Sunday, September 18, 2016

Christmas Decorations

From December 2012. It has been six months since Cheyenne died, and as much as I love Rusty and am glad to have him in my life I do miss Cheyenne from time to time. I am also missing the cool sunny days of winter so this weekend I decided to report an essay that covers both.

The light changes in winter, the sun sets lower on the horizon, more onwards the southern hemisphere where they are enjoying mid summer while we get the joys of winter up here. As close as Key West is to the equator the length of the days remains fairly even by nature, except that the time change each summer lengthens the summer days considerably, slightly distorting nature's plan.
As a result in summer it gets dark close to nine pm while here and now it gets dark just before six in the evening and with the sun lower on the horizon the light shines lower in the sky, especially in the evening. Which gives these pictures, taken before dusk a particular lighting effect. The colors are muted and the typical strong whites and lues and greens of Key West take on a pale shade of foggy light. Cheyenne was just happy to be out and about and not suffocating in summer's muggy heat.
It may not be summer's muggy heat but it's still warm enough for shirt sleeves most evenings, temperatures in the low seventies and cool dry air blowing off the ocean. Cheyenne likes it a lot and I do too. This is the time of year snowbound Northeners yearn for Key West if they are allergic to ice anywhere outside a cocktail glass.
I photographed the citrus fruit laid out on the railing above, and Cheyenne contemplating her future below, both pictures on Catholic Lane, so called because it butts up against the Catholic section of the sheer hated cemetery. It always strikes me as odd that in death some people need to be buried in their own sections of the burial ground.
Around the corner looking west on Angela Street into the sun I saw a typical Key West street scene, companionable cycling. Cycling as a way of urban life, and te riders aren't dressed for blizzard conditions either.
The dogs were out as we tried north on Margaret Street. Angela becomes Carey Lane and Molly was poking around minding her own business when Cheyenne came lumbering along.
While the dogs sniffed each other, a very animal yet civilized way to make an introduction, I peered up Carey Lane which is actually an extension of Anglea Street, renamed fro some obscure reason.
this nice lady was looking after her daughter's dog, Oliver the Terrorist who tried to scare Cheyenne who ignored him as usual and kept walking toward Carsten Lane, the street that connects Margaret to William.
Cheyenne was of a mind to follow the terrorist and his minded down Carsten but I was aiming at the car in the other direction. We tussled and eventually my dog yielded.
She got her reward at Michael's Restaurant where they weren't handing out volcanoes for dessert but they were handing out dog cookies. That was nice for Cheyenne but hell for me as I had the devil's own job separating Cheyenne from the cookie jar. It was all stop and start on this sunset walk.
My reward came at Finnegan's Wake after I poured Cheyenne onto her bed in the back seat of the car and settled down with my wife and a pint of Boddington's.
Christmas decorations had gone up on James Street I noticed. I played with my camera a bit which went all artistic on me. I liked the effect.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Ft Myers

We were in Fort Myers recently on the southwest coast of Florida and I decided to take Rusty for an early morning walk that Sunday in the haunts where I used to walk Cheyenne. She loved Ft Myers after a Saturday night when the downtown was overrun by people having a good time spilling pizza and fries and leaving a gigantic mess.
Rusty isn't nearly as food motivated as my old Labrador was but he seemed to enjoy the sights and smells of downtown Ft Myers:
I have to give kudos to this city for it's renovation efforts. It looks really good.
I was never terribly fond of Fort Myers when I lived here briefly. It has everything in place to be a great place to live, low cost housing fabulous beaches (twenty miles down river) and access to the rest of Florida on really good roads. And there used to be the chance to see interesting motorcycles when I walked Cheyenne here. You don't see Moto Guzzis in Key West:
The trouble is with me. I don't fit in with people who live in Ft Myers. It's a conservative town, a place where the status quo is accepted without question and for me its a healthy reminder that the chaos of Key West is a product of the anarchic spirit that moves the Southernmost City.  The clean sidewalks, neat landscaping and dearth of garbage in Ft Myers is a product of the orderliness that would drive me crazy.  That did drive me crazy when I lived here. For instance I liked to ride my bicycle to work. In the months I worked there  my colleagues never understood that I enjoyed the ride. They viewed me as deprived. Something as simple as riding to work was too far outside the norm for them. It wore me out.
Nice neat signage though:
And some of the birds show signs of rebellion:
The architecture downtown is widely varied and nicely maintained.
Rusty was on the prowl:
Sometimes I miss Cheyenne's placid plod, and as slow as she was compared to young Rusty she never missed a thing. Which made me laugh.
I found this motorcycle space, free and miles from anywhere but outside the rather flash library. Downtown itself is reserved for cars. 

