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March 22, 2005

Cayo Hueso

The sun sets at Mallory Square. The crowd claps and catterwalls. The buskers blow whistles to draw the crowds into their shows. The square lights come on. Dogs wearing hats snooze on the warm brick patio. The flags of the U.S., Florida, and Key West flutter in the breeze. The Schooners return from their sunset cruises. Another turboprop comes in from Miami. The crowd drifted away from the edge of the pier to watch the jugglers, musicians, and other oddities. A dog walked across a tightrope to jeers from the politically correct ALF (Animal Liberation Front). The scent of marijuana blew on the breeze. Upwind was a ragtag band of dreadlocked drummers. They must have migrated from the Simonton Beach to the square for the sunset crowd. The sky turned a brilliant pink and blue. The people patronized the local artisans selling paintings, jewelry, popcorn, and lemonade. As the pink hues faded to grey, Venus appeared in the sky next to a tiny sliver of a moon. One of the local magicians chastised the crowd. “You missed the sunset! It’s OK. There will be another one tomorrow.?

Yesterday (Wednesday February 21) started out nice enough. It was warm enough when I left the house in Newark, Delaware that I didn’t take my jacket. In the afternoon, though, the temperature dropped like a stone. It was freezing by the time we left work to go to Deep Blue in Wilmington, Delaware. I had no idea where I was going after work when I woke up today. I hadn’t really given it much thought. For the first time in 5 months, I didn’t have a plane ticket back to Denver. I had planned on staying back East. As people trickled into the office, though, the story of an impending change in weather began to take shape. The television in the project room was turned on and set to the weather channel. Snowstorms were closing in on the Northeast. More snow in the Rocky Mountains. Thunderstorms in the South. The weather was turning nasty all over North America. The consultants began to panic. Meetings were canceled. Flights were changed. The consultants clambered into their rental cars and raced to the airport.

I knew I had to get out. I was getting tired of winter. I felt like I had seen enough snow to last a lifetime. First I checked the flights into Rio. It was Carnival weekend, and I couldn’t find any flights into Rio. Then I decided to go for the Keys. US Air said they could get me into Key West at 6:45 p.m. for 40,000 frequent flyer miles and I jumped at the opportunity. I drove to the airport and parked my rental car in the airport parking garage. That meant that I had two vehicles in two different airports in two different time zones. I’m sure it made some sense to someone.

I went into the US Air Club and ticketed my flight. It started to snow. I asked to be waitlisted for 1st class. At the gate, they stopped the boarding process. A long line of people stood and waited while he called the desk. "Just a second Mr. Kiser. Wayne…did that guy ever show up for 1st class?" He hung up the phone and released the seat to me…with a black marker, he drew 2C on my ticket and said "Have a nice flight, Mr. Kiser."

Flying from Philadelphia to Key West
First Flass - Seat 2C

On an Airbus A319, there are three rows in first class, and there is no seat B or E. On the flight, I had a U.S. Air martini(a wine glass of gin with a touch of scotch – olives not available). I nursed it all the way to Miami. The guy next to me in 2A lived in Philly and worked for Air Gas (ARG) listed on the New York Stock Exchange. He says his business takes off when the oil drilling picks up. It was trading at about $8.20. (19x p/e ratio).

After I chatted with the flight attendant for a while, she said "I’ll make you up a little 'to go' bag for the trip. It’ll be just between you and me." Presently, she returned and discretely handed me a non-descript white paper bag, about the size of a small sandwich bag. Upon closer examination, I determined it was an air-sickness bag. You could tell because it is plastic-lined. I opened it up to find some London Dry BeafEater Gin, Johnnie Walker Black Label Scotch, Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies, Quaker Fruit & Oatmeal Apple Crisp bar, and some Fisher Roasted & Salted cashews.

