Friday, May 8, 2020

Duval Street

I took these pictures a week ago on Duval Street and nothing much has changed so far. While we may find our leaders pushing to get things re-opened the amount of fear in the populace is effectively going to keep most people at home.
Key West lives on tourism, if that wasn't apparent previously it is now. Without millions of visitors this is a very quiet little town. Without bars no activity, with restaurants limited in their seating and selling food to go the sense of life and liveliness downtown is completely absent.
At some level I quite like it, wandering around with my dog, the Omega Man, wandering with my camera, looking not touching, passing other shadows flitting by and not always on the sidewalk.
For instance I have not recently noticed the decorations on the Strand which houses a pharmacy on Duval Street but was created to be a rococo movie theater: 
The Kress building at 500 Duval is also a pharmacy, there are so many of them in town, but like the Strand the original name, in this case a department store, remains:
Dog walking is a solitary pursuit. I find most people with dogs are terrified of their animals coming in contact with Rusty. Personally I find it a bit weird and sad. Dogs are smart enough to know in seconds if they are going to get along. If they aren't they part ways, they don't pull six shooters on each other or insult their parents. Better yet if the dogs are off leash and not feeling like they are defending you. A loose dog is free to avid confrontation unlike humans who seem to seek it out and impose their values on their peace loving animals. Where was I? The upshot of all that is that dog walkers will go to extraordinary lengths to pretend you and your own dog aren't there. It's quite funny. 
I read somewhere this state of affairs (coronavirus not dog walking) may continue for weeks or moths or years. I expect I shall be quite used to dodging packs of chickens and stray leaves on Duval Street by then.

Thursday, May 7, 2020


MIAMI BEACH — On the first day parks and marinas reopened since the coronavirus shutdown, Miami Beach police issued 652 warnings to people who weren’t wearing face masks and had to remove 145 people from parks after closing time, city officials said.
From the Associated Press last week.
I wonder what we will think of these signs as we try to put the lock down of 2020 behind us. I also wonder where Schooner Wharf scored toilet paper to make such an outrageous and generous offer:
Toilet paper has reappeared of course, only to be rapidly scooped up apparently. Meat is next on the endangered list as our formerly all powerful nation rattles and squeaks from crisis to crisis. The roads into the Keys remain closed, both of them, to outsiders so the re-opening of restaurants and other businesses, not bars and gyms though, is for locals only at this point. 
I don't really get what is happening and though I read many harsh angry comments on Facebook about everything I find myself unable to find hard facts about anything. The state of Florida is not reporting virus deaths anymore, conspiracy theorists argue this all political and I feel as though I am a n involuntary participant at the Mad Hatter's Tea Party with Alice. 
So I find myself looking deeper inward at this time. I stay close to home and I walk Rusty wield my camera and rejoice in my wife's newfound ability to cook beans easily in her Foodi Instapot. She can take dried legumes of any type and after re-hydration overnight have them cooked and sauced and full of flavor in less than half an hour.  I am finding myself somewhat indifferent to threats of meat interruptions. We are stock piling treats for our carnivorous Chief Security Office (Van, for the use of) as Rusty cannot seem to grasp the complexities of supply chain interruptions.
I find myself looking at these pictures, the last of my lock down series, with some small sense of nostalgia already. In essence a face mask, some sanitizer and your choice to stay home is pretty much the rule these days. Groups of no more than ten, stay six feet apart from people you don't live with and have at it. I have heard rumors of some businesses closing but the reality will settle in later. Key West has a long history of people and businesses coming and going. The debate over the value of the lock down will continue but it is a debate I do not participate in.
For me having a job, even with overtime cuts, means the urgency of re-opening is muted. Indeed we already find our call volume increasing at the 911 center as  people  take to the streets.  I have always had issues with the idea of being locked down with no financial support seems absurd. Italy was able to shut people indoors for eight weeks thanks to government funding and a shut down of most debt enforcement mechanisms. Plus health care is freely available to all so there are worries about losing work and health insurance. All of which make s a lock down bearable to some degree. 
Personally I think it's a bit rough to tell everyone to shut down when we already know most people have no financial reserves and then we read about large companies getting all the bail out money shoveled at them to add insult to injury. I'm really not surprised people are protesting the lock down. That they are doing so instigated by political groups with another agenda doesn't help things. What has impressed me is how level headed and rational most people have been in this impossible situation, acting with restraint, wearing masks, keeping their distance and being quite civil at least in the Keys. I ignore Facebook and all its bad manners, what I see n the streets is much more reassuring.
I'd like to hope after this over, whatever that means, that we see more effort put into hiring people at home, paying well and producing stuff our country can export to the world. It used to be so, and American machinery and industrial products were a mark of quality and reliability.  I refuse to believe doing things right, doing them at home and employing our own people will pout shareholders on the street or executives in the poorhouse. I think the virus has made me mad. I see the possibility of a better future. An American fture ina world grown weary of crap. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

