The Conch Republic

This is a good story. I have always found outlying areas like the Florida Keys to be fascinating. I know there is a long history of countercultural expression there. Key West has a long history as a gay outpost. There is more to be written on this, I think.

Backpacking Around The Globe - 2013

When we were sailing in Marathon, many people asked us if we would go to the Conch Republic as well.  I didn’t really know what they were talking about till someone told me the funny history…

Back in 1982, the president of the United States suddenly decided to open it’s borders to their neighboring countries.  The result was that Cuba opened all its prisons and sent their convicts to the United States through Key West, only 90 miles away.  When the government noticed a increasing crime rate in Florida, the US Border Patrol suddenly and without warning set up a roadblock at the point where all road traffic from the Keys crosses into mainland Florida.  They were apparently looking for illegals and contraband, but the consequence was a seventeen mile traffic jam.  When the word got out, tourism came to a complete stop.  This heinous act effectively isolated Keys Citizens from the…

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What To Do With Fifteen or Twenty Pounds of (Possibly) Wild Pears

Knowing my interest in fermented beverages and making new things, a coworker has given me fifteen or twenty pounds of smallish, hard pears, now I am trying to figure out what to make with them.  Pears (and apples) are typically handled a bit differently than regular fruits when making ferments.  Often one makes perry (pear cider), and I could do that, only I don’t have a cider press.  I could instead make pear wine, but most of the recipes seem to need a fruit bag, which I don’t have.  (A fruit bag is a fine mesh bag that brewers use to keep fruit pulp separate from the juice when making wine.)  Finally, I’ve found a recipe for something called “Matched Wine.”  I have no idea where the name comes from, but it fits my two governing criteria now: I won’t need a cider press or a fruit bag.

We shall see how this turns out.  The pears are hard but pretty ripe, so I only have a limited time to get this started.  Stay tuned for more details…


[13 January 1998, Tuesday, ~12:45 pm] In deed, if not in word

English: Graffiti in the Tenderloin, San Francisco

English: Graffiti in the Tenderloin, San Francisco (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Rodney’s teaching me something.  Spending nights out on the prowl with him, I am having to confront over and over the prejudices I hold.  His feud with his friend, Patrick, has reminded me that in some ways, I am unfortunately not as enlightened as I would pretend.  His friend, Patrick, would sterilize all rednecks, and — literally — put all beggars and bums to death.  Patrick’s boss, Michelle, the owner of the coffee shop where we congregate late into the night, “just” thinks they should ship all bums  away somewhere, though perhaps not kill them out right.


My views are neither so extreme, nor so dark.  I believe in principle that I should love everyone; Rodney actually seems to put this into practice.


Specifically, I’m thinking of the homeless souls we encounter while on our photographic jaunts together.


In my fear of the Other and of being taken advantage of, I project not love but a callous indifference.  Contrary to my principles, I negate their very humanity through my negligence.  I am, in other words, prejudiced in deed, if not in word.


While Rodney and I are out roving, I look to him to see how I should act.  After all, he knows these downtown streets of night better than I.  When street people approach us, which happens regularly everywhere we are, I look sideways at him for clues: is this one genuinely in need?  Is he helpless?  Is he full of shit?  Or are we in danger now?


It’s like being with Greg in San Francisco: I feel helpless, new-born.  That night with Greg, I ran, genuinely afraid, through the Tenderloin and back to the safety of Tapestry’s second floor apartment in the Haight.  Now, I am out for a leisurely “stroll around the block,” safe on deserted Memphis streets and back alleys, shielded from any real harm by Rodney’s spirit and idealism.


Je ne suis pas d’ici.



dreaming, fragments

dreaming, fragments:

like a rocket

only bigger,

and more beautiful,

and more pristine

than anywhere.

A level above,

at the tippy top,

of a long ladder

(beyond a trap door)

A penthouse,

roof of the world

Not writing easily now, I find myself watching old movies and trying to stay focused for the work at hand

Cover of "Le Samourai - Criterion Collect...

Cover of Le Samourai – Criterion Collection

I like to put on a familiar movie, playing over and over, while I write.  Movies that are moderately paced with sparse dialogue are actually easier to work through than silence for me.  Silence makes me twitchy, in fact.  With nothing going on, I feel compelled to do something with my hands.  With bits of noise, ambient sound, I often find that I can drop into the space in between (think of it like that old definition of music being the space between the notes) and concentrate on my work.  Lately, perhaps because of other things going on, I’m finding concentrating at all difficult, whether with or without background sound.

I suppose it’s typical for me.  I am always “all in” at the beginning of a project, I bog down under the details of the middle parts, and when I have met my goal — keeping in mind that completion may not always be the goal — I am off to the next new thing.  Speaking of new things, I picked up a new book this morning.  I am perpetually dipping in and out of books, papers, magazines — always restless, stuffing my mind full of knowledge, striving to connect all of the dots.  This morning’s choice: The Renaissance Soulwhich purports to help me to understand myself and my need for many interests.  It also suggests that it is quite possible for me to channel those interests into financial and personal success without sacrificing those interests or the pleasure I get out of having all of those interests.     Reminds me of a line from a movie I saw recently, I think it was Now You See Me.  Somewhere in there, one of the characters say the secret to being successful is, “always be the smartest guy in the room.”  That’s my goal, ultimately, I think, although I like to think that I don’t pursue knowledge for arrogant reasons, but rather for its own sake.  I genuinely thrive on learning, enjoy packing my brain like a computer, and strive to be able to see the connections between things.

Anyway, yesterday I put in the movie, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and turned the volume down low.  I kept it running over and over for three or four hours while I worked on a longer blog post.  (It’s not finished, so we will all have to wait and see how it turns out.)  Loosely, I was working through my struggles with creativity, recalling the literary influences that have shaped me, trying to understand the connections between my influences and the writer I am struggling to become.  Today, writing this, I put in another perennial favorite: Le Samouraia film by Jean-Pierre Melville.  The pacing, cinematography, and sound track bear a bit of a resemblance to Tinker Tailor, although the former was a French-Italian production set and shot in the late 1960’s while Tinker was set in the early 1970’s, but shot in 2011.  Not unsurprising, really.  I like films like this.  They bear repeated viewing, aren’t flashy enough to be distracting, and yet are potent and influential in their own way.

At the end of eight days with no internet, a brief quote by a creative genius to warm up to the task of writing again

“I deliberately chose to break with traditions in order to be more true to Tradition than current conventions and ideas would permit. The most vital course is usually the rougher one and lies through conventions oftentimes settled into laws that must be broken, with consequent liberation of other forces that  cannot stand freedom.  So a break of this nature is a thing dangerous, nevertheless indispensable to society.  Society recognizes the danger and makes the break usually fatal to the [one] who makes it.  It should not be made without reckoning the danger and sacrifice, without the ability to withstand severe punishment, nor without the sincere faith that the end will justify the means, nor do I believe it can be effectively made without all of these.”

— Frank Lloyd Wright, as quoted in Counterculture Through The Ages by R. U. Sirius, p xvi-xvii.