Thursday, April 30, 2020

Rain

I have some pictures taken before the rainstorm this week. Clouds piled up overhead as Rusty and I headed to a nearby trail. The air was heavy and humid, I was cranking the air conditioning in the car.
Feels like summer I thought to myself. That's the time of year when sudden rain falls out of the sky and drenches anything underneath it. A short while later the rain stops and the sun comes out and steam rises everywhere and your glasses get frosty.  It felt like that when Rusty and I hit the trail.
My wife came here recently and was accosted by passing cyclists and not feeling like diving in the bushes to stay socially distant she decided that in the time of plague a narrow trail is too narrow for someone with a compromised immune system. Indeed, Rusty and I got strafed by a considerate but silent cyclist on our visit. The corornavirus is pushing people who have zero curiosity in normal times to stretch their boundaries and find lonely places to exercise. Very good for them no doubt but I am not used to sharing featureless mangrove trails with strangers. 
The trail was powdery  dry reminding me of a summer path in California where dust and dead grass line the trails.
Leaves are falling everywhere as though it were Fall in New England.
My pursuit of Edward Weston is hopeless nut a close up of a palm frond is my substitute for a cabbage. If the corornavirus lock down lasts long enough I shall be forced to photograph household objects in pursuit of Art. I hope that day never comes.
I like the outdoors.


Eventually we drove home, Rusty panting and me wondering how to justify another roll of digital pictures on this web page. And then summer arrived in the Keys. 
Lots of lovely cold wet rain. Everything perked up. Even me as I knew it would pass soon enough, but not so soon that my car didn't look shiny and dust free for a modest twenty four hours. All things shall pass be they drought or virus.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Surveillance

I think I may have mentioned how dependent I am become on my place of work for relief as the tedium of coronavirus restrictions press down upon us. The fact is I used to have a network of public toilets around Key West to which I can turn  in a moment of need. Since everything closed I have been forced to forgo my morning cup of tea as Rusty and I approach our walking destination of the day. A first world deprivation I know but a big Tervis tumbler of Yorkshire Gold sweetened and milky starts the day right and unlike coffee does not give one the hollow stomach feeling that requires calories to fill. It does however leave an old man feeling certain urgent needs a half hour later that only a public restroom can relieve without running the risk of behaving badly in public.
With that preamble out of the way it will become readily apparent why I was loitering at my workplace the other morning engaging in socially distant communication with a couple of colleagues. Normally I never go near the police station when I am off duty. Casual workday? asked one fully uniformed police officer seeing me in the hall at the police station disreputably shuffling near the men's toilets dressed in shorts and colorful shirt with my hairy accomplice shambling self importantly at my heels. No I said and we fell into conversation.
The changes wrought by the coronavirus were high on the topic of conversation and I asked abut the rumored city employee furloughs. I was told a majority of city commissioners voted against laying anyone off as the city budget is solid for the rest of the fiscal year and in a time of much financial desperation having families working and earning seems no bad thing. I puzzled out loud as I often do how we have no firefighters or police in the hospital with symptoms and one has to suppose we are lucky. Some police departments have massive sickness issues in big cities Up North.
There is some speculation that a round of illness early in the year may have been coronavirus and not 'flu as was believed at the time. I'm not convinced but it seems possible there must be some sort of immunity at play in the Keys, but from what I cannot imagine. Perhaps the heat and humidity helps defeat the spread? We read of hundreds of thousands infected, hospitals overwhelmed and all sorts of nasty symptoms Up North. We wear our masks, stay apart and continue on as normal, sort of, as though the Keys are somehow exempt.  I really shouldn't think about looking a gift horse in the mouth but I do wonder why it is. I hope that simply asking the question doesn't bring down the virus upon our heads with a vengeance.
I remarked on the overtime cut backs which will leave us with only two dispatchers in the room from time to time. Call volume is down a lot compared to normal times, so I expect I will be able to cope with the changes, and I hope callers with non emergencies will be patient when things go wrong for some other people as they always do from time to time and who need priority help. But it is odd when you think about how many fewer crashes there are now in Key West. Drunk driving reports are replaced by lots of requests to monitor Covid 19 compliance from citizen spotters. These new community needs in the time of pandemic make me wonder how emotional a return to "normal" might become. We are so attuned in the Keys to the common good, to herding us all through this pandemic, that I wonder what will happen to my neighbors when they are pushed back to the world of looking out for self from which we all came before the virus forced us to look out for each other.
So much has changed in so many subtle ways and of course some not so subtle, that it is hard to remember a time when things were different. If I watch a handshake on television I shudder involuntarily and my wife says she is never going to shake another hand again even when this is all over. I watch people drinking in bars on the little screen and I am reminded that those scenes are from a previous existence. You stay at home, you drink at home you go to bed without being pulled over to do field sobriety checks. Perhaps good behavior may become the norm? What happens to the bar economy then?
In a country where government support for citizens is negligible compared to other first world nations of wealth I am amazed by how well ordinary people have restrained themselves even as our leaders move to open the country back up. I am not looking forward to a return to crappy driving, public drunkenness and the tedium of bad behavior. And yet when it comes back I shall try to remind myself how odd it was living through this weird twilight zone of massively altered collective behavior and how insane sanity seemed at this time.
A car pulled over  last night as I was on my socially distant evening walk on a  lonely stretch of road. Rusty dives for the bushes when cars come by, a relic of his days as an unwanted abused stray, and the driver asked me what I was doing. He surprised me at first as walking by yourself seems very normal now and I do it far from neighborhoods specifically to be alone. I showed him my camera and my pictures. Yes I said no one else seems to find mangroves photogenic but I love the leaves and flowers and shadows and light. Anyone who has read this page has had their fill of my pleasure in the backwoods and mangroves and flat puddles and puffy clouds and absurd sunsets.  
I could not for the life of me understand why the driver of the car cared but eventually his concern penetrated my enthusiasm for the wilderness of the sunshine state. He thought I was gathering photographic evidence of youngsters, not related to him by a  million miles I am sure, who like to drive up and down the back roads at speeds roughly approximating the speed limit or possibly slightly over - I have no training nor skill to judge.
His fear saddened me because it has been proven justified these days in the formerly laid back Keys. Not because of my actions but because all too many people would bother themselves to mess with innocent kids letting off steam, just as I used to ride 50 years ago. I have no interest in snitching on anyone minding their own business anywhere. But we live in a  world where all too often the passerby feels an obligation to not mind their own business. I try to live my life as if my mother were alive and watching and I don't always succeed so I too can end up behaving badly. But these days everyone has a monitoring system to find out what everyone else is doing all the damned time and the simple act of photographing a wild flower in a public place becomes a revolutionary act of subversion. Clearly I do not fit into this brave new world. I hope it will leave me alone long enough to end my days in peace until I will finally get to step off and mind my own business in darkness for eternity. Let the nosey bastards monitor my grave for I shall give them nothing to ponder except perhaps an epitaph. And a few pointless pictures.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

