Fumblings in Key West (or, Honk Out With Your Conch Out)

Key West is known as the Conch Republic. Locals are called Conchs. Key West Sunset Ale is marketed as ‘The Beer of the Conch Republic’. I had conch ceviche and conch fritters at a fish spot in Key West. They sell conch shells at all the major tourist shops. Basically, there’s a lot of conch over there.

As we drove by one gigantic conch shell situated on a street corner, my wife said, ‘That looks like a huge vagina.’

Stumblings in Key West

Key West and Ernest Hemingway are somewhat synonymous with each other (at least I think so). So, being that I’m in Key West and an Ernest Hemingway fan (having read quite a bit of his oeuvre), and domiciled during our stay exactly across the street from the Hemingway house, going on the tour seemed inevitable. Plus, those darn six-toed cats just get me all warm and fuzzy inside. Meow. Pet. Meow. Poop.

Our tour guide was evocative and well-spoken with an enthusiasm that swung between true Hemingway buff and pinkie scoop of China White. I think he was an actor, too, which may, also, explain the searing intensity in his eyes when he recited a particularly engrossing detail. Like when he got to the part of Hemingway shotgunning his brains out.

Hemingway womanized, was married four times, had a number of major concussions (nine reported), was bi-polar, a raging alcoholic, went through electro-shock therapy, changed the literary landscape and only lived in this house from 1931 to 1939.

They’re up to to 53 cats now.

Quite the legacy.

Jumblings in Key West

Snippets from the past two days and nights.

  • At a bar, drinking beer, listening to the pumped-in music. First, there was a song by Cake. A short period later, a long by Spoon. A spoonful of cake, so to speak.
  • Happy-hour at a waterfront fish house. 50% off drinks and appetizers. We had conch fritters, conch ceviche, 1/2 lb of peel-n-eat shrimp and baked oysters with a key lime butter breadcrumb topping. There’s a reason why restaurants can sell their food half-off and not lose money in the transaction. As we walked away, I felt my stomach speaking to me in jabs. Luckily, nothing worse happened. The half-off mojito wasn’t good either.
  • Walking around during the day. “I’m already sweating through my shirt,” I said to my wife. “So was that guy,” she said. “Which guy?” “That guy we passed.” I didn’t see any guy. “Good.”
  • The only reliable signal (other than our hotel’s wi-fi) is the Starbuck’s wi-fi. We stand outside Starbucks for 10 minutes plotting our next foray. We don’t order anything. It’s okay, I stopped for Starbucks at least 4x on the way down. They owe me.
  • Harry S. Truman had a vacation spot in Key West dubbed ‘The Little White House’. It’s not, as I presumed, a miniature version of the White House. It’s just white and smaller than the White House. We walk to the main entrance, curious to see if it’s free. It isn’t, but next to the gift shop is a free exhibit: two rooms off to the side with some Truman paraphernalia. We walk in. Pictures of Truman abound. There’s even a guayabera shirt encased in plexiglass next to a picture that appears to be of Truman in the shirt. Points for authenticity. In the second room, there’s a couple. A wife and husband, 50-60s, white. The husband is fat and sitting in a chair. I say hi, look around. There’s a poster with all the presidents ranked up until the latter Bush (from a 2009 C-Span poll). The headline reads, Truman ranked 5th in poll of best presidents. I look at the ranking and wonder why James Buchanan ended up last. The fat husband says, “Is Obama on there?” I say: “No, the poll was taken in 2009.” He grumbles. I keep looking for John Adams. There he is two above his son, John Quincy Adams. “Want to know where I’d rank him?” I think I already know. I sidestep: “Looks like people liked John Adams more than his son.” I leave the room, never to return.
  • Eating another meal to wash away the taste from happy-hour, I order a beer, Key West Sunset Ale. “Is this a local beer?” I ask the waitress. Whenever I can drink locally, I try to. “It was local, but they got too big and moved to the mainland.” “Oh. Do you have anything else local?” “No.” “Okay, I’ll have that.”
  • There’s a pair of sisters providing live music at dinner. One only sings. The other sings backup and plays keyboard. I tip them and ask them if they can play “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus. The singer says doesn’t know it. The keyboardist laughs and says she’s never played it before. I say, “Me either.” When we leave 25 minutes later, they still hadn’t played it, but they were taking a break watching YouTube videos. I like to think they learned the song and played it later.
  • We got caught in the rain on the way to the Tropic Cinema to watch Jason Bourne. The movie was a mash-up of the previous ones and would’ve been better if I’d never seen any of them. But they still did a bang-up job with the car chases. Get it? It was still raining when we left. We quick-footed it to a bar. Drank. I looked at my wife with faux-seriousness and said, “Tell me your dreams.” She didn’t. We got rained on the whole way back to the hotel.

Mumblings in Key West

I’m in Key West, Florida as of last night and for the next three days. To commemorate my visit I will be taking stock of my activities and encounters via this portal, to share it for all posterity. Amen. Let’s begin.

The time: 10 pm

The location: Cocktail lounge on Duval Street

The scene: A non-indecent menage a trois at the bar (one guy, two girls), a slightly hipster, facial-haired, non-loquacious bartender, a Zoltar machine from the movie Big next to the bathroom. Ceiling treatments. Miami hotel pool music playing (think Thievery Corporation). Cocktail menu. An ode to Hemingway (daiquiri, non-frozen). Nods to Cuba. Reasonably priced.

The eavesdropping: I walked in to an ongoing conversation on the ludicrous price of some bottles of tequila (or mezcal, wasn’t quite sure) by the same producer. Bartender said: “Of all of these, and I’ve had them all, I actually prefer the $400 one to the $1,400.” One of the women said, “I really liked that one [unclear which]. It wasn’t even that expensive, like $30 a shot…definitely not $50.”

The drinks: Expertly-made, could hardly taste the liquor (in a good way), well-balanced, nuanced.

The incidentals: A group of three girls entered while the bartender was occupied making our drinks. A craftsman, he took his time. When he finished, he went to the back to do something, not stopping by the girls first. They left without ordering. He came back in time to see them leave, he gave me a tilted look as if to say, win some, lose some. I didn’t play the Zoltar.