Monday, January 5, 2015

January Is Almost Over

Every night at work we change over the call out board which lists all the agency personnel that are on call for assorted potential emergencies. The list of detectives on call, Internet support staff and fire investigators and the like are posted on the wall so we know who to call out  at a moment's notice. It's a comforting routine that marks the half way point of our twelve hour night shift and on Sunday nights all the shifts change so it takes a few extra minutes to sort out the letters and numbers of new names and new phones for the week ahead.
Last night Kristi announced in a world weary voice: "The year is going by so fast, we're almost through January already." Which I thought was anticipating a bit as January is hardly over but I did agree that New Year's felt like it was long since history, all the fuss and crowds forgotten, our eyes now on the rest of the month, three weeks of the dead of winter at 80 daily degrees. As Kristi is half my age I pointed out to her that the older you get the faster it goes which gave her pause. But she's right, before we know it April will be here, winter residents will be packing up, my wife will be anticipating the end of the school year and swimming season will be back.

I had Friday night off, one night away from the endless overtime so my wife and I abandoned Cheyenne at home (snoring heavily) as you do, and we went to the Waterfront Playhouse to see "Noises Off" a comedy that I had never got to see in all the years it has been around. For me it was two and a half hours of endless laughter; I was the guy you don't want to sit next to, wheezing and crying as the slapstick, jokes and absurd situations piled up on each other. The story is simple enough: a provincial English theater troupe is putting on a play and we the audience get to see a rehearsal and two performances, one from the back of the stage as the cast attack each other in between appearances on stage and the final act from the front as the performance falls totally apart in mid performance. I loved it, a perfect break from endless work. My wife is not a devotee of slapstick and farce so her enjoyment was rather more restrained but she put up with me collapsing with mirth for two hours so she gets the good sport award.
Yesterday morning Cheyenne treated me  to some comedy when she went for a drink in the mangroves and got stuck. She has done this before so this time I took a moment to take her picture sticking out of a muddy Gambusia ditch pawing ineffectually and noisily while determined to not bark to alert me to her plight. The ditches were built as mosquito control devices as they were stocked with gambusia, little fish that eat mosquito larvae. Nowadays they are a nuisance if you are an elderly Labrador who prefers to drink muddy water as opposed to the fresh clean, filtered water at home. She got  a thorough bath when she got home, too, and she knew she needed it. 
Winter seems to have abandoned the Keys forever. We have had one brief spell of weather in the mid 50s and the forecast for the foreseeable future is 80 degrees by day and 70 by night, give or take. Perfect motorcycling weather and there are lots of SUV drivers riding bikes this winter. Like this charming person who used a perfectly good out-of-the-way free parking spot in Old Town to park his motorcycle which could have been parked at any number of official free motorcycle spots nearby. Why use a car spot? Because you are thinking like a car driver. Sigh. Plus he parked it all the way forward making it appear empty in a crowded lot so a distracted car driver might swing rapidly into the spot and tap your expensive toy. People who ride and are forced to use car spaces park their motorcycles at the entrance to the space to make sure passing cars know the space is occupied.
I parked my modern scooter in a car space momentarily. Playing scooter tag I needed to park next to an antique vehicle on my way to work. I knew I would find one in the Southard Street and Fleming Street corridor and here it was. Some elderly truck with an antique tag. Good enough.
Then I was left to puzzle what should I set as the next tag. I was recently stymied by a northern rider who wanted a scooter parked next to a frozen body of water and when I complained I couldn't get my Vespa next to the freezer I got no sympathy. Eventually someone broke the tag free of course but it was not me. So I decided to park next to a tree with greenery and this potted palm near Solares Hill did the trick. One northern rider promised to go out and look for a pine tree when conditions moderate but I'm hearing massive snow storms are on track to ravish the lovers of seasons Up North. 
Seasons? I've got two seasons, warm and muggy and warm and dry and that's plenty. Soon it will be summer and Kristi will be a year older. Bummer.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

