Saturday, October 31, 2020

A Spectacular Sunrise

Happy Birthday to me. I am not, as my curmudgeonly nature would have it, particularly drawn to my birthday.  I treat it as a day like any other. 
I am amused from time to time at work when I ask for descriptions from eye witnesses to incidents around town. The interrogation runs through a  few salient features to enable officers to identify the person who is the object of the call, someone sleeping in public, acting bizarre or arguing or any number of activities that alert passersby to the need to call police. 
I find I am in the category of the elderly nowadays. And I know this because people are described to me every day as being old or at best older when they are possibly 55 or 60. Golly I think to myself. I am now old. Which is funny as I don't feel old. At 63 I am on the cusp of being high risk simply by virtue of age for coronavirus symptoms.
Old age doesn't seem that daunting to me as I can still do what I want to do, and even after my accident and all those broken bones I can still walk, bend, lift and climb without trouble. As befits an old man I can't do things fast but I can persist in doing them until they get done.
I suppose one should be grateful for the genetic lottery and I am for mine as I have reached an advanced age without, so far, any signs of illness that so often afflict people of my age group. No high blood pressure or diabetes or stuff like that.
Undoubtedly health is the thought uppermost in one's mind and I recall old people when I was a youngster mumbling very tediously about when you have your health you have everything. At age 20 I heard them but it didn't seem to be very relevant and 43 years ago it wasn't. It is now.
I have lived with Rusty for four and a half years now, which surprises me as the time has flown by and now I have to wonder if his life is half over already. Supposedly he was young when we got him so he may be 7or even a youthful 9 years old already... Birthdays are not always portents of good times.
 26 years of marriage is the other milestone and the van will put the last dozen or twenty to the test. I find it difficult to picture myself an invalid at 80 or something but I have no doubt I will be able to cope with whatever the fates have in store for me if I get to reach advanced old age. My time in the hospital taught me there is little to fear from physical deterioration. As long as the mind continues life can be managed and enjoyed, I found from my hospital bed. Experiences in life come in different forms and not being able to walk gives you a  new perspective, a different point of view. 
Until I lose my mobility I plan to keep moving, but aside from such gloomy thoughts I find the process of aging quite enjoyable. Things that used to seem urgent become less so and age does bring wisdom I find and with it the pleasure of my own company, a few select friends, and the time to read and think without the youthful pressures of external activity. I don't feel the need to justify myself or my choices and I have found especially  since my time in the hospital that I focus more on what matters to me.
In a way I suppose it is a form of selfishness but time is running out, most apparently so and with the time left a certain urgency manifests itself in my life. I am I fear impatient, always one of my many vices, and I would rather be done with this phase of my life and moving on with what comes next. I should be disappointed were fate to intervene to prevent me enjoying my retirement travel plans. I want to start now!
My friend Webb is closing in on 79 years of age and he hasn't wasted a minute of a life lived with an aim and a purpose. You don't sail around the world six times and set assorted records without making a plan. I never was quite that self assured to assume a single plan might work for me. My plans have come in small batches, planning a  trip a job and exit strategy, one thing at a time. 
I promised my wife twenty odd years ago we would get the pensions we had never planned for when we lived in Santa Cruz. She had agreed to sail to Key West and a new life in a  warmer more laid back location and I in turn said we would secure our old age. It was a good plan and we have stuck to it. Much to my own surprise I managed to hold down a long term job and not get lost in the pitiful world of office politics though I have been put through the office wringer over the years. That was a good plan and I tell her so now even though I wondered how I would do it in distant 2004 when I started working for the city of Key West.
Were I to be deprived by illness, pandemic, war or some other catastrophe of the chance to enjoy our planned retirement on the road in the van I would still count the past two decades a good use of time. I learned new skills and put them into practice. I lived mindfully and enjoyed most of the time living in a  special place with time to take vacations in other interesting locations. I've had the company of some excellent dogs too and Rusty is always worth being around. My wife has been patient and promises me more of the same as we start down the slippery slope to the final big sleep. 
Meanwhile I asked for some sushi cakes instead of a normal birthday cake in the manner of a last meal and Rusty no doubt will enjoy the day as shall I in the manner of any other day, last meal notwithstanding. I follow his imperturbable example.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Underneath The Arches

