Monday, January 28, 2019

Dusk Different Ways.

I'm getting antsy. There;  I said it. Three days ago my friend Webb Chiles cast off from Hilton Head and started south toward Cuba, which he will slide past and at the end of two or maybe three weeks he will tie up in Panama ready to transit the canal. I am following his Yellow Brick satellite transmitter so I can track his progress across the water. He is gone and I am here. I confess I felt a twinge of envy. Not so much for his experience, cold January winds and  a very small uncomfortable boat that he thoroughly enjoys, but I felt envy for the mere fact of his being on the move, as they say. He is traveling, closing in on the end of his sixth circumnavigation. 
I went to Miami this week with my wife and left Rusty with friends. We met other friends in the city, ate delicious food and talked a great deal. The doctor told me the numbness in my leg will persist for months possibly, impairing my balance as nerves are slow to grow. Pondering that news I wonder how long it will be, more importantly before I get to take a road trip. Three hours as a passenger to Miami is plenty at the moment. Before the accident we would happily drive, with Rusty in the back all the way to Georgia in a day...those days will return but not tomorrow. 
 So, with horizons limited by circumstance I derive pleasure from my surroundings. I have taken to looking closely at places close to home. If you come across me you will find me frequently pondering a tree, or a patch of sky, or a building I may have passed a thousand times. It turns out these limitations on my physical movements are having a strangely beneficial effect on my depth perception! I find myself perforce returning to the same places within a narrow radius of home and finding new ways to look at the same spaces. Furthermore my physical inability to lie down or crawl or climb or lean or twist means the way I see things through the camera is more static than ever. The challenges mount up!
Thus it was one evening I loaded wife and dog and went to find a different sunset location and I settled on a preferred walk for my dog - Little Hamaca Park, across the Salt Ponds from the airport. I have seen the parked private aircraft before during the day but by night there was a different symmetry.
 The best part was noticing a contrail across the sky and discovering when I went home that it was all over Facebook after it created a cross in the sky. I photographed it because I liked the shading and the colors in the trail as seen below.
A more conventional sunset is to be found at Mallory Square where everyone gathers. We were alone at Little Hamaca but when I was at Mallory I was far from alone! And yet the picture I took of the lines in the sky obviously was visible all over the place and got lots of attention. 
I pride myself on recording my Key West as I see it but sometimes, I prefer to deploy some of the many filters and shades available to me. At night black and white (more properly "monochrome") yields lovely stark contrasts which work well. Black and white also yields crisper pictures than color. Almost any street scene ends up brilliant in black and white, even the parking lot at the police station! Picture me standing there at two in the morning, I've just come out of the elevator from dispatch upstairs and with iPhone in hand I stop, catch my breath and take this shot looking toward Garrison Bight:
And then Key West slaps you in the face with something bright and colorful and right there. Whoever was riding this slipped up alongside my car without me noticing. We came back to the car and there was the picture- no travel needed!
My walking is improving, I'm trying to use my cane more and my rolling walker less. I wander with my camera so the photos will keep coming. Wherever I do go so will go my walker and my...camera.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Life In Key West

My  days  as a  reforming  cripple are starting to follow a distinct pattern, and soon enough we shall be returning to life on Cudjoe Key, in a few weeks I hope. So  I thought this might be the time to remember how we lived during our stay in the Key West condo on loan to us. 
I had no idea how accurate the prediction would be that it will take months for me to get back to normal and in fact the elevator in the complex has been a great thing as stairs are still problematic for me and the chair lift at our Cudjoe home is still being checked out for secure operation and is proving more problematic than anticipated to get it working. This leaves my wife with a very long commute, sometimes more than an hour to her classroom in Marathon but she dutifully does it with a smile. I am proud of her. Rusty and I start our days together with a walk, sometimes close by in the city,  and some days I drive him out to the mangroves he loves, where he can run the trails and and road like the wild little thing he is, before going home and passing out on the couch.
After a  few hours of amusing the dog I head off to physical therapy three days a week where the lovely and talented Teresa puts me through my paces. Her training when combined with my three days a week in a  conventional gym, keep me building back my strength without wrecking my posture and my joints.