I should mention that I didn’t have a room in Key West as of this point. It was reportedly 82 degrees in the Keys. I had no clean clothes. I had no shorts, only 1 pair of khaki’s that I had been wearing for 4 days straight, 1 pair of blue jeans with a conspicuous denim patch near the crotch, and a large coffee stain on the opposite side, four wrinkled, long-sleeved shirts that needed to be laundered, four dirty T-shirts, and two pair of underwear. Again, nothing was clean. This inventory included the clothes on my back.

They guy in front of me leaned back and said “Did I hear you say that you were going to the Keys?? As it turns out, his job was repairing high-voltage power lines in the keys while suspended from a helicopter by a cable. The helicopter is connected to the high-power line by a cable. "How did he get to be in first class?" I wondered. Who could say?

"If you push the envelope long enough, you will get a nasty paper-cut."
- Jack Hawkins

Friday February 23,2001

I rented a yellow scooter for 24 hours at the Fairmont Inn. I managed to lose my palm pilot stylus in the cracks in the deck in the process. I cruised around the island exploring Key West on my scooter. I went to Duval Street and bought some swimming trunks, sun glasses, sunscreen, flip flops, a T-shirt, a hat, and a couple of disposable cameras. There is no shame in being a tourist in Key West. Judging by the look of the locals I met, I was proud to be a tourist. I went to the Southern Most Point in the Continental U.S. and got my picture taken. I went snorkeling in the afternoon. It was a little cloudy, but the seas were calm, so it wasn't as bad as it could have been. It would have been nice if the sun was out as it was a little cool.

Our snorkeling instructor was a young girl named Mandy who had moved from Philly to the Keys about a month before. She was sleeping in the cabin of a boat in exchange for working as a snorkel instructor during the day. We paddled around in the Atlantic checking out the coral and shooting photos of the barracudas and the other tropical specimens until I managed to swim into a nasty jellyfish. Just my luck.

I spent the evening bar-hopping up and down Duval Street. In a back corner of Barefoot Bob's was a hippie-wannabe painting a large, but artistically unimaginative mural on the wall of the bar. It differed from any other 1960’s mural only in that it was uninspiring. The colors themselves weren’t bad. Only the pattern in which they were applied. When I commented on her painting, the dullard looked at me as though she was looking though a kaleidoscope. I could only imagine what she was on. Presumably those bad hits of Ecstasy that were going around. That and some of the schwag local weed that the homeless were hawking. We were, after all, a long way from Humboldt County.

Saturday February 23, 2001

On Saturday morning, I returned my wimpy yellow scooter and checked out of the $200 a night Fairmont Inn. I caught a cab down the street and checked into the Blue Lagoon Motel. They were charging about $110 a night. When she handed me the keys to the room, she handed me the remote to the television at the same time. I knew I was in trouble. The rooms were air-conditioned, but not fancy. Just a place to crash. 3103 North Roosevelt Blvd. 305-296-1043. Across the street, I rented the biggest scooter they had. Basically, I downgraded my hotel room and upgraded my scooter. The costs were probably pretty much a wash.

Saturday February 24,2001
9:11 p.m.
Oak Beach Inn – Corner of Duval and Caroline

Saturday night on Duval Street in Key West, Florida. Clear, humid skies. 80 degrees. Lush, green palm trees swaying in the breeze. Loud pulsating samba music. We were teetering precariously on the cusp of Spring Break. You could almost taste it. The beer was flowing. The girls were strutting. The guys were posturing. An endless stream of tourists drifted past on the sidewalk. The bartender poured drinks continuously.

The people drifted by. Everyone acting and reacting to the sensory overload of the crowds, the music, the traffic, the evening. Short skirts appeared to be in vogue. The women seemed to have very long legs that seemed to extend all the way to the ground. They wore low tops. The women flaunted their bodies for sport. Not being well endowed is hard to hide in a two-piece. There was more silicon in Key West than in Silicon Valley.

A girl with an electric blue wig, a blue feather throw around her neck, a flesh colored tube top, and some mesmerizing pattern on her skin tight vinyl pants skated by on roller blades. A crew came through having a spirited water-gun fight, seeking refuge behind the bar at the Oak Ridge Inn.

