Friday, June 5, 2020


My wife has been locked down at home since the Ides of March and she hasn't minded at all much to her surprise. Teaching Adult Ed from home has caused some loud frustrations from the corner "office" at home from time to time as the computer system spat back predictably as the district gurus worked to redefine its purpose and use as a home schooling system. Apparently they have succeeded beautifully as she surprised me earlier this week while swimming when she remarked how very useful some particular Google school app is proving to be. For my wife at least it works smoothly and is integrated into her system. The future of teaching may be at home especially for teachers like her with immune issues. And only one more year to go till retirement.
So the news that she had to go to her classroom in Marathon to do some obscure paperwork surprised me but nothing loathe I agreed that getting an oil change for the Fiat would be a good idea. A former student works at a shop and she likes to stop by and see him from time to time. In the era of coronavirus I am  the one who shows up masked and goes face to face with an adult former student who cares not one jot to see me. Nevertheless an oil change is a Good Thing so Rusty and I dumped my adult ed teacher and headed over to meet the grumpy owner of the most grumpy oil change shop in the Western World - and his mechanic the cheerful former English language student who now speaks English but never does when Mr Grumpy is around.
After we had exchanged grunts, myself with Mr Grumpy, he being unmasked as you might expect from a man who makes my social ineptitude look positively gregarious, Rusty and I abandoned the car and went for a walk. It was as you can see, a gray Tuesday in Marathon. I think the only reason it didn't rain was because I was actually working my scheduled weird four hour evening shift and was not therefore a day off technically. The weather made up for the mistake by sending the mother of all thunderstorms Wednesday and quite putting Rusty off his food.
Walking along the sidewalk on the frontage road next to the Overseas Highway I could have tossed a pebble into tidal water as illustrated above. The north ("gulf" side as it's known to locals) is similarly close give or take a couple of blocks depending on the shape of the island. For a city of ten thousand there's a reason why Marathon is miles long as it is only yards wide and it's a collection of narrow islands not a wide short lump like Key West.
Compared to Key West Marathon lacks a "there, there" to quote Gertrude Stein speaking about her childhood home that vanished from Oakland. And like the second city in Northern California Marathon tends to end up playing second fiddle to Key West despite the fact that perception tends to cause annoyance. As though to prove the point we came across a block of wilderness a small spot of eccentricity in a town built to conform..
Rusty sniffed while I stood and looked, pondering my chances of getting wet...
The gray threatening sky contrasted with the bright primary colors on the ground and as we strolled back on the other side of the Highway I saw more colors and shapes to attract the eye. There is no doubt Key West has architecture and many more restaurants than Marathon, more theaters and movies and more offshore destinations among sandbars and islands, but Marathon, in a time of staying put offers its own retreat from the world. Not having a commercial airline at the airport suddenly seems like an advantage where travel seems to pose certain risks. I wonder indeed if movie theaters will even exist after all this with AMC going bankrupt.
They did a good job as usual at a reasonable price for synthetic oil and the ex-student gave me a secret smile to show he remembered to whom the car really belongs. Mr Grumpy avoided me while Mrs Grumpy took my credit card with her usual graceless fierceness, as though I had asked her on a  date rather than offering to pay what I owe. After 90 plastic dollars changed hands she glared at me like a lioness protecting her young and wished me a "blessed day." A reminder if I needed one that being blessed does not always lead to a sunny disposition.
I wore my new mask throughout the transaction of course and even though instructions on the door said to wear one neither Mrs Grumpy nor a bored dude on the couch, possibly a customer or family friend, were wearing one but as usual we have to fall back on the bromide that we live in awkward times and we do what we feel is right. I enjoy taking the car to a place where fake corporate customer service is nowhere to be seen and these unhappy people prefer to wear their grumpy hearts on the their sleeves and very much in your face. This isn't a namby pamby tourist joint but a hard core hard work oily working class shop. Take it or leave it. I love it and I find them refreshing though I am glad I don't actually have to live with them. Trust your car to them that's all the transaction is about and they will do you proud.
With the bars and theaters reopening today in Key West I fear the notion is now running rampant that the crisis is over and my wife and I still distancing ourselves will be considered to be living on the eccentric fringe, not alone but in a minority. I hope we really have seen the last of this blood clotting virus but history indicates it will probably be back. I can hardly wait.