2015 Key West And A New Project

There came a time last year when I realised I needed to do more, to seek new boundaries, to cross old thresholds. I thought long and hard about ending the blog but I find that it actually feeds the part of me I want to expand, and I like using my camera to see the world through my own particular lense. To go out, take a picture to express a thought is something I have grown so used to doing it would seem odd not to be able to do that. My phone is my camera; it just happens to make phone calls as well. I come home and download my pictures to Picasa and the thought encapsulated in the photo is still there, in the pixels, like a prehistoric insect trapped forever in amber. I download the picture to Blogsy, my favorite app, and the words flow, inspired by the thought originally captured in my telephone. The amber melts and the words suggested by the picture are left on the electronic page.
It wasn't always so - once upon a time I was a youngster with a Vespa and my camera was a microphone. I was divorced and alone in California and in my early 20s. I heard the local radio station was seeking volunteers so in between learning to sail (great stuff) and trying hang gliding (awful) and scuba diving (too complicated) I added writing the news to the list of activities I took up to keep loneliness at bay. It clicked. But it was a career choice in decline. Everyone fancies themselves a reporter so wages were low especially  since  broadcasting was just then deregulated and news gathering became an expensive option usually dropped by newly freed station mangers. The public airwaves no longer required federally mandated news readers. My low wages were made easier to bear by living on a boat and riding the Vespa, the same scooter I rode across the country in 1981. I got to talk to all sorts of people about everything and I got a reputation for fairness which allowed me to hunt down and meet the rare conservative public figures in coastal California in the 80s. They called it the People's Republic of Santa Cruz in imitation of Berkeley in whose far vaster shadow we languished. I talked to anyone about anything no matter their politics, and the radio station was filled with politics.
So now, three decades on the wheel turns full circle. The world is now electronic, reel-to-reel editing with a razor blade is a lost art (I had a very good ear for it and could edit interviews faster than most) and radio itself is being transformed into podcasts. So it is that this producer in Brooklyn wants me to interview people for a series of podcasts, an idea he had to sell to me as podcasts are an alien concept to me. The subject, for which I am apparently uniquely qualified thanks to my history and my present job, is travel and safety. The project is underway, interviewees have been contacted and the modern equivalent of reel-to-reel tape will be turning soon. Podcasts are just another form of communication, in the end. So here goes...
Here's the thing: I hope you will listen when the podcasts start in a matter of weeks and give valuable feedback for us, which the producer says is invaluable for growth. I hope that after seven years of following along you will be encouraged to take a hand in directing my future path. It is a brave new world out there and I plan to take it by the balls, even without a razor blade and a reel-to-reel tape deck. Thank you in advance.

Here's to 2015: Fresh challenges!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Summerland Walk And A Cache

It was a morning of colors, and even though the days are supposedly getting longer...I still get to see the sun come up, often in a blast of reds and orange and even a little pink. Sunrises are often spectacular in the Keys.
Cheyenne was full of beans as we checked the canal front on Summerland Key.  
This picture put me in mind of those photos I've seen  of fishing villages in cold wet places like Norway or the Faroe Islands or someplace equally inhospitable to cold weather weaklings like me. It's actually a back street on Summerland Key.
 When I see fishing boats I wonder about the people who use them and whether they envy their counterparts in other parts of the world. I've seen people earning a living from the sea in many disparate places, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, the Pacific and so forth.
I find the thought of wrestling crab in the Bering Sea awful but I wonder if these folks consider themselves lucky to be in this relatively benign climate? Perhaps I am over thinking the whole thing. Or do fishermen in the cold damp Pacific Northwest pull in their lines wishing they lived and worked around palms in 80 degree winters? I would so I am just projecting I guess. 
 I don't like to chase fish but I like to eat it.
 The colors of commercial fishing:
 These beauties would be worth five bucks apiece to tourists with straws  in Old Town Key West,
Try telling a hungry Labrador what no trespassing means when there are powerful scents wafting on the early morning breeze.
She is as stubborn as a mule is my Cheyenne. The chickens and roosters made an enormous racket and looked at her as though she were planning to spit them and roast them. She instead ignored them. I tugged on the leash ineffectually.
While my dog prowled looking for interesting things I remembered there was a geocache hidden away somewhere here. I have so far found two others, one on Blimp Road and one in Ft Myers (which I forgot to log).
Summerland Palm was the name of the hidden logbook and I set my GPS in motion. I am new obviously but one of the ideas is not to let people who don't chase these objects know about your hunt and you'd think walking a dog would be the perfect cover.
Not really. The compass in my phone (there's an app for this you know) pointed doggedly in one direction and my dog pointed doggedly of course, in the other. Did I mention she is stubborn?  I got the job doine and now I've found three (and logged two...). I rather like geocaching, it gives you something to do when out and about and they are everywhere.
Across the street the Mobil station was ready for another day of selling gas at less than three bucks a gallon. Not forgetting they are a Dion's dealer, and my dog loves their chicken, source of all good smells. Time to go home to bed.  Summerland Key -source of temptation.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Duval Street Crowds

