Monday, June 24, 2019

Wrecking and Walking

We haven't been out for a while early in the morning so when Rusty stuck his cold wet nose in my armpit at 4:45 in the morning I figured he deserved a pre-dawn city walk.
Tift Alley, above, is named for Asa Tift a wealthy Key West businessman who added to his wealth with waterfront warehouses and the business of wrecking. Wrecking is a much misunderstood trade which is not surprising  considering no one has done it legally for a good few decades. 
Wrecking was a salvage business and wreckers saved lives and cargoes if not the ships carrying them when they hit the reef. Where wrecking got a bit dodgy to put it mildly was when the wreckers set the ships up to go aground by putting out misleading lights at night. Done legally it was quite the business and gave people the opportunity to make  a fortune from a dangerous business. 
Key West thrived from the shipping that passed through the city. The latest European fashions were seen here first as traders stopped on their way to the big wealthy cotton cities of the south, Galveston, New Orleans and Apalachicola. They didn't have the Internet but they had catalogues and ordered furniture and furnishings and clothes from London and Paris. And when the ships ran aground trying to get into the harbor the wreckers salvaged the cargo and were awarded values by the courts. 
Nowadays bars are the goldfields but not for everyone it seems. IC  Doubles caused a stir by closing temporarily which is generally viewed as permanent until proved wrong. That didn't last. The place on Fitzpatrick that never seems to make it hasn't in it's latest dog friendly incarnation. 
I liked it when it was a Spanish sandwich shop  a couple of incarnations ago. It became some other stuff including an Italian place spun off  from the successful Onlywood but that didn't last either. The latest version has closed for a long vacation and Henry and Eli's to my chagrin welcomed dogs. Who knew? Not me, and now it seems to be too late. They'll be back they promise after an unspecified vacation. 
Duval Street is where the action is. Except at five in the morning when it's me and Rusty and later some street cleaners. 
CVS on Duval, one of the many chain pharmacies littering Key West these days, distinguishes itself by showing off local art, a tradition of the former tenant, the late lamented Fast Buck FReddie's Tropical Department Store. Pretty cool, and the store is open 24 hours if you need a beach ball at two in the morning. Or sunscreen. In this town one doesn't ask what for.
With the arrival of dawn we are both  hot and tired though I'm not dragging my tongue.
Wendy's proudly offers to sell you plastic bottled water in defiance of all currently approved eco norms.
While the other highly fashionable product is CBD, cannabidiol which we are reliably informed won't give anxious humans a buzz though it is some sort of highly fashionable cure all snake oil. I have been advised it will calm a dog during a thunderstorm. An actual cure all. Had the surgeon rubbed it on my spatchcocked pelvis I'd probably be lifting world record setting weights by now.
Rusty didn't need CBD for a deep restful sleep after two hours walking. And neither did I.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Little Hamaca Park

I see dogs in my neighborhood walked the same places every day and I think Rusty would do me an injury if I did that to him. We go on a circuit and some days he gets really excited especially when he hasn't been there for a while.  Some days he just doesn't want to go that way and the dog sitters in St Petersburg were surprised when he just sat down and stared at them real hard. I yield immediately.
He will wait for me while I fiddle with the camera but he likes to check everything out when he is in the mood. When he's not in the mood he stalks back to the car and  sits by his  rear  door. I figure walks are his time and he gets to do what he wants. 
I was walking a short dead end street not far from my home and Rusty likes to walk all the way to the end, look around and then turn back and walk out. Every street is a dead end in the Keys so we do this  alot. WEll this time some dude comes out from the sole house on the street and announces he has large attack dogs and they can jump his seven foot fence. I looked at him and wondered if he's got a meth lab going in the huge warehouse with the roll up front door next to his tiny little house. He realized he was coming on a  bit strong to some dude walking on a public street and hastened to reassure me he wasn't threatening me. I shrugged. He insisted his dogs, Belgian Malinois and German Shepherds would tear Rusty apart if they jumped the fence... 
It was a profoundly weird moment as there was absolutely no sound of baying dogs behind the fence or anything. I wanted to ask where he exercised his dogs to give them the strength to leap a seven foot wooden fence but he seemed half mad so I just thought happy thoughts and wished he'd evaporate. Then he started asking me where I lived so I told him John Avery Lane and he looked taken aback. That's the other side of the highway he said staring at me as though I were a Martian, like he thought I had walked all the way or flown my magic carpet two miles across Cudjoe Key. That I might put my magical dog in a car and drive him to an interesting place to walk never occurred to the meth lab owner who I doubt walked his invisible dogs anywhere. 
I had a moment of genius and I said I was the guy knocked off his scooter at Cutthroat Lane last August. It was a spectacular wreck I am told and my flight of the bumblebee over the car that blocked me made headlines locally. His eyes opened wide. It was pure genius I tell you. Suddenly I was the poor sap who died in the roadway, and as it was true that it was me, that was no bad thing. It's a bit like yelling at your neighbor over the fence and then feeling bad because he's in a wheelchair. Rusty's helping me exercise my legs I told him. That fact that all of this was true made his embarrassment all the sweeter. To see  such a shady character  trying to feel sorry for this interloper was pretty funny. He kept insisting his dogs would tear me to pieces as though he believed I really did want to know whatever nefarious trafficking he was up to. Not to worry I said cheerfully, I'm living on borrowed time and if it is my fate to be torn limb from limb I've already been through it once, don't you worry for me. I limped off leaving him no idea what to say. 
Key West has been looking particularly colorful after the recent rains and I was grateful Rusty felt like walking out to the Riviera Canal for a quick look. He doesn't usually care to cross the park for this view so the fact  we were there was a bit unusual. The only other place in Key West with private boat docks is Hilton Haven Drive on the north side of Garrison Bight.
It was a lovely tropical morning and we both enjoyed it. I like walking Rusty no matter whose toes he treads on, or worse, makes me tread on.
 Here are a few more pictures of Rusty doing his thing:

Saturday, June 22, 2019


Situation Overview from the National Weather Service:
The combination of temperatures climbing to the lower 90s and dew points – the value of temperature at which the air becomes saturated with water vapor (thusly-named as dew begins to form on objects at that temperature) in the upper 70s may bring heat index values up to the 105 to 110-degree range for several hours on Saturday.
These values will push heat index into the DANGER category, mostly likely in a period between 1100 am and 400 pm. Sunstroke, muscle cramps and/or heat exhaustion will be likely, with heatstroke possible with prolonged exposure and/or physical activity.
I'm not sure how I feel about a heat warning for South Florida. It would be funny if it weren't weird. It's always hot around here but the weather forecasters say it could be dangerously hot this weekend? I don't recall a heat warning being issued before like this. Normally the Keys enjoy hghs in the 90s, hot enough I dare say but 110  degrees seems unnecessary.I'll probably still ride the scooter to the gym today at noon. 
I wish the Lower Keys shuttle bus ran more frequently especially since the air conditioning on the buses is phenomenal. You could wear a sweater onboard a local bus and be comfortable. There are suggestions on how to negotiate the heat and if any of the "tips" come as a surprise you probably have other far more serious issues in your life to deal with. Drink water, stay out of the sun, use air conditioning and don't touch hot things. Oh and don't suffocate children and pets in your parked car. If that needs to be said one might very well despair for the future of all humanity but some cretins manage every year  to do just that. If its all getting to you wear light clothing and rest. 
I must be mad but I am enjoying the bright sunlight. We had tremendous rains  earlier in the week and it's as though the dust has been washed from the air. Colors are brighter and everything looks crisp and clean. And hot. Mind you if you came to the Keys in summer expecting to find a chilly reception you are definitely not paying attention.
When I showed Nick this photograph and asked him if it seemed odd to  see stripper car in a handicapped spot, with all proper documentation, he looked at me rather severely and said no, there's something for every taste, and I retreated suitably chastised. I can't wait to be able to dump my handicapped  tag but I guess I'm hobbling for a few more weeks. Maybe I should check out the scrub club before the moment passes. Probably not.
Rusty and I spent the afternoon curled up on the bed, me reading and him snoring. My wife escaped the heat by flying to Chicago to see relatives so  those of us left behind will hunker down with Netflix and chill.  I am a funny guy.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Moondog Cafe

Nick has fallen in love. His new favorite lunch place is on Whitehead Street across Olivia Street from the Hemingway House, a place that is always high on the menu of people visiting Key West. The prize winning writer and adventurer built the brick wall around his Key West home to keep adoring crowds away as he was quite popular even in those Depression era days (1928-1939) when Key West started developing a tourist industry to get the city out of bankruptcy.
Today it feels like we get no breaks from a steam roller tourist industry that cranks out crowds and cars twelve months a year and seems to flatten us all in its drive to sell Key West: The Destination. The good but about that is that Key West, the small American town of 23,000 inhabitants scores lots of interesting and modern places to eat. I grant you Indian food has never gained a foothold here but the town offers everything from Kazakh food to Peruvian  potatoes all layered over the staple Caribbean cuisine  brought over from Cuba and established here as the major ethnic kitchen. 
But then you see this little Conch Cottage with its own parking  and a bakery and tons of draught beers and a menu as long as Father Christmas' gift list. I'm not sure who wants lunch at 7:30 in the morning but anyone that does can find it here apparently.
Nick knows the score and kindly posed for the camera before we struggled to figure out what to order. I chickened out, in a manner of speaking, and retreated to the burger section of the menu finally deciding to get one with bacon and a fried egg. Steak and eggs sounded good and I had a hankering for pancakes but in the end I couldn't handle pages of menu and a sheet of daily specials and I went for meat in a bun. 
I'm not sure  what Moon Dog means in the literature but I did find this peculiar reference on Wikipedia. For your edification if not for your illumination. Check this out:
Louis Thomas Hardin (May 26, 1916 – September 8, 1999), also known as Moondog, was an American musician, composer, theoretician, poet and inventor of several musical instruments. He was blind from the age of 16.
Hardin lived in New York City from the late 1940s until 1972, and during this time he could often be found on 6th Avenue, between 52nd and 55th Streets, wearing a cloak and a horned helmet sometimes busking or selling music, but often just standing silently on the sidewalk. He was widely recognized as "the Viking of 6th Avenue" by thousands of passersby and residents who weren't aware of his musical career
Anyway  the server was charming and brought drink and food with a smile and she was properly rewarded of course. Meanwhile I noticed our neighbors were an Italian family and I studiously avoided engaging not least because one gets tired of explaining America to people puzzled by local customs and habits not familiar. After I took this picture of my lunch the father leaned over and gestured to his phone camera. I obediently pointed his phone at his wife and daughter but he said no no and  asked me to photograph my own lunch. Why? Damned if I know and I wasn't going to engage in tourist chit chat. I had Nick to talk to.
On the way out we passed the pastry counter and that looked interesting:
I love this stuff all geometric and colorful and enticing. So I stood and drooled for a while until they threatened to call the police and Nick got embarrassed.
Nice place but I have to go back and try something more adventurous and perhaps representative of their particular cooking. A burger is a burger and I should have fingered something else on that dastardly long menu.
Here's a Moondog Cafe Link.
Oh and there's scooter parking across the street. How convenient. The big silver one is mine. 