White and Black

Walking White Street and seduced by the shoes and shadows. If you want color pictures return tomorrow to this page. today's untrammeled offering is a play of light and shadow as Rusty and I walked around White Street between Truman and the Pier.

This looked like a bunch of neighborhood kids passing the time of lock down playing in the street as once was common. At least in my youth it was normal to wander around away from home.
I prefer walking to cycling as being on a bicycle puts you in the flow of traffic whereas using your feet gives you time and opportunity to stroll and look especially when Rusty gets interested in something. 
I enjoy the light in the Keys which produces hard shadows and lots of silhouettes. 
One is taught to appreciate soft ambiguous light, the golden hour twice a day as the sun nears the horizon with the blue hour a close second after or before the sun appears and everything gets that cold tint.
I like the harsh sunlight of midday in the keys, especially when combined with a breeze to unfit my glasses as I walk.
These bushy sidewalks along Flagler Avenue near White Street create tunnels of light especially when I turn off the color image. Some photographers like to shoot in color and remove the colors in the computer later. I enjoy the act of photography more than I do fiddling with computer settings so I try to see in black and white and if it looks good I take the picture directly.
During the lockdown I have found myself pushed to think more and more in abstract terms, of shade and shape and indeed colors too as tomorrow will reveal on this page as did yesterday.
I was trying to explain the abstract nature of shadows and objects and a socially distant stranger wandering in his own exercise hour called me an artist which was a bit weird. I am just a wanderer with a camera.
Rusty exhibits how own leash tolerant patience when the mood strikes me to try and spot the sun through. bush. In the back country he wanders around me at will, running forward and falling back but on the streets in the middle of a grocery run he has to pause alongside.


