Tuesday, September 15, 2015

1915- A Reality Check

I am very fond of a  website I came across a while back called Stonekettle Station written by a thoughtful Alaskan who wrote this intriguing look back at 1915 for Labor Day, the US equivalent to May Day in the rest of the Industrialized World, including the former USSR, hence the US reluctance to celebrate the day in May. In any event because I like history and have developed a belief that the present reflects the past ( a radical notion!) I thought this essay is well worth reproducing (with a few of my color photos for those not interested interested in history). Jim Wright the author has a donation page on his website and I like to think this kind of writing is worth encouraging. 

You ever stop to wonder what your life would be like if it was 1915 instead of 2015?
Imagine.
Imagine what it was like to be your great grand parents.
In 1915, the United States was in the middle of the Second Industrial Revolution.  It was a time of wonder and ever advancing technology. It started in the 1860’s and would last right up until the beginning of World War I. It began with steel, the Bessemer process to be specific, a cheap and easy way to mass produce strong and reasonably lightweight metals.  Strong lightweight steel was the skeleton of the modern age, the core of everything from the new cars to steamships and oil rigs to utensils and lunchboxes, to the machines that manufactured the future.  A few years before, in 1911, a tall skinny fellow by the name of Eugene Ely landed a Curtiss #2 Pusher on the deck of USS Pennsylvania and took off again – and thus was born naval aviation, a profound moment that would change the very way wars were fought and thus change almost everything else too and the effects of which are still being felt to this very day.  If you were moderately wealthy, you could buy a Cadillac with an electric starter. Despite the fact that there were still plenty of horses out there on the roads, the car had become so ubiquitous and affordable that Michigan created the first modern roads when the state started painting white lines down the middle of the more heavily traveled avenues.  Though many factories were still powered by steam, electricity was no longer a novelty.  The first modern public elevator began operation in London, England, and soon became common everywhere – leading directly to the modern city skyline.  America was booming. Her factories were churning out new products at a record pace. The western frontier had all but disappeared – oh, there were still a few bandits and cattle rustlers out there, but the wild woolly west was long gone.  The gold rushes, the boom towns and gun fights were long over.  Hell, by 1915 Wyatt Earp was living in Hollywood and working as a consultant for the new movie industry.
It was certainly a marvelous time.
If you could afford it.
If you lived through it.
See, those churning factories were horrible places.  In 1915, most were still powered by a massive central steam engine which drove an enormous flywheel, which in turn powered shafts and belts and pulleys, which finally powered the machines.  And though, as noted above, electricity was becoming increasingly common, most of those factories were dark and poorly lit – typically illumination was sunlight through skylights and banks of single pane glazed windows.  Often boiling hellholes in the summer and freezing dungeons in the winter – both air conditioning and central heating were still decades away and all those single pane windows didn’t do much to keep out either the cold or the heat. Those factories were filled with smoke and poisonous fumes from the various manufacturing processes, lead vapor, heavy metals, acids, chlorine, bleaches, all were common.  Normal working hours were from dawn to dusk, typically anywhere from twelve to fourteen hours a day, sixty and seventy hours per week for wages that would barely pay the rent and put food on a factory worker’s table.

Child labor was common, especially in the textile industry, though in some states there were supposed to be laws regulating it.  The kids toiled right alongside their parents.  The children typically worked the same hours as adults, but for a quarter, or less, of the pay.  Pictures of the time show children working barefoot among the machines, ragged sleeves flapping near the flying belts and spinning pulleys.  Whole families hired out to the factories, the men doing the heavy labor, the women and children doing the more delicate tasks. Towns sprang up around the mills, often controlled by the factory owners. Company towns, where workers very often became little more than indentured servants.  Life in a company town was often better than the alternative on the streets of places like Hell’s Kitchen or out in the fields of the South. Company towns gave workers a higher standard of living than they would otherwise be able to afford. But the running joke was that while your soul might belong to God, your ass belonged to the company.  Mill towns and mining towns and factory towns and logging towns were common across America, places where the company ownedeverything from your house to your job to the church you prayed in to the store you bought your food from. And prices were whatever made the company the most profit and in many places there were laws that prevented you from renting or buying outside the company town.  The company might pay you a decent wage for the time, but they got a lot of it back too.  Get crosswise of the company and you lost it all.  Get injured on the job and could no longer work, and you lost it all. Get sick, and you could lose it all.  Get killed, and your family was out on the street.  There was no workman’s comp. No insurance. No retirement but what you managed to save – and since you probably owed a significant debt to the company store, your savings were unlikely to go very far.
Of course, you could always take a pass on factory work and return to the land.  In 1915, millions of Americans were farmers.  Farming was hard back breaking work (it still is, just in a different way) – so hard that seventy hours a week in a smoke filled factory with a high probability of getting maimed or killed looked pretty good in comparison.  Most of those farmers, especially in the South, didn’t own their fields. They were sharecroppers, living in conditions little better than slavery or the serfdom of the Dark Ages.  Of the small farmers who did own their own land or rather owed the bank for their own land, more than half lived in abject poverty.  In the coming decade, the decade of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, most would lose everything.

