Thursday, September 30, 2021

Big Pine Trails

I have never thought of myself as a tourist guide in these parts and indeed I have resisted the notion that this page should be a simpleton's guide to the Keys, there are plenty of pages for that. But to visit Big Pine and not to walk the trails  just a short way past the Blue Hole on Key Deer Boulevard would be a shame.

The Blue Hole had cars coming and going when I drove by but no one stopped here. Granted it was hot and the sun was shining pitilessly from a deep blue sky but Rusty and I were alone and it was lovely.

I like that the rules allow dogs and if they ask for a leash its the least one can do. We left no trace so when Rusty laid an egg I scooped it up and put the bag under the gas cap as I always do when there are no convenient trash cans. Open the cap to put gas in the car and there's the neatly wrapped egg ready to drop in the gas station trash.

Aside from the technical details the trail is an easy walk, it could be nothing else in the flatlands.

Its a great introduction to the flora of the Keys, thatch palms, saw palmetto and pines growing on fresh water lenses and stuff like that. A lens here is a convex pool of underground fresh water. 

The main trail is called the Jack Watson trail after the first ranger who was hired to protect the Key Deer that were nearly driven extinct by the middle of the last century.

Apparently he was a fierce defender of the wildlife during his tenure and if you like Key Deer come here to pay your respects to the man who saved them from extinction.

They have controlled fires here from time to time just like they do in bigger forests.

A few years ago one such controlled burn got out of control amid much recrimination and a bit more land than planned got scorched.

Much excitement of course but as you might expect the burn ultimately  disappeared in a welter of fresh new growth, perhaps in a larger area than intended but the principle of the burn remained.

Oh and don't forget the butterflies, always important along with bees and other flying stuff. They have a garden for them too and it has grown mightily over the years. Every time some thoughtless human says what good has the government done I think of the parks service. Lots of good stuff in the parks…Law enforcement did all right by me too, lets face it!

Of course today was the day I forgot my camera, things are a bit shambolic at home at the moment and these pictures came not only from Rusty's desire for a walk but also from my iPhone 12 mini. It does okay if you don't use the telephoto. I enjoy using my dedicated camera s and I dislike having to put up with the oddity of the phone on it's side sliding a digit to take a picture. 

They have reopened the DMV office in Big Pine with the usual reduced midweek opening hours (fine if you are retired) we used to enjoy before Hurricane Irma upended Big Pine. My old utility trailer is now officially gone to new owners, the Fiat goes to a friend in Central Florida soon and the Ford may have a new owner as well, so the only wheels we will have left will be the van. Long may she roll...

On the subject of rolling the park also has a wheelchair accessible trail with a viewing platform. Pretty cool.

One thing I noticed from my time in a wheelchair is the way the railings are all set at waist height for a person standing up, putting the wheelchair user looking through bars.  I did a lot of that and the memory sticks.

On the other hand you can learn. lot if you have a mind to, and I'd like to think people who have got this far, especially in cooler months might take the time to read.

There are more signs than I've photographed of course.

Bloody hell! Words, words, words...

This is the one that explains to reason for this special trail:

The countryside is the same across both trails more or less.  The long trail looks similar but it does have some spots that might make a wheelchair tough to maneuver. However Rusty got it into his head to not want to walk the long trail. He knows his own mind and I didn't fight him but there it is. You get the drift.

From 2008:

From 2013

Bahama Village Night

We had a yard sale, we gave. away a bunch of stuff to Haitian relief, we bagged the rest and Matt came by with his truck and took it to the dump and we both wondered where the hell it had all come from...and where it is going. This really is a. world with too much stuff and we are both swearing to each other: never again. We are determined the van will not bulge with stuff. Our track record sucks but perhaps one is not too old to keep trying to get it right.

Next week the Salvation Army comes by to see what these may be left that they could use. after that we want to get Matt back with his pick up and send a last load to the dump. This process of unraveling is a total pain. We have packed and repacked the van to try to rationalize what we are taking with us. To start. totally open ended voyage isn't easy but we are taking up that challenge with a will.

I've got a date in Jacksonville next month, a date that seemed pretty much a day like any other when I made it and now marks an inconvenient hiccough in the middle of other plans! We are upgrading the suspension and putting a skid plate under the engine and transmission. I had thought about lifting the van a few inches but the lift compromises the basic design and reliability of the front wheel drive system.

