RVHer Fulltiming With a Dog and a Dude

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Enfermedad de Key West, Parte Dos

The third time is supposed to be the charm, right?

Our plan was to ride the trolley around Key West, getting off at the touristy spots, already conveniently marked as stops. The only place not an actual stop on the tour was the Key West cemetery, but considering that Key West is only four miles long and two miles wide walking to the cemetery wasn’t a big deal.

 

We got on the trolley around 12:30 and rode one stop to Duval Street. We were headed to Salsa Loca, the restaurant owned by Nancy who is the women the Dude met on the plane out of Key West. We walked a couple of blocks to where google maps said it should be, but no, no Salsa Loca. I looked it up on my POS phone (The Dude got rid of our Blackberries so I was back to using a primitive form of communication. You know, no QWERTY, no aps, priiiimmmmiiitttiivvve, might as well be using a tin can and a piece of string or drums or smoke signals or a public phone.) and finally found the real address, 10 blocks away from where were. So, we turned around and walked right past our first trolley stop and then right past the next stop and down to the next stop, which was right at the corner we needed and had we stayed on the trolley we wouldn’t be almost an hour behind already. Oh well, it was a nice day.

I’m just going to tell you now that we never got back on the trolley so we spent over $70.00 to ride one stop. Just one. Makes our Universal Studios fiasco look like a goddamn bargain, don’t it?

Roxie

We went in and looked for a place to sit and I almost stopped right by the door but rethought it and walked farther in. We started to sit down, noticed the pack of ferals, oops, children, so we moved back to the original table. A cute little dog strolled over and as I was petting her and trying to find an owner, the woman next to me asked if the dog was bothering me. I told her that no, the dog wasn’t bothering me. The dog’s name was Roxie and she belonged to the lady. Roxie wandered off and a few seconds later it occurred to me that the dog was so comfortable there probably because she spent a lot of time there and therefore the lady next to me was probably the owner. “Oh, excuse me. Are you the owner?” “Yes, Ah am.” Excellent!

I introduced myself and told her how I’d heard about her and her restaurant and then the Dude wandered up and they started visiting. Nancy is from Alabama and I don’t know how long she has been in Key West but her accent is still there. Always nice to hear someone who sounds familiar. Nancy is a real force of nature. Tiny with the energy of 10, she treats you like you’re a relative she hasn’t seen in 20 years. The kind of person you just instantly like and wish you could be friends with. Or at least go to her parties. Should you find yourself in the Keys, stop by Salsa Loca. Lots of vegetarian options, good salsa, cool owner. Margarita was pretty good too.

After lunch we walked a few blocks to the Hemingway Home.

I am ashamed to admit it but I’ve never read any Hemingway. I very familiar with his works and his legacy and his history but somehow actually reading one of his works? Hasn’t happened yet. I know, I know. Shame on me. Bad English major. No Master’s degree for you.

Yummy Beaches

Our tour guide sailed to Key West with his wife a few years ago for a vacation and just never left. (That’s his story and he’s sticking with it whether it’s true or not. Adds to the charm, I reckon.) He had a dangly earring, wore a captain’s hat, and carried a flask that he dipped into regularly. A peg leg would not have looked out of place.

He told us the story of the Hemingway Home and how the pool and the penny

came to be and how the polydactyly cats came to live there. I, of course, had to pet as many of the kitties as possible. The ticket taker told me that I couldn’t pick up a cat but whatever else might happen between the cat and me was up to the cat. Pft, like that’s any different from any other cat. “Hi, kitty. Can I pet you?” “Uhm, mebbe. Let’s wait and see, shall we?” But I, being the cat whisper, found kitties everywhere and only one was indifferent to my charms. Fucker.

Oh, just because I found it amusing, here is how the Hemingway Home got chandeliers. Seems that the second (He would have four.) Mrs. Hemingway, Pauline, was from a very rich family and was quite accustomed to the niceties of upper crust living and couldn’t handle the heinous monstrosities and assaults on her precious senses that were ceiling fans. She therefore had every ceiling fan removed and replaced with custom-made, hand-finished, blown-glass chandeliers. In a place that sees 90% humidity and 92 degree weather and in a house without central air. (Our tour guide hopes that Mrs. Hemingway is enjoying her time in Hades right now since he has to deal with her custom-made, hand-blown hell every summer.)

We finished up there and walked to Kermit’s Key Lime store so that I could get some of their lotion. (It is lovely. It smells great and doesn’t degrade into that weird rancid smell that most lotions do after an hour. You smell like lime zest all day. Yummy.)

