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?
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.
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.