IRMA REVISITED

One year ago today, Irma hit the Florida Keys. Everyone is aware of the details. The damage wrought. I want to share feelings experienced. As I experienced them.

As Irma was traveling over the water, its pending arrival resulted in a knot in my chest. Irma was predicted as a category 5. It was heading straight for Key West.

My mind kept repeating…..Get out of Dodge!

Five days before Irma’s arrival, I did.

My escape to Birmingham took 4 days. Traffic unbelievable. Reminded me of newsreels taken at the beginning of World War II. Poland, Czechoslovakia and France. People in long lines walking away from danger. In Irma’s instance, driving.

The miles of slow moving cars added to the realization that we were all escaping a bad thing. Escape not easy. Mental uncertainty jumped in as to whether I would make it.

The gasoline problem added negative thoughts. Sometimes, no gas available. Other times, a 1 to 1 1/2 hour wait to get gas. What would happen if there were no gas and we all were left sitting in our cars on the road side?

People panic. I saw at a Pompano gas station, people on foot pushing and shoving to get at gas pumps with cans to fill. Their cars apparently already topped.

Food entered my mind. Suppose where ever I was or ended up, food ran out. How would people behave?

Whatever, I made it to the Thornton’s in Birmingham.

Now my concern and those of my other evacuees went to how Irma was affecting Key West and the lower Keys. Concern, big time. Glued to the TV screen. Anxious for every bit of news.

Irma came and went. Concern for friends who remained on going. Communication difficult. Cell phones non operable.

Thornton guests anxious to return home. Not only to look after their property, but also to help those who remained. The desire to be of assistance ran deep.

The trip home less crowded.  I waited a week after Irma before I left. No sense in returning without air conditioning, power, water, food, etc.

The view fine till I hit Marathon. Then the damage. Increasing the further south I drove. Depressing. Boats on the side of highways, cars in the water, homes flattened like pancakes, appliances all over, debris everywhere.

Islamorada, Big Pine and Cudjoe Key the worse. Unbelievable. Emotional. Tears running down my face.

Finally made it to Key West. Duval desolate. Dark. Power downtown a problem. People in the shadows. Everyone glad to see each other.

One year later, Irma’s foot print remains. Not everyone back in a home. Some still in tents. Food a problem. Jobs a big problem. The canals still plugged with sunken houses and boats. Canal cleanup only recently begun. U.S. 1 looks good. Go off the highway one block in many areas and it looks like Irma hit yesterday.

Recovery a big step. Even a year later, much to be done.

The thing that impacted me the most was the resiliency of the people. Irma gone. Damage left. Everyone pitching in to help. Neighbors and strangers shoulder to shoulder. Any mental depression long gone. Still a job to do and people getting at it.

Enjoy your day!

 

ANDREWS INN…..IRMA AND ME BOOK SIGNING NEXT TUESDAY

Irma and Me my second book. My first book signing. Next tuesday from noon to 3 at Andrews Inn.

I have a degree of fear and trepidation. Will anyone talk with me? Will anyone buy the book?

Three more experienced authors are participating also.

I visited Andrews Inn yesterday. First time. A quaint small complex where you would expect to find nothing.

I gave directions yesterday. I was wrong. Let me give them again.

Andrews Inn is located at Zero Whalton Lane. Finding Whalton Lane a mystery. It is located off Duval. Across the street from Viva Cafe. A half block off Truman going towards the Gulf.

Drive straight in.

Michael and Albena Dana proprietors. Bought the place 8 months ago. Put it in idyllic shape.

I met Albena. A young beautiful women from one of the southern European countries. She is all excited about the book signing. Their first. Told me food and drink would be available.

Albena an interesting name. My grandmother on my father’s side was named Albina. Excited Albena. My grandmother arrived from Italy. Met my grandfather in Stamford, Connecticut. They fell in love, married and moved to Utica.

If time permits, drop by the book signing. Sounds like a party in the making.

Besides the Andrew Inn visit, my yesterday busy. A haircut with Lori, lunch with Catherine at Sandy’s Cafe, and a manicure with Tammy. My afternoon.

Last night, the Chart Room first. Glad I made it. Interesting people and conversation.

I was chatting with John, Steve and Cindy at the bar. Got into my earlier blog concerning Key West homosexuality the winter of 1979-80.