I cannot get on the ground yet so I can't do broga  but three afternoons a week I work out in a program called Aging Boldly, designed for older people but with no concessions in terms of tough sweat producing exercises. 90 minutes in the tender care of Dean the Magician will leave you gasping. On top of all that twice a week I check in with a chiropractor who is slowly and successfully straightening out my grotesque posture brought about by walking hunched and in pain. 
It is in the gym I see the greatest losses from my old life. I am learning once again to squat and slowly I build up my core strength and my muscles in my limbs. The nerves in my right leg are shot and I am told may take two years to grow them back. Currently I can only balance on my left leg and my right is difficult to bend fully. Putting on socks requires the use of that brilliant tool:
But at last my feet are shrinking enough that I can fit socks over my swollen extremities. I had a heart warming encounter at the gym. A fellow exerciser came over to me and confided she had broken all four limbs and her pelvis, right down to her wrists and fingers, when a car ran her over. I was astonished. Her injuries were worse even than mine and there was no sign of them on casual inspection. It will heal she said in encouragement and I am sure she is right judging by her own very effective example.  
At the apartment complex too a stranger stepped up, the owner of a car with a handicapped parking placard awarded to him for war wounds suffered in Vietnam. Jerry said he could see I walk with a lot more difficulty than he does and he said he would avoid using the handicapped spot in front of the entrance to give me a better chance of easy access to the elevator. It was a heart warming offer that came completely out of the blue. I was stunned and very grateful especially as he has suffered quite a bit for his service over the past forty  years. 
The other big chunk out of my life- and it's not that big! -is twenty hours a week at work in the 911 center. The surgeon has authorized up to six hours a shift but until the end of the month I am limiting myself to four. I used to show up in a wheelchair and could barely concentrate for the full four hours. Nowadays I use my walker  to get from the parking lot to the elevator and some nights when I am feeling frisky and I walk with my cane alone. I have  a lumbar pillow and use a regular chair in the office which makes me fell much more normal. About the only thing I can't do very easily is pick up stray pens off the floor. The police department has been incredibly adaptable in helping me fit back in to my work life. I am very grateful as work helps bring a feeling of normality to my life.
I make  it a point to have lunch with friends from time to time, and I ponder how my life will change when I am living at Mile Marker 23  not Mile Marker 4. I am actually looking forward to the commute, giving myself a breathing space between work and home of a mere half hour. Right now my commute is less than ten minutes which I find gives me no time to decompress. I am one of those few people who live in the Keys and don't mind driving. I'd rather be riding but another Burgman 200 is a few months away still.
I have come to appreciate over the years how lucky we are to live not only in a nice house on a  canal with a fantastic thoughtful landlord, but also in a location that gives me easy access to wilderness walks with Rusty. I know lots of trails close to my house and I never  really thought about how lucky I am to have so much open space near my home. It was brought to my attention on my few trips out of the hospital to cross Miami to the doctor's office for check ups. Miles of urbanization...
I know Florida is generally considered to be home of the boring landscape and it's true I wouldn't mind a hill or a river from time to time but I have come to be very fond of the unique and particular landscape we live in among these rocky islands. Not everyone gets to see tropical plants in the wild every day; Rusty and I do.
Yes, I will enjoy returning to the suburbs but Key West is  a special place all right and  it has occurred to me that one of the new generation electric bicycles would make  getting around town very efficient. A 23 mile commute requires internal combustion unfortunately. Or more time than I would care to commit to traveling at 20 miles per hour. I saw this apartment complex on Eisenhower Drive and I thought how little it resembles what we generally think of Key West. 
I don't mind apartment living but I know Rusty misses his dog door and his ability to come and go as he pleases. He has been a good and patient dog in all this turmoil and he as much as my wife and her shorter commute, and me with my longer commute, deserves a return to normal. As normal as it can get. I guess my family has not yet adapted to being urban dwellers. Life in the big city has been fun and thank heavens for that elevator but  I am ready to take one more step on the path to my own life. 

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Random Pictures

Some days don't need words. 
 I've been enjoying playing with depth of field and colors and flowers.
 Depth of field is what Apple calls portrait mode for its new phones.
 I feel lucky to live in a  colorful world in winter.


 I never noticed this notation before in the asphalt at the end of Government Road in Little Hamaca. That this was a Hawk Missile Site during the Cuban Crisis is well known and that it was called Bravo Battery also. But here were the words, still preserved:

I cracked a smile when I saw this trailing behind Rusty in a neighborhood. 
To do this to a tree would never occur to me. 

 Fuzzy palms? I don't think I was hallucinating.


 I guess some people like snow and winter sports.
 I'm not one of them.
 Rusty loves thick grass. He sat, rolled and lay there sniffing for a while.
 He grazed for a bit and then sniffed the air like a connoisseur until he was ready to move on. 

I look at pictures of drab winters Up North and am glad not to live that reality.




