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Key West Times
April 14, 2010 - John Stack
Why do I write about Key West in a political blog? Because I can! To me, Key West is plain Heaven on earth. The weather is fantastic . The forecast is usually ‘Low of 70 high of 80, clear sky, light wind’. But of course, Heaven comes with a price. Its probably cheaper to live in Manhattan than in Old Town Key West. I got lucky to buy a timeshare in this poor economy quite inexpensively, and my yearly ‘assessment’ is much less than any local hotel room. But, it costs a lot to just get there, and luckily there is an airport right in Key West that we fly right into. In fact, we can fly from Lake Clear Airport to Key West (through Boston and another connection) – Thank you Essential Air Services…
Many people from our area vacation in Key west, some others also owning property there. Most of go at this time, with the school break and all, but more so to escape ‘Cabin Fever’. But, there are some misconceptions about Key West. It is at the end of the road – literally. US 1 ends on the West side of the island. But, it isn’t the same Key West today as it was for Hunter S Thompson, Jimmy Buffet and Captain Tony Tarracino of the early 70’s. Back then, the city was struggling to survive. Many of the homes were in disrepair, and it was really the end of the road for many, but with an independent spirit . As the city turned as much towards as possible towards tourism, they tried something that seemed counterproductive at the time. The city created a historic district that encompassed about a square mile of the city that was full of the old buildings. This made it virtually impossible to tear down a house and build with some new house. It also had the effect of keeping out all of the condos, towns houses and new out of control commercial development. And it worked. Now, as you walk in ‘Old Town’ you may see a house that looks like it just survived a hurricane. But, look inside. It probably has a million dollars of improvement done to the place. The outsides cannot be changed, so as you walk around, you see homes that are literally just 4 walls held up by poles. Contractors come in and spend a fortune on putting in outrageous amounts of money to build the inside. A lot such as this, at about 1/10th of an acre runs about what a waterfront lot on Upper Saranac would go for. Our time share is a group of homes in one resort, all of which were built prior to 1900.
A big thing about Key west is the clientele. This is not a place for young people. And just not people under 21. Yeah, there’s some fun stuff to do with the kids, like Ripley’s Believe It or Not and The Pirate Soul Museum. But Myrtle Beach offers 10 times the stuff for teenages, plus beaches that are much better than Key West. But also, other destinations are better for those in their 20’s. Yes, its Bar Heaven there. Once again, very expensive. Finding a mixed drink for under $6.50 (for a small one) is quite a task. The cheapest hamburger you’ll find will run ya $8.50 (But they are great hamburgers!). Lots of places have live music. Rick’s has the best for young people who had a young punk-rock indie band playing last week. Upstairs they had one of the only dance-club type places (good luck Chris and Travis!!). Mostly, there will be a single guy strumming guitar (like at Captian Tony’s or The Bull) just with background music. Or, Irish Kevin’s will rock out with just a person or two playing. A single guy about 25 from Jersey had the place going wild just with an acoustic guitar. Unbelievably , he had the place packed and screaming while singing a couple Neil Diamond songs.
Another thing? Key West is great for food. You can’t go wrong at Ricky’s Blue Heaven (scallops to die for, and a great yellow snapper special). Or the pecan Encrusted Mahi Mahi at Fogarty’s. Or at Olt Town Mexican Café, if you get Simona as your waitress, she’s the only one who asked if I wanted a lime in my Dos Equis –( I hate limes in my beer). For a totally different experience – and the only indoor restaurant I would recommend – avoid Jimmy Buffet’s Maragaritaville) – is a little more pricy at Braza Lena, a Brazillian steakhouse that serves as much of 16 types of meat (sirloin, prime rib, lamb, chicken, ) as you can handle. Try the iced Amarula afterwards. Drinks are extra, but the food one price.
Best places to hang out? Captain Tony’s drinking Rum runners and shooting pool (I’ve never had to wait for a table) or the upper deck at Schooner Wharf. For the water, try Danger Tours for snorkeling or find Adrieanne at Lost Reef Adventures for scuba diving.
If ya go to Key West, bring lots of money. Leave the kids behind. Expect to drink a lot. Don’t expect Aruba or Daytona or Myrtle Beach. It’s an experience like no other, and it keeps me going back every year to escape cabin fever (as if I needed a reason!)
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