A guy from Hungary covered himself in silver body makeup and stood on top of a small aluminum trashcan. Awed, the stream of people formed an eddy about him. Eventually, he moved and the tourists applauded and handed him money.

The homeless kids walked conspicuously amongst the tourists. The barkers handed out fliers, trying to direct more customers into their businesses.

The Bull is a bar located directly across the street. Above The Bull is the Whistle Bar. Above the Whistle Bar is a bar named the Garden of Eden. I assumed that the sign that read "clothing optional" was a joke when I went in. It wasn’t. The Garden of Eden is like a penthouse party gone awry. Middle aged gay men stood around naked. Naked women milled about. Men in white muscle shirts that were in no condition to be wearing white muscle shirts. The bartender was a topless woman in her mid 30's. Aside from the naked denizens, it was a happening crowd. There were tons of people. Straight. Gay. In between. You name it.

Rum Runners is a maze of bars and graffitied corridors. Barefoot Bob’s is tucked away behind Rum Runners on the same corner. On the next block, Fat Tuesdays served up the 20 different classic New Orleans frozen drinks. Duval street was clogged with SUV’s and rented scooters. The silver man took his trash can and left.

The Law

In Key West, it is legal to walk around with an open container of alcohol. There is no helmet law here. Speed limit is 30 or 35 most of the island. The scooters won’t go any faster, so you don't have to worry about getting a speeding ticket. The cops pretty much leave the scooters alone. They pretty much leave the tourists alone. They sit in a back alley and cool their heels. The only people that they harass are the homeless.

When I noticed a cop having a conversation with a motorcyclist, I decided to investigate. Someone had knocked over his motorcycle and taken off. A witness had written down his own phone number as well as the offender’s license plate number on a dollar bill and tucked it into a jacket stowed on the cycle. The police would handle it from there. This dovetailed nicely with my perception of the Key West Police. Only there when you needed them. Otherwise they didn’t do anything to un-necessarily interrupt the flow of tourist capital. No gestapos here.

The Homeless

The homeless runaways spend their days in the shade getting high on whatever drugs they can scrounge. At night they come out to mingle with the tourists and drink beer in the bars that only the locals would care to frequent. At night, they sleep wherever they can. Some crash on Christmas Tree Island, a small undeveloped island located immediately North of Simonton Street. The homeless use an armada of small, beat-up boats to shuttle back and forth between Key West and Christmas Tree Island. Some have outboards, some have oars, some have sticks with plastic milk cartons. They tie their boats to the dock and spend the day in the shade of the palms on Simonton Beach smoking grass.

I stuck up a conversation with a young man who appeared to be homeless. He said his name was Ryan, but everyone called him "Ry". He was scratching continuously while I talked to him. He told me that he got into a bunch of chiggers at a Rainbow meeting in the woods up in Ocala. The woods had been burned by a forest fire, and there was a fire ban and a digging ban in effect to boot. At the Rainbow gathering, evidently someone had made a pass at an under-aged girl. She replied that her “husband? would be very upset and went and told her father. Her father beat the tar out of him and smashed out all of the windows of his car with a knife handle.

'Ry' wore a jacket with a metal ‘411’ beer can label affixed to it. Apparently some sort of a social club. I asked him where he lived. He replied that he had slept in the back of a truck the previous night. I asked him “Who’s truck?? and he just shrugged.

Another young man approached us, apparently a friend of "Ry's". He introduced himself as "Jerry". Jerry did a couple of backflips on the pavement just to show that he could. It was pretty impressive. He even did one while he was running forward, don't ask how. I pointed to the local VFW and asked Ry if he knew what it was. Ry looked at it and mused that it was a probably a gay bar. I asked Jerry and he asked "Aren't they like the masons?"

