Sunday, February 10, 2013

Islamorada, Island of Misfits

"Drink and Navigate the Island Life" - Barstool Sailor

The first birthday in the year of 100 was spent in what has become my favorite place on this big blue ball we call home, Islamorada.  My travels are rather limited to make such grand statements but there's something about that halfway point in the Keys   Cast of characters included Wingman, Coon Dick (CD), one Nanner, CoPilot and his girl the Dogwalker.  I'm not sure how we all managed to descend upon such a small plot of land at the same time being that most of the time we barely manage to find each other if a happy hour is involved. I can only imagine of some drunken coordination and odd planetary alignments involvement.  I'm going to have to start carrying a recorder, as taking notes is tough and even tougher is the deciphering of them later.  I think that I must've signed on a 3 year old with a drinking problem to do shorthand conversation notes on my behalf.  Some of it doesn't even appear to be in the English language. So suffice to say I'm working more off of memory than my attempts of documentation.  I'm going to include links to alot of the places so if you ever head that way you can find them.

It was our second visit to the Breezy Palms.  It's old Florida Keys style right on the ocean at MM 80, with a little marina and beach...heated pool and all kinds of flavored coffee creamers.  If you want more frills than that you can pay an extra $150 a night for nice warm cookies at the Hampton front desk...or you can be us and just walk through the lobby and pick them up when leaving their tiki bar.  It's all your choice.  When we arrived CD had already been there long enough to get the maintenance man Mark drunk one night.  Mark is what I imagine when I hear Key's critter. He refuses to cross either bridge that links to other parts of the think about it he's not so different than most of the folks at home that fear "the bridges" or the "state line".  He had the odd story of how he got there and no real plans for staying or leaving even though he had logged ten years.    He was a very talented painter and collector of oddities and old bottles.  His paintings were all of local railroad...ocean scenes.  He seemed someone that material things meant nothing to.  Before the night that we met him was over he made us take pick of his antique Avon bottle cars and sent Wingman home with a box full of old bottles.  Now in possession are an old Jeep CJ Wrangler and a model T...the jeep still has some Hi Karate or something in it.  I attempted to wear it out one night but was met with a bit of resistance from the Velcro.

CD, always being my go to guy for information, came up with so many stories that I'm thinking that he needs a biography written instead of a blog.  I'm not sure how up until this point we had missed the astrological sign conversation.  It's rather common knowledge of my views of the Virgos.  If you offended by my opinion, it either means you are one or you've never been married to one. Period.  Since finding out that CD is in fact a Virgo, I've learned that they are tolerable when properly medicated.  I've never seen the side of him that he refers to as neurotic, worrying constantly about "bats in the cave" and such.  He was the first to point out just that situation "You got a bat in the cave there buddy" to a non booger suspecting Wingman.  The true test...I asked him his views on touching the drawer or the  handles when closing dresser drawers.  That will draw out even the most closeted and cleverly disguised Virgos.
He started referring to Wingman as "lover" after about day 3 of them sharing a bed.  Of the two I would guess CD is the lighter sleeper, since every morning we were entertained with stories of what Wingman did in his sleep the night before.   After I saw a poolside conversation headed toward something I would imagine CD didn't want aired to all of the world, I was forced to give the obligatory warning. "DO NOT TELL ME ANYTHING THAT YOU DON'T WANT IN PRINT!"  Undeterred he continues "So you've never had the crabs?"  "" ....pause...."me either".  There was a very lenghty conversation that followed with the boys enlightening me on everything from pinchers to the use of Rid.  My love of knowing everything about anything that no one cares about made me a sponge for this new random knowledge.  I now consider myself somewhat of an expert on dick lice... if you need any questions answered. 
I heard about first "pieces of ass" and tricks of the trade passed along from a local lifeguard named One Lung.  One Lung long since gone said the trick was to leave your zipper down when coming back from the apparently worked on the subconscious and you were guaranteed to get laid. I'm not feeling it but who am I to question tried and true. The joke for the rest of the week was who was going to try it out.  The stories ran wild and I did all I could to write as fast as he talked...a close acquaintance woke beside a particularly unattractive "coyote" and found there was a glass of water with teeth in it beside the bed.  As he faked sleep he saw her roll over, shove the teeth in and chug the water...offers for breakfast were declined. 

