Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Election Day

Today they vote, do the citizens of Key West, for leaders to govern the city and its budget. A thankless task in my opinion and in the most watched race a second round of voting is expected as none of the three candidates for mayor is expected to get a simple majority of votes cast. 
Meanwhile back in the real world life goes on, people go to work, others struggle to get unemployment and tourists argue with themselves and police as to whether or not they want to wear masks, that endless tiresome tirade against common sense.
In the photo above we see Horace O'Bryant middle school a relatively new building that caused outrage by the sun blocking properties of its mass, mostly its height. My wife doesn't think it looks huge but she's about the only person I discuss it with these days as the public outrage has simmered down. I can't make up my mind. I suppose it is huge but I'm not sure it's too huge. 
Wandering Garrison Bight Marina and pondering the meaning of nothing very much at all I came across a gaggle of pigeons. I don't know if they have some sort of communication system but they sure did remind me of people hanging out in the shade talking about nothing very much. I didn't bother them at all by standing there and they didn't even get annoyed when I took their picture.
Garrison Bight is a place I like to go and be by myself and look at the water right in the middle of town. Even on scorching days I can be found lurking there staring into the depths from shade of the Palm Avenue bridge,  with the pigeons.


And make no mistake its hot though the numbers indicate it was actually hotter a month ago when they were telling us it was over 100 degrees. I'll take what I can get but it is August in the Keys.
I am astonished to discover by looking through old pictures that we have had my wife's Fiat 500 for 105,000 miles and eight years. Now she works from home for her last school year before retirement  and I take her 40 mile per gallon car to work. Time does fly by. 

Monday, August 17, 2020

Beyond Normal

A  few pictures from a quiet walk in darkness, old town Key West. I am not much of a  fan of photographing the moon as it doesn't seem to change much from month to month but on an excessively dark morning there was one solitary star which was I suppose the planet Venus. It usually is Venus when there is a star next to the moon but perhaps there is as much confusion up there as there is down here these days, who knows what normal is.
Everything is for sale. It always is, isn't it? However against the garish banner I saw the rather delightful door ornament. One thing about the pandemic is that it has me looking harder for stuff I don't normally see. The five dollar stores with their irritating barkers I try to avoid normally. 
I hope it was Venus up there in the darkness as that white spot seemed to be tracking Rusty and my progress down Front Street as we passed that weird bank which has been a landmark forever at the corner of Duval and Front. I've seen it looking just as it does today in photos from more than a century ago strange brick designs and all.
Fantasy Fest has been canceled this year of course and I caught this reminder of that fact.  I am one of the few who doesn't mind the week off. I particularly like how the new organizers were trying to get it back to a carnival and less of a tasteless strip tease in the streets, but there was always a certain pleasure in having a private holiday that mucked up normality for week. Fantasy Fest is that time of year when appointments get put on hold "...until after Fantasy Fest." Naturally the gormless side of the week off grabbed too much attention but I shall miss it this year. Then I'll only have, God willing, one more to go.
Reflection of a store window sign. Not normal at all but I liked the effect.
Bar pilots are out of work according to the paper and though one doesn't often think about their line of work when you do you realise that indeed with no cruise ships they have nothing much to do. Their boat tied up near the Galleon Resort probably won't see any before next year some time. Guiding large ships into a  small harbor seems a ghastly way to earn a living to me but the four of them apparently make a great deal of it so you know its not easy work. Imagine stepping off this metal deck onto a ladder off the side of a thousand foot long cruise ship moving through not so smooth seas... and then telling the captain where to park and directing the crew what to do. Not for me. Not normal at all.
 Key West muted. For now. Back to normal next year maybe?

