Friday, September 23, 2005

Atlantic Side

I drove to the VA Clinic this morning for the lab work associated with my semi-annual visit to the VA Clinic coming up next month. I was surprised to see how much the Atlantic side of the island was affected by Rita as it passed us to the south. Some of the roads down there are really ripped up and some are still flooded by the storm surge that flooded homes all through that area. Ri (Gina) & Sandy got flooded out in the two back rooms of the home they live in on Rose Street. Rose St. is 34- blocks back from Atlantic Drive, and relatively sheltered from the winds by the condos that line that road. The surge reached Flagler Avenue, another three blocks further. Ri and Sandy lost some furniture, all of her clothes, and some of Ri's reel-to-reel tapes and some DVD's. He's going to try to save the reel-to-reels, which chronicle his performing career from way back when he first began singing and playing. Fortunately for them, the water level in the front part of the house was just above the surge, so the kitchen, bathroom, Ri's studio, and Sandy's office were not flooded out. They this have a place to live still, but the clean-up cost and replacements for the things they lost are going to be significant.

We have two more AIDS Help King/Queen events scheduled for tonight, an all-candidates event at The Green parrot, with (Jello) shots from nurse Ginger King, the current Queen (it's too confusing, I know); and a butterfly release at the AIDS Memorial on the White St. Pier at 6:00 PM. And tomorrow there's another event planned at Bourbon Street, a pool party and barbecue. Gina's costumes for her drag performances weren't damaged in the flooding, so the campaign will continue. All scheduled events to date have gone on, despite thunderstorms, hurricanes, and various other potential interruptions. Fundraising has been difficult in the face of these impacts, but we and the other campaigns are going on. Everyone hopes that the campaign will raise a decent amount for AIDS Help, as the money raised here is used to generate more income from government and private grants.

Ri (his real name is Kerry, but everyone calls him Ri. Unless he's Gina.) has a construction business here, and Sandy is a teacher, so the damages are going to hit their pocketbooks hard, yet they bravely go on with the fundraising for others. The campaign staff is small, with only about a half-dozen regular workers. Ri and Sandy have to tote all of the merchandise we are selling to every event, set it up, and then take it down and lug it home when the event is over. I collect the money,account for it, and turn it over to AIDS Help more or less regularly.

It's people like these two, and others like them, that make Key West the caring community it is, a community that takes care of its own when they are in need. Times are always hard for all the charities here, whether caring for the homeless or kids or families or the ill or the elderly or any of a variety of "worthy" causes. The economy is slow in September and October, only really picking up at Goombay Festival, a week before Fantasy Fest, at the end of October. When we went to Square One last night, there were only two or three other tables occupied during the entire two hours we were there, and two or three people at the bar. The two waiters on duty, the bartender, the hostess, and the kitchen staff couldn't have been earning their keep last night.

Today is the day that tourists are being officially let back in to the Keys, but the trolleys and trains are empty as they cruise around town, and street traffic is pretty minimal overall. It's gonna be a tough four weeks for everyone who depends on tourism for their living.

And that's today's report from The Real Key West.

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