Barstool Sailor was playing at Island Grill our first night in town so we stopped in to see him.  A singer songwriter playing Islandgrass music, he can be found in different bars almost every night. We know this because we stalked him all over the island...creepy fucking tourists that we are.  After Velcro asked him to sing Wagon Wheel for me the first night he never forgot my name or sing it when we showed up.  The Hampton that is right beside Breezy Palms has an Outback Steakhouse in it and part of they have a tiki bar ocean front. We walked over to see Barstool Sailor and Wingman knew everyone at the bar.  What part of North Myrtle Beach that we hadn't brought with us had found their way down on their own.  I was quite stoked to meet the Judge (he came with his own nickname)  I'd just finished reading both of his books and had heard stories from Wingman.  Because I am a supreme dork, I should not be trusted on first encounters with those that I have heard about and want to meet (flash back to my meeting CD).  I doubt he expected to be greeted with "OH Holy Shit I love your books!"  No since in a sugar coated approach I say.  I can't believe we had to travel close to a 1000 miles to make friends with people I see across the bar at home. 

We made a few day trip runs to Key West and Marathon, mainly in pursuit of stone crabs or fish sandwiches and drinks in a different locales.  Superbowl, also known by us southerners this year as who gives a shit bowl, was also Velcro's birthday.  All I ever get is about a once in a life time accidental Easter overlap on mine...and no one wants to throw a party and drink for that.  We spent the afternoon at the Post Card Inn, you know, eating fish sandwiches and drinking and listening to Barstool Sailor.  It was my first live exposure to the jet pack.  This may be the coolest thing I've ever scene.  They strap a super powerful water pump to your back and you shoot around over the water like a super hero.  I want one.  I can also imagine jamming my head through the roof of the tiki bar or taking a header into the swing bridge at home but those things can be worked around.  (I had a video but it appears I lack the tech savvyness to get the damn thing uploaded)
CoPilot and his Dogwalker have rented a house for the month on the bay side a little farther souther on Lower Matecumbe Key.  We all piled up for some birthday celebrating...the sunset...some wings...some dog leg humping... 

The highlight of the night was somewhere between their little dog Fluffy falling in love with Wingman's leg and me getting my very own coon dick.  Although it caused an argument over which end was attached and which end is used.  I am positive I was right and will not be swayed to believe differently.

Quote of the evening, "I wish Wingman was ready to go now so we can get in the bed and watch the second half".  Its my belief that the boys had spent too many nights in the same bed when the situation had desensitized to that point. 

It seems that most of the adventurous things we did, most of the breakfasts we ate, and all of the things we bought all came from or happened at Robbie's Marina.  Possibly the best $5 spent the whole week was on Tarpon feeding. They give you a little blue bucket of fish and a warning.  "Careful of the pelicans...they know what's in the bucket."  We were greeted at the door leading to the dock by the pelicans, it was like excusing yourself around people in a crowded street...they were just inches away trying to stick their heads in the bucket.  The tarpon were from 3-6 feet long and everywhere you could see.  You had to sit down and lean over the water with the little fish in your hand.  The fish weren't super aggressive...more laying back and eyeballing the fish as it dangled above their heads. All of the sudden this fish almost as big as me had my hand up to the wrist in his mouth.  I squeaked like a dog toy and felt like a little kid.  I've never had so much fun.  I was a lot quicker to let go of the subsequent fish.

