Saturday, June 8, 2019

Snow Shoes And Tractors

Robert  loaned me his power washer to clean up my boat which has been idle on it's trailer for several months, but as he put it, actually staying over to help was an excellent excuse to procrastinate on several of his many pressing projects. When I retire in a few years I plan to limit my projects, Robert has more than he had when he was working.
I bought him lunch so I met him at Bob and Lu's (under new ownership fro a long time  since the original pair sold the place) in Big Coppitt. I arrived before Robert so by the time he arrived our sausage and spinach pizza was already cooking. We are creatures of habit, and Robert after much investigation thinks this may be one of the best sit down pizzas around, so we don't change a winning team.
I was impressed to hear Robert has mastered the use of snow shoes. This may not sound like much but his wife likes to ski so they spent several cold months in Utah where they also got involved in projects, which knowing Robert was impossible to avoid. For some reason biologists feel the need to count owl nests and the only way to get to them is to do the frozen equivalent of walking on water, hence the snow shoes. Robert moved to the Keys from New England in 1976, an easy year to remember, and he watched the Bicentennial Fireworks from the deck of the boat he was living on. He was in fact living the Keys life and continued to so do for the next 40 odd years.
I suppose inevitably one must want a  change and a life lived in the Keys could not be contrasted more strongly than by a winter spent admiring mountains  and snow from a new fangled housing development. The idea of living surrounded by modern shopping conveniences is a whole new thing for Robert whose previous long forays out of the Keys were sailing in places even less shopping friendly than the Keys; places like the watery wilderness of the out islands in the Bahamas, reachable by boat. In Utah Robert has a major freeway access five minutes from his home. It can be startling to find yourself hurtling down a multi lane highway so close to your home after you have spent decades three hours from the nearest metropolis. 
We took ages to demolish the pizza, over conversation about driving the perilous trails in Bear Ears National Monument, the wild sandstone sculptures in the Utah desert and exploring Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake. All I remember of Utah is the ghastly sulphur smell of the lake under a summer sun, and I also recall being surprised by how small the cathedral was which is at the center of the universe for the Latter Day Saints. I guess I compared it to St Peter's but I didn't mean to be a snob, it just looked small tucked into the center of  that historic city in Utah.
Outside Bobalu's in the heat of the afternoon stood my sister's favorite vehicle: a Landrover, a vehicle that looks slightly ludicrous to my eyes when driven in these domesticated slivers of flat lands that don't merit four wheel drive. I dutifully sent a picture to Scotland and by return of Messenger got a picture of my sister and her daughter eating fish and chips inside their Landrover in an effort to avoid a freezing wet June day in northwest Scotland. 
Luckily I was full of hot Florida pizza but Ullapool boasts a first rate chippie which takes the edge off living in the wettest place in the United Kingdom, a place where 70 degrees is a heatwave. So I had to walk off sausage pizza with Rusty on another 90 degree afternoon. The intersection in the background is another view of the scene of my accident looking at it from the direction of the woman who drove out in front of me onto Highway One. I live too close to the spot to be freaked out by it, but it's always there.
Pondering the toughness required to farm in Scotland I came across a couple of tractors. These are not vehicles commonly seen in islands who boast not an acre devoted to commercial farming. If pressed I would have thought of the solitary tractor used to clean the beaches in Key West, as the sole such vehicle in the area:
And I would have forgotten these useful tools for cleaning the edges of the roadways in the county.
I prefer the old tractor as it reminds me of the farming of my youth, an occupation I couldn't escape from fast enough, and from which California did not seem far enough away as a destination to emigrate to; however my family seems to enjoy tilling the soil and tractors are part of all their lives in the Old World.
I'd rather drive a tractor if forced to choose between that and wearing snow shoes.

Friday, June 7, 2019

White To Whitehead

Summer in Key West, parking is available, heat as blanket, locals rule.
I rather liked the image of the speedster wheelchair. That's what I'd have liked had I been unable to get back on my feet:
Poetry in public places, Whitehead at Greene:
The water tank used to power Key West by steam:
Another view of the vast cylinder, from Front Street near Margaritaville:
Opportunities abound:
A pigeon in a palm:
Margaritaville Resort Marina. I used to sail boats for hire out of here when it was the Westin:
People say there are fewer poinciana trees than in years past. It must be so but there are still some flamboyants flaming red:
Whitehead Street tourists shops designed for eager cruise ship passengers:
Key West all to myself (and Rusty). Lovely.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Dogs As Exercise

