why key west

It has been four years now that I’ve been living in Key West, a life changing and challenging move to say the least. Not once have I regretted the decision to live here. While the reasons for leaving my Maryland home are many and complex, the choice of Key West came down to one element – I wanted a village  – and I cannot think of a more navigable, comfortable and compassionate village than Key West.

I wanted to live without a car – in part because it would eat up dollars designated for housing, but also because I came from a car-centric environment that I found foolish and excessive. I could hear the rebel in me (a powerful and sometimes guiding force) chanting on a semi-regular basis, “Screw you. I don’t need no stinkin’ car.” Choosing to be carless required a grocer, a drug store and coffee shop within walking or biking distance, requirements that other locales provided but Key West is flat and warm and small – I can’t imagine biking in a Georgetown or Fells Point or Rehoboth or Charlotte year-round. And yes, there are lovely villages like Charleston (which was a contender) but Charleston is so southern (racist) and so vanilla (white), and all of Charleston (like Annapolis) hops into their vehicles to shop the strip malls that circle the city – something that I didn’t want and something that Key West does not have.

I wanted to live simple – and the isolation that comes with living in an outpost makes it very doable. When there is no Target, no Walmart, no Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Kohl’s, no Home Goods, no DSW, no Nordstrom Rack, no major retailer other than Home Depot and Ross, buying habits, be they conscious or unconscious, fall by the wayside – when the goods are not available, you do without – and life is simpler. Oh, of course, Key West has a love affair with Amazon, but it’s easy to tire of online shopping and the rush of an impulsive pick up at the check-out line doesn’t exist.

I wanted a community, a safe community, because I would be living alone for the first time in 40 years. There is little to no crime here, I’ve walked and biked the streets alone at some very late hours and have never been concerned for my safety. And despite the hoopla associated with Duval Street, the residential sections of the village are extremely quiet, conservative by comparison. We don’t dress up down here. Make-up and hair styling are for work days or travel. We feed each other with mangos and avocados and star fruit and lobster and shared novels. We help maintain each other’s yard and home, we lend time and tools and an occasional vehicle. We all understand that we’re stuck on a rock in the Gulf Stream and it somehow becomes exclusive and special. We are special.

But yes, there is a compromise attached to my Key West address –  the heat and the humidity, the most likely of reasons I would consider a move (along with the cry of a baby on the opposite coast). Friends and family are still scratching their heads over my decision to live in the tropics as I’ve professed a dislike of summer my entire adult life. So it goes. I cope. I spend July, August and September indoors, I’ve become accustomed to a thin veil of moisture on my body at all times, convincing myself I have less wrinkles as a result. The Gulf and Atlantic waters are bath like, and there are hurricanes, bugs, lizards, mold, rust, a lot to deal with in a tropical climate. The solution, and how I would like to spend my retirement, is to leave the island during the summer months – but I’m still working, and working on a plan.

I’m still a Key West virgin. I know nothing of the waterways, have eaten at only half the restaurants, and I’m only beginning to experience the depth of the artistic life that Key West affords. This little rock is facing some enormous challenges in the time of covid-19. Business are closing left and right, the service industry has been knocked on its ass, all those big ticket festivals that feed the city have been canceled and the fight with the cruise industry has reached fever pitch. Day-trippers, bored covid shut ins from Miami, are not the most respectful of tourists. It may be years before this village is healthy once again. I know several residents talking about leaving Key West for good, those who can’t find work, can’t pay a mortgage – but that’s a universal challenge at this time. I’m one of the lucky, my finances are sound, my needs are met, my wants are few, no regrets. It took a village.

a letter to my friend, a trumper.

My dearest, darling Mr. Manchester,

Well, friend, you asked for it, and you actually asked the question several times—why do I hate Donald Trump? You deserve an answer, a thoughtful one, not some hastily written FB entry. So here goes, a long and self-indulgent rant, a cathartic purge perhaps, read on at your own risk.