A guy with a propeller beanie, shorts, and knee high black and yellow stockings was pushing the Silver Man’s buttons. Jerry caught the silver man off guard by shouting “Boo? about 3 inches from his face as he passed by. Shook him up fairly badly I’m afraid.

If the homeless runaways come up with any cash, they move into the Youth Hostel at 718 South Street (305)296-5719. They sleep 6 to a room, but it only costs $18.95 per night.

Mandy

I ran into Mandy on the floor in a back corner at Barefoot Bob’s, where the uninspired artist was wreaking havoc on the walls of the bar. As it turns out, they were roommates. The artist was the one who had coerced Mandy into moving from Philly to Key West.

Mandy said she was going to be playing at the San Carlos theatre. “Well,? she hedged, “on the street in front of the theatre.? Mandy left and went to play her guitar in front of the theatre. Outside on Duval Street, schools of blonde-haired freshman sauntered by abiding by the safety in numbers theory espoused prey for milleniums.

12:41 a.m.
In front of the San Carlos Theatre
Established 1924
516 Duval Street


A nice new layer of asphalt covered the original brick streets. Progress around here was a nice coating of asphalt. Mandy sat up her guitar and her dog Arlo laid down to rest. She opened the guitar case to reveal an unopened deck of Tarot cards and a small amount of change. Then she started singing the blues. Her voice was startling. She seemed much too small to project her voice as she did. She seemed too young, too small, too white to have suffered enough to sing the blues. But there she was. Wearing flip-flops that were seriously worn in a way that made them appear dangerously unstable. Firestone would have recalled them if they were tires.

She sang a song about a bad man…mean old 'Stagolee'. This was not the Grateful Dead song "Stagger Lee". It was a based on a much older blues tune about a man named 'Stagolee', immortalized by the legendary Mississippi blue's musician John Hurt.

Stagolee was a bad man from his head down to his toes. He would spend $100 just to buy old sooty clothes. He was a bad man. Mean old Stagalee. Stagolee, please don’t take my life. I got two little babies and a darling lovely wife. He's a bad man. Mean old Stagolee. What do I care about your two little babies..your darling loving wife?…you stole my Stetson hat…I'm bound to take your life. Boom. Boom. Gentlemen of the jury what you think of that…Stagolee took a life over a five dollar Stetson hat. He's a bad man. Mean old Stagolee. Standing on the gallows did curse. The judge said lets kill him for he kills some of us. He's a bad man. Mean old Stagolee. His head was way up high. At 12:00 they killed him. They was all glad to see him die. He was a bad man. Mean old Stagolee.

She wore khaki overalls and a faded blue top. Arlo was four months old. He was part wolf. Part German Shepherd. Part something else. He looked like he had dipped his snout into a bucket of black paint. Mandy was singing another blues tune now.

"Your daddy’s rich and your momma’s good looking. So hush, little baby, don’t you cry. One of these mornings your going to rise up singing. You’re going to spread your wings and take to the sky. Sometime when the living is easy….fish are jumping and the cotton is high…you’re daddy’s rich and your momma’s good looking so hush…little baby don’t you cry."

I bought us a round of Guiness beers from the bar across the street. Interestingly, the bar had a chicken-wire liquor cabinet. I sipped my beer and discreetly typed away on my laptop in the shadows of the massive theatre columns, out of sight of the passing masses. In between songs, Mandy sipped her beer and apologized for her limited repertoire. The acoustics were such, she explained, that she could only sing a few songs, plus she had been drinking as well.

Eventually, Ted, the owner of the San Carlos emerged and pretended as though he wanted to see the uninspired mural. So, with Mandy leading, we trudged back to Barefoot Bob's. At Barefoot’s, in the back corner, four dogs jousted and tussled. Mandy gave the captain a backrub and some long hugs ensued. The band played. The deadheads gyrated on the dance floor to some covers belted out by the live band. There was a painting of Bugs Bunny smoking a large reefer saying "Toke Up, Doc!" Of all things, this place was indescribable. There was a palm tree growing through the building. It came in through the floor and grew up through the ceiling. The bar was crudely built around it. Nearby, raw, unpainted ceiling joists were exposed. Wires ran everywhere and it appeared as though the entire bar was wired with extension cords. Ted left. The great, uninspired painting continued. Mandy left. It was 1:47 a.m. The band began to play Reggae. The place looked like it was in imminent danger of collapsing.

