Tuesday, April 28, 2020

White and Black

Walking White Street and seduced by the shoes and shadows. If you want color pictures return tomorrow to this page. today's untrammeled offering is a play of light and shadow as Rusty and I walked around White Street between Truman and the Pier.

This looked like a bunch of neighborhood kids passing the time of lock down playing in the street as once was common. At least in my youth it was normal to wander around away from home.
I prefer walking to cycling as being on a bicycle puts you in the flow of traffic whereas using your feet gives you time and opportunity to stroll and look especially when Rusty gets interested in something. 
I enjoy the light in the Keys which produces hard shadows and lots of silhouettes. 
One is taught to appreciate soft ambiguous light, the golden hour twice a day as the sun nears the horizon with the blue hour a close second after or before the sun appears and everything gets that cold tint.
I like the harsh sunlight of midday in the keys, especially when combined with a breeze to unfit my glasses as I walk.
These bushy sidewalks along Flagler Avenue near White Street create tunnels of light especially when I turn off the color image. Some photographers like to shoot in color and remove the colors in the computer later. I enjoy the act of photography more than I do fiddling with computer settings so I try to see in black and white and if it looks good I take the picture directly.
During the lockdown I have found myself pushed to think more and more in abstract terms, of shade and shape and indeed colors too as tomorrow will reveal on this page as did yesterday.
I was trying to explain the abstract nature of shadows and objects and a socially distant stranger wandering in his own exercise hour called me an artist which was a bit weird. I am just a wanderer with a camera.
Rusty exhibits how own leash tolerant patience when the mood strikes me to try and spot the sun through. bush. In the back country he wanders around me at will, running forward and falling back but on the streets in the middle of a grocery run he has to pause alongside.

I'm not sure what will change if the leaders move forward with opening up the state. I don't think the Keys will open anytime soon and I know I'm not going to rush back into a normal life until I see what is really going on. I find I have lost confidence in what I used to think of as daily life. I fear that may be the worst coronavirus legacy for those of us who live through this epidemic physically unscathed.

Monday, April 27, 2020


Roadwork scheduled for the Triangle is moving forward helped by the absence of normal traffic. Residents of the Lower keys, more than people in Key West itself, have been somewhat concerned (panicked) at the thought of the only bridge into the city being closed, even partially for construction. Is it permissible to be glad that the coronavirus has reduced traffic to a trickle? As you might imagine the beautifully marked lane shifts are simple to negotiate not only because they are well done but also because there is no traffic! 
I think everyone is hoping the bridge reconstruction at the Triangle goes at quadruple speed while we are locked down but the city isn't holding back. Downtown is getting it's own facelift while Duval Street is shut down. I love the new cut outs on the sidewalk. When I was in a. wheelchair I tried to negotiate three blocks of Duval by myself and I got stuck in those cut outs that were crumbling. Thats not going to happen to anyone else now. Brilliant. Plus the street itself gets a new layer of smoothness. Very good.
Naturally when people in Key West see the city spending infrastructure funds at a time when the economy is tanking leads to criticism. We do not live in a time when making. reasoned argument changes perception so for those who don't understand how and wy. government apportions money I shall say no more but the fact remains that capital funds have to spent on capital improvements. And this is the perfect time for the city to get ready for a new future.
My favorite neighbor, a chef who is the most stand up guy I know is leaving town taking his wife and child with him. By this time next week they will be living with his father in Central Florida and he will be completely out of work. He saw no future in the Keys. I dread the next hurricane season without Brian nearby. The city and the county are putting employees on furlough, suspending their pay while sustaining their health insurance and seniority with a promise to rehire when things change.  I am exempt not only as I have massive seniority but also because we are already short handed in 911. However our overtime is cut and we will find ourselves working two in the room a lot of the time as the three person minimum is suspended for now.  It will be tiring but we can handle it. And we still get paid and have work which makes us incredibly lucky. No complaints.
My wife gets to teach from home for the rest of the year and she too gets paid - yay!- even though she loves classroom teaching and being in a real relationship with her students. No chance of that for a while. The county has said the Keys will be closed into June at least.  From what I can see the checkpoints on the two roads into the keys are our lifesaver. Sheriff Rick Ramsay set them up with Keys wide support and stood up to the state when they told him to take them down. He has undoubtedly saved us from big city infection from Miami.  Planes still fly into Key West but they are mostly empty and bring back city residents who are all required to quarantine on arrival. Somehow we have been saved serious levels of infection even though only a thousand people have been tested. Our hospitals so far are in good shape and were it not for the economic hardship we would be doing fine.
People are putting together food donations and food banks, restaurants are donating and one hopes the people with money are supporting those efforts. I am more animal oriented and I look to the SPCA for a place where I can help. I look at Rusty and worry about people on the edge with animals. Anyway enough of that we all do our bit.
That's it really. Stories of fear and  mental anguish are out there and I hear some at work. But we could be a lot worse off than we are. And now a couple of gratuitous Rusty pictures.
Dog walking is the activity in solitude and there we were in the dark at Simonton Beach where he found some sand this side of the barricades. So he did his usual. Another successful stroll.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Greene Street

