Sunday, December 28, 2008

Water is Healing

Picked up a shift on the boat today. A guy had broken his thumb and they needed a couple fill ins. They haven't been busy enough to give me a regular day on the schedule so I take what I can get until things open up. 

The people watching is spectacular. Really getting a glimpse into how someone operates is incredibly interesting and down here you see it all. It's a non-stop show.

What I really like about the water jobs is seeing grown adults turn into little kids. It's quite something. People are definitely affected by water and you see all kinds of transformations happening during the trip. 

One person could have never snorkeled before and comes back in awe of all the sea creatures that surrounded them. They squeal like a five-year-old listing off everything and what it looked like down to the most amazing electric blue markings they'd ever seen on a fish. 

Another person could be deathly afraid of the water but gets in, braves it and afterwards there is a huge smile that comes from a sense of accomplishment at beating back their fears. 

Or maybe you just see a group of totally different people looking out at the water in total silence. Almost meditatively. 

While watching a group on the front of the boat today, I thought how interesting it is. They are all seeing the same thing but will integrate it into their life story so differently depending on what their existence is. I usually watch them wondering what they're thinking or feeling looking out across the water. Most people look like they have a sense of peace. Something that possibly escapes them in their daily lives.

A memory of snorkeling at the reef will surely be filed away, but their individual experience - what it meant to them while being on the water; finding that peace - will trigger a range of emotions for years later. That itself kinda blew me away today.

People generally lose all their senses out there. It's hard not to. They walk onto the boat in a confident stride but as soon as we get moving it's like watching a bunch of toddlers trying to keep their balance while wobbling around; grabbing hold of whatever is in front of them. 

The boat people are fun to work with. They're a whole other breed of people. Adventurous, fearless, and funny. They live in the moment and just make things work. Like the time I heard a story from my captain who for a short time lived in his beat up station wagon at the dock he once worked at. The best part was he put an air conditioner in it. Power corded it to a nearby outlet and stuck it in his car window. He had it going for a couple weeks until the dockmaster caught him.

Or the guy who broke his thumb skateboarding. He pulled it completely out of the socket and it was bent back. Horrified, I asked him if he went to the hospital. Nope. He just shoved it back into place, wrapped it up and took some ibuprofen. My mouth hung open in awe when he told me he didn't go because he already knew what to do after having the same thing happen to his shoulder. 

Saw so many things I wanted to take pictures of but it was too busy I couldn't. It's Christmas week and that means packed to capacity. We even got an extra guy at the reef. He boarded and sat up on the deck for about 20 minutes until he realized he was on the wrong boat. He apologized, got back in the water and swam off.

The most interesting person was this older lady so terrified of the water but she was completely determined to get in it. Once in, she tried to talk her younger friend to go in with her.

"Water is so healing. You get such a sense of tranquility from it. It's healing. It's healing." she kept chanting as it washed over her.

She had a point. After a day on the water and my body and mind are tired but buzzing at the perfect frequency. 

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas, Y'all!

Merry Xmas, Y'ALL!!

We're all dealing with snow this holiday season. Some is just tastier than others.

Peace, Love and Happiness to All... 

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Baby, It's Windy Outside

Baby, it's windy outside. To say the least.

Got up today hoping to get out on the water but my snorkel boat trips were cancelled due to high winds. Damn! Better to cancel then to get out there and be stuck in a vomitorium. Nobody likes that - except for maybe the fish. 

Even yesterday it was kickin'. As I rode out to Stock Island to do my weekly kayak tour, the bike ride wore me out more than the kayaking. I weaved my guests in and out of the mangroves to save the lady who'd never been in a kayak before from experiencing tipping over. She did manage to get more water in her kayak than I ever thought possible. 

It's been quiet here lately. The calm before the perfect storm...Christmas week. "What are you doing for Christmas?" I am frequently asked by my non Key Westers.


I've gotten so used to working on holidays now, it doesn't even phase me. In fact I kinda like it. We've all been waiting for people to arrive down here it feels like a typical holiday anyway. Wondering if anyone will show and when. They're starting to trickle in bit by bit.