Someone yelled out “Jack Straw?. "Jack Straw" is a Grateful Dead song about a man of the same name who led a peasant revold in England in 1381. These insurgent peasants traveled throughout southern England, gathering followers, opening prisons, and killing lawyers.

Mallory Square
6:30 p.m.

The sun sets at Mallory Square. The crowd claps and catterwalls. The buskers blow whistles to draw the crowds into their shows. The square lights come on. Dogs wearing hats snooze on the warm brick patio. The flags of the U.S., Florida, and Key West flutter in the breeze. The Schooners return from their sunset cruises. Another turboprop comes in from Miami. The crowd drifted away from the edge of the pier to watch the jugglers, musicians, and other oddities. A dog walked across a tightrope to jeers from the politically correct ALF (Animal Liberation Front). The scent of marijuana blew on the breeze. Upwind was a ragtag band of dreadlocked drummers. They must have migrated from the Simonton Beach to the square for the sunset crowd. The sky turned a brilliant pink and blue. The people patronized the local artisans selling paintings, jewelry, popcorn, and lemonade. As the pink hues faded to grey, Venus appeared in the sky next to a tiny sliver of a moon. One of the local magicians chastised the crowd. “You missed the sunset! It’s OK. There will be another one tomorrow.?

Mallory Square is owned by the city, but it is leased to the Preservation Authority for four hours every evening. They regulate where the artists can set up and do business. The better spots are doled out based on tenure. The Southwest end of the square is the busiest local, because it offers the best view of the sunset.

Christmas Tree Island

Immediately Southwest of Christmas Tree Island, where the homeless people live, is Sunset Key. The entire island is privately owned and is covered in mansions. The two islands are separated by only 1000 yards of ocean, but they may as well be on different planets.

Christmas Tree Island was owned by a lady by the name of Bernstein. She had two children. She wanted to build each one of them a house on the island. But, the city of Key West gave her so much hassle, that she wrote into her will that no permanent structures could ever be built on the island, but it would remain private property, and serve as an asylum for the local hippies. Currently, there are about a dozen hippies living on the island, but there have been as many as 300 people living there at a time. The island is totally undeveloped, and aside from the homeless, the only things living on the island are hermit crabs and Australian Pines.

Only a few hundred yards to the Southwest of Christmas Tree Island is Sunset Island. This island was owned by the Hilton. They wanted to develop the island, but it had some endangered species living on it…some owls, some geckos, etc. Then, when it had not rained for some time and the island was very dry, the island was torched. This solved the problem of having any endangered species living on it and cleared the way for the island to be developed. Local rumor has it that the arson was performed by the head fire chief of Key West, although I have no idea if this is true. It is worth noting, however, that the previous fire chief, Joseph 'Bum' Farto was indicted on drug charges in 1975 and fled the country.

The Wreckers

In the early 1800’s, there were 150 ships a day passing Key West. The merchant ships trading between New Orleans and Europe, Africa, and Asia sailed the treacherous channel between the keys and Cuba. Hurricanes frequently drove the ships onto the reefs where their hulls were shredded. The salvage crews based in Key West, known as the “wreckers?, raced out to save souls and salvage ships and cargo. The first captain to arrive at the wreck would direct the salvage operations. He would use other ships and crews if needed, although he received the lion’s share of the spoils. The salvaged goods were stored in Tifts Warehouse and auctioned off. A judge then divvied up the take.