I liked the devil-may-care sign on the door of this business. Then I noticed it was no longer in operation which I suppose proves my point. Whimsy and Ft Myers do not travel well together.
However things are changing. The city is planning for a new type of retiree, a change from the greatest generation to baby boomers. 
The huge retirement tower overlooking the Caloosahatchee River has got a makeover.
It used to be Pepto Bismol pink and a startling landmark it was too.
Image result for ft myers downtown
Happy Field is the translation for the new name for the place. It sounds like God's anteroom. the Elysian Fields, affordable retirement for those of us fleeing Key West now unaffordable.
And from the retirement home you could stroll out to enjoy the city marina on the river:
Ft Myers should be able to attract enough people. The weather is a bit rough, hot muggy and always raining in summer and capable of frost in the winter, though not much. For people used to snow drifts it doesn't get much better than this.
Rusty gave it his approval.
They have a vision going in Ft Myers. I wish I shared it. Instead I'll have o stay grumpy with Key West's chaotic hope-for-the-best vision. So far it seems to work.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Passing Zones

Every now and then the editorial in the Key West Citizen manages to surprise me with its common sense. That used to happen a lot more often, for some reason, when Tom Tuell was at the helm but this week the newspaper managed to come up with a brilliant commentary. It was all about passing zones on US One.
First let me say I was glad to note that I am not the only one who has seen massive amounts of traffic almost year round on the Overseas Highway. That's was good to see mentioned. Clearly tourism is a ten month a year phenomenon these days -lucky us! but gentrification and spiraling house  prices have pushed more and more workers out to the "suburban islands" creating much heavier commutes to and from Key West every weekday. I notice much much heavier traffic coming to Key West at six in the morning nowadays. 
The newspaper also did a good job of pointing out that Highway One is a shared route and the only way for everyone to get around between the various islands. This situation leads to people who need to get places  being blocked by visitors with no urgent hurry to get anywhere at all. I find it ironic that some people's idea of "island time" is slow time when you are on vacation. My idea of "island time" is do your own thing and don't get in anyone's way while you do it. 
I do believe the newspaper's editorial board agrees with me on this one because they are suggesting the state get off their backsides and look for places suitable for turn outs so slower traffic can get out of the way of people rushing about to provide services to the slow poke visitors...Good job Citizen. Furthermore the newspaper is calling on the Florida department of transportation to increase the number of passing zones instead of cutting them back as they have been busy doing. I never thought I'd see the day where a sensible newspaper would put out such a call for change!
I was going to take a few pictures of the precise places where the state has painted over passing zones in recent memory and they haven't done us any favors. I stick to my own rule of not crossing solid lines but I see people who pass wildly, and frankly I don't blame them. There again there are lots of drivers who engage in what I call "poor man's passing" which is actually tailgating in effort to get the day dreamer to get a move on. Frankly that seems a lot riskier than allowing more passing on more open stretches of highway.  
I hope someone who can make changes reads the Citizen's editorial and understands it's not an April Fool's story. This winter the lines will be endless and passing will be difficult because of that but I wish they'd give us a better chance of getting where we are going and on time. Change in this case would be a great thing.
Overseas Highway, Florida Keys
And maybe I will take a few pictures of places where passing zones make sense around the Lower Keys, and also places where they have inexplicably been removed. And there is tons of room for properly signposted pull outs. That would be fabulous. Well done The Citizen.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Upper Duval

What an odd  story I read in the newspaper the other day, it hasn't quite sunk in. The highest law enforcement officer in the county, the State Attorney has ordered the County Clerk to "cease and desist" destroying county records.

A Message from
Amy Heavilin
Clerk & Comptroller
Monroe County
Your Clerk and Comptroller is an independently elected constitutional officer, who protects the interests of you - the citizen. As the County Comptroller, we provide a critical check and balance to make sure your tax dollars are spent appropriately. As Clerk, we serve as the keeper of court records, documenting our lives from birth to death.