Back at the Hungry Tarpon the following morning, our breakfast standard place of the week, I'd made the executive decision of wear bathing suits to check out the kayak rentals.  It's no secret that Velcro doesn't have as much of the adventurous spirit as I myself and I'm sure he was a bit apprehensive.  I had talked him into venturing into the ocean kayaking while in the Turks & Caicos but it wasn't what I would have considered ideal situations so I was pretty impressed that he big boyed up to try it again.  They rented by the hour, half day and full day.  Convinced that there was no way he would want to stay  out there over 2 hours, we figured they were getting a good ride out of us since we went for the 4 hour option.  The wind having laid down from earlier in the week, they said we had a couple of kayaking options.  About a half mile out the Atlantic side was an island called Indian Key.  It was inhabited in the 1830's by a wreck salvager and his "colony" for lack of a better word.  There was a general store there that sold over $ 30,000 in one year.   The island was attacked and burned down one night by Seminole Indians, at the time all of the keys had been abandoned with the exception of Indian Key and Key West 13 of the 60 some people where killed.  History has always been my most detested subject  but recently I read a book about Henry Flagler and the building of the over seas railroad, so the Keys history is interesting to me these days.  You can imagine how annoying I can be with this kind of information under my belt.  After kayaking to the island and walking all over it we headed back to check out the mangroves.  They supplied us with a little water proof map attached to the boat via's a good thing that I don't have the navigation skills of the average female.  We paddled down larger canals that ran behind houses, finding the crocodile that we'd heard had been known to nap on a particular sea wall.  Her name was Fluffy (good thing she didn't want to mount a leg too).  If I was guessing I would say she was 7-8ft long and appeared to be a lawn ornament.  We paddled right up to her and took pictures, her right front leg was tucked back like she'd been walking and just got tired and laid down.

Later on in the afternoon when we came back by her tail was straightened out and her head came up and every move made was followed.  Trying to paddle closer to see what would happen, I couldn't get the boat to work like I'd become accustom to...I turned around to find Velcro braking and back paddling like a fucker.

Not far down the canal from Fluffy the wide channels shrank to narrow canopy mangrove covered creeks.  Some areas were so low that you tuck your paddles and guide yourself by the roots, others you just had to time your strokes to not nail the trees.   There was a small finger creek where we saw the bubbles from another croc...I am also somewhat of gator expert also since watching back to back episodes of Gator Boys on Animal Planet.   Even I knew paddling into that little cut to look down through the water on it was a poor plan....and I don't back down on the normal day.  The kayak shack had given us a cooler to use and I'd gotten a 6 pack....its the new gatorade.  After about 2 beers a piece we realized there's no where to go pee.  I figured we could just stand up since you could see the bottom but after sticking a paddle into the ubber squishy bottom that plan was abandon.  I'm not sure how much you know about mangroves, but there is no ground's all roots and water.  So we edged the nose of the kayak up into the roots and overhang and managed to overhang to become one with nature.  "You're peeing in the boat!" made me readjust...that can't be fully appreciated unless one has tried to stand on pee out of a tandem kayak.  In just over 3 1/2 hours we returned our rental.  As many times as either of us have been to the Keys, we've never seen this side of it.  I doubt we will ever go back that we don't kayak the mangroves. 

Our last night in town we decided to stop back in the Island Grill for happy hour.  Brenda Starr, an amazing raspy voiced island looking chick was signing R&B and reggae.  If you're in Key Largo and the upper Keys look her up.  Hog Heaven was next on the bar hop list but as soon as we walked in the non verbal agreement was that there was too much sausage in Hog.  Deciding last minute to stop in Morada Bay for a picture of our ladder back chair by the water, we rolled up just after sunset...just like the first time it was unplanned and wound up being perfect. 

The next morning we headed the slow way back to Ft Lauderdale on the slow decent back to reality.  Bahia Cabana is on the edge of the Bahia Mar Marina, where the infamous Travis McGee lived on his house boat the Busted Flush at dock F18 for so many novels.  It's become a traditional every time we're in town stop.  At some point the Hog Heaven evacuated and all the sausage descended upon the bar.  One side of the bar was covered by what I call bitter know the kind, that have very happy men somewhere because they are being left alone only at the expense of whichever of the girls have the smallest bladder.  Between them and the airport I turned to Velcro with the observation that women are bitches and people are assholes.  If you are in the Spirit terminal at the airport there you will know that it is JAM PACKED...ALL THE TIME.  People, your luggage does not have a passport therefore does not justify having it's own seat.  I wish I had more of a hairy ass...enough of one to walk over and throw some one's bag in the floor while looking at them and picking my nose.  Also, if you have white hair and wear a suit in the are a tv my book at least.  The modern version of a medicine man was in the row in front of us on the plane.  He wore a Doc Tari hat and started immediately about some miracle drug with an almost  hypnotic effect on his two accented row mates.  The man being a little older was skeptical and eventually asked for ID to see if the medicine man was in fact as old as he claimed to be since he magical potion made him seem so much younger.  When the announcements were made the lady said "This is your plane, this is your crew...lucky you".  The plane smelled like either BO or roast beef, I preferred to think of the aroma as some fancy brisket.  There was no since in going for the sober approach at this point so we went for the 4 drink bargin tactic.  Velcro completely freaked out a guy flight attendant by touching his arm to ask for extra ice.  By the way he jumped you would have thought he tapped him on the ear with his dick.

