a hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy, and other road and sea side attractions launching out of Key West

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psychiatric help

Jerry Weinstock, M.D., Psychiatry, commented on yesterday’s ship of fools, humanity, sends out S.O.S. to God, from Key West and beyond post at www.goodmorningkeywest.com:

lady dolphin

got to go swimming, really like this Blog !! Jerry

I continued Jerry’s and my “eclectic science” email discussion in yesterday’s blog:

ET view

It occurred to me later yesterday that Earth humans will not be allowed to have star drive/travel, because they are too dangerous and destructive.

Imagine how a telepathic Martian would feel about learning of an Earthling manned space ship to be launched to Mars. Imagine 2 or 3 Martians gathering together to chant, beam, or however they do it, a particle beam at Earth, which disintegrates Earth, like Martians in the past did to the planet between Mars and Jupiter, when those dangerous aliens threatened Mars. Now that former planet is known as the Asteroid Belt. (I swiped that “theory” from Robert Heinlein’s iconic novel, Stranger in a Strange Land.

I have had contact with ETs. They are not hypothetical.

Looks to me Earth scientists and non-scientists, who cling to the Goldilocks theory – this planet is so just right that only on it could life develop, despite all the billions times billions times billions time trillions of planets in the Creation, not to mention the many other bodies and ethers, ignore the statistical odds of life forming elsewhere from this planet are so huge, as to be 100 percent, if statistical analysis is used by the same Goldilocksians, who have not strayed far from the notions that this planet is flat and the sun revolves around it; nor far from the notion that God was created in the images of various religions claiming to hold patents and copyrights and trademarks on God.

Takes psychosis to an entirely different level.


Jerry wrote:

Sloan: that has changed radically—most astrophysicists now believe life is widespread and home planets with life expanding prodigiously; I refer you to Cosmos number # 2 with Dr. Tyson the very last of the 13 sections—-incidentally magnificently done—-Have to run it stopped raining.
Have a very fine day ! Jerry

I replied:

Hmmm, glad to hear this. I first heard of the Goldilocks theory from a Christian Bible scholar, and I figured Creationists had latched onto the Goldilocks theory to support their cosmic view that this planet alone interests God, in all the physical creation. Perhaps the scientists who came up with the Goldilocks theory themselves were Bible influenced. Although my sense is that probably is not entirely true; some scientists are locked into that narrow (gross understatement) belief independent of the Bible.

I sometimes imagine, if Earth astronauts ever get beyond the Moon and land on Mars or one of the outlying planets’ moons, the outlying planets themselves probably would be too dangerous due to enormous gravity, horrendous storms, toxic chemical atmospheres, the Earthlings might stand right next to a sentient species and not even know it, unless the sentient species deigns to elucidate the Earthlings’ ignorance. Maybe by vaporizing them and their landing craft, and their spaceship via telepathic or other means not yet conceivable on this planet.

Or, the natives might welcome the Earthlings with open arms, and jaws, and eat them; or break them down into their chemical components for recycling into something needed by the natives, al la the desert planet Dune’s native humans taking dead humans’ water. Or perhaps, having ignored the blunder the indigenous Americans made at Plymouth Rock, the Titan natives put on a Thanksgiving feast, you can fill in the future blanks as well as I can :-).

Jerry wrote:

Sloan: astrophysicists can detail how life is probably spread through our Galaxy—the milky way galaxy. Our solar system spins around the entire galaxy every 225 million years—-going through those clouds where stars and planets are formed. It is all complicated to the extent it would take me several whole pages to begin to explain all this. Of course we are just one of Billions of Galaxies –just our solar system alone influences TRILLIONS of “comets”. Have I got you confused enough–I hope not!

Anyway ALL YOU MENTIONED IS IN THE REALM OF POSSIBILITY—-and where we will be in our evolutionary development –knowledge, insights, all aspects of science and technology—–wow who knows —we could get energy from Volcanoes before they go onto explosive modes —-geothermal energy , dark matter energy — SLOAN
it is all dependent on civilization not destroying itself—–which is a big aspect of these fantastic possibilities—–all possible and more. Historically high cultural achieving “domains” (countries) destroy themselves usually thru endless wars…sound familiar.

I admire your imagination and intellectual freedom to think!!
Never lose that –few people have it—-you are rare. –Cheers–Jerry.