There are lots of people in town, and quite a few with cameras. Here in the street in front of Willie T's:
Margaritaville full of people having fun, quite a few in silly pork pie hats:
Some with odd matching back packs, probably Europeans:
Nice of them to wait for the light  before crossing. Wish all visitors were this considerate:
The sidewalks were clumped with people ambling up and down:
I like cell phones even though everyone makes too much of them:
I call them zombies but its rather unfair. What else can you do as you herd your family up and down Duval Street looking at dust catchers and remembering the lost excitement of your youth?
Bicycling shorts and a hat fit for the Queen Mother's garden party. I know nothing about fashion but it did seem a striking combination to me.
The certainty of youth:
I like that Key West still manages to attract young people. A bigger higher education presence would be nice.
A parade of pedicabs to round out the crowd theme of the New Year's arrival in Key West. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A New Year And Nothing Changes

Thank you for following my blog for these past seven and a half years. I am looking forward to the same again.

Gas is not as cheap as it is in the rest of Dixie. Regular at $2.75 a gallon gets our attention in the Lower Keys.

The ET4 takes premium. Grr.
Cruising the south shore of the island made me want to pay a return visit to the East Martello Museum next to the airport.
In an effort to sneak some riding time between overtime shifts I have been playing scooter tag on  ADV Rider. This one got squeezed out by a quicker post: "Your Scooter by a TV location." I was going to use the MTV House on Key Haven:
I wasn't doing so well then I also missed the scooter by a gym picture...but I got out a bit and rode anyway. By the time I had the picture someone else had already posted.
Happy New Year Everyone!
If you are in Key West could you please not hit anyone, vomit in anyone's front yard, not fall down drunk on the sidewalk (it frightens the visitors), not drive drunk (I will take my car to work as a precaution) and try and remember you aren't as funny as you think you are when you are drunk. Much appreciated.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Key West New Year's Eve

Key West is packed to the rafters with people. I have no way of knowing how many people are in town but the Duval Street corridor is pullulating with people. These charming visitors were directing traffic around an indecisive rooster who seemed to want to get to the other side.
It is a sad fact but for many people visiting our fair city the narrow streets and lanes look more like a fairground than the real world. This creates a bit of tension on the streets between pedestrians and vehicles in the traffic flow.
Cyclists are another source of confusion for car drivers more familiar with the expansive stretches of four lane highway in their home towns.  This time of year you will see cars crawling along behind a cyclist pedaling madly, and fear of passing is so bad cars will follow pedal bikes for blocks. For those of us used to sharing the road this can be a...frustrating experience.
Big trucks. Big hassle in small streets  but they are everywhere. You'd think Highway One would be smooth as a billiard table owing to the lack of frost or ice but trucks churn it up every day and every night keeping the city supplied. Lots of them.
Then we have cars negotiating intersections filled with oblivious pedestrians, bicycles, pedi-cabs and frantic scooter riders.
 Long lines. Cell phones. Distraction.
Wasn't I surprised to find my favorite scooter parking lot just about empty? I kept looking for parking on distant blocks, Appelrouth, Petronia, the Courthouse, all full. I passed by here planning on checking Eaton Street, but pulled in sharply when I saw the spaces. Lovely. My cream colored Vespa looked quite at home.
The plan was to meet Robert at the Tropic to check out The Interview  the subject of all the recent hullabaloo involving the Sony hacking, North Korea, stern diplomatic messages and withdrawal of the film from cinemas in the face of unlikely terrorist threats. For a while the terrorists won, as usual, while everyone cowered until finally someone grew a set of balls and they released the movie to theaters.
In order not to terrify already fearful patrons my man purse was banished to a cleaning closet for the duration. Presumably the theory was that if there was a bomb inside it would cause less harm by blowing up the box office...Stuff and nonsense but anyway this is the daft world we live in.
I would not have gone to see the movie had Robert not sought me out as his wife was not ready to enjoy a movie involving jokes about anal sex and poisoned band aids. I have to say it was better than expected, the pace never flagged and none of the gags bogged down. The idea that this flick could create an international incident is mind boggling.
The ride home was a nightmare of cars lining the roads leading to the triangle all backed up with nowhere to go. I pulled off and made a couple of phone calls to let the thing ease up, but all I could think was how much I want New year's to be over in Key West.