My friend Webb sent me an article about the benefits of dogs as exercise companions and I was pleased to see the author made the point that a dog won't automatically turn you into an exercise freak. If you get a dog to improve your fitness you need to want to walk the dog before you get it. Hoping the dog will automatically make you want to get off the couch is being excessively hopeful, apparently. You'd think it would be obvious. 
I have never found a human that likes walking and wandering as much as I do, so getting a dog was always about he companionship. These days walking Rusty is also therapeutic for my legs as I make the effort to cover ground with him, to consciously try to walk as far and as fast as I can. Besides all that I like taking him for a walk as soon as I get home from work in the morning as the time alone with Rusty in the mangroves, is the time I use to decompress from a night of dealing with 911 calls. I don't really view it as exercise, I go to the gym for that.
Finding myself on the back roads of the lower Keys, or lost on trails winding through the trees  I have time to play with my camera while Rusty chases smells, and I have become acutely aware of the fact that I like these open spaces, these featureless plains of evergreen mangroves and buttonwoods stretching as far as the eye can see.  And this time of year I get to enjoy the sunrise obstructed by the clouds which themselves are full of moisture hanging over the horizon.
They are like wispy snow slopes in a more conventional countryside, places where mountains and rivers and lakes and forests offer variation in a landscape.
This is my time of day to leave everything behind and be alone. When he takes off sailing Webb calls his time on the water the equivalent of entering "the monastery of the sea" a communication-free cloister, a place and time to think and only be responsible for oneself. 
 Some days I see birds...
 ...other days I see clouds, but I don't see coconut palms or beaches or lovely turquoise waters out here. Thee are tons of people year round chasing those sights.
It's almost impossible to escape the sounds of civilization, a word I use loosely here, when one is in the Keys. Boat buzz about on the water and the sounds of Highway One carry for miles on a favorable breeze as there is nothing to block the noise of engines crossing these flat open spaces.
 Yet I find serenity here, and let me add that this time of year I don't risk getting run over by spandex clad cyclists when I'm walking paved roads. In winter they come out in force and pedal silently and seriously in body hugging cycling gear. I feel like an amateur human in their presence, slouching along by the side of the road with my rescue mutt and my all purpose camera.
 I have no idea what he smells but being as how he is afraid of wild chickens and farm animals I hope he will be able to avoid compromising situations in the bushes. Young Rusty survived life on the streets of Homestead when many other abandoned dogs alongside him were killed deliberately or by accident. I figure he has enough sense to avoid pitfalls, and besides who am I to worry about him when it was me that nearly died on the road and not him?
I feel lucky to see this stuff in the sky, and I look forward to the drama of rainy season and rain filled clouds during the course of the summer. It's hot and humid at ground level, especially after the sun comes up but I don't mind sweating as he price I pay to see the sun and the clouds and the golden light of morning.
Finally I can walk again pretty much unaided and to be out here is my reward for months of physical therapy and squats and calf raises and balance tests and all the rest. The real exercise in my life. This is just for fun out in the mangroves with my dog.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019


I think it's been about a week but recently the temperatures in Key West have hit 90 degrees and the humidity is unrelenting.  I am not one of those who prefers to live without air conditioning so by the simple expedient of going indoors for a bit, the  summer heat is made bearable. I read that the hottest cities thus far this year are in India which has been hitting temperatures over  120F ( 50C)  so far this year.  That may be  a taste of what's to come for all of us. 
Rusty gets his walk early in the morning and even then I get home drenched in sweat. There is a fresh east wind blowing across the keys, appropriate for the time of year, but even so it feels airless and  close despite the moving air. A paradox that leaves my shirt soaked like a used tea towel.
During the day it's too hot for a well found dog to be walking around so I wait till six o'clock for his evening walk, just as the sun starts to go down.
During the day he lounges around the house sleeping on the tiles on the kitchen floor alternating with periods outdoors sunbathing. With his own dog door he comes and goes as he pleases.
Through June 6th the State of Florida has created a tax holiday for disaster related supplies. It's a reminder to get ready for things to go wrong when the weather turns nasty. I don't suppose this will be enough to slow down the panicky race for supplies at the last minute when a storm approaches.
In the Middle of the peak of hurricane season Key West will have a new city manager, as of October  1st. At last week's city commission meeting the commissioners suddenly decided to turn a workshop discussing the replacement of the manager into an action item. Over the objections of the mayor and two commissioners the majority agreed to give the top job to the assistant city manager, Greg  Veliz. The mayor had wanted to conduct  a nationwide search but Veliz supporters insisted they probably wouldn't attract qualified candidates and the search would cost money. So, just like that  the vote came and the issue was settled, almost as an afterthought. The city of Key West never fails to astonish me.
The commission did suggest to itself that a search process should perhaps be created to enable a smooth transition for other city department heads who are expected to be retiring soon. It all seems rather vague though and traveling hopefully may be the way to go in this most interesting and unusual of cities.
I hope we can rely on a  serene hurricane season to give the new manager a  chance to get settled into the new job, though I expect he was paying attention during recent weather crises when he was assistant to the retiring manager. I hope he was watching how its done because, as the poet put it, "trying to reason reason with hurricane season" you can't run that pace for very long. Jimmy Buffett's words to live by if you are a neophyte manager learning to cope with the demands of storm season on an island in the stream.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Everything Happens For A Reason

