Well, I’m back in Minnesota after a two-plus month sojourn in Key West, and I’m not a bit happy about it. Right now, as I’m writing this, it’s minus one, “bitterly cold,” with an overnight low of minus seventeen and dangerous wind chills as low as minus thirty-five. But hey, let’s not talk about the weather! Let’s go (at least in our minds) to Key West! I want to take you there!
We’ll get up every morning around sunrise. It won’t be hard to wake up, because we’ll have been awake since about 4:30 a.m., when the roosters start crowing . . .
Walk with me through the Historic Bight marina, past Turtle Kralls, Schooner
Wharf, the Boat House, Alonzo’s (restaurants where we can get a mahi or grouper sandwich or pink Key West shrimp) over to the open blue water where deep sea fishing boats are just heading out. At Mallory Square we’ll lean on the wood rail of Sunset Pier and look out at private Sunset Key (where the rich have fancy places), and uninhabited Christmas Tree Key, where sailboats are anchored offshore.
We’ll walk through Truman Annex, with its the beautiful, stately white homes, and lush, tropical flora. I’ll show you a banana tree
with a bunch of hanging bananas and we’ll ooh and ahh at the incredible pinky-purple blossom–kinda sexy in a botanical way, don’t you think! Back up Duval Street we’ll go, where men with noise-blocking earmuffs are blowing the streets clean, and the street sweepers are busy sweeping up the previous night’s debris from all the folks who mill up and down the main drag. We can’t help laughing at some dirty T-shirt sayings in shop windows. Maybe someone will ride by on a bike with a parrot on his shoulder. We’ll come back on Fleming, stopping in at Faustos grocery store, where I’ll introduce you to my friend, Betina. She’s from Haiti, works two jobs to send money home, and is wonderful. You’ll like her too.
When we get back to the cottage, we’ll take Murphy for a walk around the block. We’ll pass by the homeless couple who camp under a big tree at the edge of a parking lot. They ride trike-bikes with all their stuff piled up, and where they spend the night, I don’t know. But they’re there under the tree every day, rain or shine, cold or hot, and they’re nice. Friendly and warm, and seemingly okay, smiling, jovial, especially her. I’ll introduce you, though I don’t know their names, and we’ll make a little small talk about where you’re from, the weather, Mr. Murf.
I’ll take you for a leisurely stroll through the streets of Old Town, where we’ll see many
charming houses, such as the eyebrow houses particular to Key West. We’ll enjoy blooming bougainvillea and the gorgeous Starburst trees that are flowering right now. We’ll walk down to the Southern end of the island, and look across the water to see if we can see Cuba, ninety miles away. Let’s have lunch at Blue Heaven, where Hemingway boxed, and order Key Lime pie with sky-high meringue at a table on a dirt sand lot with chickens and chicks running around our feet.
I’ll take you a few steps down the street to introduce you to Mr. Chapman, and show you Buddy, his dirty white Chinese chicken, dirty from hanging out in Mr. Chapman’s dirt yard. Mr. Chapman is seventy-five. His family has lived in the same block on Petronia since 1870. His mother was fourteen and his father sixty when he was born. Mr. Chapman is an orator who speaks in rhymes and sayings which come fast and furious. He’ll walk with us down the street to show us his portrait painted on a mural on the side of a wall. There he is, Mr. Chapman, with his white handlebar mustache. At night he rides his trike-bike covered with flashing lights and a big sound box through the streets of Key West. They threw away the mold when they made Mr. Chapman. Continue reading “My Key West”