I'm not sure what will change if the leaders move forward with opening up the state. I don't think the Keys will open anytime soon and I know I'm not going to rush back into a normal life until I see what is really going on. I find I have lost confidence in what I used to think of as daily life. I fear that may be the worst coronavirus legacy for those of us who live through this epidemic physically unscathed.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Rebuilding

Roadwork scheduled for the Triangle is moving forward helped by the absence of normal traffic. Residents of the Lower keys, more than people in Key West itself, have been somewhat concerned (panicked) at the thought of the only bridge into the city being closed, even partially for construction. Is it permissible to be glad that the coronavirus has reduced traffic to a trickle? As you might imagine the beautifully marked lane shifts are simple to negotiate not only because they are well done but also because there is no traffic! 
I think everyone is hoping the bridge reconstruction at the Triangle goes at quadruple speed while we are locked down but the city isn't holding back. Downtown is getting it's own facelift while Duval Street is shut down. I love the new cut outs on the sidewalk. When I was in a. wheelchair I tried to negotiate three blocks of Duval by myself and I got stuck in those cut outs that were crumbling. Thats not going to happen to anyone else now. Brilliant. Plus the street itself gets a new layer of smoothness. Very good.
Naturally when people in Key West see the city spending infrastructure funds at a time when the economy is tanking leads to criticism. We do not live in a time when making. reasoned argument changes perception so for those who don't understand how and wy. government apportions money I shall say no more but the fact remains that capital funds have to spent on capital improvements. And this is the perfect time for the city to get ready for a new future.
My favorite neighbor, a chef who is the most stand up guy I know is leaving town taking his wife and child with him. By this time next week they will be living with his father in Central Florida and he will be completely out of work. He saw no future in the Keys. I dread the next hurricane season without Brian nearby. The city and the county are putting employees on furlough, suspending their pay while sustaining their health insurance and seniority with a promise to rehire when things change.  I am exempt not only as I have massive seniority but also because we are already short handed in 911. However our overtime is cut and we will find ourselves working two in the room a lot of the time as the three person minimum is suspended for now.  It will be tiring but we can handle it. And we still get paid and have work which makes us incredibly lucky. No complaints.
My wife gets to teach from home for the rest of the year and she too gets paid - yay!- even though she loves classroom teaching and being in a real relationship with her students. No chance of that for a while. The county has said the Keys will be closed into June at least.  From what I can see the checkpoints on the two roads into the keys are our lifesaver. Sheriff Rick Ramsay set them up with Keys wide support and stood up to the state when they told him to take them down. He has undoubtedly saved us from big city infection from Miami.  Planes still fly into Key West but they are mostly empty and bring back city residents who are all required to quarantine on arrival. Somehow we have been saved serious levels of infection even though only a thousand people have been tested. Our hospitals so far are in good shape and were it not for the economic hardship we would be doing fine.
People are putting together food donations and food banks, restaurants are donating and one hopes the people with money are supporting those efforts. I am more animal oriented and I look to the SPCA for a place where I can help. I look at Rusty and worry about people on the edge with animals. Anyway enough of that we all do our bit.
That's it really. Stories of fear and  mental anguish are out there and I hear some at work. But we could be a lot worse off than we are. And now a couple of gratuitous Rusty pictures.
Dog walking is the activity in solitude and there we were in the dark at Simonton Beach where he found some sand this side of the barricades. So he did his usual. Another successful stroll.


Sunday, April 26, 2020

Greene Street

Rusty sits by my bed and pants. It takes a while but his tapping claws on the tile and his short sharp pants will eventually restore me to consciousness which in turn forces me out of bed and into the car. Rusty will tolerate delay as I gather my wits but the inevitable result is a walk for both of us. Which is why the sky was a deep dark blue and the palm was dark and of sunshine there was none to be seen.
 I peered inside the former Rum Barrel closed well before the epidemic. Like so many of us stuck indoors for most of our days I had been studying and thus learned a new trick. To get a picture through dirty glass put the lens right up against the glass and let the autofocus take care of the rest. To my astonishment it worked. The Internet was right! I cannot say the picture of the disheveled interior of the former bar is anything memorable but the fact that the shot worked impressed me no end.
Had it not been closed the ice cream parlor up the street appealed a lot more.  I miss the possibility of a spontaneous stop during. walk, the pause to buy. coffee or even an ice cream on a whim. I'm not saying I do it very often in normal times but the fact that the possibility is denied to me these days makes it frustrating. Yes I know, just one more first world problem.
I find myself seeing patterns and making pictures that in review remind me of the emptiness of our public spaces.  
The day starting to lighten up means my little vampire buddy and I need to start thinking about heading back to the car.
I think it was a quesadilla but whatever it was he found it irresistible which is odd as he never scrounges. I call it channeling Cheyenne because she was the master of scrounging food in the streets, never missed a thing and never suffered for her poor taste in scraps.  
I am amazed these lobster pots survive. Part of the lease at Conch Republic Seafood involves supporting local fishing  activities and there is a commercial boat at the dock so I assume these pots are part of that, the very rump of a formerly thriving fishing industry based out of this harbor.
Those are million dollar townhomes behind the wall. I like the possibility of a Key West where fishermen in rubber boots work next door to homes like these. Long may it last.
 Key West is waiting probably at least until June to see life start back up.  I wonder what that will feel like.