Most of America was powered by coal in those days and if there was anything that would make life in a factory town or in the sweltering fields look good – it was working in a West Virginia coal mining town.  It was a race to see what would kill you first, explosion, cave-in, or the black lung.  And just like in the fields and factories, children worked alongside their parents – if they had parents, orphanages were also common. And orphan labor was even cheaper than the average child, both in life and in pay. Renting out orphan labor was a good gig, if you could get it.
You could always become a merchant seaman, though life at sea was damned rough. You could move west and become a logger, though you’d probably live longer in the mines of West Virginia. You could still be a cowboy, or a cop, or carpenter none which paid worth a good Goddamn and had the added benefit of a short lifespan.
Since people got sick and injured a lot, and most couldn’t afford even rudimentary medical care, many turned to patent medicines.  The pharmaceutical industry was only loosely regulated, but by 1915 there were some few laws in a handful of states regulating the more outrageous claims for the various elixirs. The big medicine shows were gone, but there were still plenty of drug store shelves stocked with hundreds of varieties of patent medicines. Some were mostly benign, like Coca-Cola. And some were downright toxic, like Radithor, made from water and radium.  As late as 1917, The Rattlesnake King, Clark Stanley, was still making Stanley’s Snake Oil, a worthless mixture of mineral oil, turpentine, and red pepper, and fleecing sick people out of their money and making them yet sicker (hell, as late as the 1960’s TV’s commercials touted the benefits of smoking for sore throats. And, as late as 1970 there were still X-ray foot measuring devices that would give you cancer in use in a handful of shoe stores across America).

In 1915, only a few states mandated that your kids attend school, and then only through elementary.  In the South segregation and Jim Crow Laws were in full force and civil rights were decades away. Lynching was common.  On the other hand, women could actually vote in exactly five states, well, six if you included California which grudgingly acknowledged in November that females might be citizens too despite their unfortunate plumbing.
In 1915, maybe three out of ten Americans could ever expect to own a home, most would pay a landlord their whole lives. Few had any rights in those relationships either, you paid the owner and you lived with what you got or you got thrown out. Period.
In 1915, a lot of Americans were hungry. More than fifty percent of seniors lived in poverty, but then the average lifespan was only about fifty-five, maybe sixty if you hadn’t been breathing coal dust or lead vapor all you life.  Few of those seniors had pensions, most lived on the charity of their families – if they were lucky enough to have families.  Sanatoriums were a common place for the aged and infirm to spend their brief final years.
In 1915, if you had ten kids, you might expect six of them to survive to adulthood.  If you were lucky. Polio, tuberculosis, measles, mumps, pneumonia, whooping cough, hard labor in the mines and factories and fields, lack of social safety nets, lack of proper nutrition, lead paint, food poisoning, poverty, orphaned by parents killed by the same, would probably claim at least four of those kids. Likely more.
People from that generation always wax nostalgic for The Good Old Days – and then theyimmediately proceed to tell you why life was so much harder and more miserable back then.

The simple truth of the matter is nowadays we Americans live a pretty damned good life.  And we live that good life because since 1915 we’ve put systems and laws and regulations in place to improve life for all of us.  Programs like Social Security and Medicare have a direct and measurable effect on how long we live, and how well. Regulations governing working conditions and workplace safety have a direct and measurable effect on the probability that we’ll survive to retirement.  Laws that prevent the rich from owning a whole town, or abusing workers, or turning them into indentured servants, or hiring children at pauper’s wages to maintain the machines in their bare feet, have directly benefited all but the most greedy few.

