For Whom the Toll Tolls, II

“It doesn’t hurt to ask,” Monroe County, Florida’s, commissioners said about adding a toll on U.S. 1 into the Keys.

“Some statutes have changed, tolling mechanisms have changed, a lot of things have changed,” Commissioner Heather Carruthers of Key Weird told the Keynoter. 18-Mile StretchShe introduced a resolution to explore the logistical and legal aspects of a toll at the board meeting on Wednesday. Commissioners endorsed the resolution on a voice vote.

Ms. Carruthers says there are a lot of big-ticket items looming for the Keys and their only recourse is to raise new, um, revenues.

That’s kind of refreshing. Most politicians promise to cut spending when they raise taxes. Our commishes make no such false promises.

Still, riiiight.

In For Whom the Toll Tolls we noted that Monroe County already collects about $700,000 in tolls each year on the Card Sound Bridge and spends about five times that much to keep the bridge up. They are in the midst now of a $2 million “upgrade” to change over from human toll collectors to the Sunpass system.

We can guess that they would install the border crossing^H^H toll booth on a wide spot in the 18-mile stretch that connects Florida City with Key Largo.

FDOT Florida Traffic Online shows 20,500 vehicles traversed the 18-mile stretch on an average day in 2016. At a buck a car (more for boat trailers and 18-wheelers bringing beer) that’s an easy $7.5 million. Ka-ching!

It would cost my neighbor Joe a couple of bucks more to go the Cleveland Clinic.

It would cost Rosie Martin a couple of bucks more to come to work. Rosie is a cashier at Kmart in Marathon. Like many store employees who work in the Keys, she can’t afford to live in the Keys so she commutes from Homestead.

It would cost the Borden Dairy delivery driver more than a couple of bucks extra to get to Walgreens with a truckload of milk. Guess where I get my milk?

And it would cost every tourist a couple of bucks more to visit.

A record 5,466,937 million visitors traveled to the Florida Keys in 2015. About one million of them were day trippers.

What do you bet the toll will have to be two bucks or more?

What do you bet the toll will cut the number of day visitors in half?

I have to put a new roof on my little house, rebuild my seawall, buy flood and wind and fire insurance, and build the not-so-Perfect-Travel-Trailer. A new toll will raise the prices on every bit of material that goes into each of those projects.

I can’t raise taxes or charge a toll on my driveway to cover those looming “big-ticket items.” I guarantee I can’t do them all in a single year, either. Imagine that.

 

Doctoring the New Millennium

“Hi, Laura, what are my choices?” I asked.

This is my personal health care story. Sadly, there is scant pathos, little conflict, and no resolution.

Although I moved to South Puffin more than a decade ago, I have maintained my medical ties to North Puffin and even to Canada because it takes a lot of effort to break in a new doctor.

I’m an engineer, so I usually know a lot more (and can hash out even more) than a doc figures on. I’m also very much a minimalist, meaning I will opt in for a procedure only if it fits my own idea of “value added,” not if it is merely “doctor’s orders.”

All that does not make me the best patient.

Anyway, we met “Dr. Bob” when we first moved to North Puffin. We were a young family then and he was about our age. We’ve all kind of grown up together. His kids and ours knew each other in school. SWMBO married his daughter. Mrs. Dr. Bob and I have done some artsy stuff. Dr. Bob acts in the hospital’s bi-annual Cardiac Capers. And, with the exception of the time I cleaved my finger with the chainsaw and the other time SWMBO broke her leg, Dr. Bob has treated pretty much everything that ailed us. He understand what it takes to treat me. He gets it.

Primary care is an onging conversation, not a brisk look at a chart and tap on the knee.

The connection is even deeper. Just before we bought our house, we were driving around, seriously lost, in North Puffin. We stopped to ask directions of an older gent walking along the road and told him we were house hunting. Mr. Smith told us where we were. He told us a bit about the area. He told us he had lived there all his life so far. He was 96. He didn’t tell us that his lovely, brick, farmhouse with barn was for sale.

First, check the insurance.
Then, do no harm.

A couple of months later, we bought a different lovely, brick, farmhouse with barn on the lake and a fellow I worked with bought Mr. Smith’s home. Then he sold the Smith house to Dr. Bob and Mrs. Dr. Bob.

Getting back to health care, Dr. Bob is a couple of years older than I and he has retired. Ah hah! I thought. I can transfer my primary care (what we used to call the G.P.) down here.

