Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Bahama Village

Whitehead Street at five in the morning. Mask ordinances are finished by order of the Governor,  everyone has to use their common sense and social distance or use a mask based on their own intelligence level. I am rather dubious about that approach but I am resigned to this virus being around for far longer than I ever initially imagined. 
My neighbor told me of a friend of theirs, 40 years old who got coronavirus and was on a ventilator for ten days. Now she has stroke like symptoms that the doctors can't figure out, headaches, lopsided features and an arm that doesn't work, but only intermittently.  The reason I don't want to blunder into coronavirus is because I don't want to deal with the third outcome which isn't death or recovery. Its recovery with side effects of unknown severity, complexity and duration.  So I creep around Key West hen everyone else is asleep.
I used take night pictures for a change but I seem to find myself figuring out how to take pictures with not much light and that is most of the time. I wandered down Petronia Street which is actually quite picturesque even under sunlight.
Was thinking how in a normal year the city would be gearing up for Goombay in about three weeks. And Goombay, the Bahamian celebration which clogs Petronia Street for a weekend, is the precursor to Fantasy Fest.
Goombay, Zombie Bike Ride, Fantasy Fest...all gone this year.I fear if we don't get our mask wearing and social distancing organized we may not see them next year. I like the holiday spirit of the end of October especially as FantasyFest was being redirected away from stupid nudity to more of a costume public event. Perhaps by the time the pandemic is behind us and Fantasy Fest resumes it will be better placed to be a downtown celebration. I have one more opportunity to see fantasy fest before retirement. I Amy already have seen my last if next year repeats this year. The same goes for Goombay, a less riotous event with more music and food and less stupid drunks. To not see one last Goombay would be a real shame.


Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Checking The Mail

Florida Keys Full Moon
My alarm goes off at 4:25 every morning I work. I have a second alarm set at 4:55 in case I fail to wake up and that is about the time I have to get into high gear and get ready to go to work. That first half hour belongs to Rusty. We eave the house together and check the mail.
I read a long scientific article about a dog's sense of smell and thoughI came across it years ago the information I discovered has stuck with me. It explained a lot about the behavior I see in Rusty, his ability to smell in stereo, directionally and also his ability to separate smells by time, not only space. Dogs don't find smells disgusting in the same way we do, as they dissect smells for information, not for pleasure or to pass moral judgements. 
So it is that he takes great interest in the neighborhood, checking where other dogs have walked, noticing what's new and who might be new. He chooses the route, he selects his own stops and I trail along with a flashlight and a plastic bag always at his service.
We are alone at the hour, even the party goers have passed out and a neighbor's cat has got used to Rusty padding by at an hour when civil creatures are asleep. I don't know what the cat is outdoors by himself but I am forced to accept not everyone is as overwrought by their companion animal's welfare as am I. Rusty's freedom to operate is limited by my watchfulness and subsequent irritation if he does something stupid.
It is a walk that is only the preamble to my wife's more leisurely arrival on the scene and she takes him off in the car for a longer walk after dawn but before she settles down to teach at home. Rusty and I get back around the time the second alarm goes off and he goes off with a treat while I head towards the usual ablutions, uniform, lunch bag packing and all that daily nonsense.
He sits next to the ridiculously overgrown greenery at the top of the stairs and watches me go away to a world of unimaginable delights that won't release me back to him until 6:30 that evening when we get in the car and go off again to watch the sun set over the mangroves. 
I can't help but feel that we might all of us benefit from the simplicity and the lessons to be gleaned from an unambitious dog secure in his routines and not needing any great plans to keep him happy. 

Monday, September 28, 2020

Key West

I was looking back over my photos from years past and I notice a pattern in my travels around the Keys. I liked to walk around town in the summer when there are fewer people on the streets resaving winter for more back country time away from the crowds. This year things have taken a decidedly odd turn with a summer filled with blisteringly hot days, coronavirus and peculiar political ructions. 1968 - we missed you!
Petronia Street
Florida's governor, a close supporter of the president has declared Florida is mask free and coronavirus numbers are going down so no local government can require masks. Businesses can but compliance is reduced pretty much to a shirt wearing requirement. In the way a business can require customers to be clothed they can also require customers to be masked but cities and counties can't. 
My life won't change much and my wife who works at home is suddenly going to be dining out on the strength of the governor's reassurance that Covid is cured. From here on out you either work or not but there is no compensation for coronavirus related unemployment. I watch the numbers going up in Europe and I return to my original position which was not so much lock down as strict social distancing, masks and take out food and entertainment. But no one cares what I think so I shall continue to navigate a solitary course.
Key West
Rusty and I have been pursuing solitary walks with a vengeance since March 15th, the Ides of March, and I feel the anniversary of our isolation will be upon us before we know it.  I miss the ease and freedom of walking among people and photographing what I saw in a. town filled with color and life. I enjoyed night walks as an alternative, a change, but nowadays I feel a bit like a vampire, either looking for a sun close to the horizon among the mangroves, or darkness enveloping empty city streets.
Key West
The piecemeal chaotic politicized response to the pandemic seems to indicate to me the prolongation of this ridiculous state of affairs well into 2021and I am resigned to another year of creeping round on the margins of society waiting for the all clear from reputable scientists and physicians. 
We got our mail ballots this week and I am pondering my choices, either drop them in the main post office around the corner from the elections office or vote early in person October 24th. There are many limitations on life in a  small town distant from population centers but the sort of post office shenanigans and mail ballot arguments that I read about Up North seem not very applicable here. I won't mail my ballot in Summerland Key because any mail dropped there for Key West is shipped via Homestead as part of the efficiency drive of the postal service. In normal times that makes no appreciable difference to delivery but paranoia reigns and only mail posted within Key West's zip code directed to 33040 itself, is mailed directly and locally. Absurd that one even has to think about these things.