Steve jumped right in. He and Cindy settled in Key West in 1975. Steve knew exactly what I had written about. A bad time for gays, a bad time for Tennessee Williams.

He described it as  a war initiated by a religious faction who wanted gays out of Key West.

I was chatting with David at the round table when Debbie and Eric came by. From Rochester, NY. Ninety miles from my home town Utica.

Debbie is a grammar school cafeteria administrator. Eric runs a liquor store.

Parents of two, grandparents of two.

Debbie and Eric visit Key West once a year. This trip they were staying at the Pier House.

Two guys came in. From Tampa. Visiting for a few days. One originally from Rochester.

It was a Rochester night.

The Rochester visitor a die hard Syracuse fan. We were in all our glory talking about Big Orange basketball and football.

John told me Morgan was stopping by. I wanted to see her again. My stomach said no. I was hungry.

It was off to Tavern ‘n Town for my diet prime rib. I am stuck at 32 pounds. Should have lost a couple more by now. I cannot complain, however.

Trump is destroying our country. Wake up America!

This tariff thing a disaster waiting to happen. Recall Herbert Hoover. The US was sliding into economic problems in 1929. Hoover knew he had to curtail it. He thought a tariff program similar to Trump’s would do the trick.

It did. But not the way he anticipated. The tariffs led the US into the Great Depression.

Trump is the Herbert Hoover of 2018.

Fifty years from now, Trump will be remembered as the person who destroyed the US economy, brought the US to its knees.

Unless he is stopped.

I meet the world in the Chart Room. Over the years, I have met three soybean farmers who own homes also in Key West. The soybean market has been great for them. They are luxuriating in money.

I can’t wait to see them again. All three told me China was their best customer. With the Trump tariff problem, China will no longer be their best customer. Not even their customer for that matter!

Trump cannot see the reality before him. He hit China with $50 billion in tariffs. China came back immediately and hit the US with $50 billion in tariffs.

Trump is not to be screwed with. He just announced he is considering another $100 billion in tariffs re China.

Trump’s head is in his ass. China does not scare. They are a major power. Probably the second in the world. Soon to take the US’s place as number one

Trump also forgets China is the US’ banker. The US borrows money easily as needed from China. The US presently owes China $1.3 trillion. China the US’ second largest creditor.

Suppose China gets pissed off. They could call in US notes, refuse to loan any further monies to the US, etc.

Then what?

Former Mexican President Vicente Fox was on Morning Joe earlier today. He took Trump apart.

Recall in January, Fox told Trump: “Your mouth is the foulest shithole in the world.” This was after Trump referred to African countries as “shitholes.”

This morning Fox referred to Trump as a liar, said NAFTA was working for Mexico that was experiencing full employment, was not aware of the horrible rapes by immigrants in Mexico that Trump has been talking about the past few days.

Money. Everything comes down to money. Fox said Mexico buys $40 billion a year of corn from the US. Because of the tariffs levied, Mexico was looking to Argentina and other South American nations with whom to do corn business.

As to drugs, Fox says the cartel problem exists in the US. He admitted drugs move through Mexico to the US. However, it was the American cartels running the show since the drugs were primarily sold in the US. He could not understand why the US never approached eradicating the drug problem by declaring war on the American cartels.

Fox added that Mexico was opposed to the military deployment along the border that Trump was pursuing in recent days. Not needed, he said

His position basically was that Trump is crazy, does not know what he is doing. Mexico will not be stepped on. He mentioned as evidence that the Mexican Senate very recently passed a resolution calling for suspension of Mexican cooperation with the US re immigration and drug trafficking. Retaliatory to Trump’s moves re tariffs.

Enjoy your day!

 

HEART OF AMERICA

The heart of America was represented in the Chart Room last night. The very spirit and essence. Family businesses.

One, the Bair family. Ohio people. Have owned and operated Bair’s Concessions, Inc. for 60 years. Three generations. Business headquartered in Lancaster, Ohio.

Bair’s Concessions provides food services to traveling carnivals. Hot dogs, cotton candy, etc. They move around as the carnivals do. Bair’s has its own staff, vehicles, equipment, etc.

Hard workers. The season six months. No time off.