Realistically speaking our everyday reality is better than most.  Most times I don't realize how different life at the coast is compared to the "real world".  Most times I do realize though how good life is with someone you can't get enough of...

Friday, February 8, 2013

Where We Started

I came across this book while perusing the bookshelf in my office for reading material to take on vacation.  It made me smile as soon as I saw it.  I would have to credit this book for sparking the first real conversation between Velcro and myself.  I took a picture of the book and decided it was time to share the story I wrote some 2 years ago. 

The Adventures of Velcro, Sparky & Wingman

The way this whole story starts seems whirlwindy as hell at best. Two guys started coming into the bar a couple of months back, I don’t remember exactly when or at what point we got beyond bar talk. (It's been brought to my attention over the last couple of years that I ignored them and if it hadn't have been for my ass they would've stopped coming in.)They are the ones to blame for my recent Florida addictions. I remember I had my Quit Your Job and Move to Key West book out one day and the rest is history. Have you ever felt a pull that you can’t describe…something that makes you look at someone and in that look you can see inside of them…and they are looking back and seeing you the same way…somewhere your souls are high fiving each other? Well that happened…and there was a connection that can’t be wrapped up in words.

My vacation time looming I decide to head south and check out some real estate.  Out of the blue this guy that started talking to me about my book says he wants to meet me there and take me to the Keys. To say that I didn’t see this coming would be a massive understatement. I’d already made plans for the trip and had to turn him down.  We met for drinks a couple of days the week before I left…and I’m pretty sure in one of my drinks there was a hook and I swallowed it. My body was happy and warm and I was planning my exit to moving to Hollywood, but I just couldn't get him off my mind. When I got back I found out I had the rest of the month off and since I'd found me a realtor I made plans to go back and look at more places to live when I exited south.

We met up and Wingman headed on south with what I would have to call a kinda sorta Walter Matthau look-a-like but this cat was way more crazy and hilarious. Velcro stuck with me and looked at condos and houses and drove down later. The gps wench picked every highly log jammed wreck infested section of highway possible in her attempt of making us miss the first nights sunset. No such luck Judy bitch…3 turnpike attempts and a tour of the Dolphins stadium later we won and got to the Lorelei just in time to watch the sun drop into the sea with rum drinks in hand. I really did pretty good with my dashboard braking through Miami …considering. We shared Sailor Jerry drinks and stories the whole way…on a side note I also proved I could pee faster than most men…just not standing up. We walked along the transient docks and found a tiki bar in the back…discovered that if you are a 1000 miles away at a tiki bar in the Florida Keys with 20 people at it…you will sit down beside someone from your same zip code. Strangely small world. Wingman makes the bonehead move of handing off his business card…which he vocally regretted the rest of the weekend. Wingman and we'll call him CoPilot had gotten a rather substantial jump out of the gate on us even with the Sailor roadies and food is needed. Down the road to Uncle’s…somehow I’m deemed best equipped to drive and that leaves the boys to wrestle the fishing rod in the back seat. Far cry past funny and since that rod survived that night the I can only give my endorsements to GLoomis. CoPilot talks the most shit of any human I’ve ever been exposed to. We laughed at him til it hurt. He was talking smack to some guys wife at the next table. When she gets up to leave…he spins around to us and says “Oh my god she has a cane…I can catch this one”. I’m positive that before she got out of there she had agreed to look him up if she curbed the jack that was with her…he meanwhile is trying his damndest to get peg leg outta there before he winds up homeless. I ate stone crabs and some of Wingman’s lobster and yellowtail from Velcro…he even snatched the last stone crab from our man on the make. It was the best time, best food, best laughs I could remember having…little did I know it was only going to be getting better. Somewhere on the ride back amid fishing rod fight the poot monster attacked the back seat and there was talk of a finger in the butt when the defibrillator kicked in…things I never thought I would hear said out loud. The boys where trying to blame each other for the farts and all I was trying to do was keep the windows down long enough to get the car aired out.