At home these days, I'm beginning to be surrounded by tourists. I moved into a cool little compound of cottages which was a majority locals to one tourist cottage. The tide has suddenly turned and now I'm gearing up for being a lone local in a sea of tourists. It'll be interesting.

If they are anything like my current tourist neighbors Dory and Greg, I'll be happy. Nice New Yorkers who brought the perfect guest. Their Great Dane, Reykjavik. Dory drove him down in a Mini Cooper. And if the name sounds familiar you'll thank your 6th grade social studies teacher like I did. His name is the capital of Iceland which I screamed out when I first met him. 

This week we got some new visitors in the other cottage. A group of five Ukrainian boys from Indiana. If that doesn't spell trouble I don't know what does. They've been clinking their vodka glasses on the back porch every day and yesterday they got scooters. They're only here for 10 days but I imagine that it'll end with one of them taking care of the llama at the prison petting zoo.

Since the boat got cancelled I ran around town doing errands, one of which was stopping by the library. I went to unlock my bike when a beach bum who was locking up gave me an update. Screw the NBC nightly news with Brian Williams. My most reliable news source these days are the bums. 

"The town is getting packed. There's a line of cars backed up on Truman!" 

And the tourist tsunami begins... Good.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Winter Solstice

Santa taking a break before the holidays.

Mrs. Claus getting a freaky deeky fantabulous tan.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Coconut Dreams

Free coconuts. My pier buddies offered me one the other day.

The seagulls were getting some bread love and I found out one of them is named Suzy. She's the most talkative one and squaks all the time especially when she's not getting enough attention. She's affectionately named after one of their old girlfriends who yapped all the time.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

What's the Happs?

Took a break from painting to take a quick jaunt to the water and see what kind of new stuff Ken has going on at his gallery. 

It was a nice overcast day and the weather was perfect. A light breeze and with a little water light show. Sometimes cloudy days are more interesting than the sunny ones. The water lights up into emerald, turquoise and jewel tones that pop out from the gray menacing skies. I just love it and have gotten caught in the rain many a time.

Ken is a local artist and has a ceramics gallery on White street called 7p7 Ceramics. He makes beautiful porcelain pieces that reflect the tones and textures of Key West. The one above reminds me of sand and sky. His studio is in the front of his house complete with kiln and wheel. It's a cool set up.

But really the star of this whole operation is Willie. Ken's lovable furry sidekick who barks like a madman when you scratch his butt the right way. Don't we all? 

WILLIE!!! WILBUR! or Williebear is what he likes to hear.

As we're chatting up about his new work, a stranger stops to offer flowers. Why that's so nice!  

He tells me to be careful cause the thorns are trying to start a war with him. I grab the beautiful flowers and give a very thankful thanks. That was a really kind thing and why I love living down here. 

He gives me very strict instructions to put it in the freezer at a very cold temperature so that it will live forever. "But nothing lives forever. And besides I have a very small, sad freezer that I don't want to shove this beautiful thing into." I try to tell him. 

He seems dismayed and gives me the instructions again and tells me "If you do this, you'll have it forever!!" I tell him I'll put it in some water when I get home and thank him once again.

After brief introductions, he tells me he'll be right back cause he's going to go pick me some more. "That's ok, James, I've got to be going anyway." I say. 

"Well next time I see you, I'll have some more flowers for you." he says as he rides off. 

Can't get better than that.

Beach Shot of the Day

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas in the Keys

Ah the holidays... It still makes me laugh seeing Christmas decorations on palm trees down here. There are some very large displays with possibly the biggest inflatable Santas that I've ever seen. And as always your locals take it up a notch.

Sometimes you see a creative way to use old road construction fencing. Who knew it could make such a festive bow?

Or you get your own neighborhood smackdown on the meaning of Christmas. I was riding down a street near my house where I saw two displays directly across from each other - both very different.

One was a very traditional, small, tastefully lighted Jesus and his furry friends. The other was a Santa orgy blowout complete with a continuous loop of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas", lighted moving alligator and gas lit tiki torches. 