A notion that you like to expound on is “haters gonna hate, hate, hate” (right?), and in a recent FB post you’ve gone and put me in that hateful haters category. But it’s my position that when you or anyone posts a politically motivated/inspired paragraph or two on FB, it’s fair game for discussion. I don’t name call, I try like hell to not use ugly adjectives, but if you post something that I think is nonsensical or inaccurate, I will call you on it. Is that hate? Do you post to garner 10 thumbs up from your pals and that’s it? Is the affirmation of like minds all that you seek? What’s the fun in that? Because I disagree does not make me a hater, Mr. Manchester, and I’m a bit offended that you feel that way. And because I hate one man, it does not make me a hateful person. I would also like to point out that your passive/aggressive style of writing is riddled with hate, craftily woven so that you can always step back and say “who me?” but still evident to all who read your postings. You’re a smart man, Mr. Manchester, you know that.

Why I hate Donald Trump, in no particular order of importance, just thoughts as they come:

I hate the bullying and name calling. I think the slandering of John McCain, Elijah Cummings, Greta Thunberg, Lt. Colonel Vindman, Nancy Pelosi, Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski and countless others (public servants, members of the military, heads of state) is horrific. Thunberg is a child! Seriously? She should be attacked by a 70 some year old man, the PRESIDENT of the UNITED STATES? With death threats from the unstable to follow? Because why? Because she believes in science? Bullying is the weak man’s show of strength. Is this what Trumpers consider “telling it like it is?” Too make fun of people, to belittle those who threaten your position, your ego, your weaknesses? To call those who challenge you “pig face?” Who’s the hater, Mr. Manchester? This brandishing of hate is acceptable? Never mind presidential, this is just flat out rudeness, a person that I would never associate with were he a neighbor.

I hate the attacks on the press. Men and women just doing their job, day in and day out, administration after administration—showing up whether it’s Kayne West as president or George W. Bush. Several presidents have had a difficult time with the press, big deal, comes with the job, yes, the press has fucked up, yes, there is plenty of bias in reporting, everybody knows all that. But…show me ONE article that is UNFAVORABLE of Trump that is not labeled FAKE NEWS. One article. One article that is critical of the president that the White House has acknowledged as true or partially true. One critical article/commentary that doesn’t get the FAKE NEWS treatment. Do Trumpers really think that their guy doesn’t fuck up, Mr. Manchester? Is all criticism FAKE, unwarranted, excessive? Why are newspapers and reporters losers? Why is not possible to have a working relationship with the press? Why the need to constantly be on the defensive, to continually whine about coverage? You do something or say something, give your reasons why, the press asks questions, you answer without histrionics, the press writes about it and shares with the public. I don’t know and I’ll get back to you are acceptable answers. Again, and for the umpteenth time, as stated by the Supreme Court (Justice Black) in their ruling for the Washington Post over Watergate coverage: the press is in place to serve the governed, not the governor. The press is certainly flawed but it’s all we’ve got, and we do have choices in our news coverage. Look to communism for a society without a free press.

I hate the lying. As of June 1, 2020 (according to the Washington Post fact check analysis, make of it what you will), Mr. Trump has made 19,127 false or misleading claims in 1,226 days, the majority of which pertain the economy, the border wall and taxation. I’m not about to enter into all of those lies, Mr. Manchester, but will say that the border wall folly is particularly irksome. The caravans of Mexicans to garner fear, the urgency/necessity for the wall, the efficiency of the wall, the funding of the wall, the progress of the wall, really, all nothing more than a crock of shit, a nightmare for engineering, for environmentalists and for those who have to shuffle designated American dollars to save Mr. Trump’s face. And no, his economy is not the best in history. Look it up should you care to.

I hate the dismissal of science and the dismissal of those who are experts in their fields. When Mr. Trump claims to know more than doctors, generals, scientists, historians, clergy, teachers, world leaders, members of the UN, members of the judiciary, members of any number of world health, peace keeping or charitable organizations, I just cringe. That kind of arrogance is unacceptable, never mind dangerous and unbelievable. Why does Mr. Trump feel the need to say such things, to never let up on the braggadocios crap? A book in itself, a psychiatrist’s honey pot. Do people actually believe that he knows more than generals, that his instinct is spot on, that he has the military experience to make certain claims? Is that another example of “telling it like it is?” Telling the informed, the educated, the academics and the hawks that they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about? How on earth does that serve us? How can American grow, compete, lead without the education of our people? Were it not for science there would be no “Space Force.” Were it not for science, Mr. Manchester, our life expectancy would have long passed, and this time, this conversation would have never have come to be. Someone I know calls this behavior on Mr. Trump’s part pragmatic. I call it pig-headed. Again, imagine this kind of talk from your neighbor, you know, the guy that knows everything, the guy that nobody takes seriously because of his absurdity.