I have no doubt elections arguments and protests and debates will continue on into the New Year and so far 2021 seems to look much like 2020. Great prospects. I only hope I can keep finding items of interest for my camera to help me ignore the madness around me.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Van By The Sea

As picnic plans go I thought it was pretty slick. Take the van go and sit by the ocean, walk the dog, enjoy the breeze and spend a few hours reading and napping. It was my one day off in ten days and I planned on enjoying the view on a lovely sunny day of low humidity and, hard to believe, no rain in the forecast.
Van Life
The text from my boss set me back. Emergency overtime with two people calling out sick. It's that time of year when people like to escape the September heat by taking vacation, so even had I not wanted the extra money I would have had to go in because someone has to be there to answer 911.  I had to leave for work at eleven o'clock so I rushed Rusty downstairs, remembered to unplug the power cord and took off.  
Cudjoe Key
Before hurricane irma wrecked this stretch of waterfront I used to come here every chance I could with a book and a chair and take my ease in the shade. The waterfront isn't very good for swimming as it's rocky and exceeding shallow but the breeze blows straight off the water and on the warmest days its not a bad place to be.
They've rebuilt the bridge supports and the seawall and cleared the bike path and the gumbo limbo trees are growing back. I was surprised to see the state even paid to have the paved access ramp rebuilt after the hurricane tore it up and threw it into the ocean.  So it was the work of a moment to steer the tank down the hill into the gravel and grass.  Rusty hopped out and gave the place the usual once over.
Straits of Florida
However I had a cunning plan. I had previously observed the gravel laid down along the seawall was compressed thoughtfully by some other people and I had walked it with an eye to maneuvering a 21 foot camper van on the track.
Van Life
When Rusty was ready we got back in the van and we drove down the dirt track into the dead end at the end of the seawall. Compared to more experienced truck drivers I worked with many years ago I was not great at backing an 18 wheeler into a loading bay but compared to non professional drivers I have a pretty good grasp of how to go backwards.
Florida Keys Van Life
The Promaster has an excellent (optional) reversing camera which makes it easy and I was confident we could back down if I had miscalculated and the van, all 21 feet of it, couldn't make the turn around. However I backed and frothed a few times, ignoring Rusty's impatience to descend, and got Gannet 2 facing the way we had come.
It's a lumpy track but we took it slowly and aside from some swaying (all cupboards were locked) it was no problem at all and here we are facing the way we had come:
Old Bahia Honda
I released the hound from hell and threw the side door open. 
Florida Van
The hurricane that blew in only increased after I got the back doors open and the cabin became a wind tunnel. Fans, air conditioning and all that were absolutely not necessary. I got my book out and left Rusty to root around outside.
Florida Van Life
It would have been an excellent spot to spend the afternoon and watch the sun set even though most of the view is looking south. A couple of chairs, a table all of which we carry in the basement of the van and we would have been set to have a dinner by the ocean's edge. Not bad.
West Summerland Key
I have 620 days to go until I retire but this is a way and a place to remind myself why I am looking forward to hitting the road.
Promaster 3500 EXT
I am not fond of aphorisms that are thrown out online all the time, "Today is the first day of the rest of your life." Or "Live your best life" or some other platitude. Portentously stating the obvious. However there is always the exception and I have no idea why I stopped to read this one but it fits with how my wife and Rusty and I are starting to adapt to van life. A little at a time, shifting our perception as we go is how we did it when we moved onto a boat prior to boating away and now we are doing the same as we prepare to go vanning. I found the advice good for life changes putting into words what I have got in the habit of doing over the decades. Its framed for "behaviors" but for me it works for lifestyle changes too!
Slowly the van will start to feel like home if we get this right.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Key West Saturday Morning

