Monday, August 31, 2020

An Ex-Parrot

I am gifted with a  peculiarly puerile sense of humor which, combined with my fine sense of irony tends to make it possible for me to enjoy social distancing and quarantine as gifts from the gods. My wife enjoys some British television but after a quarter of a century I know pretty much that the television and more particularly the radio shows that I listen to on BBC Sounds do nothing for her so when I am driving alone I find my meditation in laughter, private and personal. Which is by way of saying I still find Monty Python not only nostalgic but funny. So when I decided I was no longer going to ride a motorcycle I found myself thinking about the parrot sketch. I am an ex-motorcyclist. 

Less than two weeks after I took the photograph above on the levee at Lake Okeechobee I was knocked off the scooter and we both ended up on HIghway somewhat wrecked. That was two years ago today, and I am now selling off the replacement for the machine above which was destroyed and I have no plans to ride in the near future. After half a century riding all over the world I should feel some nostalgia I suppose but oddly enough I have  a mind that not only enjoys puerile humor, but also looks forward and not ack, mostly.

There are several reasons why I have chosen to stop riding. The easy explanation is that an accident requiring four operations, 80 stitches and three months in the hospital and a four thousand dollar copay for a half million dollar bill might be the cause but it goes deeper than that. I got lots of help from friends and employers, my wife half killed herself managing everything and my dog didn't get to see me for a month. I fear were I to fall off again no matter the cause or the fault I might be the object of some rather justified compassion fatigue. Furthermore I don't miss the frequent maintenance schedule of a motorcycle which seems to be a constant round of tire changes, oil changes and assorted fiddly touch up and repair jobs. My van has an oil change schedule of once every ten thousand miles.  

The joy of riding has left me. The Keys are not a motorcycling paradise anyway but traffic has worsened considerably now the Highway is wide open again and every day I witness what can only be described as bad driving. Racing tailgating and reckless passing are objects of curiosity when you are in a  car and can pull onto the shoulder with ease but I don't want to be hit again by a distracted driver. Broken bones hurt quite a lot, quite aside from the acute disruption to daily life, and having lived though an extended stay in the hospital I have no completed that life experience and came away with lots of valuable lessons. No need to go for a repeat. Of course the irony will be manifest if I find myself crushed in my car...

I have always been a traveler and I remain one. This blog hardly reflects that side of my personality as I started this page in the middle of the longest stationary period of my life. However now the pensions are earned and old age is upon me the idea is to get up and go. This time I will go in a big bad van, a vehicle even the distracted notice...but more importantly I can travel with wife and dog and the comforts of home. This has developed a great deal of appeal to me as the van will allow for extended travel with no need to go home, I hope, to recharge my batteries. The ability to travel like that is the big appeal of not riding.

I could see a time in the future when I might ride again, given the physical ability to stay safely upright on two wheels. Were I to live in a region of interesting riding roads with not much traffic it could happen. How I might find myself in a such a place I can't imagine. I expect Key West and salt water to be in my retirement future but my life has rarely been a linear progression from one sensible thing to another. No need to start rationalizing that now. 

Perhaps, independent of the accident it's a matter of aging. The need for speed, such as it is with a 200cc scooter... may be replaced by a  more reflective way of travel. I know that I am very much looking forward to time being on my side, not having deadlines, not getting cold as I drive, not having to be somewhere because I am retired and my relationship to time has become a bit more elastic. To travel with my home is a way I hope to expand my horizons, not limit them to a very small space. And the interior of the van is very small indeed. Some people have larger clothes closets. A paradox then which I find intriguing especially as I enjoy traveling slowly in the tank that is the Golden Van. Yes I enjoy drifting along and pulling over to let others by. A marked change. My wife has noticed this tendency and she is happy so it must be good.

Retirement in Key West continuing to live where I live is possible financially speaking but I am not clear how or why I would do that. Instead of a van we could have a boat and go sailing overnight to various mangrove outcrops and so forth which would leave Rusty unhappy and me unsatisfied. I don't fish and I don't hang out in bars and I don't get an energy boost from managing committees or handling personalities and volunteers and that other classic busy work of retirement. There is a reason communities get a boost from retired people with valuable skills volunteering their knowledge but I ma not by temperament or training one of them. As much as I like Key West I have nothing to offer this place and I have still this persistent desire to see different places. I can't do it by motorcycle anymore. So I am an ex-motorcyclist. That chapter is closed for now. It is odd to acknowledge it.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Crane Boulevard

A change I thought,  is as good as a rest. Rusty apparently did not agree. 
I drove him out to  Crane  Boulevard for a  quick extra walk on our way from Key West.  The rain had passed, the air was damp but I thought it might make a pleasant stop. a different stop.
I may not have made this point before but my dog is a creature of habit and this walk is not on his circuit.
He walked fifty yards beyond the gate and then turned around and sniffed his way back toward the inhabited part of the road.
I thought oh well, it's his walk, his choice so he gets what he wants. I played with the camera seeking still life. A roadway stripe, the edges made dark by the rain:
A glint in the sun, rendered banal by the telephoto lens. 
We looked at mangroves for a while and resumed our interrupted journey home. 

