Sunday, August 23, 2020

The Storm That Isn't

The worst thing about not getting hit by a  hurricane is the relief you feel at the expense of someone else. Well, I thought as I watched the storm's predicted path drop south of the Keys, very good I said to myself. Until one considers the rain and wind and wreckage of lives in places that can afford it less than we can - Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba... good for us bad for them.
Even though Tropical Storm Laura  never looked like a bad threat to life and limb someone in my position can't afford to ignore the weather. The storm was first thought to be arriving late Saturday possibly as a Category One hurricane which isn't necessarily dangerous but with work beckoning I was very likely going to be kept at work locked down at some point so all my storm preparations had to be finished by Friday night, my last day off.  So Friday was the day I piled up the garden furniture, secured the potted plants and for the first time prepared our van to be used either as an evacuation vehicle for Layne and Rusty or as a place for me to sleep while stuck at work. Rusty as always ignored the future.
Normally I would be left behind after they left and I would shutter the house and report to work with an overnight bag and the usual pillows and  blankets routine. During storms I sleep in the interrogation cells a monastic little room with no windows next to the main air conditioning vent which keeps the room cool and offers white noise to sleep by. This time I thought if there are to be no evacuations I could drive the van to work and live out of my own space. I took Rusty for an evening walk and saw others having fun. No storm worry here!
We drove to Marathon the three of us so my wife could do some in person computer work in her classroom, a place she rarely visits now she is teaching from home. It was very early in the day so we stopped for some grocery shopping followed by a bagel for breakfast. My wife has hunted down a rather decent bagel place with, close by, gravel parking suitable to a  21 foot Promaster van. A short walk to toasted bagels and worth the minor effort. Rusty sat out to enjoy the scenery while Layne raided the fridge and found cream cheese and peanut butter. She likes having her stuff with her in her kitchen and I like having my own tea so I have no objections to carrying a kettle and tea bags of my own. Contentment all round once Rusty had his chicken strip.
I suppose I have to admit the storm preparation was a good thing. I usually clean the yard and trim the trees at the beginning of summer but this year June was so unbearably hot, up to 108 degrees American (42 degrees Canadian) I did no outdoor clean up at all before we left on our coronavirus self contained vacation.

Now it seems the storm is tracking wide of the Keys and there is only a county wide request to remove boats and RVs though they aren't even asking tourists to leave. I suppose the economic devastation caused by coronavirus lock downs and  so forth make it that much harder to be cautious in the face of a what appears to be a mild storm encounter but I remember a time when this level of threat would have been met with evacuation orders all round. 
Things change and perhaps not always for the worst though it feels that way this year. Friends in our former home town of Santa Cruz California face a far worse hurricane season than we do at the moment. Tens of thousands evacuated, a hundred homes burned, history destroyed and wildlife displaced, all by the weirdly named CZU fire in the Santa Cruz mountains. It is a very peculiar thing but for many people who predicted the imminent disappearance of the Keys thanks to the effects of climate change extreme weather has done a number on the most unexpected of communities.

It comes back to this uncomfortable feeling of relief at other peoples' misery...even though a massive derecho storm wiping out towns across the Midwest doesn't relieve hurricane stress there is this irrational hope that a storm in Nebraska might make hurricane season in the Atlantic less of a threat...California wildfires are the manifestation of climate change therefore there's no need to wipe out a small group of islands already facing the stark realisation of sea level rise. The human mind is bizarre. Please God hit them and spare us and I hope the Red Cross is well funded this terrible year.
Just to prove a point the Board of County Commissioners is continuing to discuss putting a toll on Highway One. The idea they tell us is to raise money to pay for engineering to save us from sea level rise. Perhaps too it will become part of the turn away from mass tourism that gentrification brings. You may well need deep economic pockets to own property in a community set at three feet above sea level, when that level is inexorably going up and everyone wants the county to spend billions to keep their drives dry in the highest of high tides. It's going to cost a fortune. 
It seems Hurricane Laura will be someone else's problem, not ours -hurray! And I wonder at the change coronavirus or its exhaustion has brought about. A decade ago the possibility of a Category One bounding over from Cuba had all the evacuation alarms going (and overtime for me). Today coronavirus, a feeble economy and a new appreciation for the value of the tourist economy I guess, means the doors are open, the rain may be coming but your life, your presence and your dollars are earnestly sought in these hard times. Less hard times because we have no storm really at all. Someone else does happily for us in the Florida Keys. 

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Tropical Storm Laura

Well this is peachy. We are now under a tropical storm watch. I can't really believe Tropical Storm Laura is going to amount to much but I've been wrong before on this rather touchy subject. After Hurricane Irma I guess we will all be a bit touchy and now we have the coronavirus stuff to deal with as well it all seems rather too much. I'm working through Monday, I've put our outdoor stuff away so all I have to do is figure out how to get to and from work without being blown over. 

[Image of initial wind radii]

The National Hurricane Center definition of a watch is as follow:

Tropical Storm Watch is issued when a tropical cyclone containing winds of 34 to 63 kt (39 to 73 mph) or higher poses a possible threat, generally within 48 hours. These winds may be accompanied by storm surge, coastal flooding, and/or river flooding. The watch does not mean that tropical storm conditions will occur.