We decided it was time to head to the cemetery and since the trolley didn’t stop there we had to hoof it. No biggie, little island. We passed by a wine shop on the way that I will get back to before we leave from our little slice of heaven in the ocean. They had, what, 30 different fruit wines and I got to sample a few of them and they are tasty. (Back off, wine snobs. You weren’t there. I worked in the liquor and wine business and you can trust me when I tell you that these weren’t Mogen David or Boone’s.)

It is now 5:00 and the cemetery is a few blocks away. Cool. The Dude had read about the cemetery and there were supposed to be some really beautiful headstones and a few funny epitaphs, like this: “I Told You I Was Sick.” The cemetery was one of the Musts for the Dude so I was happy to oblige. I get a kick out of cemeteries anyway.

We reached the gate at 5:15 and the sign said that it closed at 6:00. Awesome. Plenty of time to wander around. We go off in separate directions, looking for the funny and obscure but mostly found hard to read things. I did notice that many of the headstones had photos in them and I’d never seen that before. They don’t hold up well. They fade.

The Dude calls me at 5:30 and he walks to where I am, which is at the other end of the cemetery. We ask two guys if there is another way out and one says that there are gates along all sides. Great. We walk to one and it’s locked. We walk to another and it’s locked. We walk as far down the side as we can and all gates. Are. Locked. Nice, anonymous guy. Yeah, there were gates and I guess it was our fault for not specifying that we were looking for an open one.

Obviously we are going to have to leave from where we entered. We were walking that way anyway. We wander over to the gate. And it. Is. Locked. It’s only 5:45 but it’s locked. Shit. That can’t be good.

Well, what to do? Can I crawl under the gate? There is some space but alas, no. We already know that the other gates are locked. Can we go over the fence? Uhm, hell no. Eight feet tall and filled with pointy suicide. Or splatty suicide should the pointy fail at its task.

We climb up on a few of the, I don’t know, tombs (lots of above ground crypt things, like in New Orleans), looking for some way out of this predicament. Some people ride by on bikes. The Dude hollers to them that we’re locked in. Some people on bikes keep riding by. While laughing. Some people on bikes are assholes.

At this point you should know that I have very bad balance. I am completely deaf in my left ear and my balance is borked so the idea of climbing up and onto and over an 8-foot tall fence that could impale me or toss me off the other side is about as appealing as performing my own dentistry. Tell you what, why I don’t I just let you beat me with a stick and we’ll call it a day.

I’m about ready to cry because I don’t see any alternative than one or both of us having to scale that fence and even if his balance is fine the Dude isn’t exactly 20 years old anymore when suddenly? Our saviors appear out of nowhere. This handsome couple comes strolling up and offers assistance. They are appropriately amused at our situation but realize that we are really and truly stuck. (In case you should be in need of Saviors, here’s how you can recognize them: They are about 40 years old. He is about 6’4”, supremely confident, and wears khakis and a lightly pressed pink shirt with an unironic sweater thrown over his shoulders. Not kidding. He pulled off this look with ease. She is about 5’10”, super fit and super friendly, wears black shorts and a zippered black sweat shirt. It should be obvious but I’ll tell you anyway that they are fantastic looking.)

Male Savior (MS) coolly assesses the situation, walks to the fence, finds the lowest and most stable point and begins to instruct the Dude on what is about to go down. Let me point out that MS was not in the least bit pushy or bossy. He just seemed to know exactly what he was doing and that he had it covered and let’s do this and we didn’t question him at all. Female Savior (FS) was there to lend the moral support and back up MS and his actions. FS also told me that I would be fine (I was starting to cry.) and that MS really knew what he was doing. She sounded like he had experience at these kinds of situations but when and where would someone need rescuing from behind a fence?

As I am pondering rescue scenarios and just as the Dude was about to step on top of the fence, our third Savior rolled up. No, really, she was driving a Jeep. We’ll call her JS. I think you know why. JS pulled up, asked if there was anything she could do, and within a few seconds MS had reevaluated his options, had JS back the Jeep up to the fence and the Dude was up and over, courtesy of JS’s spare tire. Ta da!

But wait, now it’s my turn. Oh shit. I don’t think I can do this. I really don’t. Visions of impalement and broken limbs and shattered skulls are racing through my still intact brain, which is the way I’d like to keep it. But MS insists I can do this and that he won’t let me fall and the Dude is there to help also and FS assures me that this is a piece of cake and that MS really knows what he’s doing so I put my left foot on the top of the fence like MS says to and he holds it like he said he would and he’s holding my hand to keep my balance and I grab the Dude’s hand and put my right foot up on the fence and the Dude holds that and MS says to move my left foot while he’s still holding it to the top of the tire and even though I can’t see where I’m going MS guides my foot to the tire and holds my waist while the Dude helps me move my right foot to the Jeep’s bumper and then I’m on solid ground on solid footing outside the fence. Hmm, I’ll be damned.