So many ships were salvaged that, for a while, the per capita income of Key West was the highest in the nation. Many of the houses were built by ship builders, so they didn’t use nails, but used wooden pegs and tongue and groove construction on the houses. So, when the hurricanes hit, the houses would sway and give way in the face of the winds, but would weather the storm undamaged. Many of the houses on Key West were built with wood scavenged from the wrecks. The houses were furnished with the finest European antiques. Many homes had monogrammed sterling silverware with initials that didn't quite jive the owner's initials. When fine bolts of fabric were salvaged, the young girls on the island frequently ended up with dresses cut from the same cloth.


Oak Beach Inn on Duval.
Sunday 8:17 p.m.

Crowds were not exactly booming then. Probably people were still eating still. After the sun sets, they retreat into a seafood dinner somewhere in Old Town. I usually skipped this step. I sat and talked to a guy selling coconuts in Mallory Square and then I wandered around Old Town looking for my scooter. When I found it I headed to the Oak Beach Inn. I couldn't help but feel that Key West fit me like a glove. Sitting there underneath the clear skies, with the cool breeze blowing, with Kristi Morris covering Dixie Chick tracks. No jackets. No snow plows clearing the streets. There was clearly no other place to be.

I moved to the bar to people-watch and my fish and chips found me. Have you ever seen a tow truck towing a scooter? It’s pretty funny looking. Mine didn’t get towed, but I did get a $20 parking ticket for not feeding the meter. Eddie Grant blared from the speakers while the band took a break. I chatted with the bartender. The cops broke his leg in three places during a reverse sting operation where he bought a small amount of marijuana. Down here, they handle the tourists with kid gloves. But they are brutal on the locals. He told me that one local kid was in a similar situation and when the cops jumped him, they slammed his head into the ground so hard that he went into a coma and had to be air-lifted to Miami.

Sunburned tourists cruise up and down Duval on rented scooters, their skin peeling so badly that they look like so many snakes shedding their skin.

A woman walked by wearing a black gown and carrying a lantern. Really spooky looking. The barker at the Oak Ridge Inn told me that they conduct midnight tours of the cemeteries. The bodies are laid to rest above ground in crypts, just like in New Orleans.

On the way back to the Blue Lagoon on my scooter, I stopped and had a tasty slice of key lime pie. Key limes(named after the Florida Keys) start out green and change to a yellow color as they age. Therefore, key lime pie is yellow, not green. When key lime pie is green, people have added food coloring, mistakenly believing that key limes are green. For what it's worth, the winner of the Best Key Lime Pie at the Key Lime Festival in Key West is the Blond Giraffe on 629 Duval Street or 1209 Truman Avenue. Made fresh daily with real key limes. Owed and operated by a crew from Brazil. Check them out at www.blondgiraffe.com.

Monday Morning
Ernest’s Key West Café
823 Whitehead Street
305-296-9624

Next to the Hemmingway House. In the shade of a giant mimosa tree, I sipped a cup of coffee and glanced at the menu. Banana Pancakes. I wish that they had Blueberry Pancakes I thought. The waitress appeared and said “Our special today is Blueberry Pancakes?. Isn’t synchronicity a wonderful thing? The coffee was delicious. Just a regular cup of coffee, but with creamer in a little metal cup and a diner-sized sugar dispenser, it was tasting right on time.

When Ernest Hemmingway moved to Key West, he bought a house on Whitehead Street for about $8,000. It was the first house he ever owned. It was quarried from the limestone reef that makes up the island, leaving a basement beneath the house, making it one of the only houses on the island with a basement. He had about 60 cats living on the property. Many of them were polydactic, meaning that they had an extra toe on their front paws. These cats originally came to the keys as mousers on the merchant ships. The wild chickens that roam the island also came aboard the sailing vessels to the keys because they provided fresh eggs on a long voyage.

Today, the grounds are covered in tropical vegetation including papaya, starbursts, angels and devils trumpets, and innumerable varieties of palm trees. There are about 60 cats roaming the grounds that are direct descendants from Hemmingway's cats.