Key personnel include this generation’s parents Brent and Nikki, their son Trent and his wife Annie.

The family spends 3 of the other six months annually in Key West resting up and enjoying.

Met them through the blog. Annie and Nikki regular readers. Love ’em! Bought Irma and Me, also.

John told me Annie had been in and out of the Chart Room for two weeks looking for me. She and mother in law Nikki wanted to meet, Annie wanted her book signed.

The Bair men quiet. The Bair ladies talkative. Vivacious women.

The other family business involved Phil. From Milford, Connecticut. Phil here with Christina for Don and Chris’ wedding. Don’s company and Phil’s do business together.

Phil has a home in Tuscany.

I have no further information re Phil and Christina. We were seated at the round table with Don and Chris. The wedding was primary conversation. The Chart Room noisy. And I was on my way to one drink too many.

Fortunately, Phil and Christina will be here for the wedding. I will probably see them tonight at a pre-wedding party. Definitely at the wedding saturday night.

At the bar was the new love of my life, Morgan. John’s lady. A hug, a kiss and great conversation.

Ted from Wampsville still in Key West. We have to get a dinner in.

His friend Ken with him. Ken from Canastota. Both small towns in central New York. Thirty miles from my home town Utica.

Chatted a bit about onions. Canastota is the onion capital of the world.

When Anna would drive me around rural Novara, we were surrounded by rice fields. As far as the eye could see in every direction. Same in Canastota, except they are onion fields.

I left the wedding group. Had enough for the evening. Headed to Tavern ‘n Town for dinner. Lamb chops. That’s all.

Lynda and Bob Frechette came in for dinner. Two of the loveliest people in Key West. Friends. I enjoyed my coffee with them. We chatted about things going on in Key West.

Some of the Key West roads are in abominable shape. Depressions, not holes. Come upon you suddenly, however. I hit one hard the other day. Something broke under the car.

George at Zip Automotive does my repair work. Dependable and reasonable. I dropped the car off to George yesterday. He drove me home. Later in the day he returned to deliver the car back. Need a part. Has to come from Miami. Three days wait. No problem. Car can be driven.

Zip Automotive is on Maloney Avenue on Stock Island. Three or four doors up from Roostica.

George a working man. Owns the garage. His hands and clothes coated in grease. Fiftyish. A conservative. Knows what he is talking about. Especially, numbers. Better than me. Loves Trump.

We are diametrically opposed politically. Love talking with him!

Today, a Louis day. A haircut, manicure and pedicure. With a lunch in between at Sandy’s cafe. Cuban cheese toast with tomato and a large Cuban coffee. A favorite meal.

Today, World Water Day. Purpose to raise awareness re water scarcity, how to preserve it, and how to use it safely.

W. H. Auden said, “Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.”

Enjoy your day!

 

 

VOODOO

I mentioned Italy’s immigration problem in yesterday’s blog. Based on personal observation and as reported to me by my friend Anna who lives in Novara. Novara is near Milan.

Anna reads this blog everyday. She responded to yesterday’s blog with a long e-mail. I share excerpts from it. Italy’s immigration problem is different from ours in certain regards.

Italy’s immigrants are primarily from Africa.

“Italy is going down and down…..March the 4th election: right wing will win. Italy is fed up with politicians, mainly of the present government, democrats who packed Italy of immigrants mainly negros and mainly crooks, delinquents. It seems some do voodoo rites!!! Last week in Macerata negros killed, in a flat, an 18 year old girl, chopped her body with knives and machetes, washed them putting the pieces in 2 suitcases and abandoning them faraway in the country. But there was not her heart and bowels!!! Eaten??? A voodoo rite??? Soon after, a crazy white young man in order to revenge the girl, went around downtown Macerata and shot 6 negros injuring them seriously. I could go on…..”

Anna’s husband died several years ago. He served as a national Senator for years and then 8 years as a member of the Prime Minister’s Cabinet. At one time, she sent me a photo of her husband and Gorbachev their heads joined together in what appeared to be a serious conversation.

Spent a couple of hours at the Chart Room last night. John bartending.

Lovely Morgan at the bar. My charming 26 year old friend. A big hug. We talked alone at the round table for two hours.

An amazing young lady. Whoever is fortunate to win her over is going to get a great wife. She’s a keeper!

