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Key West ~ Stop and Stay Awhile

Updated: Apr 20

Catching up with the KeyWestians

 


We are three weeks into our first “Ramble On Residency.” An oxymoronic notion that involves traveling in one place. We've been supremely itinerant in the past few seasons, but you can only ramble so hard for so long. So we're slowing our roll and planting our flag long enough to at least manage to go to the same bar twice, if not become full-fledged locals condescendingly trashing the "tourists" behind their backs. We are in Key West for 30 days, long enough to know (roughly) where the grocery store is.  We have a house with a pool and



a martini shaker (I find doing this by hand too exhausting). No bar should be without one.



It also has an outdoor shower. Each morning I rise and stride across the pool deck, unencumbered by worry or wardrobe, to immerse myself in a warm Florida cascade. Those who know me can imagine the indescribable joy this brings me. I’m a simple man.

 

Eclipse COMO (Certainty of Missing Out) is now finally behind us. All our Vermont peeps have their stories (that they keep telling me). My favorite was shared by a reader who observed an imperious neighbor of ours who had designated herself as some sort of eclipse traffic warden. She was out directing people around the park next to our houses wearing—in a delightfully officious touch—a reflective vest. She must keep one in the closet for just such occasions (eclipses and other local emergencies). Smart when you think about it because—for two entire minutes that afternoon—it was dark. However, now that I consider the matter further, what would the reflectors do at that precise moment...?

Best left unsolved.


A Month of Weekends


In the category of Things-That-Should-Be-Obvious, but that I generally only discover in hindsight, is that when you rent a house in the tropics for a month and invite your fun friends down for their one-week vacations, back-to-back-to-back, you’re going to be partying every single day—for a month. Three weeks in and I’m hanging on for dear life, but somehow by mid-afternoon, after pounding on the laptop by the pool all day, darn it if it isn't already 5 o'clock somewhere.

 


Key West is not a big place. Roughly 2 miles by 4 miles. You can bike around the island in about an hour, including drink stops. Yet there are over 350 bars and restaurants. 43 just on Duval Street alone. The Duval Crawl includes a stop at each one, though if anyone has ever managed to pull that off, I would like to buy them a drink.

 

It's not all bars. There are museums too. I’ve written about the interesting Mel Fischer museum in the past. This time we finally went to the Ernest Hemingway Home (I guess he was a writer, like me). I usually avoid old house tours because it seems like they amount to a lot of "there's the kitchen, and an old bathtub." But this was an engaging tour. Lots of fun memorabilia on the walls. Ernesto's study with the typewriter he carried all over the world on the desk. And lots and lots of cats.


The cats are an interesting story. They are all descendants of the family pet Snowflake who was evidentially popular with the local lads. Snowflake was a polydactl (six-toed) kitty and many of the 60-odd cats that live on the property now share that hereditary trait that makes them particularly fine mousers on ships. The Hemingway cats don’t need to do too much mousing. They just go about their business while the tourists wander around the house.


Fun fact: there used to be a boxing ring where the pool is now for Hemingway’s manly bouts with his mates. But wife #2 had it moved to the local brothel, now the Blue Heaven restaurant.


There are many excellent museums on the island. But the best one is simply the town itself. Old Town, all 8.5 square miles of it, is protected by the National Park Service as a historic district. That means you can't muck up the architecture with your poor taste (and I don't mean you in particular, but that guy that lives on your block, you know the one).



Hence, the entire town is an architectural gem that is perfectly suited to its tropical flora. It charms me to bits every time I venture out into the quaint streets in search of the perfect margarita.



A special Ramble On farewell salute to Dickey Betts,

a ramblin' man if there ever was one.

Rest in Peace brother.




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