I got my first vaccination shot on Friday, courtesy of Moderna. I had wondered if the day would ever come given the requirement that I be at work through a pandemic that has raged pretty much out of control all year. Luckily my bosses have taken this problem seriously with closed doors, mask requirements and my colleagues in dispatch have avoided any infection. I have felt very fortunate, and the vaccination program felt like one more great good fortune, even though my right shoulder aches just a little bit...
Only three dispatchers including myself participated even as Facebook epidemiologists continue to rant about genetic mutations and other nonsense. I stopped paying attention to Facebook when I read the debates arguing coronavirus was less fearsome than the annual 'flu. 410,000 deaths later I think it's safe to safe Covid 19 is far more deadly than the annual 'flu season. And then again we have to remind ourselves that surviving coronavirus is not a binary business - death is one outcome but the other outcome of a brush with Covid may involve permanent or long term disability in varying degrees. To think I am vaccinated with a booster shot promised in three weeks is frankly astonishing considering no one knew of this virus a year ago.
My wife has rheumatoid arthritis and her specialist has forbidden her from getting the vaccine yet as her immune system needs to be built up first so for myself masks and social distancing won't be changing as we neither of us want to get infected at this hopefully late stage of the pandemic. Patience is the watchword. just one more lesson of a terrible year. 2020 has taught me a lot about myself, the history I thought I knew and the ease with which human beings can be fooled into believing arrant nonsense. I always used to ask myself how a people as civilized and educated as the Germans could pile onto the Jews in their midst and torture and kill them by the million. It just seemed too weird and in my head I knew I would never participate in such a crime. I grew up after all in the shadow of that terrible War and every adult I knew had suffered in some way because of it.
Well 2020 showed me a thing or two. I watched as tens of millions of my neighbors bought into the cruel and self serving lies of a man who ran for President to boost his television appeal they tell us. He pitched white supremacy and religious zealotry as the new American virtues and people all over the place lapped it up and apparently still do. Fortunately it takes dexterity and skill and political training to be a successful dictator and President Trump lacked all the skills necessary to win himself a second term. Luckily too the US military chose not to back a coup and we are now skidding off in a different direction. Most chilling of all for me is how little remorse there is expressed for the events of January 6th and how quickly partisan sniping has returned to take the place of productive political compromise. Any action taken by President Biden is written off as divisive and arbitrary by people who sat on their hands during the assorted Trump emergencies. None of his edicts seemed particularly focused on national unity and now that the other party is in power all they can do is attack the President not with facts or counter arguments but with witless sniping. I have no doubt now that the attacks will be unsupported by facts and that shortfall will not be questioned by President Biden's opponents. Thoughtful opposition seeking compromise is a lost art.
Through all this madness Key West has soldiered on, a haven of relative peace for those of us lucky to live outside the swirl of violence and ranting that has swept the country. Now that we are settled on a more peaceful national course I can allow myself to feel lucky to be here, even though the tourist trade is visibly reduced this winter and stores have closed across Lower Duval. One allows oneself to be optimistic that soon the normal tourist trade will resume to everyone's benefit. I am amazed how resilient Key West is in the face of all these disasters.
After I got my vaccination I took a walk downtown in the sunshine with my camera (Rusty was at home). I enjoyed the warmth and the light and after a while of randomly recording things that caught my eye I found a theme I wanted to follow around Duval Street. I started photographing flowers where I saw them.
I have had a hard time this past year watching the chaos get worse, seeing the effects of national mismanagement and indifference combined with increasing deaths. I expect most of us in the first world want a return to normal easy living, surrounded by annoying technology and pricked by the irritations that come with failed expectations. They will be a relief after this deluge of bad news and national drama day after day. I have felt fortunate that I can get out and walk Rusty away from people, in the mangroves with my camera, in weather that is never too cold or life threatening or even uncomfortably cold. I am lucky my wife doesn't mind communicating electronically with her web of friends; I am lucky my colleagues take mask wearing and distancing seriously, I am lucky to have a job that keeps paying me regularly even if I am expected to show up in an office instead of working from home.
So to go for a walk and find sunshine and flowers in all these strange places makes me feel even luckier. I was approached by one guy wearing a Monroe County employee t-shirt and he said "For every picture you take you have to take five chickens home!" I really enjoy being mistaken for a tourist but I liked his line so much I admitted to him I wasn't actually a visitor ( I don't think he believed me! Even better!) and I told him I liked his line so much I was going to use it even though I have heard it deployed many times before.
I recall a joke circulating last year: CAN WE ALL AGREE THAT IN 2015 NOT A SINGLE PERSON GOT THE ANSWER CORRECT TO "WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF FIVE YEARS FROM NOW?" Not a joke that would get much traction in the hallowed halls of psychic readings I dare say.
You could offer me a crystal meditation but I would move along and take a another peek through the viewfinder of my camera. Give me flowers, give me quiet, give me a break from the noise please. Last year I wanted the superpower of seeing into the future, to figure out where we would all be six months into the pandemic from hell and this year I find myself in the same spot. This year I'd like to think we will be putting away masks and no gatherings and no eating at restaurants, those of us who have stuck to the protocols against all Facebook-epidemiologist advice. The flowers tell me nothing except that they will abide, no matter what happens to me and the virus and my neighbors in our frenzied world.
Looking for depictions of flowers in the window at CVS on Duval I got struck down by an attack of whimsy. I saw the twelve inch surfboard and I knew that I had to spend $15 to get it. I see all those young people in Vans living Instagram's Van Life with their kayaks, bicycles, surfboards, skateboards and skis. My wife and I like to keep our crap to a minimum and we had made a pact to not take anything that won't fit inside. Now however I determined on the spur of the moment we have to be hip too and we can show the youngsters a trick or two. Now I proudly carry my own surfboard on the back of my Van and even though it may be too small to actually ride it expresses my desire to live the life of freedom in the great outdoors. Some thing similar to: "as seen on Instagram hash tag van life".
And there is another blow coming for the eccentrics of Key West inasmuch as the city commission is moving ahead with a new law that will probably take effect next month forbidding the public feeding of wild chickens. I'm not a great fan of wild chickens as they are noisy and they scratch landscaping all over the sidewalks but tourists love them and this is the town that sold it's soul to tourism. Now we are moving into the world of upscale tourism and the chickens are becoming off limits to their passionate devotees. I don't suppose they will suffer pangs of hunger as tourists are constantly dropping food all over town more as a result of inebriation and carelessness rather than a desire to feed wildlife, and besides Key West has a healthy insect population to feed them. Too healthy for many new arrivals from Up North. The joke is that you can identify the new arrivals in Florida by their shame and embarrassment when buying roach motels at Publix.
By contrast with all the weighty stuff flying around wherein you hear people mutter "constitution" and "martial law" and "impeachment" to get back to some local irritations can be quite a relief. The Key West Citizen, the newspaper that refuses to die has come out once again with an interesting story on the chamber of commerce in Key West. Apparently the chamber has found itself on the wrong side of several local issues annoying citizens and the mayor who won her race with an overwhelming positive vote. It was none too smart therefore of the chamber to endorse one of her opponents who managed to get a meager 20 percent of the vote...The newspaper goes on to list a whole bunch of stuff that has seen the business organization butt heads with city residents: cruise ships, environmental protections and so forth all mixed in with some office drama exposed which makes for some riveting gossip. This from a news paper I am always too ready to fear may soon be extinct.
Sunny days cool breezes fewer tourists and flowers to take your mind off things. It could be worse.
The Conch Republic is a state of mind and we've had our revolution thanks.