The pigeons looked like they were having an important meeting thus ruining my plan to take a walk on an Old Flagler Bridge alongside the main highway. I hustled Rusty under the bridge.
Florida Keys US1
I do this from time to time when I feel his walk has been inadequate or I want to see if I can find a new perspective. If there is a bicycle parked nearby I don't bother as I don't feel like shuffling through some homeless guy's living room.
Florida Keys US1
The big white pipe alongside the 1982 bridge is the water pipe from Homestead bringing reliable water supplies to the Keys. In an effort to reduce salt water intrusion they mix 4% seawater with the fresh water pumped out of the Florida Aquifer. You can't taste it but the idea is to reduce consumption or fresh water which would make way for the ocean to penetrate Florida's fragile fresh water table. With so few people in the Keys it hardly seems worth worrying about compared o the millions on the mainland but we must all do our bit, I suppose.
Florida Keys US1
Crawling out along the pipe is discouraged as you can see in the picture above.
Next door the cement bridges built for the 1912 opening of the railroad from Miami are still standing. They are restoring many of them to create a bike path and fishing bridges the length of the Keys.
Old Flagler Bridge
A houseboat tucked away in the sort of perfect solitude some people hope for in the Keys:
An isolated house on the western side of Crane Boulevard on Sugarloaf Key:
Island House
Stout rails designed to stop cars plummeting off the straight level well marked highway. They do that you know, from time to time people drive into the mangroves, too many hours at work, alcohol or marveling at the scenery off they go for a drive in the bushes...
Florida Overseas Highway
Gratuitous Rusty picture, actually my hand, but there he was looking for land crabs and happily not finding any. They hurt when they pinch your nose..

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Duval And Angela

I remember wandering Duval Street in April during the lockdown when Highway One was closed and I was struck by how an empty tourist town looks. Mostly the cars gathered dust and leaves piled up on sidewalks in the absence of brooms, leaf blowers and humans. There was a zombie apocalypse flavor to the town.
Many, dare I say most seaside towns close up part of the year, the low season whenever that might be but this town barely closes at all even at the slowest time of year in September. The lockdown was decidedly unusual.
It was a time for me that led to a lot of thinking and I am pretty sure I wasn't alone in that. he period produced a lot of wistfulness, nostalgia and dare I say hope for permanent changes. We lived through a  couple of months of almost no activity. Even 911 phones and administrative calls to the police department  fell largely silent with no drunk drivers, accidents or parking violations to report. It was a strange time, a mixture of peace and unquiet as we wondered what came next.
Rather brilliantly the city tore up Duval Street and repaved the entire thing with more work taking place on Simonton Street's underground infrastructure. The bridge at the entrance to the city was rebuilt in double quick time, rendering a  project expected to cause chaos barely noticeable. I bought a used electric bike to get around possible traffic jams which never appeared and last week I sold the bicycle as I had no further use for it.
I discovered how boring an empty city would be in the event of a zombie apocalypse. These days taking a  walk down Duval Street requires much stepping aside to avoid mask free faces but there are people to be observed and a sense of activity.
Much of what one sees on Duval is the banality of daily life, not usually terribly interesting to me but this year I have found special pleasure in seeing people, though why they don't wear masks I don't understand.  
I hope next year will be the last for coronavirus, and I say that out loud because I hear some people muttering that this plague could last into my retirement in the summer of 2022. Surely not. I'd like a large helping of back to normal normal by then, thank you.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Luke Ch15 v31

There are days you crawl out of bed and wonder how luxurious it must be not to have a dog standing there expecting you to want to walk the streets with him. An extra half hour under the duvet, lost to the world, deep in the Land of Nod, well East of Eden. But no, not in my life where Rusty refreshed, is always ready to go.
Tuesday is my wife's work late day when some of her adult Ed  students take advantage of her evening to catch up on their studies after their work day ends, so when I'm not working Rusty and I drag the camera out and go look for still life, birds or changes of seasons in the evening light.
Yesterday was a crappy day for it as there was only weak sunlight and overcast skies giving everything a leaden look. There were no birds, there were no dragonflies, we were alone in the woods. It was lovely and quiet and srene and no amount of bad light could take that away.
How we got separated I don't know but I blame myself for getting too involved in trying to make something from nothing, peering into the grass with same intensity he gives to smells. I called him but he obviously didn't hear me. I walked back to the car and pretty soon I was running out of time. I had to get home and what had started as a leisurely moment on my afternoon off came up against the inevitable compression of time. The long afternoon shrank like an icicle in the sun and I had to get home.
From there it was all rushing to no avail, so by the time I got back to look for him it was closing in on night and no amount of waiting did any good. My wife went straight to the "he's dead alone in the wilderness" scenario while I was more of the "a little runt befriended someone and is watching TV and getting a high protein dinner" scenario. The truth fell in-between.
A passer-by found him and he got a ride to the SPCA where he spent the night "suffering horribly I hope" my wife said as soon as she learned he wasn't dead and alone and lost. I had a bizarre night's sleep populated by dreams that were so specific I knew I was dreaming and yet I couldn't wake up. Rusty had been found by a  Cambodian family (why on Earth Cambodian? I still ask myself) and they wanted to keep him with their other family dogs.  In my dream I walked past their home and saw Rusty playing in their yard glancing at me reproachfully while he was supervised by a stern faced unyielding matriarch. I woke up in a sweat not at all refreshed.
The best news is Rusty was found by a photographer who wants to go photographing with me after I told him what I was doing. I told him I was rather shy but he rolled over me ("I'm not!") so perhaps he can show me some new places socially distanced to take a light box and click away.
I know I will have more days of grumbling to myself when I have to crawl out of bed and take the eager dog for a walk but after a night of an empty dog bed and no soft ears to fondle while watching TV I shall complain a lot less. I hope the Cambodian family will learn to forgive me, whoever they are, wherever they are in the universe,  for taking my dog home.

