Tuesday, March 19, 2013

West Summerland Key

I love this spot. They've taken to callIng it Scout Key for the Wesumkee Camp on the island. Wesumkee is derived from West Summerland Key which is the real name of this island. Why it lies to the east of Summerland Key no one knows but submerging eccentricity is a shame. Let them call it Scout Key, I shan't for I like this place too much.

Just east of here lies Bahia Honda State Park which is more than a beach, it's also an historic site. However this side of the deep bay (Bahia Honda) lies a little bit of history too. The World War Two water pipe, the first utility connection to the mainland used to supply the wartime military in Key West:

Dead seaweed tends to wash up here of course but Cheyenne, the world's only non swimming Labrador, enjoys a dunk, seaweed or no:

I prefer nature's art to the art of industrialized waste production. There aren't enough trash cans apparently to encourage visitors to do the right thing and trash cans are everywhere here in this informal park space.

The other thing I like about this place is the fact that it is a hill, the only such slope in the Lower Keys.

I remember well our last trip to Puerto Rico, parking the car and stepping out onto a hillside and looking east toward the Virgin Islands. I looked out across the water and suddenly I noticed how impossible such a view is in the Keys. Looking down is a rare privilege.

There it is again, that uphill slope. This time seen through the frame of an old window in an elderly stone pump house along that old rotting water pipe.

The pump house now is a shell, a few wooden shelves built into the wall, piles of shit, crude graffiti, all the usual debris of a society with no stake in the outcome.

Yes indeed, I love this spot.

The old road was built on the rialroad bed in 1938 and abandoned in 1982 when the new highway was opened. The top of the hill used to be the jumping off point for the intricate Bahia Honda Railroad Bridge.

The state bought the railway after a hurricane wrecked the poverty stricken rail line and in a love impossible to imagine in these mentally retarded anti government times, the state built a road.

On the old road with my Vespa it took me five hours to drive to Homestead from Key West. The new road cuts that time in half if I am determined to get there...


We like hanging out together my dog and I. This is a good spot to do it, early on a Sunday morning when everyone else is on their knees or nursing a hang over, depending on which altar they worship at on a weekend.

It's a good spot to visit from time to time. The only hill in the Lower Keys.


Monday, March 18, 2013

A Wrench In The Works

It has been Republican party policy since the sainted Ronald Reagan's  presidency that government programs useful to Americans should be unfunded, rendered incapable of operating effectively, then declared useless and abolished. The weird part about this plan is that people who will be negatively affected by such cuts support the wrecking of government programs. Why? Because the propaganda is so effective. It amazes me how my fellow citizens, indebted to their eyeballs and thus nowhere near "free", fall over themselves to rush out and support the destruction of decent paying union jobs, pensions, health care programs, childcare, schools, parks, utility infrastructure and even prisons, all in the name of "freedom."  It has been a brilliant Big Lie put about by the master propagandists of the right and they have done very well protecting the interests of the one percent.
So when I find  a nice  piece of artistic humor offering a different view I cannot resist, not least in the hope that perceptions may be changing. This from Santa Cruz cartoonist Tim Egan's brilliant mind: www.timeagan.com/ 

Big Sky, Small Town

Is this sky lovely or what?
I know it's just me and my hound poncing about in the pine trees, but we're doing it under those big blue skies.
Big Pine consists of more than pine trees unhappily. Well, Cheyenne is happy. She loves the trailer parks where people throw out food and other stuff, invisible to the human eye that turns my dog on.
So we split our time, a woodland walk for me, the first ten minutes, which brings us out into the poor people's neighborhoods, and in a country where the rule of law is outweighed by the size of your contributions to our leaders, I call this neighborhood our future.
Ninety three percent of our Nation's income goes to one percent of the people. We are told, perhaps by people with an axe to grind that we have greater income inequality than Tunisia and Egypt. Happily our own spring revolt is subdued by our caloric intake.
I haven't eaten at the Cracked Egg in a long time but it is home to the classic American diner. Crab Benedict and a glass of beer. Followed by a quick trip to the gym, no doubt! The city of Key West recently gave a beer and wine permit to the doughnut shop next to the Tropic Cinema, and managed thereby to stir up a big frothy storm in the newspaper's cup of public comment called The Citizen's Voice. Alcohol and doughnuts? As though Key West weren't fueled by alcohol. Sometimes it's the only way to make sense of it all when you live below reality.
I was walking past a guy's house and his dogs were barking madly at my totally uninterested hound. Oh he said be careful they bite. He meant it too but the dogs didn't. Most of these signs don't either. Beware of which dog?
Look at that big sky and the tiny little plea to come and spend money here. It's an odd plea because there isn't actually any competition. Shop here or wait thirty more miles. Actually there is a fair bit going on in the shopping center, including DMV offices the library, the Key Deer refuge office, laundry, restaurants, and the big Winn Dixie supermarket. 
This is Keys living that a lot of visitors who focus on Key West never much get to see. It's families, or those country folk that like their privacy living away from the water, in homesteads buried among the trees. It's a long way from Duval Street and that's just fine for folks around here. For people who focus on Key West and the infamous Duval Street Big Pine is the Keys equivalent to flyover country. So I was quite surprised to see the environmentalists of Key West decided to send a message to the boondock dwellers:
They are a non confrontational bunch the Key West enviros, which is I suppose the right way to do things in the land of doing your own thing, but there is so much to preserve and so little being done. I don't see many people with shopping bags in Winn Dixie so perhaps the message needs to percolate a bit. I wonder if they bring bags to the drive through liquor store? No really, you can buy liquor on the go around here, in defiance of common sense and strict DUI laws.
We live in interesting times and for those of us that prefer predictability the Chinese curse seems more real than we might like. The stock market booms just as the Federal government withdraws funds across the board as our political leaders go into budgetary stalemate, and so we look to the future with some wonder. At least I do, as I am of the camp that the way out of economic recession is to spend, not to destroy social programs. I hope Big Pine will be a good place to live under these big skies and weak economy. Theoretically small towns are good places to be when times are weird.
For now the sun shines and the dog is satisfied. Time to go home and sleep, perchance to dream of better times ahead.

