Saturday, January 20, 2018

Rusty And The Mangroves

I took these pictures a few days ago when it was warm and sunny and Rusty  and I were out enjoying the views.
On my grumpy days  I'd like a bit of variety, a hill or a valley, an oak forest, a  view from on high.  On my less grumpy days I like to see January looking like this in the northern hemisphere.
Rusty likes the cold weather of the recent fronts. He sits out in the breeze sunbathing and comes into the house his fur hot and his nose ice cold. So I was a bit surprised to come home to no greeting one day as I got off the Vespa. He was curled up under the car doing his injured feral dog protecting himself routine. He's done this before injuring his paw and then going into hiding in the bushes by the driveway so I knew something was wrong. Later I went to see hi and he hobbled out and squealed piteously when I touched his front left paw.
So there I was, my wife laid up with the cold I was just getting over and my dog laid up not eating, barely moving and moping on his own couch. The living room was a first aid post and I am not as good at playing nurse as my wife is. 
I don't know what Rusty finds in the mangroves, he reminds me of myself playing explorer when I was a kid  in the forests surrounding my home. I think he survived by hunting when he was abandoned, he must have done, and I suspect it's in his genes. to prowl. He doesn't seem to kill anything especially as there isn't much to kill except possibly crabs. In town he avoids chickens after being chased by them on the streets. These days he barely toys with iguanas anymore, occasionally catching one and walking away when it plays dead. To my relief he seems to have lost his killer instinct. We are  hunter gatherers at Publix after all and he does very well by my wife's food prep.
He goes splashing off and if I get bored I whistle and he comes trotting back though on my days off I let him come and go for a while until he gets tired. How he penetrates the roots and makes his way through them I don't know. Between us we take pictures and hardly leave footprints even. I have noticed a lot more trash and human waste on the trails I walk each week. I think of these places as rarely visited but it seems that for some people they make for cheap camping. I wish they would clean up after themselves. I suppose I look odd to them following my dog with a plastic bag but I'm no fan of stepping in shit anywhere.
I see tire marks but I don't investigate, I prefer to maintain my fiction that these open spaces, silent and bare belong to Rusty and I alone for an hour or two after dawn. It helps me to sleep soundly taking a walking with the dog after a night at work. Its  a bit like taking a walking in a desert only this desert has small green bushes and lots of salt water. So when Rusty loses his appetite for walks I find myself missing these wide open spaces. It feels absurd to delay going to bed to take a walk by myself.
I suppose one could protect Rusty from himself but I think that a life lived without taking a  chance isn't a life lived a t all. What measure of risk you can endure varies between people. And dogs I suppose. Luckily for my dogs I like lots of walks and walks with variety. Unluckily for Rusty he has to learn to negotiate the debris field that seems to have penetrated all corners of these islands  since the passage of Irma and the litterbugs that came in the wake of the hurricane.
I see the pleasure of a camp fire I just don't understand the motivation that says to leave garbage in the wake of you experience out in nature.
The injured dog in recovery pose. He never took to the open bed I thought was more comfortable but prefers the smaller bed that keeps him wedged in place. So be it. 

Friday, January 19, 2018

Hurricanes And Tourists

The newspaper says Hurricane Irma has set back tourism this winter by almost half so the county tourism people are planning an eight million dollar campaign to overcome the perception that the Keys are reduced to rubble like Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands. The deadline was set this week to clear debris off Highway One and along the Lower Keys they are doing pretty well:
Not so long ago that stretch of the shoulder on Ramrod Key was  a giant unending heap of debris, a staging area for collection and removal. From below to above, it's gone:
It took lines of trucks to get stuff cleared away. It went on daily totalling apparently possibly four million cubic yards throughout the islands. Though how they measure it I'd don't know. By whatever standard they measure it was supposed to be five times the amount of trash generated by Hurricane Wilma in 2005 which in my memory was a breeze compared to this one.
My own main side street has been the collection point for trashed trailers at the Venture Out RV park and wrecked homes and their contents on the canals in the subdivision. Finally it's gone and now getting swept up. 
It looked ghastly for months:
For visitors to Key West there's no reason to stay away as the city is almost unscathed except for a few pieces of trim here and there and a few trees and they are honestly not noticeable by their absence in the grand scheme of things. I haven't been up the Keys for a while but a friend in Marathon says things are looking pretty normal there these days. I intend to go look. I am steeling myself to check out Bahia Honda park and the back streets of Big Pine where the greatest damage was sustained but neither place is a reason to stay away from the Keys. Not now.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Burgers Galore

