Saturday, April 11, 2020

Historical Monument

And today, in an effort to avoid thinking about the coronavirus we look at a small piece of Key West history. The substation is next to the old diesel generator plant at the end of Angela Street.
It was all before my time, built in 1890 and in use powering the city for 70 years. The Geraldine Street side of the building has become an art display.
Given the deterioration after fifty years of being abandoned the city planned to tear the building down. Once that plan was announced everyone suddenly noticed the brick structure and the drive was on to save it.
 Just over a year ago the Miami Herald was reporting a new set of plans for the overlooked building.
 "A Key West nonprofit will redevelop the crumbling former diesel plant into an interactive museum that features a microbrewery and restaurant. The goal of the museum is, in part, to reflect the importance of the historically black neighborhood of Bahama Village, which is largely gentrified and infused with art galleries and restaurants."
I don't know why but Rusty got it into his head that there was stuff worth sniffing alongside the building. Then he rolled in the grass which always requires untangling his leash and inbetween all this drama I wielded my camera.
 We were alone, it was sunny but not yet hot and I enjoyed the break before we had to resume our exercise plan. 
There aren't that many brick buildings in Key West so I take advantage of any opportunity to photograph brick structures. 
It used to be that bricks were brought to Key West as ballast in sailing ships, turning dead weight into cargo but that source of supply has dried up in the modern era. So brick buildings are not that common in a town made of wood. 
 Turning this building into something useful is going to cost an estimated $15 million and before the interesting stuff happens they have to make sure it stays up and doesn't turn into a pile first.
 The Key West Art and Historical Society has it's work cut out. I hope it turns out well.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Caroline Coronavirus

I got an e-mail titled "A Bunch of Rambling" from a  friend in Arizona. Thanks Bruce, now I've got to figure out how to write a page that is as interesting. I took Rusty up Caroline Street Wednesday when I was in town to get prescriptions and of course no one was around.  The Marker Hotel is silent and dark, which it obviously has to be...I normally walk by and wish the old Jabour's Trailer Park was still there. 
Even before the coronavirus problems it was getting harder to find quirky sights in Old Town, a  by product inevitably of gentrification. However as I trail along behind Rusty I keep an eye open. This one I liked (below) which has the capacity to bring a  gentle smile when you know the pineapple is traditionally a symbol of welcome in Key West. Which is why they are everywhere in home decorations and gingerbread designs. 
In normal times you'll see a line of people drinking coffee and reading papers on the porch so once again you get  a little jolt seeing the chain across the steps and the porch empty and the front door closed. 
Similar picture slightly changed by the presence of a homeless guy pedaling by. Nothing and no one else. I remember when the zombie apocalypse fad was its height and people around me would speculate how great it would be to have all debts cancelled and life lived at it's most fundamental instead of dealing with modern societal limitations. I wonder if those faddish thoughts have been pushed aside by the reality of lock downs and closures and too much time on their hands.
Hope your bike doesn't get a flat. Apparently bike shops aren't essential so you'd better get back to your spooning skills and dexterity with patches and glue and all that ghastly childhood drama. Rubber wasn't so durable when I was a youngster and roads were covered in trash so fixing a  flat was a required skill and aside from being useless at it, pinching the tube on the rim with painful regularity, I hated doing it.
 And then we close this day's selection of pictures with a joke that drifted past my dog and I as we strolled so I could not resist. I labeled it Hopeful Scooterist on Instagram.
And that was five minutes of your life you won't get back. So now I'd better go and see what Bruce is blathering about. Check your e-mails, you never know what you might find!

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Walking Alone

I was reading a  discussion on a  photography forum about how to use one's camera in these days of limited mobility. As the group has a worldwide readership it was quite interesting to see some Australians claim they are not allowed to use cameras when getting their daily exercise.  The state of Victoria has apparently outlawed photography, perhaps on the grounds that people might stand around in public pretending to exercise while indulging their artistic sensibilities.
Here in Florida you can go boating as long as you don't anchor in a  crowd, you can fish but not from bridges for fear of creating crowds, you can hunt and walk as long as not in crowds and you can even crowd each other out while praying. Oddly enough some European countries don't allow you to drive to a quiet place to get your exercise and you have to walk only in your neighborhood. That sounds daft to me as the main street in my subdivision is crowded with dog walkers, but look at this back road:
I have increased my circuit of trails and back roads in order not to bore my dog, or myself, and to look for things that catch my eye. The travel restrictions have emptied the Keys and now whether I am walking the mangroves or the city streets I find more time to look and see uninterrupted.

I am reminded of those children who prefer to invent their own toys rather than play with store bought items. Many roads have broad shoulders and thick impenetrable scrub and as unappealing as they appear close up I enjoy my time here as much as Rusty seems to. I feel lucky to live here in these hard times. I don't envy apartment dwellers and urban victims of lock down restrictions.
To be alone; it's a wonderful thing.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Golden Hour