Our first night together…not sure how the mix of passion and being comfortable and feeling like you’ve always known someone can come together like that when you really just met…but it did. It might be bad though that they guys were louder next door than us…when quizzed the next day the poot monster was blamed again.

Friday we piled onto the beach and I got my first ever January sunburn. Although we’re going to blame the sunburns on some tiki bar not having a roof if put in interrogation. We had fruffy tourist rum drinks with twisty straws (that I still have and probably will until I die) I do still have the straw. That afternoon after nap time we revisited our breakfast stop that overlooked the Atlantic and watched the little pitterings of rain and the charter boats coming back in. Wingman and I shared our first sushi. We barhopped from the Tiki Bar to Wahoo’s where Wingman ran into a chick he had hooked up with 30 some years ago.  They both had the sudden realization that comes from thinking you know some of the same people only to be suddenly surprised when you figure out that you have in fact seen this person naked.  She grabbed her husbands arm and they vanished into thin air.  Wingman started drunk dialin’ everybody in his phone and reliving the moment. Ubber responsibility rolled all over us and we got back to the room before 10. A sailor or 2 and Velcro and I decided to venture back out to check out the full moon party. It was on the gulf side of the island, down by the water with palm trees and sand and torches doing the only lighting. Tank top & shorts… reggae band playing I Want to Make You Sweat…mason jar drinks with glow sticks…a shared latter back chair beside the water and the moon broke out of the clouds over the palms as if on comand. At some point a mardi gras kinda band of disappearing democrats paraded through the whole party with a huge line of drunken revelers behind. When they’d made their way all around and through fireworks started over the water. They rivaled 4th of July state side. And somewhere in all this … that hook I swallowed?...I felt it set.

Saturday morning we pile out with Wingman and head south to Key West on a day trip. Velcro U turns us back to a little café…he is the master of the U turn when he sees a missed cool spot. I proceed to fall in crush love with my breakfast. A pita with egg, spinach and goat cheese. I could eat my arm if you smeared goat cheese on it…omg I had completely forgotten how much I love that stuff. We covered the Overseas Highway and every subject imaginable…like how I like quick answers to the no less than a 1000 questions I ask a day. The quicker the answer the more likely I am to buy it. I learned that the satellite dishes on the poles are the Keys defense system…and I know what a Botel is now. But the little cars in a line on the dash mounted NASA computer…not so much. I even broke out the owners manual because my boys couldn’t appease me with their made up answers…still don’t know. Somewhere near the 7 mile bridge I hear the stick…stick…stick sound. Followed by eye contact and possibly one of the most random statements ever…”I love Velcro…its some amazing shit”…as he’s sticking and unsticking the little pocket on the leg of his cargo shorts. That statement landed him a name and made me giddy that I may have just found myself a fellow random zinger.

The Conch Republic is our first stop and I have my first ever cracked conch chased with screwdrivers. We figure out at Schooner’s Wharf that while in a tourist town you should check your entire surroundings…for web cams. And that there is no possible way that there’s a health department in south Florida since to get to the guys potty you must go through the kitchen that also has birds walking around in it. I scored a key lime pie on a stick (because I think someone likes me) and even managed to get my carb conscious guys to take a bite. We wandered the streets with tourists and laughed too much at some near moped misses. Another beer at Kelly’s where the rather fish savvy 3 of us got stumped by the fish of the day then headed back norther.

I’d been to Mangrove Mama’s once a few years ago and had clams that only compared to the one’s I had earlier in Hollywood . I was pretty excited when Velcro decided it was a necessary stop to make. We had rum drinks and grilled mahi. There was a Barstool Sailor sticker on the wall and when my questions get no answers google fills in all the gaps. We find out the Barstool Sailor is scheduled to play at Morada Bay ...scene of last night’s full moon party. A plan is hatched. But our perfect weather moon lit night had been replaced by a gale force wind and cold front. When we got there, Mr Barstool Sailor had been cancelled, so we had our knock your dick off rum drink and headed to Hog Heaven. Wings, hog balls, and a good amount of making fun of ugly people…Wingman took a picture of me and this guy who had somehow managed to bowl me over inside of 2 or 3 weeks. While we were making fun of what could be turning into a very scary orgy a cat comes in with 2 huge bags of stone crabs. Wingman waves him over scores them both for 30 bucks. Jury is still out, but the guess is that he jacked them from somewhere and needed drinkin money. Not something that needed worrying about…we had all the stone crabs we could eat.