I replied this morning:

I imagine dark matter, dark energy and antimatter are where most of the action is in the material universe, of which Earth scientists, relatively speaking, have progressed a relative millimeter since the notion that the planet was flat and a star revolved around it. Of the other universe, which contains the material universe, and which science, like religion, has no possible way to measure, perhaps a relative millimeter of human understanding has progressed … : -)

Yes, I do believe the war-loving Earth human colony is far too dangerous to be allowed off the reservation. I started wondering in earnest yesterday if maybe the Ebola epidemic, or perhaps pandemic, in three west African countries is going to spread and spread and spread, like in a sci-fi movie, until no place on earth reachable by aircraft or ship is spared. Under such a scenario, war might be a bit out of fashion due to most combatants and their leaders being too sick, or too dead, to participate, and most of their country men and women having the same experience.


Jerry wrote:

the Ebola epidemic is a definite problem…!!!

Facebook thread started yesterday by Father Stephen Braddock, who heads up Florida Keys Outreach Coalition based in Key West:

Father Stephen Braddock

Key West can’t afford to treat homeless people as a problem to be swept under the rug, warehoused, or pushed to one neighborhood or another. An open, transparent, and measured public dialogue on this issue is the only way to identify and reach consensus on long-term strategies in which to invest the citizen’s tax dollars.

Instead of settling for Band-Aids and yet another rushed & thoughtless process, our city officials need to focus the citizens of Key West limited resources on proven best practices to address homelessness and its very complex underlying causes, including the severe lack of affordable workforce housing!

“A roof, some fencing, a shade cloth and that’s it,” REALLY?


Key West can't afford to treat homeless people as a problem to be swept under the rug, warehoused, or pushed to one neighborhood or another. An open, transparent, and measured public dialogue on this issue is the only way to identify and reach consensus on long-term strategies in which to invest the citizen's tax dollars.</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>Instead of settling for Band-Aids and yet another rushed & thoughtless process, our city officials need to focus the citizens of Key West limited resources on proven best practices to address homelessness and its very complex underlying causes, including the severe lack of affordable workforce housing!</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>"A roof, some fencing, a shade cloth and that's it,"  REALLY?  </p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
  • Ronnie Ecklund Right On.
  • John Turner Agreed!
  • Thom Harris Admirable sentiments. From my experience, most of the homeless in KW are “professional vagrants” with no desire to work or contribute; they come from faraway. And, too many of them are abusive, giving the others a bad name and only hardening the positions of the general citizenry. Compassion can be counter productive!
  • Stephen Braddock Our compassion is correct, it is our implementation that is flawed and often counter productive.
    16 hrs · Like · 4
  • Sloan Bashinsky As one who actually has been a vagrant in Key West, who has lived on the street here, who has a “vagrant” tattoo on his right shoulder, who has long been a professional bum, who has no desire to work or contribute, who came from far away, Maui, after being told in my sleep to come here, even though I had no money, but soon the means showed up and I was on my way here, to be the aforesaid, a bum, and to speak abusively to homeless people who abused themselves and other homeless people and non-homeless people, and to speak abusively to people who abused and/or spoke abusively of homeless people, and to speak abusively to Christians who told homeless people they would not be homeless if they accepted Jesus, the homeless man, as Lord, and to speak abusively to city and county officials who spoke abusively of homeless people and who presumed to know how to deal with homeless people even though they had never been homeless and knew nothing about that condition, and who used their police to torture homeless people, which witnessed first hand, I have to say, it still amazes me to hear people weigh in on homeless issues, who have not been homeless. For the record, folks, and Steve Braddock, you know I know you and FKOC and Samuel’s House are providing the only programs I know of in the Keys, which give homeless people, who are willing to have clean urine, that is, give up their drug of choice, usually booze, which drug clean state I can’t say of most non-homeless people I know in Key West, homelessness has no cure, it is endemic in American society, just as rich and middle class and poor people are endemic, just as nice and not nice people are endemic. You can try to help homeless people, one at a time, return to what you view as “normal” living, and that’s a good thing to do, but to believe there is a cure, that homelessness can be “stamped out”, is, I want to say delusional, but perhaps that’s too harsh, not realistic perhaps says it well enough, as everyone I know could end up homeless, just as I did, and I never wanted that to happen, I did not choose for it to happen, but it happened and there was nothing I could do about it, nor was there anything I could do to extricate myself from it, and it was not because I was an addict, I wasn’t, and it was not because I was crazy, I wasn’t, and it was not for any reason I could do anything about; it was my fate, my karma. Every homeless person has an unique story of how he or she became homeless, there is no formula for becoming homeless, nor for becoming not homeless, just as there is no formula for becoming an addict, or not becoming one, just as there is no formula for becoming mentally ill, or not becoming mentally ill, just as there is no formula for contracting cancer, nor not contracting cancer. Key West people have a terrific spiritual load on them, because they claim this is the city of “one human family”. Homeless people are being used to put the people of Key West to the test in that regard. Meanwhile, Steve, you are right; Key West needs a great deal more affordable RENTAL housing, probably 1,200 units, maybe half of which could have been put on Truman Waterfront instead of a park the city does not need and will have to pay for out of city operating funds and whatever grants can be obtained. Rental housing a grocery store clerk can afford, a dockworker can afford, a housekeeper can afford, a waitress can afford, a yardworker can afford. Public rental housing, aka the Housing Authority. Such housing will prevent people on the financial edge now from going homeless, and will enable people who just went homeless and are not yet street people to get back inside. And, such housing will be available to recovering homeless people who complete the FKOC and the Samuel’s House programs. Oh, my bad, there is no such available affordable housing. It’s never been important in Key West to fix that problem, which is a mountain compared to the homeless problem, which is a mole hill.
  • Stephen Braddock Sloan Bashinsky you never heard me ever say I thought there was “a cure” or that homelessness can be “stamped out”. I never said it because I do not believe it to be realistic either. The point of my comments come down to my belief that the type of new KOTS shelter I heard proposed at the city commission meeting last week is unrealistic and irresponsible.
  • Sloan Bashinsky We are in agreement on the new shelter. KW’s approach to homeless people all along has been unrealistic and irresponsible. I’m speaking of the city as a whole, and its government. There are, and have been, of course, people who go at it sanely and compassionately.  And I know you do not believe homelessness can be eliminated. I phrased that poorly. I have in mind the general view that homelessness can be eliminated, which I have heard from SHAL members, from elected city officials, from Michael Stoops, and even from panelists at the recent homeless forum, which I imagine you probably were responsible for bringing to Key West. I wish everyone in Key West would watch the video of that forum, which FKOC made. Even though several city officials were there at the forum, and it seems not to have swayed them, based on what I have heard and seen so far.

