Sunday, June 14, 2020

Florida Mountains

Photographer Clyde Butcher  describes Florida clouds as this state's mountains.  It is a description that I understand as I spend summers admiring these piled up heaps of humidity and rain and thunder and drama...this is how you  see mountains over what are definitely flatlands. 
I have accumulated an embarrassing number of cloud pictures over the past ten days with all the humidity we have been enjoying lately. Thunderstorms, winds and heavy rain have produced extraordinary sunsets and sunrises and piles of black and white clouds overhead. 
I can't help myself. I take pictures of them against my own physical will and I find myself snapping away like a mad tourist in front of  a national monument.
I love seeing the light reflecting off the puffy white surfaces of these snowy clouds. In the evening and in the morning you get a golden tint. 
I hope you enjoy looking at these pictures as much as I do, if not there will be more pictures tomorrow of something else so waste no more time here today. I will keep photographing these things and they will show up from time to time because I really like trying to reproduce the awe they create in my head.
I am no mountaineer but I love reading about people clambering at high altitudes. So I look up and wonder what it must be like up there. I've looked down on enough clouds from aircraft to know they aren't real but from down here they look  like solid and snow covered slopes, the places mountaineers send back reports. Mark Horrell is engagingly self effacing on the subject.
For timid sea level creatures like myself the clouds of summer are a welcome change from the crisp blue skies of the dry winter months. We can dream of mountaineering derring-do as we look at the pinnacles and crests far above us.

I got soaked getting this photo of the orange flower. Rusty and I trudged back to the car a mile away with my camera and phone wrapped in a plastic bag which I carry for another purpose and arrived back at the car like two drowned rats. The blessings of Florida summers multiply as getting soaked can hardly lead to hypothermia down here.

I told you there were lots, too many to count. I am embarrassed.

Saturday, June 13, 2020


A few pictures from around town. Southard Street mostly, things that caught my eye as I followed Rusty.

This pile of leaves marked for me a return to normal, no more drifting leaves covering the signs of a lived in city.  I was surprised what an effect that had on me, all the unswept leaves make Key West feel like a zombie apocalypse site.

Rusty at home. He has his bed, two couches, our bed  rugs and carpets all air conditioned but sometimes a hard tile floor appeals the most to the former street dog. Being photographed just annoys him but I do it anyway.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Holding One's Breath

