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Friday
Feb052010

Wasted Away in Geezerville

Location: Sunset Key, Key West, Florida

We flew to Florida on Tuesday, and drove to Key West on Wednesday. It was like driving through a wormhole in time - here a pocket of 50's, there a pocket of 70's, but nowhere a pocket of this millenium. But, really, none of that mattered because we were wearing shorts and flipflops, and driving with the windows down in early February. How can you beat that? The kitsch was like a swarm of bees, but it was endearing, because we were warm.

When we arrived, we headed straight for our hotel, which is in fact not on Key West. It's on Sunset Key, a tiny island just a few hundred yards across the Caribbean from the craziness of Key West, but oh - how much those few hundred yards mean! Our hotel is lovely. It's the only hotel on Sunset Key, with just a handful of cottages clustered around a freeform pool and the beach. Between the pool bar and the surprisingly delicious restaurant, there isn't much reason to hit the "mainland," which I suppose Key West is, but only relative to Sunset Key. Yesterday we basked in the sun on the beach. There was hardly anyone else on the entire beach, and only a handful of people total, and our waiter regularly refilled our iced tea. The only way to tell time was by the half-hourly boats that meandered by with their motor on low, heading to and from Key West. 

In an attempt to fulfill my promise to myself to not gain 20 lbs while on vacation (which I can already tell will be a feat of will, given how much we've been drinking and eating), I did take my inaugural swim in the sea. I put on my reef shoes with my little bikini (because changing into my usual swimsuit would have been ridiculous, right?), and donned my usual swimcap and goggles. For good measure, I added the front swim snorkel that I recently purchased - I call it the uni-kel. To say  I looked absurd would be a vast understatement. If I hadn't had my earplugs in, I'm sure I would have heard the sniggers from my fellow beachgoers, my husband included. When I returned after a semi-successful swim (it's harder than you might think to use a snorkel without a facemask to protect you from getting water up your nose), my husband just smiled. I could see he was having too much difficulty deciding between his many taunts, and in the end wisely chose to remain silent.

So after our day in the sun, last night we decided to wander into Key West proper, and see what there was to see. We had driven through it on our way here, but barely looked around in our anxiousness to settle into relaxation. We caught the 5pm launch, with the intention of strolling for a couple hours before finding a casual dinner. After about 10 minutes, we started to wonder... why, of all the places we could have gone, did we choose Key West? I really wish I had taken better notes during our decision-making process a month ago, because in the harsh light of reality, I'm struggling to recreate that decision. Had someone recommended it? Was it an image from childhood of bohemian freedom? Or simply that it is the furthest South, and therefore presumably the warmest, place connected to the US by a road?

Key West is like a frat party - for GEEZERS. Everywhere we looked, it was old people... getting drunk. Singing along - and dare I say it, dancing! - to tunes I remember being popular with the folksy set of my childhood. And trust me, I'm not talking classics like Grateful Dead. Every bar had the requisite old guy with a guitar, as though by sheer force of numbers, it would feel like Jimmy Buffet was somewhere here singing his heart out in Margaritaville, if always just around the turn at the next bar. The number of bars here is staggering, and while we wandered Duvall Street - at the blue-haired-special hour of 7pm (I think geezerness must be catchy) - we were amazed at the throngs of people stumbling by. Maybe it was because I was so young relative to the rest of the crowd, but I felt like I was 19 again, on spring break with a fake ID (not that I ever did that). And these geezers were legitimately stumbling. They were all drunk! I've rarely seen so many beer guts with gray hair in my life.

So at 7:15, driven by fear of what the scene would turn into when the drinking almost-dead turned truly rowdy, we caught the launch back to our hotel, where we drank from the mini bar and played poker... while sitting on our balcony in a sundress and sandals. And so you see, nothing whatsoever to complain about. 
Today is warm though slightly overcast, while my family is in Maryland enduring yet another blizzard. I'm writing this while sitting at the pool, feeling my legs slowly crisp like a rotisserie chicken. I'm looking forward to settling in St. Martin, where it will be just those extra few degrees warmer than here, but truly, there is nothing to complain about on Sunset Key.

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Reader Comments (1)

That same Wednesday I was driving from Key West to Miami! No joke! We must have passed each other on that god awful 2 lane highway. I was only supposed to stay through the previous weekend but I got an ear infection and couldn't fly, so I had to stay longer...and trust me, I will not be returning to Key West anytime soon!

February 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNatasha Mooney

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