Thursday, October 26, 2017

Disaster Tourism

I am very relieved we are not Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands, from whom nothing much is heard anymore. I did read that on St Johns they still have no electricity at all.This is Florida and be it ever so tenuous we are connected to the mainland. Yet this, after six weeks is how my street looks:
I have electricity, internet and air conditioning and running potable water from the faucet. Fantastic! My driveway is clear, my street is a mess. We call it Beirut-by-the-Sea, a jumble of trash, broken homes, wreckage and and rat infested piles of debris worthy of a civil war. The main road that connects our subdivision to the Highway is called Spanish Main, and here they pick up some trash and pour more in it's place:
US One, the Overseas Highway shown below as I was driving into Summerland Key is a mess. The trucks hauling wreckage spill stuff as they go and you are as likely as not to come across bits of RV parts, appliances, sheet metal wood and tree limbs as you go on the main road. Riding at night requires total alertness, even more than by day.
What makes it all so bizarre is that there is a three way public argument between the Florida Department of Transportation, responsible for highway debris, the county contractor responsible for side streets and the county. The state stays aloof and does its job meanwhile the county contractor can't get the required 200 trucks to clean the sub divisions along this hundred mile mess. He says FDOT pays too much and he can't compete with the state pay scale. He has but 78 trucks working. None have showed up on my corner of Cudjoe Key.
Imagine: this debris field stretches more or less from Mile Marker Ten a hundred miles north to Key Largo. In the newspaper county officials say they have removed 400,000 cubic yards of wreckage, as much as was generated by the hated Hurricane Wilma and its floods in 2005. They estimated there are 2 million cubic yards to clear this time around-  five times as much. And the county contract says my street should be clean by next weekend...No chance.
It just doesn't end. there's always something going wrong. There are no working gas stations on Summerland or Ramrod and only one in Big Pine. Think about this: cable television has been absent from much of the Keys since the storm. My neighbors got their first technician visit from Comcast last Saturday. We've had AT&T internet in my house for three weeks (we watch streaming TV) so we are lucky. Things just aren't getting done in some areas and as much as we cannot blame we cannot feel good about this chaos. I have seen societal collapse and I did not like it. Losing water, electricity, phone and medical services, fire protection and law enforcement all at once was  a lot to handle.
This Mount Trashmore on Ramrod Key is the scene of multiple trucks and excavators loading up every single day but the pile never shrinks. There's a bigger one at Summerland Key and a vast such pile in Marathon. It's endless. We have to give up the pretense that this lot will be cleared in anything less than months. Meanwhile it rains and smells mature.
I am not one of those who cares if people come by to photograph our misery though I have seen posts on Facebook protesting disaster tourists as though they should refrain. I understand the fascination but I would like amateur photojournalists either to not slow down or pull completely out of the way as they photograph our precious trash piles. I am so used to driving past wrecked homes and exploded RV trailers and piles of garbage I barely notice them. But I do notice people slowing me down as they crawl by fascinated by the detritus of lives upended by a Category Four storm.
There's plenty of crap to stare at too. And I'm not showing the houses torn apart, the subdivisions submerged in mud. Here is the refuse of all that destruction. This trash represents workers who can no longer live in the Keys and do their work. People living in FEMA hotels kicked out to make way for better paying tourists. 
They say flying the flag upside down is a symbol of distress. Well, we have lots of streets signs doing the same thing. I hope someone with authority to do something notices.
FEMA trailers, expedited housing permits, and those tourist dollars we crave being spent to rebuild our local small businesses. That would be nice.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Tutu Tuesday