blue paper logo

Key West the Newspaper article in the most recent edition – www.thebluepaper.com, and reader comments:

SEPTEMBER 19, 2014

Rick Boettger

Last year I wrote a column praising Sunset Key, titled “Sailing to Wisteria.” It described a wonderful wedding anniversary stay-cation Cynthia and I had with treasured friends, ending with our evening sunset on a beach that reminded us of one on Vanuatu, except riotous Key West was only five minutes behind us on the other side of the island. I thoughtfully wrote that one alternative to cruise ships was places like this, and maybe if that happened to Wisteria, it wouldn’t be all bad.

Oh boy, have I had a change of heart. I got so screwed by Sunset Key while trying to arrange another anniversary overnight there that I now understand the nature of the opposition. Why is this important? The owners of Sunset Key, the Walshes, are partners with the Bernsteins trying to develop Wisteria, as well as the main funders of the pro-cruise ship side of the recent referendum that overwhelmingly rejected widening the channel for monster cruise ships. My recent experience shows them to be not only unethical, but short-sightedly foolish in running their own business.

What happened is that this year Cynthia and I decided just to have an anniversary dinner at Michael’s, next door to the beautiful garden at a friend’s home where we had our wedding eight years ago. The dinner was great, but we reminisced about the previous anniversary stay-cation overnights we had spent at Tranquility Bay, Cheeca Lodge, and then Sunset Key. As soon as we got home, we decided to book a room for the next year: so as not to forget, and maybe save some money—it was over $1,000 for our previous year.

So I got online and pressed the right arrow key 12 times to go from May 2014 to May 2015. And yes! We could get a one-bedroom cottage for the bargain price of $680. I guaranteed the room with my credit card and we were both happy with our decision.

A few days later I was a bit puzzled by an email from Sunset Key asking us how we had enjoyed our stay. I thought that was odd, it being over a year ago, but maybe it was just trying to drum up more business from us by tweaking our memories. But the oddity stayed at me, so a couple days later I went back to the email and was shocked to read that they were asking us how we had enjoyed our stay on the night when we were at Michael’s, the night I had made the reservation for the next year.