We thank our Saviors profusely and I give JS a hug and she drives off in the night to rescue other people. (She was actually headed to her bartending job but hey, bartenders rescue people in a sense so I’m still right.) We visit with MS and FS for a few minutes and find out the reason MS was/is so awesome and knew what to do and kept a level head and was so confident: He’s a retired Federal Marshal. No shit. It’s true. We were rescued by the motherfuckin’ Feds and it didn’t involve handcuffs or jail time and for that I am extremely grateful.

Keys Disease

We are almost caught up.

At this point in the story it is now December 4, 2009, and it is time to leave Sunshine Holiday Resort for Sunshine Key, located near Big Pine Key, about 30 miles from Key West. (It is actually on a privately-owned island.)

We were only supposed to stay at Sunshine Key for one week, leaving on the 11th but like I said before we had missed our travel window, and the weather in the Keys was so completely fabulous that we decided to stay through the winter. I mean, really, the best places to be in the contiguous US are San Diego and the Keys, with Key West having no frost or snow in recorded history.

Our trip from Fort Lauderdale to Big Pine Key should only have taken about four hours but due to some fuse issue between the Chieftain and the CR-V that caused us to have to pull over every 45 minutes or so to change out another fuse our trip took almost eight hours. Ugh. Thank godtopus that I had a computer and DVDs to watch.

We checked out of Sunshine Holiday Resort at noon and didn’t leave the mainland until after 7:00, which meant that we were driving on US 1 aka Overseas Highway in the dark. And Overseas Highway is not a place you want to drive on in the dark since you have to drive on a lot of bridges and the lanes are not very wide and for a lot of the time there was construction. With like, those moveable construction pylon thingies. Basically, our lane was only barely wider than our Winnebago. It was a few hours of white-knuckling it coming out of Key Largo. *shudder* Actually, I had the white knuckles. The Dude had a tight sphincter and was concerned that it would never unpucker thus making the rest of his life quite uncomfortable.

We finally arrived at Sunshine Key, found our spot, and got everything set up pretty quickly. (We’re getting better at our tear-down and put-up times. Tear-down takes about an hour, and put-up takes about 30 minutes.)

We decided pretty quickly to stay at Sunshine Key for a while, and that turned out to be the best thing because we would find out a day later that the Dude would have to fly to Dallas to take care of some business.

The Dude took a puddle-jumper out of Key West International Airport on December 10 and my birthday was a few days later on the 13th. During this flight the Dude met a lady who owns a Mexican restaurant in Key West, and one of the pilots was this huge black man who has had three major careers, all of them superhero kinds of jobs: schoolteacher then fire fighter and now pilot. Good on ya, huge black man whose name I don’t know.

Now the Dude would be gone for my birthday but being stuck on a private beach, surrounded by partying retirees for your birthday really…doesn’t suck. My birthday started out shitty because no one had even put a Facebook shout out much less called and I was feeling really down. Luckily, my friend from Philly, Royal, called me and that made the day better, and then my bestest friends from Austin called (Cyn, Jame, Katie, and Dane) and played pass the phone and wished me a happy day (love!) one of the neighbors invited me to their cookout and let me pretend it was my party, and then the Dude called and told me that my presents were in the CR-V and I had been driving around with them the whole time! That was fun! (He got me two beach chairs.) So the day turned out to be great even if the Dude was in Dallas.

Not much happened between my birthday and Christmas. The Dude got back on the 16th and we mostly spent the next week and a half working and enjoying the weather, i.e., sitting in the sun in a beach chair, reading my birthday books from my mom, and getting a tan.

We had Christmas Eve dinner, curried tofu over brown rice on a bed of arugula. (I know, I know. But I told you. I like tofu and the next day was Christmas and I figured that the menu at the brunch was going to be pretty heavy on the carnivore side, and I was right.) (See those trees? Gulf o’ Mexico right behind.)

I volunteered to work at the Christmas Day brunch at the park so I could get to know some of the regulars here and eat for free. I had my first corned beef hash. (Not really too bad for being, you know, meat. Of some sort.) Karen, the activities director, whipped up a batch of Bellinis for the volunteers so I was drinking before noon but it was Christmas and it was brunch and that’s what you do at brunch, and what do you drink if there are no Bloody Marys to be had? You drink yummy good Bellinis. It was delightful. Not as delightful as having Bellinis at Harry’s Bar, possibly sitting on the same chair that Hemingway sat in while writing, but still pretty nice. (Speaking of Hemingway, well, that’s the next chapter.)