Are you beginning to regret having asked the question?

I hate his racist positioning. Yes, without question Mr. Trump is a racist, and should you care to dispute that I would say that you are not at all aware of what racism is (then again, there are many who are fine with racism so this ranting means nothing—I am not one of those people). From his attacks on black athletes, immigrant congress persons, his “very fine people” white supremacy support, his support of the Confederacy, to his current Kung Flu position, he stokes and stokes and stokes the fires of hate. Have you read any of Mr. Trump’s Mt. Rushmore speech? His very own racism is now part of his re-election platform! Please, Mr. Manchester, please stop your China slams. I have a Chinese family and the harassment of Chinese Americans is on the rise—thanks to the unfounded, uneducated words of Mr. Trump. Have you ever been to China, Mr. Manchester? Beijing, perhaps? If your answer is yes, you might possibly have some insight as to how small, insignificant, how petty and isolated we are in our American cocoon.

I hate Mr. Trump’s denial of climate change and his pulling out of the Paris agreement on climate. I hate his backward direction of trying to bring back the coal industry. Even the coal industry realizes the futility and the stupidity in that. His support of fossil fuels is for lining his pockets only. If there is some other reason, please let me know. The clean air industry can be an economic boom should anyone care to investigate.

I hate what Mr. Trump has done to immigrant children and their families. Inhumane. Nothing left to say.

I hate that Mr. Trump is a misogynist. If you care to dispute that, look up the ways that misogyny is manifested.

I hate that our deficit is now in the trillions and there is no accountability. There was once a time when the GOP claimed to be the party of fiscal responsibility and less government—not the case anymore and has not been for some time. The numbers are easily accessible. Bail outs and tax breaks and incentives for the wealthy flourish while social services are defunded and eliminated. Trickle down economics doesn’t work, never has, never will. The rich get richer, darling, and well…you know the rest.

I hate that the Trump family is profiting from their White House occupation.

I hate the attacks on Obamacare and the constant efforts to dismantle it. Why? And with what to replace it?

I hate Mr. Trump’s response to COVID-19. Horrific, uneducated, dangerous, his arrogance, I believe, behind many deaths. Self-serving rallies during a pandemic, economic and political knee-jerking. WTF? And the fact that Mr. Trump could not/would not address his nation, his constituents, with any compassion, reassurance, concern or condolences regarding our health is unforgivable. It is cowardly, the antithesis of leadership. The number of American deaths due to COVID-19 has more than doubled the deaths in the Vietnam war and there is still no plan, no guidance from our administration. Task force my ass. Books will be written about this debacle.

I hate Mr. Trump’s dismissal of Puerto Rico.

I hate Trump’s connection with Evangelicals and the notion that Mr. Trump has a connection to God, period. God sent us Trump? Seriously? God doesn’t pick the Super Bowl winner, Mr. Manchester, and he doesn’t pick presidents. I see no connection between Mr. Trump and Christianity.

I hate that Mr. Trump dismisses our allies, insults them, belittles them. You want to debate/negotiate with allies? Fine. Don’t dismiss. It would be most reassuring if our president had a knowledge of history, historical reference, the path laid before him, if he could understand and appreciate diplomacy. Sadly, that is not the case.

I hate that Mr. Trump doesn’t address gun violence, mass shootings and the reality of domestic terrorists. I hate that he leads people to believe that Democrats will take their guns away.

I hate the tweets. One day Mr. Trump sent over 100 tweets—over 100 in one day! And guess what—the tweets had nothing to do with policy or international relations or domestic relations or game plans for a better America. They were attacks on people, businesses and institutions that opposed Mr. Trump. Wow. White House High School.

I hate the blame game. I understand that pointing the finger at the other guy happens on both sides of the aisle but Mr. Trump has taken it to new heights. EVERYTHING gone wrong is because of someone else, in almost all cases, Mr. Obama. As in his COVID response and the dismantling of the pandemic response team, Mr. Trump claims, “No responsibility.”

And I have to stop.