Sure enough, the reservation letter they had sent me the night I made the 2015 reservation said it was for that same night in 2014! The time was 10:15 PM. They had made us a web reservation for their hotel at 10:15 PM on the same night, which makes no sense at all. Then, when we of course did not show up, they charged the full amount of our credit card, which we had given them to hold the reservation for next year, not pre-pay anything at all.

At first I thought this was an amusing misunderstanding which would be cleared up with a phone call, and we could make a reservation for what we wanted in 2015. When I called the reservation number for Starwood, their blanket management organization, I was first referred back to the local hotel, Sunset Key. The locals sounded sympathetic, but said that since the reservation had been made on the web, I’d have to clear it up through national.

And the same with the national reservations lady I spoke with. She sounded sympathetic, saying she would email a refund okay to Sunset Key. Through her, I made the correct reservation for May 6, 2015. I waited a few days for her promised email to be processed and called to confirm with our locals.

This is where it got weird. Reservations said they couldn’t make any refunds, I’d have to speak to the hotel manager. After a few days of phone tag, we finally spoke. He simply refused to give me a refund for an absurd “reservation” that I never made, and for which Sunset Key was not inconvenienced in the slightest.

Realize, not only did they not have to make up the bed, or suffer any normal wear-and-tear from an overnight room use, but the “reservation” they made for us hardly stopped them from releasing the room to anyone showing up after 10:15 PM wanting to use “our” room. It’s a resort. People arrive well before dinner. No one shows up for a late snooze.

At this point I canceled the 2015 reservation. They could do that. The national people were surprised that even for that reservation, the full amount had been charged to my credit card a full year in advance, instead of being used, as is normal, to guarantee the reservation.

So I appealed to the credit card company I had used, Citi MasterCard. They immediately issued me a provisional credit, and asked me to send in my side of the story in two weeks. I did so, but was unhappy to get an email from them saying my credit had been revoked. It turns out the snail mail hadn’t made it there for a week, but the postmark qualified, so it was back in play. They would contact the hotel, they said, to let them make their case.

I thought it would be a slam dunk. I had gotten nothing from Sunset Key and they had not spent a penny giving me a service. The reservation on the web at 10:15 PM for the same night was preposterous on the face of it. My good faith about making it for the next year was supported by my having re-made the reservation, since canceled, for 2015.

I wondered how on earth they would try to justify their charge. There was no recorded phone reservation with my voice saying, “Yes, I want it for tonight, I know it’s late.” I know I toggled ahead 12 months, but if I lied, would they have a record of my key strokes? If I indeed had clicked “buy” on a May 6, 2014 reservation, a screen snapshot of that would be evidence, but, unlike a phone recording, that could easily be faked. And in fact no honest such evidence existed.

I heard nothing for a month. I called, and while credit card holders get two weeks to respond, the hotels get two months. I began to worry, fearing a slanted playing field. But no, after the two months, I got the happy ending, saying my refund was permanent. Hooray for Citi MasterCard!

So what on earth were Starwood and Sunset Key thinking? I told them I had written a laudatory article the year before, and would pursue my refund through my credit card company and the New York Times’ The Haggler, who helps out in cases like this. In fact, they could not sustain their ridiculous claim at the very first hurdle. They lost my business, have to put up with articles like this not only here but in web reviews, and if they really get what they deserve, The Hagglerwill slam them nationally.

These are the people who want to develop Wisteria and encourage larger cruise ships. I had been willing to go towards them on a compromise on Wisteria. I now see their their dealing with me to show not only their self-serving, unfair business dealings, but that they really may not know what their own long-term best interests are. They are like the fisherman who want to take the shorts and egg-bearing lobsters. Short-term gain today, and the hell with alienating customers or poisoning their own well in the long term.

Conclusion: what the Walshes want, cruise ships and island development, is all about them, right here and now. It is not about their community or even their own long-term development. A lesson learned.


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Key West The Newspaper [The Blue Paper] encourages spirited, open debate in comments on our stories. We do ask that you refrain from profanity, personal attacks and remarks that are off point. Please join the conversation!


Very frustrating! How many other’s has this happened to? As George Carlin used to say…”The Walsh Bros were just servicing the customer…” “servicing”, a great euphemism.

I dunno, Rick, maybe you and Cynthia had that gruesome experience to wake you out of your peaceful Sunset Key slumber. Might be I would not go out there even if they paid me.

Todd German drove me around it in his dingy a few years ago, trying to impress me, get me to back down from my not entirely positive view of Sunset Key, the Washes and the Bernsteins. That was just after Todd and I had tromped around Wisteria Island, with the intent of my being brought around to supporting the Bernsteins and Walshes making it into Sunset Key Deux. I said Wisteria reminded me of places I used to hunt in Alabama; if left alone, it would become a beautiful natural island.

