The Sun Also Sets in Key West

welcome to key west
bonnie laughsKey West – Where The Weird Go Pro” – Written on a t-shirt displayed in the window of one of Key West’s many, many tacky t-shirt shops. The best humour is always born from truth and that particular t-shirt summed up some of Key West’s more “colourful” locals in my opinion. Colourful sounds so much nicer than weird don’t you think?

Every beach-y resort town has a few things you can count on: ice cream, patio bars, t-shirt shops, seafood, tourists, art galleries juggling fireand kiosks selling booze cruise and para-sailing tickets. Key West has all of that and more. You can also find female impersonators, alcohol, nude girl peep shows, alcohol, fetish shops, alcohol, Cuban leaf (rolled in the Dominican) cigar shops, only one book store (sadly), alcohol and street “entertainers”. I use the term entertainers loosely. One scruffy looking guy had a small dog, a Chihuahua maybe but it was hard to tell because he had it wearing little dark sunglasses, a small visor hat and about 6 colourful bead necklaces around its little neck while it sat obediently on the curb. He had a sign beside the dog that said “Take a picture – Leave a tip” You lazy SOB. You can at least beat on an empty paint can or something. Make a little effort like the guy riding around on his bicycle decorated like a disco, complete with spinning mirror ball and Donna Summer blasting. Now that was creative. As was the guy who was literally jumping through hoops and those crazy guys riding tall uni-cycles while juggling fire sticks. Now that’s entertainment. Especially when you realize there is no way they can afford health insurance!

Anyway, back to the guy exploiting his little dog…at least he didn’t say anything. He just sat there waiting for the money to roll in. In houndsight hindsight, he is better than the guy playing guitar and singing down at the park where everyone gathers to watch the sun set each evening. That guy was belligerent because he wasn’t getting tipped enough in his opinion. He’d play one song (not that well I might add) in his rough I’ve-had-too-many-whiskeys-and-cigarettes voice and then stop to shout things at the crowd like “Tipping is not a city in China people!” His tip bucket was a large 5 gallon plastic bucket with a sign on it that read “Tipping EXPECTED and appreciated” “Ya, I don’t think so! I came to the park to see the sun set and not be harassed by you anyway, you talent-less jack ass!” I screamed while swinging punches at him but John scooped me up around the waist and was carrying me away so none of my punches landed. I made that last part up, I’m too heavy to be “scooped”, and too polite to yell at people strangers…but I thought about it! We did get a few hundred pictures of the sunset so it was all worth it.sunsetkeywest

Apart from, and despite the weird, Key West is a very charming and cool place to visit. The historical district of Key West dubbed Old Town where we stayed is wonderful. Most of the architecture dates from around 1886 to 1912. Wood-frame construction of one to two-and-a-half-story structures with peaked metal roofs, horizontal wood siding, gingerbread trim, pastel shades of paint, side-hinged louvered shutters, covered porches along the fronts and wood lattice screens covering the area elevated by piers.

Chickens and roosters roam and yes, even cross the streets. Why? We couldn’t get a straight answer from any of them. Six toed cats, descendants of Ernest Hemingway’s cat, Snowball, still reside lazily all around Hemingway House and quite likely beyond its gates.roostercrosses6toedcats

There is a long list of well known people who have called Key West home at one time or another. Ernest Hemingway (whose home we toured), Tennessee Williams, Jimmy Buffet, Calvin Klein, Shel Silverstein, Judy Blume, Truman Capote, Harry Truman, Ralph Lauren, Robert Frost, to name a few. I completely get why. The southern most tip of the US (only 90 miles from Cuba – so close and yet so far) has a kind of beauty and magic in its humid salty air. It’s just different and quirky enough to have its own unique southern charm. After a few Cuba Libra’s in Sloppy Joe’s Bar (served to me by Bonnie the bartender who looked about 68ish and was a scary “there, but by the grace of God, go I” reminder) I declared in a slur – I must write about this place!

“Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.”
– Ernest Hemingway

True dat Mr. Hemingway! (He’s rolling over in his grave right now)

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The Right to Bare Breasts – Not Arms!

Ahhh Florida. We’re back indulging in your warm salt water breezes, dodging pelican poop and trying not to step on your geckos.  We have settled in nicely now starting each day by taking turns with sections of the local paper while leisurely sipping our coffee. This is what it’s all about…relaxing.