I don't know what's going on but I told my wife I was caught up in some kind of burger eating marathon. Two days  ago I had a burger in Marathon, and very good it was too. That night my wife, tempted no doubt by my descriptions wanted a burger so that was dinner and yesterday Robert sent me a text, as though on cue. We have our preferred place and we've been coming here for some considerable time. I took his picture in 2016 before Hurricane Irma wrecked my motorcycle:
Beer and Burgers, Key West
Sitting out at the counter at Bier Boutique on First Street, was perfect yesterday as the north wind hadn't properly kicked in and temperatures were quite mild. Rusty had been getting quite a few walks all morning before and after my exercise class so he was ready to relax:
Robert was also ready to do his duty so I could nothing other than follow his lead. I had a cheeseburger with some thick bacon rashers and barbecue sauce while Robert had the day's special which involved a bison patty salami mozzarella and balsamic sauce which he elected to have wrapped in rabbit food. They are very accommodating.
You collect your biodegradable (non Styrofoam) container from the window and there in front of you is a massive selection of beer and cider and all you have to do is ask. Luckily as it was Robert's turn to pay I didn't even have to proffer any plastic. I have yet to meet anyone who doesn't like Bier Boutique and they deliver food and beer if you are snowbound, or not feeling like getting up, in Key West.
Eventually we had to tear ourselves away from our comfortable perches and wide ranging  conversation as Robert had to be busy and I had a dog (and a hamburger)  to walk. I followed Rusty as he led me to Higgs Beach where I saw the shrimp boats at anchor hiding from north winds. They had calmed down a bit but now a new front is hammering the Keys with strong winds.
They can sit south of key West in flat water and wait for 30 mile an hour winds and temperatures down to the mid 50's to dissipate by this weekend. Today's predicted high, as i write is 60 degrees. I wonder why smart alecs Up North point out they have snow. Sure and is that unexpected? If you live in Colorado or New England do you have the sense to gear up for snow? Cold damp sea air makes it much colder here especially for people used to 80  degrees. I have no ski gear, our spare blankets are more like throws and when life is predicated on being outdoors this cold snap gets boring fast. I haven't ridden the Vespa in two weeks. By contrast I don't mind 100 degrees and high humidity in summer I listen to  those smart alecs complain about 80 whole degrees in a  July "heatwave." Must be tough.
 It was cold enough for easy rider Harley types to bundle up and wear helmets. 
It's cold enough to convince me to ride the car to work until this seasonal stuff goes away.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Lunch In Marathon

I had lunch with Webb Chiles yesterday and we had a good old natter, the mesomorph and endomorph sitting at a table in the sun together. Rusty was perfectly behaved coiled up at my feet watching the other people having lunch. Webb thinks Rusty won the lottery when I found him; I think it may be the other way round.

Check his (Webb's not Rusty's)  Amazon page - he says his life's work is art and he may be right but to someone stuck in an office it's high adventure too and eminently readable.
Webb's boat, the diminutive Gannet is docked in Marathon after surviving Hurricane Irma while propped up on land and is now ready to take off as soon as strong winds shift and seas calm down a bit. As he is busy completing his sixth circumnavigation I am not at all sure when I shall see him next but I will follow his progress on Gannet's satellite plotter on Webb's own page: inthepreseantsea 

My first attempt at lunch went badly. We drove to Key Colony Beach to sit on the water at Sparky's Landing. We found the classic hole in the ground on our second pass looking for the place. I never thought to check ahead; this place is an institution. 
Gone...I didn't come here often, maybe once or twice a year but I liked Sparky's with outside dog friendly seating, also overlooking the water with  a simple fresh fish and sandwiches menu. 
So I deployed the back up plan and we went to Burdines, the other "overlooking the water" restaurant that I like. This is a picture, below, from a previous visit with Rusty (and not Webb):
We got to see a few boats come and go, as the hostess, a part time resident told us about the downstairs damage caused by the hurricane and we ordered our sandwiches. I took this picture below, ten years ago and while the personnel has all changed the place itself has stayed the same through hurricanes and floods:
I want to go back and comb through Marathon a  bit more. The city is running okay but there is still clean up underway, and a new Marathon is coming out of the Hurricane Irma fiasco. Including I was surprised to see, a Courtyard by Marriott hotel. Marathon maybe transitioning from Keys fishing village to chain store stop on the Overseas Highway.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Dark And Stormy