After we had circled Sunset Key at what I felt was barely a safe enough distance for me not to contract an airborne high society spirit ebola, I told Todd the architecture was all the same, all the vegetation had been hauled down from the mainland, there was nothing natural-looking about it. The entire island looked like the work of a plastic surgeon.

From there, Todd motored us over to Demolition Key, which he said was a beautiful wildlife preserve now, people not allowed on it. That’s the other side of Sisgsbee, en route to Boca Chica, as I recall. Dang was Demolition Key beautiful. And, a rookery for numerous bird species.

Todd said Demolition Key, like Sunset Key (Tank Island) and Wisteria Island, were man-made. Demolition Key had been used as a bombing target at one time by the Navy. Or maybe as an explosive test site. I said, well, here’s a great example of what Wisteria Island could be like, if it was left alone.

That trip just didn’t go at all like Todd and the people he had done it for, the Bernseins and the Walshes, had maybe hoped it would go. Maybe they didn’t realize I’d been hanging in the Keys since 1956 and I remembered what they were like before the likes of the Washes and the Bernsteins took to developing down here.

Whatever, there are lots of people down here, Rick, who can’t even afford $1,000 a month rent for an efficiency apartment. How do you imagine they might feel about you being ripped off by Sunset Key?

Sunset Key, left, Wisteria Island, right, after Wisteria allegedly was defoliated, circa 2005, by airplanes dropping stuff on it, some suspected it was Agent Orange, part of a developer’s conspiracy to make the island ugly and more palatable to the county and city governments approving it to be made into Sunset Key Deux. Most of the Australian pines on Wisteria are dead in this photo. Below this photo is a photo of Wisteria before the alleged defoliation, when Wisteria was covered with thriving Australian pines.

Wisteria & Sunset

Wisteria Island

Rick replied to me by email:

Sloan, thanks for commenting on my Sunset Key column. People may get more out of your experience than mine.

Re: the $1,000/night sympathy factor….I am not sure I have been right about this, but I have regularly reported on my experiences as a “rich” person, kind of taboo even to use the word. Not taboo to me: I was raised lower-middle working class, never revered money, and have been bemused that I came into it so early. I enjoyed reading Dominick Dunne talk about his casual association with the rich/famous/powerful without envy, just liking a glimpse into lives I would never enter myself (and indeed never have). I have almost surely turned off some people by describing, at length for example my luxury South Seas cruise, but I am hoping others like seeing what someone with my background is experiencing in the “rich” life.

Other factors are that our home, which you’ve been in as our guest, would rent for about the same $1,000/night if it were a hotel. We don’t travel for better, we travel for different. Also, the same spend-it attitude I have towards money informs my regularly helping people who need it with similar sums. Cynthia and I are Legacy donors to CFFK, and through them the homeless are in line for a six-figure boost via the FKOC.

Speaking of which, I have a column out yesterday (Thursday) in KONK Life about Stephen Braddock and the homeless forum. I mention you, and I end up agreeing with the “drunk tank” proposal and vastly increased housing for workers and the homeless. I will greatly appreciate your comments, both in the eBlast version that will come out eventually, and in your own blog. Like Stephen, I appreciate your experience and perspective. I know you will say something I haven’t thought of.

I know anything written to you is fair game for goodmorningkeywest. I have emailed this to you as opposed to posting it after yours in the Blue Paper column to let you edit it as you wish, Take out the charity stuff, Dunne reference, whatever. This is mainly to you, and it’s up to you what you do or don’t want to share with your readership.

Keep up the good work, Sloan. I don’t know how you keep surviving the political campaigns. Ain’t it about time Whoever rotated in a different passel of Angels to guide you, some with a little more compassion?


I replied by email:

Hi, Rick – I think you should submit your email as a reply to my comment under your blue paper article, and I might reply to that, too.

Your article raises the issues you expand on in your reply to me. The blue paper has a lot more readers, I think, than I do.

I probably will use your article and your and my back and forth at www.goodmorningkeywest.com, too.

Not clear what this means: “Cynthia and I are Legacy donors to CFFK, and through them the homeless are in line for a six-figure boost via the FKOC.”

CFFK is cystic fibrosis non-profit in the Florida Keys? If so, how does that translate to Florida Keys Outreach Coalition (FKOC)?