The American dream isn’t dead, far from it.
I’ve been to countries where dreams have died, America is far, far, far removed those hellish places.
It is a measure of just how far we’ve come, and just how big an impact that those laws, regulations, and social safety programs have had that those who directly benefit from those very same laws, regulations, and programs can complain with full bellies just how terrible they have it.
Things like Social Security, Medicare, Workman’s Compensation Insurance, The Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance, child labor laws, federal minimum wage, occupational health and safety standards, the Environmental Protection Agency, The Centers for Disease Control, The departments of Education and Health, Labor Unions and workers’ rights, and yes, even Welfare, all of these things were created for a reason. For a good reason. For a compelling reason.
These things were created because when you leave it up to the church and charity to feed the hungry and clothe the poor and heal the sick, a hell of a lot of people go hungry and cold and ill.  It is really just that brutally simple.
These things were created because when you leave it up to charity and family to take care of old people, a hell of a lot of old people end up stacked like cord wood in institutions. The moldering remnants of such places are all around us.
These things were created because when you leave it up to people to save for their retirement or a rainy day or for accident and infirmity, a hell of a lot of them don’t, or can’t, or won’t.
These things were put in place because when you leave it solely up to the market to weed out poor products and fake medicine and unsafe machines, the market doesn’t, or can’t, or won’t, and it’s perfectly happy to go right on killing people for profit.
These things were put in place because when you leave it up to industrialists and share holders to treat their workers with dignity and respect and to pay them a living wage for their hard work, you get indentured servitude.
These things were put in place because when you leave it up to devoutly righteous people who go to church every Sunday to decide what is right and proper and moral, you end up with lynchings and segregation and Jim Crow. And that is a Goddamned fact.
These things were put in place because when you leave it up to the factory owners to decide wages and safety and working hours, you get this:

When you leave it solely up to bankers and the factory owners and the industrialists and the politicians, well Sir, then what happens is they end up owning it all and you get the privilege of paying them to eat out of their garbage can.
And for most of history, right up until very recently, that’s exactly how it was.
Fundamentally, government exists to protect the weak from the ruthless, otherwise what damned good is it?
Lately there are a lot of folks who think they want to live in 1915, rather than in 2015.

The question you need to ask yourself, on this of all days, is what century do you want to live in?

Sunday, September 13, 2015

A Dull Fiery Sunday

They say this summer has been hotter than ever and honestly I can't really say I feel it too much. That is to say it is warm but not noticeably warmer than usual. However I appear to be in a minority position as my friends say it is as hot as (put your expletive here) and they are begging for summer to end. I have to say I miss the drama of summer thunderstorms. as rain has been in short supply down here and the clouds have hardly managed to build up to any size at all. Usually summer in the Keys is full of lightning, thick black clouds, sudden heavy rain, winds and then equally suddenly a return to serenity and sunshine.
So another summer of drought and heat, said by some to be oppressive produces modest clouds and skies that are less than memorably spectacular though these early morning pictures were better than I expected. I was taking Cheyenne to a quiet Big Pine neighborhood for her early morning constitutional and the sky was on fire. I couldn't resist testing the lmits of my iPhone to catch color on the fly... 
It has been a strange time for me lately, alternating between work and preparing 911buddy for launch. There are so many odd details to take care of that I feel like I am packing for a long trip and am afraid of not having enough pairs of clean socks. My wife is organizing to make herself the company accountant when our app goers to market. She started out as a lawyer, now she's a teacher, tomorrow she becomes a bookkeeper. That's quite the evolution and not without it's own stress. Walking Cheyenne is a chance to clear my head and now Cheyenne is getting  a little too elderly to enjoy walking much in this heat. I like it but I defer to my 14  year old Labrador.
 We did get to walk to the corner of the old Seahorse Trailer Park in Big Pine. Cheyenne used to love this place when there were people here dumping all kinds of interesting smells in the street. This time she paused, looked and turned back. I hate seeing the empty spaces, homes removed to make building permits available for a new hotel on Stock Island. The county's attempt to control growth requires one unit to be removed for one unit added if you want to build living space beyond the few permits issued each year under the Rate Of Growth Ordinance (ROGO). So to build a new hotel at Oceanside Marina they bought and wrecked the old, infirm but affordable trailer park. The local commitment to affordable housing is all the rage for election season but it doesn't mean much. 
It was so nice to come home to the Keys after another weekend on the mainland conferring with my business partners. I feel more lucky than ever to live here, even though my life is mostly a round robin of work sleep and make phone calls. This year I am actually looking forward to Goombay, the Zombie Bike Ride and Fantasy Fest. I am going to make an effort to take some time and enjoy the madness  even if from the sidelines for a little. I feel like I have missed too much of the events and silliness that marks summer in the Keys this year. All in a good cause, no doubt, but all work and no play makes me dull. And these islands deserve never to be called dull. May your Sunday not be dull.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Another Day