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Bardstown Photos

There is no salt water nearby, no body of water at all, no fresh water lakes, no palms, no mangroves.
There is lots of history and as I have illustrated more historic structures than you can shake a stick at.
Bardstown sells itself along with a healthy dose of liquor and in that sense it is much like Key West.
"Most Beautiful Small Town In America." Certainly it is tidiest and most civic minded in the South.
You'd think Public Accountant's would know when to use an apostrophe; theirs is a  sign that is ugly.
Rusty  waited leashed outside but all he did  was attract sympathetic women fretting over his bondage.
 Motorcycle ride capital of Kentucky? 















Saturday, August 15, 2020

The House Of No

I like Florida summers. I used to be able to stand up and say that publicly, but 2020 seems to be on track to ruin that happy memory along with so many others. This summer has been so hot I was actually panting to see cooler temperatures on my driving vacation Up North. Daily "feel like" temperatures reported by the National Weather Service put the Keys this summer in the over 100 degree club, day after day. If a temperature doesn't "feel like" then what is it? I ask myself in my perpetual pursuit of the pointless question.  Weather wording confuses me but the suffocating heat is even more surprising, and not welcome and among islands where summers are supposed to be tempered by wind and water this is also confusing.
So it is then that I would normally try to get out early in the morning with the ever energetic hound but right after vacation we both were tired enough to feel the need to sleep in. so by the time we left home to look for a welcome back walk I thought of where we might find some shade. 
It was nice to be back for me and for poor Rusty who has had I am pretty sure a giant headache for three weeks waking up every day to unfamiliar surroundings and weird woods and cold temperatures such as no Miami raised dog would ever expect to feel. At last he was on familiar ground though I suspect some cool Michigan morning dew might have come as a relief for him too.
When you've been away for three weeks it can feel when you get back as though you have been gone for months, or lifetimes. That things remain familiar is slightly surprising. I was home.
Later this month the City of Key West is scheduled to go through a mayoral election that has the potential to become in hindsight a turning point. Three candidates and they are all hinging their campaigns on Key West's future. I am relieved to be a county resident with the ability to stand on the sidelines and watch what happens. The incumbent Teri Johnston is  Florida's first lesbian mayor, at least the first such acknowledged, but that happily is no longer a talking point in town though it has an interesting historical parallel as Richard Heyman broke new ground in 1983 when he was elected mayor and caused gasps of consternation which as you can tell with hindsight were vastly overblown. Hands up anyone who has heard of Heyman the pioneer gay elected official? See, it really never has  mattered despite the previous chorus of disapproval.
Johnston is suffering as all incumbents currently are, from multilateral criticism of her handling of a world wide pandemic as though she is supposed to know how to deal with a new virus when even the CDC has struggled. Aside from cheap shots Johnston has taken a cruise ship position that is coalescing into the Big Issue this summer. Early in the campaign the Spottswood development family threw out the notion of changing the way the city attracts tourists. They want to redirect tourism toward a more thoughtful, history oriented type of tourist, one with money and time and an interest in the town and its past. Which could sound alluring unless you happen to own the epicenter of the crass loud t-shirt wearing heavy beer drinking tourist economy currently powering the city's allure. Mark Rossi who owns Rick's complex on Lower Duval has stepped up to take on Mayor Johnston and his campaign calls for more of the same, full steam ahead and no changes.
It is without doubt a classic contest, the tall spare elegant mayor, understated and thoughtful against the loud sweaty angry bar owner who looks like a caricature of himself yet by virtue of longevity has proven himself to be every bit as capable of managing his life as has the mayor. Their positions are as obvious and clear and as different as their public perceptions of themselves. Which is the point at which the joker slips out of the pack and lands directly in their laps. This has become a three way race. Rick Haskins who runs a very successful property management and sales empire has entered the race making a total mess of the simplicity of the previously clearly defined two way race.