Certainly, I want to see your article in KONK Life. I don’t read the paper edition, but wait on the electronic version to come my way in an email blast. That could make fodder for a daily raving at www.goodmorningkeywest.com. And/or perhaps you submit it to the blue paper for its next week edition, and I comment under it. Again, the blue paper has more readers than I do, I think.

I told Naja and Arnaud the other day, that I thought I recalled you once told me that you and Cynthia donate seven figures annually. Naja said she doubted it. I said Rick doesn’t have to work. She said you help people with their tax returns. I said probably to keep busy. But I think you and Cynthia are well fixed, perhaps it is her money, I didn’t know. Naja said you once contributed $25 to the blue paper. I laughed, told her to tell you what I had told her about you and Cynthia giving seven figures annually, and you should give the blue paper a lot of money in exchange for getting to write articles for it :-).

I told Naja and Arnaud , just the day before, I was talking to (not with, but to) Pritam Singh in my thoughts. I told him I was told by Jim Hendrick that he, Pritam, donated money, perhaps a lot of money, to saving the whales. Jim told me that to impress on me that Pritam was not just a taker, but also was a giver and was a spiritual person. I told Pritam that giving money to save the whales earns him no gold stars in heaven; if he really is dedicated to saving the whales, he will be on a Greenpeace boat like the one the French sunk when that boat got between whales and fishing boats.

Naja said, what? The French sunk a Greeepeace boat? Arnaud, a Frenchman, said, yeah, the French sunk a Greenpeace boat. Perhaps Naja is just waking up to what really is going on here in Key West and elsewhere.

Anyway, I said, in my thoughts, I told Pritam he’d made heaps of money in Key West, and I was wondering how much of that loot he had given back to Key West, where he had made all that money? I had asked Jim Hendrick the same question about Pritam, when Jim told me about Pritam giving money to saving the whales. I told Pritim, in my thoughts, that there are a whole lot of rich people in Key West, who live here full or part time, and, I wonder how much money they give to needy causes in Key West, and in the Keys, of which needy causes there are many, and most of them are scraping just to get by?

I shared that same conversation with Sheelman last night on White Street Pier, outside the dome, where the air is breathable. He agreed; there are a lot of rich people in Key West who are taking in one way or another what this city has to offer rich people, which poor people cannot afford, thus enjoy; nor can even most middle class people. Sheelman said he, too, wonders what those rich people give back to Key West – especially how much money they give to the city, since they have money, and that is something they can give, which many people cannot give, so they give in other ways, or they don’t give.

Frankly, I can’t imagine anyone but rich socialites (that’s as nice as I can say it) being interested in lavish ocean cruises, or your and Cynthia’s adventures on Sunset Key. Especially, if you can do those things because of money you inherited, as opposed to making it through honest hard astute work. I say that as someone from a very wealthy family, who doesn’t have much money, but who has had inherited money in the past, and may have it again.

As you know, Rick, I gave away more of my last inheritance than I spent on myself. The same happened with the inheritance before that one. I never took lavish cruises, because that never appealed to me. My father and his father did that, it would drive me bonkers penned up on a boat with people I didn’t feel much, if anything, in common with. When I traveled overseas, I flew the cheapest way, I stayed in cheap lodging places, or with locals. I ate with locals in their eateries. I hitchhiked to get around, or paid for local low cost transportation.

If I had a lot of money, I probably would give it to people I know, who need a boost, when the Spirit moved me to do that. That’s mostly what I did with money when I had it, although sometimes I gave it to outfits I felt were doing good work.


P.S. Survived is a good word to describe how running for office feels to me. Survived, just barely, better says it. The angels are going to have a tough time finding a way for me to run for office soon; as the next election season is in 2016, and by then, my plans (do I hear God laughing?) are to be somewhere the angels can’t find me, or at least can’t find my body – insinuating, I’m not using it any more, or it’s no longer on this planet, the alien abduction trip always is a possibility. But then, to listen to lots of Christians, my body goes up in the Rapture, or down, leaving only my sandals, shorts, undershorts and t-shirt for people to ponder and speculate – what great fun that would be to watch from the fly on the wall position! But then again, maybe I’d be so glad to be out of here that I’d be headed off at warp-squared speed to wherever, maybe some place I never been before, something new.