Heavilin was elected in 2012, winning 64% of the vote in Monroe County which tends to elect Republicans county-wide. Shortly after assuming office she made some bad hires that smacked of favoritism for unqualified friends and stalwarts of the office started quitting. She lost the primary to Kevin Madok a former employee of the former clerk who retired and made way for Heavilin.
“During my years in the Clerk’s office, Danny Kolhage led a professional, respectful and hard-working team. Staff turnover was minimal, because we shared pride in our work and in our reputations. The Clerk’s office was a special place to work. I will restore that,” said Madok. “Like many citizens, I am troubled by the repeated critical audits, extreme staff turnover and lack of leadership. These problems are unprecedented for the Clerk’s office. This has to change and I can do it”.
The Key West Citizen's top front page story announced that the Clerk, having lost the election has apparently decided to go on a  spite filled rampage attempting to wreck the next Clerk's chances in the office. Truly bizarre. Her lawyer says its all a misunderstanding and everything will be fine. 
Monroe County government’s top attorney sent a cease-and-desist notice to outgoing Clerk of the Court Amy Heavilin recently outlining concerns about possible deleted emails and the cancellation of critical contracts. The letter also threatened contacting the governor about possibly suspending her of her duties
Apparently the fiasco came to light when employees fond email streams deleted from their computers and a contractor hired to manage county financial accounts announced she was ending their contracts as though to make life impossible for the next incumbent. 
And I know this is just one small story about one small local office holder but at the same time it reminds me of the national headlines about emails and fiduciary responsibilities and improper ties and all the rest. I wonder how we get out of this cycle of debilitating non compliance with the normal daily rules of decency.
I was wondering if perhaps we should give our elected leaders stress tests and perhaps mandatory yoga classes and meditation to help them see the trees in the woods and to remember their obligations.
So now Key West has an organic pure lifestyle fancy shop on upper Duval. I confess to being a bit surprised, not disappointed but surprised. Certainly it can't hurt but in a  town dedicated to the proposition that alcohol solves all ills it seems at odds with the goal of drinking too much all the time.
And across the street is the venerable Terraza de Marti:
The property  now known as La Te Da (from “La Terraza de Marti” or “The Balcony of Marti”), is a popular locals hang out and Key West historic hotel.  The former Perez Residence is the Hotel Lobby and Piano Bar featuring a unique collection of art from the Owner’s private collection. Adjacent to the Lobby is our world class Restaurant, brand new Terrace Bar and luxurious newly renovated guestrooms.
La Te Da has been around a bit but the Salty Angler is a newer place on Upper Duval. Its been getting good reviews so I suppose I should put it on the list for a visit if I get of out my routine. I was surprised how permanent the daily catch sign was. Perhaps "snapper" will be caught daily for a long stretch at a time. 
At a time when galleries have been opening and closing like whack a moles this place has hung on, one of a group of art outlets that seems to be able to weather Key West's tastes. I fear the name derived from its location on "south" Duval gives me a chuckle every time I see it. Sod You is an impolite Anglo-Saxon way to tell someone they are incorrect. 
I played hop scotch for a while with these Europeans who marched up the sidewalk ahead of, then behind, then ahead of Rusty and I. They seemed to be documenting every block of Duval Street each with their own camera, silently ignoring each other as they went. So striking were they I took their picture. I hope their vacation went swimmingly and may they go home to a town as photogenic as Key West.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Waterfront Kerfuffles

I am pretty sure I don't want to own  (or be owned by) a sailboat again, but now and again I let my guard down and wonder if perhaps this time my mythical sailboat might encounter favorable winds and smoother seas a majority of the time. In my actual functioning memory sailing consisted of hunkering down to hide from strong winds on the nose or taking off sailing in a desperate attempt  to find decent winds to enable a brisk refreshing sail.  Too often five minutes sailing led to an hour's motoring back to the slip and all the kerfuffle of dropping and folding sails, covering bright work and coiling lines.  However I was rather intrigued by the possibility of renting a Catalina 41 and letting someone else do the kerfuffling in future. Noted for future reference,and it LOOKS pretty good in the brochure.
Anything to do with the water involves mucking about dealing with stuff and  that includes diving. I got so fed up dealing with buoyancy vests and regulators and dive time calculations and weights and all the rest of it that I gave up diving and contented myself with snorkeling.  Rusty couldn't care either way.
Then there is fishing, a sport I have never managed to get into...and as I watched this fishing boat captain kerfuffling with tiny pieces of plastic line and bait and stuff I thought my decision to renounce chasing fish to be an excellent one.
I watched the liveaboard boater coming to the dinghy dock, slicing the water as he came.  Nope I don't miss living on the water either with all the complexities of trash disposal, crap disposal and water collection.
Live free like a bird.
On land.