I went in to work last night and it was Coffin Night I discovered as I sat down at my desk. Well, that was a surprise, I had forgotten it is the season for High School High Jinks: Coffin Night. Mind you, Key West seems to have a habit of leaving mysterious, tantalizing hints about what went on the night before. Here on the sidewalk a pair of shoes whose owner seems to have vaporized while striding along the street:
Overhead on Caroline Street I saw a sky filled with cotton wool balls:
And Gallery on Greene always has something whimsical, locally produced to view:
Seven in the morning and hardly anyone was around...
...except of course the wildlife, clucking and fussing as usual:
Cheyenne found breakfast in the aloe in front of the Key West Aloe Company. I have no idea what it was but it crunched quite satisfactorily. The numbers of lost pets in Key West quite boggles my mind: Lost and Found. I am grateful to Cheyenne for being so easy; she uses her dog door to come and go, no fence around the house,m no wandering into the street she just sunbathes on the deck and watches the street from the top of the stairs. When we go for walks she gets her way and we are all happy.
Whoa! Clearly this guy wasn't drinking hard enough the night before!
The massive city operation that is street clean up on Duval, a strictly government operation despite the trash generated by private enterprise and their plastic cups and food containers, is an amazing holding operation in the face of the nightly avalanche. 
I enjoyed this beautiful signage to the world famous sunset affair at Mallory Square. It captures the spirit of the even perfectly. Classy as a friend of mine described it.
After a night at work walking the dog downtown seems beyond the call of duty! I was tired, as tired as my dog after an hour of random strolling.
She loves downtown and won't give up. These days my walks with Cheyenne are one of the rare occasions I get to be in town in the daylight. 
And with the sun coming up it was time to go home.
Where's my bed? My life in Key West...

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Working In Fort Myers

Fort Myers is a pretty little river town, but I've seen enough of it over the past year to last me a lifetime. Indeed a life time ago I lived there for a few months and did not much enjoy myself. I am a political creature and living in a place where conservative politics are just assumed to be the mainstream leaves me at a disadvantage. The weather is not the greatest either with frost in the winter, sometimes, and tons of rain like you have never seen every summer afternoon. And yet, I admire Ft Myers' renaissance in the 1990s. The city is clean and tidy in a way I wish Key West could imitate, downtown is lively with bars and sidewalk tables, restaurants and music, art and theater. 
It's a five hour drive from my home in the Lower Keys, up the Overseas Highway, onto the Turnpike at Homestead, then I-75 across the Everglades to Naples...
...where monstrous black clouds gather in the afternoon and then eventually we arrive at the airport La Quinta on Daniels Parkway. My wife likes to shop at Costco and Bed Bath and Beyond and Target and Trader Joe's and all that stuff and then we meet Jeff and go over whatever outstanding issues to move our app-in-the-making forward. The past year has seen us meeting on my weekends off, that is every other week as we tried to figure out how to make 911buddy work, how to configure the drawings for the patent, how to plan our marketing campaign and how to pay for it all.   
Consequently Cheyenne has seen more than her fair share of  downtown Ft Myers in the early hours of the morning. It's a fifteen minute drive from the hotel and the old girl loves trotting around early on a Sunday morning chasing down pizza crusts abandoned in parking lots by heaven knows who the night before.
Ft Myers has done a nice job of preserving these buildings, keeping the streets clean and so forth so I am forced to wonder why Key West is so cavalier about it's own architectural heritage.
The pause that refreshes while I stare at cornices and sky and ponder the meaning of Life.
Is it just that Key West needs to project itself as more edgy, more on the margins of stolid middle class respectability? Do grubby storefronts and broken sidewalks represent the wild side of family vacations? 
I find it puzzling, perhaps because I don't view Key West as being that far off the beaten path. I mean, when you go to Key West you haven't fallen off the edge of the known universe...it isn't an Open City like Tangier in the 40s or Shanghai in the 30s, dens of iniquity and vice where Anything Goes. 
Perhaps I have answered my own question. Ft Myers is nice and clean and tidy downtown (it is certainly a bit more raggedy in the fringes where industry, car sales and the African-American community live) and is thus more familiar. No Fantasy Fest madness, no reputation for...what is it Key West is known for? Gays, wild parties and wretched excess. 
So I guess I can't have Key West be wild and devil-may-care and clean and tidy. I guess I will have to learn to take it as it is.
At some point in my life I will get to spend my alternating weekends off at home. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The First National 911

