the markets for their products are in a state of total uncertainty. Yet she found time to figure out with my wife how we can get back for a visit next Spring Break. I look forward to it.
My own future is filled with certain uncertainty and where I look forward to that my sisters, all three of them, live lives of measured certainty. I was always the wanderer which leads me to conclude there is a great deal of nature in us overriding the nurture. But that is an argument I leave to geneticists to sort out; I have a life to live. For the first time in twelve years of posting on this page I find myself running into a mental block as i thresh out my situation in my own mind while trying to maintain an outward even keel on the page.
My relationship to Key West is changing even though my feelings for this town, and my very generous employer haven't changed. For a nomad like me to find myself able to describe Key West as home is a special thing, and as much as I struggled to think of Santa Cruz as home during my decades in California, the relationship never jelled for me. I grew up there and became an adult even though I arrived in town at age 23 and was properly an adult in body if not in attitude when I left Europe for the last time as a resident. I know my feelings for Key West will evolve into the most nauseating nostalgia after we take off until we eventually return to the reality of this place and a cabin in the sun in a grossly overpriced marina. And then the complaints about Key West's shortcomings will resume. It's what you do when you live here.
I suffer also from a slightly obsessive personality, producing a daily blog for a dozen years hints at that condition, so now my mind is focused on the future. My wife is pondering living options in the van we are staring to design which will be built in the Spring while I am contemplating maps and routes and distances and costs and photos. Too much of my life has slipped by the era of film and I have few photos of my life in the 20th century. I was born as the first human built satellite circled the Earth and i grew up in a world promising technological wonders always "...by the year 2000." That landmark came and went and sure we have astonishing technology but not the flying cars and body transplants they promised when I was a child. I'll happily take the Internet and satellite communications in the meantime, thanks.
Digital photography has become my blessing and my curse. I cannot see an immediate future on two wheels. If I were single and dog free I would take off on a motorcycle to see the world but as I am encumbered with two sidekicks a motorcycle even with sidecar is not going to work. And let's be honest, the comfort of a van and a home on wheels wherein I can close out the world has its appeal. My friend Webb who loves an ascetic life in a small sailboat acknowledges he could make a comfortable home in a box on wheels equipped as it will be with kitchen toilet shower (after a fashion) and heat and cold. To him 72 square feet of living is luxurious but for most people living in a shoe box would be a severe inconvenience. For me now a motorcycle is surplus.
That is where I can now focus my intensity: digital photography is difficult to master I have discovered and nowadays the technology is superb and free! The modern digital camera has outpaced me. If you look at early entries in this blog when I conceived the idea of documenting this wondrous happy place I had landed in you can see I had some good photography ideas in between the cliches but the machinery i held in my hands, an HEC smartphone was sorely lacking. Especially as I had no idea how to bend digital photography to my will.
I am attempting to remedy those deficiencies by taking on a course of photographic learning with all the intensity I applied to learning to ride a motorcycle in my teenage years when the only tools I had were magazines and books and trial and error. I have one ankle that still aches occasionally from the time I dropped my motorcycle on it when practicing a slow turn I read about in a magazine interview on how to ride better!
I ride my scooter to work and I find, much to my surprise I feel no fear after my spectacular wreck a year ago. I am extremely cautious around distracted drivers or people pulling out of side streets but riding still gives me pleasure. However I am really focussed on my desire to have an interest in something that I can enjoy with my immediate family on the road. Photography will have the added benefit of moving the story of my life forward in a creative way I hope and leave behind a few mementoes for my distant family members who want to remember the black sheep of the family who left them for the New World. Jack London isn't in it!
So I have undertaken to teach myself photography and the blessings of Youtube make this possible along with my preferred written word form of communication. I expect I shall have to get involved in video at some point, my wife thinks the future is something I should come to grips with even as I struggle to adapt to the digital present...Carrying a camera is a solitary pursuit but I can look around even when I am not alone and I enjoy the process of learning to notice what previously was only seen.
I have taken to reading Internet forums on photography and I find the participants as cruel and nasty and opinionated as participants on any other specialized forum. This however is not 2010 anymore and with a decade's experience under our belts we recognize and avoid people "vexatious to the spirit." Easily done, though I have to say I was naively quite surprised to find rabid people posting on a forum ona subject as pacific as photography. Webb tells me sailors do the same thing and god knows I've seen them discussing motorcycles tearing each other to shreds. I ain't got no time for that.
So I try to find the knowledge I seek and the opinions I might try to trust elsewhere. I have not much interest in gear as I like my modest undervalued fixed lense camera. I like the pictures I get from my Panasonic FZ1000 and it comes complete with image stabilization and total manual control as I want it and a zoom lense that isn't great all the way but it goes a long way out and produces decent pictures in a package that fits in my hand just about (!) and cost me $360 lightly used on e-bay. I think the camera has been on the market for five years and it has only recently been updated slightly for improved video recording. The original version is sold brand new for six hundred dollars. In the same way I want to travel by banal two wheel drive van where more driven people want to rock hop in their four wheel drive homes, I plan to keep the photographic recording department simple with my Panasonic and a smaller Panasonic camera for back up in case of failure. I have my eye on an almost pocketable camera for unobtrusive street photography and as it has a wide aperture it could be handy in low light situations. At this stage I am reluctant to go all National Geographic with piles of lenses and big heavy cameras and bush jackets and all that stuff. I don't really like using a tripod much as I find it cumbersome and modern image stabilization is astonishing.
Of course there are proponents of photography who only use Canon or Nikon or Sony equipment and others who only use tripods and others who...blah blah blah. I just hope to get through this adventure with some decent pictures to post here and and on Instagram. Those and some words and perhaps the occasional video will I hope tell the story and make a proper electronic diary for me to look back on when I am in an armchair in a nursing home a surprisingly few years from now. Unless I fall to a violent death failing to negotiate Bolivia's Highway of Death in the meantime.
And one final note on this work in progress, I am leaning away from my previous title for this page after I got some grief not least from Webb for thinking a homage to Steinbeck might be in order with Travels with Rusty. Especially as, upon mature reflection Rusty's time is finite and he may not outlive the blog title. I wanted it to be snappy so my current tentative title which I came up with after searching Domain Names on GoDaddy is just that, and impersonal says Webb. For the price of $12 I bought ArmchairTrekker.com which if you type it into your browser will land you back on this page. Webb still doesn't fancy this name but I like it as it's easy to remember it expresses my desire for a rugged journey undertaken in some comfort and it will make it easy for people we meet along the way to connect online. Conchscooter.blogpsot.com is a bit of a mouthful and let's be honest "conshscooter" is the common mispronunciation and it has the same effect on me as nails on a blackboard. The cool thing about that name given to me on a motorcycle forum fifteen years ago is when someone says they know Key West and they can't pronounce "Conch" you know them for the poseurs they are.
Yeah and I'm never going to fall in love with wild chickens either. Give me a nice quiet clean well behaved native Ibis any day.