Sunday, June 19, 2016

Pensacola Chill

To wake at six in the morning and step outside into cool morning air and to remember you are still in Florida in June is a shock to the system. But that's exactly what I did this morning.
 
Pensacola is and is not part of Florida and its status has always been a question since the young US took possession of Spain's southeastern conquests. Politically the Panhandle has always been Florida because it butted up to French Louisiana but after the purchase noises were made that the Panhandle should  be sliced off.  It wasn't given to Mississippi or Alabama and it is still Florida. 
 
And look at that, the same street name I live on and I hope the urban planners in this neighborhood know that John Avery was a remarkable pirate. They were some rare urban planners at that designing wandering streets, allowing for vast canopies of old trees, creating a city within a park.  Therese chose a lovely place to live. Odd, but lovely.
 
Pensacola is a huge military base for the Navy and for fliers at nearby Elgin. But it is also weird as it lives in Central Time. The state's capital was set in Tallahassee a tiny settlement nestled amid pine trees, like so many state capitals not the seat of economic power (in those days that was Key West 750 miles away) but a livable compromise.  Livable because peninsula Florida was a mosquito filled swamp and Key West was too isolated they said. No one lived between Georgia and Key West except fugitive whites and runaway slaves and recalcitrant Indians. So Tallahassee was it and it stayed in the Eastern Time Zone which ends at the western limits of Leon County. Beyond that, along I-10 there be dragons.
 
I exaggerate: not dragons but pine trees and live oaks, rednecks (lots of Trump signs) and myriad underpopulated counties with agriculture and fishing and beaches. The Redneck Riviera they call it. Beautifully described in the coming of age movie called Ruby in Paradise if you care.  This part of Florida is often referred to as southern Alabama and the notion that laws supported by the liberals and NewYork  Jews in Miami (my wife among them even though she's from California!) irks the good old boys of the Panhandle.  Luckily gerrymandering has made the state Legislature solidly Republican so the tail wags the dog in this pivotal electoral state.
 
It can get frosty in winter and rowdy at Spring Break. The beaches are remarkable but the waters are turgid. To arrive in a relatively large town on Saturday night and see no traffic makes it a delight to be in this suburb. Key West by comparison is a continuous traffic jam. 
It is the start of our vacation and I am traveling with a very curious dog so there is much to see. And we plan on  exhausting  ourselves seeing it all.  

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Assorted Black And White

I have collected some random black and white pictures I like but with no attachments to any story or place. I have been pondering: why monochrome? I like the distance the absence of color gives to pictures along with the texture and the heightened perspective one gets from seeing what might otherwise be banal, or ordinary, turned into an object or a scene given distance from daily living. One thinks how startling were the first color pictures released from World War Two, how shocking was their immediacy. I've heard it said that color pictures of the atrocities were held back from public view such was the fear of public reaction. Sometimes black and white lends nobility to an everyday object, possibly even to lobster pots?







Friday, June 17, 2016

Harpoon Harry's

To meet for breakfast after my night shift I usually suggest Harpoon Harry's for a downtown destination. I get off work around six in the morning and the diner opens at 6:30 which is convenient.
I still arrived early of course which gave me the opportunity to be outside, looking in, watching the preparations for the day.
There is something strangely serene about the start of the work day when it coincides with the start of daylight. In the 1970s I had a job working in a warehouse ion the south of England where we sorted and stored foods for delivery to a chain of upscale grocery stores. I helped with deliveries riding in a truck up to London before dawn and I got to watch the sun illuminate the sky over St Paul's cathedral, the iconic dome over the city, while we drove city streets empty and silent except for our ancient army surplus truck crashing gears and roaring hopelessly  at low speeds.
I have never forgotten those early morning deliveries and the freshness of possibility every day before people and noise and mistakes had polluted the day. I got that same feeling watching the servers move around unhurriedly in the warmly lighted diner. Their day had yet to be interrupted by the business of work. the messiness of service, the noise of people. It looked beautifully peaceful, the peace made relevant oinly by what was to come.  
I sat outside at the rather absurd row of chairs waiting for their tables to be carried out for al fresco meals to be served here. GarytheTourist was on his way but my serenity was interrupted...
 ...by the food delivery putting me in mind of my youth with WH Cullens of Dorking.
 A colleague at work recommended the BELT for a night shift worker like me more ready for dinner than breakfast. It's a BLT with an egg. I also got a side of grits as recommended by Shannon. Gary ordered the seafood omelette also with grits. 
I don't do breakfast very often, and in doing it I realise I miss it.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Mangrove Rusty

