Bent Words

Bent Words

January 26, 2006

*** Continued... ***

Wednesday morning arrived quickly and I felt that I had still not acquired a decent night's sleep since our arrival in Florida. But there was no time on my schedule to worry about such insignificant defects in my patterned life for we had some serious driving to do. Er, John had some serious driving to do and I had some serious map mishaps to take part in (but lets not dwell on the details).

Destination: Florida Keys

Route: Not the Turn Pike. Rather, a surface street (Highway 9) which gave us a great opportunity to witness, first hand, Miami's beautiful slum life. Not my fault.

John cooked up some chorizo, cheese and egg burritos to take on the road and I toted Mom's famous chocolate chip cookies. I had not realized the extent of this trip, as far as distance, and thus had not packed any makeup, shampoo, toothpaste, etc.. Luckily, as I was informed later, The Florida Keys inhabit a very laid back life style. This is likely due to the frequent occurances of massive natural destruction which sweeps away entire homes, lifestyles and basement billiard tables. No one was going to give a crap about my lack of mascara.

My first thought was, quite honestly, 'what a dump!' But, upon further inspection, one could define the Florida Keys in two words; simple and destroyed. The 'simple' part came to me when we stopped at our first 'establishment' in The Keys -- Porky's Bar and BBQ. The edifice was comprised of eight to ten vertical beams which supported large sections of green, wavy portions of playground-like plastic. It was as though the owner could decide to tear it down in an instant if they felt the urge to move the place a few feet to the left and yet, through the wooden floor, grew a large palm tree which had obviously been accommodated for for quite some time.

The place was completely cluttered with Christmas lights and license plates, bumper stickers and business cards, seaman's rope and fake pelicans. All of which could be lost to the next Category 5 without much remorse or had been accumulated due to the overwhelming debris left over by Wilma or Katrina -- save for the offset of the giant plasma screen TV in the corner. But it had a charm all of its own and thus we remained for a couple of beers (no liquor available) and a light lunch.

The bathrooms were located 'outside.' Since the whole damned place was outside, I had to pause when the waitress/cook/bartender pointed me to an actual door that led out to the bathrooms. The bathroom was basically made up of two doors (one pink with a drunken mermaid on the front and one blue with an angry pirate) and closely resembled a small trailer.

It wasn't such a great spot to wash my hands but it was the perfect place for me to get reacquainted with my claustrophobia complex.

All in all, we enjoyed it. John left his business card on one of the beams, we shot a short video with my digital camera and continued on our way down through The Keys.

Two miles after Porky's, we came up to the Seven Mile Bridge. This is literally the only way that one can make it down through The Keys and the entire bridge is built over the ocean. Next to this bridge is the old railway bridge which was discontinued in 1935 due to the mass destruction of one of the hurricanes and a smaller, old bridge which used to be the only access road. Now, that smaller bridge, which runs along U.S. 1, is used only by the people who inhabit the private island of Pigeon Key.

Pretty cool but I hate bridges in the first place. My everlasting fear is that they are going to collapse at the exact moment that I am in the middle of that bridge and I will thus be plunged into the cold waters where I will not be able to exit my vehicle due to the deluge of liquid pouring into my windows. So, go ahead and drive me over a SEVEN MILE BRIDGE that is directly over an expansive ocean filled with Jaws-like creatures and resides next to an old, dilapidated bridge that only joggers and fishermen use today...

Try holding your breath for seven minutes and you'll smell what I'm cooking.

Taking several pictures from our van window was the only way that I could remain even somewhat calm as it gave me something to do besides whimper.

The 'destruction' part came during our next stop in Cujoe Key where John pulled onto a small side road which held a small community beautiful houses. One of his buddy's grandparents lives there and we pinpointed their house by staking out the green and gold Green Bay Packer mailbox. We hopped out of the van and took a look around his abode. Roger's house, like every other house in the area, is built on a foundation of tall, concrete stilts. Most everyone parks their vehicles 'under' their house and most everyone still has huge piles of debris located at the end of their drives. It was difficult to witness the once flourishing palm trees and prominent foliage in their now brown and withered states.

