Soul in Wanderlust

Key West Baby

Let’s talk about Key West…
I love this place. I love the vibes of the city, the scenery, the island, the locals who welcome you, the insanity of strangers, the tropical drinks, and the “hey look, naked people, can I get another margarita,” attitude.
My first trip to The Conch Republic was back in 2000. I was fresh out of a relationship and I needed a vacation. I packed a suitcase, put myself on a plane, and flew to Key West. I would have loved to gone with friends, but looking back, going to Key West by myself on my first single girl vacation was the best thing I had ever done! I stayed at the Casa Marina. I walked and biked around the island. I wasn’t nervous or scared that I was by myself. I just enjoyed it. I sat on the beach of the hotel I was at, I swam in the blue ocean, I visited my first nudist bar when a friend called and told me that a friend, Jeff, was also in Key West. I met up with him and his girlfriend and we hung out. It was my last memory of Jeff. He passed away from cancer years later. Two days later, my friend Melissa called me. She and her fiancee were coming down. We went deep sea fishing during the day. I caught a salt water catfish. “All the way from South Carolina,” the co-captain said. That night, we went shark fishing. The next night we met up for drinks at Irish Kevin’s. They were celebrating their birthday and at midnight, the owners bought the house drinks for the next thirty minutes. Our waitress shows up at our table with a tray full of margaritas just for us because we had tipped her well all night. When I say tray, there were about 18 of the drinks on the table just for the 3 of us. I called my parents and told them I wanted to quit my job and sell Lemon Quench on Mallory Square. They suggested I get back on a plane when it was time, but I didn’t want to. I knew why Jimmy Buffett wrote “I Have Found Me a Home,” and why Hemingway built a house there. I felt inspired as a writer to walk through were he once sat and wrote Old Man and The Sea. Key West was a place my soul felt at home and at peace.
My second trip to the island was with my roommate and great friend, Jennifer in 2003. It was November and cold here in Charlotte. I had just flown back from Albany, NY where I had worked on Ice Wars. Dressed in shorts and flip flops our friend Tim dropped us off at Charlotte Douglas Airport and sent us to the island. Jennifer and I drank ourselves silly. Our hotel bartender, Rob, got us so drunk one night, Jennifer was out of commission the next day. I had a free breakfast on my birthday. We did an outback boat trip. Three hours out into the middle of the ocean, kayaking, drinking, meeting new people, and then three hours back. We went to swim with the dolphins, saw none, but I tried snorkeling. I realized I hated it. Maybe it was because I’m not coordinated enough to breath through a snorkel mask. We hung out a bar called Magnolias and bought drinks for underage boys. (We didn’t know they were 20 at the time.) The bartender was drinking with us. He didn’t seem to care. It was one of the best birthday memories I have. I laugh hysterically at the memory of me falling off a bike, Jennifer climbing into the largest adirondack chair ever made in her skirt, and the two of laying on the sidewalk laughing and enjoying the city.
My third trip was last Fourth of July (2009) with more great friends, Adrienne, Amy, and Joe. Amy, Joe, and I flew into Miami and then drove through the Florida Keys in a convertible. It was amazing. Adrienne flew in the next day and the four of us created a little havoc on that island. We did one of those party barges that allowed us to parasail, jet ski, and swim out in the middle of the ocean. 8 hours of nothing but sun and water. Countless hours of pouring margaritas, mojitos, and tropical drinks into my stomach. Adrienne and I taking Amy and Joe to their first drag show where we drank $200 plus in mojitos in less than 2 hours. We rode bikes around the island at night and in the day. I “fell” into the ocean and ruined my camera at the Southern Most Point, but I didn’t care. Adrienne and Joe got tattoos while Amy and I had “the let’s eat and drink tour” of Key West. We visited the cemetery, ate oysters and drank freshly made margarita’s at Pepe’s. The four of us spent the day sailing. We joined Capt. Ran (aka The Naked Captain as we called him) and Lacey for an all day sailing trip. Amy and Joe snorkeled, Adrienne caught rays and read on the boat, and I drifted aimlessly in the water. It was fantastic.
I’m going back again this year. It will be 10 years since my first trip. I’m going with Adrienne, Amy, Joe, and new Key West first timer, Melany. We’ve already booked our sailing day with Capt. Ran. I can’t wait to walk up and down Duval Street a million times. I can’t wait to get silly drunk with the crew. I can’t wait to ride around the island on a bike and sit at Mallory Square as the sun sets. I’ll visit the Southern Most Point again and find that heart is at peace.
Key West has this magic about it. Yes, it seems like a city of non-stop partying and debauchery, but if you listen, it tells you a story. Every local I’ve met has given me this story: “I came down for a vacation, trip, visit, etc, and never left.” Those that do leave, come back. Some come back and stay for good. Some, like me, come back year after year. Key West isn’t a place I could get tired of. There’s still too much I haven’t discovered there. There’s still too much love in my heart for an island that sits in the middle of the ocean.
Key West…One Human Family…
Key West, the one place my soul feels at home and my heart is at peace.
Listening to “Island Fever” by Jimmy Buffett