I slept in yesterday morning after a half shift at work saw me get home at 2:30 wide awake so I watched some Netflix and got to bed at four. So when Rusty inspected me with a cold wet impatient snout at seven in the morning I rolled over and begged for more time.
By the time I was groggily awake and kicked out of the house by my newly vacationing teacher wife the sun was well up and it was about 90 degrees at eight thirty. I figured a shady walk was in order and we went to the old State Road 929 south of the Sugarloaf KOA.  I posted the picture above as an antidote to the political posturing of the day on Facebook, but that was just the start of Rusty's day in the mangroves.
 Something attracted him to the dumpster that has been gradually accumulating trash over the past few weeks, so I picked him up and presented the rather unwilling dog with a view of the interior of the trash heap. I expected him to rejoice instead he recoiled, so, having called his bluff I put him down.
 Further down the trail he dived off into the bushes by the side of the trail and the morning went silent. I perused the postings on the Orlando shooting and wondered at how twisted everything gets. a crazy man with a gun kills dozens of people and everyone wants to make political hay out of it so facts get bent to suit the perception. One thing did occur to me inasmuch as you don't hear of atheists shooting people on principle. I guess lacking any conviction of moral superiority or conviction regarding the unknowable we refrain from feeling peeved with people who disagree. It's odd isn't it how people ask atheists like me where our moral compass comes from lacking a deity, and yet ... no atheist  seems driven to murder people in the name of some idolatrous morality. Fringe Christians and Muslims seem to prefer to corner that market in the US.
Rusty disappeared for ten minutes and I actually did start to get worried that his collar might have snagged or something so I whistled his particular whistle. There was a crashing sound a few long minutes later and the sound of a steam engine negotiating a particularly steep grade and then I saw a flash of brown swirling through the roots of the mangroves. I made him lay down for a few minutes to catch his breath he was panting so hard.
The mangroves are thick and the roots make walking impossible. How he found his way deep into the swamp I can't imagine but he loves the woods. I attribute this in large part to his heritage as a Carolina Dog, a breed of wild dog that went undiscovered for centuries in the woods  and swamps of Georgia and South Carolina until 1970. He is entirely at home here while the city and vehicles and noises put him on high alert. I need to trust his instincts in the woods as much as he trusts me to guide him in the city. We are getting there.
 The mangroves are as thick as they appear behind him and he darts through them.
 We meandered home, stopping to take a very long drink at the car,  and then a bath for the mangrove-wet dog. He handled the bath very well, I guess he is getting used to water and shampoo and towels, and then he passed out on his couch unable to keep his eyes open.
The fact that Islam specifically prohibits the keeping of dogs as pets means I am never going to become a Muslim, clearly, but my past as a Christian has opened my eyes to the fallacy of trying to make me believe the Earth is 6,000 years old or that wine can be blood or that virgins can give birth. So I will stick to walking my dog and leave the killing and the shooting and the arguing endlessly over insanity to others on Facebook and in the papers. Rusty and I are doing fine thanks, in the woods, unarmed. Were I to walk around with a gun the only person I would most likely end up shooting accidentally would be myself. 
I captioned my Facebook picture; "The more I see people the more I like dogs."

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Truman Waterfront

There is so much overhead drama in south Florida, in the sub tropics, in summer. Gorgeous piles of clouds, winds, rains and sunshine. Seen here from Truman Waterfront where it seems change is coming.
The city has a few plans to make changes after a decade and a half of ownership after the Navy let go of these 34 acres. What will actually happen here has yet to be decided but something is imminent.
The old Navy warehouse and the World War Two veteran, US Coastguard Cutter Ingham are still here and the ship offers beer and wine and sunset views on weekends, a pleasant alternative to Mallory Square.
These cement power poles painted  a startling shade of yellow are the second sign of change. What their ultimate destination is I have no idea. I am intrigued, I wait to see with baited breath.
There has been some landscaping near the parking area and construction fencing has gone up near the entrance to Fort Zachary Taylor State park. Apparently the somewhat bizarre path traced by the entrance drive to the park is to be re-routed and made more rational as the park layout is designed. Currently the driveway follows the path dictated for it when it was l;aid out snaking between segments of the navy Base. 
The thing about parks in Key West is that bums, true die hard street people, not just crazy or lazy people but hobos who travel down in winter for "the season," have a death grip on public seating in Key West. Because very time someone suggests an amenity for a park the neighbors shout them down as being liable to attract nuisance residentially challenged people.
So we find ourselves in the preposterous position of having gorgeous spaces around town rendered practically unusable for want of a table and bench. To me it is a case of a city cutting off its nose to spite its face.
I know this is a consideration for planners as they move forward with the planned transformation of this beautifully unmolested open space. Homeless issues are always taken into consideration in Key West for just about everything.
Plus this chunk of 34 acres, more than the 27 of Sunset Key, is already attracting then high end developer crowd. They want to turn it into a country club. Great.
Personally I like it the way it is but I am with the crowd that wants to see a real park, fruit trees, farmer's market, a place for peace and contemplation. But there we are, that will never happen. 
The whimsy of Truman Waterfront will burst into some properly controlled space and I doubt Rusty will be free to gallivant as he is now.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Duval Street At Night

I think the little stray cat was making out like a bandit on Front Street at half past three in the morning. I saw a box of wings Cheyenne would have loved and they weighed about as much as the cat who watched me (and my flash) rather warily.
 I was not alone in my fascination with the slow shut down of the bars on Lower Duval Street.
Well, let's amend that, not everyone was fascinated by the young people giving their livers  a last work over before the bars closed:
 The cabs were lining up to haul the punters home:
And this fine figure of a man was keeping the drivers guessing by randomly leaping into the street and screaming while waving his arms. To me he seemed harmless but I was surprised someone hadn't called 911 on his behalf. It has  become quite fashionable to call 911 to complain about your neighbors.
 A few last things to discuss before splitting for home.
 The hot dog stand has practically run out of meat so it must be time.
 I have my Bonneville nearby to whisk me back to work.
Just a few more hours and then we fly home for a long weekend off.