One Has To Ask: Why?

The more I read about the death of Charles Eimers, the more nauseated I feel. It leaves me wondering what has happened to Key West in the four years since I left the island. Specifically, what has happened to Chief Donie Lee’s police department. When I lived there, I would have trusted my life to any of his officers, without exception. Was I simply experiencing Key West through rose-colored glasses for all those years? Or has a hideous change swept over the island? Now it seems some of the officers are mimicking bully police officers in large cities or backwoods counties in the north who’d just as soon use their tasers or brute force in numbers on a person, regardless of his age, than try to talk in a calm manner with him to find out what they want to know. The video speaks for itself. We clearly see the man walking, not running away and then dropping to the ground as the officers instructed. And we clearly see several officers surrounding him and on him, as his face is ground into the sand. This man had no chance of survival without immediate help from paramedics, who could have at least cleared his airway before transporting him to the ER. One has to ask why that help was so delayed. One has to ask why it was not immediately apparent to doctors and nurses in the ER that this man’s nose and mouth were blocked with sand, preventing him from breathing. One has to ask again – what has happened to Key West in recent years for something this heinous to happen to an innocent man who’d come to visit the beautiful island to enjoy his recent retirement. One has to ask why sad condolences must go out to his family instead of congratulations on their loved one’s reaching that well-earned milestone of retirement. One has to ask the question: Why?

Peggy Butler

West Palm Beach

Book Review: CODE OF HONOR by V.C. Weeks

Code of Honor, a debut novel by V. C. Weeks, grabs the reader by the throat in the first sentence and doesn’t let go. The novel is the tale of Sargeant Hank Siemans, who opens this gripping story on reconnaissance in the mountains of Afghanistan, hunting for Osama bin Ladin and his al Queda crew, reportedly on the move toward Ali Kheyl and the Pakistani border. The American soldiers are ambushed and Siemans wakes up from a coma in Walter Reed Medical Center to the voice of an angel, his nurse Ashley Blake. He is instantly smitten.

codeofhonor- FADED mts coverThis book is identified as a political thriller, and it certainly is that. It is also about love. In a clear homage to Hemingway, there’s Siemens’ passionate love for Ashley, but there’s also the story of United States Senator Paul Whitman and his wife Marilyn, whom he loves as though they’d just been wed, despite decades of marriage and three devoted children.  Even more so, it is the story of the senator’s love of his country, a fierce love that never wavers, despite constant attempts by the opposition to discredit him. He’s even threatened by his own party. All this while Whitman is fighting another battle – with MS, a diagnosis he’s just received from his doctor over the summer. Code of Honor is dedicated to the late Senator Paul Wellstone from Minnesota, but it is difficult not to see in Whitman the current Independent senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders.    Continue reading

“Woman in the Shampoo Chair”, a Short Story

The shop was alive with the sounds of the holidays. The mood was festive. Christmas decorations filled every vacant spot on every wall. The receptionist wore a bright red hat of shiny material on her head. It had a fuzzy white ball on the top of it which tinkled every time she moved.

There were four hairdressers, two men and two women, who worked to the right of her desk. On the far wall to the left of the receptionist’s desk, three women were chattering as one received a pedicure by the one who looked Italian. They were all young and attractive. Continue reading

That Trailer Park Should Have Never Been Put Up For Sale

That trailer park [on Simonton Street] should have never been put up for sale. What happened to charity? So some of the folks were not paying rent any longer; it should have been charity, not for profit, in the first place. Shame on Peter Batty and the church to turn these people out, when it should be obvious most or all of them have nowhere to go and no money to do it with even if they did have options. When I lived on the island I do not recall one negative incident coming from that little tree-laden community. The folks who lived there seemed to do so in harmony. Some were very poor and more than one picked up a bag of groceries from MCC every week, when I was working with the church pantry, but all of them seemed to be decent people, whom I’m sure contributed to the economy of our country when they were still able to work. Some still might be contributing to the economy of Key West.

As you say in your article in [Issue #24] of the Blue Paper, In less than a year’s time Key West has lost workforce housing at a record pace.  First it was over 100 units at Peary Court, then the 230 or so with expiring deed restrictions and this past Tuesday another 44 units at Simonton Street Trailer Park were put on the slab. Key West does have an ordinance requiring 30% of newly constructed housing to be dedicated affordable housing, but somehow lately every project seems to have its own particular reason as to why it should not apply.  For Peary Court and now the Trailer Park, the developments were not considered “new construction” even though both development plans call for total demolition and all new structures.

Before long, Key West is going to be that rich haven Hemingway warned about in the year of my birth, 1937. He warned that the wealthy are no longer going to put up with the shacks and poverty of any of the locals and will find ways to get rid of them. It certainly looks like, albeit 76 years late, his predictions are coming true, with the residents of Simonton St Trailer Park being the latest victims.

How can the developers claim the 30% rule [doesn't apply] when they totally demolish and create new structures, as it seems is going to happen with the Simonton trailer park? This was going on when I was still down there writing about it in my column on the city commission and it looks like they’re still getting away with it. There’s nothing right about it. Nothing!

Peggy Butler

West Palm Beach

August 15th Will Be A Sad Day: Good-Bye “Top of La Concha”

The story by Rebecca Rankin [Party At The Top -  Issue #19, July 19, 2013] is so true. Every time I hear of another Key West tradition ending because the wealthy want it to, I feel heartsick and feel that another piece of the island I love is dying. I lived there for 8 years and visited for 36 years before that. The one thing I did as often as I could was trike down Duval, lock my bike and take the elevator to The Top of La Concha. No matter what else was going on, standing there looking out on that beautiful panoramic view of the island lifted my spirits, and that of any visitor I welcomed to Key West. I can’t believe they are really putting a private spa up there and denying all of us the privilege of that wonderful view forever. It is the highest place we could all go for free to see the whole island in all its splendor surrounded by those beautiful merging blue and green waters of the Atlantic, the Gulf, the Straits and the Caribbean Sea. August 15 will be a sad day for locals and visitors to Key West, and I wish it wouldn’t happen.

Peggy Butler

West Palm Beach


Crane Point: Zipline Would Ruin Beautiful Natural Habitat

Dear Editor:

Thank you for printing Spotted in [last Friday's] Blue Paper. It’s no surprise about the ‘secret’ meeting. What is totally puzzling is that anyone who lives in the Keys and loves the Keys wants to desecrate Crane’s Point with a zipline! People walk or ride through Crane’s Point for a trip back to Old Florida, a trip back to Nature. How on earth do those who advocate such a desecrating activity as a zipline think the wildlife there are going to react to it? To me, this is criminal! Can anyone imagine wildlife staying in such an environment? Can anyone imagine the noise of the tourists who participate in riding the zipline? Even though I can no longer afford living in Key West, I still love everything about the Keys and it hurts my heart to realize how these advocates of such a tourist attraction are going to ruin this beautiful natural habitat if they win and the zipline goes through.

Peggy Butler

West Palm Beach

Strength In Numbers

Yesterday, I joined a union for the first time in my life. At one time here in south Florida, between the 1960s and 1970s, we nurses tried to form a union and were threatened with the loss of our jobs if we continued to pursue it, so it never got off the ground.

Last week I sent around an email asking friends and family to call the 26 members of the House Appropriations Committee and tell them to vote No Continue reading