I made a joke to my wife after she had her inspection describing us as the two cleanest assholes in Florida- we both got the all clear after our respective colonoscopies so we are good to go. The whole process keeps getting easier especially as it keeps the chance of colon cancer,  a painful condition, at bay. Preventative care is well worth the irritation of the process.

Walking Key West remains a pleasure though social distancing and mask wearing are falling by the wayside. 50,000 Floridians are dead from Covid and thousands more have side effects persisting and even more have eye watering medical bills to deal with. Yet I see local officials posting group pictures mask free without a care in the world.

A local body builder has a go fund me to pay for treatment as he suffers the worst torment Covid can inflict. He's on a. respirator alone in the hospital, his foe continues to work at her public job mask free and their two children I guess take their chances. I cannot stand how preventable these disasters are. No one is stronger than the virus when it grabs even a body builder by the genes.

Fund raisers for illness and medical care used to be commonplace in the Keys, a community with not much  in the way of health benefits for tourism related jobs. Since Obamacare those efforts have shrunk out of sight oddly enough and I remember all the noise against expanding health care accessibility. My city insurance runs out on my birthday so as of November 1st I'm an Obamacare participant at $512 a month with an $8500 out of pocket and 100% coverage thereafter. I'm eligible for Medicare in a year but this will tide me over.

The ability to have healthcare coverage liberates a person from the need to either go without altogether or to hold a job that provides the coverage whether you want the job or not. I'm guessing without Obamacare I'd have to stayed on the job till next year but if I get sock or broken(again) I'm covered. My city job limited me to $4000 out of pocket but I'm okay with the new arrangement. Europeans with cradle to grave coverage don't begin to understand these issues.

You see a man cycling down the street all alone wearing a mask and one is free to imagine he may be overdoing it.  And yet he is free to be overly cautious rather than underly. The messages we get are so mixed up who knows where our problems lie.

I was sweating as I walked. The feeling was familiar. Something at least is still the way you always remembered it.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

New Town Walk

I remember when they built the new weather station on White Street and the walls were painted bright red. Everyone hated it. Then it became apparent the red was the undercoat and the hurricane proof (one hopes) building was clad as planned in wood and looked quite different. All the angry voices were stilled. A little patience I learned goes a long way.

Rusty was channeling the late Cheyenne in the heat as we walked from shady spot to shady spot in the September broiling heat.

Clearly he's not a proper Key Wester as he will walk past a mountain of beer without even bothering to notice it.

Yellow house and yellow flowers on Von Phister Street. I've packed my copy of Streets of Key West so I can't look it up anymore, but I can look in the search function at the top left corner of this very page and find my essay from 2010 where all is explained:
According to J. Wills Burke's The Streets of Key West there are two William Von Phisters buried in the Key West cemetery, one who died in 1850 and owned the building that houses the Green Parrot on Whitehead Street. He dabbled in real estate and ran a store in that building and according to Burke he was one of two men who was responsible for platting much of the island. If you have no offsets today on your lot you should apparently blame Von Phister. This is the eponymous street looking east toward New Town.
Von Phister's offspring was elected a Judge just as the Civil War was about to break out and he refused to serve according to Burke when Florida seceded. He stepped up to the bench once more when Key West was declared Union territory by the soldiers at Fort Zachary and after the war he went on to be elected to the city commission. As Burke reports rather dryly it did not seem to matter to the voters that the younger William Von Phister had been a Union sympathizer.
At some point Rusty and I strolled past the maintenance building for the school district and I saw colors and light and shapes. I like to point out if you are parking in Key West and you see someone parking where it's not allowed don't do likewise. You don't know who is who or who knows who or who owns what. Just because they can park in a No Parking does not mean you can.

The Monroe Association for Remarkable Citizens sells plants and if you can read the sign you will know you are there. The weird spelling originates in the original name of the MARC House at a time in history when remarkable citizens were known as Retarded. They cleverly figured out a more appropriate name for the group without changing the letters. They do remarkable work for their remarkable citizens.

Key West somehow manages to do a lot of good for a lot of people, shelters for domestic abuse  survivors, homeless shelters kitchens and facilities to get people back into society. Literacy volunteers and so forth. A lot for a small town.

If you walk the streets of New town you are in Key West where the tourists don't go. Be a local! Actually I think locals have retreated to Stock Island and Big Coppitt these days as you might easily find yourself paying. quarter of a million for house on a street with no sidewalks.

And they keep coming to claim a slice of paradise. Not quite all paved over yet.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Bahia Honda

There are two places above all others I like to walk. Bahia Honda is one of them, and the other one I want to keep to myself for now. The landmarks here are obvious and rarely Rusty and I walk alone. For me to have time alone in the woods in these ever more crowded islands is my privilege. That Rusty enjoys walking with me is icing on the cake and keeps me alone but not lonely.