How do we pick our favorite quarterbacks, Mr. Manchester? I would think that we first pick on skill, experience, the understanding of the game, with charisma/personality, relationship with the press, community, moral standings, etc. coming after. I would like to know why you like Mr. Trump, why is he your QB, tell me about his skill set, his accomplishments, his leadership. How does he bring our team together? Your turn to tell me what you like about the man. I am crazy about you, Mr. Manchester, I really am. I don’t want to change your mind, I just like to look into my own. This writing was more about me than you, thank you for indulging me. You are one of those special people who passed thru my life quickly but left a profound impact. I’m sorry you think I’m a hater.

dear ivanka

Dear Ivanka,

I had such high hopes for you, dear Ivanka, I’ve always said that. Fashion was your strong suit, wasn’t it, dear? I sold your dresses at Lord & Taylor, I wore your dresses (at Lord & Taylor), they were a perfect fit, I loved them. And I always thought you had some smarts. I don’t think any Trump qualifies as “the brains of the family,” but you had your own path, your own vision, right? And then, I don’t know what you were up to after I left the department store (not a big enough fan to be a follower, although I did see you on Apprentice a couple of times), but the next thing I hear about Ivanka is that you married that weasel-ass, crooked, little man. Was it an arranged marriage, dear? Probably so. You really could have done so much better. Anyway…what happens next?…history is made and you’re in the White House, girl! Holy cow, how did that happen?! My, my, such a rise in stature, in responsibility. And are you still working on Pennsylvania Avenue and could you please tell me WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON OVER THERE? Daddy’s got dementia, darlin’, could you please get him some meds or put a muzzle on the bastard? YOU, girl! Step in there, sister, DO SOMETHING. He listens to you, right? Save the fucking world, Ivanka, you could be the first female president (screw Hope Hicks), get the old man outta there! You could have a big-ass resignation parade, all the bells and whistles. Tell your idiot father it’s the military hoopla he always wanted–and in his honor! The crowd would be huge! I’m serious, they will name holidays after you, build statues, take the reins, baby, DO SOMETHING! He’s losing it, honey, probably your only chance to save the family name (hmmm) is now.

And ditch the skinny husband (ew) .… And get a decent speech writer … And manufacture your clothes in the USA, you dumb ass.

Sincerely,

The Women of the World (and KC)

in the presence of babies

I have been scolded for my cavalier attitude of the corona virus pandemic, I have been questioned if my trip to Atlanta to help with my son’s moving was really necessary. My foul mouth is once again under fire (no surprise there). I suppose it has been confirmed by those who know me and those who don’t that I’m a hard-ass bitch. I suppose that’s true. On the positive side, I am consistent—what you see and hear is what you get. There is a heart of gold underneath for those who care to look. For those I’ve offended, my apologies—I’ve had quite a bit of experience in that department. But I’m not writing to defend or explain my behavior, my thoughts, words or actions—I am writing about what happens in the presence of babies.

If I were to put the experience of babies into one sentence, it would be that the world as you know it (this pandemic world, in particular) doesn’t exist. There is little to no talk of disease, no old people chatter about infection and contamination—dirty diapers come first. Snotty noses, coughs and colds are a way of life. There is no end to the consumption of milk, juice, yogurt, snacks—the trip to the grocery store, drug store, can be done with one’s eyes closed and quarantine can easily become a fleeting concept. There is no whining about missed movies, concerts, travel—there are videos, baskets of books, enough toy cars to drive a nation of sick folks to the hospital (my knee is actually bruised from hours of racing cars on all fours). A smile turns to tears (and vice versa) in seconds—determining the reason may take a little longer. Your sleep, your hunger, your sanity comes in fits and spurts. Babies rule the roost and self-indulgence doesn’t exist. Facebook is a time sucker that you have no time for. And so on and so on and so on.

My children are exhausted and I get frustrated in not knowing what to do, how to soothe when mommy walks out the door, how to help with packing a household amid the chaos and constant interruption of toddlers. But I’m here, agile and grateful that I am physically strong enough to handle it all, and I fall asleep with only one thought—that the babies live to experience a better world, a dream perhaps, but one that I cling to. I am needed and I am loved. And can think of no better way to face a pandemic.

without truth

Without truth, without transparency, how does one come to believe that their interests are aligned with the president? Does “telling it like it is” equate to telling the truth? Does political rhetoric not apply to the “I hear ya, heartland” speech, does coarse language and bullying make the message more true?

