Vacay is over, now I’m back to reality. I did not make it to Hawaii folks. I was close to tears for two days sitting in the airport being rejected due to oversold flights, gate agents who made no eye contact and being last on the standby lists. This process was highly frustrating. “Where are these people going? Everybody stay home!” lamented my friend, Carrie. Carrie later suggested Key West, and we did take off ten days from work for our Hawaii excursion. Well Key West ain’t no Hawaii, but I was running out of options and vacation days – the Caribbean was a mess with hurricanes and tropical depressions passing through and Europe was…well…Europe. Plus Carrie had been there several times. So I said, “F#@& it! Key West it is.”
The next day was the complete opposite of the other days trying to go standby. The flight was wide open, we got bumped up to first class and one hour later we landed in the Keys. A sweet sea breeze greeted us as we made our way to the luggage claim. From the baggage claim is was 15 minute taxi ride to our hotel.
Day 1 – What’s Shaped like a Lamp and Named Jeanie?? Uhhh, Jeanie!
As we walked along Duval Street my heart sank. Amidst cheesy t-shirts that read, “You look like I need another drink”, 16 oz cups of beer and rum runners, and fat pale tourists fresh off cruise ships, I wondered, “Was this all Key West had to offer?”. I wanted to leave. My heart still yearned for Hawaii. I began to question my stooshness (for my non-Jamaicans that means “hoity-toity”). Key West epitomized tourist. I consider myself a traveler. Where was the culture? Where were the arts? We did a lot of walking on our first day and I began to see the culture slowly emerging, once I got off Duval Street.
As we continued along Duval Street we saw an “Everything must go” sale on bikinis. Perfect! I needed a few new suits for my now smaller frame. The sales clerk was smoking outside. We’ll call her Jeanie. Jeanie is 5’5” with legs too skinny to support her keg-like upper build. Without warning she pounced. “I just found out they are closing my store.” Turns out she had just gotten a call that the store had new owners and she was going to be relocated to another store further up the strip. “How did she have time to make all those handwritten signs if she’d just gotten the call?”, I wondered. We entered the store as she haggled us on many a deal; “Buy one get one free; no tax if you buy three bikinis with cash; matter of fact, buy three and I’ll throw in one for free.” What a train wreck! Then Jeanie saw it fit to tell us about her married life. She’s married to a Jamaican man who practices kung fu and has a diesel body and although she’s big girl he had no problems in lifting her up and pummeling her every night. People, believe me, I couldn’t make this up if I tried!! Jeanie spoke so fast, I missed a lot. Carrie told her I was Jamaican too to which she replied, “I bet I cook stewed chicken better that you.” (Highly unlikely mampi!).
I moved into the fitting room to try on the bikinis and performed a fashion show with thong bikinis for them both. What can I say? Her madness was infectious. Jeanie kept adding bikinis to my pile without me knowing. When I finally noticed and protested she said, “Listen bitch just do what I tell you. These will fit. What are you worried about?” (Well alright).
Carrie, the informer, then told her we were here for my birthday and Jeanie the sales girl turned into “A Pimp-Called-White-Booty-Jeanie”. She moved in close to me with a glimmer in her eye and said, “My husband has brothers and friends. You know, clean men. If you want a little good-good for your birthday I could make a call right now.” I needed to leave immediately.
Mallory Square is a tourist trap. The cruise ships dock there so arts and crafts are grossly overpriced. Journey beyond Mallory Square and the Sculpture Garden is a true testament to the craftsmanship of molding bronze statues.
Watching the sunset from the pier at Mallory Square.
The pier by Mallory Square is also a great place to watch the sunset. We cozied up two glasses of wine and sat on a park bench and watched ships as they eclipsed the sun as it dipped for the day. A small applause grew into a rousing ovation from the crowds, because the sunset was truly spectacular. This would become a theme for me and Carrie. We watched the sunset from a different location for the rest of week and applauded as it dipped out of sight with the moon ready for duty just above.
Day 2 – Birthday
We started the day with yoga at Shakti Yoga studio. The class was full and the median age was 65. The price was $15 for a 90 minute session. The instructor was friendly but firm. I overheard one the regulars whisper, “All we do is roll around, but now that she has visitors she wants to show off.” Carrie and I were the only non-regulars in the class. Whatever old farts! Don’t be mad that we’ve got youth and flexibility on our side.
Yoga was followed by a bento box lunch at Oiyshi for a mere $8.99. We dined on miso soup, sushi rolls, sashimi, teriyaki chicken, sauteed vegetables and a green salad.
The guest houses along Truman Street are simply breathtaking. The lazy wrap around porches begged for a hammock to be hitched up for someone to take a nap. The Victorian designs coupled with the shutters and high ceilings gave these houses a majestic feel.
I had made an afternoon appointment at the only day spa on the island that wasn’t in a hotel, at Prana Spa. We stopped off at a local dive and bought $2 walkers of ice-cold beer. It was hot and heck, it’s Key West, if you didn’t have a drink in hand people will look at you sideways.
Prana Spa is nestled among the close to touch houses along Whitehead Street, not too far from Ernest Hemingway’s home. I got a facial and massage combo. My aesthetician was Jen and she was a pleasure. She complimented my skin and kept telling me that my African-American skin won’t age as much as her skin. I told her I was Jamaican, but that didn’t matter. She kept calling me African-American. It was obvious that Jen didn’t work on many Black girls. Her fingers moved like butterflies across my skin as she massaged citrus in my face and hair and I fell asleep under her spell.
After my facial and nap – glowing skin!