We shake our heads over all the attention given to wanna-be socialite Jill Kelley. This woman has been raked over the coals here because she “tried too hard” to fit in with the old-money-rich in Tampa. Meanwhile the woman that was sending nasty emails about Kelley and having an affair with the director of the CIA, eh, not so much talk about her. Instead the paper reports that Jill Kelly dressed “too revealing” and the old money folks did not approve. Really? So, you don’t mind the one woman having an affair with the CIA’s top dog but the woman who tried to break into your social circle was deemed too tacky so you boot her to the curb. Ohhh kaaay.

Then we giggle in a kind of nervous twitchy way over the news that our adopted city has a freaky radio celebrity by the name of Bubba the Love Sponge. Yep. This class act offered up his wife to Hulk Hogan and then secretly video taped their tryst so he could profit from it later. He also announced on his radio show that he planned to “deep fry” the Koran. Thankfully he was persuaded to abandon his sick, messed up idea. Bubba, you are a menace to humanity, now go hang your head and sit quietly while tightly strapped into your straight jacket on the corner of Lame St and Creepy Rd.

Sadly, we are reminded, every time we read the paper, of the sacred “right to bare arms” in this country, as in the holy Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, contained in the Bill of Rights. We are reminded of this because almost everyday there is a case in which someone was killed by the gun of someone else. Someone who “has the right” to bare arms of course; someone who deemed it their “right” to take the life of another human because they “felt” threatened in some way or other.

The most recent sad story in this old “right to bare arms” case played out recently when one man decided a young skate boarder should not skate on some newly surfaced black top in his neighbourhood park. He stormed out of his house to confront the kid and got into an argument with another neighbour who had already told the kid that it would be ok to skate in the park. He was in such a rush to confront the skate boarder he hadn’t stopped to put on his shoes. But he had his gun with him. He never went anywhere without his gun. The neighbour he argued with was at the park shooting hoops with his eight year old daughter. She witnessed her father being shot to death over a stupid argument. She was a witness to the shooting of her father because one man was determined to stop a kid from riding his skate board. Senseless.

People are allowed to disagree. People should debate and fight for what they believe to be important, but they should not be allowed to bring their guns. Come on people!

My husband has always said the rule is backwards. In the US people get arrested and worse, deemed tacky, by bearing their breasts, but it’s ok to pack a gun wherever they go. The Amendment should be “amended” to read “the right to bear breasts”…not arms. The country would be so much better off, don’t you think?

Happy Thanksgiving America!

 

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Enjoy Your Here and Now


Dear in-the-near-future Me,

I know you are probably wishing you were back in Florida right now.  It’s only natural that you would miss the palm trees, beautiful beaches, warm weather and of course your son and bonus daughter.

I’m writing this to you to remind you of some of the details you have probably already forgotten.

While you were here for the past two weeks, you worked long hour’s everyday scrubbing dirty toilets, greasy ovens, and filthy floors.  You sprayed poison on weeds, dug holes and awkwardly crouched, bent over, in the extreme heat to plant new varieties of flora.  Your skin was pierced by sharp barbs hiding innocently on those pretty palm trees which then left their poison to swell your flesh in unattractive welts. Ants dined on your toes and mosquitoes dined on any open skin they landed on.  You kept one eye nervously scanning for the long black snakes you’d seen before you began digging and the big thick-as-your-arm snake you “heard” lurks near the edge of the yard. And although you never saw any reptiles while you worked, you did worry about the safety of the bunnies you glimpsed that one night grazing at sun down; you remember… the bunnies that you never saw again after that night.  Oh, and that dead racoon you saw in the lagoon probably died of old age.

Yes, the evenings here in Florida are hard to beat when the sun starts to dip down over the ocean and the sky turns brilliant orange and red and yes, it was amazing to see so many varieties of birds, but I must remind you that while you were here you were missing your friends and family back home too.  You were missing the beauty of Vernon and Okanagan Lake and sitting at the end of your dock watching the sun dip over the mountain while sipping a glass of wine.

So, I thought I’d just remind you to look around and enjoy every moment of being back home again, surrounded by a different kind of beauty.  You have different types of spiders and snakes to keep an eye on as well as racoons and copious amounts of deer to ooh and aw over.  Enjoy it all.  And, you don’t have to gag while you clean your house; it’s your dirt in there not someone else’s so it won’t be as gross to clean.

Florida is just as you left it, waiting for your Canadian winter to nip at your heels and send you back down here again.  In the mean time, enjoy your here and now. 🙂

Love,

Your not-so-long-ago You!

 

 

 

 

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Are You Looking At Me?