It was a lovely afternoon yesterday on Duval Street, a little warm perhaps but that's to be expected as a cold front is predicted for tonight with temperatures plummeting well below  70 degrees (19 Canadian degrees).  However the hub of Fantasy Fest appeared to be a bit underpopulated, possibly owing to hangovers or something.
The weather forecast is pretty good for the rest of the week. A nice breeze, turning north Wednesday night after a few showers, typical of a cold front. Overnight lows Wednesday and Thursday should be a brisk 67  degrees with a warming trend for the weekend back into mid 70s overnight and upper 80s by day. However this is the first measurable cold front of the Fall and by the time the next one blows through hopefully we will see summer end and with seawater temperatures dropping an unofficial end to hurricane season before November 30th. That would be nice.
After my exercise class and lunch with my wife I was ready to go for a walk with my camera and hunt for tutus. After all it was Tutu Tuesday, and though I couldn't attend the tutu race nor would I wish to attend the tutu party I like looking for creative tutus.
A skeleton on a rental car looked slightly promising (most Mustang convertibles are rentals)... 
...but there were too many people not taking tutu tuesday seriously. Grr.
An original Vespa GT200, not strictly a tutu but I like it.
Much cooler (but not my style!):
Mind you with so few tutus in evidence I might as well have taken pictures of whoever else was cruising Duval:
And a rather nicely painted old Honda scooter labeled a "Conch Cruzer:"
These two were in tutus but they were actually on a scavenger hunt as well which seemed to give them at least as much joy as their clothes, but they smiled for the camera:
This picture might give you the idea that a life lived in Key West may not be the best thing for your physique, but I'm sure I couldn't say.
And I accidentally parked next to the scooter responsible for clusters of people dressed in pink wandering around looking alternatively furtive and happy:
Some people were busy doing Important Stuff.
Others wore makeshift tuts as they worked:
This year Fantasy Fest is being driven by a desire to be creative according to the newspaper, not nudity so respectable people are being drafted to help support this expression of artistic populism. It might work too:
But some nudity seems inevitable too:
It will be interesting to see how the week develops.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Filling Beds

Well, here we are are, the start of Fantasy Fest week the big kahuna in tourist events celebrating the quiet season of fall with a raucous week designed to keep people employed and paying the rent...and the big question is will they or won't they? Show up that is. Judging by some of the lines of traffic on the Overseas Highway and in the city (Garrison Bight Bridge pictured) there are tons of people in Key West:
The people in charge want to hold a Fantasy fest concert at the new amphitheater on the Truman Waterfront next week. The concert will be a test of noise levels, parking and traffic circulation which will either throw fuel on the criticism or tamp it down. A lot of people have been complaining loudly about those issues ever since the performance space was announced. Here it comes:
Tourists that have showed up need a measure of tolerance for some shortcomings in a  city that survived remarkably well where the rest of the Keys suffered some severe damage. Complaints are not what anyone needs to hear at this stage.
The garden club was closed when I took the picture but I met the President of the club and she said it would be open as you read this and thanks to the structure suffering no damage the club will bounce back with more plants even though their famous strangler fig bought the farm in the storm.
In truth I doubt many of these visitors are feeling deprived, they are getting around as usual:



Arriving in droves...  
and enjoying most, dare I say all? the usual activities...

This is not a good time to add to traffic difficulties by getting your yacht stuck on a major street, but it happens:
Or you could take to your bicycle.
The Hemingway House will no doubt be popular as ever though there were no great crowds lining up to see it last week. Perhaps Fantasy and writing don't mix this week, when much fantasy is alcohol fueled?
I saw this graffiti marked pipe in the wilderness and it displayed this rather silly suggestion. I know other cities have made bumper stickers alerting the citizenry to keep their towns weird. I think if weirdness is a self conscious trademark it has by definition become trite.
We have weirdness to spare these days with mountains of garbage springing up everywhere as the tourists play and we struggle to disappear the signs of our total loss of societal control. As seen on Ramrod Key where the highway is a staging post to remove huge mounds of detritus:
Two million cubic yards was the figure published apparently. A hundred miles of garbage. Five times more than that produced by Hurricane Wilma in 2005. Ponder that as you play in Key West, cleaned for your entertainment.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Zombie Bike Ride

It started on a whim and has grown to become one of the most enjoyed aspects of Fantasy Fest week, surpassing I dare say the Locals Parade which has been taken over by non-locals.
The bike ride attracts thousands, so many its original start point on Stock Island at Recycle Bicycles got too messy with traffic. Nowadays it starts around 2 pm at the East Martello Tower and sets off down South Roosevelt at six pm (when I am safely at work).
 The Zombie Bike Ride is about bicycles and costumes and fun and noy nudity and not even much drunkenness anymore.
 Joking aside, for lots of people this is a family affair:



And you can dress up as much or as little as you want.
 Everyone is out to be seen:
 And not necessarily as a zombie...






And modern zombies that do show up are equipped with all mod cons, modern conveniences like cell phones:
Gather with friends...
 ...strut your stuff...
 ....however you feel the need...
 And if being a zombie brings on hunger pangs Amigo's had a tent serving Mexican food:
 There are subtle reminders of Irma everywhere, churned up ground, producing mud ina  town that by and large is all cleaned up:
 Quite by chance I caught a flying windsurfer rising up behind the crowd:
And then on to the bicycles as I rode my Vespa to work:










 Law enforcement on hand to lead the parade: