Saturday, April 13, 2019

Powering Down

I was in a deep sleep, a refreshing sleep in the late afternoon to help me prepare for another night shift. The plan was to rest, have dinner and leave at nine o’clock for a night of telling the police where to go to, hopefully not too often as a foul night of wind and rain was forecast. All of  which tends to keep rowdy drunks off the streets of Key West and reduces traffic on the police radio channel which I would be monitoring. Suddenly I found myself struggling to wake from a startling sense of drowning, unable to suck in a breath, try as I might. I sat up flailing wildly in a room so dark I couldn’t even see the alarm clock normally a reassuring red glow on top of the chest of drawers. It was a power outage. 

My inability to draw breath was caused by a helpful breathing machine I use since my hospital stay for broken bones discovered I have sleep apnea. The sudden loss of power caused the rubber “pillow” (their name) to collapse against my nostrils not only no longer pumping air but actively blocking up my nose. That was a wake up call. Good Afternoon Florida Keys. 

Facebook wasted no time in posting the photo above to explain the cause of our sudden powerlessness along with numerous comments speculating on the boat owners origins and family tree. To my astonishment my phone went off and I found myself in receipt of unsolicited information from Keys Energy explaining the problem and with a shrug further explaining the loss of power had no end in sight. Bugger. Then I was texted fresh information: local generation was underway to fill the gap until the mainline (“tie” line in  KeysEnergySpeak) was liberated from its derangement. Or words to that effect. That liberation was also eventually recorded on the universally useful Facebook. Thank you Carlos (whoever you are) and Towboat US. 

Local power generation is a wondrous thing enabled by the old power station on Stock Islsnd next to the Hogfish restaurant. I heard once they have enough fuel to provide power for two weeks should the tie line from Miami break. After a hurricane it’s usefulness is limited as they can’t just power up willy nilly when electrical lines have been reduced to angel hair pasta across whole neighborhoods. However when there is one single problem like this minor fiasco the local generation thing gets the a/c and Netflix back on line sharpish and normal living was rapidly resumed in this case at the expense of manual workers struggling in the teeth of a very wet and windy storm raking the Keys. I arrived at the police station at ten o’clock glad to be working indoors out of the weather. 

Power outages used to be, I don't want to say frequent, but they weren't surprising in a place subject to wild weather and exposed  power lines. Power outages were not one has to remember the devastating thing they can be today with all these delicate electronics that don't take to power spikes and brown outs. Basically power went out, candles were deployed and life went on, without air conditioning of course which was not a luxury universally enjoyed. Sweating was a popular past  time in the late 20th century in these islands. Since the bad old days things have changed markedly.   
City Electric as it used to be known has turned itself into Keys Energy and is responsible for electricity from the Seven Mile Bridge to Key West. In the decades since the bad old days they have carried out a  massive and amazing job is installing power poles that are, so far at least hurricane proof.   These huge power poles are not the most aesthetic additions to the  skyline, but they do work. The poles and wires have survived major storms like Wilma and Irma and in daily living they stand there and do their jobs, which is to transmit life giving power. 
And despite all best efforts a simple sailboat mast is enough to screw up power for a hundred miles. It's cheaper to import electricity from the mainland along the "tie line" than it is to generate it locally so when something interrupts the line everyone goes dark, just like the bad old days. Mostly though I am astonished when I hear the wind howling and the rain slashing my home or office and see no power outages at all. At work we have generators so there is a momentary black out and all continues as normal. At home we count down the minutes hoping the power will come back before the interior heat becomes unbearable. Did I mention I am grateful for affordable air conditioning? Grateful too for reliable power. And these days grateful for my machine that helps me sleep and kills my snoring even if it does rely on electricity.Which happily is now much more reliable than ever.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Signs of Summer

We were walking downtown when I said to my wife it feels like summer. I was not wrong, the heat of summer is back at last and even though it's not hot and sticky the weather has turned. I am not a fan of being cold so the cool breeze is welcome but the heat of a strong sun overhead is even more welcome to me. 
I am not a purist and air conditioning is required in my summer life to be comfortable and to sleep well. I do use the sunroof in my car which gets a nice flow of air when a back window is open but I am not a fan of convertibles in this climate. I was amused to note the Quebec tag on this $75,000 car according to a friend of mine who knows this stuff. They keep telling us we can't afford Medicare for all but Canada  can and they have their share of  people who can afford nice stuff. Weird, eh?
It's been raining a bit  and a short cut I take sometimes in the morning to avoid  jams on the highway took me by surprise by being flooded. I guess it rained a fair bit near Baby's Coffee. Another sign of summer, I say hopefully.
 I was walking Rusty at Little Hamaca Park and in the distance I saw a flurry of planes maneuvering. The airport was busy with small planes leaving. It reminded me of the RVs I've been seeing lately northbound on the highway. Winter is over I tell my wife hopefully.
Strong sunlight, shiny palm fronds and bright flowers, all of which flourish here in winter. Still I tell myself  with a touch of self delusion, another sign of Summer.
Casa Antigua is still there on Simonton Street across from the Federal Building. However the Pelican Poop Shoppe selling dustcatchers and souvenirs is long gone. Now there's a very modern Escape Room here instead. The old signs  are forgotten reminders of a world that has died away. With winter over  there is room downtown for me to wander and remember. 
 I saw this oddity, a pad to protect a gutter from a palm trunk.  Makes sense I suppose.

 Duval Street reflected in a  quiet moment:

 Sunday morning, church doors flung open, all welcome I suppose. Summer stillness.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Small Works of Art.

I didn't even know about the Small Works Show put on by the Lemonade Stand Gallery at the Studios of Key West. I was here looking for an entirely different exhibit but this was delightfully unexpected.
There are a 170 pieces, they say though I din't count them. And they come in all shapes and sizes and media. Apparently they have to be no longer than ten inches in any direction but they each pack so much into a tiny space.
 I wandered around for a while but I was unable to disentangle my mind from all that I saw. There was just too much!
 Collages and oils and photos and art in a box, it was all here.
 Not all of it made in the Keys either, not at all.

Some was easy to identify as being local. The label "Ft Zach Man" struck me as really funny, like a newly minted paleolithic era or something. And I recognized the type.

The collage sticking out from the wall was titled "Bending The Rules" the type of pun that appeals to me, a ruler and a bent wire in an arc. 

 Historical and sociological significance combined with much sadness and discrimination no doubt:

Like so many things in life the smaller the space the more intense the experience and these pieces of art packed a punch. I really enjoyed it.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Hill Top Views

After my motorcycle accident last August my inability to walk for a while kept me off the backwood trails, obviously, even as I recovered and started using a walker and then a cane. One trail defied my abilities for the longest time so finally last week I passed another landmark on my long slow road to recovery. I got to the Old Bahia Honda Bridge.
Hurricane Irma in September 2017 wrecked this place tearing up trees, destroying foliage and almost wiping out the resident iguana population. Rusty has never felt any warmth for iguanas and for a while he lost interest in this place as the lizards, deprived of food disappeared.
It seems the indestructible iguanas, adored by visitors are making a comeback. Rusty prowled around and found a discarded steak on the bone to the horror of a passing tourist. "I think he's found something dead." Yup I said, usually he likes grass but he's got something crunchy this time. The tourist  frowned like he expected me to reach down and remove the thing from Rusty's mouth. Not only would that offend my buddy it would also be slimy  and rank and nasty to the touch. Forget that. 
The tourist wandered off most likely not impressed by me or my dog who in turn lost interest in the bone. I was finally at the top of the hill far along the dusty stony track right where Flagler's engineers laid down a pile of dirt to raise the railroad tracks to join with their new bridge across "deep bay"  (Bahia Honda) where the water was fifty feet deep. When the road was re routed, as shown below they left behind this artificial hill, the highest point of land in the Keys.
And there is the old bridge decaying slowly. When a hurricane wrecked the railroad in 1935 in Matecumbe Key the line lay dormant for three years.  Then the state of Florida went mad and bought the right of way and turned it into a road. The sort of government intervention that would drive modern economists into a frenzy. Actually the plan worked real well and every time you drive the new road and look across at the old road remember it was your grandfather's tax dollars all over the country that did stuff like that a hundred years ago. Lucky us!
The old pump house got half torn down by the hurricane but as it was used as a loo by overnight anglers the loss is mostly sentimental. In 1942 the US Navy was busy fortifying Key West for the conflict and they decided catching rainwater was not a viable way to conduct a World War so they built a pipeline from Miami to key West. And along the way they boosted the water pressure.
 Nowadays there is a newer and bigger line alongside the road that was opened in 1982. The fact that seawater is polluting the Florida Aquifer hasn't reached public consciousness yet but climate change (the thing that isn't happening) is affecting Florida in subtle and not entirely planned ways. Loss of subterranean drinking water is a huge future problem. Catching rainwater may be the way of the future once again!
I loved spotting a pontoon boat being used totally inappropriately on the open waters on a  windy day. The driver knew what he was doing sliding through the spray. Find a body of protected water and you have the ideal platform for a swimming picnic in the Florida Keys.
More properly I also spotted a big old ketch sailing in the breeze towing a  huge hard dinghy. It looked pretty but as the breeze died the boat started to "hobby horse" in the swell, it's progress hindered no doubt by the huge Boston Whaler type dinghy  on the towline. That's my issue with sailing in old age. When it's windy you want to stay snug at anchor, or at least I do!  Then when the wind dies down and you poke your nose out you have to use your engine. Might as well have a trawler in my book. 
My buddy Webb Chiles left Panama on March 14th and here we are almost a month later and he is slowing clawing his way past Mexico at speeds as low as half a knot (nautical mile and hour). He loves being at sea so for him it may be frustrating to be sailing so slowly to San Diego. At the same time he is exactly where he wants to be. Check out his monitoring page HERE. He carries a satellite sender called a Yellow Brick and every six hours (marked as blue dots on the chart) it posts his speed, the air temperature and his course. The closer the blue dots are together, the slower his progress over the previous six hours obviously.
 Back in the Florida Keys Rusty and I wandered over the hump of and, making way for other visitors to stop and contemplate the decaying hundred year old bridge.
 I hope it stays around for a while.
Rusty doesn't like to immerse himself in water and he doesn't like to swim but something about the rough old beach inspired him to run like a mad dog. 
 Like this:
 He  ran, I played with my camera.

A  great morning followed by lunch with my wife in Marathon.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Night Truman

I was quite surprised at the amount of vehicular traffic on Truyman Avenue at four thirty in the morning. Rusty stuck to the sidewalk as we walked toward Duval but I really wanted to get away from the main drag. It was just too busy. Looking toward Truman on William Street, this is the light right next to St Mary's Minor Basilica.
I wanted to haul my tripod along but honestly I can hardly keep with Rusty as it is, so stopping to assemble the tripod and set long languid exposures is just out of the question. And going for a walk without Rusty is we do what we can.
If I weren't with Rusty I'd have an opportunity for some mediation in the adoration chapel at St Mary's open twenty four hours a day. 
I think too much, I know, but I saw an African mission among the trees, not one of the earliest Catholic churches in South Florida... It's been warming up a bit and it feels much more like summer now so thinking equatorial isn't as odd as it may look!
Rusty found Windsor Lane to be fascinating but after about an hour my pelvis starts to ache quite a lot so I tend to watch from afar and as we were effectively on a side street we were left to ourselves.

We walked through Bill Butler Park and for some reason Rusty found one side of the pocket park scary and he crept along all alert and worried. No ghosts popped out, so all was well. When we are out in the wilderness I pay much closer attention as I'm never sure what he might have noticed lurking in the scrub. But I figured alligators boa constrictors or panthers were unlikely in the environs of Bill Butler Park and in the end my lack of caution was proved correct and we came through unscathed.
A  quick burst of the much disliked flash and I got a nice  shot of a Traveler Palm, so called because ostensibly it has drinking water stored in it's  stems. From what I've read the liquid in the palm is black and dirty and tastes foul so I suppose it could save your life but there should be a better way to get  a drink in extremis. Most of the time I don't use the flash as the light is rather harsh and uncompromising and havinga  remote flash is as time consuming as a tripod and equally unfriendly to the needs of my dog. Would you believe it?
 Elizabeth Street and the chapel can never photograph too often:
A few more assorted pictures around Bill Butler: 

 Elizabeth Street looking down the hill, as it were, toward Truman Avenue:
 Olivia Street, between Bill Butler and Truman Avenue, looking toward Windsor Lane:
And now for something completely different: Higgs Park where we went later as Rusty was still showing signs of being energetic. We walked in a  circle round the park and I listened to a BBC Radio documentary about Errol Flynn's involvement in the Cuban Revolution - who knew?- while Rusty trotted ahead, nose down. 
And so home to bed early on a Friday morning, with no prospect of work till Saturday evening.