http://911buddy.com

"Key West 911, where is the emergency?""Hi, I need the 911 in Charleston, South Carolina. My wife just called and she can hear burglars breaking into our home.""I'm sorry we only serve the City of Key West and we can't connect you to 911 centers in other cities.""So what am I supposed to do?"

Good question. The fastest option is to call your wife back and have her call 911 to get help. You could Google your home police department and hope they answer their administrative line after hours so they can transfer you to their 911 center...or if you had 911buddy on your iPhone you could have hit the locator function and been connected, with your wife on the line to her 911 center.

Reality check: 911buddy is currently being built by my partner Jeff with VezTek, an iOS development company in Los Angeles and the idea is to have the app up and running by Thanksgiving which will be here sooner than we think... Delays are possible as this is a start up and we have learned to expect the unexpected over the course of the past 18 months.

This essay includes screen shots from our Web page, HERE which is also under construction. I promised readers of this blog a sneak preview of my project and here it is.

Two years ago I was wondering what to with myself. My marriage had gone through one of those rough patches as we seemed to be living divergent paths after we lost our house to foreclosure, a loss that with the passage of time has resulted in liberating us in ways we had not previously imagined. I wanted to do something different and usually my response to tedium is to get on my motorcycle and ride away for as long as I can. Or go sailing, however we had no sailboat, Cheyenne is a daily responsibility, delightful but not a great traveler, and, small point, we had no money to speak of. We have pensions and the wreckage of the great crash of 2008 which induced panic among some fellow investors we had invested with, and who sold everything at a deep discount. Buy low sell high we said but we were in a minority and the syndicate sold low and that was that, we got out with our nest egg sliced and diced. Enough it turns out to start a company, but not enough to retire on.

How, I thought to myself can I possibly find meaning and purpose with my wife in my life sparing us the slow steady and certain decline into a tediously impoverished retirement? Electronics, I said to myself in the manner of Mr McGuire in The Graduate who thought plastics were the future. Well, I thought, I know the 911 system real well after ten years working in it, maybe there is something we can do there. And of course I got yet another call from someone in Key West frantic to connect to a 911 center somewhere else in the country and I started mulling over a possible application for a smartphone.

It seemed like a good idea, the more I thought about it but I could find nothing similar anywhere, nor even any discussion about this peculiar hole in the 911 system, and that gave me pause. Was I crazy? Well, I finally decided to broach my idea to my wife and she would either kick me in the backside to sell the idea to Quirky, my original non-entrepreneurial plan, or she would tell me to go back to sleep and double down on the overtime, our original economic recovery plan. As it was she thought it was a great idea and started nagging me to act on it which plan freaked me out. Me? Put myself to a public test? I think not... Then I thought of Jeff Abbott, a long time reader of this blog who helped me re-set the page once when I screwed some delicate HTML mechanism in the back of Key West Diary. I had never met him but with my wife, the harpy from hell nagging me, I called Jeff out of the blue at his Cape Coral home...the first of many nerve wracking cold calls I have made on behalf of the John Avery Company, of which I am now President and of which Jeff is Vice President of Technology (and my wife is COO). All of those titles and five bucks might buy you a cup of coffee at Starbucks or Panera, the early meeting rooms of the John Avery Company, named I might add, after the most successful pirate in history whose real name was Henry Every.

