Monday, September 21, 2020

Giving Thanks

Not Thanksgiving, when we have to give thanks to order,  but for reasons more in my head I am feeling thankful today. I was looking at pictures of the Gulf Coast with people waist deep in water and that of course had me remembering three years ago living through the wreckage of Hurricane Irma, no electricity, no water for days and dirt and smells everywhere. I was lucky as the police station's generator kept going, and though we were unwashed and flushed toilets with buckets we had cold air and camaraderie. In those moments of crisis, as I am sure they are discovering once again in battered Pensacola and Gulf Shores there are moments of good that come through the misery.

Key West Florida
I am enjoying normal even if I have to get up at 4:30 to walk Rusty through an empty, distanced town. The city commission was supposed to lift the requirement that we wear masks outdoors at all times but old fashioned news in these times of rapid social gossip moves slowly. Apparently the city did agree to align with the county which requires outdoor masks only when social distancing is impossible, and that seems sensible and less divisive to me in time when being annoyed is the norm. I also read the governor is now questioning the six foot rule even as he moves to lift all restrictions on bars and restaurants today. My wife and I plod on in isolation, she working from home, me working in the tightly locked dispatch center...the new abnormal.
Key West Florida
The simple fact that so far we have had no hurricane threaten us has been something to be grateful for this summer and fall. To cope with the wild variety of problems storms bring with them while while at the same time trying to cope with the pandemic seems too much. Reading the stories of ghastly fire evacuations and homelessness from the Western States makes me realize how doubly lucky we are in this part of the world to be storm free in a pandemic. And so far we live serene normal peaceful lives in the Keys.
Meteorologically speaking it is serene for the moment, but economically it's another story. Store closures are nothing new in Key West. Ever since the last great revitalization effort began in the late 60s and  mid 70s Key West has seen stores and restaurants come and go. People who want to prove their local superiority will throw out names of past though Pantry Pride or El Cacique, Hukilau or The Copa give you longevity and credibility in the struggle to be a true local in Key West. Yet these days the rate of closure and the prospects for re-opening when the problems aren't simply a local phenomenon should give one pause. How do you bring back a local economy when the planet itself is struggling to redefine normal?
Generally speaking entrepreneurs love Key West with its defined market and tons of foot traffic and reputation as a place where visitors enjoy eating and drinking while enjoying live music. Anyone with a powerful desire to open a restaurant wants to try their luck and test their fortitude here at the end of the road. Every closure reported on the grapevine is accompanied by the curiosity quotient: what will come next? My wife always hoped the  attempts at Indian dining would stick but they never did. She's given up now and part of her enforced home life is ordering cookbooks and using an Instapot. She makes a mean masala bowl of legumes and spices as a reminder that we face an era of self reliance newly defined. Bad news for restaurants perhaps?
Key West Florida
We have indeed stepped up during the pandemic by ordering take out and delivery and yet it isn't always enough. The iconic Roof Top Cafe is gone, the 200 block of Duval is half shuttered and so on. Schools are in session but given the reports from around the country one can only imagine how the youngsters are currently busy infecting each other and in a few weeks the results should be visible. How do you get a middle school classroom to understand social distancing? I have no children but unless kids have changed a lot since I was beardless it seems impossible to method they can understand the nuances that confuse the grown ups around them.
Key West Florida
In my head I struggle with the violence of daily life that seems to be made that much worse by online anonymity, political rage, medical threats to our collective health, lies, conspiracies, confusion and fear. But the boredom of self imposed confinement, the sameness of daily life cannot obscure the good fortune we still have to to get through these trying times with our own dignity and sense of purpose. I see giving thanks hoping things will speed up and start getting better soon. Two more years of pandemic they tell us?  I groan but at least the national elections will be done one way or another...What strange times we live in.
These meandering unformed thanksgiving thoughts were prompted by an innocent question from a youngster at work who asked me what the world looked like thirty years ago compared to now. Was forced to think and try to remember and conjure up long buried feelings from that era. I remember the Iran-Contra scandal and the apparent violations of assorted laws and the sense of wild lawlessness of the fight against Communism which threatened the integrity of our neighbors in Central seemed a pivotal time. And yet as I tried to explain it I look back to photos from the era with a certain comfortable nostalgia. Nothing seems as bad as the present time and that thought encouraged me to find comfort in the tribulations of the present. Perhaps in thirty years if I am still alive (92 years old?) these will look like halcyon days in retrospect. We humans are very peculiar.