SheelMan and subjectSheelman, left, with one of his subjects, right, and on the wall, at the “Hidden in Plain View” homeless art, music and poetry” show grand opening mothered by Erika Biddle in the fall of 2012. Erika below, at the opening, hosted by Studios of Key West

Erika at Hidden in Plain View

Naja Girard, co-publisher of the blue paper,


emailed this to me yesterday, under the subject, “Interesting”:

The Strange Case of Emperor Norton I of the United States

By Evan Andrews

Beginning on September 17, 1859, the United States was unofficially “ruled” by Joshua A. Norton, a penniless San Francisco oddball who, in a fit of inspired lunacy, declared himself “Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico.” Amused San Franciscans humored “Norton I’s” delusions of grandeur, and over the next 20 years he became a local celebrity, winning adoration from his subjects and literary tributes from the likes of Mark Twain and Robert Louis Stevenson. On the 155th anniversary of his ascension to the throne, learn the unlikely story of America’s first and only self-proclaimed Emperor.

san francisco

On September 17, 1859, a most unusual decree appeared in the San Francisco Bulletin newspaper. In grandiloquent fashion, the message stated, “At the peremptory request and desire of a large majority of the citizens…I, Joshua Norton…declare and proclaim myself Emperor of these United States.” It went on to command representatives from all the states to convene in the Bay Area, “to make such alterations in the existing laws of the Union as may ameliorate the evils under which the country is laboring.” The edict was signed, “NORTON I, Emperor of the United States.”

The Bulletin’s editors had printed the imperial decree on a lark, but over the next 20 years, its author would grow into one of San Francisco’s most recognizable tourist attractions. Clad in an epaulette-adorned Navy coat, an ostrich feather-plumed hat and occasionally carrying a military saber, the delightfully eccentric “Emperor Norton I” walked the streets accepting mock-fealty from all who were willing to indulge his royal fantasy. He ate in restaurants free of charge, issued his own currency and made official proclamations that ranged from the comical to the surprisingly prophetic. It didn’t matter that the self-styled ruler was more than a little unhinged, or that he was actually a poor beggar whose “palace” was a local flophouse—many in San Francisco enjoyed playing along with the joke. It is even said that when Emperor Pedro II of Brazil visited the City by the Bay, its residents marched out their beloved “Mad Monarch” for a formal meeting.

Joshua A. Norton

Before he was “Norton I, Emperor of the United States,” Joshua Abraham Norton was just another businessman who ventured to the West to make his fortune. Born in Britain around 1819 into a decidedly un-regal family of merchants, he spent his youth in South Africa before migrating to San Francisco during the heady days of the 1849 Gold Rush. Norton dove into the real estate business, and by the early 1850s, he’d turned his original $40,000 stake into a quarter million dollar fortune. But like so many Gold Rush-era speculators, Norton’s greed eventually got the better of him. During a rice shortage in 1853, he concocted a scheme to conquer the San Francisco market, only to land in financial ruin when fresh shipments poured into the harbor and caused the price to plummet. Norton declared bankruptcy and fell off the map for several years. When he resurfaced in September 1859 and marched into the offices of the San Francisco Bulletin, royal decree in hand, it was with the sincere belief that he was the unrecognized sovereign of the United States. Norton had never exhibited any symptoms of mental instability or delusion during his business career, but all signs seemed to indicate that he had lost his mind along with his riches.

In a display of the off-kilter charm that would make San Francisco famous, its residents scarcely batted an eye at Norton I’s claims. People greeted him with bows when he passed by on his royal walks, and the city directory ironically listed his occupation as “Emperor.” Smelling a story, local newspapers actively encouraged the Norton myth and printed his zany imperial proclamations with great fanfare. One of the first, from October 1859, declared, “fraud and corruption prevent a fair and proper expression of the public voice…in consequence of which, we do hereby abolish Congress.” When the nation’s leaders had the gall to continue meeting, Norton I issued a second decree ordering General Winfield Scott to march on Washington and put the legislators to a rout. The following summer, as the United States teetered on the brink of the Civil War, he announced that he had dissolved the Union altogether and replaced it with an absolute monarchy with himself at the helm. When the French later invaded America’s neighbor to the south, he nurtured international relations by adding the honorific “Protector of Mexico” to his title.