The Sharpie Van

I got a call at work from the owner of a business that has been closed and it seems someone had warned the caller that the Sharpie Van had been parked in front of his place for a couple of days. I put in a  call for an officer as one is obliged to do but this is a small town and five minutes conversation with Dan the Artist would disabuse most people of the notion that he is a burglar in an easily identifiable vehicle that stands out even in a city filled with bizarre conveyances.
Previously posted on this page as Dan The Artist from June 2016. There is no denying he is different, an eccentric non conformist hold out who came to key West in September 2015 and seems never to have left. On the contrary he is now apparently moving into self expression in technicolor:
I cannot conceive of myself driving around in a vehicle marked for observation like this one, but by extension though my own van may be a plain gold shade does not make me any more a burglar than the distinctive Sharpie Van. Non conformity is a vanishing commodity in the Southernmost City.
I was surprised to find a sticker by the man recently arrested for defacing property with his four letter graffito, CYNE. Social media was his downfall as he posted a bit too much and in the end got caught. Southernmost arrested was where he ended up.
I take photographs and leave no trace of my passing and lately I have been forced to look closely to find things to catch my eye in the stasis of a citywide lock down. This little peach I found screwed to a fence near the Tropic Cinema. Two views:
Step forward and the picture suddenly looks like this. Holy hologram!
I was pretty much by myself so I had time to stop and ponder the weirdness some people surround themselves with.
Gratuitous Rusty picture sitting in the grass near the courthouse. He isn't actually annoyed, it's just how he looks:

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Getting Around

During the height of the lock down in Key West the people one might come across were few and far between certainly, but they also belonged to one of two categories, occasionally both at once.
One group, the dog walkers, are easily identified when one is walking Rusty, who stops stares and points with his nose when another dog is anywhere in the vicinity. The other group of people wandering apparently at random are cyclists. Some are going somewhere and others are meandering through a life not terribly compromised by the coronavirus.
The stationary nature of life I have documented with piles of leaves but for some bicycles life was frozen by the lock down and they find themselves deflating at a bike rack, frozen in time.
 Key West; the city where garden ornaments must be padlocked in place or be lost:
Mornings on a skateboard on Duval Street. I wondered, after the second time I saw him planted in the same spot if he were waiting for Juliette. Perhaps she was texting him such was his close attention to the screen.
In my misbegotten youth I recall driving a number of balky vehicles that had trouble starting and often found it difficult to keep going. Thus when I saw the coconut Jeep's electrical clips  ready for use I felt a stab of sympathy and nostalgia. 
I never drove vehicles as decrepit and picturesque as this but an elderly VW van can be just as difficult to keep functioning on the road. Looking back I have no idea where I found the nerve to tour among Mexico 's undisciplined traffic with that fragile machine or to lose myself in the deserts of Southern California with no cell phone or outside contact to send help should I break down terminally. That I am still alive is a tribute to luck more than good sense.
I wonder if I shall look back ever on this coronavirus period with anything other than irritation and revulsion.

