Thursday, February 02, 2006

Key West, Florida

It's not that I don't like to blog; it's just that I live in a tent. Which is also why my clothes are damp, there's grass in my hair most of the time, and I have a permanent dirt line where my socks end. And the best part is, I barely even notice it anymore. It's amazing how quickly you can adjust, when necessary, to your own nastiness.

Our tents are about a hundred yards from the beach, and about a half mile from downtown. Actually, they're in one of the park ranger's back yard. It's just like when you camp out behind your house as a kid, only you're not allowed to go inside... ever. So technically, I guess that makes us more like squatters. But that's pretty much the status quo for Americorps housing. Or should I say "housing".

Anyway, I'm having an amazing time. We reached our half-way point last month. So I have less than five months left in my year of service.

Current post-Americorps options include:

1. Working with Habitat for Humanity in Dallas for a year.

2. Joining a rock band, becoming famous, but not too famous, and touring the world while making sweet music.

That's all I've got so far, but there's still time.


I feel like I'm getting to know people on my team, on a more personal level during this spike. In Jackson, we were together 24/7 with absolutely no privacy. It was a sort of social prison, that I'm thinking of recommending to the CIA as an alternative to the usual teeth-pulling and finger amputating torture regimes.

Here, we have a little more space, and it's made all the difference. Time spent together is generally happy time, and people are more willing to talk about themselves, or anything really.


We're spending our time in the Keys working with the Nature Conservancy, doing disaster relief from Hurricane Wilma, that covered the islands in four feet of water last October. Our job is to remove debris, invasis species, and dead vegetation from local parks and nature preserves.

That means, our job is to lift, drag, and dump trash that is so heavy, that five months after the hurricane, not one island local has yet worked up the will to touch it. I remind myself every day that this is good work, and I'm helping to preserve endangered species, the remnants of tropical forests, and protecting God's creation.

But that doesn't really work, so I just kiss my biceps and remember how ultra-buff I'm going to be after five weeks of heavy-lifting, and that mostly will get me through a day.


Our "campsite" (the ranger's back yard) is just next door to the Volunteer Village, which is a field where a bunch of retirees park their RVs, and commune nightly around a campfire to talk about World War II and the good ol' days.

Sometimes, they invite us to the fire, and those are my favorite nights in Key West. "Fudd," the oldest of the old, hales from North Carolina and carries an oxygen tank on his back while he patrols the park in a golf cart. He enjoys widdling and making children's toys. I am now the proud owner of a genuine, hand-made "Gee-Haw Whimmy Diddle". I won't describe it, since the name is so self-explanatory.

Last week at the fire, Bucaneer Bo, resident pirate (no really - he dresses like a ship captain ALL THE TIME, and says things like "Arrr" and "Matey"), got out his guitar and sang songs about buried treasure and death on the high seas, while another senior played a broom-bucket bass.

I think someone else was playing the spoons, while I sat in my fold-out chair eating a s'more, and drowning in the surreal nature of my new life.


I won't have internet access again until mid-February. So if you want to contact me, you'll have to do it the old-fasioned way... carrier-pigeon. Or call my phone... whichever is more convenient.


Anonymous said...

Can I get a few "Gee-Haw Whimmy Diddle".-s for the girls???

Anonymous said...