Sunday, 31 March 2013

Key West...what a trip!

My wife and I just returned from a trip to Key West. This trip was partly a chance to meet up with Popcorn Joe and some old friends and partly to do some last-minute real-time research. No, I'm not referring to 'sitting in the Bull & Whistle slowly enjoying a cool beer' kind of research -- for the sequel to KEY WEST.

Jon Breakfield at the Bull & Whistle
Jon Breakfield is at the Bull & Whistle
For a back-water island, Key West is in a state of continual change; a new restaurant popping up here and a road dug up there (actually that was our problem at the start of the trip -- we could barely access the island as the main road looked like downtown Baghdad just after Saddam jumped ship. N. Roosevelt Boulevard, aka Highway #1, aka the only evacuation route during hurricane season, was having the dental equivalent of a root canal (route canal). Seemed like a bit of bad programming during peak tourist season, but who am I to moan?

We were actually thrilled we had made it down the long drive from Miami. No matter how many times you do that drive, as beautiful as it is (despite the new Adult Superstore), I always seem to forget just how long the trip can be. The day was also hampered by the inevitable and gi-normous annual flea market on Matecumbe Key (coupled with the extra, enervating traffic which comes with a long weekend).

The first item on our agenda was a quick jaunt around the Old Town. We marveled at the changes, and you got 100 points if you spotted anyone we knew from our old days.
'It was great to see the colorful houseboats, and the Conch House Inn looking as great as ever. "Wonder if they still have black carpets?" says my wife, remembering the day we did a guest appearance and cleaned all the rooms on a sweltering day in September with no air conditioning. The hardest job we've ever had!

Renee's Gallery on Caroline St.

Over on Caroline St, "My goodness is that Rene still selling his paintings at the Red Doors?"

"I think the Pineapple Apartments need a lick of paint. Popcorn Joe would never have let it look that shabby."

Jon Breakfield Pineapple Apartments
The former Pinapple Apartments
All around us we spied small changes - good and bad.  We parked the car, amazed that we had found a lonely spot that was not being guarded by a parking meter, and continued our reminiscing on foot. B.O.'s fish wagon was doing a trade. Where was the Greg O' Berry building? What a great new coffee shop. Thank goodness Key West Island Books is still going strong.

We met up with Popcorn Joe doing this thing on the "pier" at Sunset Celebration - 27 years on the job. We were a bit envious that Joe hadn't aged at all since we last saw him - must be the Key West ions (or the bottle of Russian Vodka that he had tucked away under his popcorn cart).

The charm was all still there.

Jon Breakfield at Geiger Key Marina
Geiger Key Marina
Later that night we met up with friends on Geiger Key and dined at the Geiger Key Marina. The grouper sandwich was divine and live music to boot - it couldn't get any better.

And it was great to be back.