Side story. Dr. Bob told me my increasing snifflinesss [<==technical medical term] is an allergy and I should find a specialist. I talked to a nurse at a sprawling medical practice in Vermont about an hour from North Puffin. I’m looking for someone to do allergy testing and they have three. The nurse told me two of the docs there are Peds only. The third allergist there as well as the one doc in Puffin Center don’t have the greatest reps. In fact, Dr. Bob won’t send patients to the one allergist in Puffin Center.
I asked a friend if she knows anything about an allergist in South Puffin or even the one in Key West who also has offices in Palmetto Bay and South Miami. Turns out the Marathon guy is the doc who admitted he sexually battered a patient in Illinois and then got sued by an employee he groped and pointed a handgun at. He also does weight-loss workshops. That’s worse than the Puffin Center guy.

Jeez.

Laura told me (remember Laura?) that their new medical director is an ER Specialist at our critical care hospital in Puffin Center but he’s the only doc listed on staff at the Federally Qualified (rural) Health Center Dr. Bob built. They have a nurse practitioner, two physican assistants, and a wellness counselor.

Doctor's OfficeMeanwhile, down here we find the 57-year old who diagnosed that I had either flu or pneumonia a few years ago. He treated for both. Either his treatment or tincture of time worked but it didn’t leave me feeling particularly confident. There are four other family medicine docs, two men and two women. Three are over 60 and the one with the most recommendations from neighbors is 69. That’s a year older than Dr. Bob. The youngest is a 54-year old. She’s not taking new patients.

So my choices seem to come down to one of a bunch of physician’s assistants or a doc who will likely retire tomorrow.

I don’t care if I have the pro from Dover for day-to-day stuff but I do care that I get the same person. Primary care is an onging conversation, not a brisk look at a chart and tap on the knee.

Is it too much to ask to see an actual doctor, let alone one young enough that I might not have to do this again for a couple of decades? I don’t mind training a newbie too much if they seem to be in it for the long haul.

Our dentist lives and works in Quebec. He was about 12, I think, when he bought the practice there, so I figure I can keep him at least as long as I can keep what’s left of my teeth.

Whew!

 

I Love It When a Plan Comes Together

Sometimes you just can’t plan for nights like this. Another North Puffin tale.

Jazz mesmerized our North Puffin Town Park last night as we continued the 26th year of free outdoor concerts with Jenni Johnson and the Jazz Junketeers.

The forecast called for a pretty good chance of rain across Vermont last evening. That’s a bad thing for an outdoor concert.

I obsessed over the radar yesterday as I do but we got lucky: it was clear and sunny all day. The rain had gotten only as far north as Ticonderoga by 5 p.m. and was pretty well trapped between Route 2 and Route 4 (the central third of Vermont) for the later afternoon and evening. By the time the concert ended, it was still raining in southern New England but the Vermont rain had pushed across New Hampshire into Maine. I figured there was a small chance we’d get a little from the storms coming up the Adirondacks but we didn’t even get that although there is finally some light rain here as I write this.

That should be enough for a great evening but wait! There’s more!

An international entertainer, Jenni has sung jazz, blues, and funk since her own teen days in New York City. She spent the 1980s on musical projects in Houston and Boston including her own Billie Holiday Story. She launched her Jazz Junketeers in 1989 to sing the jazz and blues standards by her favorite African-American artists. Now she remains an active touring artist who has played more of our Summer Sounds concerts — and picked on me more — than any other performer.

During the first set, I spotted Verne Colburn in the audience. Verne was the longtime director of Bellows Free Academy music, an incredible Jazz pianist, and beloved in northwestern Vermont. He turned 80 in April. I popped onto the stage (we’re very informal here in North Puffin) and asked Jenni to throw a song out to him.

Jenni did what Jenni does. “Verne is in the house,” she sang and she kept doing it until he came up on stage. Turns out he and Jenni’s keyboard player, Kent Baker, are old friends, so Kent turned the keys over and Verne soloed with the band on Fly Me to the Moon.


Jenni and Verne Flew Me to the Moon

As an aside, Verne has played for every Cardiac Capers hospital benefit since the beginning and hopes to again this Fall.

Oh. You want more?

Last season, we started introducing the musicians who will create the future of Summer Sounds. These young performers are our opening acts or, as last night, our “middle acts.”

Jaylin Seaman took over the mic for a short set of modern songs as well as a couple of show tunes and wowed the crowd again.

“That girl is headed to Broadway,” Jenni said.

Yeppers. Jaylin plays Helen in Dream at the Spotlight Black Box Theater starting next week. Based on Shakespear’s romantic comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Dream is a magical musical retelling but set in present day Central Park, New York City. It features Broadway’s Robi Hager and members of the Vermont Musical Theater Academy.