One of Norton I's imperial bonds

As his celebrity grew, Norton I became a cherished mascot for the city of San Francisco. Photos of him in imperial dress were popular souvenirs, and Emperor Norton dolls found their way into shops across the city. Theater owners saved him a seat at the opening night of every play; local train and ferry companies let him ride free of charge; and some restaurateurs allowed him to skip out on his tab in exchange for the right to post an imperial seal of approval that read: “By Appointment to His Imperial Majesty, Norton I.” The Emperor remained cash poor in spite of the handouts, so admiring subjects gave aid under the guise of paying taxes into the imperial treasury. In 1871, a local printing firm even ran off a special currency emblazoned with a picture of Norton I and his imperial seal. The Emperor passed the notes as his official government bonds until the day he died, and many recipients displayed them as treasured mementos. Today, Norton I’s imperial IOUs still fetch a kingly fee among coin collectors.

Even the Bay Area’s most powerful men delighted in catering to the Emperor’s whims. Army officers at the Presidio gifted him a fresh uniform when his old one wore out, and local lawmakers helped furnish the royal wardrobe from public funds. When an overzealous police officer once dared to arrest the Emperor on charges of vagrancy, the city’s newspapers responded with outrage. One writer defended him as a local institution, arguing, “since he has worn the Imperial purple [he] has shed no blood, robbed nobody, and despoiled the country of no one, which is more than can be said for his fellows in that line.” The Emperor was quickly released, and from then on, the city’s lawmen saluted whenever they encountered him on the street.

Norton I in full regalia

All the while, newsmen continued to print Norton I’s grandiose edicts in the papers. Some bordered on the bizarre—in 1872, he declared that anyone who referred to his adopted city by “the abominable word ‘Frisco’” was subject to a $25 fine—but others carried an unmistakable logic. One of the most famous mandates came in the early 1870s, when his majesty announced that the city should appropriate funds for construction of a bridge between San Francisco and Oakland. Ignored at the time, Norton I’s decree eventually came to fruition in 1936 with the opening of the Bay Bridge.

Emperor Norton’s story inspired fascination from tourists and great artists alike. The city’s benevolent dictator also captured the imagination of Mark Twain, who had worked as a journalist in San Francisco during his reign. Twain went on to use the Emperor as the model for the “King,” a royal impostor who appears as a character in his 1885 novel “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” Several other plays and operas were written about Norton I during his lifetime, yet outside of occasional visits to the halls of power and cameos at city gatherings, his everyday routine was quite unremarkable. He lived in a tiny rented room and spent his days playing chess, attending religious services, reading in libraries or going on long walks to survey his realm, supposedly with Bummer and Lazarus, two of the city’s most famous street mutts, in tow.

It was during one of these royal constitutionals on January 8, 1880, that Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, dropped dead from a stroke. His passing inspired comment in dozens of newspapers including the New York Times. San Francisco gave Norton I a send-off fit for an Emperor. “LE ROI EST MORT” (“THE KING IS DEAD”), read the headline in the Chronicle. “He is dead,” lamented another paper, “and no citizen of San Francisco could have been taken away who would be more generally missed.” At Norton I’s funeral a few days later, some 10,000 loyal subjects turned up to pay their respects.

I replied:

Ha? Many times during the recent mayor’s race, I said what Key West needs is king or queen, who is elected and serves for a set number of years and that’s it, no re-run, and who can be dispatched at anytime by disgruntled citizens using the old tried and true methods: stabbing, shooting, hanging, beheading, feeding to the sharks would work as well in Key West. I nominate Steve Freer for king, who I imagine would second that, but perhaps not, given who nominated him.

Tugboar TillyStephen FreerTilly 4 days beforeTugboat Tilly

Steve Freer is the fellow who bought the ancient Tug Boat Tilly without getting the engine checked out, and eventually was rescued by Naja’s husband and co-publisher, Arnaud, who is a boat salver, just before the Tilly sunk to the bottom of the channel coming into Key West, all of which was reported in the blue paper, including the photos above.

The other day at her home, Naja likened me to Steve, in that he holds himself out as a prophet of doom for all who disagree with him. I said Steve is psychotic and he condemned me, too, after I told him that he got what he asked for when he didn’t have the Tilly’s engine checked out before he paid for the boat.

Me, I’m a pack mule  fool overworked by angels, who tell me to tell people how they can do things differently, and what they are doing that is messing them and other people up, and how karma works, really fun stuff it seems nobody wants anything to do with or even acknowledge is real.

work muleApril fool

Even so, if someone nominated me Emperor of Key West, and that festive fantasy took off, I’d love living here with all expenses paid by the local dignitaries, movers and shakers, socially elite, eateries, sports and piano bars, playhouses, movie theaters, grocery stores, K-Mart, flop houses, etc.

Sloan angel

Sloan Bashinsky


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