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October, 2013:

Getting to the Keys

In just a couple of weeks, it will have been ten years since my first trip to Key West. I will, of course, be celebrating that tenth anniversary by spending even more time in the Keys than I ever have on a single trip.

(You can listen to my song, “Living Key West,” while reading this. Just click the link.)

Southernmost - beautiful beach!

Southernmost – beautiful beach!

As part of my preparations this year, I’m rereading the book that probably did the most, after years of Buffett music, to get my fundament out of its comfortable rut here in the Bay Area and on a plane to south Florida. The book is titled Callahan’s Key, by Spider Robinson, a somewhat wacky romp by a loose “tribe” of individuals, formerly the clientele of Callahan’s Place, formerly the clientele of Mary’s Place, sick and tired of Long Island, who caravan to Key West to open up a bar and get telepathic in the hopes of saving the Universe. The back cover calls it an “improbable tale of impending doom, a road trip, space, drugs, and rock ‘n roll.”

Oh, and they all tell puns.

I’m not making any of this up.

As a writer, Spider has been influenced by the likes of Robert A Heinlein and John D. MacDonald, among many others. His descriptions and characters draw you in and keep you reading, even when you’re not entirely sure what’s going on. This book introduced me to the Keys, to Key West, and to some of the fascinating places there – Schooner Wharf, Mallory Square, and more. And motivated me to go *see* these places for myself.

So I did. :)

And over the years, I’ve collected my own share of pictures and stories about being in the Keys.

Picture of sunset at Mallory Square

Sunset at Mallory Square

This is the way I want to go to work every day.

This is the way I want to go to work every day.

Reef them sails before we capsize!

Even the cloudy days are beautiful.

Ten years of memories…and more to be made! :)

So this year I’m arriving in Ft. Lauderdale on 10/26. Yes, I’ll miss Fantasy Fest again. So it goes. Instead of racing to get to Key West like I have the past few years – needed to make the trip quickly in order to make gigs – I’m taking my time. I’ll spend two days traveling the 160 or so miles from FLL to Mile Zero, checking out places I’ve never been before, taking pictures, making memories. I’m hoping that Eric Stone will have his new bar, Dockside, open by the time I get there on the 27th; if not, I can always hang out at the Sunset Grill. Or both – I’ll have the time. :)

My “big gig” of the week is Monday night in Key West at the Rum Barrel. It’s my second year there, which is another first for me. I’ve got a four-hour set starting at 7, I’ll have Allen “Frankendread” Holland playing steel pan with me, and I know that a few of my musical friends will be stopping by to play a few.

I’ve got a show at Green World Gallery on Thursday at 2:30, will be in Key West Chris‘ showcase at Durty Harry’s sometime after that, and will otherwise be roaming the island with my guitar, hopefully playing a few songs here and there.

As well as getting off the beaten track every now and then to recharge and maybe write something new.

I bid farewell to Key West on Monday the 4th, and fly home on Tuesday the 5th.

There and back again, ten years after my first trip.

Should be fun.

Turn it Down; Turn it Up

On the subject of manifesting Paradise in everyday life:

(to the tune of “Island Standard Time“) – you can click and play this while reading.

I made a change in my life about a month ago that is shifting more things in my world than even I had originally imagined. And this one change has me thinking today about how I – we, actually – can change our world by changing what we input *into* that world.

In short, turn down the negative; turn up the positive.

In my Secret Identity as a mild-mannered tech writer, my previous office was in San Jose, which was about an hour’s commute each way. Last year, my job function and responsibilities shifted significantly, to where I no longer had to work in a particular office to be near a particular product team. Since I work for a big company with multiple offices here in the Bay Area, I asked to be moved to an office in Pleasanton, about a third as far away mile- and time-wise. That move finally happened in late August.

I’d anticipated some of the improvements – an extra hour’s worth of productive time every day, less money spent on gas and tolls. What I *didn’t* expect was how much less stress I would have as a result of this one change. A lot of things that used to cause my gut to clench…don’t now.

Part of that is just not stressing the commute, or anticipating stressing the commute, which was *also* stressful. But now that I have a shorter commute that isn’t as variable due to traffic, I don’t listen to news radio anymore on my way to work, or if I do, I just turn it on for what I want to hear and then turn it off. This has reduced the amount of stressful input into my cognitive world by quite a bit. I still have my Internet news…but I can choose what to read and to not read that way, rather than taking whatever gets shoved down the pipeline at me.

Net result: I’ve turned the volume on my stress *way* down, by turning the volume down on several causes of stress.

Meanwhile, I’ve got that extra hour and a bit on each of the three days I used to commute to San Jose. What am I doing with that?

Part of that time is going toward being more productive in my Day Job. This gives me a sense of getting stuff done rather than chasing my tail, which reduces stress and increases positive feelings about *me*.

And part of it…when I get home, I am making more of a practice of just sitting out on the front porch with my drink after I get home, rather than just plugging myself into the Internet. And *that* is radically turning up the pleasure and relaxation quotient in my life.

When I’m feeling more confident and more relaxed, I’m also more likely to pick up the guitar, rehearse something, or work on writing something. When I *do* get online, I’m less likely to be dragged down by someone’s angry rants, and more likely to respond with humor, empathy, an attempt to turn someone else’s stress down and their relaxation and joy up. Which doesn’t always work, but is always worth trying.

Turning down the stress and turning up the joy. It’s a very simple equation. The important things usually are.

It’s easy to resist doing even the little things. Habit is a powerful master. But “if you can’t change your mind, do you still have one?” Try something small, like not reading something you know is gonna piss you off.

And a new saying, that I’ve just invented, borrowing from others: Minds are like diapers. Every now and then they need changing, and generally for the same reason.