He said to him, ‘My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours.

But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.

Grainy And Dark

I shouldn't have done it but I did. I got a count down app for my phone. I can now tell you with confidence how many months hours and seconds it is from now till 6:00pm June 8th.  Yes I know I should live in the moment but there are times when daily living requires you to look up a  moment and stare at the future and think about how different it will be.  I am an odd fish because as much as I enjoy the prospect of change I am also quite full of nostalgia and to that end I wanted to be able to remind myself of early mornings with Rusty.
Cudjoe Key
On the mornings I have to be at work in Key West I'm up at the 4:25 and  if I'm not up an impatient snout in my face will bring me back to reality. Rusty likes his mail check walk even though he may spend just 15 minutes checking the neighboring streets, or sometimes 30. I trail along close by with flashlight and plastic bag to hand.
Cudjoe Key
Digital photography is amazing to a certified sceptic like me. It costs nothing and is endlessly entertaining while making it very hard to wreck your pelvis in the pursuit of a picture. That's a good thing. But at the same time it is endlessly fiddly with more settings than the human brain can easily handle. So I figured I might as well spend some time pushing those settings to their limits to see what happens. Coronavirus has shrunk the palette of things to photograph already and its not like a fresh season in the tropics brings fresh topics to photograph. Might as well test the camera with the same old views. By day these streets are a brilliantly lit stage, by night the darkness is impenetrable.
I was really quite surprised by the pictures which evoke for me the nostalgic views of those all important early morning short walks with Rusty. He pretended to ignore me as long as I was close by and obviously watching him. If I slowed down to focus the camera he walked ahead and sat down to wait for me as I fiddled with the apparatus. To be a dog requires patience if you are going to be around slow poke humans.
 It is our time to be out like vampires in the moonlight. 
Wandering these streets with a camera is  not going to yield much of interest, at least not to me. The Keys are a hundred miles long, normally less than a mile wide and no more than three feet above sea level all of which conspires to require homes be built on stilts. By the time you've done that there is much room left for individuality or innovation or eccentricity to be expressed. 
On my days off I like to drive Rusty in to Old Town to take advantage of the lanes and streets and old wooden houses but around here I have long since worn out out the photographic possibilities. Except for this little experiment with light sensitivity. And by now it is clear that this is an essay in the vein of a diary, a memory preserved.
I felt like I was getting away with something holding my tiny pocket camera in my hands when I looked at the pictures on the monitor on the back of the camera. To my astonishment I found what I hoped might be useable images. Rusty ignored me, head down, checking the mail left by dogs passing this way during boring bright lights of daytime.
Street lights are not very common on these back streets so pools of light don't do much to make the whole street visible.
Mostly I found bright moonlight more useful. One weird lone political sign. There is one Trump flag in the darkness of my own street but most people around here don't go for lawn signs. This guy went large, not holding back. It shore like a beacon in the darkness but I don't know who it was going to convince to change their minds.
I am still impressed by the clarity of the picture. Granted there was a street  light shining on the sign but even the blades of grass are discernible.  Modern technology saves me from tripping over my own feet.
Around the corner we marched, me testing the camera in the darker spaces, Rusty sensing the barn not too far away.
At this hour there is no traffic to be heard, though sometimes a single car might head south from the main road towards this area, most cars turn into Venture Out the trailer park before arriving at this end of Spanish Main. We are alone.

At 4:30 in the morning human nonsense seems remote and watching the clouds fly across the face of the moon is entertaining, much more so than people who are all asleep and out of my life temporarily. My 911 starts at 6.
By 5 o'clock at the latest we have to be home and our short time together is over. Rusty chews his bone while I get ready for work. More car accidents, lost wallets, angry break ups and some minor theft to fill one more day at my desk when I should be spending it with Rusty.
I try to avoid checking the countdown clock, it is enough that it is there in my pocket for emergencies.