Without science, without education, without compassion, how does a nation grow, compete, lead, survive? Without integrity, civility, what is the value of humanity? Are we no better than animals? Does one think that entitlements are for the entitled, that trickle down economics exist, that less government is the way to go but budgets and deficits and accountability mean nothing? Does one believe that a robust stock market equates to a higher quality of life among the populace? Does one think that words like “fake” and “haters” are answers to legitimate questions? Does one think the president is above the law? Would this belief apply to a president of color, a female president?

What brings on this faith, this allegiance? Certainly not the truth. The president’s lies number in the tens of thousands, they are daily Facebook fodder, truth in word and action buried by bravado. So faith in what? A faith that he has heard your voice, understands your concerns and will work for you? Really? Work for the common man? What actions have turned faith into a belief? Is it a belief/faith that this president can secure a more pure and safe nation via immigration reform, border walls and militaristic bells and whistles? And we should ignore the threat of the home grown terrorist? Is it a belief/faith that capitalism will reign supreme over socialism, that socialism or anything that resembles socialism will rob you and your grandbabies of a financial future? A belief/faith that if we could only roll back the hands of time, of learning, of justice, of reform, of environmental protections, all would be right in the world and we would somehow be great again after a black man made us bad? And does one think God wants it this way?

I have faith with regard to many aspects of my life, with regard to thought, action, belief, but I have no faith in this president, nor do I have an ounce of respect for the man. I have seen no indication that his position, his agenda, his actions are anything but self-serving. I believe that a leader is one that brings the troops together; it is the enemy that divides—have to say it—divide and conquer. And I believe that a society is only as healthy, as sound, as great, as progressive and innovative as its inhabitants. No revolution was ever staged because of too much equality. If you feel the need to name, call me whatever “ist” or “ism” you think applies.

employment tips for congresspersons in fear of losing their jobs should they defy mr. trump

For the republicans (or democrats, statepersons, laypersons) who fear losing their jobs should they defy the president, here are just a few employment and employment related suggestions should it ever come to that:

write a book
write for your hometown newspaper
work for a law firm or go to law school
work as a lobbyist
work for the city you live in
work within your party’s organization/re-elction campaign
work at your local library
work for your wife’s father
work for your husband’s mother
work at Home Depot (always hiring somewhere)
work at Target (discount!)
drive for UPS (health care!)
teach a class
take a class
be a consultant (within your field of expertise, of course)
sell real estate
seek board positions
become a farmer
become a manfacturer
become a dog walker/sitter
buy a coffee shop franchise, a pizza franchise, a burger joint franchise
assist in your church
assist at your children’s school
write another book

Why, the opportunities abound! And should you find yourself waiting on a response from any particular industry as to the status of your application, the volunteer opportunities are endless. In any organization of your choice! Hope this helps to relieve a bit of your stress.

sparring

I like to spar:

spar| spär | verb (sparssparringsparred[no object] 

• make the motions of boxing without landing heavy blows, as a form of training: one contestant broke his nose while sparring

• engage in argument, typically of a kind that is prolonged or repeated but not violent: mother and daughter spar regularly over drink, drugs, and career

• (of a gamecock) fight with the feet or spurs. 

I believe I’ve sparred pretty much my whole life, remembering myself as the impish child, the one to provoke, stir the pot, defiant, contrary – training for adulthood, no doubt. And my only guess as to why I’m this way stems from a healthy curiosity regarding people; not just where they’ve been or what they do or like, but what they reveal when challenged. Show me the good stuff. And I like sparring; a little jab here, a little jab there. And my most favorite friends, writers, artists, professionals, comediennes, musicians and celebrities are those who also like to spar. I am, however, often viewed (and often incorrectly viewed) as passive aggressive, obnoxious and opinionated. I apologize to those I’ve offended, I’m working on the negative. But I have no intention of stepping out the ring—it’s too much fun. Carry on, my lovely sparring partners, my snappy sparring mentors; keep me sharp, keep me in the game.

the double assault in los angeles

We were stopped at a red light on Hill Street, downtown Los Angeles, near the Grand Central Market and the jewelry district. We were the second car from the corner, waiting to make a right on red but the car in front of us couldn’t turn—as the driver of that car was in a heated argument with some crazy dude on a bike stopped in front of her. I couldn’t see the driver but say her only because her head did not appear over the little, black Mercedes headrest—a small person, probably a woman, older, I thought incorrectly. With windows closed I could hear the crazy dude cursing like crazy, incoherently, giving no clue as to his beef with the driver. He spit on her windshield multiple times and finally biked away as the other drivers, the many pedestrians and my carful shook our heads in disbelief.