There are many things to complain about life in key West and it is a litany all too familiar to anyone who claims acquaintance with the Southernmost City. Prices are too high. Well of course they are when there is so little land to occupy. There are too many bums. To that query one has to ask would you rather be homeless in a snowdrift or spend a sunny winter's day on the bandstand at Higgs Beach?
Key West
Parking. Don't get me started. Everyone complains about parking everywhere all the time. When I worked night shift callers would get on the administrative line to the police department to call out parking control at three in the morning to ticket a car in a residential spot without a parking sticker. At three in the morning parking issues are still high on the list of irritants.
Key West
Wild Chickens. Most people profess to love them, and they are a tourist attraction but personally I prefer native birds like ibis which are clean quiet and dignified. You have to give credit to chickens on the streets, as they are strong family units and they stick together. Rusty hates them and will turn back or cross the street if he spots a chicken or a rooster defending their family.  Cockfights still go on in the shadows as they are and should be entirely illegal. That's what's happening when you see people trapping roosters and hauling them off to burn their combs and strap spikes to their ankles and set them to killing each other. Not at all nice in our gentrifying town even if as some claim it is a cultural thing. Some chickens, some culture, to paraphrase Winston Churchill.
Duval Street
Leaf Blowers and Mopeds. Basically when you live in a city of 23,000 with millions of visitors and an enthusiastic part time population of millionaires eager to prove themselves as artistic Bohemians you live in a place where noise and silence compete vigorously. 
Carolina Dog
Traffic. In an effort to defeat traffic the city has imposed a twenty mile an hour speed limit making everyone a criminal. Overcoming the car culture  is not, as you can tell , going very well. I'm very supportive of the idea of making Duval Street a car free zone but the fanatics on Facebook pissed me off when they used (and use) my picture to illustrate their position without so much as a by your leave. When I pointed out the bad manners they ignored me. I don't have strong feelings about copyright especially as I don't have an army of lawyers to back me up, nor do I make any money from anything I do here but you'd think they could extend the courtesy especially as I point out I am fine with reproducing my pictures if you give me credit. Not a chance from that lot so their car free efforts leave me cold as much as I'd like to see Duval become a pedestrian zone. 
Key West Dive Shop
Young People. I have heard good and bad about growing up in Key West, as I know quite a few people who have done just that. Like any life experience the passage through childhood is colored by the world around you, and happy families seem to have produced, not surprisingly, happy young Conchs. This is a town that worships youth sports perhaps because the competition is so far away but young baseball's routinely (before Covid) traveled to Miami and up and down the Keys taking on all comers without mercy. Parents have been known to get over. enthusiastic at Little League and the performance of adult coaches is scrutinized with all the intensity of major league statistics. The Citizen has, I am told, superb youth sports coverage. The other side of the ease and freedom of growing up in Key West is the claustrophobia. Being allowed to roam free on the island also meant that everyone knew where you were and what mish=chief you were getting up to. Getting your girlfriend pregnant when neither of you was an adult got some stares in the aisles of Publix, I'm told. The attention he said wasn't unwelcome, making him a stronger young man than I would have been. Adults in this town carry over attitudes about young people who struggle to break out driving too fast, being stupid on the water and testing the limits as young people will, only around here there isn't much room and that makes being wild even mildly wild, a difficult thing to get away with.
Key West
Drinking. I am not a very good drinker as alcohol knocks me out. I don't fish and I am not fond of bars two reasons why I walk the mangroves with my dog and plan an ambulatory retirement making tracks up and down the country. I got a call the other day about a man walking around Truman Avenue wrapped in a sheet. Oh I said before I could stop myself, just another day in Key West. Luckily she thought that was funny and we remarked on the fact that perhaps he didn't know Fantasy Fest was canceled this year. The truth about his situation was rather more prosaic: he had vomited copiously on his pants, presumably after a night hard at work not fishing but doing the other thing. While his pants were very properly getting washed and dried all he had to wear was a sheet so he draped himself in his toga until the evidence of last night's excess was washed away.  We joke about drinking but the effects of going beyond your limits are not always spectacularly cultural either. It is a lifestyle that will keep on clashing with gentrification.
Legal Rum
My plan is to cherish as much weirdness and stupidity and cheerfulness as there is on offer for as long as it is on offer. It's easy for me as I live 23 miles away with lots of room to park my cars, no ambulatory drunks, not much noise, few young people and my own canal to swim in on my afternoons off. I just get to walk among the irritations and problems that plague residents of Old Town and upset some of them. It's all good as they will keep on telling us. And let me tell you while I have your attention how much that stupid phrase  "it's all good" annoys me....blah ....blah....blah..there should be a law....(walks. away ranting to anyone that will listen)....(lights. fade....) (blessed silence). 

Friday, September 25, 2020

Still Life

From an evening walk. 

Gratuitous Rusty picture once we got home. 

Thursday, September 24, 2020


I am not a birder, or as they were once known bird watcher, but I have come to appreciate the active life of birds. Lately I have seen quite a few around my camera lens. So here they are, seen hither and yon.

Catching birds in flight is quite complicated without a fast lens and a fair bit of skill.
I watch them standing on the seashore and wonder what they are thinking. 
This one was easier with plenty of sunlight.
Hunting for dinner:

Gratuitous Rusty photo to end, on the trail waiting for the damned photographer to catch up. As usual.