Monday, May 24, 2021

Decrepitude

Walking around Duval Street Saturday morning was a moment of time travel for me, a return to 2019 before the wretched virus took over our lives, a time when people came to the city to drink and enjoy a form of vacation that never much appealed to me, but pays my wages. I got to Duval with Rusty before the morning clean up was complete so you too can see the detritus of an active down town. In a time of pandemic that is hopefully over, I view the sea of plastic cups as a sign of a return to normal.
On the other hand the chickens taking over the center of Duval Street reminds me of the same time last year when there were no visitors, when everything was locked down, and chickens and dead leaves occupied the streets, It was eerie and gloomy even though we knew we were living through a moment in history that would end soon, it lasted longer than any of us I think, expected. I took pleasure in walking mask free, legally, without my glasses fogging up. At this point in Florida vaccinations are going begging so if you aren't vaccinated its not owing to any failure in supply.
Sloppy Joe's was closed owing to the early hour but that is how the building has looked for the past year.  The progress of the virus is now being measured in the developing world, where lock downs and death are the order of the day. Borders remain closed and the poorest of the poor are deprived of the fundamentals of daily living. It boggles my mind how disordered the world is, where supply cannot meet demand and where distribution of available supplies, food, medicine and sanitation defies the widespread availability of life support systems. We have abundance and they have scarcity.  
Cruise ships are nowhere to be seen yet and I think tat's probably a good thing. Far too many stores are closed and downtown has a scrawny abandoned  look that doesn't seem appealing to the kinds of visitors who seek jollity and cleanliness and order. I have debated in the past my preference for clean paint and uncluttered sidewalks with friends who say the rundown appearance of Key West adds to its charm. Sometimes I think they are correct as I am not by nature in pursuit of cleanliness and order, but when people are invited to my home I give the place a brush up and a vacuum to make it presentable.
Key West is far from presentable at the moment. Check the following pictures and see all the weeds and the dirty paint and general sloppiness. I'm not talking about the bottles and plastic cups scattered as they are cleaned daily by city workers before tourists wake up. But when I see weeds positively flourishing I ask myself if this town is ready for tourist prime time?
Scuffed paint, torn signs flapping and high prices seem an odd mixture of ways to entice tourists. The Mayor has spoken of encouraging wealthy tourists interested in Key West history and art and culture but were I that sort of visitor I'd stick to Naples and Palm Beach.
The Red Barn, one of my favorite haunts is closed till further notice as it has to be. Where as I have no interest in the return of cruise ship stores for myself, the possibility of live theater being curtailed would make Key West a lesser community in my opinion. 
The clock tower on Old City Hall was her target and I understand that. I've littered this page with pictures of it, including the slice torn out by Hurricane Irma, promptly repaired by the city. I look at the street and wonder what does go here in the evening while I am sntg at home with my wife and dog 25 miles away?
Urban forestry flourishing.  Weeds everywhere...
It is my internal contradiction, I'd like to see it clean and tidy, even as I acknowledge that the sort of tourist sought by the mayor doesn't sound terribly appealing to me the fact is that in the long run Key West needs to sort out a plan and a vision and attract weed loving tourists who enjoy a run down pirate town or people of wealth who want and expect clean efficient service delivered on time. And are ready to pay for it. It is a bit of a conundrum.