Quote of the Day:
“Decadence is a difficult word to use since it has become little more than a term of abuse applied by critics to anything they do not yet understand or which seems to differ from their moral concepts.” —Ernest Hemingway
TB started going to Key West in 1999 because I had a free trip. I had a good time so I kept going, six times now counting that first. Why? Well, its an easy flight from Mississippi to Fort Lauderdale and a relaxing drive between there and the southernmost point of the continental US. I’ve written many times of my love of that route and I thought about the subject a bit as we cruised down the A1A last week. The drive from the airport in Fort Lauderdale is a perilous cross between the Daytona 500, a demolition derby and a visit to the old folks’ home. Once in the Keys the traffic is tight and the cops are hidden around every bend. Only on limited stretches is there a decent view of the oceans to either side. Still, its great. For one thing, when the Gulf and/or the Atlantic come into view its beautiful. But more than that, I believe its the gradual improvement one experiences. First you escape the South Florida interstate, then you get through the mess of Key Largo, then you begin to see the ocean, eventually the traffic starts to thin out on the road and pick up on the water to your left and right. As you get farther and farther from the mainland you begin to feel the deadlines and headlines slip away and the stress lines on your face relax of their own accord. As each mile marker passes, resolutely counting down to zero, you unconsciously feel better and better, until your escape from the real world is complete.
The trip I just completed to America’s only Caribbean island was the first one I’ve experienced with kids, my own daughter and two nieces. Suffice it to say, the agenda for this jaunt excluded most of the previous mainstays. There was no trolling planned at sea nor along Duval Street. My usual stool at Captain Tony’s was to remain vacant. Decadence, gluttony, bacchanalia? No, this was to be a wholesome family voyage, in keeping with my still young life as a husband and dad. Could Key West be as fun for a family man as it always was for a bachelor bound for its legendary debauchery? Evolution and change. I’m always fascinated by these and so from the time we crossed the state line into Florida, still some 12 hours of driving short of the first Key, I began to document the ways this trip differed from the famed (infamous?) trips of yore.
At this point, I direct you to a description of one such misadventure previously appearing exclusively here in the TBU, if you haven’t already or recently read it. This will give you an idea of what the single TB’s Key West looked like vs the present day TB’s Key West.
1999–Kid Rock blasting “bawitdaba da bang a dang diggy diggy” at maximum volume from the open air of a mustang convertible rental while swilling can after can of Bud Light from the back seat with my shirt off.
2009–Kid Rock blasting “bawitdaba da bang a dang diggy diggy” at minimum volume from the front speakers only of a mid-size family SUV with a toddler sleeping in the back seat cradling one of my 10 year old t-shirts while drinking can after can of Diet Coke.
1999–singing “Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum (and a case of beer)” each day
2009–singing “Hi ho, hi ho, its off to swim we go.”
1999–Rubber necking to see hot young ladies passing by too quickly in the rearview mirror.
2009–Rubber necking to help sweet young girls restart their Dora video in the back seat.
1999–Going to Hemingway’s house to soak up the karma and ambiance from the home of a great American writer, drinker, womanizer, fisherman and raconteur.
2009–Going to Hemingway’s house to see the six-toed cats!
1999–Back to the room at 5 am.
2009–Back to the room at 5 pm.
1999–Locked out of the hotel and calling an ARB to come get me from the lobby in the middle of the night.
2009–Locked out of the hotel and calling my wife to come get me from the lobby after unloading the car.
1999–Power drinking and power naps.
2009–Power adventure cruise!
1999–Tipping a bum one dollar to take our photo at the Southernmost Point just for the helluvit, wearing a floppy hat from the Abacos, shades and a well tanned beer gut.
2009–Getting multiple shots taken by my brother-in-law FlyinJ in hopes of nailing a Christmas Card photo, wearing a floppy hat from the Abacos, shades, and an extra large T-shirt sensibly covering an aging and pale beer gut.
The bottom line, we had a great time. Some things never change.
I have to add a photo of this notice posted on the door of an establishment in the Bahama Village section of old town Key West. It might have been handy to know there was a place for me back during the underwear lockout incident.