Key West – Day 2
Dad was up early. He walked to a coffee shop on Duvall St. For a establishment that was almost empty, the two baristas were extremely busy. The Mystery of the Missing Tourists continued.
However, as Dad perused the nearly empty shop, he could not figure out what was causing all the commotion behind the bar. He waited for what seemed to be a long time, particularly since there was no one else in line. “Perhaps they are French”, thought Dad. Finally one of the young men acknowledged him with an exasperated look.
“Nope, not French”, thought Dad. He was just snooty. He gave Dad a condescending sigh and took his order.
Dad sat on the porch to wait for his coffee and breakfast sandwich. While he was waiting he checked and rechecked all of the details of his mission. He verified the address. He double checked the business hours. He retraced his route on the map to make sure he had the most direct route.
Sitting on the porch and watching the word go by, he heard the barristas talking. “Apparently all the tourists were held over up north because of the weather”, said one to the other.
“Aha”, thought Dad. “The mystery of the missing tourists has been solved. They are all trapped in the frozen North by more freezing weather.” Now he could concentrate all his efforts on the mission at hand.
When he finished up his breakfast, he bee-lined back to his hotel. He gathered the essentials for his trip into a spare trash bag from the room, and his back pack. He also grabbed his camera and his water bottle. Fully prepared for the task ahead, he hopped down the stairs from his room and strode quickly up Simonton Street.
He did not stray from his route. Except to investigate the the cigar factory and the old hotel. Other than that, he did not stray from his route. Oh, and except to photograph a really cool police cruiser, but that was all the straying he did. Particularly if one does not count the short foray into the pirate costume store, which shouldn’t count as straying from the mission, because a pirate’s mission essentially consists of straying from the mission.
But other than those moments, he did not stray from his route. As he turned onto Eaton Street, he noticed the wrought iron architectural details on the buildings.
This corner looked a bit like the French Quarter of New Orleans. His destination was on the corner of the old styled building complete with a balcony porch; the Laundromat.
Dad had been in Atlanta for two weeks now, and was completely out of clean clothes. At this point in his travels, it was launder or perish. Dad swung in through the door, and strode up to the young lady behind the counter.
“Hi, I’d like to drop off”, he said, but his tone was more of a question.
“Fine, you can pick up tomorrow” replied the young lady in a disinterested voice, without looking up. Dad cocked his head slightly, and gave the young woman just a bit of a sidelong glance.
“Can I get them today”, he asked with a hint of a roguish smile on his face. “You see, I’m leaving tomorrow.” He really wanted the clothes back today, so he could repack his suitcase that night. Putting two weeks of clothes into a roll-aboard can be very time consuming, and Dad hates packing at the last minute. Getting the clothes on Sunday just didn’t seem like a good option. On the other hand, he did not want to spend the rest of the morning sitting in the laundromat watching his clothes go around and around in the spin cycle.
She turned to look at him, and he saw her face soften. “Come back at 5“, she said flatly. Dad smiled and spun on his heels. He maintained his composure until he got around the corner from the laundromat, and out of the view from the windows. Then he fist pumped and spun around in a victory dance. Mission accomplished! He also set the alarm on his watch so he wouldn’t miss the five o’clock deadline. Even in the throes of victory, Dad knows that failure is always lurking around the corner.
Next Dad headed to Mallory Square. He passed the island’s train-trolley. It looked really cool, but with a limited amount of time it was impractical.
First stop was the gift shop housed in the part of the old Navy Base. Then on to the Truman Little white house, where he bought tickets to tour the Little White House and the Hemmingway house.
First up was the tour of the Little White House. It was originally the base commander’s house for the Naval Station. All the furnishings were original. It was a very comfortable residence. However, it was interesting to the see the original military style plumbing fixtures in the bathrooms used by Presidents and First Ladies. Though photos of the interior not allowed, there is a place to get a picture with Harry S.
Next was the Mel Fletcher museum. The Mel Fletcher Museum records the efforts of treasure hunter Mel Fletcher in his quest to the find the lost Spanish galleon, Atocha. Atocha was lost in a storm in 1622 off the Florida Keys. Mel spent 16 1/2 years in his quest. He even lost a son to the treacherous weather in Gulf. The Museum is well presented, and covers not only Mel’s search, but the history of the Spanish treasure galleons, and of the pirates that preyed on them, including the Dread’ Pirate Roberts.
By now it was time for lunch. Dad stopped in a little sandwich and ice-cream shop and decided to order a quintessential Conch Republic lunch, chocolate covered frozen key lime pie on a stick.
Walking along the sidewalk on Duvall, being extra careful not to drip melting frozen chocolate covered key lime pie on himself, Dad saw the Hemingway House. He viewed the mansion from the opposite side of the street as he passed. His next stop was a little farther along.
It was easy to find the old light house. It figured prominently along Duvall Street. He walked in and bought a ticket. There was a lifelike sculpture on a bench in the little park around the lighthouse. The park was cool and quiet, like a little oasis away from Duval St. He decided to climb the tower before going in the accompanying museum as the day was getting warmer, and did saw no point is climbing the steps in temperatures any warmer than he had to. It was the classic endless spiral stair case. Dad put a finger aside his nose, and up he rose. Sometimes it is good to have a Santa beard. The climb threatened to make Dad dizzy from going round and round so many times. However, unlike some climbs, at least the passage way was wide enough for Dad to move through easily. The kids still laugh at the time Dad climbed the Tower of Pisa with them, and his shoulders wedged in the doorway at the top.
From the top of the light house, he could see all of the island. Up here, the wind blew so strong, it threatened to rip his new Mel Fletcher Museum ball cap right off of his head. Slowly, he surveyed the landscape and his tourist map to see what was next. It was still too early for the Hemingway house, so he scoped out his next point of interest.