We were stopped again by the light in the next block, Mercedes to our right, and the dude on the bike appears out of nowhere and continues his rampage. The woman, a small, young Asian woman with a blond dye job and edgy haircut steps out of the car and starts screaming at the biker, Jesus no lady, get the hell back inside the car. She does. The man starts kicking her door, pulls his bike away to reposition, and again, out of nowhere, a pedestrian I recognized from the first corner comes racing towards the crazy man and body slams him and his bike onto the street. He kicked the man several times in the face and gut and the crazy dude on the bike lay face down, unconscious, in a pool of his own blood.

Holy shit. I was sure he was dead. I looked around our car and there were at least a dozen phones capturing the assault. All I could think of was he’s dead, lets get out of here, please, go around. We did. My fellow passengers tried to assure me that the man wasn’t dead but I wasn’t totally convinced—he remained motionless and face down as we made another right turn and lost sight of the body. Wow, wow, wow. I had never seen anything like that. City of Angels and Demons.

But the reason for this trip downtown was in fact the jewelry district—I wanted to sell my engagement ring—and in doing so, the second assault. Not that anyone treated me unkindly, not that I had strong romantic feelings regarding this ring. My ex-husband and I are friends, he will forever be an important person in my life but this ring was no longer a symbol of love shared, and interestingly, the ring I wanted to sell was actually my third engagement ring—the first stolen from our home and the second lost in the Chesapeake Bay. Clearly, the ring no longer held the significance it once did. But it was an assault to my ego, an older woman with her adult son navigating the diamond district for cash, which yes, I needed and wanted. I hoped to heaven I didn’t look desperate (perhaps too strong a word to describe my financial situation) but it sure as hell felt as if I did. I met every jeweler in the three shops we visited, all of them men, straight on in the eye, seemingly proud but it was humiliating and embarrassing to say the least. Back to the first as he was the only gentleman to make an offer. It felt as if I had been body slammed.

I left downtown that day with some diamond education, a little bit of cash in my wallet—not at all what I foolishly hoped for—and the image of an unconscious, bloody man on the street. I’m still shaking my head thinking about it all but better now that I’m removed from the wreckage and no longer sitting before a man with a loop and bad news. No regrets about selling the ring. I did what I had to/wanted to do and can safely say that the jewelers of Los Angeles have seen plenty of gals like me. And I bet you the residents of Los Angeles are no strangers to street violence but this day took me to the edge and back. A double assault, double whammy, double feature starring angels, demons and diamonds.

the sanctity of a space

I am in part going to tell a story that I promised not to tell—but I’m pretty sure that the part I share will not violate any vows.

Last year, my dear Frenchie friend (who lives alone here in Key West the majority of the year and yes, who is still my employer) broke her ankle at her beach house in Edgewater, MD. Being that I am from that area and still own half a house there, being that I know the hospital and shopping environment, being that I am single and capable, the co-owners of the shop where I worked asked if I would go to Maryland and take care of their partner, Frenchie. Absolutely.

Beach house is a stretch—it is a beach shack, in the shackiest sense of the word. A two bedroom, dusty, old thing, with brown paper, hula-fringe-wall-covering in the living room, D.C. and French memorabilia filling in wherever the fringe has torn. The tiny bathroom walls are papered (by Frenchie’s late husband) in fading and blistered New Yorker magazine front covers—completely. Beach remains, photos, art (exceptional pieces along with flea market finds), fishing rods and reels, rusty buckets and tools are everywhere. There is a single, ancient air conditioner in one window. There is no central air, no microwave, no dishwasher, no disposal, no washer or dryer. There is wifi, a stack of movies on cd’s, but only French tv. There is a rotting deck outside and an ample table with assorted chairs, all sitting under a slightly shredded awning that bows with the weight of dozens of crab pot buoys. The view is outstanding.

