For years now I have heard stories about Key West. Key West, after all, is the land of Tennessee Williams and Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway, in fact, called Key West “the St. Tropez of the Poor.”
I finally made it to Key West and saw for myself the mythic party land under the palms.
I was struck, first of all, how in Key West one can drink alcohol openly in the streets, and that Key West’s sidewalk open counter bars have the easy accessibility of a Rita’s Water Ice stand. Buying a drink at one of these open sidewalk bars is easy. The more standardized bars have large parking lot-sized patios dotted with tables and umbrellas. Most of these places are crowded by 10 in the morning. While walking along Duval Street at that time I saw seasoned well coiffed women in large sunglasses downing tropical drinks with their ham and eggs, and unkempt looking biker babes (with whisky voices) laughing it up with their kerchief-headed biker men.
Friends warned me about driving Route 1. “Yes, the views are spectacular, there’s all that open sea, but the monotonous ‘straight ahead’ driving can put you in a trance. People have been known to fall asleep on Route 1.”
But you won’t fall asleep if there’s a rainstorm. I know because somewhere before my traveling companion and I hit Key Largo, the first Key on the long chain, the skies opened up, thunder roared and lightning reminded us of our mortality. We discovered that driving over the 42 sea bridges is much like piloting a boat at sea. The streak lightning that hit the water in violent Olympic jolts slowed our speed to twenty five miles an hour. At one point we could not even see the road in front of us. For a moment we wondered if we would ever make it to Key West. In my mind’s eye, I kept seeing the following newspaper headline:
LITTLE RED MAZDA PLUNGES INTO THE OCEAN NEAR KEY LARGO