While Ernest was away in Spain, his wife added a swimming pool in the back yard that cost $20,000, or approximately 3 times what the house and land was appraised for. When he got back from Spain, he was so outraged that he took a penny out of his pocket and handed it to her exclaiming “You have now taken every last cent from me.? She had the penny put into the cement at one end of the pool. A year later, he divorced his wife and moved to Cuba.

In Cuba, Hemmingway began fishing with a man named Gregorio Fuentes. He fished for 26 years from his boat the “Pilar? with Gregorio at the helm. During their 26 years together, the two became best friends although Ernest couldn't speak Spanish and Gregorio couldn't speak English.

Hemmingway was a maniacally depressed for most of his life. After leaving Cuba, he moved to Ketchum, Idaho where he committed suicide by putting a shotgun barrel in his mouth and pulling the trigger with his big toe. He was buried in Sun Valley, Idaho.

Incidentally, Gregorio is the man about whom the book “The Old Man and the Sea? is written. He was born in 1898. He is 103 years old and still makes a living telling stories of his days with Ernest Hemmingway in Cojimar, Cuba.

Civil War Forts

Three forts were built on Key West around the time of the civil war. Fort Zachary Taylor was built to defend the harbor, and the East and West Martello Batteries were built to protect the flanks of Fort Taylor. When the war broke out, the forts, unfortunately, were occupied by Yankees. With the development of rifled canons, the forts became obsolete.

During WWII, the two remaining forts East Martello Battery and Fort Taylor were outfitted with anti-aircraft guns to protect the harbor. Today, they are both operated as museums. The East Martello Battery, located directly south of and adjacent to the Key West International Airport, had a small display of artifacts and historical information. I was disappointed to find the citadel was packed with abysmal junk metal sculptures by the prolific, but untalented Key Largo artist by the name of Stanley Papio.

At Fort Zachary Taylor, I discovered another abomination, the Bio Ball. Yet another abortive attempt at art that the public is forcibly subjected to. Check it out at http://www.forttaylor.com/images/1art2001.jpg. After the advent of rifled canons, Fort Taylor was modified by removing the top two floors, as it was thought to have a profile that was too visible. What happened to the cannons that were located on the top two floors was lost to history until an individual named Howard England said that a ghost came to him in a dream and told him where the cannons were located. He was later able to identify the ghost in some old photographs of Key West. However he found them, he did succeed in located where the 100+ cannons had been buried in concrete on the perimeter of the fort. It is the largest known collection of civil war cannons in the U.S. During the restoration of the fort in the 1960's they even discovered the original blue prints for making the gun carriages. For more information on Fort Taylor see http://www.forttaylor.com/index.htm .

Back To Reality
Monday Evening
United Airlines

Key West prides themselves on their geography. They boast that Key West is 90 miles from Havanna and 157 miles from Miama. But Key West is closer to Havana than Miami in mileage only. If the local citizens of Key West ever had to suffer through one of Fidel's or Raul's rambling, pedantic four hour lectures, they would swim back to Key West.

As we flew back over the keys, the sun was setting. It is difficult to comprehend how many islands there are. They are scattered everywhere, like the stars in the sky. It was dark by the time we landed in Miami. The airport in Miami was decrepit and run-down. It needed desperately to be upgraded…carpets replaced, plumbing updated, you name it. It made me appreciate DIA. A man was kissing his cell phone goodnight. From Miami to Philadelphia, I flew in seat 2A of first class.

On this occasion, I was served the best piece of cheesecake I have ever had. It made the Cheesecake Factory taste like Alpo. It was a plain piece of cheesecake with a thin graham cracker crust. The texture was very light and moist. Easily the best I ever had. Who catered it? The flight attendant didn’t know. The smoked chicken was pretty good. The raisin salad was ok. The Tilamook Gouda Cheese and Hawaiian crackers were predictably bland. But the cheesecake…

Posted by Peenie Wallie on March 22, 2005 at 8:51 PM