Local community groups host our concerts with a social that usually includes munchies, grilled foods, or desserts. Last night Taylor Hall led an MVUHS group raising funds for a school trip to the presidential inauguration. They had a new table of actual food. I smartly extracted a promise that they would take no tomatoes to Washington, though.

Two of Jenni’s “Junkettes” closed the show with Jenni on Mustang Sally. The Junkettes are four of Highgate’s own young people who have grown up dancing and singing to Jenni’s performances here. Here they are in 2009.


Jenni and the Junkettes back in 2009

Now they’re all growed up and in college.


Jenni and the Junkettes last night

Nope. Can’t plan for a night like that.

 

Irksome Revelation

Longtime San Antonio Spurs star Tim Duncan retired last week. The 40-year-old forward was one of the oldest players on the court; he had spent his entire 19-year NBA career on the Spurs. “It wasn’t any fun any more,” he said.

You can be washed up as a basketball player at 30 or as a race car driver by 50 but the Stones and Chicago and show you can still be a rock star at 70.

Robert Lamm who may be the youngest of the old rockers is the old man of Chicago; he was born in 1944. There’s a long list. Mick Jagger was born in 1943. Paul McCartney, Al Jardine and Brian Wilson (born 1942). Eric Burdon, Paul Simon and Artie Garfunkel (born 1941). Ringo (born 1940). Dion (born 1939). And Leonard Cohen, forced by finances to go back on tour in 2008, was born in 1934.

Chuck Berry (born 1926) will perform his 207th show at Blueberry Hill in his native St. Louis on August 13.

“So do you think you should’ve been a rock star?” SWMBO asked. “With the drugs, sex, fame, fortune and all that annoying crap? Because you want to be on the road at 70?”

Jeez. Sex, fame, fortune. When you put it that way…

The full Social Security benefit age — the unofficial official retirement age in the U.S. — is 66 for people born in 1943-1954; it gradually rises to 67 for those born in 1960 or later.

Huh. I turn 67 this week so I did the “fun” test, too. First I had to list what I actually do. Alphabetically, of course.

  • Goof off
  • Invent stuff
  • Keep an Arts Council going
  • Photograph stuff
  • Renovate houses
  • Repair houses
  • Run a small business with engineering and IT clients
  • Stage concerts
  • Travel
  • Write other stuff

I like to be on stage but I never wanted to be a rock star. My hands aren’t big enough to hold a basketball but I never wanted to play ball. I was a race car driver and would still do it if someone would pay me but it’s tough to win as we get older.

Upside Down Camaro Races at LeMonsDangerous, too. Ove Andersson was a Swedish rally driver and the first head of Toyota’s F1 program who died at 70 in a vintage rally crash in South Africa. Bob Akin, journalist, television commentator, and champion sports car driver, was killed at 66 in a crash while testing a Nissan GTP for the Walter Mitty Challenge. J. D. McDuffie, 52, died in a crash at the Glen. Dale Earnhardt was almost 50 when he died in a crash at Daytona. Neil Bonnett died at 47 when he returned to racing after retiring.

Still, Morgan Shepherd took the wheel of the Number 52 Toyota at age 71 and became the oldest driver ever to start a race in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup series and became the second-oldest NASCAR Cup winner (after Harry Gant) when he won in Atlanta at the age of 51. He had made his Cup debut in 1970 but, even with no chance to grab a competitive ride, he still has no plans of slowing down.

OK, no slowing down, just changing direction.

  • I’ve already spent entirely too much time doing Windows 10 upgrades this month and didn’t have any fun. Some of my IT clients have already retired and I have now passed all but one of the rest to a really great shop in St Albans. Cool. IT Department will close this year.
  • I like goofing off. Keep.
  • Ditto inventing stuff, photographing stuff, renovating stuff, traveling, and writing other stuff. I should do more of that and improve the workflow so I have time to do #2.
  • I’m ready. If I never have to fix anything in an old house again, I’d have time to do #2 and #3.
  • I like the arts and enjoy the people but I’m not in North Puffin enough any more to do it justice.

Volunteer Chief Cook and Bottle Washer Needed
Longtime local arts service organization chair is stepping down. The search starts now. Inquire within.

“When I start hitting the wall or something, then maybe it’s time to get out,” Mr. Shepherd told Sports Illustrated in 2013.

Morgan Shepherd gives us all hope innit. Maybe we could race a little again, too?