Friday, January 25, 2019

Fame In Key West

I got an unsolicited e-mail a couple of days ago asking about something I posted on this page and could they use it? Sure I said, I always do. They even offered to give me credit which I feel is as much as I could expect. I was quite surprised to learn the Studios at Key West wanted to quote something I wrote about the Key West artist Suzie dePoo. All I could find were some recollections I posted from attributed sources. The cool thing is my wife and I are invited to the opening of the exhibit they plan so good for my blog! Score one for my diary! I'm looking forward to it.
I  did write a couple of paragraphs mentioning how little this city in its eternal weirdness fails to mark locations important in the life of quite a few celebrated artists of one sort or another. Hemingway is a massive and obvious exception but a friend did point out to me years ago that Tennessee Williams a gay man and Elizabeth Bishop a lesbian get short shrift and old Robert Frost gets hardly any mileage though you used to be able to rent his writing studio as a place to stay and may yet be able to sleep there for all I know. 
When a well known actress owned a downtown restaurant, Kelly's Bar and Grill was pointed out as belonging to one Kelly McGillis by drivers of the Conch Train as they went by. Perhaps they note William's home on Duncan Street but I don't think they drive by the private house and it's not marked in any way. Fame is a peculiar attribute and certain people come by it more easily than others.
I used to read the news on the radio in Santa Cruz California, and public radio listeners occasionally recognized me on the street.  But when I appeared on a news panel on the main news television station one night, I discovered the power of that medium and I never went near it again as the recognition factor was way too high. Even now I get a momentary jolt when I am recognized. As happened early one morning when out walking the little brown bundle of joy at Truman Waterfront.
I was not too surprised to see a cyclist stop and double back as my current condition pushing a walker tends to bring out the helpfulness of strangers and I was filling Rusty's water jug at the very convenient fountain in the park. I was completely surprised when the blonde woman addressed me by name. Bugger I thought but I put a brave face on it when I have to admit I can't remember where we met so I asked. And she admitted we never had, so I wasn't the tool, I had at first thought I was. That was a start. 
I also had the wit, unusual in me, to take pictures and notes. I am getting good at this, I thought to myself. Sherry with the hat retired to Old Town Key West eight years ago and apparently dragged a husband down too and they both really like it. They came from upstate New York which I quite liked when I was there one summer but apparently this time of year it is sub-optimal as the weather tends to be a bit brisk. I know I'd hate it. Kathy lives in Virginia and was visiting her friend and had never heard of this web page so was a bit flummoxed by the whole about face and talking to a stranger with a gait impediment. They were very nice and didn't mug me which might not have been all that easy as Rusty had got bored and was sitting and eyeing me from across the parking lot. One false move and he would have shredded them. Good boy.
This June this blog will have been posting one a day almost without a break since 2007. Though I say so myself the photography has got a good deal better and I am always ready to attribute that in good part to the fantastic improvement in digital photography over the past decade. I have also made a conscious effort to pay attention to my pictures and that has aid off. I really like digital photography in its current form.
Cell phones are getting really quite good though I do love my Lumix FZ300 bridge camera. It looks like a single lense reflex but it is a fixed lense electronic camera that bridges the divide between a professional quality SLR and the close range instrument found in your phone. Consequently I have a huge telephoto lense  and millions of filter and manual adjustments if I want to use them and sometimes I do. All it consumes is a rechargeable battery and I carry a spare. I take pictures, download them instantly to my phone by direct WiFi and do a little light editing on the phone to crisp them up as necessary and they ready for Instagram of this page. Fantastic.
It has got a bit complicated handling Rusty on a leash in town, pushing my walker and grabbing a quick picture here and there. When I could walk properly and keep up with Rusty I had more time to contemplate my shots but it is a credit to the camera that it snags pictures instantly to help me out. Composition with a tripod and profound thought is not really possible in my weird  walking style. 
The Key West Photography Festival is coming up and this year I did actually brace myself and submitted three pictures. I doubt they will be accepted or noticed as I have no idea how to rename the pictures ion the format they desperately needed. I tried to figure it out and failed and with the deadline looming I sent them in. A few hours later they extended the deadline! Much gnashing of teeth.
They have times for local photographers to give talks but I'm not sure I want to do that. I had thought of talking about my experiences trying to be  a photographer flat on my back in the hospital but my putative title As I Lay Dying leads me to think in a death-phobic society that my own amusement at my severe medical predicament might not go over real well. I have a dispatcher's sense of humor when it comes to talking about my death mask selfie in the roadway and photographs of the doctors operating on my leg... Better draw a veil over that and let local photographers chunter on about sunsets and palms and primary colors. It's what Key West is to most people. We know of course there's much more to it than that.
And some few weirdos have been reading my take on that for fully ten years. Crazy. But the pictures are a whole lot better aren't they nowadays?



You can imagine them laughing uproariously at thirty minutes of pictures like these can't you?