I should point out I know Rick Haskins and he was incredibly helpful and kind to me after my accident and I felt nothing but exceedingly grateful for his help and thoughtfulness. I have contributed to his campaign and could I wave a magic wand, I would make him mayor and hope to have charmed him and not cursed him To be mayor is I think, an awful thankless job in a town where gratitude and self reflection are in short supply. Having said all that I have no idea how he would do as mayor and neither does anyone else I suspect. He is the candidate of the native born and disaffected others.
Haskins grew up in Key West and I dare say he will corner the Conch vote though there must be some Conchs (native born residents) he has annoyed over his life, but I dare say his candidacy will draw off lots of votes.  Interestingly Haskins has only one official position if you can call it that: I was born here and I want to make Key West the nirvana it was when I was a child. On cruise ships and their size, he simply says he will abide by the results of the referendum which basically asks residents to limit the size of ships and numbers of passengers. Whatever might be Haskins' opinion on this divisive issue ...only Haskins knows. That could very well be a winning strategy in opinionated Key West. Nirvana cometh...vote for me and all will be explained. Vote by trust.
I am drawing to the end of my time in Key West so in the long term the outcome of this race affects me  not too much at all. My pension is managed by an outside organization and unlike many states Florida's pensions pay out relatively modest sums but they are funded to a blue chip level. Certainly compared to some state pension plans on the verge of bankruptcy. Nevertheless after I have gone walkabout for a few years I would like to come back to this city not as an employee but like so many of you as a permanent vacationer and I should like to find it in good health. Which of these candidates is the best for securing such a future I couldn't say. Who can?
I am not a fan of the Spottswood empire, an organization that from time to time appears in public and offers self serving plans in the spirit of public munificence so I am leery of the ideas proposed by the current Mayor.  Candidate Rossi presents himself as a bumbling residentially challenged mess, a facade which hides a shrewd businessman who understands the contra-conventionally inclined self image of the pirate city, and has made a solid living from pandering to it. He wants, understandably, more of the same and there is a lot to be said for not rocking the apple cart, especially at a  time when every other thing in life seems poised to tip into disaster. Rick Haskins? He has succeeded at every single thing he's done in a life that has included military service, tight family connections and a charming easy going personable manner. He could very well be the revolution that Key West doesn't yet know it wants. It's a Trumpian moment as the city sits poised to say we need change, lets go with the unknown quantity.
I was thinking these thoughts as I walked with Rusty in the thick oppressive heat of a day clearly not produced by global climate change, walking in social isolation because I enjoy it not because its mandated by a global pandemic (I am being a bit sarcastic here)...Passing this multi million dollar house which sits alone on a  side road I saw all the lovely signs proclaiming the new owner's mastery of his domain. No this, no that, no to the other. Early on they lined the public roadway with their rocks and tree limbs to keep people from parking at the end of the road. Apparently they have been educated as to the notion of a public right of way.  One day I was standing with my camera endeavoring to grasp an Edward Weston moment by turning the cactus into an abstract object when an expensive car with an older expensive woman inside pulled up angrily sounding her horn. "Why are you photographing my mailbox?" she screeched looking like Nancy Reagan with none of the grace, manners or poise. I calmed her down but that foul encounter put me in mind of the mayoral race. Just because they come down with money and an interest in history doesn't mean they are kind or generous or easy going. Some people think island time means acting slow or sleepy. Island time I have come to discover  over the decades means doing your thing and pulling over to let others do theirs. It is a concept harder and harder to grasp the more detached and paranoid we become.

I hope Key West makes the right choice for the future, and in their own way the thousands of voters in the city will be hoping the same hope whoever they vote for. I don't envy them because whoever wins the supporters of the losing candidates will stamp their feet and grumble and undermine whatever hope for civility there is in a world where local politics are infected by national dissent. We need a civics lesson: the real meaning of  1) Island Time. 2) One Human Family 3) Why The Keys Were Different.
It all hinges on a  vote. Key West I mean, Not Washington. That comes later. I hope Key West figures our how to cherish diversity, eccentricity and non conformity. A future filled with gentrified complaining retirees is not a future I would wish to participate in even if it were possible.