Behind Roger's house is a small canal which leads out into the ocean. Within this canal, there is a large metal basket tied to shore which Roger catches lobster in and a beautiful boat hoisted just above the water. His boat is as amazing as all the other boats in the area -- they all appear to have sleeping quarters and functional bathrooms within and Roger hosts a huge fleet of giant fishing rods in his 'under the house' area. This is about the time that Roger noticed us poking around his property and we heard him call out to us from his 'basement.'

His house is huge -- two stories despite the stilts. They had a private, outside entryway for the bedroom that he offered us and the kitchen was something to stand back in awe at (although I only had a moment to check it out). Here, steak and lobster was being prepared and Roger was so kind as to insist that we stay there for dinner and sleep. We told him that we were thinking about finding a place in Key West to which Roger replied,

"Well, go ahead and spend a million dollars on a hotel in Key West but, I'm telling you now, you are more than welcome here and I grill a mean steak."

We left him shortly after with no certain plans in mind.

The rest of the drive down through The Key provided an up close view of the protected wildlife. The Key Deer are small and only slightly skittish, the roosters were something of a surprise and I had not the opportunity to witness one damned crocodile. That's probably a good thing but I still want my crocodiles. Although the overcast skies did not provide the best of conditions, one could still clearly see the green, green of the ocean surrounding us -- it was magnificent! Never before have I been so overwhelmed by water and wildlife -- truly a wonderful experience.

We arrived in Key West after cocktail hour. The sun was just beginning to peak out through the clouds as it made its downward sweep toward the shore. People on scooters and bicycles took over the streets of this small, one and a half by four mile island. I searched through my parentals guide book and came across a hotel recommendation which described one place as being 'off the map but, by far, the best value in Key West.'

The Grand Guest House was located in what one could call a quiet area of town on Grinnell Street. It was made up of two attached houses with a beautiful wooden deck surrounding the exterior. I walked up to a man named Jeff and inquired as to their availability while John waited in the limited parking area. He looked at me as though he were trying to decide whether or not I was one of the typical, young tourists who carried a bottle of Tequila in my jeans and he then smiled. I don't like Tequila, anyway.

Jeff was a busy man, rushing back and forth and explaining to me, in between bursts of phone calls and customers, that they only had one room left. He was mentioning something about it being the most expensive room but I was drinking in his aromatic cologne and dwelling upon his two silver earrings. I came back to reality when he kindly offered to reduce the rate since we were already there and only staying for a single night. He swept by me with his blue, long sleeve shirt billowing out behind him and led me to room #6. It was fully accommodated with living room, breakfast table, stove, refrigerator, bathroom and a queen sized bed. It was perfect.

"Can I just talk it over with my significant other?" I asked.

"Sure, I'll leave the room open for you and you can meet me back at the office when you've decided."


"Ohhhh, here kitty, kitty," he cooed to a little black and white cat which was meowing pitifully at his feet, "I'll feed you in just a minute."

The cat's name was Tux and the little fellow rather sealed the deal with John and I.

Who could resist paying too much for overnight accommodations with this cutie hanging around? Not I, I say, not I.

Once we had moved our two bags into the room, another gentleman came out to greet us named Jim. He was Jeff's partner and a bit older with dazzling gray hair and a dry sense of humor to match our own. His mustache always appeared to be tickling his face as he shifted his upper lip playfully and I found it difficult to concentrate on his eyes rather than his mouth. He sat down with us outside as John and I indulged in a cigarette and provided a map with specific 'hot spots' that we might enjoy. We were well equipped with moderately priced restaurants, bars and shell shops and ready to head off to the traditional Key West Sunset Celebration.

We missed the damned sunset by five minutes.

*** To Be Continued... ***

Written at 10:42 a.m.