Rusty sits by my bed and pants. It takes a while but his tapping claws on the tile and his short sharp pants will eventually restore me to consciousness which in turn forces me out of bed and into the car. Rusty will tolerate delay as I gather my wits but the inevitable result is a walk for both of us. Which is why the sky was a deep dark blue and the palm was dark and of sunshine there was none to be seen.
 I peered inside the former Rum Barrel closed well before the epidemic. Like so many of us stuck indoors for most of our days I had been studying and thus learned a new trick. To get a picture through dirty glass put the lens right up against the glass and let the autofocus take care of the rest. To my astonishment it worked. The Internet was right! I cannot say the picture of the disheveled interior of the former bar is anything memorable but the fact that the shot worked impressed me no end.
Had it not been closed the ice cream parlor up the street appealed a lot more.  I miss the possibility of a spontaneous stop during. walk, the pause to buy. coffee or even an ice cream on a whim. I'm not saying I do it very often in normal times but the fact that the possibility is denied to me these days makes it frustrating. Yes I know, just one more first world problem.
I find myself seeing patterns and making pictures that in review remind me of the emptiness of our public spaces.  
The day starting to lighten up means my little vampire buddy and I need to start thinking about heading back to the car.
I think it was a quesadilla but whatever it was he found it irresistible which is odd as he never scrounges. I call it channeling Cheyenne because she was the master of scrounging food in the streets, never missed a thing and never suffered for her poor taste in scraps.  
I am amazed these lobster pots survive. Part of the lease at Conch Republic Seafood involves supporting local fishing  activities and there is a commercial boat at the dock so I assume these pots are part of that, the very rump of a formerly thriving fishing industry based out of this harbor.
Those are million dollar townhomes behind the wall. I like the possibility of a Key West where fishermen in rubber boots work next door to homes like these. Long may it last.
 Key West is waiting probably at least until June to see life start back up.  I wonder what that will feel like.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Colors Of My Walks

It's the weekend...big deal I suppose for the millions struggling to get unemployment benefits. In Florida it is particularly hard as the previous governor gummed up the system to improve his statistics. The current governor busted his predecessor as Governor DeSantis is getting grief he thinks should be going for Senator Rick Scott who used to be governor and catapulted himself to a job in the senate. Enough of all that, lock down unemployment, loneliness, all be damned- it's Saturday. Soooo...
In my struggle to find static photographs of a static planet devoid of humans I thought to myself: I see a lot of colors everyday. Jolly good, I have a camera that takes color exposures. 
So never mind beach openings, or social distancing, I see colors.
Colors, shapes and sunsets.
Stripes of paint.
The author of this vacuous graffiti below got arrested a while back, so it seems likely the self styled "southernmost wanted" vandal will fade from memory given time. But there are still signs of his passing violating the countryside.
Whatever Rusty leaves behind I pick up in a  plastic bag. Just remember that every time you admire him looking handsome in a  photograph. There are consequences...
More graffiti, incoherent this time so I took advantage of their blood red color.
The sky can be made to look excitingly blue with a  little digital manipulation. I set the white balance to tungsten (the light bulb) to create a blue emphasis.