I see a lot of people fishing around here and I guess they outnumber me, dozens of anglers to one photographer usually. Occasionally I see camera carriers with tripods and filters and serious looks hunting the ideal sunrise. The picture below I didn't clean up and you can see the ocean sliding off to the right! Drives me nuts but I'm not driven to complicate my walks with apparatus. The drive to overcomplicate things drives me equally nuts.

Rusty is out there somewhere and I'm strolling with a small black box around my neck relying on clouds and light to make the pictures interesting.

I know what I see but I wonder what they see. 

Do we see the same scenery? 

I have to suppose so. I wonder if when they go home they review their catch and ponder the beauty of the place where they caught it?

I post my pictures here but this really is a diary and when I look back, and I do, I remember the circumstances of the capture. I fish for pictures and use them to remember.

So many meanings in a lonely stop sign. I made this picture and thought of the prairies I hope to be crossing soon. This actually is the crest of the hill alongside Highway One and the stop sign is warning beach goers to merge with the traffic with care!

There is a cement block under the gumbo limbo that survived Hurricane Irma and is slowly growing back. The kudzu is spreading too fast for me to keep it completely clear but I stop by from time to time and clear it and sit and think and sometimes I just sit.

I didn't sort this picture out either so now the ocean is going uphill to the right! Life as it is lived.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Eaton/Duval Night

We finally got something approaching a cold front which didn't do much for temperatures but it does seem to have tamped down the ghastly humidity a bit. Check out in the photo below. Get your camera out of an air-conditioned car and you have to wait a few minutes for things to settle down. Usually I'm impatient and start wiping the lens with a microfiber cloth and but its bets to just wait for temperatures to equalize by themselves. Watch your dog enjoying himself as you wait:

I was on Eaton just off Duval looking at the posters advertising productions to come after we're gone at the Key West Theater. I am glad they have brought the long empty space back to life and I recall with pleasure a pre pandemic concert my friend Gary actually got us tickets to check it out. Covid would not encourage us to go to a public performance this winter so we leave town with less regret than we otherwise might. 

We closed down the yard sale after a slow Sunday but we did make about $1500 which seemed like a lot to me. I congratulated my wife and then we took a nap. My wife is friends with a Haitian pastor and she's invited his prisoners you d to collect anything they might want to help put our stuff somewhere useful other than the landfill. That will leave us camping at home for our last few weeks. Re-use is a great way to pass stuff along for others to enjoy in their homes.
As I step out the door at work the Teamsters have negotiated pretty big raises for my former colleagues. My wife looked at me for a minute and said two bucks more an hour? Sign up! And we burst out laughing. I'm glad they will get more money because life in the Keys doesn't get any cheaper but I am so glad not to have to think about all that anymore.

One thing I noticed at the yard sale was tenor of conversations with people new to the Keys looking for stuff. It was interesting to me to listen to their reactions to life in this new place. One new arrival in Marathon was really relieved not to live in Key West, home of the weirdos which made me smile. My grumble at the reduction of weirdness is clearly the perception of someone who has lived here too long. That was a thought provoking conversation.

There was the buyer who lives with an active wife and he's worried she may not settle down to a slower pace of life. I could do nothing all day he said, sweating to put his purchases into the narrow space in his car.

I stopped in front of the presbytery, the pastor's home, at St Paul's. In years past this has been a prime viewing platform for the Fantasy Fest Grand Parade. This year the parade is cancelled but Fantasy fest goes ahead anyway. No viewing platforms required, I guess. The gate was padlocked at four in the morning!

Tourism has been hot all summer. The thinking is that the desire to move is best served by visiting interesting places in the US no matter whether it's in season or not. It's not high season in the Keys but you wouldn't know it looking at the numbers.

AsI was standing there looking at details as Rusty paused at the base of every tree (no peeing, good boy) there were hung over looking people stumbling back and forth. We were supposed to be alone but Key West is the city that has a hard time sleeping this year.

And Bank of America is back downtown. They closed the office on Southard Street a few years ago and then I saw this employee-free box on the 300 block. It's a page out of Wells Fargo's book as there are a couple of rival ATMs just up the street. My bank on Summerland Key has been closed since Hurricane Irma trashed the Lower Keys so I guess inconvenience is the new customer service.  I like the trash can, it kales it look almost like a real bank.