While staying with Frenchie, I, of course, visited my former home, my ex-husband and his girlfriend. Difficult, to say the least, as that property, once my source of comfort, safety, and joy had been seriously violated. But the shack grew in importance and held me close as challenges mounted, a crowded simplicity to the space that added no baggage to my brain. This curious and funky, slightly moldy and slightly grimy, Chesapeake cabin became one of the most nurturing properties I have ever had the experience to enjoy. And in a recent visit back to Maryland (as my home there is now for sale), my darling Frenchie offered me her empty shack, my second stay confirming the sanctity of this space. Challenges were more difficult this time, the pain of letting go and moving on slapped me at every turn. But it was at the shack that I finally acknowledged my brokenness, there that I fully looked at all the sadness that I carried and still carry, there that I could admit that my courageous act of jumping off the cliff was also my running away. What is it about a place, a Walden Pond, a Bhutan monastery, a Chesapeake cabin or Key West cottage that offers peace, safe enough to offer confession? Is it just that we treasure those places where revelation, where understanding comes to us, that those places are just the lucky locations where the light bulb finally comes on? Is it profound experiences, history, children, lovers that make a property special, or merely a moment in time when we feel whole? Are there spirits within these places, a wind from a certain direction, a tilt to the ceiling, a light that falls with exceptional clarity that carries us to knowledge, to creativity, to wisdom? I have no earthly clue. In Alcoholics Anonymous they tell you there is no such thing as a geographic cure and with regards to the alcoholic I absolutely believe that to be true. But that adage holds no weight whatsoever with regards to my soul. That shack has seen my soul, held it, loved it, and gently nudged me out the door with a kiss. Peace to you and your abode.

the view from my bike

It will be 3 years this September that I’ve lived without a car. While I know a few people who could pull off this lifestyle (yes, only a few), none of them are, and I consider my decision and my act of ditching the four-wheeler to be something close to superhuman. It is not doable with children, at least not easily; clearly not an issue for me–I’m 68 years old. It is, of course, comfortably doable because I live on a 2 x 4 mile island with everything I need within biking (or walking) distance. Also possible because this island is flat, weather is (typically) not an issue and there’s no heavy volume of vehicles. A tropical village is a whole lot easier to navigate than any city or suburb. All that considered, challenges remain. I can only carry so many groceries home, run only so many errands. If I forget my lock (which doesn’t live on my bike because of rusting) it’s a trip back home to get it. It’s rainy season. It’s hot. I deal with it. I take Lyft, my Publix (grocery) now delivers, I’ve rented a car on a couple of occasions and plan on renting more. Superhuman? Maybe a stretch, but I still think I’m a pretty big, damn deal.

A few biking observations and thoughts below, along with a little bit of advice–3 years on a bike comes with plenty of opinion. While I do still bike for exercise, my biking is primarily for transportation, and much of what I experience is the same as if I were sitting behind the wheel of that fancy M5 I used to drive.

YES, THERE IS ROAD RAGE ON A BIKE. In my travels, I share the road with idiot-out-of-towners both on bikes and in cars (not even gonna touch the scooter issues), and all the blue sky in the world cannot save me from occasionally flipping someone off. Anyone who doesn’t signal, bikers traveling 4 across, cars moving so slowly I can tap their rear fender with my front tire—same things that piss you off in your car can piss you off on your bike. The funny part is, that while you sit inside your windows-closed-air-conditioned vehicle and curse a blue streak at the fool in front of you, I’m sitting on a bike seat, and my cursing is loud and clear. I kinda like it—silly, gray-haired, old lady, yelling at a bunch of 20 somethings—very Key West.

YES, YOU CAN SPACE OUT WHILE BIKING—just like in your car. Of course, anyone who drives has experienced miles (or what seems like miles) of blankness, those times when you’re lost in thought and suddenly brought back to the road. Easy to do down here—all those palm trees waving, a straight line downtown, little congestion. Not to mention that I’m prone to spacing out regardless of setting or activity (or lack thereof). Be mindful.

NO, YOU CANNOT RIDE YOUR BIKE ON THE SIDEWALK. For anyone who doesn’t know—the rules of the road are the same for both bikes and cars. Period. You don’t drive your car on the sidewalk and your bike doesn’t belong there either. If you’re uncomfortable biking on the street, then you shouldn’t be on a bike. [I will confess to breaking one rule of the road—I travel the wrong way on a one-way street in 2 different locations. It’s just for a block in both places and a huge convenience. I told my neighbor I would have to be ticketed or hit to conform—also very Key West.] I don’t wear a helmet and leave that decision up to you, but side view mirrors are a must-have. Get decent lights for night biking. And take the ears buds out, for cryin’ out loud. How the hell are you going to hear me cursing?