It made me think of South Park's the Spirit of Christmas where Jesus and Santa fight it out. The best Christmas story, ever!

The Spirit of Christmas

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Bike Rides...

Bike rides are the way to go down here. My bike was the first thing I bought with the last bit of money I had.

Yesterday, on a trip out to Ross to look for some new work pants, I saw a whole lotta cool stuff. There are very few stores down here. It's Ross and oh uh, Ross. There's a K-Mart but as Rainman said "K-mart sucks."

So didn't find the pants but I did find a bitchin' wood panel station wagon. 

And a happy little For Sale sign where the flowers probably are working against the sale.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

State of the Economy

It's been an interesting month or so since I returned from Spain. I knew it would be a transition but didn't expect the oh so bumpy landing.

Watching the news over there, I got the sense that America was melting. I figured it was just the TV news over dramatizing the crisis as it usually does and that it would be OK when I got back. Uh, not so much.

I haven't started writing until now because I wanted some time to digest what I was seeing. Here's the best description of what that is:

Coming back to America at this extraordinary time, is like being a surprise guest on the Jerry Springer show where you find out that double-jointed Aunt Bertha is doing your boyfriend. 

As you try to get a grip on the situation and blurt out some disparaging words about your randy relative, mostly about how you can't believe that she's like that, she cries out "Oh no you din't!" grabs you by the hair and you get yanked into the chair throwing chaos on stage. 

That's pretty much how I see the current economic crisis in the country right now and how everyone is reacting to it. One big dirty brown snowball trying to sweep up everyone in it's path.

Even my usually "go with the flow" locals are in on it which was a slight disappointment. My customers are the first ones to ask about it. "How's business?" they say with an excited grimace offering you a launching pad for complaints. 

"It's slow right now but that's the time of year we're in." I say calmly.

"Really? I thought this was the busy time" they retort looking for a come to Jesus Oprah moment where we can all swim in the frothy stew of negativity and hold hands as the Apocalypse hits.

"No, January is when season really kicks in." I say bursting their economic bitching bubble. 

And there's this odd moment. A moment where they don't know what to say next since I have unarmed their opportunity to spew out soundbites from TV and what's been catfighted lately on the View.

"Oh." followed up by a lengthy silence. 
"Would you like more coffee?" I ask kindly.
"No, I'm alright." they say with a smile.

It started getting to me a bit. The negativity was palatable and I know things are crumbling but is anyone able to handle it? 

One bike ride later, I found them. The most stable people I have found since I got back. A couple of beach bums trying to feed a pelican a piece of bread. 

They were the happiest people I had found all month and they seemed genuinely content with the sun shining on them in the company of a few pesky feathered friends.

I watched as they tried to move it closer to the bird. He wasn't taking it and a couple little ones waited for the possibly rejected piece. We started talking and they told me if they had a fish like they usually did, he'd eat it.  I laugh and tell them that maybe they should mold the bread into the shape of a fish. He continued to push it cautiously closer to the bird until he flew off making a safe landing in the water.

We get to chatting and I find out that one of them is from Missouri and used to lay telephone wire for a living. He knows everything about copper cable and shivers when he mentions the weather this time of year back home. The other guy used to live in California but he just didn't like it - wasn't for him. He's back and really glad he's returned to Key West. They've been looking for their other winged companion but the pigeon that is missing a toe due to an unfortunate fishing wire accident is a no show today. 

"I hope he's ok." they both say. "It's not like him not to show up."

After a bit of chatting, I wave goodbye to my new friends and tell them I'll see them again soon. It was the nicest conversation I have had all month and I smiled knowing that there are some people out there who can live in the moment and see all the good things they do have.

I know it's rough for people. Corporations are a mirage of security. Something I discovered a couple of years ago when I decided to leave that life and it was a painful withdrawal. At times it was maddening to go against everything you had been taught to believe in, but in the end it brought me to a much better place and I wouldn't change the experience for anything.

I guess I know we're all going through that withdrawal in our own personal way right now but it's going to be all right. 

So for right now, baby steps. Let's put down the chair and slowly step away from Aunt Bertha.