Friend Sandie at the bar. She introduced me to her visiting friend Janie from Philadelphia. Go Eagles!

As I was leaving, ran into Devon at the bar. I see Devon about once a year. A farmer from the midwest. Owns a condo in Key West.

Devon is a smart farmer. He and his brother own a huge farm. They did not fight the big corporations that entered the agriculture business. They joined them! Happy they are. The right move. They have prospered.

Diana Millikan is off somewhere. She travels the world. She e-mailed me yesterday. One of her Hilton Haven Road neighbors told her there were gun shots around 4:30 in the morning. There were. This morning’s Citizen reports a man staying at the Banana Bay Resort was shot in the leg.

No arrests yet.

Irma hit September 10. Its effects still with us.

The canals remain impacted with house, boat and tree debris. Non-navigable. Nearshore waters, likewise.

Monroe County has entered into a $6 million contract with Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection to begin a clean up.

Many still are without homes. The homes either completely destroyed or the owners do not have funds yet to rebuild. FEMA and the insurance companies have been unreasonably slow in making payments.

These people have to live somewhere. Some in tents. Others in hotels. FEMA announced yesterday that they would extend hotel time at FEMA’s expense another month till March 3. There will be further monthly extensions. This part of the Irma problem not being resolved.

Mom’s Tea Room. I have written several times about Mom’s Tea Room. A Key West house of prostitution. Alice Reid the madam.

On this day in 1941, the body of working girl Cecilia Thompson Trunk was found in Mom’s. An apparent suicide. On the same day in 1952, another body found. Rita Brown, an apparent suicide also.

Mom’s was a busy place. A big U.S. Navy clientele. The Navy had many stationed here. The Navy did not like Alice or Mom’s. Morality and venereal disease the reasons. They closed Reid’s place a couple of times. A smart woman, however. She would pop up in another location. Closed finally in the 1950’s, never to open again.

Same sex marriage. Its time had come. The world accepting/falling into place. One nation at a time. Till now.

Bermuda reverted.

Bermuda’s law recognizing same sex marriage was less than one year old. Bermuda’s President signed a new law yesterday banning same sex marriage. A reversal. A win for bigotry.

Those of the same sex can live together with all the same rights and benefits as if married. The new relationship called a domestic partnership. The title married neither available nor recognized.

Have to hustle. A haircut with Lori at noon.

Enjoy your day!

 

STONE CRABS BYE BYE

Tonight ends the stone crab season. My favorite food. At this time each year, I think I have not eaten enough.

Supposedly a good season. Overall catch and dollars appear down. Not by much. I will advise the numbers when they are out.

A major industry. A year ago, I recall mentioning the number of tons shipped to Asia. The major market for Key West stone crabs.

Spent yesterday afternoon writing.

Last night, celebrated Mother’s Day with Donna and Terri. Dinner at Duffy’s.

I finally returned! Yanna, the manager, came running over. The prodigal son had returned!

Terri looks fantastic! Absolutely amazing considering what she is going through. Next weekend the ladies drive to Tampa. Donna has a week long series of tests scheduled at a Tampa cancer hospital.

I wrote yesterday about Thelma Strabel and Reap the Wild Wind. Mention of the film could be found in the Key West Citizen’s Historical Section this morning. Paramount’s photographers had completed their work on the film and left for Hollywood this date in 1941.

One of Reap the Wild Wind’s stars was John Wayne.

Two Trump updates.

Media reports the past several days claim Trump runs around screaming at the TV set every time the Russia links matter is shown. The screaming is to have occurred both before and after the Comey firing.

Concerning the law firm letter Trump released last friday. It basically gave Trump  a clean bill of health. The certified one  as Trump constantly states. As if certification gives any truthfulness to its contents.

Two oddities re the letter.

First, it is written and signed by the Washington law firm of Morgan, Lewis & Bachius. The firm was named “Russia Law Firm of the Year” in 2016. So named by the London based legal research publication Chambers & Partners.

Second, the letter was dated March 8, 2017. It was not revealed/made public by Trump till May 12, 2017.

I conclude on a happy note. McDonald’s is as American as apple pie. There are 36,899 McDonald’s worldwide. U.S. ambassadors!

Enjoy your day!