I have been a wage slave all my life, and it has been a very good life, with organized time off, paid vacations, benefits, properly paid overtime and job security and respect. The banking fiasco of 2008 stabbed my psyche in a very profound way and brought home to me a suspicion I have been harboring for a long time: We do not really matter, in the grand scheme of things. I understand some people turn to God to get meaning but God and I haven't been on speaking terms since I traveled through Africa on a motorcycle decades ago and I asked why the fuck people had to live in such misery amid abundance and God didn't reply. Then in 2008 the message that greed and selfishness trump (pun intended!) decency and selflessness was brought home to me by the sight of millions of Americans losing everything as banks cashed in their illegal shell games and got compensated by the government for their "losses." We got swept up in the wholesale asset destruction and lost the 25% we put down on the house and the extra mortgage payments we had made when our asset income was wiped out. We still had a roof, medical insurance, incomes and a pension. But other people lost their jobs and their homes and ended up in the street with their kids but without health insurance or the certainty of a daily meal. To me the message was clear: we are all Africans now.
So I decided it was time to take care of my family myself and together with my wife and with Jeff we became entrepreneurs. The experience has been eye opening. I am astonished by the chaotic nature of many IT businesses we encountered as we tried to hire a developer. The way people talk about Government you'd think we lived in Nigeria, but if you had shared my experiences dealing with suppliers you would agree with my friend Jack Riepe who reassured me in my dark moments by explaining that American business is "run like a lemonade stand." So, even with my lack of experience I'm in with a chance I thought to myself If I do it right, take my time and get the marketing right. Our government paychecks keep getting cashed exactly on time so we are staying afloat. My paid vacation allowed my wife and I to spend the summer hunting down a reliable company to build the app, for which at last I held the U.S. Patent. All the stress got us bedridden with pneumonia, a first in our 21 years of hard fought marriage, but here we are, on the brink of doing something good.

My thanks to Michael Schein of MicroFame Media in Brooklyn whose guidance has helped us navigate the crazy stressful moments of appalling decision making and who will make 911buddy a household name as we go forward. To Blaine Graboyes whose experience with start ups has given us much needed common sense not to mention an ace Pitch Deck, a start up tool I never even knew existed six months ago. We scribbled so many ideas as we brainstormed trying to keep our eye on the prize. At one point I realized that yes, it's true, you get to the stage where you keep pressing forward because you cannot turn back, failure is not an option, and you're more afraid of failing than you are of succeeding. Thanks also to the Yarmulke'd bankruptcy attorney we met with in Ft Lauderdale one desperate day who told us to just keep going. He was right, we still had some wiggle room. That and endless note taking.

To Jeff many more thanks for being smart and levelheaded, for trusting me when it seemed like the chips were down, for spending endless weekends at La Quinta Ft Myers banging our heads against the wall trying to make the patent work, losing our tempers and our trust in ourselves.

 

I told my Chief of Police at work about my idea and to his credit he got it immediately and we are looking forward to giving Key West the historical credit for developing the best innovation in 911 service since the smartphone was invented. Thanks to him for his support, Captain Brandenburg my boss, and we also owe big thanks to Mary Jane and all the cheerful staff at the front desk at La Quinta Ft Myers, on speaking terms with Cheyenne so often have we been there, every other weekend for a year...Incidental connections all help in the struggle to give birth to an idea.

We were going out of town so often our friends wondered if we were moving to Ft Myers. We had to break down and expose our secret plan to start our own business to reassure them. Frankly I am sick of non disclosure agreements and looking over my shoulder worrying about my idea. Getting the patent was a huge relief. On the subject of friends my colleagues on night shift have known about 911buddy for six months and never told a soul. Kristi, Nick, Shannon and JW have been an invaluable sounding board and generous to a fault in putting up with me as I worry about some setback or another. If 911buddy works as well as I expect it to, they deserve thanks for telling it to me like it is. Last Tuesday night Kristi said to me: "We had four 911buddy calls this weekend!" as I took over her shift. Monday night JW took a call and I heard him tell a caller "We have no way to connect you, sir...YET" and he winked at me across the room. With colleagues like these who needs friends?

And of course thanks to my wife who has trusted my idea and propelled it forward by never letting go, by holding us all to our deadlines, for beating us into action long after we were as dead as the proverbial beaten dead horses. Everyone at the John Avery Company is terrified of hearing from her when deadlines loom. But without that drive this idle dream would never have got off the ground.

Soon it will up to this man, our newest partner in the company to get the app where it needs to be, on telephones everywhere:

 

I've known Joe for twenty years and he can sell anything to anybody, a skill I greatly envy. It's on his shoulders we dump the next phase of this exercise in masochism known as running your own company. A strangely enjoyable masochism it turns out.