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Sun By Sun

I was urged down the trail at Little Hamaca Park by Rusty who failed to get tired by more than an hour walking downtown as the sun came up today. So to finish him off I stopped at the park by the airport. And there he led me down the trails to the Riviera Canal.  
Funnily enough at Mallory Squate where I had parked the car I saw a watcher at the water’s edge. She was facing west so I’m not sure what she waited to see. Perhaps it was her last moment of peace before work. 
Earlier I had noticed Nature’s moon small and insignificance outshining all the built up structures underneath. 
All thanks to Rusty for waking me before five o’clock in the morning. A wake up call I did not appreciate at the time!  

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Sheer Lunacy

There is a belief that the full moon brings out the madness in people. Lunacy is a term derived from  the Latin for  moon, luna so the connection between madness and the state of the moon has been established for a good long while. I read a modern discussion about the apparent connection between the moon and madness and the author suggested people may act crazy on well illuminated nights simply because the night on those occasions is not dark. It's not the moon, but it's the quantity of light reflected from the moon that makes people act up.
I resist these folk tales and fanciful explanations for the mundane but there is no doubt lunacy has been sweeping the nighttime streets of Key West. One character was wide awake the other night, a name well known t night shift police as he has a habit of going off the rails. The other night Manish was so far off the reservation he managed to take our breath away in dispatch, a place where we tend to hear the weirdest things about our neighbors.
Nick took the first call with a sigh and listened to a long outpouring of invective as Manish accused officers of violating his home. Then he hung up. Then again he called back and I took the call. He  screeched at me, blaming me for the violation of his home. He called me an eight dollar an hour monkey and threatened to rape me. He kept screaming "faggot" at both Nick and I as the night progressed. I found myself wondering what was really going on in his derangement as his anger on those occasions when the demons take over always expresses itself in love of money and hatred for gays.
Far be it for me to diagnose the madness but listening to him describe in painful detail how he plans to rape me with his giant penis is not a cause for alarm as this sort of thing happens all the time when callers are scared and angry and feel helpless. I wish there was more we could do than try to simply tamp down the symptoms, but in he end he is so insistent with his calls every couple of minutes we send officers to try to convince him to stop. Their visit helps inasmuch as the threats diminish and his calls become please for help. That leaves you wondering what on earth you can do for him. Eventually he sips off into sleep and the phone calls  stop. Normal service resumes in the 911 center. For us its a victory if we can juggle his screams for help while continuing the business of sending help to those who need it.
The full moon will be back soon enough but for now the nights will slowly be getting darker and I hope Manish's mind will be getting lighter. I find my early morning walks with Rusty are the perfect antidote to listening to the various streams of invective all night long. Just like Rusty shown above shaking off excess water from his fur, I shake off the night's madness.
I was pondering the weirdness of full moon nights, he domestic squabbles, the drunkenness and the general lack of civility when a job seeker was asking me about my job. That's when the nutty nature of my work strikes home. I am forced to confront the fact most people don't deal with this stuff when they go to work. Most people shuffle paper and deal with annoying people in the ordinary  way at their jobs while my colleagues and I sit there and wait for the deluge of nonsense to flood over us. The candidate thought better of it and is I believe applying for a more sensible, if less well paid job.
I don't think I could go back to a  nine to five Monday through Friday job. I am so used to what I do when I show up  that dealing with Manish and his madness or the guy who calls at random blurting out anti-Cuba  slogans is just part of  the night's work. I wouldn't mind if the full moon didn't concentrate so many of them into just a few nights each month bu a hectic pace makes the night go by. I'm coming up on fifteen years of answering 911 in Key West and the thought has only just occurred to me that this is not a normal job. There again I ask myself, what is?
And no one else has Rusty there to help them keep their feet on the ground.