There is, one has to admit a sense of life on pause at the moment, certainly from where I stand. Nationally we seem to be lurching towards a new future whose parameters are not at all clear which leads any sensible person to wonder what might be best, what options could be available, whither the United States? 
Key West faces its own challenges with a tourist drive economy struggling to balance the demands of an apparently insatiable virus against the needs of a population that thrives on tourism. Florida today reported 1900 new cases of coronavirus in the state but I'm not even sure what that means. Is it thanks to new extensive testing? Is it a result of more contacts between incautious people no matter what the testing regimen? Who knows.
I look abroad and I see an extraordinary phenomenon, where people all around the world are adopting the Black Lives Matter slogan making it their own. I feel as though we are somehow failing ourselves by not having that same belief in the value of our own merits. I wonder why we insist on allowing our leaders to ship production abroad when the Made in USA label, on whatever thing for thought it might be, gathers so much credibility. Hong Kong has been protesting for months and not a peep, lots of sympathy but not a peep. The US starts a protest and the whole world joins in. We should amaze ourselves instead of tearing each other up.
I watched the defund the police movement take root and I think as a slogan it is not very smart as it plays into the hands of agitators, but as an idea I doubt it will gain any traction. If as proponents suggest police should be police and social services should be boosted to take care of the indigent and mentally ill I'm sure law enforcement everywhere will cheer them on. But to reverse half a century of dumping social problems on police who have been asked to hold the line on creeping poverty and social isolation, mental illness and juvenile tantrums will take coordinated effort and lots of money.  We've recently seen how tax increases play among the very wealthy whose hands are out for any government bailout. They don't leave much hope for the least among us.
This week I voted on a contract proposed by the teamster for city employees where we extend for a year with no raises and no change. I trust it will pass because it's not a year to expect a city facing what Key West faces to start forking out money like the fat years past. I wake up every day glad to have a job and to live where I do, but the future here as much as anywhere else is lined with uncertainty.
Next week heavy rain is forecast as the latest in a series of storms and tropical "activity" sweeps past Florida.  You know everyone is more or less vocal around here about hurricane season which we started this month. September is the peak of the season and unlike 205 and 2017 which were good years economically 2020 would be a setback year if the keys get a fat strike. The idea of going through the grinder that Hurricane Irma put us through three years ago is unbearable. I look at my photos on this page, piles of garbage, wrecked homes, torn up streets and dislocated humans and animals and as irrational as it is I would like to plead the case for a break please.
Key West as a long history of boom and bust, appalling failures, destruction and rebirth. I have no doubt this unique city will restore itself no matter what because in the end Key West has what no other place offers. You can drive to the tropics without having to go abroad is the short explanation. And that in a. country where fear of the unknown is promoted as a virtue makes Key West priceless.
We are not raising an explorer generation though there are always an eccentric few youngsters ready to take a back pack and disappear, so what we need to puzzle out is how Key West will remain fresh and vibrant for the next phase of life before rising sea levels wipe everything out... Oh yes climate change is still there lurking, delayed perhaps by an industrially inactive 2020 and interestingly the city has taken note of that.
The city commission is putting out to bid a request for development of Duval Street to make this rather dreary main drag less of a drag. I noticed one of the proposal in addition to offering ways of spiffing the street up suggested their bid would concern itself with sea level rise mitigation. That should be interesting.
Proponents of pedestrian priority on Duval are making themselves heard of course but with an election this year the three candidates for Mayor are circling the cruise ship dilemma first. A return to normal or a focus on smaller more gentrified ships? None at all is not an apparent option but the debate should be interesting as summer moves forward.
I took a couple of pictures of the exterior of Charlie Mac's on Southard Street as a memento mori but I have no doubt something new will replace it in short order and this place will slip into oblivion just as have so many other apparent institution in a town that is an expert in renewal.  
I have no idea what the national future holds and I suppose we can hope for enough steps forward to calm the national waters. I am certain though that with minor tweaks and a few changes Key West will barrel on as always, the dream city surrounded by turquoise waters and astonishing sunsets and sunrises. Thats what makes this place so fascinating.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Mangrove Walk

I had a socially distant lunch this week which was odd but very pleasant, seated at a alrge picnic table in my back yard, shaded, overlooking our bilious green canal. 
We talked about the virus of course and impacts on our lives and families and so forth. Gary noted I had been resorting to abstract photographs in the absence of human frailties to document. I suppose a pile of colorful broken tiles dumped in the wilderness to avoid a landfill fee might count as "abstract."
I am astonished by the stuff I have seen over the years dumped at trail heads and even deep down muddy trails far from paved roads. 
I know the location of a very rusty school bus, the engine here, the distinctive roof there settled into the bushes out of sight and out of mind. A car with those 1950s wings is rotting into the tree growing through its rust not a mile from US 1. There used to be a Volkswagen bus in the shrubs on Sugarloaf until someone with lots of effort and time removed the thing. Clean up is a permanent state of affairs I think.
I see construction waste too and sometimes the contents of what looks like a life, a roommate possibly who left town and abandoned belongings, who knows, and some  strange people dump the usual mattresses and appliances. 
I find it annoying as I like these wilderness spaces and don't feel that dumping garbage is good for anyone or anything especially as we have first rate collection services for trash and recycling.
As with all county services everything has to be in triplicate for the lower middle and upper Keys but there are dump stations with full recycling services in easy reach. And I don't find them expensive but I guess others disagree. Now that sewers are self contained after decades of struggle dumping trash no matter how colorful could stop you'd think.
But I am odd I know as I find beauty everywhere in these gnarly tangled woods. I don't find many other people extolling the beauty of mangroves but I find them fascinating and peaceful and all the more so for splashes of color.
To walk in the woods, even if not Walden Pond woods is to see whatever it is you are looking for, a splash of color perhaps.
But never a pile of rust or heaps of tiles no matter how colorful.