I  had been to my Broga exercise class yesterday lunch time and as I was riding home from Key West I came across a rather eerie accident scene on US 1 near my home. I turned off the highway on Cutthroat Lane and stopped to take this picture below. Looking North,  Key West is 23 miles to the left and Big Pine Key is six miles to the right. The vehicles involved in the wreck had been towed already and all that was left was road workers sweeping up the damage:
Here is a screen shot of the location, with My New Joint the upstairs tapas bar of the famous Square Grouper Restaurant. What made it all so creepy for me was that this was the exact spot where I wrecked last August 31st. At that time I was on my way to work and had just turned left toward Key West from Spanish Main Drive. I got to the intersection in a slow moving line of traffic and a car pulled out of Cutthroat lane just above the big red dot and tried to dart across the highway. In so doing she cut me off and I flew over the hood of her car, cartwheeling toward the line of guests waiting to have dinner at Square Grouper. 
This picture of my poor old Burgman 200 was taken looking north across US1 at Cutthroat Drive in the background. This was the scooter that three weeks earlier took me to Niagara Falls in 32 hours on my 1500 mile Iron Butt ride. I had wanted to see how long distance riding would work and it went very well, as I rode a total of 3400 miles that week without a problem. I got home and this happened:  

You'd think seeing this repeat action would have freaked me out and it did a bit, at first. Then I started to think to myself: Hey! Today it's not me...I get to go home... Which was a thought that quite cheered me up.
I remember most of what happened that afternoon as I hit the front wheel of the car I saw a kaleidoscope of  colors, the white paint of the car, the front wheel that the front of my scooter struck, being launched into the air and finding myself on my back unable to move. I thought I remembered what came next but after yelling at one guy to call my wife and another to call 911 I didn't remember this woman taking my hand, and even though I spoke to her I was already floating away.
I wondered what happened at the scene of this wreck, and later when my wife and I took Rusty for a walk up Cutthroat she asked me if crossing the intersection freaked me out as it did her. I told her it doesn't really, which I suppose is odd but what does freak me out is the possibility of cars anywhere along Highway One pulling out of side streets without seeing me on my scooter. I have always been alert to that possibility but these days I am hyper vigilant and always try to make eye contact with cars pulling out.
It's been a bad couple of week for accidents on the Overseas Highway. One dark night a pedestrian was killed trying to cross the highway in Big Coppitt at Mile Marker 9. There were a couple of serious accidents in the Upper Keys and  a ghastly pile up near Baby's Coffee. I saw several people comment on the four car crash on Facebook and apparently the cause of the crash, reported to be intoxicated, had been making a spectacle of himself passing recklessly while driving southbound toward Key West.
They ended up flying one of the occupants of the cars to a Miami trauma  center but several other people in the cars were also hurt. What made that accident reverberate in my mind was the news my wife passed on to me. This weekend she had met the Sheriff's Deputy who was first on the scene of my accident and in chatting with him, updating him on my recovery, he told her his family members were caught up in that wreck. I remember him at the scene of my accident; all I could see was his highly polished boot and the knife edge crease on his pants as he sorted out the accident scene around my prone form and made sure traffic avoided my wrecked body and the wrecked vehicles. He came to see me last winter and we talked for a while, when he told me that at the time he was actually going home off duty when he came upon the carnage in the highway. And now he ruefully told my wife on Sunday he has his relatives in the hospital with broken bones and the injustice of it makes me crazy. No one is safe, no one is immune, no one gets a free  pass. We are outnumbered by the drunks, the distracted, the incompetent, the under insured, the whole panoply of drivers who suck at driving and use us as their pin balls. Last year it was me, last week it was his people and yesterday it was some other poor unfortunate caught up in a shambles not of their making. Not everything happens for a reason, most of it is just bad luck.