aftermath, outrage and sadness



The Aftermath            The day after the Las Vegas massacre, in my despair and heartache, I turned to my primary coping mechanism, my means to make order out of chaos, cleaning. I polished a large, brass coat rack, a chore that had been on my to-do list for over six months. I set myself up on the floor with brass polish, rags, rubber gloves, cigarettes and a bad John Travolta movie. It took several hours, all day really, with several long breaks, lunch, dinner, another movie and a trip to the quickie mart for more cigarettes.

This despair and heartache wove its way around my hurricane recovery and tied me into a useless knot. And by hurricane recovery I do not mean to say that I suffered damage in any significant way. But I live in a community that did. The sweet young woman at the deli who lost her live aboard boat. The father and daughter living in a swamp that refuses to recede. The lady on Big Pine who had her first floor wash away and a handful of friends to retrieve and clean her dishes, to sift through tons of sand for other salvageables. The Keys are not home to Ricky-Martin-like, Florida mansions. These are humble dwellings on remote islands; fisherman mostly, livin’ the dream. There are unending piles of rubbish, both natural and man made. There is anxiety and anguish, it’s a sadness, it’s a slow internal burn, it effects everyone who lives here. And this is nothing compared to the floods of Houston and the devastation in Puerto Rico.

The Outrage                How on earth can anyone criticize recovery efforts if they are anywhere other than ground zero? Confusion, fear, bureaucracy tripping over bureaucracy, who’s in charge here, necessity, injury, anger, me first—chaos. It is chaos. Where do you start? When does it end? How dare anyone (including the general populace) sitting hundreds of miles away feel they have the knowledge or the right to weigh in on “how it’s going” or who is working hard and who is not. And controversy regarding those “looking for handouts” infuriates me. Of course there is abuse, and that infuriates me as well—but the overwhelming majority of people are looking for food, water, shelter—they are looking for help. What do you think? Do you think FEMA is handing out homes? Jobs? Do you think that if someone walks away with an extra case of water they’re taking advantage of the system?

More Outrage             And do our elected officials and representatives think that the families of those slain in Las Vegas are comforted by their tweets; a fucking tweet, a mindless, meaningless shorthand. Thoughts and prayers you say? Dear Lord, please watch over those who were effected by the Las Vegas massacre. Amen. That’s it? That’s the best you got? No outrage, no call to action, no condemnation? Any thoughts about making the world a safer place? Any thoughts about reasonable discussion or legislation? Any thoughts about your child being gunned down at a soccer game?

The Sadness                I am currently haunted by the fragility of life. I am convinced Mother Nature will have the last laugh. I am repulsed by those who govern, I feel as if I live in a nation of pigs, moved to action solely by the dollar—and there is no amount of scrubbing, scouring, polishing, bleaching, that will bring us to clean or make order out of this chaos. What does it mean to live in a society? Is it not up to our government to care for and protect its citizenry? Is a beefed up, cutting edge, ever-ready military all that government can do or cares to do? I wish every day for a leader to emerge, to help us, guide us, reassure us in some fashion—and there is none.


photo credit: tumblr


the french lady



I work for a french woman who owns a long standing, high-end Key West boutique. Sabine is effortlessly chic, charming, successful, a diva for certain–but a diva with arms so wide she could take half of Key West to her bosom. I have watched her outfit the Key West wealthy, the tourist, the passerby who is drawn into her shop by the tantalizing goods perfectly displayed in the wide window. Her accent is alluring, cementing her charm while allowing her unrecognized sarcasm should the occasional customer question her taste or her wares. I am devoted to Sabine. She has taken me under her wing and schooled me in fashion and retailing, and more importantly, she has schooled me in the challenges a single woman (well past her prime) must face in hurricane vulnerable Key West. She was on vacation in France when Irma met the Keys and her beach house on the Atlantic took a terrible hit, but like the grand dame herself, her home stood strong and lives to meet the challenges of another season.

Sabine called me after the storm to check on both my safety and anxiety. We talked for some time and not particularly about the hurricane devastation, but rather about the uncertainty before the storm, the constant fretting, the do-I-stay or do-I-go decision that only those who face impending danger can understand. Second to family and pets, the love of one’s home is paramount. Home is security, a sanctuary, a respite from a complicated and uncertain world, and Sabine understands that if you are alone, it is all that is dear to you. “How do you walk away from that?” she asked. “How do you leave your baby behind and hope for the best?”

“It is the price we pay to live in paradise,” she told me. “It is island life. It is the housing compromise we have made, our choice, our hardship. It will be a difficult year, but it is what makes us resilient, strong, different. And different is good, my dear, for who wants to be like everybody else,” she asked with her french-filled, fancy laugh.

Thank you, Sabine. Thank you for your mentoring, your hand holding, your grace, and your unflappable island sensibilities. I do live in paradise, made so not only by lofty palms but by compassionate people, a one human family. I live in a paradise currently in the processes of resurrection and renewal. Key West strong.