Without sounding like a 5 year old I can’t explain how enamored I was with the back up camera. Upon leaving the Hog Heaven I had Velcro take a picture of the back up screen while I was lying behind the car on the ground making the little sensor scream. I had been drinking all day long…in my defense and no the picture didn’t come out…much to my disappointment. I dig that he humored me. I’ve always thought I would probably die at the hands of a minivan in a parking lot. It’s good to know that with all the new high fangled technology my survival rate is improving. At one point though Velcro asked while backing up where his entire surroundings were…as we rolled backwards in neutral…nice. Guess I still have to potential of getting plowed over.

Sunday we packed up and headed towards Hollywood stone crabs in tow, in search of butter. A detour stop at Alabama Jacks for drinks and back on the road. It didn’t take my Velcro long to start screwing with me…after we check into the hotel and after his semi heart attack from thinking we were going to have bunk beds, he’s standing at the door doing the hurry hurry come here quick thing at me. Pretty much had never requested that I move fast so I’m thinking its gotta be something cool…note to self…do not trust this side of the Velcro again. He makes me run to the door to see none other than an old dude in an itty bitty speedo…and of course he’s right on top of me by the time I stick my little unsuspecting head out the door. Now that I’ve been had I was only hoping that Wingman would walk out and get the full frontal effect that I’d just been suckered into… but his luck with timing was better than mine.

With newly purchased crab hammers we ate all the stone crabs we could hold and washed them down with Sailor Jerry. I was told I would never have to crack my own crabs again…and I’m starting to believe him.

Down on the boardwalk we drank beer and watched football at the straightest bar in town…not a queen in site. There was the over clapper that was entirely clad in Dolphin wear. He had on his fake Super bowl ring that could probably double as brass knuckles and at one point mid super clap it flew about 3 foot in the air and landed smack in the ashtray. This man should not ever get laid.

We headed back for drink refresh and found the trolley stop. When we got on we took the front seat and Wingman wandered back to a safe zone. “This thing smells like ass” says Velcro. The fart fog was almost visible…it would have caused airport delays. The trolley driver man had crop dusted us…bad. So we giggled like little girls and tried to hold our breath to down town. Whiskey Tango for football…someone along the way started feeding me margaritas just to see the show. Poor potato deprived Wingman is still talking about the potato skin he had…pretty sure it may have saved his life. Cab back to the hotel…no farts. We hung out by the fire with sangrias watching the big screen and all hopes of me winning the bet slip away. Jets suck and I love loosing a bet to Velcro…

Monday we kinda talked about having a massive burger at LeTubs but timing was off so we rode up to Dania Beach . We sat in the sun and drank Coronas. There was a dude there via 5 months on a bicycle from Wisconsin playing a duck taped up guitar and singing for travel money. The boys had commented that even on tequila I really don’t change so much when I drink…they changed their minds when 2 beers had me giggling and snorting when we got back in the car. I am really bad at keeping a straight face when I’m up to something. Velcro is breaking a sweat, cussing and cranking up the AC when I finally come clean about turning his seat heater on high. I’d been waiting to do it for days but couldn’t find an opening where I wouldn’t get caught…think I got called a little fucker…he he.

Another U turn at the Bahia Mar Marina launched me into a Buffett song quote Travis McGee rambling one sided conversation. The U turn also landed us at our lunch destination on the water over looking the marina. There were cotton candy vodka drinks that I was sworn to secrecy about…apparently guys don’t want people knowing about such indulgences unless there’s a body shot story involved. Later my keen navigation skills mixed with cotton candy vodka headed us down a one way street on the way to the craziest junk ceiling décor Irish bar ever. A manatee swam by in the waterway and Wingman and myself were pretty sure someone yelled Velcro’s name…could’ve been the manatee. One more beer stop and shared key lime pie gum that caused sexual sounds later I was at the airport.

Quite possibly the best trip of my life. There is no better feeling in the world than falling in love…especially so unexpectedly. If I could bottle it I would be a millionaire a million times over.