If this is the apocalypse I'd be glad if they got it over with. I enjoy cooler winter weather for variety but ten days straight of wearing socks around the house gets old. It's now staying dark longer in the morning thanks to the thick blanket  of clouds blocking off  the sunrise. It's tough out here.
A friend told me I've lived here too long if this is cold.  I concede that may be true but I see no need to force oneself to live through ice storms if one doesn't have to, and I don't.  There is also the issue of retirement which looms ever stronger at times like these. What will I do in winter? Buy a parka and drive south I think are my answers. If Italy is the destination I expect over wintering in Tunisia and Sicily will be a decent facsimile of an ice free winter. Who knows perhaps a visit to Key West will be in order to see how they are wrecking the place in my absence. But thats a few winters away still.
All we need now is sunshine and highs back in the eighties please to keep me happy and comfortable.
My best answer to morning commutes in less than 60 degrees are handlebar muffs. They cost thirty dollars, are water and wind proof and slide over the handle bars and are held in place with velcro. They install in a minute.:
But I confess the past couple of nights I took the car. 57 degrees is just too cold with my tropical wardrobe. With our own staffing shortages I am working the next two weeks without a break. Should be interesting.

Monday, January 15, 2018

A Good Day

Traffic  this winter is as annoying as ever, aggressive scooter haters on the highway and clogged  streets in Key West so  I am counting down the days till the Easter exodus, impatient bugger that I am...I wish there were a left turn lane squeezed onto Truman Avenue at White Street, shown below looking inbound. Can't happen so the light is a choke point and always threatens to make me late for...
"Broga is a yoga class geared for men (where it's okay if you can't touch your toes). Strong, energetic,and challenging, Broga combines the best core-strengthening, muscle-toning, cardio-working, stress-reducing, clarity-enhancing yoga postures with functional fitness exercises for an amazing workout."  That's the official line and for some reason its a form of exercise I have managed to stick with for a couple of years now. Most weekdays at noon I end up on the boards sweating like you wouldn't believe and I keep hoping I will master it but the boss Sean keeps making it a little harder each time. I'm in a roadrunner cartoon, constantly failing to keep up.
I staggered out of Sean's studio on Truman Avenue amazed to be still alive and breathing and took the Vespa to work a few blocks away where I showered in cold water (memories of Hurricane Irma) and changed for lunch. I had a date, not that I needed to look my best for Nick. He and I have worked together for several years and he keeps mentioning lunch at Chico's Mexican restaurant on Stock Island.  I told him my wife doesn't like Chico's as it doesn't remind her enough of her California-Mexican food habits, so I figured I should get a guided tour as I like the place. Three tacos al pastor later...
We hung out for hours actually. Nick is a Conch who knows everyone and everyone knows him so he is a fund of entertaining stories. The time flew by. I had shopping to do for my wife who was coming down with her own heavy head cold. We went out into the parking lot under warm sunshine and I marveled to Nick how lucky we are that we get to winter in such a place. He got a bit grumpy at that because he likes the cold for a change having spent most of his life in the Keys. He had plans to go to New England to see friends but we are so short staffed he can't get the time off. No snow for Nick and he was bummed.
I rode over to Publix  zipping through clumps of vans and trucks and SUVs on the Boulevard to get essential supplies for the next couple of days. I thought some chocolate cookies from England might help the ailing wife (and me too) so I took a stroll down the international food aisle. I never really thought of Chef Boyardee as being foreign, but here it is:
I was a  busy bee doubling back to Stock Island to look for those vital powders used to clear breathing passages in those afflicted by colds. The new CVS is a bizarre building just outside Key West, a palatial drug store worthy of major mall construction in mainland USA. There are half a dozen competing pharmacies in Key West and they are adaptations of existing buildings. This one looks like it belongs in Homestead or South Miami with its vast spacious parking lot and bland all purpose look. But they did have what I needed and there was no line at the check out.
I got a slight overdose on the social front as i had to stop by Jiri's motorcycle shop to check on the orange Vespa which is in for a new tire and a tune up. Jiri showed me his very slick electric outboard for his kayak which set me thinking... a couple of two-by-fours, a car battery and a trolling motor and he is cruising the back country. Very slick. The Vespa should be back in service next week. All in order leaving me only to organize some cooking for dinner.
Let your dollars do the cooking...For some reason this cold that's going around doesn't kill your appetite so even to the stricken wife struggling at work a robust plate of Jamaican jerk sounded good. I got a plate for twelve bucks with plenty of food to share and that was the dinner done. Brilliant.
All that was left was a thirty minute ride home and fifteen minutes to console Rusty who cut his paw and left him as worn out as my wife and equally uninterested in going outdoors. Only I stood between the walking wounded at home and the dissolution of civilization. An excellent day in fact.