Sunday, March 17, 2013


The Federal Law Enforcement Taining Center, known to its inmates as "flet-see" trains about ten thousand people every year for 91 Federal and Tribal agencies. Last Wednesday my nephew Jess graduated their four month course as a newly minted federally certified National Parks Service Law Enforcement Ranger.

I was there with his parents to watch the ceremony and while we spent the morning prior to the ceremony checking out the sights of St Simon's Isle Jess was taking one last final exam. And believe it or not one member of his class was flunked out at that test, just hours before graduating. The class is not for pansies and not for the faint hearted or those not committed one hundred percent. Jess admitted that at one test in the course he was sure he was going to fail and it was at that point he realized he wanted to be a full time ranger at Yosemite National Park more than anything. And FLETC was his path to a full time career as a climbing ranger. Yup he climbs the cliff faces of Yosemite for a living and does search and rescue missions in the wilderness and from time to time he patrols the park in a car and issues people speeding tickets. All this with a gun at his waist which for a long time was quite the dilemma for this young man raised as a Quaker.

My in laws, his parents wanted to visit the famous (unknown to me) azalea gardens of the Methodist Church on St Simon's. They tell me John Wesley's Methodists are closely affiliated to Quakerism and given that affinity we drove out to check the flowers that bloom in the spring.

This was what all the fuss was about, and very nice they were too:

I had a hankering to see Fort Frederica and while my brother in law had never heard of the War Of Jenkins Ear I was pleased to get him up to speed. Fort Frederica National Monument - Fort Frederica National Monument . We had run out of time after we checked out the church and narrowly avoided prosecution by the God fearing so we had to skip the fort. A reason to return here.

St Simons is part of a tourist agglomeration of islands packaged together to encourage people to visit Georgia's one hundred mile long coastline. They call them the Golden Isles, and they are the juxtaposition of wealth versus the poverty of towns like Brunswick which lost their economic basis after the Navy base was closed in the 1970s.

Apparently President Carter decided to put the newly minted Law Enforcement Training base where the Glynco Naval Air Station had previously provided employment. The government giveth and the government taketh away. The private sector on the other hand is nowhere to be seen building factories and giving well paid jobs to Americans. Oh well.

Given the circumstances I decided it was rather urgent I get a respectable haircut so I spent some of our valuable diminishing time available at Vann's barber shop and I rather think I was attended to by Vann himself, a grumpy old dude who shuffled round the room blaming the female hair stylists for stealing his barbering equipment. it was some form of minimalist modern theater which helped pass the time. The thieving females seemed unaffected. I overheard one talking to a client and explaining they had seven or eight liquor stores. "We know how to drink here," she asserted confidently but I judge them to be rank amateurs compared to Duval Street. Ready to meet the very serious Federal people:

Onward and upward we rode and drove to the base.

We lined up to get ID cards and had no weapons to drop off yet we barely had time to glance at the blimp display showing off the past. I thought of Fat Albert which may not be decommissioned but may rather be taken over by the Homeland Security people who will continue to fly it over the Keys. We don't need no stinkin' drones!

The graduates lined up outside the auditorium...

Two Bureau of Land Management employees, ten US Fish and Wildlife Service rangers and eleven National Park Rangers got their certificates inside...

...and we listened to a bunch of speeches extolling the virtues of the law enforcement service...

... And finally they took the oath:

... And it was done. Jess was ready to bug out, back to Yosemite to see his wife and have a brief vacation before taking his field training in West Virginia's New River Gorge, another place with good climbing potential. His mother the MD had a medical meeting in Indianapolis the next day so she had some driving to do and I had to get home and I was anxious to make miles south before the cold night air closed in. Back to the real world.

I had a dog waiting for me at home.

And a long ride home in bright sunshine and cold crisp air. Those handlebar muffs were a life saver all the way to Miami and kept my digits toasty for five hundred miles.

It was fun surviving the cold but I skipped Bike Week In Daytona Beach altogether and kept riding, dreaming of warmer weather to come. I'd rather ride in a hundred degrees than in fifty degrees any day and I hope to get a few tours in this summer in the mountains far from Flatistan. The Bonneville and I are ready.