Friday, May 1, 2020

No Visitors

I am grateful there is a checkpoint keeping people out of the Keys because I get lots of calls at work asking if the Keys are open. I don't know the specifics because that's not my job, I answer administrative calls to the police department and 911 calls on a separate line; I send help. I am not expected to know the schedule for city fireworks or the state of the highway in Monroe County or the height of the tides. No one keeps dispatchers up to date with information. Indeed Monroe County has an emergency information line and that's where I refer most callers as I wait for the next call for actual help. I do know the Keys are closed, you can refer to Facebook if you can stand the vitriol or Google or the link above if you need confirmation.
Our neighbors to the north are ready, judging by the questions, to come to pay the Keys a visit whenever they can. County and city officials are tussling with the answer to that thorny question and I don't envy them. Meanwhile Monroe County and the City have decided that next week businesses can start re-opening for people in the Keys.  The specifics are on official websites but roughly speaking businesses should stay at 25% of capacity and everyone has to be six feet apart. I await with curiosity how that is going to look. I don't think my life will change as I have no desire to be the guinea pig in the coronavirus laboratory of recovery. 
We live in a weird crossfire of health and economy, in a country where economic support for people is minimal yet where the lock down requirements are such that the economy is shut down entirely. In Europe it is politically much easier to lock citizens at home when the government freezes all payment activity plus pays people a stipend to keep them fed while stuck at home. That sort of support is nowhere to be seen in our kleptocracy where corporations and people of influence are so used to making off with the wealth that very little bleeds over to the working people.  and there they are stuck at home unable apparently to fly for unemployment and frequently not receiving their twelve hundred bucks, money supposed to sustain family through this crisis.
Key West sells an image and a reputation and a well deserved belief that Key West can deliver the escapist fantasies of people who don't live the "tropical lifestyle." Right now we have bugger all to sell of anything so opening up businesses in a slow limited fashion has to be done if there is anything to be opened at all in the future. Unemployment benefits will be denied we are told if people refuse t return to their jobs which, for people with compromised immune systems susceptible to the virus will pose an interesting dilemma.  the modern city of key West sells a fake past consisting of pirates and wild behavior sharply at odds with reality and even more sharply at odds with current behavior.
Pirates would not have trembled before a coronavirus and I don't think history records them being put off by the deadly yellow fever or even the threat of hanging. Modern piracy is couched in rather more life affirming language in modern America and all too often they call us from distant heavily accented countries to advise us our internet security has been compromised and unless we pay a ransom our lives will be destroyed. Some people believe these pirates and pay up, most of us have learned to pull up the drawbridge and laugh them off. For example most recently I heard they are offering for sale one day passes for non residents to enter the Keys. A while back modern pirates offered fake entry stickers for sale in Miami requiring the checkpoints to abandon reentry stickers and to demand to see local identification before allowing people to enter the Keys.
I doubt my wife and I will be going out to gatherings or sitting in restaurants like we used to in the good old days. She will teach from home the rest of this year and I work in a locked building where sanitary practices are scrupulously enforced. Why hang out in a  crowd after doing all that? some people think this lock down will have a lasting effect on habits but my experience is that for the most part things go back to normal after a societal shock. It may take time and voting by mail and increased deliveries may become a new part of the social fabric but people have always hung out in bars for reasons other than paying through the nose for alcohol. Those social reasons have not changed and bars I'm sure will flourish once again.
I enjoy the absence of traffic, the silence on the streets, the clean water in my canal when I go swimming, I like to see how the animals take up our space in the public place. I view those as positive changes, albeit temporary. I wonder how jaundiced our view of this crisis will be in retrospect. Once we get a vaccine and this death threat is truly put to bed (I hope) will we look back and say the shut down was worth it? Who knows.
I see gaps all over the supermarket still with odd items missing from the shelves.We are told meat may soon  be in short supply and the President is ordering meat cutters back to work. How weird is that? These are strange times when low paid immigrant workers  who are too sick to work by their own account are not only being asked to work they are being forced to work. My wife is learning to make delicious bean and lentil dishes in her Food Pot. Just in time I dare say for us to become involuntary vegetarians.
I can stand on a busy city street and see no one and hear nothing and take the time to compose a picture that stands no chance of being interrupted by a  passer by. The occasional walker or cyclist stays far away as though I had the plague. As indeed I may. The Keys are closed and are not expected to open before June. Meanwhile even as the checkpoints stay in place they ask us to help kick start our economy again with visitors. I have not come this far in this brave new world of no clear information, absent leadership, politics as usual, scientists sidelined to sit down in a. restaurant with a room full of likely carriers. To reopen the economy on a wing and a prayer seems to fit the bill of this world we live in where no one knows anything and we each make our own choices.  May we all, elected officials or members of the mob, make the right choices. I for one haven't a clue what they should be. 
Gratuitous Rusty picture.

Thursday, April 30, 2020


I have some pictures taken before the rainstorm this week. Clouds piled up overhead as Rusty and I headed to a nearby trail. The air was heavy and humid, I was cranking the air conditioning in the car.
Feels like summer I thought to myself. That's the time of year when sudden rain falls out of the sky and drenches anything underneath it. A short while later the rain stops and the sun comes out and steam rises everywhere and your glasses get frosty.  It felt like that when Rusty and I hit the trail.
My wife came here recently and was accosted by passing cyclists and not feeling like diving in the bushes to stay socially distant she decided that in the time of plague a narrow trail is too narrow for someone with a compromised immune system. Indeed, Rusty and I got strafed by a considerate but silent cyclist on our visit. The corornavirus is pushing people who have zero curiosity in normal times to stretch their boundaries and find lonely places to exercise. Very good for them no doubt but I am not used to sharing featureless mangrove trails with strangers. 
The trail was powdery  dry reminding me of a summer path in California where dust and dead grass line the trails.
Leaves are falling everywhere as though it were Fall in New England.
My pursuit of Edward Weston is hopeless nut a close up of a palm frond is my substitute for a cabbage. If the corornavirus lock down lasts long enough I shall be forced to photograph household objects in pursuit of Art. I hope that day never comes.
I like the outdoors.

Eventually we drove home, Rusty panting and me wondering how to justify another roll of digital pictures on this web page. And then summer arrived in the Keys. 
Lots of lovely cold wet rain. Everything perked up. Even me as I knew it would pass soon enough, but not so soon that my car didn't look shiny and dust free for a modest twenty four hours. All things shall pass be they drought or virus.