Anyway, Christmas came and went. (I got my first BBQ grill as a present but it hadn’t arrived yet so I really got a picture of the grill I would be getting.) We were back at the regular life for another week, working, playing occasionally, and still working on that tan.

We did go fishing (I went fishing. The Dude took pictures.),

way out in the big ocean with Captain “Jersey” Bob. Cap’n Bob spends every winter at Sunshine Key, running fishing charters out of the marina. The day was super windy and the waters were really choppy, but luckily, even though neither of us has ever been seasick, we had the presence of mind to take preemptive Dramamine. We didn’t get sick and I caught a bunch of fish just in time for the grill that had arrived that morning! It was cold and windy that night but I grilled that fish anyway. It cost me $120.00 to catch that fish so I was by god going to grill it and eat it.

The one other time I went fishing in Florida was crap because the captain and first mate did everything for you. All you did was take the pole and try to reel the fish in. Well that’s boring. That’s about as much fun as buying the fish at the store. I know how to bait a damn hook. I know how to cast. I’m not all that great at recognizing when a fish has hit but let me learn. They way those other guys did it, with us just grabbing the pole after the mate hooked the fish, is right up there with “hunting” by sitting up in a blind and waiting for the deer to wander up to the salt lick. Yeah. There’s a sport that takes effort. Want to hunt? Get a fucking bow and arrow and track the sucker down.

Ah ha, now it’s New Year’s Eve: There will be a party in the RV park as the clubhouse and we have tickets. The Dude and I get “dressed up” with me wearing a sundress, showing off the sunburn

I got earlier that day and he was in shorts and a tee-shirt. (It’s the Keys. It’s the Keys lifestyle. It’s the “Keys Disease.”  Everything is so laid back that “formal” means wearing socks with your sandals and time is a nebulous concept, which, I mean, of course it is, but for the sake of convenience, we, meaning society, have agreed on what 10:15 am or 6:00 pm/1800 hours means, and if you say something closes at 6:00 pm, society understands what you are saying and everyone agrees that “it” closes at 6:00. Unless you’re in the Keys. (*cue ominous music that will resonate with the next installment*)

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, New Year’s Eve. We got to the party around 8:00 and everyone was already pretty looped and I danced a lot, even the line dances, which I don’t know and can never pick up but I try, and I drank a lot but surprisingly I didn’t get really lit. Maybe it was all of the activity. We counted down with the rest. I kissed everyone and then we went home. Not a bad start at all.

To move the story along I’m just going to bypass the fight the Dude and I got into where he made me cry and I wished we hadn’t gotten rid of the hand cannon we had in Philly. (What? I wasn’t going to actually use it. I’m too pretty for prison. And I don’t really want the Dude dead forever just temporarily. When we were in Philly I wished he’d get hit by a bus but buses are few and far between on the island so I think of guns or that he’ll fall off the pier into a school of sharks.) We can just not talk about the other horrible fight that the Dude and I got into wherein I hummed an eyeglasses case at him (broke the shit out of it too; luckily the glasses weren’t in it) (especially since it was HIS case).

Just a couple of words on our first two shots at Key West. The first time was right after we got here when we thought we were only going to stay a week. We went to Bo’s Fish Wagon and then walked around a little bit, looking at all the feral chickens and roosters (They are everywhere. It’s all, “Chicken. Rooster. Chicken. Chicken. Rooster. And no, Dude, that rooster? Isn’t “killing” that chicken. Yes, I know he’s on top of her and she’s yelling but what he’s doing? Ain’t killing.), and feral cats (only called feral in that they have no home but you can pet them), went to Mallory Square and saw a busker who had taught his dogs to take the tips (way cute).

The second time we went to lunch at Hog’s Breath and it started to rain. And rain. And it kept raining. And the drains filled because it was raining so fast and so much. I had to wade through calf-deep water to get to the ladies’ room and all I could think was, ‘Oh please, oh please don’t let the bathrooms be flooded where I’m walking in pee water.” (The bathrooms were flooded but the toilets weren’t overflowed. I still wasn’t happy about it and was convinced that I was going to get a social disease but I had to go.) And the streets flooded.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the first time since I sold my Prelude I was glad I wasn’t in that little car because it would have had water half-way up the door and my seat and the CR-V was fine. Because of the flooding we had to stay in Key West a little longer so we went to see “Avatar,” which is really pretty and probably out of this world (no pun intended) in 3-D but is really just “Dances with Aliens.”

Please stay tuned for the next installment of the Keys Disease.

Keep these words in mind: Federal. Marshal.