After descending the never-ending staircase , Dad headed to the light house museum. It was interesting and detailed not only the history of the lights in the Keys, but the history of the Keepers as well, including that of Mrs.Barbara Mabrity , who took over running the light house when her husband passed away, and ran it herself. for 32 years.
As Dad exited the museum, he came upon two young couples debating whether or not to make the climb. Dad stopped, and smiled slyly, “Oh, c’mon. If an old man like me can make it, certainly you young’uns can scamper up there in a heartbeat.” That was all the encouragement it took to send them trudging up the eternal spiral. Dad smiled as he thought about the dangers of taking advice from a man who looks like Santa about the ease of ascending chimney-like structures.
He turned Southwest off Duval and walked along the perimeter of the Navy base. The road brought him to the Fort Taylor State Park. He walked up to the gate and paid the admission. He then strode along the long road into the park. A few cars and some teenagers on scooters passed him.
Along the twisting tree covered driveway to the park, he found the trail to the fort, and marched inside. The fort was a wonderful example of mid 19th century defensive fortifications. The design was updated through the years, as offensive armament improved. In a stroke of historical good fortune, the civil engineers of the day used many of the obsolete cannons at the fort as fill for the later modifications, so today’s visitor can see many rare examples of 19th century cannonry, a period when there was a lively debate about whether pursue smoothbore or rifled artillery. The collection holds several of each. Not everyone might find long dead debates about cannon muzzles interesting, but Dad did. Dad spent much of his youth on Ft. Hancock, which guards the southern entrance to New York Harbor. It also happens to house the largest smoothbore cannon ever built, The Rodman Gun, but that is a entirely different story.
The support buildings on the fort are in the midst of being restored by volunteers. Their efforts are clear in the fine restoration work they are perfuming on the old structures.
From there Dad decided to get a view of the outside of the fort. He found a path across the moat from the fort, and followed it all the way to the beach. He watched some kite fliers, and then he watch a gaggle of teenage girls race down the ocean-side trail on scooters, tearing right past the No Bicycles sign. He thought about pointing out the sign to them if they came back, but figured they would simply point out that they were riding scooters not bicycles. Dad decided some people were not worth it.
After enjoying a stop at the picnic pavilion by the water for a few minutes, Dad stood up and strode towards the park exit. It was early afternoon, and there was still a lot to see before 5 pm.
Dad headed back to Duvall. As he walked to his next stop, he came upon two of the legendary inhabitants of key West, chickens and poly-dactyl cats.
As Dad continued up Duvall, his attention was irresistibly drawn to a piece of naive art right on the street. A fascinating art car had captured Dad’s gaze. Among Dad’s many talents is that of Art Critic. As they say, “Those that can, do; those that can’t, become critics.” In a family of artists, Dad is the official critic.
Dad saw that this car was a true work of art! It so completely captivated his attention that he walked straight into a metal light pole. The resounding clang of iron head on steel pole woke Dad from his reverent state, and caused his to clear his head with a shake, and break out the camera.
After overcoming the shock running into a pole while NOT looking at a cell phone, and having had time to be thankful that at least it was a steel pole, so that there were no splinters in his forehead, Dad made his way to the Hemingway house.
Hemingway’s house is similar in layout to many of the 19th century mansions open for visitors around the country. However, this one was full of Hemingway memorabilia. Dad was able to quickly join a tour going through the mansion. He stood near several of the photos of Hemingway as the tour wound its way through the house. However, he was disappointed when no one seemed to notice the remarkable resemblance between Dad and Hemingway.
The house is located on the highest place on the island. The strategic location, and the robust ship building techniques used in its contraction contribute greatly to its continued presence on the island. It was built in 1851 by Asa Tift, a marine architect and salvage wrecker, and became Ernest Hemingway’s home in 1931.
The tour includes a stop in the studio out back where Hemingway did most of his writing, and the swimming pool in the backyard, which Dad found out is not open for laps by tourists. The tour concludes with a stop by the pool to look at an old penny embedded in the concrete. It is said to be Hemingway’s “last cent.”
By now the sun was heading towards the horizon. Dad picked up the pace and headed down to the Southern-most Point. He did not want to miss the mysterious green flash if one happened today. However, he did wonder if he would notice it since he is color-blind. It still seemed like the place to be anyway.
After getting a picture at the Southern-most Point, Dad enjoyed the sunset with the rest of the throng.
Still no one mentioned Dad’s striking resemblance to the man known on the island as Papa. Dad pondered a plan to see if he could get someone to notice.
On his way to pick up his laundry, he solidified his plan. Dad decided to ply all the known Hemingway haunts in town, and a few famous places that were not on the Hemmingway list.
He practiced his best Hemingway look in the mirror at the hotel.
He was now ready to acknowledged the inevitable adoring crowds.
He stopped in the Green Parrot, an institution since 1890, featuring a jukebox & live music on weekends
Then Sloppy Joe’s, home of the Ernest Hemingway Look Alike Contest
And finally Capt. Tony’s, which is the original building where Sloppy Joe’s was housed, back when Hemingway was in town.
After mentioning to a fellow patron at Capt. Tony’s that he was a bit hungry, Dad was recommended to try the pizza at Rick’s. He did just that, and enjoyed a nice NY style pizza, even though it was a long way to NY. Still no one mentioned how much he looked like Hemingway.
On his way home, Dad decided to reconsider his plans to enter the Lookalike contest. Perhaps he was just too good looking to be confused with the man. Or, people could be so preoccupied with the sidewalk entertainment that he was being overlooked. He would give it more thought he still was sporting his beard in June, when the date of the contest was closer.
The end of the night was coming, and Dad still had to pack for his trip back to reality and Atlanta GA in the morning. The weekend was pretty much over.