Flowers I Have Seen

Evanston, Illinois
Door County Wisconsin
Door County Wisconsin 

Bowler Wisconsin

Tomahawk Wisconsin

Naubinway Highway 2 Rest Area, Michigan
Gabriel Farms, Petoskey, Michigan

Grapes Not Flowers...Petoskey Michigan 

Sutton's Bay Sunburst, Michigan
Traverse City, Michigan

Cadillac, Michigan

Sparta, Kentucky
Sparta, Kentucky
Pensacola, Florida

Sugarloaf Key

Gratuitous Rusty photo, Sugarloaf Key

Friday, August 21, 2020

Clouds Of A Morning

Summer is rainy season which isn't so bad when you consider how hot it gets around here. The rain comes and goes usually pretty fast as this isn't the land of prolonged gray skies and drizzle. But the net effect is lots of clouds and sparkling lightning shows at night.  Winter is blue skies and cooler temperatures and stronger breezes but the drama in the sky is in summer.


I very much enjoy Michael Kenna’s Instagram account where he takes landscape photos of great delicacy and simplicity frequently with an unfashionable soft focus.  His photos are Superb examples of a photographer giving free rein to an inner voice we can only see through his images. In defiance of Instagram norms I mediate on his pictures for minutes at a time most happily between 911 calls. Check this out and then add his Instagram account  to your list: 

All I can say is I tried. 

Thursday, August 20, 2020

The Less Things Change

It would seem obvious to most right thinking people that running for public office is  going to be grueling, and winning public office will be worse. It's like becoming a social media sensation with all the calamitous character assassination and none of the money. And yet people keeping putting their names up for election in the hope they can effect change and in their minds for the better. This is an act of courage no matter how you view their positions on issues. 
On Tuesday voters in the city of Key West decisively re-elected the mayor to another term. She got 60% of the votes cast obliterating the 50% plus one hurdle of the primary race which seems like an extra noteworthy achievement considering the parlous state of political unity across the country and all the debates brought about by coronavirus. I don't vote in the city as I am a county resident but every decision she makes as mayor affects the Lower Keys one way or another. Many county residents like to moan about Key West's influence but in a county of 75,000 residents one third live here and the city has to be a powerhouse and a civic leader by virtue of that fact alone.
The next question is how will mayor Teri Johnston put into effect her ambitious program to change the face of tourism in Key West? It is possible the upset caused to the city (not to mention the planet!) by the virus may give her an opening to restart Key West's approach to tourism and cruise ships and mass marketing. If the mayor really does want to implement a move away from mass marketing to selective upscale tourism there may be no better time than this. Key West alone in the Keys has a gorgeous Old Town neighborhood and physical structures of a beauty found nowhere else in the Keys. It would seem there is an opportunity there.
Her first opponent Mark Rossi who owns Rick's bar railed against suggestions that mass tourism should be changed but with 20% of the vote his argument for more of the same did not find much favor. The other 20% went in slightly smaller actual numbers to Rick Haskins who ran a polite low key campaign of no radical suggestions at all. A Conch Haskins said he wanted to restore the town of his youth which appeal went only so far.
Whatever does come next was announced well before this election and the fact that 43% of registered voters turned out looks at first glance to be rather pathetic and yet the Supervisor of Elections was chuffed as that modest turnout is considered unusually high for a primary. On the back of this strong turnout she is predicting possibly 80% turnout in the general election in November. In fact the general election will settle a lot of questions about the future that we all have starting in Washington and drifting down to our own local communities but in Key West this mayor got elected on a platform of change so one can only hold one's breath and hope that the change is good.
The promise to try to attract smaller groups of high end tourists interested less in getting drunk and more in learning about Key West and it's history carries a certain allure and it may be a good time to implement such a plan as workers are priced out of the Keys in always higher numbers and frantic "affordable housing" projects spring up and fail to keep pace. I have enjoyed the history of this place and find there are many myths and falsehoods worth debunking as the true history alone is quite colorful enough. But I don't depend on slinging drinks for my living. At least not directly. What the mayor's hopes mean for hospitality workers will be interesting as they unfold to become reality and her hopes become actual plans. I wish her well as change always stirs up fear which tends to lead to raised voices.
The mosquito control board voted on Tuesday to move forward with their plan to release genetically modified mosquitoes developed by a British company called Oxitec. Plans for their release in Key Haven created massive protest so this time the release of the mosquitoes was approved without a location specified. A dengue outbreak in Key Largo may have helped the four to one vote but I have no doubt protests and lawsuits will follow. The debate over the proposed genetically modified insects is loud and furious and though I prefer to side with science from what I have read previous tests in the Caribbean have shown the modified mosquitoes effectiveness at reducing disease carrying insects doesn't seem to last very long. Nature still abhors a vacuum and apparently the effect of the modified mosquitoes declined after release in the Caymans. However the prospect of Frankenstein becoming real seems to animate most protestors and the way things tend to go wrong among humans combined with every degree of conspiracy leads one to wonder if the release is worth the trouble. I reach for my Deep Woods Off and am glad DDT has been banned. Genetic modification can wait, my walks in the mangroves can't.
Walking the Key West Bight I pondered my switch from water based travel to land based and I am content with my choice. Then I saw two forms of watercraft neither of which appeal to me but looked good through my viewfinder. Paddleboarding is popular with everyone except me and flats fishing seen below with the poling platform in the bow appeals equally little. Yet they are both beautiful things to look at.
I hope after the hubbub of 2020 passes into history there will be better things to look at than our failires as people and communities with better prospects ahead for everyone.