I’m obsessed; obsessed with watching geckos.  In my defence, they are everywhere.  It’s kind of hard to miss them or ignore them.  I am absolutely taken with them.  They’re a bit of a mystery to me.  What do they eat? How do you tell a girl gecko from a boy gecko? And what are they afraid of; who eats geckos? I can’t find enough real solid information when I Google them either which in itself fascinates me.  I think this is the first time Google has ever let me down.  I thought for sure there would have been buckets of information, if not written by Herpetologists (reptile scientists – honest, I Googled it), then at least by one of those creepy guys that keeps reptiles in glass tanks in his bedroom. (If you have a reptile in a glass tank in your bedroom I’m sorry if I’ve offended you but…ew!)

Since the last time we were here in Florida, the geckos have grown. A. Lot.  And they didn’t have red throats that puff out and big strips down their backs before but boy they sure do now.  It’s a little intimidating, which I bet is the point.

So I’m lying in Jurassic Park the backyard, basking in the sun and about to drift off when I sense someone or something watching me.  I can’t see anyone at first but then I spot him.  A gecko. And he’s not the cute English fellow that knows a lot about insurance.

He’s about a foot away from my chaise lounge near the grass.  He’s not moving but he is definitely eying me up and down.  “What?” I ask him.  He doesn’t respond or move.  “Look, I don’t have time for this,” I tell him, “I’m about to take a nap, so go stare at somebody else.”   Then he had the nerve to take a few steps towards me.  “Are you kidding me?” I yell. “Go away!” and I wave my book at him to show I mean business.  He retreats and I settle back into my chaise lounge again.  I close my eyes but I can’t relax.  I just know he is still watching me. When I open my eyes again I can hardly believe it. He has moved towards me again and is almost right under the chaise.  Now I’m up on my hands and knees flapping my book in front of me and squealing that he had better leave or else. That’s when John, who was snoozing in the chaise beside me, half opened one eye and shook his head at me before drifting off again. Hey, I’ve watched enough “America’s Funniest Videos” and witnessed geckos just like this one hanging off of children’s noses and fingers to know that these little guys are not to be messed with. Somewhere in those tiny mouths are teeth; teeth that will latch onto a finger or nose and not let go.

A nap was now out of the question so instead I went inside and grabbed my camera.  When I came back I saw what he was so interested in…another gecko.  I took this video of the two of them.  They were either two males fighting for territory or a male and a female doing some kind of seductive dance.  I can’t tell because there is not enough information about them on Google! C’mon Herpetologists, share the knowledge online.

Scary right? I’m keeping one eye open from now on.  And if anyone finds any good gecko info please pass it along to me.  Thanks!  Knowledge is power.

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Empty Nest

Empty NestAugust 9th, 2007 was a very difficult day for me.  In fact, in the weeks leading up to that day I found myself in tears often.  It was the day my son stepped out of our nest, spread his wings and flew away.  He  headed off to attend a university in Florida 2900 or so miles away.  It was bittersweet really.  On the one hand I was proud and happy to see him take the next big step in his life and on the other hand I was tremendously sad that he was leaving.   Other parents I knew also had kids going off to a different town/city to go to a college or straight into a new job.  My son just happened to be going really really far.  I felt panic at the thought of not being able to jump in the car and go rescue him (or at least comfort him) if he needed it.  He was not only on the opposite coast but in a different country.

I felt broadsided by the sadness.  I had the feeling of having forgotten something wherever I went.  What shocked me the most was that I had been a full time mom for 18 years and suddenly felt like I had just been handed my pink slip.  Thank you very much but you’re not needed any longer.  Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.  Logically I knew that I was still his mom but it felt, at the time, like my purpose had been snatched from me.  This took some getting used to.

1 year, 6 months, and 22 days later I’m pretty much over the sadness…mostly.  It is true that you start to enjoy the freedom that you forgot was yours before you had children.  You also come to realize that they may be miles and miles away but they do still need you.  You are still a very important person in their lives.

I’m sharing this for three reasons.  One, I hope to remind moms and dads out there with young children to live in and cherish the moments you share with your children.  I know it’s a cliche but time really does fly by.  The second reason is to offer a bit of a “heads up” to those of you who will be going through this eventually.  I’d never been told how difficult it can be and I wish someone could have warned me.   The third reason is just to let anyone else out there experiencing a newly empty nest that it’s ok, and yes it will get easier.  You are still on the job, the hours may be a little different and the perks have changed, but you are still vitally important and needed.Bonnie

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