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Pigeons And Masks

More mask signs, this one at the Margaritaville Resort on the docks. I get the feeling masks will one day be something we will not even notice. At the rate we are going it seems like we are never going to be done with the damned things. I wish these notices weren't necessary buit still we struggle on.
I wonder what kind of communications one has to have to be able to live even a portion of your time on a boat that has four domes. I sent this picture to my sailing friend Webb who ventures off shore with no means to communicate other than through a  modest locator device and he noticed the forest of satellite telephony antennas as well.
But some poor soul needs to spend time polishing the thing because god forbid it should be speckled. 
The elements were working against the industrious use of the chamois leather, rain seems to be a given on  any day I have off:
But for pigeons rainwater is just an excuse to have a bath. They didn't seem best pleased by my interest in their al fresco ablutions:
Gratuitous Rusty picture in front of the Mel Fisher museum:

Friday, August 28, 2020


A few pictures that tickled my fancy from a walk with Rusty a few days ago. A little serenity in a busy world.

Happily I managed to find a couple of pigeons for today's essay. These two look like they may be recovering from a marital spat. Perhaps that might be the case were they human. Probably they were just hanging out together.

These water pictures I made using the reflected light of a mostly overcast evening. In the lower picture the old gambusia trench is much more clearly visible. They were hoping to develop these areas so they dug trenches to hold gambusia fish which live in the mud in the dry season and eat mosquito larvae in the wet season. 

Gratuitous Rusty picture:

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Mallory Waterfront

There was a slightly bizarre looking sky standing on Mallory Square and looking southwest toward Sand Key (and ultimately Mexico). The dude sitting on the seawall was in some kind of meditative trance and either he had got bored of the strangely arcing cloud or maybe he hadn't noticed it at all. Rusty gave him a wide berth.
Signs everywhere about masks but this one inspired some wag to spice it up a bit. Nicely done. 
I couldn't keep my eyes off the boiling clouds in the sky as the sun came up and tinged them with the colors of fire.
The brick wall at Meson de Pepe, the Cuban restaurant, positively glowed against the stormy looking sky.
Three seagulls conferring on the railing at the waterfront.
The trickery of long lenses made them look much closer than they actually were. Cruise ships tie up to that cement platform when seagulls aren't in residence.
Looking at this carbuncle at the end of Mallory Square nearest Margaritaville Resort you'd wonder why something wasn't done with it. The restaurant owner offering to turn it into an eatery on Mallory Square has been trying to develop it for fully ten years and can't get the city to agree. The story is long and convoluted but Joe Walsh who owns other restaurants nearby wants to open an eatery and import food from his other restaurants as this place cannot have a kitchen. The city commission has never agreed formally to the plan agreed by the former city manager and some of those elected leaders say the space is zoned for a museum and public space as well as a restaurant. But the lack of a kitchen...and here we have this crumbling wreck in the middle of the tourist zone. 
I keep looking for skylines because Key West has so many varied shapes and angles in the air.  There's another pigeon. It looks like I might get a pigeon and a mask sign in every essay this week. Purely by accident but they seem to predominate at the moment.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Not Downtown

There is something about coronavirus that destroys variety in our lives. We are the lucky ones, or perhaps the smart ones on the edge of the infection, the ones who stay away from bars and crowds and beaches and indoor dining and protect our infirmities or old age by being cautious. We;ve been doing it for so long one has to make an effort to remember life before masks and hand sanitizer and locked office doors and socially distanced grocery shopping and deliberately planning how to avoid crossing paths with people and the sense of resentment when noses appear above masks or defiant looks accompany an uncovered face. 
I have to think back to times spent on Duval Street watching the swirl of people, since March 15th a sight pretty much unseen. I cannot complain as my health continues to be good but I do complain in my head, a first world complaint, the lamentation of the entitled and the weary. Being out in nature seemed a privilege, and now it seems a confinement. How messed up is that?
Dying a coronavirus death seems as ghastly as anything and people in under developed countries are dying unattended where hospitals can't cope. I cannot imagine being in an ICU in the first or the third world, a place where family members can't visit, where you live alone in a hospital bed and with a fever; a place where there isn't enough staff to look after you and those there are walking the wards live in exhaustion and fear of infecting themselves or their families.
I force myself to a life of repetition, of sameness, of avoidance, of transparency that leads to boredom. No theater, no restaurants, always ordering food to go when we order at all. Gone is the gym replaced by the fake bonhomie of exercise videos. All at home, which is no longer an inviting place to gather. Socially distanced invitations  now consist of spreading food on our ten foot picnic table and distance eating while talking like lawyers visiting their clients in prison. It is bizarre.
The outdoor spaces remain lovely but I am starting to tire of photographing the same places and though my problems are mild they impinge on my sense of being alive. I am lucky my workplace respects our needs and our health and our safety. I read about the Sheriff in Ocala who has banned face masks in his offices. Banned them. What a choice that would be for me with a  wife with no immune system. My office is cleaned and sanitized daily, doors are closed, masks are worn in the corridors and we all grumble because it is annoying but we aren't stupid like the Sheriff in Ocala. I am lucky where I work.
I feel like I am turning into my dog and that may not be that terribly awful. Rusty loves his routines, the sameness of his walks, the familiar excites him and the compensation for being away is made stronger when he returns to new smells and more of the sameness of before. Now he looks forward to seeing what he missed while on the road and he relaxers  when surrounded by the familiar. I need to learn to imitate his contentment. No, actually I fear learning to be content just like him; I want my human edge to stay sharp.
Rusty at home.

One more mangrove root, one more reflection,
My favorite tree, a survivor, close to under water at high high tides, blown this way and that by storms but still producing green leaves and a little shade at the corner of two trails. Trees are filled with infinite patience. I wonder if they would like to pull up roots and travel like me?
Another glorious morning. More of the same, day after day, till the end of our time.