Photographers call it the Golden Hour and you can sort of see why.  I am not a huge fan of sunrise and sunset pictures because I suspect I am not as good at them or committed as others who post extravagant bursts of color. In a moment of whimsy I put my hand above the lense and tried something a bit different. To my jaundiced eye it looked different or weird. 
I like looking at sunsets, they give me that feeling of clam that comes from appreciating the fact I've made it through one more day but trying to make an interesting picture...!
From time to time Rusty loves to run alongside the back roads for a change, sticking his head in the shrubbery, backtracking and chasing scents. Which gives me time to look around and enjoy being in the silence of a forested desert.
The moon is waxing, half full and full of light in the early hours, a big white half disc in the evening as it closes in on the full moon. I like a full moon even though it blots out the stars at night.
And I don't mind wool gathering either, spotting a weird shaped cloud, this one reminded me of a horseshoe crab. 
Then I wandered off road for a few feet and found some crocodile skin wrapped around a branch. Well, it looked like a reptile.
How Rusty finds joy in this under brush I don't know. 
I did get just a bit bored waiting for him to get his fill of the smells and I tried using the color selector in the camera. 
With darkness falling and all cars tucked up for the night I might have been on the dark side of the moon. The wind was whistling past my ears like it does when you are in a wide open space, and Rusty was panting as you do when you have had a good walk, all was well with the world. Sort of.
Long miles of emptiness. To passers by it probably looks like social distancing and responsible exercise. To me it is another day of the kind of social isolation that helps me get past another twelve hours of waiting for 911 calls.  
For Rusty? Its what he lives for.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

The Immobility Of The Mobile

I shall admit I am puzzled when I see marinas in Key West as full of boats as ever and the harbor filled with boats at anchor. Even as unemployment is rife and the purpose of being stationary escapes me I see no one taking advantage of their ability to be alone. Why I ask myself do they not disappear to some quiet anchorage by themselves, and remain socially distant in a giant natural swimming pool? 
I took the picture below a week or so ago, after Simonton Beach was closed and Rusty and I were taking a dawn walk. He said nothing, kept to himself and settled in for one more day of doing nothing much I suppose. Now that we are quarantined I feel rather as though we live similar lives even those of us with homes, no purpose no pursuit no objective other than getting through one more day. 
The homeless shelter on Stock island has increased capacity with tents and spread cots further apart and is now staying open 24 hours. I cannot imagine sleeping en masse pondering the virus in a population with so many health problems as it is. One's own restrictions get a fresh perspective. Bicycle isolation:
The parking lot at the Hyatt on Front Street is usually packed with rental scooters, but things have changed.  In pondering the immobility of people who describe themselves as sailors in Key West, people living on boats to earn a  living here, I have also come across stories of people traveling and living in vans reduced to immobility by the coronavirus lock down. Formerly fashionable van lifer Instagram and YouTube accounts have become quarantine diaries of young hipsters parking their vans and rushing home to their parents' basements to live in quarantine far from their "self contained" homes on wheels.
My wife looks at me severely when I express my astonishment at how quickly they folded and she admonishes me that they are young and impressionable not like old rigid mentally limited goats like me. I have to say that spending time on the boat together I find solitude quite pleasant and I fully anticipate being equipped to live apart in our retirement van if or rather when this situation arises in the future. Indeed we had already envisioned building our van to be off grid self sufficient and this pandemic hasn't changed our minds about that, for sure.
I wonder if the fashionable van lifers will think twice about going mobile after this business is over? I'd like to hope so, as all fads pass in time and if the passing of this one is speeded up I'd be grateful to reduce general awareness of people living off grid. For me the van is a way to travel in retirement, to see more of the world and be comfortable doing it at less cost. Fewer vans cluttering up the byways and parking areas and off grid locations the better. It seems a rather harsh way to make people re-evaluate their lives however. I'd rather we had no virus and no van fad either.
We like to think that adversity brings out the best in us and that isn't exactly borne out by the coronavirus fiasco. People living in vans are being hounded all over the world, angry locals react like medieval villagers faced with an outbreak of plague.  Solitude and isolation are the answer I find, not clumping together in groups for "safety."
I continue to live my routines supplemented by a couple of surgical masks my wife fortuitously had left over from my stay in the hospital in 2018. I have a wheelchair and a walker and sundry medical devices left over from the three months I spent in bed but so far only the cane and the masks are proving useful in my restoration to health. I keep the mask in my car and only wear it when I am anywhere close to other people as I find it hard to breathe. Of course we are now told the virus can linger in the air for hours after an infected person walked by while simply breathing. If that really is the case, and I cannot fathom such a rumor to be true, then we might as well all give up because we must be infected by now.
As of this writing 2 people in Monroe County have died from the virus, the other death being the local Keys economy but of that we can figure nothing out yet. 40 people they tell us are known to be infected which more than anything gives you an idea of few people among the population of 75,000 have been tested. And here is a truly mind boggling statistic:  I have heard that around 2,000 cars have been stopped and turned back at the checkpoints closing the Keys to tourists. People really do imagine they can still vacation here.
Indeed we read of a visitor who was turned back and who ran the checkpoint only to be stopped and arrested.  According to the story she wanted to drive a bridge in the Keys as part of her "bucket list" of lifetime achievements. Getting handcuffed may not have been one. The lack of perspicuity  brought to light by the pandemic is mind boggling. Either we revert to normal living and keep our fingers crossed or we get hard core and deal with this threat and get it over that way.
Had I a boat or a van and were I unemployed I would happily float out of cellphone range and pass my days eating my supplies and living large with whatever form of exercise were available. I doubt I would sit tight and count the ways my neighbors piss me off. I don't think I should prefer to spend the time locked in parents'basement either, assuming they were even alive to offer me refuge.