I am trying to see colors where before I saw graffiti.
A leaf and a plastic tube covering a guy wire to a power pole. I looked hard to find the similarity and settled on the yellow color.
A hazy orange sunset filled the  sky that evening and I wasn't sure whether or not i wanted to thank Cuba for burning sugar cane on an easterly breeze or not. On the whole not. I know burning cane is necessary but I am not a fan of the subtleties of haze. Bring on the colors, primary colors preferably!

Friday, April 24, 2020


I live a strange life which sounds like a platitude in the time of coronavirus but what I mean is that after five weeks in Florida lock down mode my life hasn't changed that much from before the pandemic. I feel as though my life is strange because I haven't much changed my routines. My sisters in Scotland and Italy are locked down tight but they live on farms so they aren't trapped in tiny urban apartments with maybe a small balcony to stand on. To be trapped in either sister's location would be a delight for Rusty and I as they both offer (wet and windy) open spaces in northwest Scotland and (hot and dry) open spaces in central Italy.
In Florida we can walk our dogs, shop for essentials, carry a camera (unlike parts of Australia I am told!) and as long as we stay apart from each other we neither break laws nor imperil each other's health. I carry a hospital mask in the glove box, left over from my time in the hospital when I got MRSA in one of my surgical wounds. My wife carefully stored the wheelchair and walker frame and other bits and pieces accumulated in those three bedridden months so that we could offer them to anyone that might need them moving forward. Without decent insurance as I had, it will be horribly expensive to acquire those objects useful for a recovery at home and the idea was to have them to give away as I don't plan on getting killed again thank you. Aren't I surprised to be wearing a  mask that steams up my glasses and makes my face sweat in 95 degree heat.
Above we see the bust of Jose Marti the Cuban freedom fighter who died in 1895 in a battle with Spanish forces colonizing Cuba. He has become a symbol for both sides in the struggle between the Communists in Havana and the refugees in Miami. In Key West he is just another vaguely famous name of someone who made a brief temporary home here between battles. Certainly he would not have been in a  position to make a permanent home here  by buying the 1200 square foot house for sale in the picture below. Two bedrooms, two bathrooms for 900,000 dollars. A pretty little house on Flagler Avenue even with off street parking, but in this town such modest luxury is unattainable for most who actually live here.
I have a few people I would like to have a meal with who are now out of reach. I miss theater performances and the occasional movie at the Tropic. I am fed up shopping like I am on a military mission at the supermarket  or pharmacy watching out for the remotest possibility of close contact. I am grateful to Winn Dixie for their first responder hour Monday and Tuesday nights. I miss seeing the detritus of people, quirky signs that humans were here on the streets. I find it odd to walk streets that are essentially unchanging, untouched by human quirkiness and day to day living. I miss the sounds of the bustle of daily activity, the sense of passing through a stage set of human endeavor. I am surprised by how uninteresting urban settings are without humans occupying them publicly. I don't miss people so much as I miss the traces of their lives imprinted on the world around me. And I am surprised by this new awareness of the absence of people.
There is talk of reopening more businesses and public spaces. So far it is all rather vague as the premise is that as soon as new cases of the virus plateau and start to drop then the re-openings can begin. Only one thousand of 75,000 residents have been tested so far. How they will know when the incidence of new cases is slowing I have no idea. Based on public statements so far this situation seems endless. 
Gratuitous Rusty picture, resting on a  long urban walk.