Last but not least my thanks to you the readers of this page. My warning last year was cryptic but heart felt: I knew I was going to have less time to devote to composing this page, less energy to run down ideas, less content to post, and believe me I am truly sorry about that. But I hope it is clear now that my time has not been wasted and my commitment to this page is as strong as ever. I have promised myself if 911buddy ever makes me some money that first, my long suffering Triumph Bonneville will get a refresher of new parts and some small mechanical improvements my 86,000 mile motorcycle long since deserved, but also I'd like to expand the photography on this page with a telephoto lense. And perhaps one day I will have more time in my life than I do right now to take pictures that go beyond my rather small trips that I need to make To Get a Things Done. On that subject thanks to two blog readers who have given advice and support at critical times and kept the secret long enough to get me here: Gary in Tennessee, and George in Prague.

I hope you will be among those that will gain some benefit from buying my $30 app -that price includes a six dollar discount on the full price- putting it on your phone and feeling reassured that anyone you care about, anywhere in the U.S. (and Canada when I can get around to it) can call on you for reassurance and help in a crisis and you can easily give it to them from your iPhone (Android to come as soon as Jeff can build it). Hell, I'll see if I can organize a discount for Diary readers...

Cheers

Michael Beattie

President John Avery Company

Click to buy our reduced-price pre-sale national 911 app on our website http://911buddy.com

 

Monday, September 7, 2015

Fantasizing Key West

I really quite liked this Automated Teller Machine when I strolled by. How perfect I thought: "Welcome To Key West; Get Cash." That about sums it up really.

Not true, there are bargains if you know where to look and knowing where to look depends in large measure on knowing who to point you to, in order to look in the right place. Luckily I am overloaded with spare pink Crocs at the moment. I'm not sure why they make them in men's sizes as they are so hard to sell they practically give them away, lucky me.


An incautious scooter renter managed to get park and get a ticket, $25 or even $35 depending on the mistake...This in a town where free parking for motorcycles and scooters is everywhere. Welcome to Key West, get cash. Pay off the little white slip of paper wedged into the speedometer.

I missed the Fantasy Fest party last weekend when I was working. Had I not been working I'd probably have missed it anyway. The idea is to raise money for assorted events leading up to Fantasy Fest week and whichever people get the most money become King and Queen. Monies raised go to AIDS Help which gives the whole Nudity Fest a veneer of respectability. Fantasy Fest is another of those bones of contention in a town that loves a drag down debate from time to time. The problem for Fantasy Fest opponents is that the grotesque dress down show brings in tons of money and in Key West money always talks. Besides which, looking at the pictures in the paper Fantasy Fest remains firmly in the hands and for the entertainment of a mostly older crowd. Which leads the ageists in our midst to assume that older people shouldn't strip however as usual the older people have the money and the buff young things don't. This means there is a natural, progressive and apparently unstoppable drive to see older participants in the Fantasy Fest week at the end of October.

This year the Fantasy Fest Grand Parade falls directly on Halloween and the city wants families to take trick or treating outings to the night of All Saints, November 1st. That suggestion has raised the predictably combative opponents and once again crass nude commercialism butts heads with the families of Key West. I am no great fan of Fantasy Fest but to me it's just another messed up week(end) similar to but more intense than Lobster Fest, Bike Week,Mini Season, and whatever other money spinning events they have conspired to create. For a town that used to die, economically, every summer, Key West has got the money flow figured out these days.

Now it is September and the seven weeks between now and Fantasy Fest will fly by before people start to pour in, in droves. Everything now starts to take on the calendar divide of "before" and "after" the Grand Event. And the last week of October will be a week when not much gets done in Key West when the city pretty much gives up trying to function. In a way its a rather nice evocation of big local holidays in the medieval past when cities would shut up shop to celebrate a patron saint or some such local festivity. The fact that Key West in the Age of Internet is willing to shut down for a few days, totally ignoring the outside world, is rather quaint I find. I wish it wasn't to honor people getting shit faced, taking their clothes off and acting stupid, but there it is. We must make the most of it and commiserate the end of Daylight time and the start of short winter days and no more swimming. Winter comes after Fantasy Fest.

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Tomorrow's essay will explain in detail my business project which is supposed to come to market, fingers crossed, by Thanksgiving. I apologize for the delay and the toll it has taken on my ability to devote the full measure of my attention to this page. There has been a reason for that and I believe it will prove to have been worthwhile. Fingers crossed, as always.